Happiness (“Hygge”) in America

Statue of Liberty with a Smiley face
No. 203 (4-11-18)
Clifton Ware, Editor-Publisher

It seems that America is no longer to be counted among the top ten nations for high levels of happiness. Is anyone surprised to learn this? I read an editorial by William Falk in a recent issue of The Week magazine that addresses this topic succinctly and accurately. Here it is in its entirely:

For much of the year, Finland has but a few hours of light and temperatures well below 0 degrees F. Yet the Finns are the happiest people in the world, according to the U.N.’s annual World Happiness Report. Norway is second, followed by Denmark and Iceland (also cold and dark). The U.S. dropped four places to 18th. Now, happiness is no doubt hard to quantify, and this ranking should be taken as more suggestive than definitive. But why does our powerful and wealthy nation—whose founding promise is the individual pursuit of happiness—consistently fall into a second tier … and keep sinking?

Collapse <----------or----------> Prosperity?

A dystopian future London The Thames is almost empty and infrastructure has eroded.
SEF News-Views Digest No. 202 (4-4-18)
Clifton Ware, Editor-Publisher


Peak Prosperity: The Future Ain’t What It Used To Be (Chris Martenson). This marks our 10th year of using data, logic and reason to support the very basic conclusion that infinite growth on a finite planet is impossible.  Everybody senses the truth: Our way of life is unsustainable. The simple reality is that society’s hopes for a “modern consumer-class lifestyle for all” is incompatible with the accelerating imbalance between the (still growing) human population and the (increasingly depleting) planet’s natural resources. Basic math and physics tell us that the Earth’s ecosystems can’t handle the load for much longer. The only remaining question concerns how fast the adjustment happens. [See also: The Real Reason Why Stock Markets Will Continue To Crumble This Year]

Resource Insights: The Troubling Realities Of Our Energy Transition (Kurt Cobb). Only 1.5% percentage of the world’s energy is provided by these six renewable sources: solar, wind, geothermal, wave, tidal, and ocean energy. Hydroelectricity from dams adds another 2.5%, but no more dams will likely be built. Population growth adds more pressure to the problem. An MIT Technology Review adds credence to the severity of renewable energy’s percentage growth, and suggests that a total mobilization of society akin to what happened in World War II would have to occur and be maintained for decades to accomplish the energy transition we need to avoid catastrophic climate change.

Common Dreams: Love And Loss In The Anthropocene (Elizabeth West). As a species, we have been unable to meet the challenges posed by our own misguided attachment to growth. Any human under 50 today—and all the other innocent beings on the planet—are facing a life immeasurably more difficult than the one I was granted. Nature, though brutally ravaged by human greed, still manages to offer deep sustenance, an unbeatable and incredibly generous antidote to the fear and anger and sadness that are afoot everywhere in these times. The truth is that these are desperate and utterly unusual times; no one really knows how to navigate them, there are no experts at walking gracefully into annihilation. [See also: Global Challenges]

The Guardian; Paul Ehrlich: ‘Collapse Of Civilization Is A Near Certainty Within Decades’ (Damian Carrington). Fifty years after the publication of his controversial book The Population Bomb, biologist Paul Ehrlich warns overpopulation and overconsumption are driving us over the edge. The world’s optimum population is less than two billion people—5.6 billion fewer than on the planet today, he argues, and there is an increasing toxification of the entire planet by synthetic chemicals that may be more dangerous to people and wildlife than climate change. Ehrlich also says an unprecedented redistribution of wealth is needed to end the over-consumption of resources, but “the rich who now run the global system are unlikely to let it happen”. [See also: The Population Bomb Revisited]

P2P: Our Economy Is A Degenerative System (Daniel Wahl). Our ecological footprint exceeds the Earth’s capacity to regenerate. The Ecological Footprint measures how fast we consume resources and generate waste in comparison with how fast nature can absorb our waste and generate new resources. This point of spending more than is coming in every year — or living off the capital rather than the interest — was reached by humanity in the late-1960s. Of nine planetary boundaries, humanity has already crossed four—climate change, loss of biosphere integrity, land systems change, and altered biochemical cycles. [See also: The World In 2018 – Part Four]

> Common Dreams: ‘The Gig Economy’ Is The New Term For Serfdom (Chris Hedges). Corporate capitalism is establishing a neo-feudal serfdom in numerous occupations, a condition in which there are no labor laws, no minimum wage, no benefits, no job security and no regulations. Desperate and impoverished workers, forced to endure 16-hour days, are viciously pitted against each other. The corporate elites, which have seized control of ruling institutions including the government and destroyed labor unions, are re-establishing the inhumane labor conditions that characterized the 19th and early 20th centuries. The reign of the all-powerful capitalist class has returned with a vengeance. [See also: The Gig Economy Celebrates Working Yourself To Death]

Futurism: A Dangerous Cyberattack On A Petrochemical Plant Could Be The First Of Many (Jolene Creighton). A new kind of attack has made its way into the world. And, frankly, it’s terrifying. Experts are learning a lot from this foiled attack in Saudi Arabia. The New York Times reports that the attack required a level of sophistication that shows the attackers had government backing, though the individual hackers and the country backing them are still unknown. Russians are hacking the U.S. electric grid. The greatest fear is that they are able to access American nuclear plants, which could wreak devastation rarely seen on some of the country’s most populated areas.

Truthdig: Building The Iron Wall (Chris Hedges) Totalitarianism is formed incrementally. It begins by silencing the demonized. It ends by silencing everyone. Despots, despite their proclaimed ideological, national and religious differences, speak the same language. Amoral, devoid of empathy and addicted to power and personal enrichment, they are building a world where all who criticize them are silenced, where their populations are rendered compliant by fear, constant surveillance and the loss of basic liberties and where they and their corporate enablers are the undisputed masters.

Yes! Magazine: No, Growing Inequality Won’t Solve Itself (Sarah van Gelder). The top 1 percent in the U.S. already owns 42 percent of the nation’s wealth. Societies tend to become more unequal over time, unless there is concerted pushback. Those who accumulate wealth—whether because of good fortune, hard work, talent, or ruthlessness—also accumulate power. And over time, the powerful find ways to shift the economic and political rules in their favor, affording them still more wealth and power. The process feeds on itself, growing like a cancer unless stopped by outside forces.  In the United States, where addiction is rampant, life expectancy is falling, infant mortality is the highest in the developed world, education quality is abysmal, and the country’s infrastructure is crumbling.

Common Dreams: The Largest Protests In American History Are Happening Now. Expect Them To Get Bigger. (Heather Dockray). Crowd Counting Consortium estimated that over 1.25 million people across the United States participated in the March for Our Lives protest, making it one of the largest youth-led protests in American history, at least since the Vietnam War. A combustible array of variables, including the rise in authoritarianism and anti-authoritarianism worldwide and technology that makes it easier to organize sibling marches, have contributed to historic turnouts. Turnouts have been so historic partially because of the depth of anti-Trump despair.


The Guardian: Overstretched Cities (a series of articles examining the impact of the rush to urbanization). Plight Of Phoenix: How Long Can The World’s ‘Least Sustainable’ City Survive?; China’s Radical Plan To Limit The Populations Of Beijing And ShanghaiIs The Way We Think About Overpopulation Racist?

IPBES: Media Release: Biodiversity And Nature’s Contributions Continue Dangerous Decline, Scientists Warn (Staff). Biodiversity—the essential variety of life forms on Earth—continues to decline in every region of the world, significantly reducing nature’s capacity to contribute to people’s wellbeing. This alarming trend endangers economies, livelihoods, food security and the quality of life of people everywhere. Biodiversity and nature’s capacity to contribute to people are being degraded, reduced and lost due to a number of common pressures—habitat stress; overexploitation and unsustainable use of natural resources; air, land and water pollution; increasing numbers and impact of invasive alien species and climate change, among others.

Science News: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch May Be 16 Times As Massive As We Thought (Helen Thompson). A pooling of plastic waste floating in the ocean between California and Hawaii contains at least 79,000 tons of material spread over 1.6 million square kilometers, researchers. That’s the equivalent to the mass of more than 6,500 school buses. About 1.8 trillion plastic pieces make up the garbage patch, the scientists estimate. Known as the great Pacific garbage patch. Almost half of the total mass, for example, is from discarded fishing nets. A lot of that litter contains especially durable plastics, such as polyethylene and polypropylene, which are designed to survive in marine environments. [See also: Plastic And How It Affects Our Oceans]

Morherboard: More Than 75 Percent Of Earth’s Land Areas Are ‘Broken,’ Major Report Finds (Stephen Leahy). Less than 25 percent of the Earth’s land surface has escaped the substantial impacts of human activity—and by 2050, this will have fallen to less than 10 percent. Most of these future land losses will be in Central and South America, sub-Saharan Africa, and Asia. A recent report projects that the only places left relatively unaffected will be the polar regions and tundra, high mountains, and deserts.

Carbon Brief: Global Warming To Date Could ‘Obliterate’ A Third Of Glacier Ice (Robert McSweeney).  The warming the world has already experienced could be enough to melt more than a third of the world’s glaciers outside Antarctica and Greenland—regardless of current efforts to reduce emissions. That is the stark conclusion of a new study, which analyses the lag between global temperature rise and the retreat of glaciers. The relatively slow response of glaciers to global warming means it will take to the end of the century—and beyond —to see the benefits of mitigation efforts in the coming decades, the study says.

Common Dreams: There’s Fake News On Your Television, Too (Richard Eskow). Sinclair Broadcast Group is a hard-right corporation that imposes its views on the local television stations it owns. The consolidation of media into a few private hands poses great risk, and Sinclair is abusing its power by distorting the facts to impose a predetermined view of reality on reporters at its 173 stations—and therefore on the public. In 1983, 50 companies controlled 90 percent of American media. Forty years later, 90 percent of the media was controlled by only five companies Fake news outlets on the internet do the same thing: They tell readers that “they” are lying, but “we” are telling you the unvarnished truth.

VOX: It’s Not Just Elections: Russia Hacked The US Electric Grid (Kelsey Atherton). On March 15, the US government released a report describing a massive Russian hacking campaign to infiltrate America’s “critical infrastructure”—things like power plants, nuclear generators, and water facilities. The joint report from the FBI and Department of Homeland Security claims that Russian hackers gained access to computers across the targeted industries and collected sensitive data including passwords, logins, and information about energy generation. The biggest problem is that countries the world over are rapidly learning just how much vital or even lucrative information they can obtain from hacking, and are constantly figuring out new ways to circumvent security measures they encounter.

Common Dreams: We Have Spent $32 Million Per Hour On War Since 2001 (Stephanie Savell). The war on terror has cost Americans a staggering $5.6 trillion since 2001, when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan. It means Americans spend $32 million per hour, according to a counter by the National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies. Put another way: Since 2001, every American taxpayer has spent almost $24,000 on the wars. U.S. activity in Iraq and the Middle East has only spurred greater political upheaval and unrest. The U.S.-led coalition is seen not as a liberating force, but as an aggressor. [See also: It’s Time to Transform the War Economy]

Think Progress: Stunning Drops In Solar, Wind Costs Mean Economic Case For Coal, Gas Is ‘Crumbling’ (Joe Romm). Prices for solar, wind, and battery storage are dropping so rapidly that renewables are increasingly squeezing out all forms of fossil fuel power, including natural gas. The cost of new solar plants dropped 20 percent over the past 12 months, while onshore wind prices dropped 12 percent, according to the latest Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) report. Since 2010, the prices for lithium-ion batteries—crucial to energy storage—have plummeted a stunning 79 percent (see chart). The future could not be sunnier for renewables.

Harvard Business Review: Research: The Industrial Revolution Left Psychological Scars That Can Still Be Seen Today (Martin Obschonka). Our research shows that a region’s historical industries leave a lasting imprint on the local psychology, which remains even when those industries are no longer dominant or have almost completely disappeared. For example, besides the occupational health risks that miners face, mining regions pose increased population-wide health risks due to pollution and economic hardship. In sum, the effect of the Industrial Revolution seems to be more toxic and far-reaching than previously thought.

The Guardian: Are You Ready? This Is All The Data Facebook And Google Have On You (Dylan Curran). The harvesting of our personal details goes far beyond what many of us could imagine. Google stores information on every app and extension you use. They know how often you use them, where you use them, and who you use them to interact with. That means they know who you talk to on Facebook, what countries are you speaking with, what time you go to sleep.


Open Democracy: Culture Shift: Redirecting Humanity’s Path To A Flourishing Future (Jeremy Lent). We need such concepts as tax on carbon, big investments in renewable energy, a livable minimum wage, and freely accessible healthcare, but even taken together they’re utterly insufficient to redirect humanity away from impending catastrophe and toward a truly flourishing future. Each culture tends to construct its worldview on a root metaphor of the universe, which in turn defines people’s relationship to nature and each other, ultimately leading to a set of values that directs how that culture behaves. The Scientific Revolution was built on metaphors such as ‘nature as a machine’ and ‘conquering nature’, which have shaped the values and behaviors of the modern age. We have the capacity to build an alternative worldview around a sense of connectedness within the web of life.

The Guardian: Empty Half The Earth Of Its Humans. It’s The Only Way To Save The Planet (Kim Stanley Robinson). There are nearly eight billion humans alive on the planet now, and that’s a big number: more than twice as many as were alive 50 years ago. It’s an accidental experiment with enormous stakes, as it isn’t clear that the Earth’s biosphere can supply that many people’s needs—or absorb that many wastes and poisons—on a renewable and sustainable basis over the long haul. Cities emerge from the confusion of possibilities as beacons of hope. By definition they house a lot of people on small patches of land, which makes them hugely better than suburbia. In ecological terms, suburbs are disastrous, while cities can perhaps work. EO Wilson has proposed the concept of Half Earth, which suggests leaving about half the Earth’s surface mostly free of humans, so wild plants and animals can live there unimpeded as they did for so long before humans arrived.

Open Democracy: Forget About GDP: It’s Time For A Wellbeing Economy (Kate Pickett). Voters sense that our economies are not aligned with what really matters to them is mirrored in evidence. Research shows that growth in GDP has not been widely shared, with the wealthy gaining the most. Moreover, while policy makers strain to squeeze more GDP from a stagnating economy, we know that, increases in GDP per capita don’t always bring greater progress. GDP doesn’t capture the value of non-monetized or non-marketed work, and is blind to the carrying capacity of our environment. We need to cultivate a new economic vision that relates to people’s daily experiences, not the growth of abstract numbers. This is the vision of a ‘wellbeing economy’.

Yes! Magazine: Why Americans Score Lower On Happiness Every Year—And What To Do About It (George Ward).  March 20 was International Day of Happiness and, as they’ve done every year, the United Nations has published the World Happiness Report. The U.S. ranks 18th among the world’s countries, with an average life satisfaction of around 6.88 on a scale of 10.The idea that government ought to focus attention on the well-being of its citizens goes back centuries. Electoral data suggests that governments of populations that are unhappy do not tend to stay in power very long. To boost happiness in America, policymakers should look to counter adverse trends in equality, the erosion of social trust, and increasing isolation.

Solutions Journal: Resilience Principles as a Tool for Exploring Options for Urban Resilience (Arjan Wardekker). The world is becoming increasingly urban and cities face a constant struggle with the complex environmental, social, economic, and political challenges of the 21st century. Many international organizations have argued that cities will need to become more resilient to these challenges. Over half of the world’s population lives in cities and these percentages keep on rising.4 Cities are expected to meet the needs of their rising populations for housing, work, water, food, and energy, while simultaneously managing the resulting pressures. Urban resilience is a concept that can help cities prepare for the complex challenges of the 21st century. [See also: How Will Driverless Cars Change Our Cities?]

Slow Money: Agricultural Innovation With John-Paul Maxfield (Woody Tasch).  Soil is incredibly complex. Just as with the human microbiome project, there is so much we have yet to discover. If we want to fix climate change, the answer is literally right beneath our feet. Da Vinci had it right when he said we understand the movements of the heavens better than we understand what is happening underfoot. We understand the soil at an intuitive level but not at a practical level. The National Gardening Association reported that the number of households gardening grew 17% from 2008 to 2013. Decentralizing our food systems, either by shift of consciousness or technological innovation, is a primary objective.

Resilience: Urban and Small Farm Agriculture (Jody Tishmack). Wherever climate and conditions favor it, local food production on small farms, in backyards, community gardens, and empty urban lots will become an increasingly important source of fresh food. And if one uses season extension or poly-covered tunnels and drip irrigation we can expand the growing area to suit much wider climate conditions. A recent Earth and Space Science News describes how expanding agriculture into cities could improve food security, ecosystem health, and more. Food from urban gardens can have a positive impact on every community’s health and wellbeing, making cities and their inhabitants more resilient in the face of declining industrial agriculture, energy depletion, and climate change.

The Conversation: We Know How Food Production Needs To Change If Crisis Is To Be Avoided (Nina Moeller). As the world races toward a projected 9 billion inhabitants, the failings of dominant food systems are impossible to deny. Current food production methods are severely polluting, the cause of malnutrition, unjustifiably wasteful and inequitable, and concentrated in the hands of few corporations. Entangled in the multiple crises humanity is facing, establishing global food security is considered a key challenge of our time. In contrast, agroecology is based on the idea that farms should mimic the structure and functioning of natural ecosystems, where there is no “waste”, with nutrients recycled indefinitely. Agroecology aims to close nutrient loops, by returning all nutrients that come out of the soil.

Waging Nonviolence: How To Build A Progressive Movement In A Polarized Country (George Lakey). Progressives need to breathe deeply and make our peace with the reality. Division expresses an economic arrangement, and it’s not something we can fix through urging more civil discourse. Even though we’ll want to use our conflict resolution skills in order to cope, we can also expect more drama at the extreme ends of our polarizations, and more ugliness and violence. From these examples of how Germany and Italy reacted to polarization in the 1920s and ‘30s, as compared to Sweden and Norway, we can see that polarization may guarantee a big political fight, but it doesn’t determine whether the outcome will be dictatorship or democracy. U.S. history also shows that polarization does not determine outcomes. There are five steps that form a roadmap to transformation.

Ensia: A New Life For Toxic Land (Lynne Peeples). Across the U.S., Superfund sites are being repurposed— as parks, playing fields, workplaces, homes, shopping centers, and renewable energy projects, like solar farms. Since passage of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) in 1980, more than 1,700 sites around the U.S. have been listed on the National Priorities List (NPL). As of late February, 399 sites have been fully cleaned up and deleted from the list.

The Guardian: Study: Wind And Solar Can Power Most Of The United States (John Abraham). In order to combat climate change, we need to rapidly move from fossil fuel energy to clean, renewable energy. A very recent paper published in the journal Energy and Environmental Science found that with 100% power capacity and no mechanism to store energy, a wind-heavy portfolio is best (about 75% wind, 25% solar) and using large aggregate regions is optimal. It is possible to supply about 75-80% of US electrical needs. If the system were designed with excess capacity (the 150% case), the US could meet about 90% of its needs with wind and solar power.

SEF News-Views Digest–No. 201

Bakken Oil Field Gas Flaring Viewed from Space, In Comparison with Twin Cities

No. 201 (3-21-18)
Clifton Ware, Editor-Publisher

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Resilience: New U.S. Record-Level Oil Production! Peak Oil Theory Disproven! Not. (Richard Heinberg). Like all debt bubbles, the fracking bubble is going to burst at some point. And when it does, the carnage will extend far beyond the industry itself. Evidence suggests that technological improvement has reached the point of diminishing returns. When the crisis hits, it will be too late for the nation to do much of anything. It will be up to communities to respond as intelligently as they can. [See also: The World Oil Supply Is Infinite: I Know That Because I Believe It (Roger Blanchard); United States As Energy Exporter: Is It “Fake News… (Kurt Cobb); and Peak Oil Or Peak Demand? (Michael R. Conley).]

P2P Foundation: Beyond Supply and Demand: The Dynamic Equilibrium Between Global Thresholds and Allocations (James Quilligan). The social demand for commodities is often claimed by banks as having a direct link with the ecological supply of resources, which are extracted, produced and sold as commodities. But bank reserve assets are not discounted to reflect the decline of the world’s non-renewable resources, like water and rare minerals, which are not valued according to declining availability. We need to recognize the fundamental law of equilibrium.

The Independent (Voice for Utah): Human Population Growth: Is The Explosion A Blessing Or A Curse (Rick Miller). A variety of scientific and social science disciplines are directly or indirectly concerned with this possibly alarming rate of human population growth. The consensus is that if we don’t control human population growth, it will inevitably be controlled by “nature,” perhaps in the not-too-distant future. Two principal reasons given for promoting population growth are promoted by religious doctrine and the economic sector, because more people means more consumption and more income for businesses. If we consider ourselves to be an intelligent species, it’s time to use that wonderful gift to protect our future.

Resilience: Getting Past Trump: This Is How Democracies Die (Part 1) (Richard Heinberg). Democracies die with rot that begins within, but external players often take advantage of the situation to hasten the decay (as occurred in ancient Rome). Even without Trump, the nation still faces simmering crises (falling energy return on investment, increasing economic inequality, over-reliance on debt, climate change) that appear to be leading toward collapse of government and the economy. Meanwhile, as a result of political polarization, social fragmentation, plain old corruption (see NRA), and truth decay we are losing whatever ability we ever had to address those crises. [See also: Getting Past Trump Part 2: The Russia Connection]

Resilience: Rage Gap (Samuel Miller McDonald). Given the great shadow that looming climate dystopia casts over all relations today, we Millennials cannot ignore our resentment from being bequeathed a bankrupted future. We do not have sufficient capital or political power to undertake the massive infrastructural transition necessary for mitigating climate change in the narrow window of time we have—that is, between zero and a few years. Baby Boomers, collectively as a generation, will have to decide whether to work with Millennials to avert societal and environmental collapse. This may be the best and only way of rebuilding solidarity in our country, starting with bonding the young and the old around this task.

Common Dreams: Making America Great Again Requires Acting On Scientific Knowledge (Elizabeth Hadly). The mantra these days is “to make America great again.” But a key feature of bygone days was listening to the lessons that science taught and acting upon them to make a better planet. At the national level, there is active dismantling and discrediting of the science that substantiates environmental problems and solutions.

Peak Prosperity Podcast-Transcript: James Howard Kunstler: The Coming Economy Of “Less” (Adam Taggart, Chris Martenson). In this wide-raging discussion, ranging from the pervasiveness of propaganda in today’s media to the risk of nuclear war, Kunstler also renews his warnings of a current secular economic slowdown. After too many years of market interventions, magical thinking, racketeering, and bleeding the 99% dry, he warns that our culture and economic system will soon reach a snapping point. Nothing’s going to move if the financial system cracks up. People no longer trust each other to transact, to get paid. And so they stop transacting. We’re talking about a falling standard of living and getting used to an economy of “less”.


Common Dreams: Extreme Winter Weather Across US And Europe Linked To Unusually Warm Arctic Temperatures (Julia Conley). While North Americans and Europeans have experienced bitter cold snaps and heavy snowfall this winter, climate scientists have recorded an exceptionally warm season in the Arctic Circle. Although global warming has caused warmer temperatures around the globe overall, there is also a strong link between the climate crisis and extreme winter weather events. New research suggests that the warming of the globe has disrupted the polar vortex, and warming temperatures have weakened the low-pressure system’s flow, causing it to drift southward from the polar region—bringing with it cold Arctic air. [See also: Researchers ‘Staggered’ By ‘Crazy, Crazy’ Record-Setting Warm Winter In Arctic (Julia Conley).

Grist: Trees, Our Best Defense Against Climate Change, Are Going Up In Flames (Eric Holthaus). Each Year, The Earth’s trees suck more than a hundred billion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. At the moment, the world’s forests are not doing well, due to the climate shifting so quickly and jeopardizing many of the world’s trees, which are dying at the fastest rate ever seen.

MinnPost: Minnesota Is In The Midst Of A Massive And Historic Energy Transformation (Gregg Mast, Lisa Jacobson). In the last year alone, Minnesota added 467 megawatts (MW) of solar capacity—enough to power 53,000 homes and nearly tripling the capacity added in 2016.What is responsible for Minnesota’s explosive growth? Policy leadership has played a strong role. Consistent and forward-looking policies that value clean energy deployment have fostered significant business investment in this sector.

The Guardian: Total Ban On Bee-Harming Pesticides Likely After Major New EU Analysis (Damian Carrington). Based on analysis of more than 1,500 studies, makes it highly likely that neonicotinoid pesticides will be banned from all fields across the EU when nations vote on the issue next month. Bees and other insects are vital for global food production as they pollinate three-quarters of all crops. The plummeting numbers of pollinators in recent years has been blamed on disease, destruction of flower-rich habitat and, increasingly, the widespread use of neonicotinoid pesticides.

Cosmos Magazine: Bad Air Worse Than Bad Genes For Many Diseases (Paul Biegler). Major study finds pollution, especially from burning coal, has more influence on disease risk than genetic inheritance.  Air pollution causes spikes in heart attacks and stroke, triggers hospital admissions for asthma, upsets diabetes control and, for good measure, is a class one carcinogen known to cause lung cancer. Of all the pollutants, sulphur dioxide appears to be the worst, with more impact than smoking, socioeconomic disadvantage, or issues affecting green space and footpaths.

The Tyee: Warning Bells About Fracking And Earthquakes Growing Louder (Andrew Nikiforuk). The fracking technology is causing more earthquakes than expected, and it doesn’t take the injection of much fluid to trigger a tremor. In Texas, the volume of sand used to prop open cracks in shale formations to release hydrocarbons has increased from 1,360 tons per well to 6,800 tons. In Canada, use has tripled from 3,000 tons per well to 12,000 tons.

The New York Times: Want To Be Happy? Try Moving To Finland (Maggie Astor). The latest World Happiness Report names Finland as the happiest country, followed by Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, and the Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Sweden, and Australia. The U.S. ranks 18th out of 156 countries, down from the previous two years by 4- 5 spots respectively. While the economy and per capita income remain strong, the U.S. ranks poorly on social measures: declining life expectancy; increased suicide rates; worsening opioid crisis; growing inequality, and less confidence in government.


Transition US: 10 Stories Of Transition In The US: The Spread Of Repair Cafes (Steve McAllister). While extreme wastefulness was once seen as our civic duty, people throughout the United States and all over the world are finding better ways to strengthen their local economies while helping to heal the planet. One of the most exciting new strategies for doing this is a repair cafe. Shops that fixed shoes, televisions, and a number of other everyday products were once commonplace, but these institutions have been nearly wiped out in recent years. In their place, repair cafes are now providing people with opportunities to breathe new life into broken things while cultivating community at the same time.

Portland Press Herald: More Activist Scientists Seek Congressional Seats (Ben Guarino, Laurie McGinley). Alarmed by the growing denigration of science in the U.S., more and more scientists are running for public offices. While a few scientist-candidates are running as independents, most are Democrats making their first foray into party politics. (More than 80 percent of scientists in a 2014 Pew survey identified as Democrats or Democrat-leaning.) 314 Action is working with 30 congressional candidates across the country and expects to formally endorse about half that number.

Minnpost: As Washington Stalls, 24 Legislatures Move To Make Environment Less Toxic (Ron Meador). More than 120 measures aimed at reducing hazardous chemical exposure in everyday life are moving in American legislatures this year, according to the latest annual count by the Safer States coalition. The tally has grown by a dozen in the last couple of weeks and may increase further. Minnesota is among the 24 states considering new protections and, as usual, is something of a leader in the pack with seven measures introduced. Only three states are more ambitious: New York with 44, Massachusetts with 10, and Rhode Island with nine.

Garden Earth: Food Self-Sufficiency – Does It Make Sense? (Gunnar Rundgren). After the food price hike in 2007-2008 and in a world that many feel is less secure, there is a renewed interest in food self-sufficiency. Some define self-sufficiency such that a country should produce a quantity (or calories) that equals or exceeds the consumption, but food is both imported and exported. There are many valid reasons for a country to increase food self- sufficiency and decrease its dependency to international trade. It seems to that reducing competition would be an important objective for a food trade policy.

The Pew Charitable Trusts: U.S. Infrastructure Must Be Flood-Ready, State And Local Officials Say (Laura Lightbody, Forbes Tompkins). From the recent flooding in the Midwest and the March nor’easter along the mid-Atlantic coast to the 2017 hurricanes and this winter’s record deluges in California, major floods have become all too common across the U.S. More than 250 governors, state representatives, and mayors from across the political spectrum, representing more than 45 million Americans, are calling on the federal government to ensure that our country’s infrastructure can withstand flooding, to limit damage, reduce the need to rebuild after floods, and save taxpayer dollars.

Ecowatch: The Environmental And Human Cost Of Making A Pair Of Jeans (Kathleen Webber). The average American consumer buys four pairs of jeans a year. In China’s Xintang province, a textile hub for denim, 300 million pairs are made annually using a brew of toxic chemicals. It takes hundreds of gallons of water to dye and finish one pair of jeans, a process that produces an estimated 2.5 billion gallons of wastewater. The resulting environmental damage to 70% of rivers, lakes, ecosystems and communities in China, Bangladesh and India is the subject of a new documentary called Riverblue: Can Fashion Save The Planet?. One company, Jeanologia, has developed several technologies using light and air to finish jeans using little water and no chemicals.

BBC News: How Exercise In Old Age Prevents The Immune System From Declining (Fergus Walsh). Prof Janet Lord, director of the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing, at the University of Birmingham, and co-author of the research, said: “The immune system declines by about 2-3% a year from our 20s, which is why older people are more susceptible to infections, conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and, potentially, cancer. Moderate exercise is a proven long-term preventive measure for everyone.

Bicycling: Here’s How Cycling Can Slow Down The Aging Process (Allison Golstein). In recent years, researchers have turned their attention to the immune system, which can also decline as you age. Specifically, your thymus—the part of your body that produces white blood cells—begins to shrink. It then produces fewer cells, meaning your body gradually loses the ability to protect itself against disease. However, a new study questioned if these age-related muscle declines are inevitable, or if regular exercise—cycling, in this case—can slow down or even reverse them.

Yes! Magazine: The Ways Gratitude Can Also Make You Physically Healthier (Summer Allen). After 15 years of research, we know that gratitude is a key to psychological wellbeing. Gratitude can make people happier, improve their relationships, and potentially even counteract depression and suicidal thoughts. But might the benefits of gratitude go beyond that? Could gratitude be good for your physical health, too? [I say, yes!]


A Primary Resilience Resource – SEF News-Views Digest

Book: Community Resilience Leader
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.

Reflections During Flu Season – SEF News-Views Digest

Earth with a thermometer
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.