SEF News-Views Digest No. 199 (2-3-18)
Clifton Ware, Editor-Publisher
I hope you’ve escaped this worse flu season of the decade (See first article in News). I’m finally recovering from the multiple bad effects associated with this seasons major flu strains. And I had the flu shot!
Whatever happens, I try to maintain hope, a sense of humor, and a must-do attitude, but being sick adds an extra dimension to this mind-body challenge. Throughout the last week, while suffering and seeking relief, I found it even more difficult be optimistic in following daily news events around the world. I wouldn’t be too surprised to learn that more people have lowered immune resistance due to the accumulating psycho-emotional stress of the past two years, especially given the negative socio-political climate generated by the current administration. In a way, our nation’s overall health is a sickness of flu-like symptoms.
What’s most disturbing in viewing or hearing mainline media news reports is the conventional, neoliberal view that most “experts” present when discussing serious issues. Practically all pundits, regardless of subject matter covered, seem to assume that the “Big Fix” objective is to focus on improving the economy, which really means increasing economic growth. To this end, some unthinking ideologues propose having more children (conservatives), or allowing more immigration (liberals). So, essentially, both liberals and conservative accept the premise that the solution to all problems rests with supporting measures that increase economic growth. The 2% growth we’ve experienced in the U.S. economy for the past few years is too low, they say; we need at least 3-4% growth.
Sadly, I don’t recall having heard any advocates of alternative economic solutions in the mainstream media. For instance, advocates of steady-state economic growth, which proposes living within ecological boundaries and budgetary means, by conserving resources for future use, and reducing population numbers to sustainable levels, (See the article in News about future megacities). There are such experts, but, most unfortunately, the mainline media overlooks their valuable insights. I suppose no one wants to hear what appear to be wacky, far-out views, especially if it leads to reducing everyone’s material standard of living—even to create a sustainable way of life.
Every aspect of life is heating up, or so it seems. The stock market bubble is finally popping, indicating an overheated or overhyped market (See first two articles in Views). The arms race, including nuclear weaponry, is picking up, raising alarm about nuclear war—again. Extreme weather events worldwide continue making headlines (with some making connections to climate change), and some low-lying islands and continental coastlines are already threatened by sea-level rise. Social unrest, including fleeing refugees—many from countries the U.S. helped destabilize—continues apace, and growing economic inequality is continuing to erode the lifestyles of the lower and middle classes. The oceans and world waterways continue filling with plastic and toxins, and worldwide the air is more polluted, with CO2 emissions, smoke, and other particulate matter. Species continue going extinct at a rate many times the pre-human domination of the planet. Also, water sources for growing populations are shrinking, due to climate change, over-irrigation, and over-populated regions (see Kurt Cobb’s article in Views about Cape Town).
I don’t enjoy sounding like a pessimist in repeating all of this bad news, but as a very concerned world citizen, it pains me to observe what’s happening. I imagine you share similar concerns. Thankfully, there is always some good news, no matter how bleak things appear. The Huffpost article in News about the numbers of scientists or people with scientific backgrounds running for public office is a very encouraging sign of progressive grassroots activism, an obvious pushback against the regressive and inhumane policies of the current administration.
Let’s continue hoping and working for a turnaround in 2018 and 2020. And do you best to avoid catching the flu!
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> Peak Prosperity: It’s Looking A Lot Like 2008 Now… (Chris Martenson). When this current bubble pops, the one that I’ve repeatedly described as The Mother Of All Financial Bubbles, the ensuing damage will be many multiples of that caused by the bursting of the bubbles that preceded it. That’s the nature of these things: you either take your lumps when you should, or you pay a far steeper price later on. The Federal Reserve’s pattern of over-steering and over-correcting too often, plus changing the rules to suit the situation has led to creating a lot of easy money, which makes things far worse in the end, because you can’t print prosperity.
> CASSE-The Daly News: Democrats, Donald Trump, And The Dark Underbelly Of Economic Growth (Brian Czech). Elected Dems can’t hold Trump accountable because they can’t break their own addiction to growth. There is a solution for Democrats, if they dare take it. It’s a simple solution but a real paradigm shifter: It’s a new outlook on growth. Right now, due to the bipartisan obsession with economic growth, Democrats look like losers at the GDP racetrack, racist sentiments are fair game again, and the rapacious pursuit of growth is liquidating the environment.
> Post Carbon Institute: Old Age And Societal Decline (Richard Heinberg). Older people are naturally more concerned with personal maintenance issues, and wish to ensure they have made some lasting contribution to community and extended family. On the whole, the attitude of the aged toward societal decline tends to be more that of an observer, but some feel a duty to tell everyone who will listen what is happening and why. Achieving a “good” civilizational death would entail minimizing damage to ecosystems and exhaustion of natural resources, so that human survivors would have the biophysical basis for recovery.
> Resource Insights: Who Will Drink The Last Glass Of Water In Cape Town (Kurt Cobb). Three years of extreme drought have brought the city’s water supplies almost to exhaustion. The causes of the city’s water problems are, in fact, multiple: 1) population has risen 80 percent since 1994 to 3.75 million, putting extraordinary demands on its water system; 2) average rainfall has been gradually decreasing for decades and has reached its lowest since 1933 (the worst drought in more than 300 years); and 3) climate change is almost certainly increasing the likelihood of such a drought.
> The Guardian: Facebook And Google A Menace To Society (Olivia Solon). Facebook and Google have become “obstacles to innovation” and are a “menace” to society whose “days are numbered”, said billionaire investor and philanthropist George Soros at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos. “Mining and oil companies exploit the physical environment; social media companies exploit the social environment,” according to a transcript of his speech. “The power to shape people’s attention is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few companies. It takes a real effort to assert and defend what John Stuart Mill called ‘the freedom of mind’. This may have far-reaching political consequences.”
> Science Magazine: Nasty U.S. Flu Season Continues To Intensify (Jon Cohen). A wave of influenza across the entire United States has led to an alarmingly high number of sick people. Last week, 7.1% of all outpatient visits were for what’s classified as influenza-like illness. The U. S. CDC has linked the high number of cases to the spread of an influenza variant known as Type A, subtype H3N2, which is both particularly virulent and hard to stop with the flu vaccine. A Type A subtype known as H1N1 also is circulating widely, as is a Type B virus. 53 children have died of flu this season, and only 20% of those children had received the vaccine. [See also: This Flu Season Is The Worst In Nearly A Decade]
> Carbon Brief: State Of The Climate: How The World Warmed In 2017 (Zeke Hausfather).A number of records for the Earth’s climate were set in 2017: 1) The warmest year on record for ocean heat content, which increased markedly between 2016 and 2017; 2) The second or third warmest year on record for surface temperature, and the warmest year without the influence of an El Niño event; 3) Record lows in sea ice extent and volume in the Arctic both at the beginning and end of the year; and 4) A record-low Antarctic sea ice for much of the year, though scientists are still working to determine the role of human activity in the region’s sea ice changes.
> Reuters: Climate Change Threatens Half Of U.S. Military Sites: Pentagon (Sebastien Malo). Nearly half of U.S. military sites are threatened by wild weather linked to climate change, according to a Pentagon study whose findings run contrary to White House views on global warming. Drought, wind and flooding that occurs due to reasons other than storms topped the list of natural disasters that endanger 1,700 military sites worldwide, from large bases to outposts, said the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). Assets most often damaged include airfields, energy infrastructure and water systems, according to military personnel at each site.
> Common Dreams: ‘Disaster Capitalism Disguised As Progress’: Critics Rip Trump Infrastructure Plan (Jake Johnson). Critics of Trump’s proposals argue that he actually planning to deliver a heavy dose of “disaster capitalism” that will hand construction projects over to corporate America while running roughshod over the environment. Proposals include: 1) Awarding new infrastructure grants directly to private companies; 2) Empowering companies to charge tolls and fees on America’s roads and bridges; 3) Cutting career officials and agency experts out of project and permitting decisions; and 4) Eliminating regulatory and legal safeguards that protect against corruption.
> Ensia: Here Come The Megacities (John Vidal). Recent U.N. projections expect the world’s population to grow by 2.9 billion in the next 33 years and possibly by a further 3 billion by the end of the century. By then, says the U.N., humanity is expected to have developed into an almost exclusively urban species with 80 to 90 percent of people living in urban areas. Under the researchers’ extreme scenario, where fertility rates remain high and urbanization continues apace, within 35 years over 100 world cities will have populations larger than 5.5 million people.
> Huffpost: The Largest Number Of Scientists In Modern U.S. History Is Running For Office In 2018 (Alexander C. Kaufman). More than 60 researchers and technologists are running for federal office in 2018 as part of a historic wave of candidates with science backgrounds launching campaigns. At least 200 candidates with previous careers in science, technology, engineering and math announced bids for some of the nation’s roughly 7,000 state legislature seats as of Jan. 31, according to data that 314 Action, a political action committee, shared exclusively with HuffPost. The surge in congressional bids comes as scientists are experiencing a fierce political backlash.
> Oil Price: Why Is The Shale Industry Still Not Profitable? (Nick Cunningham). Echoing the criticism of too much hype surrounding U.S. shale from the Saudi oil minister last week, a new report finds that shale drilling is still largely not profitable. Not only that, but costs are on the rise and drillers are pursuing “irrational production.” Riyadh-based Al Rajhi Capital dug into the financials of a long list of U.S. shale companies, and found that “despite rising prices most firms under our study are still in losses with no signs of improvement.” Moreover, the widely publicized efficiency gains could be overstated.
> Common Dreams: ‘Outrageous’ Gold Rush-Style Grab Of Public Lands To Begin In Less Than 48 Hours (Jessica Corbett). Despite protests from conservationists, local tribe leaders, Democratic lawmakers, and even the United Nations’ expert on indigenous rights, at 6 a.m. on Friday the Trump administration will allow citizens and companies to start staking claims on sections of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah so the new stakeholders can conduct hard rock mining on the formerly protected lands. “The process for staking a claim remains much as it did during the Gold Rush,” Reuters reports.
> Sustainable Food Trust: The Flavour Of Good Farming (Bronwen Percival). Food flavor was absent from the discussion at a recent Oxford Real Farming Conference. The food industry must dispel the mistaken notion that sensory qualities are inherently subjective. Just as we can agree on the relative objective merits of a piece of music or a work of art, we recognize and appreciate the meaning, value, and the deliciousness of visual, textural and flavor. In a world where quality is a shared value system, the flavor of sustainability is, by its very definition, the best flavor.
> Alternet: Protecting Social Security Is Our Next Big Fight (Robert Reich). As House Speaker Paul Ryan says “We’re going to have to get… at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit.” Social Security and Medicare are critical safety nets for working and middle-class families. Here are three vital ways to strengthen these programs: 1) Lift the ceiling on income subject to the Social Security tax; 2) Allow Medicare to negotiate with drug companies for lower prescription drug prices: and 3) Finally, reduce overall health costs and create a stronger workforce by making Medicare available to all.
> Shareable: How The ‘Walking School Bus’ Promotes A Safe And Healthy Commute For Kids (Sharon Ede). Fears for children’s safety during their commute to school means more students are being driven to school, which results in more traffic,congestion, increased pressure on time-pressed parents and guardians, and lost opportunities for physical activity for students. Conceived by Australian creative planner and urbanist David Engwicht in 1992, the Walking School Bus is an agreed, set route to and from school supervised by adult volunteer “drivers” (often parents) who collect students from various stops.
> Modern Farmer: Wildflowers Are Definitely The Prettiest Way To Reduce Pesticide Use (Dan Nosovitz). In an experiment conducted on 15 farms in England over the past five years, farmers plant six-meter-wide stripes of wildflowers right in the middle of their fields, spaced 100 meters apart. These stripes made it much easier for the beneficial insects to travel throughout the crops (and GPS-guided equipment helped farmers work around the stripes. There’s a bonus, too: This new approach looks quite lovely; even design blogs approve.
> Yes! Magazine: How The Wonder Of Nature Can Inspire Social Justice Activism (Adrienne Maree Brown). If we pay close attention, we can experience the wonder that emerges from the beauty, magic, miracles and patterns all around us. The world is full of emergence—one of the best concepts I have learned for discussing this “wow,” this wonder. Nick Obolensky, author of Complex Adaptive Leadership: Embracing Paradox and Uncertainty, writes emergence is the way complex systems and patterns arise out of a multiplicity of relatively simple interactions. Emergent strategy is a way to build complex patterns and systems of justice and liberation through relatively small interactions.
> Alliance For Sustainability: Linking Citizens, Congregations And Cities For Sustainable Communities. Extensive listings of Minnesota news, events, and projects: http://www.afors.org/.
> 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; 66 members of the US House on the Climate Solutions Caucus. 9th Annual Citizens’ Climate International Conference and Lobby Day, June 10-12; Registration now open here.
> Clean Energy Resources Teams (CERTS). MN Energy Stories & Upcoming Events; Calendar.MnCERTs.org; New job board: http://www.cleanenergyresourceteams.org/jobs; 2018 Conference, March 28-29, in St. Cloud; Learn more and register http://mncerts.org/2018.
> MN Department of Health: Climate and Health 101 Webinar, as posted on our webpage with information (registration links, copies of the PPT deck and webinar recording). See: http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/climatechange/communication.html
> MN Environmental Partnership (MEP) Upcoming Environmental Events. See website: http://www.mepartnership.org/events/ (search by month)
> MN350: Climate Campaigns And Projects. For a listing of campaigns, projects, and events, see: http://www.mn350.org/campaigns-projects/
> U of MN Institute On The Environment: Frontiers In The Environment Seminars, Feb. 23; Mar. 8, 23; April 5, 20; 12:00-12:45 p.m., varied locations; both live and recorded; For details, see: http://environment.umn.edu/frontiers/. For magazine news, see: Ensia.com.
> 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 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 – Poodwaddle World Clock. Watch the population increase minute by minute.
> 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