> World Population Balance Overpopulation Weekend,
Thurs., Nov. 9-12, Minneapolis locations
Events: 2 Meetups, a Film Fest, and a Potluck Supper.
[More Info: WPB Facebook Events page]
SEF News-Views Digest No. 188 (11-8-17)
Clifton Ware, Editor-Publisher
In the company of many concerned Americans, I share a deep concern about the appalling state of intellectual discourse in society, particularly in addressing issues of systemic importance to humankind. One of the first warnings of America’s shallow-thinking malady came from philosopher Allan Bloom with his groundbreaking 1987 book, The Closing of the American Mind. And ever since then, numbers of concerned educational experts have addressed this issue.
The intellectual curiosity and critical thinking required for truth seeking is often lacking in mass media, especially on conservative talk radio and in the vast cyberspace of social media. Too many postings appear as fake news or propaganda designed to influence gullible (and trusting) people’s views and behaviors. It seems that, as a species, many of us are open to accepting any news and views emanating from our preferred news sources. And too often do we—liberals and conservatives alike—fail to question the veracity of information presented.
This overall shallow intellectual level—often referenced as “dumbing down”—seems to have crept into American culture over the past few decades, as evidenced in the ways we communicate. Even face-to-face conversations are often superficial, with minimal in-depth explorations of serious issues, lest they become unpleasantly confrontational. And, now, in the digital age, we mostly communicate by means of tweeting and texting, or placing unexplained postings on Facebook, usually delivered with abbreviated sentences and emojis. (Come to think about it, for someone with a limited vocabulary, like Donald Trump, digitized “tweeting” is a serviceable mode of communication.)
Over my lifetime, I’ve noticed a “superficiality creep” occurring in most areas of society, including religious institutions. As a former church choir director, I’ve observed sentimental pop and rock music supplanting time-tested hymns and thoughtful music, and sermons containing less intellectual content. Even more illustrative of superficiality are the enormous mega churches, where the so-called “prosperity gospel” emphasizes that the path to wealth and happiness—ergo, salvation—depends on one’s accepting certain beliefs and acting accordingly, including tithing. Thankfully, many religious institutions are struggling to maintain high standards of spiritual content.
Nudging this general superficiality has been the goal, intentional or not, of the advertising industry, in promoting the ongoing consumption of ever more unnecessary products, even harmful ones. As proof, consider the covert machinations of Big Tobacco, Big Oil, Big Pharma—even Big Government—in promoting products that are capable of causing harm! As victims of such powerful entities, we’ve been sucked into consuming a host of harmful things, and this includes a series of imperialistic wars waged in sovereign countries, usually under false or misguided pretenses.
Understandably, superficiality is also prevalent in the sustainability movement, where “lite green” and “bright green” (high-tech) tactics often take precedence over addressing systemic problems, like overpopulation. If humanity is to survive the series of converging crises ahead, a “dark green”, big-picture understanding of how everything is interrelated is needed. In connecting the dots between the major areas of Environment, Energy, Economics, and Equality, we must wisely add the psycho-emotional dimension of Enlightenment.
The cultivation of a comprehensive, in-depth worldview that combines all historical knowledge and wisdom in planning for an uncertain future is desperately needed—if we wish to create a transformative, sustainable existence for all life forms on our finite planet. Fortunately, there are individuals and organizations aware of this need, and are working diligently to spread the message, including recipients of this newsletter. Thanks to all!
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> Resource Insights: Devolution Everywhere: Spain, Italy, Britain And The Problems Of Complexity (Kurt Cobb). The returns from complexity in society are not evenly distributed. And when such returns [economic, social, environmental, etc.] go negative, the power brokers implementing the changes that increase complexity may benefit, while the majority suffer. Such high-efficiency systems are very fragile and lack redundancy, which creates resilience. The devolution emerging politically may someday be forced upon us in other areas of our lives whether we are prepared for it or not.
> Medium: The Science Not Yet Born — Culture Design (Joe Brewer). What we need are emergent, adaptive systems and what we have are modular, linear ones. This creates barriers to any integrative approach, as all who strive to work across fields know only too well. This is why I write about how there will be life after collapse, that we need a design school for training people to guide the process of collapse as it occurs, and that this will be needed throughout life on Earth.
> Resilience: Ecological Struggles In The Neoliberal Era (Antonis Broumas, Yavor Tarinsky). Life on this planet, as we know it, is a result of fragile environmental conditions that the contemporary predominant neoliberal system has already began to alter. Capitalism and its doctrine of unlimited economic growth seems to completely neglect this dependency and continues to violently exploit nature for the benefit of tiny elites, thus increasing their already enormous power.
> Patterns of Meaning: The Cruel, Topsy-Turvy Economics Of Collapse (Jeremy Lent). Welcome to the cruel, topsy-turvy economic logic of a civilization facing the risk of collapse. An important step would be to substitute the currently ubiquitously GDP with truer measure of society’s health, such as the proposed Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI. As long as our political and financial leaders are evaluated by the distorted measure of GDP, our civilization may well disintegrate from climate breakdown even while they get credit for a cruel, topsy-turvy economic boom.
> Think Progress: ‘It’s Global Warming, Stupid’: Five Years After Sandy, We’ve Learned Nothing (Joe Romm). It’s been five years since Superstorm Sandy devastated the Northeast. The monster storm—which killed more than 100 people, destroyed entire communities, and inflicted more than $70 billion in damages—should have completely changed the way we approach climate impacts, resilience, and global warming policy. Our preparation for super-hurricanes has barely improved. Indeed, it’s arguably gotten worse. Tragically, the media, GOP, and Trump keep hitting the snooze button.
> Ensia: OPINION: In The Wake Of Disaster, We Must Keep Nature In Mind (Anita van Breda). Ignoring the environmental implications of disasters risks leaving communities more vulnerable in the future. If we make environmental planning a pillar of our disaster recovery strategies, however, we can rebuild safer and smarter, leaving communities stronger and more resilient to future shocks. Rebuilding “safer and greener” is critical for protecting both people and the natural capital that could prove indispensable if disaster strikes again.
> Common Dreams: Big Data And Big Money Have Subverted Our Democracy (Jeffrey Sachs). In American politics today, corporations reign supreme. Powerful corporations control American politics through Big Money and Big Data. Donald Trump and the Republican-led Congress represent the ultimate corporate play. We will have to mobilize to save American democracy itself, before corporate taxes are gutted, online privacy is irreversibly routed, and the arms industry leads us into new wars.
> Peak Prosperity: Running Out Of Room (Chris Martenson). The idea of an ‘industrial economy’ is an extremely recent human invention. But it faces a massive predicament: It’s running out of resources. When talking about the “economy”, we’re really referring to the flow of goods and services—which are entirely dependent on energy. No energy = no goods and services = no economy. It’s really that simple. So growth will slow. It has to, mathematically. And technology is simply prolonging the inevitable date with less that humanity will have to confront.
> The New York Times: What The Climate Report Says About The Impact Of Global Warming (Henry Fountain, Brad Plumer). According to Volume II of the National Climate Assessment issued Friday, global warming is affecting the United States more than ever, and the impacts—on communities, regions, infrastructure and sectors of the economy—are expected to increase. The draft will eventually accompany a report on the science of climate change that was unveiled by 13 federal agencies in its final form on the same day. Finding ways to adapt will be an essential strategy. [See also: US Report Finds Climate Change 90% Manmade, Contradicting Trump]
> Common Dreams: ‘Alarm Bells Ringing’: Global CO2 Levels At Highest In 3 Million Years (Jessica Corbett). Ahead of UN climate talks next week, an annual emissions bulletin revealed that 2016 saw the highest levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in an estimated 3 million years. Experts say the findings should “set alarm bells ringing in the corridors of power,” and warn that without more drastic moves to cut emissions, greenhouse gases will likely impact global climate systems, causing “severe ecological and economic disruptions.”
> Independent: Climate Change Could Force More Than A Billion People To Flee Homes (Andrew Griffin). Climate change could force a billion people from their homes by 2050, potentially triggering major health crises around the world, according to a new study. The Lancet report found that “migration driven by climate change has potentially severe impacts on mental and physical health, both directly and by disrupting essential health and social services.”
> Work and Climate Change Report: AFL-CIO Convention Adopts Historic Climate Change Resolution (Elizabeth Perry). The 2017 AFL-CIO Convention took place in St. Louis from October 22 to 25. In a breakthrough, Resolution 55 On Climate Change, Energy And Union Jobs was adopted, putting the AFL-CIO “on the record” as recognizing the threat of climate change and acknowledging the need to move to a sustainable alternative energy system. The resolution also calls for workers impacted by the energy transition to be protected.
> Cambridge News: Stephen Hawking Says He Fears Artificial Intelligence Will Replace Humans (Rachel McMenemy). Expressing grave concerns about the rise of artificial intelligence (AI), renowned physicist Hawking said in a recent interview that he believes the development of robots could result in a “new form” of life that outperforms humans. He also said: “I believe we have reached the point of no return. Our earth is becoming too small for us, global population is increasing at an alarming rate and we are in danger of self-destructing.”
> Common Dreams: Two-Thirds Of Americans Say This Is Lowest Point In US History They Can Remember (Julia Conley). Out of 3,440 respondents surveyed in August by the American Psychological Association, fifty-nine percent said they can’t remember a worse time in the nation’s history. The people surveyed included Americans who had lived through World War II, the Vietnam War, the September 11 attacks, and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Polltakers found that 59 percent were most anguished about “divisiveness” in U.S. society.
> Express-UK: Black Death Mapped: ‘Global Outbreak’ Warning As NINE New Countries Place On High Alert (Simon Osborne). The latest outbreak, in Madagascar, has now killed 124 people and infected around 1,300, but scientists say this figure will definitely rise. The World Health Organization has placed South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Comoros, the Seychelles, Mauritius and Reunion on high alert. Experts say the same bacteria that wiped out 25 million people in Europe in the 13th and 14th centuries causes the deadly disease, which is transmitted by fleas
> Inequality: A Promising Strategy For Blunting Corporate Blackmail (Sam Pizzigati). What if place-based institutions [universities, etc.] started leveraging their economic clout on behalf of the low- and moderate-income communities that surround them—and stopped funneling their dollars to corporate enterprises that operate solely to make the rich richer? What if these institutions began procuring goods and services from worker-owned cooperatives and other nontraditional businesses that don’t move heaven and earth to lavish rewards on their top executives?
> Minnpost: Living A New Story For A Sustainable Future (Ann Manning, Sharon Day). Many of us know in our bones that we are living on the edge economically, environmentally and socially. We need a new story, a new way of thinking about how to live together in harmony with Mother Earth. It’s time to move beyond an economic system that views the Earth and its resources as a wholly owned subsidiary of our economy. Here are seven ways we can begin living, creating the new story.
> Star Tribune: Risky Business Project Fears U.S. Can’t Weather The Storm Of Climate Change (Neal St. Anthony). Reducing the risk posed by climate change is economically and technically achievable, according to the Risky Business Project. Their findings, based on scientific and economic research, is that climate change poses tremendous risk to American agriculture, business and citizens. The solution is to rapidly adapt and transition to a low-carbon, clean-energy economy that also would boost jobs and the economy. The United States has started to make progress.
> Resilience: There’s No Resilience Without Good Health (Karen Lynn Allen). Good health is not luck. Yes, luck plays a role, as do genetics and the presence or absence of toxic pollution. But the vast majority of Americans have the health that we ourselves create. What kills us, immobilizes us, and makes us dependent on medication is largely within our control. Good health is absolutely the best investment you can make to prepare for whatever lies ahead. Here’s some ways to gain good health.
> Alternet: Vermont Has Developed America’s Most Comprehensive Food Program (Scott Sawyer). By many accounts, Vermont has developed the most comprehensive food system plan in the United States. They did it by harnessing the power of networks to build trust, pursue new opportunities, and tackle long-standing problems across the state and have developed a comprehensive data collection, analysis, and visualization system for tracking progress and telling stories.
> Nature Conservancy: Nature’s Make Or Break Potential For Climate Change (Staff). New research by the Nature Conservancy and 15 other institutions demonstrates that nature-based solutions provide up to 37 percent of the emission reductions needed by 2030 to keep global temperatures under 2°C—30 percent more than previously estimated. Many natural solutions offer additional benefits, such as water filtration, flood buffering, improved soil health, habitat protection, and enhanced climate resilience.
> Yes! Magazine: 4 Ways To Give Your Body Back To Nature After You Die (Jennifer Luxton). About half of Americans choose cremation, and half choose burial. But what if you want your body to remain useful? Ideas emerging from an alternative community of mortuary and hospice professionals offer ways to give your body back to nature. As strange as some of these methods might seem now, they are at least getting us talking “outside the box” about death. They include: an infinity burial suit; mortality composting; reef balls, and conservation burial.
> Resilience: Degrowth As An Aesthetics Of Existence: Part 2 (Samuel Alexander). This is Part 2 of the Introduction to Alexander’s new book Art Against Empire: Toward an Aesthetics of Degrowth. Part 1 of the essay can be found on Resilience.org here. In this part, discussion includes aesthetics related to clothing, homes, landscapes, plus the role of the artist, the limits of rationality, and the counter-revolutionary allure of affluence. [Worthwhile information for creating a resilient, sustainable future.]
> NW Metro Climate Action: “Impact Of Climate Change On The BWCA”, Thurs., Nov. 9, 7 p.m., Maple Grove Library.
> MN Department of Health: Climate and Health 101 Webinar, one per month through December and will continually update our webpage with information (registration links, copies of the PPT deck and webinar recording).
> Alliance For Sustainability: Linking Citizens, Congregations And Cities For Sustainable Communities. Extensive listings of Minnesota news, events, and projects: http://www.afors.org/.
> MN Environmental Partnership (MEP) Upcoming Environmental Events. See website: http://www.mepartnership.org/events/ (search by month)
> Citizen’s Climate Lobby: Regular Meetings And Events (www.citizensclimatelobby-mn.org); Meetings in 18 MN locations on the 2nd Saturday of each month to focus on bi-partisan Carbon Fee and Dividend Legislation; 40 members of the US House on the Climate Solutions Caucus are involved.
> MN350: Climate Campaigns And Projects. For a listing of campaigns, projects, and events, see: http://www.mn350.org/campaigns-projects/
> The New York Times: Climate Change Is Complex. We’ve Got Answers To Your Questions (Justin Gillis). Excellent brief explanations for the most asked questions. Please share.
> Resilience: Think Resilience – Preparing For The Rest Of The 21st Century. This course, consisting of 22 video lectures by Post Carbon Institute Senior Fellow Richard Heinberg, totaling about 4 hours), may be taken at your own leisure ($20). View the video.
> Conversation Earth: Conversation Earth–Exploring Our Place on the Planet (Dave Gardner, Interviewer). This weekly Radio Series & Podcast provides surprising perspectives from leading thinkers on the most important issues of our time.
> WTS: Weathering The Storm, Michael Conley, Founder-Speaker-Author, Seminars & Presentations; Several offerings: News Flash; Newsletter; Information Services; OLLI Course Hand-outs; Best Practices; Buy The Book (Lethal Trajectories)
> Population Growth: Population Clock – Census Bureau.
> Bloomberg News: Bloomberg Carbon Clock. A real-time estimate of the global monthly atmospheric CO2 level.
> US Debt Clock: U.S. National Debt Clock: Real Time. Every aspect of the economy is documented.
> Happy Planet Index. The HPI Index measures what matters: sustainable wellbeing, life expectancy, inequality of outcomes, and ecological footprint. America limps in at a thoroughly miserable 108th. About the HPI