Too late to save climate...

SUBHEAD: It may be too late to save the climate we grew up in but we still could save ourselves.

By Aaron Lehmer-Chang on 23 November 2015 for World Shift Vision -

Image above: The Eiffel Tower in an orange Paris sunset. From (

Yet another United Nations climate confab is about to commence, this time in Paris, France, where the tragic backdrop of terrorism, war, and a growing immigration crisis now grips the country.

It’s fitting that global warming talks should happen here, considering the role that climate-induced drought in Syria has played in worsening the wave of the violence and desperate migration that’s spread throughout the region. Perhaps the gravity of the moment will weigh more heavily on UN delegates as they ponder a world where extreme weather, rising seas, and punishing droughts become the norm, leading to ever more conflict and misery.

Still, we’re unlikely to see a plan emerge from the Paris talks that truly stems the tide of rising carbon pollution, much less any binding agreement to ensure that meaningful climate protection goals are met.

Those who’ve pinned their hopes on a global accord that ramps down carbon levels are singing from the same songbook as they always have, year after year, from Rio in 1992 to Kyoto in 1997 to Copenhagen in 2009.

Time and time again the refrain is always: “It will be different this time.”
Environmental commentator Brian Tokar has outlined each of these progressive failures in his painfully incisive piece, Is the Paris Climate Conference Designed to Fail?

With excruciating detail, Tokar provides a behind-the-scenes look into why these global processes have perpetually missed the mark, concluding that “progress toward a meaningful climate agreement has continued to be stifled by big-power politics and diplomatic gridlock.”

That appears unlikely to change anytime soon, certainly not in the 20-30 year timeframe that climate activists proclaim is critical to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels to stave off massive climate disruption.

Recent news from climate scientists isn’t encouraging.

Earlier this month, the World Meteorological Association (WMO) released a bulletin noting that the Earth’s climate will soon enter a new “permanent reality” when concentrations of atmospheric CO2 are almost certain to pass 400 parts per million (PPM) — already 50 units higher than the 350 PPM ‘safe’  threshold advocated by climate scientists and activists alike. “It means hotter global temperatures, more extreme weather events like heatwaves and floods, melting ice, rising sea levels and increased acidity of the oceans.

This is happening now and we are moving into uncharted territory at a frightening speed,” said WMO Secretary General Michel Jarraud.

What’s more, researchers at Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research just concluded that a major section of West Antarctica’s ice sheet has destabilized, the melting water from which is likely to raise global sea levels by three meters. It’s worth noting that more than 150 million people globally live within just one meter of the sea; at 3 meters, the number climbs to at least 300 million.

In the United States alone, a 3-meter sea level rise would inundate many of the East Coast’s largest cities, including huge metroplexes like Boston, Miami, and New York.

And that’s just a sampling of the climate impacts that are already in the cards. Even if we look optimistically at what we can expect a global agreement to achieve, there’s simply no way it will stave off massive climate disruption.

Independent researchers at Climate Action Tracker project a global temperature rise between 2.2°C and 3.4°C by 2100 if all current country-by-country pledges are fully implemented (emphasis mine).

Those who are still committed to making the most of the UN talks in Paris, to push global leaders to ratify the boldest, most equitable climate agreement possible, deserve enormous praise and respect. May their efforts bear fruit, in spite of the odds.

But given all the well-established impacts of the pollution that has already happened — let alone all the gigatons of carbon and methane releases to come — it’s simply irresponsible not to refocus our efforts on preparing for the worst.

To date, only about $57 billion in annual funds have been mobilized globally to mitigate and adapt to climate impacts, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. That pales in comparison to the $6 trillion needed for infrastructure transformation over the next 15 years alone, according to the Global Commission of the Economy and Climate Change.

And even that figure sounds woefully inadequate when the costs of shifting from a fossil fuel-based economy to one based entirely on renewables are factored in — roughly $60 trillion to maintain current world per-capita energy use, or $150 trillion to achieve European per-capita energy use, according to Searching for a Miracle, a joint study by the International Forum on Globalization and the Post Carbon Institute.

The UN climate negotiations thus far have settled on a goal of just $100 billion annually in adaptation financing — a mere fraction of what’s needed to truly prepare communities for what’s coming.

Of course, were we to downscale our overall energy demand, opt for radical conservation measures, phase out private automobile use, relocalize our economies, and shift our food system away from animal agriculture — then modern society’s energy requirements would be far less than they are now, our lives would be far more fulfilling, healthy, and connected, and our impact on the climate would be drastically reduced.

And rather than scramble in vain to maintain unsustainable levels of consumption — albeit through supposed “green” technologies, nearly all of which require extensive fossil fuels and toxic chemicals to produce — we could instead focus on bracing our communities for climate change’s inevitable impacts, simplifying our infrastructure, and moving population centers away from rising waters.

Unfortunately, in terms of overall investments and socioeconomic trends, we’re doing precisely the opposite: building more and more energy-intensive infrastructure, sprawling networks of roads and highways, vaster trade routes and shipping fleets, and ever-larger cattle, pig, poultry, and fish production facilities.

Still, while global climate talks and dominant trends are falling far short, a rising tide of local actions around the world to push governments, institutions, and communities toward climate sanity are providing a glimmer of hope for the future. To name but a few noteworthy developments:
On the weekend of November 28-29, the Global Climate March will take place in hundreds of cities around the world to coincide with the start of the Paris talks. The breadth and tenacity of the global climate movement has already made impressive strides, having forced governments to take bolder stances than they clearly would have otherwise, and shifting popular consciousness largely away from the deniers and diminishers of our day.

But the vital task of shifting trillions away from fossil fueled infrastructure, oil wars, and wasteful consumption toward a just, regenerative, balanced way of life for us all remains the most critical unfinished challenge of our time. It’s too late to “save” the climate as we know it, but it’s not too late to save ourselves.

If we can face the gathering storms, the rising seas, and the social turmoil that’s coming with honesty, humility, and boldness, we may just make it to the other side.

How that “other side” shapes up is still largely up to us, depending on whether we continue to squander this planet’s abundant natural wealth or harness its remaining bounty toward a life-affirming future. The costs of fossil fuels on our world have been staggering, to be sure, to our health, to our communities, and to the biosphere at-large.

But whether by design or some fantastical quirk of geological fortune, the endgame is nigh for fossil fueled industrialism. The mad dash for more, more, more into the furthest, most remote corners of the globe will eventually fade into distant memory, replaced with cultures and economies that flow with the rhythms of sunlight, water, and wind.

Why not get started with the exciting work of recalibrating ourselves to the natural cadence of life on Earth?


Drone Whistleblower's Claim

SUBHEAD: Former drone operation pilots say they were "horrified by cruelty of assassination program.

By Murtaza Hussain on 19 November 2015 for the Intercept -

Image above: Drone pilots during operations.  From original article.

U.S. drone operators are inflicting heavy civilian casualties and have developed an institutional culture callous to the death of children and other innocents, four former operators said at a press briefing today in New York.
The killings, part of the Obama administration’s targeted assassination program, are aiding terrorist recruitment and thus undermining the program’s goal of eliminating such fighters, the veterans added. 

Drone operators refer to children as “fun-size terrorists” and liken killing them to “cutting the grass before it grows too long,” said one of the operators, Michael Haas, a former senior airman in the Air Force. Haas also described widespread drug and alcohol abuse, further stating that some operators had flown missions while impaired.

In addition to Haas, the operators are former Air Force Staff Sgt. Brandon Bryant along with former senior airmen Cian Westmoreland and Stephen Lewis. The men have conducted kill missions in many of the major theaters of the post-9/11 war on terror, including Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“We have seen the abuse firsthand,” said Bryant, “and we are horrified.”

An Air Force spokesperson did not address the specific allegations but wrote in an email that “the demands placed on the [drone] force are tremendous. A great deal of effort is being taken to bring about relief, stabilize the force, and sustain a vital warfighter capability. … Airmen are expected to adhere to established standards of behavior. Behavior found to be inconsistent with Air Force core values is appropriately looked into and if warranted, disciplinary action is taken.”

Beyond the press conference, the group also denounced the program yesterday in an interview with The Guardian and in an open letter addressed to President Obama.

Read the full letter the drone whistleblowers sent to Obama below or here, or (

President Barack Obama
The White House Washington, D.C.
Secretary Ashton B. Carter
Department of Defense

Director John O. Brennan
Central Intelligence Agency

Dear President Obama, Secretary Carter and Director Brennan:

We are former Air Force service members. We joined the Air Force to protect American lives and to protect our Constitution.

We came to the realization that the innocent civilians we were killing only fueled the feelings of hatred that ignited terrorism and groups like ISIS, while also serving as a fundamental recruitment tool similar to Guantanamo Bay. This administration and its predecessors have built a drone program that is one of the most devastating driving forces for terrorism and destabilization around the world.

When the guilt of our roles in facilitating this systematic loss of innocent life became too much, all of us succumbed to PTSD. We were cut loose by the same government we gave so much to ­­ sent out in the world without adequate medical care, reliable public health services, or necessary benefits. Some of us are now homeless. Others of us barely make it.

We witnessed gross waste, mismanagement, abuses of power, and our country’s leaders lying publicly about the effectiveness of the drone program. We cannot sit silently by and witness tragedies like the attacks in Paris, knowing the devastating effects the drone program has overseas and at home. Such silence would violate the very oaths we took to support and defend the Constitution.

We request that you consider our perspective, though perhaps that request is in vain given the unprecedented prosecution of truth­tellers who came before us like Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange, and Edward Snowden. For the sake of this country, we hope it is otherwise.


Brandon Bryant
Staff Sergeant
MQ­1B Predator Sensor Operator
SERE Instructor Trainee
USAF Joint Special Operations Command 3rd Special Operations Squadron Disabled Iraq and Afghanistan Veteran Founder of Project RED HAND
Cian Westmoreland
Senior Airman
RF Transmissions Systems
73rd Expeditionary Air Control Squadron
Disabled Afghanistan Veteran
Project RED HAND's Sustainable Technology Director

Stephen Lewis
Senior Airman
MQ­1B Predator Sensor Operator
USAF Joint Special Operations Command 3rd Special Operations Squadron
Iraq and Afghanistan Veteran
Michael Haas
Senior Airman
MQ­1B Predator Sensor Operator Instructor USAF Air Combat Command
15th Reconnaissance Squadron
Iraq and Afghanistan Veteran

At the press conference, Bryant said the killing of civilians by drone is exacerbating the problem of terrorism. “We kill four and create 10 [militants],” Bryant said. “If you kill someone’s father, uncle or brother who had nothing to do with anything, their families are going to want revenge.”

The Obama administration has gone to great lengths to keep details of the drone program secret, but in their statements today the former operators opened up about the culture that has developed among those responsible for carrying it out.

Haas said operators become acculturated to denying the humanity of the people on their targeting screens. “There was a much more detached outlook about who these people were we were monitoring,” he said. “Shooting was something to be lauded and something we should strive for.”

The deaths of children and other non-combatants in strikes was rationalized by many drone operators, Haas said. As a flight instructor, Haas claimed to have been non-judicially reprimanded by his superiors for failing a student who had expressed “bloodlust,” an overwhelming eagerness to kill.

Haas also described widespread alcohol and drug abuse among drone pilots. Drone operators, he said, would frequently get intoxicated using bath salts and synthetic marijuana to avoid possible drug testing and in an effort to “bend that reality and try to picture yourself not being there.”

Haas said that he knew at least a half-dozen people in his unit who were using bath salts and that drug use had “impaired” them during missions.

The Obama administration’s assassination program has come under increasing scrutiny in recent months. This October, The Intercept published a cache of classified documents leaked by a government whistleblower that showed how the program killed people based on unreliable intelligence, that the vast majority of people killed in a multi-year Afghanistan campaign were not the intended targets, and that the military by default labeled non-targets killed in the campaign as enemies rather than civilians.

The operators said that they felt increasing urgency to speak out in the wake of the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris last week; they believe drone assassinations have fed the rise of the extremist group the Islamic State, which has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Westmoreland said of drones: “In the short term they’re good at killing people, but in the long term they’re not effective. There are 15-year-olds growing up who have not lived a day without drones overhead, but you also have expats who are watching what’s going on in their home countries and seeing regularly the violations that are happening there, and that is something that could radicalize them.”

In their open letter to Obama, the former drone pilots made a similar point, writing that during their service they “came to the realization that the innocent civilians we were killing only fueled the feelings of hatred that ignited terrorism and groups like ISIS,” going on to describe the program as “one of the most devastating driving forces for terrorism and destabilization around the world.”

 At the press conference today, the pilots echoed these sentiments. “It seems like our actions of late have only made the problems worse. …

The drones are good at killing people, just not the right ones,” Bryant said. “Have we forgotten our humanity in the pursuit of vengeance and security?”


Modest Disruption will unravel us

SUBHEAD: Any modest reduction in consumption or borrowing will bring the Status Quo crashing down.

By Charles Hugh Smith on 24 November 2015 for Of Two Minds -

Image above: The game of Jenga is to remove blocks from tower without toppling it. From (

Any modest reduction in debt, tax revenues, consumption or new borrowing will bring the entire Status Quo crashing down.

Consider this clipping from the August 1932 San Francisco Chronicle newspaper:
"Reduction of salaries of municipal employees and limitation of city positions to only one member of a household will be sought by (Supervisor) Adolph Uhl in two amendments to the San Francisco charter. The salary reductions would run from 2.5% for the lowest bracket to 25% on salaries of $500 a month or more."
Thanks to the handy BLS Inflation Calculator we know that $500 a month in 1932 is the equivalent of $8,680 per month (about $104,000) a year.

Imagine the tempest of fury and outrage that would arise should this be proposed the next time local governments run short of funding. Nowadays, the calls would not be for sacrifices from the highly paid public servants but for tax increases of 25% to maintain public-servant wages and benefits while the private sector economy implodes.

This unwillingness to sacrifice for the greater good is now endemic. This is the result of two powerful social forces:
  1. The loss of any shared sense of purpose or social good worthy of sacrifice.
  2. The ascendancy of maximizing private gain by whatever means are available as the primary purpose and goal of the Status Quo.
The dominance of maximizing private gain by whatever means are availableleaves the Status Quo brittle and fragile. Since everyone reckons any sacrifice should fall on someone else, the only possible result is disunity and bitter conflict over modest sacrifices that are too inconsequential to save the system from collapse.

Wishful thinking, mindless optimism and blind adherence to failed ideas also make the Status Quo brittle and fragile.

As Michael Grant noted in his book The Fall of the Roman Empire

There was no room at all, in these ways of thinking, for the novel, apocalyptic situation which had now arisen, a situation which needed solutions as radical as itself. (The Status Quo) attitude is a complacent acceptance of things as they are, without a single new idea.

This acceptance was accompanied by greatly excessive optimism about the present and future. Even when the end was only sixty years away, and the Empire was already crumbling fast, Rutilius continued to address the spirit of Rome with the same supreme assurance.

This blind adherence to the ideas of the past ranks high among the principal causes of the downfall of Rome. If you were sufficiently lulled by these traditional fictions, there was no call to take any practical first-aid measures at all.

A dependence on debt, low interest rates and financial legerdemain also render the Status Quo extremely fragile when the debt become unpayable and low interest rates no longer boost additional borrowing.

The wishful thinking is that we can borrow limitless sums ad leave the debt burden on our children and grandchildren with no consequences. But once the system is dependent on massive borrowing, it becomes acutely sensitive to default, as consumption collapses once consumers can no longer borrow to consume, and asset bubbles engorged by debt-assets (bonds, student loans, mortgages, subprime auto loans, etc.) burst.

Lest you think this implosion from a modest decline in debt and new borrowing is preposterous, please examine this chart of total credit: that tiny wobble in 2008 very nearly collapsed the entire global financial system.

Any modest reduction in debt, tax revenues, consumption or new borrowing will bring the entire Status Quo crashing down. This is the bitter fruit of rampant financialization and the ascendancy of maximizing private gain by whatever means are available.

Hang Onto Your Wallets

SUBHEAD:  Negative Interest, the War on Cash, and the $10 Trillion Bail-in are coming to a town near you.

By Ellen Brown on 20 November 2015 for Web of Debt -

Image above: Customers during a run on a branch of Northern Rock Bank a former "savings and loan" operation that was deregulated in 1997 was been affected in part by problems in the US "subprime" lending market in 2007. From (

[IB Publisher's note: The banks don't like cash for several reasons. One is that unlike paying by credit car, they get no direct cut (a small percentage) of a purchase with done with cash. Also,  there is no trace of purchase history that is so valuable for advertising, marketing, and retail operations. As cash is legal tender it cannot be "declined". Although convenient, electronic transactions are vulnerable to all kinds of failures in deteriorating energy dependent technical future. Banks charging negative interest will encourage many to abandon the credit economy and move towards cash and barter transactions. It's the more resilient path into the future.]  

In uncertain times, “cash is king,” but central bankers are systematically moving to eliminate that option. Is it really about stimulating the economy? Or is there some deeper, darker threat afoot?

Remember those old ads showing a senior couple lounging on a warm beach, captioned “Let your money work for you”?

Or the scene in Mary Poppins where young Michael is being advised to put his tuppence in the bank, so that it can compound into “all manner of private enterprise,” including “bonds, chattels, dividends, shares, shipyards, amalgamations . . . .”?

That may still work if you’re a Wall Street banker, but if you’re an ordinary saver with your money in the bank, you may soon be paying the bank to hold your funds rather than the reverse.
Four European central banks – the European Central Bank, the Swiss National Bank, Sweden’s Riksbank, and Denmark’s Nationalbank – have now imposed negative interest rates on the reserves they hold for commercial banks; and discussion has turned to whether it’s time to pass those costs on to consumers. The Bank of Japan and the Federal Reserve are still at ZIRP (Zero Interest Rate Policy), but several Fed officials have also begun calling for NIRP (negative rates).

The stated justification for this move is to stimulate “demand” by forcing consumers to withdraw their money and go shopping with it. When an economy is struggling, it is standard practice for a central bank to cut interest rates, making saving less attractive. This is supposed to boost spending and kick-start an economic recovery.

That is the theory, but central banks have already pushed the prime rate to zero, and still their economies are languishing. To the uninitiated observer, that means the theory is wrong and needs to be scrapped. But not to our intrepid central bankers, who are now experimenting with pushing rates below zero.

Locking the Door to Bank Runs: The Cashless Society
The problem with imposing negative interest on savers, as explained in the UK Telegraph, is that “there’s a limit, what economists called the ‘zero lower bound’. Cut rates too deeply, and savers would end up facing negative returns. In that case, this could encourage people to take their savings out of the bank and hoard them in cash. This could slow, rather than boost, the economy.”

Again, to the ordinary observer, this would seem to signal that negative interest rates won’t work and the approach needs to be abandoned. But not to our undaunted central bankers, who have chosen instead to plug this hole in their leaky theory by moving to eliminate cash as an option.

If your only choice is to keep your money in a digital account in a bank and spend it with a bank card or credit card or checks, negative interest can be imposed with impunity. This is already happening in Sweden, and other countries are close behind. As reported on

The War on Cash is advancing on all fronts. One region that has hogged the headlines with its war against physical currency is Scandinavia. Sweden became the first country to enlist its own citizens as largely willing guinea pigs in a dystopian economic experiment: negative interest rates in a cashless society. As Credit Suisse reports, no matter where you go or what you want to purchase, you will find a small ubiquitous sign saying “Vi hanterar ej kontanter” (“We don’t accept cash”) . . . .

The Lesson of Gesell’s Decaying Currency
Whether negative interests will actually stimulate an economic recovery, however, remains in doubt. Proponents of the theory cite Silvio Gesell and the Wörgl experiment of the 1930s. As explained by Charles Eisenstein in Sacred Economics:
The pioneering theoretician of negative-interest money was the German-Argentinean businessman Silvio Gesell, who called it “free-money” (Freigeld) . . . . The system he proposed in his 1906 masterwork, The Natural Economic Order, was to use paper currency to which a stamp costing a small fraction of the note’s value had to be affixed periodically. This effectively attached a maintenance cost to monetary wealth.

. . . [In 1932], the depressed town of Wörgl, Austria, issued its own stamp scrip inspired by Gesell . . . . The Wörgl currency was by all accounts a huge success. Roads were paved, bridges built, and back taxes were paid. The unemployment rate plummeted and the economy thrived, attracting the attention of nearby towns. Mayors and officials from all over the world began to visit Wörgl until, as in Germany, the central government abolished the Wörgl currency and the town slipped back into depression.

. . . [T]he Wörgl currency bore a demurrage rate [a maintenance charge for carrying money] of 1 percent per month. Contemporary accounts attributed to this the very rapid velocity of the currencies’ circulation. Instead of generating interest and growing, accumulation of wealth became a burden, much like possessions are a burden to the nomadic hunter-gatherer. As theorized by Gesell, money afflicted with loss-inducing properties ceased to be preferred over any other commodity as a store of value.
There is a critical difference, however, between the Wörgl currency and the modern-day central bankers’ negative interest scheme. The Wörgl government first issued its new “free money,” getting it into the local economy and increasing purchasing power, before taxing a portion of it back. And the proceeds of the stamp tax went to the city, to be used for the benefit of the taxpayers. As Eisenstein observes:
It is impossible to prove . . . that the rejuvenating effects of these currencies came from demurrage and not from the increase in the money supply . . . .

Today’s central bankers are proposing to tax existing money, diminishing spending power without first building it up. And the interest will go to private bankers, not to the local government.

Consumers today already have very little discretionary money. Imposing negative interest without first adding new money into the economy means they will have even less money to spend. This would be more likely to prompt them to save their scarce funds than to go on a shopping spree.

People are not keeping their money in the bank today for the interest (which is already nearly non-existent). It is for the convenience of writing checks, issuing bank cards, and storing their money in a “safe” place.

They would no doubt be willing to pay a modest negative interest for that convenience; but if the fee got too high, they might pull their money out and save it elsewhere. The fee itself, however, would not drive them to buy things they did not otherwise need.

Is There a Bigger Threat than a Sluggish Economy?
The scheme to impose negative interest and eliminate cash seems so unlikely to stimulate the economy that one wonders if that is the real motive. Stopping tax evaders and terrorists (real or presumed) are other proposed justifications for going cashless.

Economist Martin Armstrong goes further and suggests that the goal is to gain totalitarian control over our money. In a cashless society, our savings can be taxed away by the banks; the threat of bank runs by worried savers can be eliminated; and the too-big-to-fail banks can be assured that ample deposits will be there when they need to confiscate them through bail-ins to stay afloat.

And that may be the real threat on the horizon: a major derivatives default that hits the largest banks, those that do the vast majority of derivatives trading. On November 10, 2015, the Wall Street Journal reported the results of a study requested by Senator Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Elijah Cummings, involving the cost to taxpayers of the rollback of the Dodd-Frank Act in the “cromnibus” spending bill last December.

As Jessica Desvarieux put it on the Real News Network, “the rule reversal allows banks to keep $10 trillion in swaps trades on their books, which taxpayers could be on the hook for if the banks need another bailout.”

The promise of Dodd-Frank, however, was that there would be “no more taxpayer bailouts.” Instead, insolvent systemically-risky banks were supposed to “bail in” (confiscate) the money of their creditors, including their depositors (the largest class of creditor of any bank). That could explain the push to go cashless. By quietly eliminating the possibility of cash withdrawals, the central bank can make sure the deposits are there to be grabbed when disaster strikes.

If central bankers are seriously trying to stimulate the economy with negative interest rates, they need to repeat the Wörgl experiment in full. They need to first get some new money into the economy, money that goes directly to the consumers and local businessmen who will spend it.

This could be achieved in a number of ways: with a national dividend; or by using quantitative easing for infrastructure or low-interest loans to states; or by funding free tuition for higher education. Consumers will hit the malls when they have some new discretionary income to spend.

• Ellen Brown is an attorney, founder of the Public Banking Institute, and author of twelve books including the best-selling Web of Debt. Her latest book, The Public Bank Solution, explores successful public banking models historically and globally. Her 300+ blog articles are at Listen to “It’s Our Money with Ellen Brown” on PRN.FM.


Can we afford the future?

SUBHEAD: It will entail living closer to the land and using much less in the way of energy and materials.

By Richard Heinberg on 19 November 2015 in Resilience -

Image above: Photo for article asking "Permaculture be the System of the Future". From (

As a child of the 1950s I grew up immersed in a near-universal expectation of progress. 

Everybody expected a shiny new future; the only thing that might have prevented us from having it was nuclear war, and thankfully that hasn’t happened (so far).

But, in the intervening decades, progress has begun to lose its luster. Official agencies still project economic growth as far as the eye can see, but those forecasts of a better future now ring hollow.

Why? It’s simple. We can’t afford it.

To understand why, it’s helpful to recall how the present got to be so much grander (in terms of economic activity) than the past. Much of that story has to do with fossil fuels. 

Everything we do requires energy, and coal, natural gas, and oil provided energy that was cheap, abundant, concentrated, and easily stored and transported.

Once we figured out how to get these fuels out of the ground and use them, we went on history’s biggest joy ride.

But fossil fuels are depleting non-renewable resources, and are therefore subject to declining resource quality. Oil is the most economically important of the fossil fuels, and depletion is already eating away at expectations of further petroleum-fed progress.

During the past decade, production rates for conventional oil—the stuff that fueled the economic extravaganza of the 20th century—have stalled out and are set to drop (according to the IEA’s latest forecast). 

Between 2004 and 2014, the oil industry’s costs for exploration and production rose at almost 11 percent per year.

 The main bright spot in the oil world has been growing production of unconventional oil — specifically tight oil in North America associated with the fracking boom. But now that boom is going bust.

It’s true that boom and bust cycles have typified the oil and gas industry throughout its history, but this time it really does seem different. Tight oil is expensive to produce, individual wells decline quickly, well quality varies greatly, and good drilling sites are limited in number.  These problems didn’t seem to be an issue at first.

During the boom years money was cheap and investors were easily conned. The frackers had every incentive to lease as much land as they could borrow money for, drill the best sites as quickly as possible, and leave the leftovers for laggards. This mentality led them to over-produce over the short run, driving oil prices down far below the cost of doing business.

Now drilling rigs are idled and production is headed south, leaving fracking companies’ high-priced PR spokescritters to whine that surely production will pick up again when prices eventually recover. Will it? Only if new cadres of investors (read: “suckers”) can be found, and even then only briefly. Overall, the oil industry is in treacherous waters and headed for worse.

This is part of a general trend. Extractive industries are always ruled by the imperative to target highest-quality resources first and leave the crappy stuff for later. After decades of extracting oil, coal, and natural gas, the fossil fuel industry is increasingly faced with unpalatable future prospects (unconventional oil and gas, lower grades of coal) that are more expensive to extract and that entail higher environmental risks and costs.

So the fossil-fueled future will be more expensive. But if we want to tally its real cost, we must add the also soaring “external” costs of burning fossil fuels.

Over the short run, the biggest of those costs may simply be the health impacts from breathing coal smoke and dust: a study I co-authored in 2011 calculated that coal use costs the U.S. between a third and over half a trillion dollars each year in health, economic, and environmental impacts.  The costs for China, where 670,000 people die each year of coal-related diseases, is no doubt far higher.

Now add the bills for cleaning up oil spills, for the health impacts of fracking, and for the potential health costs of environmentally dispersed petrochemical-based hormone disrupters, and we’re talking real money.

On top of all that, add the costs of climate change. They’re relatively modest now, but set to explode. What would be the cost the U.S., for example, of having to largely abandon one major coastal city (Miami or New Orleans)? How about a dozen (possibly including New York)?

What would be the cost from death and illness due to an unprecedented heat wave? What would be the cost of the nearly complete loss of agricultural production in California’s Central Valley due to drought? The answer: it’s probably incalculable. But that’s all just the tip of the proverbial (and quickly melting) iceberg, and it’s all just a matter of time. It should be clear by now that we really can’t afford a fossil-fueled future.

Well then, how about a renewable energy future? I must start by noting my own view that a transition to renewable energy is necessary and inevitable, and that we must organize and pursue that effort as a top societal priority. But that doesn’t mean we can just unplug coal power plants, plug in solar panels, and continue living essentially as we do now.

True, solar and wind are getting cheaper. A lot cheaper.  Which is a good thing, because until recently they required subsidies for any substantial growth. They still do, in many situations. But even assuming further cost reductions, the fact is that an energy transition is a big deal. It takes time and the replacement of an extraordinary amount of infrastructure.

Solar and wind energy production is greatly expandable, but these energy sources have some drawbacks: they produce energy intermittently and uncontrollably. It takes additional technology to adapt these sources to our 24/7 energy demand patterns.

In recent studies, Mark Jacobson of Stanford University and his co-authors have concluded that a full transition to renewable energy would be affordable. Their conclusion depends on counting savings from the avoided costs of climate change and health damage from fossil fuel use.

However, subtracting these avoided costs tells us only that a transition to renewables would be more affordable than maintaining our status quo reliance on fossil fuels; it does not necessarily mean that the transition would be affordable on its own terms.

Estimating how much a total energy transition would cost is difficult. The problem can be simplified greatly by including only the direct cost of solar panels and wind turbines, but doing so is unrealistic.

Better estimates would include the costs of energy storage, grid redesign, and redundant capacity; plus required investments in new technology for the transportation, agriculture, and manufacturing sectors; in new equipment for building operations; and in energy efficiency retrofits to nearly every existing structure.

Just one example: we currently make cement (which is used in nearly all construction projects) using high heat from fossil fuels; we could get that heat from sunlight, hydrogen, or electricity, but that would require a complete redesign of the process, and it’s unclear how much cement made with renewable energy would cost relative to cement made with fossil fuels.

Altogether, the cost of a full global renewable energy transition would certainly run into the many tens of trillions of dollars—if (and this is crucial) our goal is to produce enough energy to maintain current levels of mobility and amenity.

Actual rates of investment in renewable energy globally have leveled off in the past four years, with investment rates in Europe shrinking while China continues to surge ahead.

Wait, I’m not finished. This isn’t all about energy, though energy is probably the single greatest factor determining whether we can afford our assumed future of further material progress. Ask any civil engineer and they will tell you the United States is literally falling apart.

Roads, bridges, water mains, airports, rails, and power grids were built during the last century in an orgy of construction such as the world had never seen. Today that infrastructure is aging, and we can’t seem to find the money with which to repair or replace it.

Finally we come to the financial tool inevitably used to deal with all such costs—debt. Credit (the other side of the debt coin) is wonderful: it enables us to spend now but pay later. We’ve exploited this tool ruthlessly over the past few decades, and as a result today’s household debt, corporate debt, and government debt are all at or near record levels.

The financial crisis of 2008 is widely regarded as having been triggered by too much unserviceable debt; nevertheless, global debt has actually increased by $57 Trillion since then. Greece’s debt crisis still threatens the economic stability of the European continent.

Global debt now stands at 286 percent of GDP,  a level that many economists believe is unsustainable and must eventually lead to a deleveraging event perhaps comparable to, or worse than, the Great Depression. But how are we to pay for our energy future (fossil fueled or renewable), and needed infrastructure repair, without still more debt? It doesn’t look as though we’ll be able to do all that spending using current account surpluses, as world GDP growth is slowing rather than accelerating.

Some readers may assume that I just got up on the wrong side of the bed, and that this is all just too pessimistic. Surely we will muddle through, with new technology making further progress affordable. I must be cherry-picking a worst-case scenario, right?

No, in my view there is no exaggeration here. The evidence as I see it is stacked almost entirely on the side of my thesis: we (as a nation, or as a global civilization, take your pick) really and truly cannot afford much more of the kind of progress—defined in terms of increases in energy and material consumption—that we got used to during the last century.

That means that if we don’t start planning for whatever kind of future we can afford (in both dollar and energy terms), we’ll end up broke, foreclosed, and without much of a future worth living in.
Clearly, the affordable future will be slower, simpler, and less mobile than Futurama daydreams of the 1960s.

It will entail living closer to the land and using much less in the way of energy and materials than folks in wealthy industrial nations currently are accustomed to using. If we’re dropped headlong into that future with no preparation, we’re likely to see it as—and turn it into—a dystopian, post-apocalyptic nightmare.

However, if we plan and prepare, our affordable future could actually be an improvement over the soul-destroying existence that pervades so much of urban and suburban America these days.

Permaculturistsorganizations of idealistic young organic farmers,  eco-villages like Dancing Rabbit and The Farm, and Transition Initiatives represent what appear currently to be barely visible fringe phenomena.

But the folks pursuing these roads-less-traveled deserve our attention and help, because they’re about the only people in the industrialized world who are preparing for the kind of future that’s actually within our means.


Ten reasons not to overthrow Syria

SUBHEAD: As a veteran, I know that you cannot defeat your enemy while simultaneously strengthening them.

By Tulsi Gabbard on 23 November 2015 in Island Breath  -

Image above: Political cartton by C. W. Rinn of US and Saudi interests destroying Middle East and creating ISIS. From (

As a veteran, I know that you cannot defeat your enemy while simultaneously strengthening them.

The U.S. is waging two wars in Syria. The first is the war against ISIS and other Islamic extremists, which Congress authorized after the terrorist attack on 9/11.  The second war is the illegal war to overthrow the Syrian government of Assad.

That’s why I introduced a bipartisan bill that would bring an immediate end to the illegal, counter-productive war the U.S. is waging to overthrow the Syrian government of Assad.

Here are 10 reasons why we must end this war to overthrow the Syrian government of Assad:

  1. Because if we succeed in overthrowing the Syrian government of Assad, it will open the door for ISIS, al-Qaeda, and other Islamic extremists to take over all of Syria.  There will be genocide and suffering on a scale beyond our imagination.  These Islamic extremists will take over all the weaponry, infrastructure, and military hardware of the Syrian army and be more dangerous than ever before.

  2. Because overthrowing the Syrian government of Assad is the goal of ISIS, al-Qaeda, and other Islamic extremist groups. We should not be allying ourselves with these Islamic extremists by helping them achieve their goal because it is against the security interests of the United States and all of civilization.

  3. Because the money and weapons the CIA is providing to overthrow the Syrian government of Assad are going directly or indirectly into the hands of the Islamic extremist groups, including al-Qaeda affiliates, al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham, and others who are the actual enemies of the United States.  These groups make up close to 90 percent of the so-called opposition forces, and are the most dominant fighters on the ground.

  4. Because our efforts to overthrow Assad have increased and will continue to increase the strength of ISIS and other Islamic extremists, thus making them a bigger regional and global threat.

  5. Because this war has exacerbated the chaos and carnage in Syria and, along with the terror inflicted by ISIS and other Islamic extremist groups fighting to take over Syria, continues to increase the number of Syrians forced to flee their country.

  6. Because we should learn from our past mistakes in Iraq and Libya that U.S. wars to overthrow secular dictators (Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi) cause even more chaos and human suffering and open the door for Islamic extremists to take over in those countries.
  7. Because the U.S. has no credible government or government leader ready to bring order, security, and freedom to the people of Syria.

  8. Because even the ‘best case’ scenario—that the U.S. successfully overthrows the Syrian government of Assad—would obligate the United States to spend trillions of dollars and the lives of American service members in the futile effort to create a new Syria.  This is what we have been trying to do in Iraq for twelve years, and we still have not succeeded.  The situation in Syria will be much more difficult than in Iraq.

  9. Because our war against the Syrian government of Assad is interfering with our being one-pointedly focused on the war to defeat ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and the other Islamic extremists who are our actual enemy.

  10. Because our war to overthrow the Assad government puts us in direct conflict with Russia and increases the likelihood of war between the United States and Russia and the possibility of another world war.

Our primary mission should be the war against ISIS, al Qaeda, and radical Islamic extremists that have operations both inside and outside of Syria and Iraq.  Those groups have carried out attacks on American allies, and are currently threatening attacks on our homeland.  This represents a clear and present danger to our citizens, and I support eliminating these radical Islamic terrorists through any means necessary.

Working to remove Assad at this stage is counter-productive to what I believe our primary mission should be. For more info on the bill I introduced, click here.

As always, if I can be of service to you, your family, or your loved ones, please contact me

 (808) 541-1986




Shrinking Technosphere Part Six

SUBHEAD: If you follow these tips your chances of living a long and happy life are much better.

By Dmitry Orlov on 17 November  2015 for Club Orlov -

Image above: Still from movie about survival living in Siberia. See trailer below. eFrom (

Suppose your situation is such that you need to effect a swift change of venue. The circumstances that prompt this relocation can be quite varied, but the common and foreseeable ones are:
  1. There is no fresh water where you are. The reservoirs are dry and dusty, the artesian wells are either no longer producing or are producing water laced with arsenic and heavy metals, and the few desalination plants bottle their water and sell it at prices you cannot afford. What was once fields and pasture is reverting to sand dunes. Forests have dried out, burned down, and are now a lunar landscape criscrossed by deep ravines eroded by sporadic torrential downpours—too sporadic and too torrential to be of benefit.
  2. The place where you live is under a few feet of ocean water mixed with raw sewage—not all the time, but often enough that staying there has become a very bad idea. An onshore wind combined with a high tide and a bit of rain are enough to make contaminated, brackish water spew out of every storm drain.

    With each passing year and more and more basements are flooded, more and more foundations undermined, more and more buildings condemned. Places further inland flood more rarely but are already too crowded, and will be subject to the same conditions after a slight delay.
  3. Your country has been overrun by “refugees” who have looted the shops, occupied many of the public buildings and are busy beating up the men and raping the women (like they are doing in Sweden, which is now the second-rapiest country in the world, Lesotho in South Africa is the rapiest). There are large sections of your city where even the military, never mind the police, fear to venture. But the rest of the city is not the least bit safe.

    Beardless men and women without proper headdress are attacked without warning. Property crimes and home invasions by “refugees” are not persecuted for fear of giving them an excuse to start a riot.
  4. Your country has gone full-retard fascist. Your best option is to work a soul-destroying corporate job while slowly sinking deeper and deeper into debt, hoping against hope that you will make it all the way to retirement, even as you watch your colleagues being replaced by machines, illegal immigrants and underpaid foreign contractors.

    Your second-best choice is to subsist on meager social benefits, most of which go to pay for drugs, which you need in order to hold on to what remains of your sanity while the pressure of perverse government incentives destroys your family and your children turn feral.

    Whichever option you choose, you are electronically monitored 24/7 and are absorbed into the prison system for the tiniest transgression, where your best chance to survive is by working as a slave.
  5. You are doing fine economically, but you find your environment, both physical and human, increasingly unsatisfactory. Everything you see around you is cheaply slapped together out of industrially produced components, dressed up with a gaudy plastic veneer to make it “look nice.” It all looks computer-generated because, in fact, it is.

    All the people around you walk around ignoring the real world, which they might as well, since their physical environment is just an older, no longer fashionable version of what they see on the screens of the mobile computing devices to which they are hopelessly addicted.

    They are obese, emotionally stunted, physically helpless and, as far as you are concerned, might as well not be there. In fact, you'd enjoy seeing them replaced with cages of parakeets, potted plants or nice round rocks in a Zen garden. Their parents and grandparents once got things done by pushing buttons on machines, but now it is the machines that push their buttons and program them to say and feel various things on command.

    You can't help obsessing over the fact that this is not real life—that real life is somewhere else, and that you must go and find it before you run out of time.
  6. Any combination of the above, including all of the above.

Let us further assume that the logistics and the political situation around your relocation have been sorted out: your papers are in order and you have a berth on a ship that will take you to a river port near your destination. From there, a river boat will take you upstream to a spot near your assigned 100 hectares (250 acres) of land, where you, perhaps with a group of like-minded others, will be left with enough supplies to make a fresh start. You slip away in the night with just a change of clothing and a pocketful of mementos, quiet as a cat, never to be heard from again.

Your land is being granted to you by the government in the form of a perpetual, heritable lease, with no commercial rights over it whatsoever, for you and your children to use sustainably in perpetuity, for as long as you physically reside on the land.

The terms are not particularly onerous: you are taxed only on home-produced goods that you sell, and one of your sons may be conscripted in case of a national emergency, provided he is not your only or your eldest son, and not a younger son either if he is the family's main provider.

But there is a problem: your land is quite far north. Nine months out of the year, the temperature there is near or below freezing, and during the coldest 4-5 months it can get as cold as -40ºC. In the dead of winter there are only three hours of sunlight. But during the other three months the temperatures soar to +35ºC and there is 21 hours of sunlight.

Another problem is that the land is not easily accessible. There are no roads; nor are there plans to build any. During the summer it is accessible on foot and over water; during the winter it is accessible by ski and sled, over snow-covered land and frozen water. During spring, when trails turn to mud and broken ice rushes down streams and rivers, it is not accessible at all.

Nor is it accessible during autumn, when snow falls on ground that isn't frozen yet and forms a heavy, wet slush, and when the ice on waterways is already too think to navigate but not yet thick and solid enough to travel over. But there is also good news: each year, the climate is getting warmer, with the frosts arriving later, the thaws setting in earlier, the growing season getting longer, and more and more deciduous trees taking root in sunny, sheltered spots.

A river boat will drop you off a the water's edge within less than a day's hike of your land. It will be in early summer, after the rivers are clear of ice and the riverbanks are no longer flooded. You will have just enough time to prepare for next winter, so that you can survive it.

What you can take with you is what you and members of your party can carry on their shoulders, ferrying supplies from the river's edge to your plot of land. This basic kit includes:
  1. An axe, and spare axe heads
  2. A knife, and several knife blades without handles
  3. Shovel heads
  4. Saw blades
  5. A file for keeping all of these sharp
  6. A shotgun and a dozen shells
  7. Heavy boots, a parka and other cold weather gear
  8. Several changes of clothing per person
  9. Emergency medical kit
  10. A few pots, cups, spoons, forks
  11. A samovar
  12. Several sacks of grain (rye)
  13. Several sacks of potatoes
  14. Assorted seed packets
  15. Canvas tents
  16. A small assortment of tools (such as sewing kit) and supplies (such as tea)
You will also be bringing with you a few animals:
  1. Dogs (one of them male) to serve as your security system and to help you hunt and pull sleds
  2. Cats (one of them male) to keep the rodent population under control
  3. Chickens (one of them male) to provide eggs, meat and to keep the bugs under control

This, plus your body, is all of your initial “hardware” which you will use to bootstrap the entire operation; everything else is “software”—and it has to be downloaded directly to your brain before you begin, with a full back-up in somebody else's brain in case something goes wrong with yours.

This is your Naturelike Technology Suite (NTS), and if you use it correctly, your chances of surviving, living a long and happy life, and leaving behind happy, healthy, self-reliant children are much better than in any and all of the typical scenarios outlined above.

Video above: Trailer from "Happy People: A Yar in the Taiga" by Werner Herzog. From ( recommend you see movie at either Hulu or Amazon.

The land is neither farmland nor pasture but boreal forest, thick with coniferous trees, mostly pines and firs. There is plenty of animals you will be sharing it with, especially in the summer when the migratory birds make their appearance and lots of other animals come out of hibernation. But your first concern is with bears, who have come out of hibernation some time ago, but are still hungry and very ornery. The local wolves may also take a keen interest in your camp.

You will need to impress it upon all of them that this is now your territory as well as theirs, by keeping fires lit at night, never going anywhere without a shotgun, or at least a forked stick, screaming at them and physically threatening them whenever you see them and other such measures.

Shooting one alpha male of both the wolf tribe and the bear tribe, using up a few shotgun shells from your precious collection, then tanning the skins and sewing them into hats sends an unmistakable message: there is a new apex predator in these woods; act accordingly.

As for the rest, you should try to make peace with them or let your animals handle them. If you leave them alone and sometimes (but only sometimes, on specific occasions) offer them food, they will become semi-tame over time, and will be much easier to catch by setting traps. Of these, back-breaking deadfalls are the most humane.

But your first and primary task is to fell trees—as quickly as possible, propping up the logs in sunny places so that they have a chance to dry out. The time to harvest timber is before thaws set in and the sap starts running, because after that the logs become much heavier and more difficult to work with and move, will not burn as well, and will rot much faster if you build with them.

But you have arrived too late to do that, and have to make do with wet, heavy logs. (By the way, this is the exact opposite of what you would do in the tropics. There, you would harvest wood when it is full of sap, to protect it against insects and rot.) Regardless of the time of year, the best time to fell trees is on a full moon.

Your second task is to get food, to avoid depleting your supplies, which are for planting, not for eating. A spring thaw is an excellent time to get moose and reindeer, which can't run away because of the heavy, wet snow.

Until the ice breaks, ice fishing also remains a possibility, and you can preserve your supply over the warm months by hot-smoking and drying the meat and the fish. But, again, you arrived too late, and your best chance to catch enough food is by setting traps and building weirs.

Your third task begins once the ground is thawed out enough and dry enough to dig. You need to move out of tents and into a slightly more permanent dwelling before winter. Constructing a log cabin during the first season is out of the question, because there is simply too much else to do, and because you arrived too late to get logs that are free of sap.

But you can certainly harvest enough logs to build a dugout bunker that will last a few seasons. This is done by choosing a patch of land with good drainage and digging a trench. At the back of it is a hearth, along the sides are bunk beds. The roof is created using a layer of logs, the cracks between them packed with moss, and insulated by covering it with a thick a layer of dirt and sod.

The hearth should have a flue, and a chimney high enough to stick out above the snow, or your fire will keep getting extinguished by melt-water. Two doors with a vestibule between them are an excellent idea. The vestibule will be used to store your supplies of frozen meat. The doors must open in rather than out, or you will be trapped inside by snowdrifts.

Your bunker should be surrounded by a wicker fence, constructed by driving stakes into the ground at intervals and filling the spaces between them with tightly packed twigs or saplings.

Make the fence round rather than square, for a 25% increase in the amount of area encompassed for the same length of fence. A round fence also makes it easier for your animals to catch interlopers because there are no corners where they can hide and burrow. Curved fences are also better at resisting wind and snow drifts.

Your fourth task will be to grow food.

The land you've cleared by chopping down trees is covered with a thin layer of poor forest soil, acidic because of all the pine and fir needles, and is not immediately useful for planting. But if you dig various things into it, you will be able to use it to grow all of your staples: potatoes, rye, cabbages and turnips.

Ashes from the hearth, thoroughly rotted tree trunks and mud dredged out of nearby streams all make useful soil amendments. Potatoes can be planted as chunks containing eyes, or buds, with one or two eyes per chunk, and the rest of the potato can be eaten. Rye can be grown in quite poor soils and is amazingly stubborn and keeps going until it goes to seed.

Because of the nearly 24-hour sunlight and warm temperatures everything will grow very fast. Your animals will be kept busy, and well fed, by all the moles, voles and mice that will be trying to eat your produce.

By the time you are done growing and harvesting the food, days will start getting shorter and by sunrise frost will appear on trees and the walls of your tent. It will be time to move inside your bunker and start heating.

Before the migratory fowl fly away, be sure to get some geese, or, failing that, ducks, and save their fat for the winter. Goose fat is smeared on any exposed skin when you venture outside in the dead of winter, to avoid frostbite.

Once the temperatures stay reliably below freezing, but before the winter blizzards set in, try to stockpile as many animal carcasses as you can, to gradually hack away at and defrost as the winter wears on. This is the time of year when animals are at their fattest and most complacent, and those that are the oldest and the least likely to survive the winter are ripe for the picking; if you don't get them the wolves will.

The fat is particularly important: in a cold climate, it is almost impossible to get enough calories to stay warm while working outside in any other way, and how much winter work you will get done will be directly determined by how much animal fat you can get your hands on.

At the beginning of winter, most of your work outside will involve cutting, splitting and stacking firewood out of the logs you harvested in the springtime, since you do not want to be out swinging an axe when it's -40ºC outside and blowing a blizzard. But once your supply of firewood is laid in, there are other tasks to attend to.

First, you need to get serious about trapping for fur. The parka you brought with you will wear out and will need to be replaced with a fur parka you will need to sew yourself. The animals you trap will be frozen solid by the time you get to them, and can stay that way until springtime.

You can gut them and skin them when they thaw out, saving the brain and the liver for tanning the pelt. The pelts will also serve as valuable trade goods—about the only ones you will be able to come up with during the first few seasons—and you will need trade goods in order to barter for the supplies you will need.

Second, if you are close enough to a river or a lake to make it there and back during daylight, you might also attempt some ice fishing, although without skis and a sled (unless you found time to make them already) your range will be quite limited.

Other than that, most of what you will do during the winter is cook, feed yourself, feed the animals, drink tea, tend the all-important fire and sleep a lot. The tea is important because working outside in cold temperatures is extremely dehydrating: the cold air sucks the moisture right out of you.

This is why a samovar (which is stoked using pine cones or wood chips) is included in your initial survival kit. Trying to boil enough water in a pot over a hearth is far too slow and rather inefficient.

But a bucket hung over the hearth is quite useful for melting snow, to get water for drinking and washing without going anywhere.

Before spring thaw arrives, you will need to get busy harvesting logs—for next winter's firewood as well as for building the log cabin.

Once that's done, you will have won, surviving the most difficult first season without starving or dying of exposure, and ready to build your homestead.

Once that's done, you will be well on your way to making a perfectly reasonable life for yourself and your family, using the rest of your NTS, which we will describe next.

See part Five of series here (


GE salmon - What could go wrong?

SUBHEAD: Genetically modified salmon will eventually escape and establish populations in the wild.

By Kurt Cobb on 22 November 2015 for Resource Insights -

Image above: Salmon is native to the northern Atlantic Ocean, in rivers that flow into the north Atlantic and, due to human introduction, in the north Pacific Ocean. From (

[IB Publisher's note: Our best guess is that these GE salmon, like most fish farm operations, feed on GMO corn products - just like most dogs and cats are fed.]

As U.S. regulators cleared genetically engineered salmon for sale in the United States last week, they opened the door to what many scientists already feel is inevitable: The escape and reproduction of GE salmon in the wild and the possible destruction of competing wild species.

Under the U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved application, the company behind the so-called AquAdvantage Salmon, Aqua Bounty, can only raise such salmon in land-based tanks with "multiple and redundant levels of physical barriers to prevent eggs and fish from escaping." These barriers are described in detail and suggest that it will be very difficult for any eggs or fish to escape into waterways.
The FDA said it considered four interrelated questions about confinement of the fish:
  1. What is the likelihood that AquAdvantage Salmon will escape the conditions of confinement?
  2. What is the likelihood that AquAdvantage Salmon will survive and disperse if they escape the conditions of confinement?
  3. What is the likelihood that AquAdvantage Salmon will reproduce and establish if they escape the conditions of confinement?
  4. What are the likely consequences to, or effects on, the environment of the United States should AquAdvantage Salmon escape the conditions of confinement?
Right away we can see that the FDA is asking these questions in the wrong way because it misunderstands the risks involved. It should be asking if there is ANY LIKELIHOOD WHATSOEVER that the salmon will escape, survive, disperse, reproduce and establish populations in the wild.

Why is it important to ask the question in this way? Because although the salmon are sterilized, the "sterilization technique is not foolproof," according to The New York Times.

So, here is the relevant principle: Any invention with a nonzero risk of systemic ruin and which is produced and deployed long enough will with almost 100 percent certainty create that ruin. Put more informally, if you keep repeating something that each time you repeat it has a small chance of creating catastrophe, eventually you will produce catastrophic conditions, that is, systemic ruin.

Systemic ruin in this case would be the ruination of the wild salmon fisheries overrun by the GE type.
And, the damage might include other harmful effects to waterways and their associated wildlife that we cannot now anticipate. Remember, this is a fish that we've never seen operate in any existing ecosystem. We have no empirical data about its possible effects; and, releasing such fish into the wild to obtain that data risks the very ruin we wish to avoid.

Now, there is one final question which the FDA asks: "What are the likely consequences to, or effects on, the environment of the United States should AquAdvantage Salmon escape the conditions of confinement?"

Again, this is the wrong way to ask the question. The effects would not be confined to the United States since the escape of one unsuccessfully sterilized salmon into the wild could lead to a worldwide infestation. (In any case, the facilities approved for farming the salmon are in Prince Edward Island, Canada and in Panama. But apparently, only the possible environmental effects in the United States were considered.)

Anything that is novel cannot by definition have a history to draw on. A novel invention might not alter the environment very much or it might alter it radically. We cannot know. To say that we should subject the world's salmon fisheries to the possibility of ruin in order to find out reveals a failure to understand that self-propagating, worldwide dangers do not lend themselves to cost-benefit analysis.

When the cost is the complete ruination of a system, we must judge costs to be incalculable. The complete destruction of the global wild salmon population is not 10 times worse than the destruction of 10 percent of that population. It is infinitely worse. It is infinitely worse because you cannot repopulate the world with an extinct species (except perhaps in science fiction movies). There is no remedy.

And, we must keep in mind that we do not now know how many other facilities like those built by Aqua Bounty will be constructed. The danger of release grows with each added facility. And, of course, we must assume that Aqua Bounty wants to expand as a company which implies many more facilities should the company become successful.

Also, keep in mind that such facilities, although on land, must have extensive plumbing and drains which must ultimately connect with the external world. Is it rational to believe that GE salmon or salmon eggs will never, ever make it into a waterway and survive, an event which must happen only once for a possible cascade of destruction of wild species to take place?

So, we should say that the risk is real and the scope and severity, if realized, would be catastrophic.
Understanding this allows us to see why the precautionary principle applies in this situation and in the cases of all genetically engineered plants and animals. Anything that is novel, self-propagating and worldwide in reach has the possibility of creating systemic ruin. Which leads us to another key principle: It does not matter how many times something succeeds if failure is too great to bear.*

In other words, it does not matter if millions upon millions of GE salmon are produced without any release into the environment when the inevitable release of one (by mistake, carelessness, accident or poor design) could create ruinous global consequences. (And, if the GE salmon industry grows, it is difficult to believe that there will be only one inadvertent release over time. Accidents happen--even when we think we have designed foolproof systems.)

Whether such a fish is safe for human consumption is not the key question--though the FDA answers that it is safe. That's what makes the announcement of the approval so misleading. What difference does it make if this GE salmon is safe to eat if, in the event of escape and propagation, it ultimately destroys the entire wild salmon fishery and has other unforeseen and catastrophic effects on marine life.
*This formulation comes from author and risk expert Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of The Black Swan and many other works on risk.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Unlabled GMO Frankenfish 11/20/15


Hawaii should be Deoccupied

SUBHEAD: Hawaiian sovereignty advocates support eoccupation by USA, not for decolonization.

By Juan Wilson on 22 November 2015 for Island Breath -

Image above: Supporter of "deoccuopation" of Hawaii. From (

The article in the Garden Island News announcing the meeting was titled "Election Critics Host Meeting" with the subhead "Public meeting to discuss Native Hawaiian self-governance slated Friday at Wilcox school".  TGI got that article right, but their followup article this morning got the message of the meeting completely wrong.

 The presenters, Walter Ritte, Trish Kehaulani Watson-Sproat and Donovan Preza agreed that their were three current paths for Hawaii to reach an international standing of having achieved sovereignty.
  1. One path would be through claims of indigenous rights
  2. Another path is through efforts at decolonization
  3. The last is through accomplishing a deoccupation of Hawaii by the United States
Donovan Preza was crystal clear in his presentation. The best and most effective path is to pursue deoccupation.

However, the TGI article's author states that Preza was proposing we focus on decolonization when she writes:
“They want you to focus on becoming recognized as indigenous peoples, but (focus on) decolonization.”
Certainly, achieving sovereignty along a path of indigenous identification weakens the effort in several ways. One crucial way is by measuring blood quantum as the qualification for inclusion. It is literally a dead end.

People in Hawaii with even a quarter pure Hawaiian heritage are rare and usually elderly. Their numbers can only dwindle further - thus exluding many who are sympathetic with Hawaiian independence.

In my opinion, the sovereignty movement should be seeking the participation of people who are "Kama Aina" (the children of the land); and not "Kanaka Maoli" (the native Hawaiians). 

Donovan Preza went on to detail how by focusing on "Occupation" we are acknowledging that Hawaiian sovereignty was never destroyed. An illegal overthrow, supported by America, of the constitutional monarchy occurred in 1893. No treaty relinquishing sovereignty was ever signed and the regent never relinquished the throne.

As stated by the Hawaiian Kingdom website (
"As a result of the Spanish-American War, the United States opted to unilaterally annex the Hawaiian Islands by enacting a congressional joint resolution on July 7, 1898, in order to utilize the Hawaiian Islands as a military base to fight the Spanish in Guam and the Philippines. The United States has remained in the Hawaiian Islands and the Hawaiian Kingdom has since been under prolonged occupation to the present, but its continuity as an independent State remains intact under international law."

The government might change from a monarchy to a democracy, as happened in France, but there is continuity of the nation's sovereignty.

See also:
Island Breath: Time for Provisional Government 12/28/04
Rebuilding Hawaiian Kingdom 9/3/05
Island Breath: Sustainability and Sovereignty 11/15/07
Island Breath: Hawaii Nation Part 1 4/25/08
Island Breath: Hawaii Nation Part 2 4/30/08
Ea O Ka Aina: Hawaiian Sovereignty Pane 9/26/09
Ea O Ka Aina: Case for Hawaiian Sovereignty 12/20/10
Ea O Ka Aina: Hawaiian Sovereignty Issues 9/17/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Feds Threaten Hawaiian Sovereignty 2/2/12
Ea O Ka Aina: State of Hawaiian sovereignty 9/11/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Hawaiian sovereignty on the line 10/28/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Guide to Hawaiian secession 11/6/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Na'i Aupuni is indefensible 11/18/15

Questions rise over Nai Aupuni election

By Ellen Else on 22 November 2015 in the Garden Island - 

Skeptics of the upcoming Nai Aupuni elections sought clarity at Wilcox Elementary School Friday night.

“We’re here to learn about this process and then engage in a conversation about what we want,” said Shane Cobb-Adams of Anahola, who was moderating the meeting. “We’re here to put a rudder on this canoe.”

Native Hawaiian advocates Walter Ritte, Trish Kehaulani Watson-Sproat and Donovan Preza all had about 15 minutes each to educate their audience about aspects of the process.

Watson-Sproat kicked off the panel discussion with a quote from King Kamehameha III, “He aupuni palapala ko’u,” which means “Mine is an educated kingdom.”

“King Kamehameha III took pride in his kingdom,” Watson-Sproat said. “He was proud that the whole kingdom was literate.”

Watson-Sproat transitioned into an explanation of the private election among Native Hawaiians who can vote for 200 delegates who will write a new constitution at a convention scheduled in Honolulu this winter. This constitution will provide a recipe for a new Hawaiian government. Voting for these delegates closes Nov. 30.

“There’s a lot to learn,” said Ritte, a former candidate who withdrew his name from the election last month. “Come hell or high water, they want to push this thing through and we need to do something.”

Preza, who teaches geography and Hawaiian history at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, outlined three different avenues to sovereignty and explained the history of the legislation to date.

“America has shackles on Hawaii and decolonization is the way to break those shackles,” Preza said. “They want you to focus on becoming recognized as indigenous peoples, but (focus on) decolonization.”

Just before the election opened, Ritte said he believes the process is leading toward a native government that is seeking federal recognition rather than independence.

“As long as you participate, you’re stuck in it,” Ritte said. “Don’t vote.”

Chief Delbert Black Fox Pomani, full-blooded Hunkpapa Lakota from the Crow Creek Reservation, and Kaplan Bunce, a full-blooded Apache from Washington currently living in Kauai, both attended the meeting to lend support for their native brothers and sisters.

“My ancestors fought this battle and we are here to add our blessings,” Pomani said.

After the panel discussion, the audience broke up into groups of 15 or 20 people and discussed their thoughts on how Native Hawaiians should go about finding sovereignty.