SEF News-Views Digest No. 200 (2-10-18)
Clifton Ware, Editor-Publisher
In this final posting—at least for a while—I want to promote a new book that provides a comprehensive, factual based, intelligent summary of what’s needed to create greater community resilience and sustainability. The Community Resilience Reader: Essential Resources for an Era of Upheaval is the latest book published by the Post Carbon Institute, and it’s one that every concerned citizen should read.
In my opinion, the cartoon-styled cover of the book belies the amount of substantive content within its 324 information-packed pages. The 18 chapters are written by 17 top experts on a variety of topics that are organized in three parts: I—Understanding Our Predicament; II—Gathering the Needed Tools; and III—Community Resilience in Action. Daniel Lerch serves most capably as editor, and also provides an introductory commentary.
An excerpt from the book jacket reads: “The Community Resilience Reader combines a fresh look at the crises humanity faces, the essential tools of resilience science, and the wisdom of activists, scholars, and analysts working on the ground.”
I think this book is the ideal textbook for providing a summary overview of all issues associated with sustainability. Indeed, it’s a perfect source for community education courses. Please check it out.
(Please share this free newsletter with others.)
> Truthdig: The Deadly Rule Of The Oligarchs (Chris Hedges). Oligarchs use power and ruling structures solely for personal advancement. Though they speak of deconstructing the administrative state, oligarchs actually increase deficits and the size and power of law enforcement and the military to protect their global business interests and ensure domestic social control. The parts of the state that serve the common good wither in the name of deregulation and austerity. The parts that promote the oligarchs’ power expand in the name of national security, economic growth and law and order. The longer oligarchs rule, the deadlier our predicament becomes, especially since the oligarchs refuse to address climate change, the greatest existential crisis to humankind.
> Millennium Alliance for Humanity and Biosphere (MAHB): A Proposal For A United Nations Framework Convention On Population (Rob Harding). Recently, an international assembly of scientists from 184 countries endorsed an article published in the journal Bioscience entitled “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice”. As the warning states, “We are jeopardizing our future by not reining in our intense but geographically and demographically uneven material consumption and by not perceiving continued rapid population growth as a primary driver behind many ecological and even societal threats.”
> Common Dreams: Degeneration Nation 2018: The Darkest Hour (Ronnie Cummins). The frightening truth is that our “profit-at-any-cost” economy and global empire, run by and for the one percent and multi-national corporations, aided and abetted by an out-of-control administration, is threatening our very survival. Our system of democracy, global co-existence, our physical and mental health, and the health of the living Earth are unraveling. The good news is that there are a number of positive signs that people in the Americas, and all over the world, especially the youth, are waking up. Citizens Regeneration Lobby is a growing U.S. network of citizen lobbyists pushing for regenerative policies.
> Resource Insights: Ruin Is Forever (Revisited): Why Your Death Isn’t As Bad As That Of All Humankind (Kurt Cobb). In practical terms, human societies should not engage in activities that risk destroying all of humanity. Nuclear war and climate change come to mind, as does our perturbations of the nitrogen cycle, which we are now at the very beginnings of understanding. The introduction of novel genes into the plant kingdom with little testing through genetically engineered self-propagating crops poses unknown risks not only to food production, but also to biological systems everywhere.
> Olduvai.ca: Technology And Its Discontents (Steven Gorelick). In his book In the Absence of the Sacred, Jerry Mander points out that new technologies are usually introduced through “best-case scenarios”: “The first waves of description are invariably optimistic, even utopian. This is because in capitalist societies early descriptions of new technologies come from their inventors and the people who stand to gain from their acceptance.” Silicon Valley entrepreneurs have made an art of utopian hype.
> Common Dreams: Trump’s Big Buyback Bamboozle (Robert Reich). Now that the richest 10 percent of Americans own 84 percent of all shares of stock (up from 77 percent at the turn of the century), this means even more wealth at the top. Companies haven’t been investing—but have been using their profits to buy back their stock instead—because they doubt their investments will pay off in additional sales. We’re just going to have more buybacks and more inequality.
> Peak Prosperity: Red Screen At Morning, Investor Take Warning (Adam Taggart). When a storm arrives at sea, sailors hunker down. They strip, tie fast, and stow everything they can—then they ride out the storm and re-emerge once it has passed. This is an excellent model for today’s investor. If this past week’s plunge indeed accelerates into a bear market, simply surviving the carnage with a substantial percentage of your capital intact will constitute “winning”. So, if you still have long positions in your personal or retirement portfolios, you might consider moving to cash, preparing an action plan, and tracking risks and opportunities closely.
> Truthdig: Big Business Threatens Earth’s Future (Kieren Cooke). Transnational corporations, or TNCs, or just plain big business, are everywhere. They have an overwhelming influence and impact on our lives—and on the planet. But trusting big business to lead sustainability efforts, says Peter Dauvergne, professor of international relations at the University of British Columbia in Canada, is like trusting arsonists to be our firefighters. “Any chance of stopping big business from destroying much of the earth will require governments and societies to reorient global environmental policies to reduce—and then restrain—the power of big business.
> CASSE-The Daly News: Farewell To FWS – Goodbye To Gag Orders (Brian Czech). This open letter to Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) was sent directly to FWS employees on February 7, 2018. Czech describes the many gag orders he and colleagues received from superiors. The prohibited topic was the trade-off between economic growth and wildlife conservation, also known as the “800-pound gorilla”, a taboo topic few people want to discuss, mostly because of political conflicts related to funding. He explains to his colleagues: “As you talk about economic growth, you’ll discover it’s not the Holy Grail after all. Breaking it down to increasing population and per capita consumption—as measured by GDP—demystifies it and helps us recognize the inevitable impacts on wildlife.
> Science Alert: Scary Amounts Of Mercury Have Been Found Lurking In The Permafrost (Michelle Starr). Researchers from the US Geological Survey studied core samples from the Alaskan permafrost, and their estimates show 793 million kilograms of mercury have been trapped in the northern hemisphere’s permafrost since the last Ice Age. This finding has grave implications if the permafrost melts away. In the Arctic, melting permafrost has revealed some giant (thankfully dormant) viruses tens of thousands of years old that could awaken and wreak havoc. If the permafrost continues to melt, it could release a tremendous amount of mercury, in turn impacting ecosystems all around the world.
> Inside Climate News: No Drop In U.S. Carbon Footprint Expected Through 2050, Energy Department Says (John H. Cushman Jr.). The carbon footprint of the United States will barely go down at all for the foreseeable future and will be slightly higher in 2050 than it is now. As the world’s largest national economy and second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, an American retreat of this kind would seriously undermine the key goal of Paris to bring net emissions to zero in the second half of this century. Instead, the U.S. would almost single-handedly exhaust the whole world’s carbon budget by midcentury. [See also: With US Carbon Footprint Set To Grow By 2050, Fossil-Free Movement ‘Our Only Hope’]
> Futurism: The Ozone Layer Is Not Recovering And We Don’t Know Why (Dom Galeon). A recent study suggests that ozone layer recovery in lower latitudes isn’t going as expected. Specifically, the ozone layer in middle to lower latitude areas—where most people live—show unexpected decreases for reasons still unclear. Scientists are not sure what’s happening. The ozone layer could also be getting thinner because damaging substances such as chlorine and bromine slipped through the cracks, which were not regulated under the Montreal Protocol.
> VOX: Puerto Rico’s Blackout, The Largest In American History, Explained (Umair Irfan). Some 1.36 million Americans are without power right now, and it isn’t coming back any time soon. The botched recovery effort that’s dragged on and on is a disaster caused by humans, leading to environmental and health crises. The US Army Corps of Engineers estimates that Puerto Rico would need 50,000 utility poles and 6,500 miles of cable to restore its power system, which may not be restored until May. Regulators are now looking for alternatives to the conventional power grid, like microgrids backed up with renewable solar and wind power.
> The Guardian: Almost Four Environmental Defenders A Week Killed In 2017 (Jonathan Watts). The slaughter of people defending their land or environment continued unabated in 2017, with new research showing almost four people a week were killed worldwide in struggles against mines, plantations, poachers and infrastructure projects. The toll of 197 in 2017 – which has risen fourfold since it was first compiled in 2002 – underscores the violence on the frontiers of a global economy driven by expansion and consumption.
> The Guardian: EPA Head Scott Pruitt Says Global Warming May Help ‘Humans Flourish” (Oliver Milman). Pruitt, who has previously erred by denying that carbon dioxide is a key driver of climate change, has again caused consternation among scientists by suggesting that warming temperatures could benefit civilization. The EPA itself is unequivocal that warming temperatures, and resulting environmental changes, are a danger to human health via heat waves, smoke from increased wildfires, worsening smog, extreme weather events, spread of diseases, water-borne illnesses and food insecurity.
> World Sustainability News: Brazil’s Pension Bill Short On Votes, Running Out Of Time
- China’s Ageing Population Is Creating A New Debt Crisis For Beijing As Pension Shortfall Widens
- Venezuela Announces 99.6 Percent Devaluation Of Official Forex Rate
- Once-Rich Venezuelans Live As Beggars In Colombia, But They Don’t Want To Go Back
- After Cape Town, More African Cities Face Water Crisis.
> Grist: Climate Strange (Eve Andrews). As much as policy shapes behavior, a mass shift in behavior can push policy and change the world. The shift has to start somewhere—and it starts with the weirdos. That is the entire point of Peter Kalmus’ book, Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution. The shift in environmentally inclined behavior from “gross hippie” to “aspirational” is something that Kalmus, the climate scientist, hopes for.
> Ensia: As Climate Changes, We Need The Arts More Than Ever (Richard Heinberg). In tumultuous times, art can and must express the turmoil and help us process what’s going on. Artists’ efforts help shape the terms by which society adapts to such transformations and their consequences. In the future, everything will be up for negotiation, redesign and change. And artists will have the opportunity and duty to translate the resulting tumultuous human experience into words, images, and music that help people not just to understand these events mentally, but also to come to grips with them viscerally.
> Resilience: Cosmo-Localization: Can Thinking Globally And Producing Locally Really Save Our Planet? (Sharon Ede). Fablabs, makerspaces, emerging global knowledge commons… These are but some of the outcomes of a growing movement that champions globally-sourced designs for local economic activity. Its core idea is simple: local ownership of the means to produce basic manufactures and services can change our economic paradigm, making our cities self-sufficient and help the planet.
> Ecological Gardening: Constructing Hope: A Discussion Of “Green Earth” (Kim Stanley Robinson). Neither hope nor its cousin joy, are to be confused with optimism. The latter tends to be more a quality of temperament than a realistic assessment of prospects. As for the former, well, you have to go looking for them, or even, laboriously, construct them for yourself, at best in the company of other people.
> The Conversation: Is It Possible For Everyone To Live A Good Life Within Our Planet’s Limits? (Dan O’Neill). In our study the 11 thresholds we chose to represent a “good life” are far from extravagant—a life satisfaction rating of 6.5 out of 10, living 65 years in good health, the elimination of poverty below the US$1.90 a day line, and so on. Nevertheless, we found that the universal achievement of these goals could push humanity past multiple environmental limits. No country currently achieves all 11 social thresholds without also exceeding multiple biophysical boundaries. [See interactive website, showing the environmental and social performance of all countries.] We could at least dramatically reduce income inequality and switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy as quickly as possible.
> Yes! Magazine: One More Benefit Of Nature: It Makes You Like Your Body Better (Tom Jacobs). New research from the United Kingdom finds strolling in nature—or even looking at photographs of the natural world—leaves people feeling better about their bodies. In recent years, a series of studies have found that time spent in nature offers a range of benefits, from easing depression to increasing altruism. This latest work suggests it can also mute internal criticism of one’s less-than-perfect figure.
> Huffpost: Our Kids Can Save The Planet — If We Teach Them How (Britt Crow-Miller). It’s crucial that we work to create a more sustainable future for upcoming generations, and ourselves, and the work must begin now―not with young adults, but with young children. A large body of empirical social science work conducted over the last two decades supports this. According to a 2006 study, when children play in nature before age 11, they are “more likely to grow up to be environmentalists than other children.” Additional research has suggested that kids who engage with the natural world alongside “significant others”, like family members and teachers, are more likely to protect that nature later in life.
> 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,
> 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