SEF News-Views Digest No. 189 (11-15-17)
Clifton Ware, Editor-Publisher
What will it take to awaken the mass public to the rapidly developing, long-term crises humanity is facing—and will continue facing, but on ever-more challenging terms? If you’re like me, you’re overwhelmed with increasing complexity—the hallmark of present-day civilization—as we individually and collectively struggle to create stability in such bewildering times.
Understandably, just tending to daily living requirements demands most of peoples’ time and energy. Given such a conundrum, what will it take for humanity to wake up to existing socio-political-economic-environmental realities, and begin creating viable solutions to halting the ongoing descent and potential collapse of civilization—along with Earth’s life-giving ecosystems?
Attendees participating in World Population Balance’s meetings this past weekend in Minneapolis had their awareness raised regarding the role of overpopulation as the principal catalyst of all converging crises, including climate change. In one session we viewed several short films about overpopulation as a prelude to viewing Critical Mass (A Prescription for Evolution), a powerful new feature documentary by Mike Freedman that provides some insights about how overpopulation affects human behavior. One takeaway was the realization that, if films like these fail to arouse public interest in this admittedly sensitive topic, what will it take?
Regarding our principal challenges, I discovered some possible long-term solutions recently when reading writer George Lakey’s informative book—Viking Economics: How the Scandinavians Got it Right. Lackey, an American educator who married a Norwegian woman, taught in the Norwegian educational system, and undertook extensive research in all Nordic countries, is well qualified to write on this topic. With his curiosity peaked, he diligently sought to learn how Nordic democratic socialistic systems managed to achieve the high quality of life—and Gross National Happiness (GNH)—that places them in the top rankings among all nations. (The four pillars of GNH are: 1) Good Governance; 2) Sustainable Socio-economic Development; 3) Preservation and Promotion of Culture; and 4) Environmental Conservation.)
Not too surprisingly, much of the Nordics’ successes can be attributed to their lower populations, especially when compared with their southern European neighbors, including the UK. For instance, Norway’s population is around 5.3 million, while the UK’s population is around 66.2 million, a noticeable difference that may account for some of the major lifestyle advantages evident in Norway.
The scope of this commentary doesn’t allow for delving into the particular goals and solutions placed into effect in the Nordic countries, but we Americans can certainly learn from them. Actually, Bernie Sanders’ socio-political-economic concepts reflect some of the positive measures taken by the Nordics to create a more stable and sustainable society.
So, what will it take for America to become more stable and sustainable? I think a good starting point might be to learn what other countries have done to solve critical issues, like gun control, socio-economic equality, a stable economic system, universal health care, free life-long education, and both employment and retirement security. Since the Nordic countries provide model solutions to such issues, we might as well begin with studying their achievements. For certain, if we wish to create a most sustainable future for the U.S., we’ll need to critically examine how we’re addressing these vital issues and make any necessary changes—as soon as possible. This is what it will take.
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> Resource Insights: Look At The Big Picture, Avoid Groupthink, Remember History (Kurt Cobb). Our political, economic, and social culture encourages us to simply conform our opinions with those around us and avoid a tedious examination of the facts. However, the price we potentially pay is that we will get blindsided by what in retrospect seems an obvious problem. That’s when most people finally adjust their worldview to new realities. But by then, any damage is generally already done.
> Resilience: Is Greenhouse Warming A Good Pretext For Selling Driverless Cars? (Stan Cox). The headlong rush into AV world can be resisted purely on the basis of published research, along with our knowledge of how capitalism works. But I am also fully in accord with the more philosophical yet still pragmatic arguments made by Rebecca Solnit, who wrote last year in the Guardian, “Self-driving cars are, like so much technology, a solution in search of a problem.” Her bottom line: the last thing the world needs is a new, more highly evolved species of automobile–with a climate emergency bearing down on us.
> Institute for Policy Studies: There Can Be No Genuine Tax Reform Without Addressing Hidden Wealth (Chuck Collins). The recently leaked “Paradise Papers” underscore the need to crack down on tax dodging instead of passing another giveaway for the wealthy. Efforts to reform the U.S. tax system are fundamentally undermined by a global tax-avoidance system that allows individuals and corporations to shift trillions to offshore havens to escape taxation, accountability, and publicity. There can be no genuine tax reform until the hidden wealth system is shut down.
> Yes! Magazine: Americans Are Stressed About The Future. Here’s Why That’s Promising (Sara van Gelder). According to a new poll by the American Psychological Association, well over half of all Americans, 59 percent, believe this is “the lowest point in our nation’s history.” I also see possibility in that number—possibility that we are finally ready to turn things around. The era of empire, white supremacy, dirty energy, and global capitalism has shown itself to be terribly destructive, and the number of people who benefit continues to shrink.
> Peak Prosperity: If The Saudi Arabia Situation Doesn’t Worry You, You’re Not Paying Attention (Chris Martenson). Gigantic waves of change are now sweeping across the Middle East, impacting the global price of oil, as well as world markets. A dramatic geo-political realignment by Saudi Arabia is upending many decades of established strategic relationships among the world’s superpowers and throwing the Middle East into turmoil. The main elements currently in play are these: 1) A sudden and intense purging of powerful Saudi insiders; 2) Huge changes in domestic policy and strategy; 3) A shift away from the US in all respects; 4) Deepening ties to China; 5) A surprising turn towards Russia; and 5) Increasing cooperation and alignment with Israel.
> E&E News: ELECTIONS: Blue Wave Seen As A Rebuke To Trump’s Climate Views (Josh Kurtz, Benjamin Storrow). It was a good night for climate action last Tuesday: 1) Big Democratic wins in the two states holding gubernatorial elections—Virginia and New Jersey—stand to solidify a regional alliance to combat climate change; 2) A Democratic victory in a special state Senate election in Washington state provides momentum for the ambitious climate action plans of Gov. Jay Inslee (D); 3) And a bond question to fight sea-level rise in Miami passed by a wider margin than anticipated.
> Carbon Brief: State Of The Climate: 2017 Shaping Up To Be Warmest ‘Non-El Niño’ Year (Zeke Hausfather). The year 2017 has seen some of the warmest temperatures ever recorded, only slightly below the record set in 2016. It has also seen unusually low Arctic and Antarctic sea ice for much of the year, though the summer Arctic minimum was only the eighth lowest on record. 2017 is also almost certain to be the warmest year without an El Niño event. When the effects of El Niño and La Niña are removed from the temperature record, the first nine months of 2017 are likely the warmest on record.
> Bloomberg: What’s The Cost When Two Big Hurricanes Hit The Power Grid? $2.5 Billion (Ryan Collins). Seven major electric utility companies in Florida, Georgia, Texas, and North and South Carolinas estimated millions of dollars in damages each. The largest Florida utility is proposing $4 surcharge to the average customer bill beginning next year to recoup the costs. NetEraEnergy, which owns Florida’s largest utility hit by Hurricane Irma, estimates $1.3 billion dollars in damages.
> The Guardian: The Three-Degree World: Cities That Will Be Drowned By Global Warming (Staff). The UN is warning that we are now on course for 3C of global warming. This will ultimately redraw the map of the world. Until now, global efforts such as the Paris climate agreement have tried to limit global warming to 2C above pre-industrial levels. However, with latest projections pointing to an increase of 3.2C by 2100, these goals are slipping out of reach.
> Common Dreams: Paradise Papers, Says Sanders, Expose ‘Rapid Movement Toward International Oligarchy’ (Jessica Corbett). In what the Guardian called “the most prominent political response to the leak in their opening 24 hours,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said the trove of more than 13 million documents detailing offshore dealings “shows how these billionaires and multinational corporations get richer by hiding their wealth and profits and avoid paying their fair share of taxes”.
> Utility Drive: Energy Storage Gets A Bigger Seat At The Utility Planning Table (Peter Maloney). Utilities across the country have implemented energy storage projects for a variety of reasons, but until now few have included energy storage in their Integrated Resource Plans. Now, utilities in states ranging from Indiana and North Carolina to Arizona, New Mexico and Oregon have included energy storage in their long term planning processes. To some extent, the inclusion of energy storage in utility IRPs is the next step in the evolution of utility-scale energy storage.
> Common Dreams: Three Richest Americans Now Own More Wealth Than Bottom Half Of US Combined: Report (Jake Johnson). In the United States, the 400 richest people own as much wealth as the bottom 64 percent of the population, the five richest Americans own as much wealth as the bottom 50 percent, and one in five households have zero or negative net worth. Those are just several of the striking findings of Billionaire Bonanza 2017, a new report (pdf).
> Web of Debt: The Public Bank Option – Safer, Local And Half The Cost (Ellen Brown). Phil Murphy, a former Wall Street banker and candidate for governor in New Jersey, is placing a state-owned bank as a centerpiece of his platform. He maintains that New Jersey’s billions in tax dollars should be kept in the state’s own bank, where it can leverage its capital to fund local infrastructure, small businesses, affordable housing, student loans, and other state needs. This would be the second state-owned bank, following the very successful century-old Bank of North Dakota (BND).
> Cassandra’s Legacy: Biofuels: Can They Save The Airlines From The Seneca Collapse? (Ugo Bardi). Can the airlines be run on biofuels? This simple question doesn’t have a simple answer. First of all, it is a question that makes sense only in terms of a “sustainable” plane, that is, one that doesn’t run on fossil fuels. That’s a major technological problem. The problem is not just a technological one. We are dealing with a complex system, the world’s economy coupled with the planetary ecosystem. [Seneca Collapse: Entities tend to collapse faster than they develop]
> Yes! Magazine: PeoplesHub: Coming Soon To Your Community (Sarah van Gelder). PeoplesHub wants to be part of creating a society in which all people are valued and all have a place, and one in which the natural world is protected for our children and grandchildren. We believe in a more equitable society, and we recognize that some in our society have been especially harmed by poverty, racism, and violence—especially people of color and women and children. We believe we can all be part of righting wrongs. A national network of trainers, advisors, and visionaries are available to help interested learners.
> Resilience: Healthy Soil, Healthy Plants, Healthy People (Jody Tishmack). Healthy soil is so important for life on earth yet so poorly understood or appreciated. Science and technology brought us the “green revolution”; chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, supersized tractors, genetically modified crops adapted to life drenched with agricultural chemicals. What is rarely apparent to most agricultural specialists is the damage this is causing the soil, basically turning it into ‘dirt’.
> The Climate Lemon: I Bet You Don’t Know These 8 Amazing Things About Trees (Tegan Tallullah). Life would not be the same without trees. In fact, all human civilization is dependent upon them. Not only as a source of valuable resources, but also for the ecological benefits they provide—called ecosystem services. In addition to producing oxygen, absorbing CO2, producing useful resources, and wildlife habitat, trees prevent floods, droughts, soil erosion and landslides, boast soil fertility, buffer noise, cool hot places, and provide livelihoods.
> Green America: ABCs Of Food Labels (Staff). How do you sort the fact from fiction and get to the bottom of how your food is produced? Fortunately, there are several legitimate certifications that have high standards for animal welfare and environmental practices. These typically ensure compliance through audits and inspections. Download your Food Labels Guide here.
> Common Dreams: New Study Shows Urgently Needed 100% Renewable Transition More Feasible Than Ever (Julia Conley) A transition to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050—or even sooner—is not only possible, but would also cost less and create millions of new jobs, according to new research. Thirty-six million jobs would also be created by 2050 through the transition, compared with 19 million energy jobs in the current economy, according to the research. While entirely possible from an economic standpoint as the new research shows, the political feasibility of the transition is another story.
> 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/.
> Clean Energy Resources Teams (CERTS). MN Energy Stories & Upcoming Events; Calendar.MnCERTs.org; New job board: http://www.cleanenergyresourceteams.org/jobs
> 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