Breakfast with a dose of Roundup?

SUBHEAD: Weed killer is found in most of the oat cereals and granola bars tested, including some organic.

By Alexis Tempkin - Toxicologist on 15 August 2918 for -

Image above: A child pouring Cheerios into a ceriel bowlFrom ().

Popular oat cereals, oatmeal, granola and snack bars come with a hefty dose of the weed-killing poison in Roundup, according to independent laboratory tests commissioned by EWG.

Glyphosate, an herbicide linked to cancer by California state scientists and the World Health Organization, was found in all but two of 45 samples of products made with conventionally grown oats.

Almost three-fourths of those samples had glyphosate levels higher than what EWG scientists consider protective of children’s health with an adequate margin of safety. About one-third of 16 samples made with organically grown oats also had glyphosate, all at levels well below EWG’s health benchmark.

 Glyphosate does not belong in cereal. Act and urge the EPA to restrict pre-harvest applications of glyphosate and tell companies to identify and use sources of glyphosate-free oats.
 Report on samples tested indicates even organic oat products contained measurable amounts of glyphosate, but none were above the EWG's Health Benchmark of 160 parts per billion.

Conventional    Organic
Samples Tested 45 16
Glyphosate Detected 43 5
Detects above EWG’s Health Benchmark       31 0
Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup, the Monsanto weed killer that is the most heavily used pesticide in the U.S. Last week, a California jury ordered Monsanto to pay $289 million in damages to a man dying of cancer, which he says was caused by his repeated exposure to large quantities of Roundup and other glyphosate-based weed killers while working as a school groundskeeper.

EWG tested more than a dozen brands of oat-based foods to give Americans information about dietary exposures that government regulators are keeping secret. In April, internal emails obtained by the nonprofit US Right to Know revealed that the Food and Drug Administration has been testing food for glyphosate for two years and has found “a fair amount,” but the FDA has not released its findings.

Each year, more than 250 million pounds of glyphosate are sprayed on American crops, primarily on “Roundup-ready” corn and soybeans genetically engineered to withstand the herbicide. But when it comes to the food we eat, the highest glyphosate levels are not found in products made with GMO corn.

Increasingly, glyphosate is also sprayed just before harvest on wheat, barley, oats and beans that are not genetically engineered. Glyphosate kills the crop, drying it out so that it can be harvested sooner than if the plant were allowed to die naturally.

Roundup was produced for decades by Monsanto, which this year merged with the German pharmaceutical company Bayer AG. In the case decided last week, the jury found that Monsanto knew for decades of the product’s hazards and not only failed to warn customers, but schemed to publicly discredit the evidence.

The California case that ended Friday was the first of reportedy thousands of lawsuits against Monsanto. These suits have been brought by farm workers and others who allege that they developed cancer from years of exposure to Roundup.

In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, reviewed extensive U.S., Canadian and Swedish epidemiological studies on glyphosate’s human health effects, as well as research on laboratory animals. The IARC classified the chemical as probably carcinogenic to humans, and has steadfastly defended that decision despite ongoing attacks by Monsanto.

In 2017, California listed glyphosate in its Proposition 65 registry of chemicals known to cause cancer. The state’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, or OEHHA, has proposed a so-called No Significant Risk Level for glyphosate of 1.1 milligrams per day for an average adult of about 154 pounds. That level of exposure is more than 60 times lower than the safety level set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

California’s level represents an increased lifetime risk of cancer of one in 100,000 for an average adult. But for many cancer-causing drinking water contaminants, OEHHA’s lifetime risk factor is set at one in 1 million.

Additionally, because children and developing fetuses have increased susceptibility to carcinogens, the federal Food Quality Protection Act supports including an additional 10-fold margin of safety. With this additional children’s health safety factor, EWG calculated that a one-in-a-million cancer risk would be posed by ingestion of 0.01 milligrams of glyphosate per day.

To reach this maximum dose, one would only have to eat a single 60-gram serving1 of food with a glyphosate level of 160 parts per billion, or ppb. The majority of samples of conventional oat products from EWG’s study exceeded 160ppb, meaning that a single serving of those products would exceed EWG’s health benchmark.

As part of a glyphosate risk assessment, the EPA estimated potential highest dietary exposure levels for children and adults. The EPA has calculated that 1-to-2-year-old children are likely to have the highest exposure, at a level twice greater than California’s No Significant Risk Level and 230 times EWG’s health benchmark.

Studies suggest that glyphosate-sprayed crops such as wheat and oats are a major contributor to glyphosate in the daily diet. In EWG lab tests, 31 of 45 samples made with conventionally grown oats had 160 ppb or more of glyphosate.

The highest levels, greater than 1,000 ppb, were detected in two samples of Quaker Old Fashioned Oats. Three samples of Cheerios had glyphosate levels ranging from 470 ppb to 530 ppb. Twelve of the food samples had levels of glyphosate lower than EWG’s health benchmark, ranging from 10 ppb to 120 ppb. Only two samples had no detectable glyphosate.

Glyphosate was also detected at concentrations of 10 ppb to 30 ppb in five of 16 samples made with organic oats. The five samples came from two brands of organic rolled oats: Bob’s Red Mill and Nature’s Path.

A third brand of organic rolled oats and all other organic oat products tested did not contain detectable concentrations of glyphosate.

How does glyphosate get into organic foods? It could come from glyphosate drifting from nearby fields of conventionally grown crops, or by cross-contamination during processing at a facility that also handles non-organic crops. Nature's Path explains:
While organic farming certifications prohibit the use of glyphosate, organic products do not always end up completely free of glyphosate residue. While this news may come as disappointing, it is not entirely surprising. Glyphosate use has skyrocketed in the past decade, and it maintains the ability to adhere to water and soil particles long enough to travel through the air or in a stream to nearby organic farms.
The problem of glyphosate contamination of organic foods underscores the need to restrict pre-harvest uses of glyphosate and the need for more data on glyphosate levels in products, an area where U.S. federal agencies are falling short.

Two years ago, under pressure from the Government Accountability Office, the FDA began testing for glyphosate in a limited number of foods. At the 2016 North American Chemical Residue Workshop, an FDA scientist presented data showing that glyphosate has been detected in several oat-based food products.

After a Freedom of Information Act request by US Right to Know, earlier this year the FDA released documents that said the agency has found “a fair amount” of glyphosate in several processed foods. The results have not been released, but could be made public later this year or in early 2019.

In 2016, the non-profit Food Democracy Now tested for glyphosate in single samples of a variety of popular foods. “Alarming levels” of glyphosate were found in a number of cereals and other products, including more than 1,000 ppb in Cheerios. More recently, the Center for Environmental Health tested single samples of 11 cereal brands and found glyphosate levels ranging from about 300 ppb to more than 2,000 ppb.

EPA has denied that glyphosate may increase the risk of cancer, and documents introduced in the recent California trial showed how the agency and Monsanto worked together to promote the claim that the chemical is safe.

EWG has been urging the EPA to review all evidence linking glyphosate to increased cancer risk and other adverse health effects in human and animal studies. The EPA should limit the use of glyphosate on food crops, including pre-harvest application.

Oat-based foods are a healthy source of fiber and nutrients for children and adults, and oat consumption is linked to health benefits such as lowered cholesterol and decreased cardiovascular risk.

Parents should not have to wonder whether feeding their children these heathy foods will also expose them to a pesticide that increases the risk of cancer.


The narrow vision of futurists

SUBHEAD: They appear to be blind to climate change, resource depletion and  capitalism's greed.

By Kurt Cobb on 12 August 2018 for Resource Insights  -

Image above: Artist Bruce McCall painting of a spring activated roof launch of a flying car - the ultimate expression of lunatic 1950s self-centered techno-utopiansim with propellers buzzing over quiet asbestos-sided suburban homes. From (

Most people know the tale of the blind men and the elephant. Each describes a part of the elephant. The elephant is said to be like a pillar by the blind man touching the elephant's leg. The one touching the elephant's tail says the elephant is like a rope and so on.

Now, let's substitute so-called futurists for blind men in this tale and you get something even less reliable. Futurists are the soothsayers of our age. Of course, futurists have eyes to see at least. But they, like the blind men, almost never see the whole picture.

And, in this case they are giving us a description of something that is not even there for them to examine. The future doesn't exist. It's a mere concept. Unlike the blind men, futurists aren't really describing part of a whole.

Typically, they imagine the future as a more magical version of the past where all kinds of new powers are made available to the individual: the ability to transmit emotions and memories through a worldwide "brain-net," 3D-printed human organs based on our own DNA that replace damaged or diseased ones, re-creations of loved ones who have passed away with which we can interact as we did when they were alive.

Naturally, some futurists put the first humans on Mars in the 2030s. NASA apparently has a contest for 3D-printed designs of habitats suitable for humans on Mars.

The idea that colonizing Mars will enhance the chances that humans will survive well into the future is already part of the culture. (Wait a minute! You mean really bad stuff could happen on Earth in our benign technology-laden future. But I digress.)

Unfortunately, there is the nagging problem that cosmic radiation is likely to turn anyone living on Mars into a cancer-riddled dementia patient. No problem! We'll just engineer a whole new race of humans designed to resist the cosmic radiation they will be subject to on Mars and during any space travel.

Image above: Illustration of the plan of a future Spacex Mars colony envisioned by Elon Musk. Seems unlikely that has any chance since modern Earthlings seem incapable of sustaining life even on the friendly planet they evolved on. Looks a bit like current day Phoenix, Arizona - with the same destiny - a deserted desert. From (

For all their imaginative and storytelling powers, futurists—the ones who imagine an unlimited, happy future with vast technological change but not those who see dystopia and destruction ahead and who are instead labeled "alarmists"—these happy futurists cannot imagine dramatic change in our social and political systems.

Capitalism as we know it remains intact, apparently even on Mars. Democratically elected governments are still around; but their choices are increasingly limited to what to do with all our future abundance and the savings that will come from licking most acute and chronic diseases for good.

And, there is another really, really big thing they don't seem to be able to imagine: a civilization crippled and possibly destroyed by climate change. Well, of course, technology will solve the climate problem, they say.

My retort continues to be, "If humans are so clever and our technology so powerful, why haven't we solved the problem of climate change, a problem we already knew 30 years ago was a civilization-threatening emergency?"

The answer, of course, is that climate change cannot be solved by merely applying technology. It is a multi-dimensional, complex problem that is above all political. Those who hold power do not want to pay either in the form of foregone revenue or higher taxes what would be required to solve the problem.

And, the consumer society that is now spreading throughout the world is so profitable and appealing to just about everyone, that there is simply not the necessary constituency to support those few in the power elite who are ready to make such expenditures and sacrifices.

So, as this existential problem literally burns our forests, scorches our crops (thereby threatening a global food crisis) and brings drought to those thirsting for water and floods to those who already have too much—even as we continue down this path of destruction, the artificial intelligence labs and 3D printing equipment makers are predicted by futurists to be racing forward to a future that doesn't include the possibly fatal ravages of climate change.

The stability of governments is at stake. The viability of whole nations hangs in the balance in the future that climate change has already imagined for us.

There's a reason that most so-called futurists either don't take this into account or dismiss it as a minor problem that will somehow be fixed. The reason is that they either work for or consult with the world's corporations.

And, the corporate imagination of the world we live in and will live in is entirely dominated by visions of continuing corporate control of our lives (but in a benign way, of course).

No revolutions, no social upheaval, no mass migrations, no food or water crises and above all, no redistribution of wealth or power. Nothing to get in the way of continued economic expansion and resource use directed by the world's corporations.

As I've written before, "The Future" is a sales pitch designed to keep us locked into existing institutions and power relationships. It has nothing to do with solving our real problems or liberating us from the increasing power of corporations and the governments they have captured. It is, in fact, an elitist vision of a future entirely run by wealthy technologists who find politics and environmental disruption inconvenient.

Trying to put things into perspective for me, my landlady suggested that in the future only a fool would rob a bank in person. Why not get a robot to do it for you and have a drone play the role of the lookout? The answer from the technologists, of course, is that we won't need actual physical banks or paper money in the future.

That may or may not be true. But I have a feeling that the criminals will figure out other purposes for their crime robots and drones (and artificial intelligence squads for that matter), purposes not currently discussed in the speeches and white papers of the world's corporate-funded futurists.

These futurists, I predict, will be too busy forecasting the ways in which our attention and income will be monopolized by new technologies in the wondrous world to come.


'Hothouse' Future for Humanity

SUBHEAD: This is the biggest political issue. It is the one thing that will affect everyone on the planet.

By Jon Queelly on 7 August 2018 or Common Dreams -

Image above: Los Angeles, California as a smoggy urban heat island. From (

[IB Publisher's note: Unless you are living as an indigenous person or hermit off the grid, you are more than likely part of the problem. Too many humans taking too many resources from nature and turning them into poison. Either we (you) mend our ways or we (you) go extinct. There is no negotiation with physics. There are no iPhones in Heaven.]

Scientists behind terrifying climate analysis hope they are wrong.Why isn't everyone shouting it from the rooftops?

Warning of a possible domino effect as multiple climate feedback loops are triggered within a dynamic cascade of rising temperatures and warming oceans, scientists behind a frightening new study say that for the sake of humanity's future they hope scenarios explored in their new models do not come to pass.

"I do hope we are wrong, but as scientists we have a responsibility to explore whether this is real," Johan Rockström, executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, where the research was done, told the Guardian. "We need to know now. It's so urgent. This is one of the most existential questions in science."

Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the new study, while not conclusive in its findings, warns that humanity may be just 1°C away from creating a series of dynamic feedback loops that could push the world into a climate scenario not seen since the dawn of the Helocene Period, nearly 12,000 years ago.

The research, according to its abstract, explores "the risk that self-reinforcing feedbacks could push the Earth System toward a planetary threshold that, if crossed, could prevent stabilization of the climate at intermediate temperature rises and cause continued warming on a 'Hothouse Earth' pathway even as human emissions are reduced.

Crossing the threshold would lead to a much higher global average temperature than any interglacial in the past 1.2 million years and to sea levels significantly higher than at any time in the Holocene."

As Rockström explains, the "tipping elements" examined in the research "can potentially act like a row of dominoes. Once one is pushed over, it pushes Earth towards another." And in an interview with the BBC, he added, "What we are saying is that when we reach 2 degrees of warming, we may be at a point where we hand over the control mechanism to Planet Earth herself.

We are the ones in control right now, but once we go past 2 degrees, we see that the Earth system tips over from being a friend to a foe. We totally hand over our fate to an Earth system that starts rolling out of equilibrium."

Such feedback occurences, the authors of the study write, would pose "severe risks for health, economies, political stability, and ultimately, the habitability of the planet for humans."

With Arctic ice and glaciers melting away; increasingly powerful and frequent storms in the Atlantic and Pacific; coral reefs dying from warming oceans; record-setting wildfires in the U.S.; unprecedented heatwaves in Europe, the Middle East, and elsewhere—climate researchers have been at the forefront of sounding the alarms about the frightening path humanity is now following.

"In the context of the summer of 2018, this is definitely not a case of crying wolf, raising a false alarm: the wolves are now in sight," said Dr. Phil Williamson, a climate researcher at the University of East Anglia, about the latest study.

"The authors argue that we need to be much more proactive in that regard, not just ending greenhouse gas emissions as rapidly as possible, but also building resilience in the context of complex Earth system processes that we might not fully understand until it is too late."

In order to avoid the worst-case scenarios, the researchers behind the study say that "collective human action is required" to steer planet's systems away from dangerous tipping points.

"Such action," they write, "entails stewardship of the entire Earth System—biosphere, climate, and societies—and could include decarbonization of the global economy, enhancement of biosphere carbon sinks, behavioral changes, technological innovations, new governance arrangements, and transformed social values."


Absurd fantasies of the rich

SUBHEAD: Reciprocal relationships with others are ultimately the most important possessions we have.

By Kurt Cobb on 5 August 2018 for Resource Insights -

Image above: No matter how luxurious the furnishing, living underground in a refurbished nuclear bunker waiting for the starving hordes on the surface to die and the environment to reset itself for life on Earth won't be convivial. For almost a decade companies like Terravivos have been offering the wealthy "life rafts" or "escape pods" from Mother Earth. Note the gold leaf finish on the outside of the underground access hallways into the dining and recreational center of this "luxury" survival condominium.  From (

Professor and author Douglas Rushkoff recently wrote about a group of wealthy individuals who paid him to answer questions about how to manage their lives after what they believe will be the collapse of society. He only knew at the time he was engaged that the group wanted to talk about the future of technology. (See IslandBreath: Survival of the Richest)

Rushkoff afterwards explained that the group assumed they would need armed guards after this collapse to defend themselves. But they rightly wondered in a collapsed society how they could even control such guards.

What would they pay those guards with when the normal forms of payment ceased to mean anything? Would the guards organize against them?

Rushkoff provides a compelling analysis of a group of frightened wealthy men trying to escape the troubles of this world while alive and wishing to leave a decaying body behind when the time comes and transfer their consciousness digitally into a computer. (I've written about consciousness and computers previously.)

Here I want to focus on what I see as the failure of these people to understand the single most salient fact about their situations:

Their wealth and their identities are social constructs that depend on thousands if not millions of people who are employees; customers; employees of vendors; government workers who maintain and run the law courts, the police force, the public physical infrastructure, legislative bodies, the administrative agencies and the educational institutions—and who thereby maintain public order, public health and public support for our current systems.

Those wealthy men aren't taking all this with them when they die. And, while they are alive, their identities will shift radically if the intellectual, social, economic and governmental infrastructure degrades to the point where their safety is no longer guaranteed by at least minimal well-being among others in society.

If the hunt for diminishing food and other resources comes to their doors, no army of guards will ultimately protect them against the masses who want to survive just as badly but lack the means.

One would think that pondering this, the rich who are capable of pondering it would have an epiphany:

Since their security and well-being ultimately hinges on the security and well-being of all, they ought to get started helping to create a society that provides that in the face of the immense challenges we face such as climate change, resource depletion, possible epidemics, growing inequality and other devils waiting in the wings of the modern world. (In fairness, some do understand this.)

At least one reason for the failure of this epiphany to occur is described by author and student of risk Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Taleb describes how the lives the rich become increasingly detached from the rest of society as arbiters of taste for the wealthy convince them that this detachment is the reward of wealth.

The rich visit restaurants that include only people like themselves. They purchase larger and larger homes with fewer and fewer people in them until they can spend whole days without seeing another person.

For the wealthiest, neighbors are a nuisance. Better to surround oneself with a depopulated forest than people next door.

The rich are convinced by this experience that they are lone heroes and at the same time lone victims, pilloried by the media as out of touch and heartless.

These self-proclaimed victims may give to the Cato Institute to reinforce the idea that the individual can go it alone and should. They themselves have done it (or at least think they have). Why can't everyone else?

The wealthier they are, the more their fear and paranoia mounts that others not so wealthy will try to take their wealth; or that impersonal forces in the marketplace will destroy it or at least diminish it significantly; or that government will be taken over by the mob and expropriate their wealth through high taxes or outright seizure.

And, of course, there are the natural disasters of uncontrolled climate change and plague, just to name two.

It's no wonder some of the super rich are buying luxury bunkers to ride out the apocalypse. These bunkers come with an array of amenities that include a cinema, indoor pool and spa, medical first aid center, bar, rock climbing wall, gym, and library. High-speed internet is included though one wonders how it will work after the apocalypse.

But strangely, even in these luxury bunkers built in former missile silos, dependence on and trust in others cannot be avoided. The units are actually condominiums.

And while they contain supplies and ammunition said to be enough for five years, it will be incumbent on the owners, whether they like it not, to become intimately acquainted with their neighbors in order to coordinate a defense of the compound should that need arise.

The irony, of course, is that this is precisely the kind of communal entanglement which their wealth is supposed to allow them to avoid. Society, it seems, is everywhere you go. You cannot avoid it even when eternity is advancing on your door.

And, you cannot escape with your consciousness into a computer (assuming that will one day be possible) if there's no stable technical society to tend to computer maintenance and no power to keep the computer on.

It turns out that we are here for a limited time and that trusting and reciprocal relationships with others are ultimately the most important possessions we have—unless we are too rich or too frightened to realize it.


A Brief History: Dated 2050

SUBHEAD: That is political immaturity, it’s infantile, not allowing people to cooperatively rule themselves.

By Ted Trainer on 18 July 2018 for Resilience -

Image above: Photo of Sieben Linden Ecovillage behind the yurts of "Globolo" by Michael Würfel. From original article.

“It was a very close call; we nearly didn’t get through. There were years in which it looked as if the die-off of billions could not be avoided.”

“Why not? What was it like back there around 2030?”

“Well that’s when several major global problem trends came to a head. Mason was one who saw this coming, in 2003 actually, when he wrote The 2030 Spike.

But many saw the storm clouds stacking up decades before that … dwindling resources, accelerating environmental problems, species loss, rocketing inequality, social discontent and breakdown. “

“Why didn’t governments and global institutions like the UN and the World Bank just bite the bullet and rationally work out a plan for transition to sustainable ways?”

“Ha! How naive. Your assumptions about humans and their societies are far too optimistic. Firstly, only a relatively small number of people saw that the core problem was grossly unsustainable levels of resource use.

Most people and virtually all governments and officials were utterly incapable of even recognizing the fact that most of the world’s alarming trends were basically due to the overproduction and over consumption going on, depleting resources, wrecking ecosystems, and generating resource wars.

The limits to growth had been extensively documented from the 1970s on but even fifty years later almost every politician, business leader, media outlet and economist and ordinary person was still fiercely committed to economic growth.

It was extremely difficult to get anyone to even think about the idiocy of pursuing limitless economic growth.

At the official level there was wall to wall delusion and denial and outright refusal to do what was necessary, like stop using coal.

So there was no possibility of the world accepting the need for massive degrowth and dealing with it in a rational and planned way.”

“So how was it dealt with?”

“The core issues would have gone on being ignored until the system broke down irretrievably. It should have been obvious that there had to be a shift to radical localism and far simpler ways, but as long as rich world supermarket shelves remained well stocked no one would take any notice of calls for degrowth or downshifting.

Many of us could see that a time of great troubles was coming, but we could also see that without it would there was no possibility of transition to very different systems that were sustainable and possible for all the world’s people.

But we could also see that the prospects for the coming depression to result in such an outcome were clearly very poor.

The most likely outcome was chaotic breakdown of order and descent into barbarity and a war lord plundering era with a massive population die-off.”

“Well we certainly got the time of troubles. What triggered its onset?”

“Two main things. Firstly the rapid decline in oil from fracking. For decades there had been increasing worries about getting enough oil but the advent of fracking made it seem that this could keep supply up.

But within about ten years fracking blew out as the fields were found to deplete fast.

Even by 2018 none of the major producers had ever made a profit; in fact they were all in extreme debt. But much more important was the rapid decline in the capacity of most of the Middle East suppliers to export oil, because their increasing populations and declining water and food production meant they had to use more and more of the oil they produced. “

“Yeah, so the oil price rose high again, like in 2014, but that crashed the economy again and oil demand fell and oil prices fell.”

“That’s right; we were into the “bumpy road down” scenario. Meanwhile the global debt was going through the roof. Even back in 2018 it was far higher than before the first GFC.”

“The first GFC?”

“Yes … that was nothing like GFC 2. The few who owned most of the world’s capital had little choice but to go on lending to increasingly risky investments, because the economy had been slowing for decades making it increasingly difficult for them to find anything to invest in profitably.

So global debt went up and up. But the point came where they could no longer believe they’d get their money back.

See, you only lend if you think you can get it back plus interest, and that’s not possible unless the economy grows enabling the borrower to sell enough produce to repay the loan and the interest. So if they eventually can’t convince themselves that future growth is likely they will stop lending.”

“But what slowed growth?”

“All of the difficulties I mentioned getting worse, especially the inequality. The super-rich were rocketing to obscene wealth while most people were stagnating. For instance most of the workers in the US had seen no increase in their real incomes for about forty years. The mass of people didn’t have the money to spend that would sustain economic activity let alone growth.

So, suddenly the financial bubble burst; the rich panicked to get their money back, meaning they called in their loans and wouldn’t lend anymore.

So … more or less instant collapse of the entire financial sector closely followed by just about everything else in the fragile over-extended global economy.

For instance exporters wouldn’t accept orders because they didn’t think the importers would be able to get the credit to pay, so “just-in-time” supply chains quickly failed. It was the start of the mother of all depressions.”

“But it didn’t bring on Armageddon did it… the old order was knocked down very hard but it sort of spluttered on, didn’t it?”

Yes. We were very lucky that after the initial jolt we went into a long slowly worsening depression.

This gave people time for the lessons to sink in. It would have been really bad if there had been a sudden catastrophic crash wrecking everything. The breakdown set two very different processes going.

 The bad one was that as prices rose and scarcities and unemployment increased many people understandably blamed the politicians for incompetence, and as governments had to grapple with increasing difficulties and demands on shrinking revenues discontent soared.

Consequently migrants and refugees were targeted for taking jobs, and racism and support for fascist movements increased.

 But the other thing triggered was widespread recognition that the old globalized and market driven economic system was clearly incapable of providing for all people, that it could not solve the big problems, in fact it was clearer than ever that it was the cause of the problems.

Large numbers of ordinary people realized that they had to go local, that they had to come together to grapple with how to make their neighborhoods, towns and suburbs capable of providing urgently needed things.

It was obvious that they would have to cooperate and organize, working out how they could convert their living places into gardens, workshops, co-ops, orchards etc. They saw that they must set up committees and working bees and town meetings to work out what they needed to do.

Most important here was firstly the shift in mentality, from being passive recipients of government, accepting rule by distant officials, to collectively taking control of their own fate.

Secondly there was a shift in expectations; people rapidly realized that they could not have their old resource-squandering affluence back.

They saw that they would have to be content with what was sufficient, and they realized that they would have to cooperate and prioritize the common good, not compete as individuals for selfish goals.”

“But how was it possible for people who had known nothing but working for money and going to the supermarket to start doing such things? People had lived as passive consumers of products and decisions, and had only ever experienced a culture of competitive individualism.

Why did they turn in the direction of collectivism and self-sufficiency?”

“Because by then the examples of the alternative ways had been established just widely enough, by the Transition Towns and Eco-village movements. It was just well enough understood that the people who had been plodding away at the community gardens and co-ops for decades had been doing what it was now crucial for all to do.

 People were able to come over to join the alternatives that had been established in small ways here and there, the food gardens, the support groups, the poultry co-operatives, the free concerts.

Increasing numbers realized that these were the only ways they could achieve tolerable lives now. They could follow the examples these movements had established.”

“So are you saying that we rapidly went from the suicidal old consumer-capitalist growth and affluence society to the new global systems we have today … just through people turning to localism?”

“Oh no. That was only what we call Stage1. The full revolution was slow and complicated. So far I’ve only explained the first major turning point, the widespread realisation that the way ahead had to be via the development of local communities using local resources to meet as many of their needs as possible.

Stage1 is best understood as a slow process of building an alternative economy, an Economy B under the old market and capital dominated Economy A, to provide things the market system neglected, especially work, incomes and goods for people dumped into unemployment and poverty. Economy B involved principles that flatly contradicted those of Economy A.”


“Well firstly it wasn’t driven by investors seeking to maximize their profits. That was the mechanism at the core of the old system and it never did what was most needed.

It never prioritized the production of food for hungry people or humble and cheap housing.

It always produced what richer people wanted, because they were prepared to buy higher priced things and producing what they demanded was most profitable for suppliers.

The market system could not behave in any other way.

Secondly the decisions about what to produce and what ventures to set up were made by communities, collectively, by town meetings which discussed what should be done.

And those deliberations could and normally did give priority to other than monetary benefits, to things like environmental sustainability or town cohesion or real welfare. So it was an economy that took power away from the owners of capital.

Previously they were the ones who decided what would be developed or produced for sale and they only developed whatever would maximize their wealth, never what was most urgently needed.”

“OK that’s to do with how it worked but I want to know more about how it was replaced.

Are you saying the old economy was basically just swept away by a process of establishing more and more little firm and farms, some of them co-ops, using local produce to sell to local customers? “

“Oh no. That was a most important beginning but it could have led only to lots of nice little greenish firms operating within the old market system, trying to compete against chains importing from the Third World, and no threat to the global economy.

The crucial factor, the turning point, was when people realized they had to come together to take control of their town’s fate, to have meetings where they grappled with what the town’s most urgent needs were and what they could collectively do about them.

 This involved taking responsibility for the town, feeling that we must try to cooperatively identify our problems and work out the best strategies.

So community development cooperatives formed and town assemblies were held, and things like town banks and business incubators and town cooperatives were formed. These were not private or individual ventures; operating within Economy A.

Some did some buying and selling within the old Economy A but their concern was to build up Economy B, and it was to provide crucial goods and services not to make profits.“

“OK now how were governments involved? Surely they had to do a lot of intervening and planning and forcing people to change to these extremely different ways.

I can’t understand why they would do these things given that even local governments typically thought only in conventional economic development terms, I mean they were usually dominated by businessmen who knew that the best, the only way to progress was to crank up more business in the town to produce more trickle down.”

“No, again you’re overlooking the fact that the town’s conventional economy had been trashed by the depression and many businesses had been swept away. The self-destruction of the old economy did half of the restructuring automatically, that is, it got rid of vast numbers of unnecessary firms.

Because of the depression councils couldn’t collect much tax and therefore couldn’t do much let alone do alternative stuff, even if they’d wanted to. So we realized that we had to do it mostly by ourselves, by citizen initiatives.

In time everyone could see that conventional strategies couldn’t resurrect the old economy.

So governments were in no position to stop community development initiatives.

 People just got stuck into getting needed things going.

Of course we increasingly got assistance from some of the sensible councils which saw the importance of Economy B.

And as time went by we got more people with the alternative world view elected to councils.”

“OK but what about state and federal governments?”

“They remained less relevant for a long time, in fact until Stage 2 of the revolution.

They were trapped in conventional markets-and-growth thinking, mainly because the corporate super-rich had got so much control over them, especially via campaign contributions, and the mainstream economics academics and professionals knew only growth and trickle down.

So they thrashed around pathetically looking for ways of cranking up investment.

Of course the only ways they could think of involved massive handouts and incentives for the owners of capital to get them to invest.”

“That’s what they did in GFC 1…gave them trillions.”

“Yeah. Very strange how it never occurred to them that if you want to get that flawed economy going you have to stimulate demand and so massive handouts to the poor might have worked.

But as well as not being very interested in assisting the people at the bottom governments had low income from tax and few resources, along with escalating problems, so again they couldn’t do much to help local initiatives even if they had wanted to.

And, most importantly, centralized agencies could not run all the small local economies emerging.

They couldn’t do that even if they had lots of money.

Only the people who lived in a town knew the conditions there and what was needed and what that traditions and social climate were and what strategies would be acceptable.

And they were able to immediately implement decisions, for example by organizing working bees.”

“But I don’t understand how any of that got rid of capitalism. There were trillions of dollars worth of corporations. How did the government phase out all those useless industries producing packaging, advertising, sports cars, cruise ships…”

“Maybe I should have made this clearer earlier. Governments didn’t do it. They didn’t need to. The corporations got rid of themselves! They went broke.

Remember, it was the most massive depression ever seen. Vast numbers of firms of all sizes went bankrupt and disappeared … because people didn’t have the jobs or incomes or money to go on buying their products.

The real economy shrank down to mostly little businesses supplying crucial things like vegetables and bread, and many people who had worked in the useless firms came over to set up or work in these kinds of ventures.

Governments didn’t have to clean out capitalism! It self-destructed!“

“What about the 1%; how did you deal with them.”

“We ignored them to death! They just disappeared! Their wealth was utterly worthless. It couldn’t buy caviar or sports cars, because things like that were not being produced.

In the 1930s Spanish civil war when Anarchists ran Barcelona many factories were abandoned by their owners so workers just kept them operating, and in fact many factory owners stayed on as paid managers because they could see that this was their best option.

And in Detroit the collapse created lots of abandoned land that we turned into vegetable gardens.

Same in Greece and many other regions butchered by neoliberalism. A little austerity can do wonders! Mind you those who had read their Marx were not surprised.”

“What do you mean? What light could that old duffer throw on this revolution?”

“A core element in his theory of capitalism was that the contradictions built into it would eventually destroy it. His timing was out by about a hundred years but he got the mechanism right. See, the importance of Marx is in his account of the dynamics of capitalism, of how its structures inevitably play out over time.

Early in this century it was obvious that inequality was building to levels that were not only morally obscene but that were killing the economy.

The driving principle in the system was the fierce and ceaseless and inescapable quest by capitalists to accumulate capital. The system gave them no choice about this.

Either you beat your rival in competition for sales or you would be eliminated, so the winners became bigger and wealthier all the time, and increased their political power to skew everything to their advantage.

This would have throttled the real economy even if resource and ecological costs were not also tightening the noose, making it more and more difficult to find good investment outlets and make good profits. And then the robots attacked.”


“Yes, best allies we ever had. Beautiful confirmation of that old duffer Karl.”

“Obviously introducing robots was marvelous for those who owned the factories; no need to pay wages any more. Well before long demand fell …duh…because no wages means nothing to spend so nothing purchased so factory owners going broke at an ever accelerating rate.

See, as Karl said, the system’s built-in contradictions pushed it towards self destruction. And we didn’t have to build barricades or fire a shot. Delightful … more people coming over to our co-ops.

By the way, Marx also got that right … capitalist accumulation producing deteriorating conditions for the majority to the point where they dump the system. But again, lousy timing.”

“But you couldn’t call the revolution Marxist could you? “

“You’re right. It was nothing like the standard model taken for granted by the red left for almost 200 years.

Firstly it wasn’t led by a ruthless party ready to take state power by force and tip out the capitalist class. It did not focus on taking the state, as if that had to come first so that change could be forced through from the top.

It was not about overt class warfare, fighting to take power off the ruling class, although that was an outcome of course. It didn’t involve rule by authoritarian methods until communism could be established.

It was the opposite of a centrally organized transition process or about a centrally run post-revolutionary society.

And its core element was not change in the economy or in power relations, it was cultural change. If only the red left had understood this we would have done the job much faster.”

“What do you mean, cultural change?”

“It was above all a change in mentality, in thinking and values and ideas about the good and just and sustainable society and about the good life.

People eventually came to see that the old system would not provide for them and that a satisfactory society had to be about mostly highly self-sufficient and self-governing local communities running their own affairs via highly participatory procedures in local economies that did not grow and that minimized resource use, etc. etc. That realization was actually THE revolution.

That’s what then led to the changes in power, the state and the global economy, and without the emergence of that world view we could never have achieved what we have now.

That sequence of events was the reverse of what the standard socialist vision assumed. Marxists thought you have to get power first and it would then be a long time until people had grown out of their worker-consumer-competitive-acquisitive mind set sufficiently for communism to be possible. The wrong order of events.

 The team that got all this right was the Anarchists?”

“What? The bomb throwers? How on earth were they relevant?”

“Oh dear oh dear. We have some sorting out to do here. “Anarchism” is a term like Christian, or Moslem or human, standing for a very wide category of ideas and types and practices, some of which I find appalling and some I find admirable.

Yes some who called themselves Anarchists thought violence was the way to change society, but those we followed, like Kropotkin and Tolstoy and you could include Gandhi, did not. Our variety might best be identified as being for government via thoroughly participatory democracy.

Decisions are made by everyone down at the town level, by public meetings and referenda, including those decisions to do with the relatively few functions left at the state and national levels.

We the people, all of us, hold power equally; no one has any power to rule over us.

That’s the way things are run now and it is obviously not possible to run good sustainable, self-sufficient frugal, caring communities any other way.”

“OK, let’s get back to the history.

I see how the depression cleared the ground and motivated people to come across to the new ways, but there’s a lot more to be explained here, about how we went from towns starting to create and run their own economies, to a situation in which national governments and economies are mainly about providing towns and regions with the inputs and conditions they need to thrive, in a world economy that has undergone massive degrowth to low and stable GDP.

Firstly, how about the fact that no local community can be completely self-sufficient. They would always need things like boots and chicken wire and stoves that can only be produced in big factories sometimes far away?”

“Ah yes, a very important point and it gets us into discussing Stage 2 of the revolution. We quickly became acutely aware of the town’s need for imports, of a few but crucial items.

One early response was for towns and suburbs to establish their own farms further afield, or oganize some existing farms to supply foods, especially grains and dairy products that couldn’t easily be produced in sufficient quantity in settled areas.

But of course there were many other items needed even by very frugal communities, like those you mention and also including small quantities of cement and steel.

 This led to intense pressure on governments to organize the supply of these inputs, by restructuring existing capacities and priorities away from non-necessities and exports and into small regional factories.

Again remember that in a crashed national economy this was not so difficult as there were lots of factories and workers sitting idle and eager to switch focus.”

“But how could every town or suburb get the chicken wire it needed, how could they pay for it when all they could produce were things like vegetables and fruit?”

“Yes organizing this was a most important task and the solution was to make sure every town could set up some kind of export capacity so that it could send into the national economy some vital items towns needed to import.

This enabled them to earn the small amount needed to pay for the things they had to import. In some cases they had a single industry, like mining a particular mineral or being the regional radio factory. Others organized to produce a variety of items.

A lot of rational planning and trial and error and adjustment was needed, to make sure all could have an appropriate share of the export production needed. But the volume and variety of these items turned out to be very limited, so it wasn’t such a difficult task.

Remember people accepted very frugal living standards so few elaborate luxuries were being produced.

The towns fiercely demanded and got these restructurings carried out by state governments, because they had to have them, and because governments could see these arrangements must be made or the towns would not survive.

The most important point here was that this was a process whereby the towns, the people in the towns, came to be calling the shots, making the demands, telling central authorities what was needed and what they must do.

Groups of towns were also establishing their own institutions, conferences, research agencies to work out the best developments and to build them and to insist that central authorities enable these.

In these ways the towns and their regional associations were taking over more functions previously left to state governments, and it eventually led to town assemblies having become the major governing agencies.

They muscled in, partly replacing state agencies and partly giving state agencies direct orders and partly installing town reps in government agencies. So state and national governments shrank dramatically and eventually ended up with only a few executive functions.”

“What about legislative functions, passing laws, forming policy?”

“No, that’s the main point; we took these away from centralized, representative, bureaucracy-ridden governments, slowly, just by increasingly pushing in on them, telling them what our regional conferences and referenda etc. had worked out must be done.

We gradually got to the situation where discussions at the town and regional levels and in our conferences were being delivered to state and national governments to implement.

So before very long we formalized the transfer of power to make these decisions at the lowest level, meaning that they were being made by ordinary citizens in town meetings.

That’s how we do it all now, right?

The proper Anarchist way.

Remember again that in a national economy that had undergone dramatic degrowth and in which most of the governing that needed to be done was about local issues and was carried out down at the town level, there was far less for state and national governments to do, making it much easier to shift the center of government from the state to the people.”

“Why did you say ‘proper’ Anarchist way?”

“Because the core Anarchist principle represents the way humans should do things, that is, without anyone ruling over or dominating or having power over anyone else.

Of course sometimes win-win solutions can’t be found, although we always work hard to find them, and the decision has to oblige a minority to go along, but this is citizens doing the ruling, not being ruled by higher authorities.

For at least ten thousand years most people have been ruled, by barons, kings, parliaments, tyrants, and representatives.

That is political immaturity, it’s infantile, not allowing people to cooperatively rule themselves.

That’s why you see monuments around here to the mother of all great depressions. It forced us to adopt the sensible form of government, because we realized that it was not possible to get through those very difficult times unless we ran good towns, and that could not be done other than by thoroughly participatory arrangements and it had to be done without powerful centralized governments ruling over us.”

“Could it all go wrong again? I mean, might we slowly move back to people seeking luxuries and wealth, and inequality building up again, and industries serving the rich emerging, and elites getting power over us, and competition between nations generating international conflict and resource wars?”

“No… mainly because the resources have gone. We burnt through our fabulous inheritance of high grade ores and forests and soils and species in a mere 200 years.

Now you cannot get copper unless you refine extremely poor ores.

We are lucky now because nature prevents us from going down the idiotic growth and affluence path again.

But more importantly there has been a huge cultural awakening, a transition in ideas and values that was bigger and more important than the Enlightenment.

Humans now understand that we must live on very low per capita resource consumption, and that the good life cannot be defined in terms of material wealth, of getting materially richer all the time.”

“Now there’s another point I want to take up … “

“Aw heck, sorry, I overlooked the time. Just realized my astronomy group meets in five minutes.”

“How about after that?”

“Sorry, got an art class.”


“Sorry, that’s the one day in the week I work for money.”

See also:
Island Breath: How Cuba survived Peak Oil 7/23/06
Island Breath: 1993 - Sustainable Growth Impossible 8/5/06 
Island Breath: Four Future 2050's for Hawaii 8/26/06
Island Breath: Introduction to Kauai Future 12/6/06
Island Breath: Kauai Future 2007-2029 12/12/06
Island Breath: Kauai Future 2030-2050 12/31/06
A PDF Version of all three parts are available as a PDF file:
Island Breath: 2007-2050 PDF


Kauai 2018 Voting Recommendations

SUBHEAD: Island Breath's endorsements for Kauai Primary Election on 11 August 2018.

By Linda Pascatore on 26 July 2018 for Island Breath -
Image above: Kauai County Council members 2016-2018. L to R: Mason Chock, Arthur Brun, Mel Rapozo, Joann Yukimura, Ross Kagawa, Derek Kawakami and Arryl Kaneshiro. Mashup image by Juan Wilson. Click image to enlarge.

Register to Vote, Find your Polling Place, or View your Ballot here:

Primary Voting Schedule
  • Early Walk In Voting for Primary: July 30 to Aug 9 at Historic County Building basement.
  • Last day to request Mail in Ballot: August 4
  • Primary Elections: August 11 - Polls open 7am to 6pm
Island Breath picks are based on general progressive, liberal positions, with an emphasis on sustainability, the environment, peace, equality, and Hawaiian Sovereignty.  We followed some of the  recommendations from the Sierra Club and Pono Hawaii Initiative.

Our recommended candidates are in italics with larger print.

We found information on candidates records and positions on the League of Women Voters (, Votesmart (, and also in articles profiling individual candidates in Civil Beat and The Garden Island.

On the primary ballot there are two sections: on one you choose a party and vote only for those candidates; the other section is non-partisan--everyone votes for the County Contests and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.  We are choosing from the Democratic candidates on the party affiliated section.

Democratic Party

US Senator:

* Hirono, Mazie

US Representative, District II (Kauai)
* Gabbard, Tulsi

* Ige, David Y.

Lieutenant Governor:
* Iwamoto, Kim Coco

District 14: 
Nadine Nakamura is running unopposed for the Democratic nomination.  We do not endorse her.

District 15: 
Elaine Daladig is running against incumbent James Tokioka for the Democratic nomination.  We do not endorse either candidate.

District 16:
* Morikawa, Daynette (Dee)


Everyone, no matter which party affiliation, can vote for Kauai Mayor and County Council and OHA (Office of Hawaiian affairs) trustees.

Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA): Oahu Resident Trustee

* Kia'aina, Esther

Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA): At-Large Trustee:
(vote for three)

* Aila, William J., Jr.

* Paikai, Landen D.K.K.

* Paris, Makana

* Yukimura, JoAnn A.

Kauai County Council: 
Special Note: Island Breath is recommending voting for no more than the three candidates noted below, even though you are allowed to vote for seven.  If you vote for seven, but really support just three candidates, your #4, 5, 6 and 7 votes could enable those other candidates to win over your top candidates.  Consider voting for fewer--a practice called "plunking".

* Chock, Mason

* Cowden, Felicia

* Roversi, Adam P.

See also:
Recommended by Gary Hooser; Executive Director of the Pono Hawaii Initiative



SUBHEAD: After a hard day's work homesteading, snuggle down for sunset and the dusky onset evening stars and conversation. 

By Juan Wilson on 26 July 2018 for Island Breath  -
Image above: Detail of backyard panorama. On building hotwater panel, solar PV panels, rain catchme4nt gutter to 1,000 water tank. In yard foreground: pepper trees, two cassava, ginger. Midground: papaya, 12 cacao trees. Backgound: Macadamia nut and litchi tree, to right is corner of enclosed raised-bed garden.  Photo by Juan Wilson. Click to see panorama view. ().

Homesteading in retirement is hard work. In some ways harder than having a nine-to-five job forty hours a week. With the full time job eating out or buying prepared food was normal.

It's not as demanding as commercial farming, but there are dozens of tasks that keep piling onto the "to-do" list as well as many regular routines needed to be done frequently... even on a half acre lot.

Checking the fruiting plants daily is a daily activity. Avocado, mango and macadamia nut trees are seasonal.

It getting into macadamia nut season right now. We have three producing trees now. That's enough macadamia nuts in a season to get us through the year.

We make macadamia nut butter, and eat roasted nuts for snacks. We need to check under each tree a few times a day. In July it begins as a trickle of a few dozen in a day. Later we will be picking up a few hundred nuts in a day.  Lots of bending over.

In their own seasons are mango, avocado and always papaya. Other fruiting trees are oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, limes, lemons... and that's just the citrus. There are also a few oddballs like cacao, starfruit, litchi, noni, surinam cherry and Hawaiian chili peppers.

Plus, we cannot forget the staples like taro, cassava and breadfruit, plantain, banana, coconut.

This does not count the daily tending, weeding, watering and harvesting of our 16' by 32' raised-bed garden.

Nor does this work does includes the husking, peeling, chopping, drying, canning, and other processes needed daily to keep the plant production converting into usable fresh or storable food.

Are you having fun yet? Well don't forget the composting of plant waste, amending the soil,  trimming of trees, etc.

Homesteading is more than a full-time job. It's a life. And about the most secure and rewarding one.

We are inching our way back to the Garden of Eden. Don't be left behind.


A trashcan of canned food

SUBHEAD: When the SHTF and the supermarkets sold out this will get you through the worst of it.

By Juan Wilson on 23 July 2018 for Island Breath -

Image above: Galvanized garbage can used to store canned food in outdoor conditions out of the rain. Photo by author.

Living in rural Hawaii we can year round grow fruits and vegetables for our table. We also can provide ourselves with all the eggs (and more) that we need with eight hens in a 4'x16' henhouse.

We are not vegetarians. Our fruit, vegetable and eggs are vital to us but we continue to rely on other sources for much of our protean.

Although we occasionally eat one of our hens when they stop laying, we are not yet raising fish, birds or mammals for dinner table. We rely on others for our fresh fish, poultry and meat.

In our garage is a steel galvanized garbage can. It is filled with canned food.

Image above: Inside the trashcan we keep canned food. Mostly items with hearty content, high in protein. Photo by author.

The meat in cans includes Spam (pork); corned beef hash, corned beef, canned roast beef; canned chicken, canned tuna, canned sardines, canned kippers (fish); soups including clam chowder, turkey rice, pea soup with ham. In addition we keep canned pinto, black, garbonzo and kidney beans; canned beef and chicken broth, and canned whole tomatoes for mixing with fresh vegetables.

With these canned items we also combine rice, rice pasta and also yard grown breadfruit, cassava or taro to create filling savory meals with plenty of protein - without having to throw a steak on the BBQ.

When our trashcan is filled there is enough food to stretch our "food independence" to a few months.

Image above: These foods are not just to get us through a disaster. We incorporate small amount of them into our regular cooking routines allowing us to get some experience getting the best out of them - before having to depending on them. Photo by author.

It should be added that this cache of food needs to maintained and refreshed over time. Even though many items are good for years we keep an eye on expiration dates and eat down (and replace) those items we feel need to be replaced.

We do not buy and store fresh water. We use filtration on water and have 1,500 gallons of water stored from a well and rain catchment system. We avoid packaged frozen "TV" dinners and freeze dried military style MREs.  They are too costly and unpleasant to eat.

We find it better to mix canned products with our own own fresh produce.


Less rats mean more birds and fish

SUBHEAD: Rodent eradication saves chicks and fertilizes soil and reefs for better biodiversity.

By Jan TenBruggencate on 6 July 2018 for Raising Islands -

Image above: Rat in tree eating Hawaiian bird eggs. From (

If the rat eradication of Lehua Island (in Kauai County, Hawaii) ends up being successful, it could result in a more productive nearshore fishery.

Which is ironic, in that many of those fighting the eradication program were fishermen.

A new study in the journal Nature says that when rats kill off seabirds on islands, it means those birds are no longer pooping in the nearshore waters, fertilizing reefs. And that means fewer fish on those reefs.

This study was done in the Chagos Archipelago, where some islands have rats and others are rat-free. Researchers looked at both the fertility of the land on those islands and the productivity of their reefs, where erosion from the land would carry nutrients like bird-poop-sourced nitrogen.

The Chagos are atolls and reefs just south of the Equator in the Indian Ocean. Their ownership is disputed between Great Britain and Mauritius. One is Diego Garcia, which houses a U.S military base.

The results of the research were clear, said the authors, who are from Australian, British, Danish and Canadian research institutions.

On islands without rats, seabird density as well as nitrogen deposits were hundreds of times higher. Yes, hundreds: 250 to more than 700 times higher.

Those rat-free islands had reefs that had 48 percent more biomass of "macroalgae, filter-feeding sponges, turf algae and fish."

The researchers looked specifically at damselfish, and found that they both grew faster and had higher total biomass on the rat-free islands.

The theory, then, is that seabirds feed in the open ocean, deliver bird poop to the islands, and that the islands then feed the nearshore waters, which makes the waters more productive and capable of producing more fish.

"Rat eradication on oceanic islands should be a high conservation priority as it is likely to benefit terrestrial ecosystems and enhance coral reef productivity and functioning by restoring seabird-derived nutrient subsidies from large areas of ocean," the authors wrote.

Rats are not the only problems on islands. On Midway Atoll, near the western end of the Hawaiian archipelago, mice began eating seabirds after rats were removed from the islands there. The case of the vampire mice, which chewed into the necks of Laysan albatross, is reviewed here.

On other islands, the mice even seemed to be getting bigger on their diets of eggs and bird flesh. The Washington Post was among the many international publications that picked up the vampire mouse story.

All that said, rodents mainly go after eggs and chicks of nesting seabirds. That was the case at Lehua Island. Here is a description of the situation on the little island north of Ni`ihau before an application of a rodenticide to try to wipe out the rats.

"We found Wedge-tailed Shearwater and Red-tailed Tropicbird eggs broken open, the edges gnawed, the insides consumed. Tiny seabird chick bodies were commonplace–pulled out of burrows and half eaten.

This was particularly true for the diminutive Bulwer’s Petrel–the vast majority of Bulwer’s Petrel burrows we found had bits and pieces of chick inside," wrote Andre Raine, Project Manager for the Kauai Endangered Seabird Recovery Project.

A couple of months after the 2017 rat eradication effort at Lehua, Raine said he could clearly see the difference:

"Fat, healthy Wedge-tailed Shearwater chicks shuffled about in their burrows looking like animated fuzzballs. One of our burrow cameras showed a Bulwer’s Petrel chick exercising outside its burrow and actually fledging – a great omen, as this is something we have never recorded on our cameras in previous years," he wrote.

Most, but not all the rats were killed off at Lehua, and wildlife crews were back this year with rat-hunting dogs to try to kill off the survivors and protect the island's nesting seabird population.

And the island's coastal reefs and fisheries.
The removal of rats from islands is a major conservation effort. It has been done successfully at islands in Hawai`i like Mokoli`i off O`ahu and Mokapu off Molokai.

When it was accomplished at Palmyra Atoll south of the Hawaiian Islands, it had the unintended effect of killing off the disease-causing Asian tiger mosquito, which had depended on rats for blood meals. 

Convert Freezer into Fridge

SUBHEAD: Solar power couldn't run the conventional fridge, but converting a bin freezer worked. 

By Kendra on 23 September 2014 for New Life on a Homestead -

Image above: A typical low cost small bin freezer. From original article.

[IB Publisher's note: We are facing the same problem with our 16 cubic foot refrigerator - it's not efficient enough to run on the the batteries charged by our solar PV system. We are looking to convert a 10 cubic foot freezer into a refrigeration unit and live with the inconvenience of organizing and searching the bin for its contents. We'll let you know how that goes.]

Why Would We Want a Chest Fridge?
\In the months before purchasing our solar kit, we took measurements of how much power each of our appliances pulls using a Kill A Watt Meter.

After plugging our fridge into the meter for several days, we were able to determine that our upright unit was pulling about 2.25 kWh/day. With a solar system that will only produce 4-6 kW/day (assuming sunny days and clear skies), we had to find a way to reduce the load our fridge required.

I did a lot of research online, reading solar forums to find out what other people were doing for refrigeration off the grid. Many people use propane or gas refrigerators, but we didn’t want to have to depend on buying fuels to keep a fridge running.

Some people recommend solar refrigerators, but with the smallest models starting out at around $700, this option was way out of our price range. A more primitive alternative is using a Zeer Pot, but we really need something more practical than that for our everyday needs.

And then I came across something that sounded too good to be true:

Converting a chest freezer… a regular ol’ chest freezer… into a super energy efficient fridge.

Surely it would be complicated. There would be re-wiring and all sorts of complicated electrical modifications. Right?

Actually, not at all. It’s as simple as an extra plug. But I’ll get to the technical stuff in a minute.

One of the best things about a chest fridge is that they require just a fraction of the energy an upright model uses. Think about it. Cold air sinks. So when you open an upright fridge, all of that cold air you’ve paid to produce falls right out of the fridge at your feet, which in turn causes it to run more often. But with a chest fridge that cold air just sinks back down into the unit, requiring less energy to keep it cool. That’s why grocery stores like to use chest fridges.

Even if you don’t have any plans for going off the grid, you might want to consider the benefits of replacing your upright fridge/freezer with chest units simply for the energy savings.

Switching to a chest fridge isn’t for everyone. There are definite drawbacks to a system like this, which we’ll talk about later. But for us, it was a perfect and affordable option to use alongside our solar kit.

Step One: Finding The Right Freezer

When shopping for a chest freezer to convert to a fridge, find the smallest unit to accommodate your needs. Generally, the smaller the freezer the less energy it will require.

We found a 6.8 cu. ft. Magic Chef freezer for $80 on Craigslist. It’ll fit an 8×13 casserole dish down in the bottom, so there’s plenty of room to store leftovers or make-ahead meals. Although this unit isn’t Energy Star rated, it was comparable. Before deciding on a purchase, do some research into how much energy it uses compared to other models of equal size.

The amount of watts it uses as a freezer will be different from what it’ll use once converted to a fridge, but by comparing models you can at least get an idea of whether it uses more energy than necessary or if it’s pretty energy efficient from the get-go.

To figure out how many watts a freezer pulls, you’ll need to use the formula: Amps x Volts = Watts.

There should be a plate or sticker somewhere on the freezer that tells you how many amps and volts your freezer uses.
Just for reference, our freezer breaks down like this:
2.0 Amps x 115 V = 230 Watts, or .23 kW (1 kW = 1000 Watts).
This tells us approximately how many watts the unit uses per hour.
After converting the freezer to a fridge, our unit was pulling .68 kWh/day. Once we loaded it up with food the chest fridge is now reading about .51 kWh/day. That’s less than a quarter of the energy our upright fridge used!
If you get a used chest freezer, make sure everything is in good working order, and
ask about the last time the freon was topped offscratch that, but do make sure there isn’t a leak in the line.

fridge freezer

Step Two: Controlling The Temperature

Once you’ve found a chest freezer the next step is to convert it to a fridge. The easiest way to do that is to purchase a Johnson Controls Freezer Temperature Controller. We got ours for about $50 on Amazon.

With this device, there is no re-wiring or complicated configuring whatsoever. It’s as simple as a plug.

Here’s how it works…

Plug your freezer into the controller. Plug the controller into the wall outlet. Set the thermostat on the controller to a good temperature for refrigeration (we’ve got ours on 32*). Place the copper prong in the freezer, feeding the copper wire underneath the lid. The temperature in the box will raise to the new thermostat’s setting, and your unit will automatically go from being a freezer to a fridge. Easy enough?

freezer fridge

We mounted the controller to the wall behind the chest fridge. You can see the copper wire leading into the fridge from the back side. It just slips right underneath the lid. My husband also mounted a power strip with timers for our chest fridge and freezer, so we can control how often they come on when our solar is low on power.

chest fridge

Here’s the inside of the fridge before it’s filled. You can see the copper wire and probe in the center of the fridge. We try to keep it hanging around the middle of the fridge to keep the temperature consistent. If the probe is closer to the top of the fridge, it may read warmer air causing the unit to cool down unnecessarily.

fridge probe

I try to keep the prong from touching the wall of the fridge. Not sure if that matters, but it seems like a good idea.

chest fridge

A refrigerator thermometer helps us make sure it’s staying at the right temperature.

Getting Used To A Chest Fridge

chest fridge

Once I had sufficiently emptied our upright fridge/freezer, I was ready to move what remained to the new solar powered chest fridge. I was shocked by how much space was being taken up in our fridge by stuff that didn’t even require refrigeration.

I’m still working my way through the condiments and canned goods (I had like six jellies open in the fridge… yikes!), but when it comes down to the basics, we really only need the fridge for dairy products, a few condiments, leftovers, and more delicate produce such as leafy greens.

Down in the bottom of the fridge I put a milk crate to hold condiments and things we don’t use that often. Over time, condensation builds up in the bottom of the fridge and it needs to be soaked up. Having all of the loose jars up out of the water and in one easy-to-remove container makes cleanup a little easier.

chest fridge

I’ve used two freezer baskets to take advantage of the space at the top of the fridge. In these I put the stuff we use most often. I’ve found that having our leftovers right on top where they can’t get lost has really helped me use them up, where as before they would often get pushed to the back of the fridge and forgotten.

Having two baskets is a good use of the space, but it isn’t as practical as I’d like. To get to anything below, we have to remove one of the baskets first. Ideally, we would just slide one basket to either side to reach the bottom.

Frugal Kiwi has an excellent post on Organizing Your Chest Refrigerator, in which she shares some fantastic ideas for making the most of your space while still allowing access to the bottom of the fridge. I’d love to make shelves like her husband made, eventually.

But what about a freezer?

Yes, we still have a freezer. Instead of having an upright fridge/freezer AND a chest freezer (which is what we had before), we’ve consolidated all of our frozen foods into the one chest freezer. The chest freezer by itself pulls about 1kWh/day, which we can support with the solar panels alongside the chest fridge.


Yes, there are trade-offs when switching from an upright to a chest fridge. Here are a few I’ve discovered so far…

Convenience– Obviously, having to move stuff to reach down into the fridge is a little less convenient than we’re used to. But honestly, it really hasn’t been too much trouble.

Condensation– The fridge does accumulate water in the bottom from condensation. About once a week I pull everything out of the fridge and dry it up with a towel.

No Instant Filtered Water– With our upright fridge, the kids were used to helping themselves to cold, filtered water straight from the fridge door. Now they have to get water from the kitchen faucet, ’cause it’s too far down for them to reach into the bottom of the fridge. I’d like to get a Berkey or other beverage dispenser to fill with ice water to keep on the kitchen counter so that it’s easier for the children to fill their cups whenever they need to.

No Ice Maker– Of course, we don’t have an automatic ice maker now either, so it’s back to the old fashioned ice cube trays. Which works just fine.

Space– Having a chest fridge and a chest freezer definitely requires more floor space than an upright model. This may be a deal breaker for you. We have chosen to be unconventional (imagine that!) and move our chest fridge and freezer into the master bathroom, which is on the north side of the house and stays the coolest.

We had to sacrifice the garden tub, but honestly we probably wouldn’t have used it anymore anyways since we’ll have to be more conservative with our water usage. (Now I get to figure out the best way to fill the empty space where our fridge used to be in the kitchen.)
With a little adjusting it really hasn’t been difficult to get over these minor inconveniences. In our opinion, it has definitely been worth the trade.

Total Cost

The total setup cost to us was about $130 for a fridge that now runs on solar power, which we quickly made back by selling our upright fridge. Your cost will depend on the deal you can find on a chest freezer, plus about $50 for the thermostat controller.

Refrigerators generally don’t cost that much to run for a year, especially newer more efficient models. But when your power is limited and every watt adds up in a big way, converting a chest freezer to a fridge is a great way to significantly reduce your household energy load.