White is the New Green

SUBHEAD: Painting or resurfacing roofs or pavement is shovel-ready.

 By Sam Kornell on 03 April 2009 in Miller-McCune
Image above: Application of elastomeric roof coating. From http://www.renovatemyspace.com/roofs/?p=13
In early January, Hashem Akbari sent federal officials a rather improbable sounding proposal. An Iranian-born nuclear engineer who, for the last three decades, has worked as a scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Akbari would like to see $3 billion of the economic stimulus package directed toward painting white or a light color as many of the nation's roofs, and as much of its pavement, as possible — all with the goal of directing more solar radiation into space.
Akbari, along with Surabi Menon, another LBNL scientist, and Arthur Rosenfeld, a former LBNL scientist and now a California Energy Commission board member, claim that painting urban surfaces in warm parts of the world white or a light color could offset the carbon emissions of all 600 million of the world's cars for 18 to 20 years — at a savings equivalent to at least $1 trillion worth of CO2 reductions.
This is not a hoax: Akbari, Menon and Rosenfeld are three of the country's leading experts in their field, and their study published in the journal Climatic Change is backed by years of carefully calculated data.
It has long been known that white-roofed buildings stay cooler in hot weather. Blinding confirmation of this can be found in the streets of Andalusia in Spain, or the Greek Islands.
It turns out that they cool the air outside of their walls, too. On a typical summer day, Los Angeles is 5 degrees warmer than surrounding areas, and studies have consistently shown that by far the largest factor in this discrepancy is the absorption of solar heat by dark roofs and pavement — a phenomenon known as the "urban heat island" effect.
In 1985, Akbari and his colleagues began attempting to quantify how much "cool" roofs and pavement might improve urban air quality (hotter weather equals dirtier air), while cutting down on the need for air-conditioning. Then, five years ago, it occurred to them that cooling urban areas might also mitigate climate change.
As the greenhouse effect intensifies, one of the most dangerous consequences is a decrease in the earth's albedo — the degree to which it reflects solar radiation. Antarctic ice, for example, acts like a giant mirror, reflecting the heat of the sun back into space; as the ice melts, the earth absorbs more heat, leading to more global warming — a self-perpetuating process scientists call a feedback loop.
The idea of "geo-engineering" the world to make it bounce more of the sun's heat back into space has been around for years, but until Akbari and his colleagues decided to look into it, no one had attempted to quantify how much atmospheric cooling might be achieved by, as it were, painting the town white.
In 2004, they began running the numbers, and when they finished they were incredulous.
"When we did the calculations, initially we couldn't believe the results," Akbari said. "So we re-checked the numbers in different ways." Again, he said, the results were unambiguous: Every 100 square feet of roof area turned from a dark color to white is equivalent to offsetting the emission of one ton of heat-trapping, atmospheric CO2.
To get an idea of what this means, consider that in a single year, the average American is responsible for about 20 tons of CO2 emissions. Per capita, Americans have the largest carbon footprint of any nationality in the world, and all of the activities that make this so — driving our cars, using our electrical appliances, buying consumer products — adds up to the equivalent, atmospherically speaking, of 2,000 square feet of white roof.
In all, Akbari, Menon and Rosenfeld estimate that permanently retrofitting roofs and pavement in tropical and temperate regions of the world would offset 44 gigatons of CO2 emissions. It takes about a year and a half for the entire world to cook up 44 gigatons of CO2.
The scale of such mitigation, in proportion to its cost, is unrivaled among technology-based climate solutions. "This is not trivial a number," said Stephen Schneider, the co-director of Stanford's Center for Environmental Science and Policy, and the editor of Climatic Change.
Schneider emphasized that the plan would offset, not eliminate, the necessity of reducing carbon emissions, but he said that as singular greenhouse mitigation strategies come, the LBNL study is elegant, simple and profoundly cheap.
It's also well timed. Akbari pointed out that by his and his colleagues' calculations, the plan could save Americans $2 billion annually in unspent air conditioning, even after taking into account the increased need for heating in winter. Moreover, he argued, it dovetails with the president's economic and environmental goals.
The Obama administration has made it clear that it wants a substantial portion of the stimulus package to go toward creating a greener economy, but that desire has to be balanced against the imperative to immediately circulate cash and create jobs. Painting or resurfacing roofs or pavement, Akbari said, would nicely fulfill both objectives. The technology exists and is readily available, and since a substantial portion of the country's home and commercial real-estate owners are going to need to re-roof at some point in the near future anyway, it's about as shovel-ready as any proposal currently on the table.
Akbari has thus far not heard back from the government, but he's holding out hope that his funding proposal will be folded into the energy-efficiency provision of the stimulus package.
"I don't see why it shouldn't be," he said. "It will be lucrative for the government and for business owners, and it will create jobs and offset carbon emissions.
"However, he noted that the attraction of urban cooling is unlikely to fade anytime in the foreseeable future — indeed, with 70 percent of the world's population projected to live in cities by 2040, it should only increase. He makes a convincing case.
As Schneider said, "It's a clever idea that has no obvious side effects and gives us good bang for our buck."
See also:
 Island Breath: Black is the New Green 2/28/09
Island Breath: Yellow is the New Green 2/27/09

You Are Watching

SUBHEAD: Bill Moyers talks to Bill Black about the fraud that pervades the financial industry and the Obama government.
By Bill Moyers on 03 April 2009 in Bill Moyers Journal
Image above: Detail of poster for country music band "Asleep at the Wheel". From http://sleepzine.com/sleep-news/don%E2%80%99t-fall-asleep-driving-on-the-road/
The financial industry brought the economy to its knees, but how did they get away with it? With the nation wondering how to hold the bankers accountable, Bill Moyers sits down with William K. Black, the former senior regulator who cracked down on banks during the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s. Black offers his analysis of what went wrong and his critique of the bailou.
BILL MOYERS: Who's covering up?
WILLIAM K. BLACK: Geithner is charging, is covering up. Just like Paulson did before him. Geithner is publicly saying that it's going to take $2 trillion — a trillion is a thousand billion — $2 trillion taxpayer dollars to deal with this problem. But they're allowing all the banks to report that they're not only solvent, but fully capitalized. Both statements can't be true. It can't be that they need $2 trillion, because they have masses losses, and that they're fine. These are all people who have failed. Paulson failed, Geithner failed. They were all promoted because they failed, not because...
BILL MOYERS: What do you mean?
WILLIAM K. BLACK: Well, Geithner has, was one of our nation's top regulators, during the entire subprime scandal, that I just described. He took absolutely no effective action. He gave no warning. He did nothing in response to the FBI warning that there was an epidemic of fraud. All this pig in the poke stuff happened under him. So, in his phrase about legacy assets. Well he's a failed legacy regulator.

White House garden tiff

SUBHEAD: Agricultural chemical industry shudders at organic White House garden. By Marc Montefusco on 29 March 2009 in the Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/x-5405-NY-Gardening-Examiner~y2009m3d29-Agricultural-chemical-industry-shudders-at-organic-White-House-garden Image above: Illustration for article on Obama organic garden. From http://winddanncer.today.com/2009/03/19/finallyanother-victory-garden-at-the-white-house/ Here's an interesting twist in what appeared to be a piece of all-around good news: when officials at the Mid America Croplife Association discovered that the new White House kitchen garden was to be managed organically, they sent a letter to First Lady Michelle Obama asking her to consider managing the garden "conventionally." At first glance, the letter itself (http://www.lavidalocavore.org/showDiary.do;jsessionid=B57C2D91A888D198DA4EE73A784C78D8?diaryId=1309) doesn't seem particularly insidious, just a call to appreciate the importance of American agriculture. But a more careful reading reveals the subtext: don't encourage Americans to grow their own food, because it's not practical, and don't encourage them to think that organic food is somehow superior to "conventional" agricultural products. This passage, for example, seems to militate against the idea that individual families can realistically raise even a portion of their own food: "If Americans were still required to farm to support their family's basic food and fiber needs, would the U.S. have been leaders in the advancement of science, communication, education, medicine, transportation and the arts?" And this sentence shifts the blame for poor nutritional values and tainted food to the retailers and home cooks: "Much of the food considered not wholesome or tasty is the result of how it is stored or prepared rather than how it is grown." There are legitimate arguments to be made in favor of some non-organic farming methods, especially programs based on IPM (Integrated Pest Management) and on advanced ecologically sound soil management practices. It's also true that you would be hard-pressed, from a purely nutritional standpoint, to assert the inherent superiority of organically-grown food. But the authors of this letter are not conscientious farmers facing the reality of uncertain weather, evolving pests, rampant disease, and fluctuating markets. The authors of this letter make and distribute agricultural chemicals (it's a requirement for MACA membership) and they include representatives from companies with names like Monsanto, Dow AgroSciences, Syngenta, BASF Corporation, and Bayer CropScience, some of the giants of modern pesticides, herbicides, and genetically modified crops. The real smoking gun, however, is not to be found in the letter itself, but rather in an email sent round to MACA members. Someone passed this email, and the original letter, on to individuals who have embraced the cause of safe food and sustainable agriculture, and they published it. Here's the money quote: "Did you hear the news? The White House is planning to have an "organic" garden on the grounds to provide fresh fruits and vegetables for the Obama's [sic] and their guests. While a garden is a great idea, the thought of it being organic made Janet Braun, CropLife Ambassador Coordinator and I shudder." Shudder? The idea that our First Lady is modeling independence and environmental responsibility makes these people shudder? I'm inclined to give large portions of the green industry a break – it's a tough calling, no matter what side of it you're on, and we all depend on its products – but the industry needs to get on board with the new realities of life on earth. Sustainability, responsibility, and well being for all: these are the ideals of the Obama administration, and I think they need to be the ideals of the green industry as well. Postscript: Just to add insult to injury, by the way, the original letter is addressed to "Mrs. Barack Obama." Forget about that strong, independent role as First Lady, Michelle. To a reactionary industry, your real role is defined by your relationship to your husband. see also: Island Breath: White House victory garden 3/19/09

Monsanto GMO failure in Africa

SUBHEAD: Monsanto GM-corn harvest fails massively in South Africa.
By Adriana Stuijt on 7 March 2009 in Digital Journal http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/270101 Image above: Graphic inspired by image found at http://madinhorrycounty.blogspot.com/2008/01/adfa.html South African farmers suffered millions of dollars in lost income when 82,000 hectares of genetically-manipulated corn (maize) failed to produce hardly any seeds.The plants look lush and healthy from the outside. Monsanto has offered compensation.
Monsanto blames the failure of the three varieties of corn planted on these farms, in three South African provinces,on alleged 'under-fertilization processes in the laboratory". Some 280 of the 1,000 farmers who planted the three varieties of Monsanto corn this year, have reported extensive seedless corn problems. Urgent investigation demanded However environmental activitist Marian Mayet, director of the Africa-centre for biosecurity in Johannesburg, demands an urgent government investigation and an immediate ban on all GM-foods, blaming the crop failure on Monsanto's genetically-manipulated technology. Willem Pelser, journalist of the Afrikaans Sunday paper Rapport, writes from Nelspruit that Monsanto has immediately offered the farmers compensation in three provinces - North West, Free State and Mpumalanga. The damage-estimates are being undertaken right now by the local farmers' cooperative, Grain-SA. Monsanto claims that 'less than 25%' of three different corn varieties were 'insufficiently fertilised in the laboratory'. 80% crop failure However Mayet says Monsanto was grossly understating the problem.According to her own information, some farms have suffered up to 80% crop failures. The centre is strongly opposed to GM-food and biologically-manipulated technology in general. "Monsanto says they just made a mistake in the laboratory, however we say that biotechnology is a failure.You cannot make a 'mistake' with three different varieties of corn.' Demands urgent government investigation: "We have been warning against GM-technology for years, we have been warning Monsanto that there will be problems,' said Mayet. She calls for an urgent government investigation and an immediate ban on all GM-foods in South Africa. Of the 1,000 South African farmers who planted Monsanto's GM-maize this year, 280 suffered extensive crop failure, writes Rapport. Monsanto's local spokeswoman Magda du Toit said the 'company is engaged in establishing the exact extent of the damage on the farms'. She did not want to speculate on the extent of the financial losses suffered right now. Managing director of Monsanto in Africa, Kobus Lindeque, said however that 'less than 25% of the Monsanto-seeded farms are involved in the loss'. He says there will be 'a review of the seed-production methods of the three varieties involved in the failure, and we will made the necessary adjustments.' He denied that the problem was caused in any way by 'bio-technology'. Instead, there had been 'insufficient fertilisation during the seed-production process'. And Grain-SA's Nico Hawkins says they 'are still support GM-technology; 'We will support any technology which will improve production.' see He also they were 'satisfied with Monsanto's handling of the case,' and said Grain-SA was 'closely involved in the claims-adjustment methodology' between the farmers and Monsanto. Farmers told Rapport that Monsanto was 'bending over backwards to try and accommodate them in solving the problem. "It's a very good gesture to immediately offer to compensate the farmers for losses they suffered,' said Kobus van Coller, one of the Free State farmers who discovered that his maize cobs were practically seedless this week. "One can't see from the outside whether a plant is unseeded. One must open up the cob leaves to establish the problem,' he said. The seedless cobs show no sign of disease or any kind of fungus. They just have very few seeds, often none at all. The South African supermarket-chain Woolworths already banned GM-foods from its shelves in 2000. However South African farmers have been producing GM-corn for years: they were among the first countries other than the United States to start using the Monsanto products. The South African government does not require any labelling of GM-foods. Corn is the main staple food for South Africa's 48-million people. The three maize varieties which failed to produce seeds were designed with a built-in resistance to weed-killers, and manipulated to increase yields per hectare, Rapport writes.

Monsanto office for rent

SUBHEAD: Monsanto pulls managers out of Hanapepe Valley. Hurray! By Juan Wilson on 4 April 2009 for Island Breath - (http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2009/04/mosanto-office-for-rent.html) Image above: The Seto Building at 4556 Awawa Road has recently been headquarters for Monsanto. Photo by Juan Wilson. The address is 4556 Awawa Road, in Hanapepe Valley. A "For Rent" sign hangs on the building where a sign for a Monsanto sponsored event once rippled in the breeze. There are no more big pickups parked near the front door. The restored Seto Building may now return to a retail business operation once again. The building in recent years has been the headquarters for Monsato's genetically modified organism (GMO) experiments in Hanapepe Valley. Monsanto subleased virtually all the usable Alexander & Baldwin lands in the valley for corn seed experiments. This included farmland once used for growing real food locally. Some Monsanto experimental corn fields were only a stone's throw from the largest taro production on the westside of the island. We're glad to see Monsanto go and hope that the corporation's employees can find work feeding the people of Kauai. The following is from a plaque on the building put up by the Kauai Historical Society. "The original building was the lean-to section at the rear of the property. The tiny kitchen there was said to dish up the best saimin noodles on Kauai. In 1919 the Seto family purchased the property and finished the two-story addition by 1921. Over the years it has been a coffee shop/bakery, general store, the Bridge Side Steak House during World War II, a market, and liquer store. The family lived upstairs and often enjoyed fishing and catching huge crabs from the windows and deck. At times folks came by in boats to purchase goods through the window with the aid of a bucket on a rope. Having survived the 1963 flood, and hurricane Iwa in 1982, the building was destroyed by hurricane Iniki in 19992. Now fully restored by the Seto family, it serves as retail and office space." Let's hope that last part is right and the building won't serve anymore as the Devil's Workshop. see also: Island Breath: Monsanto Aftermath 2/26/09 Island Breath: Monsanto to leave Kauai 2/20/09

Parx on Supreme Court Decision

SUBHEAD: Tempest in a teapot, much ado about nothing, not with a bang but a whimper. By Andy Parx on 31 March 2009 in The Parx Daily News - http://parxnewsdaily.blogspot.com/2009/03/not-so-fast-there-rover.html Image above: A Hawaiian sovereignty supporter demonstrates in Honolulu. From http://www.bigisland-bigisland.com/hawaiian-sovereginty-free-hawaii-is-my-take.html Not So Fast There Rover Pick you trite cliché but it’s gratifying to see the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) tell everyone from the respondents to the pundits- and especially to the Hawai`i Supreme Court (SCOHI) - to go home shut the hell up in today’s decision on the “ceded lands” case. Because despite what the mainstream media and the state is saying the decision did not establish any new federally-sanctioned state “ownership” in any way shape or form, it simply vacated it and remanded it back to the SCOHI. What they actually said - not what the Honolulu Advertiser or state attorney general wishes they said- was:
(W)e have no authority to decide questions of Hawaiian law or to provide redress for past wrongs except as provided for by federal law. The judgment of the Supreme Court of Hawaii is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.
Seems like another typical case of American blind justice and the judges were going to look at the 27 8x10 color glossy photographs with the circles and arrows on the back that purportedly showed state ownership the lands stolen from kanaka maoli lands. The SCOTUS just sent the whole matter back to the SCOHI to re-write their opinion without mentioning the 1993 “Apology Law”. The decision wasn’t based on their stilted and selectively amnesic recitation of the Amerikan view of the thrift-based “ownership” of the “crown lands”. It was solely based on the use of federal law by the SCOHI. Most people expected this would happen after the oral arguments. Even most of us who asked what part of the apology’s “confession” made the illegal theft legal didn’t expect true justice from a court that has always endorsed the genocidal underpinnings of Amerika. Still it was nice to see a rap on the knuckles for both Governor Linda Lingle’s corrupt shyster mouthpiece Attorney General Mark Bennett and the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) who thought they were going to get some kind of definitive ruling answering the question of who ‘owns’ the land. Even we momentarily expected the worst, especially after, as the SCOTUS said,
even respondent OHA has now abandoned its argument, made below, that "Congress . . . enacted the Apology Resolution and thus . . . change[d]" the Admission Act.
But as any SCOTUS watcher knows the prime directive of the Roberts Court is, to paraphrase him, to not make any decision it doesn’t have to make and push it all down the road as long as possible. What may be the best part of the decision is that it exposes OHA for what it is - nothing more than a cog in the genocidal state and federal machine. When push came to shove, during the hearing, OHA showed it’s true stripes, basically begging the justices to spare their life, saying they agreed with Bennett et al, on state ownership of the land... because without state ownership, as a creature of the state they would have and be nothing at all. Dropping all 30 years of pretense in claiming that they represented the kanaka maoli in any way shape or form, their duplicitous “please have pity on your humble servant oh wise, wonderful and benevolent court” plea was a disgusting show of bureaucratic self - preservation even if it meant the betrayal of their charges. There’s little doubt that the SCOTHI will go back and purge their opinion of the apology law references and replace them with state law. The process for doing that is contained in the OHA brief in opposition filed in the case. But then what? Is kicking the can further down the road a strategy that will do anything but allow the thieves to consolidate power behind the now official concept of Amerikan Justice that says that land can owned after being stolen... fair and square? Certainly this is nothing new in US jurisprudence. Ask any descendent of mainland natives who thought they had rights to their land rights, many with better paperwork than na kanaka have. Some may think that for now it is a bullet dodged none the less for those who have any hope of maintaining a land base for the reestablishment sovereignty over these islands. All we can say is don’t count on it being anything beyond, to cite another cliché, the calm before the storm. For those who haven’t seen it, here’s the SCOTUS decision
When a state supreme court incorrectly bases a decision on federal law, the court’s decision improperly prevents the citizens of the State from addressing the issue in question through the processes provided by the State’s constitution. Here, the State Supreme Court incorrectly held that Congress, by adopting the Apology Resolution, took away from the citizens of Hawaii the authority to resolve an issue that is of great importance to the people of the State. Respondents defend that decision by arguing that they have both state-law property rights in the land in question and “broader moral and political claims for compensation for the wrongs of the past.” Brief for Respondents 18. But we have no authority to decide questions of Hawaiian law or to provide redress for past wrongs except as provided for by federal law. The judgment of the Supreme Court of Hawaii is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion. It is so ordered.
See also: Ea O Ka Aina: Supreme Court decides Hawaii Case 3/31/09 .

The London Summit 2009

SUBHEAD: The richest 20 countries have 90% of its wealth. Should these people be allowed in the same room? By Juan Wilson on 2 April 2009 for Island Breath - (http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2009/04/london-summit-2009.html) Look at the poster for this G20 conference, that brings together the leaders of the twenty largest economies in the world. It shows a picture of the Earth looking across the Atlantic Ocean towards Europe. In the distance is a flash of light. Is that the rising sun, or a nuclear device detonated somewhere over Russia? Then there, under the title "The London Summit 2009" is the motto of the event: STABILITY | GROWTH | JOBS That's laughable. Those are the least likely things we'll see anytime soon. The word is the U.S. lost three-quarters of a million jobs in March. I know... the motto is, in this case, just a prayer. It's what the G20 wish they could keep going in order for their party to keep going. It reminds me of the Ed Sullivan act where a plate spinner tries to keep twenty plates spinning and balanced on sticks. The spinner runs around frantically trying to keep everything going until the curtain comes down. Perhaps a more useful motto for the summiteers to consider would be RESILIENCE | SUSTAINABILITY | USEFUL WORK See also: Island Breath: Obama about face on Afghanistan 4/1/09

Facing Decline, Facing Ourselves

SUBHEAD: Walking the spiritual path of industrial civilization’s collapse.
By John Michael Greer on 01 April 2009 in The Archduruid Report - (http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2009/04/facing-decline-facing-ourselves.html) Image above: "The Artist's Hand" by Alex Gray from www.alexgrey.com
Of all the fallacies that surround the contemporary crisis of industrial civilization, and have done so much to bring that crisis down on us, the most seductive is the assumption that it’s a technical problem that can be solved by technical means. That’s an easy assumption to make, for a variety of reasons, but it puts us in the situation of the drunkard in the old joke who looks for his keys under the streetlight half a block from the dark sidewalk where he dropped them, since under the streetlight he can at least see what he’s doing.
The technical aspects of our predicament, though challenging, are the least of our worries; it’s the other aspects that have proven intractable. Consider the project of cutting US per capita energy consumption to a third of its present level. Given that the average European uses a third as much energy each year as the average American, and in many ways gets a better standard of living out of it, this is far from impossible; a great deal of the technology is sitting on the shelf only one continent away, in effect, and simply needs to be put to work.
Now of course such a project would require a great deal of investment in railways, mass transit, urban redevelopment, and the like, but what’s been spent on recent military adventures in the Middle East would cover much of it – and let’s not even talk about what could be done with the funds being wasted right now to prop up Wall Street banks looted by their own executives in the final blowoff of an epoch of corporate kleptocracy. The return on the investment needed to cut our energy use to European levels, in turn, would be immense. Since the US still produces more than a third of the oil it uses, to name only one result, we would no longer be sending billions of dollars a year to line the pockets of Middle Eastern despots; we’d be a net exporter of oil – even, quite conceivably, a member of OPEC.
So why isn’t so sensible a project being debated right now in the halls of Congress? Why, more broadly, has energy conservation through lifestyle change – arguably the single easiest and most cost effective option we have on hand in dealing with the end of the age of cheap oil – been entirely off the political and cultural radar screens since the end of the 1970s, so much so that most of those who have noticed that we’re running out of cheap abundant energy have framed the issue entirely in terms of finding some technical gimmick that will let us keep on living the way we live now?
This is where the technical dimension of our predicament gives way to a region where the forces that matter are not the cut-and-dried facts of physics and engineering, but murkier factors – political, cultural, psychological, and (let’s whisper the word) spiritual – and what’s theoretically possible matters a great deal less than what’s culturally and emotionally acceptable. Most writers on peak oil, though not all, have tended to shy away from this unsettled and unsettling territory. This is quite understandable; industrial culture privileges technical knowledge and rewards those who can (or say they can) make the machinery of our daily life purr more smoothly and profitably, and shuts its ears against those who ask questions about the purposes the machines serve and the emotional drives that make those purposes seem to make sense. Still, this leaves us scrabbling around with the drunkard under the streetlight, searching for keys that are lying in the dark half a block away.
It’s for this reason, among others, that I was pleased to get a copy of Carolyn Baker’s new book, "Sacred Demise: Walking the Spiritual Path of Industrial Civilization’s Collapse". Those of my readers who are familiar with Baker’s blog and mine will probably be able to imagine, if they don’t happen to have followed, some of the lively disagreements we’ve had, and it will doubtless come as no surprise that some of the arguments made in Sacred Demise seem problematic to me. Still, those issues of detail are less important than what Baker has tried, with quite some success, to accomplish with this book. What Sacred Demise represents is the first really sustained effort to pull the debate over the future of industrial civilization out of the comfortable realm of technical questions, and force it to confront the deeper and fundamentally non-rational factors that have done so much to keep effective solutions out of reach.
The title of the book may need some explanation, because Sacred Demise deals at least as much with psychology as with religion. Admittedly the line between these two has become blurred in recent years; as the modern West has redefined religion wholly in terms of personal relationships with the transcendent, and made its collective aspects increasingly hard to sustain, psychology has come to play the role in modern religious movements that theology still plays in their more traditional sisters. While this shift has had its share of dubious results, it has allowed some crucial religious themes – the imminence of death, the quest for meaning in human existence, and the challenge both these level at individuals and societies alike, among others – to remain live issues in a passionately secular age.
These themes, in turn, frame Baker’s approach. She argues that we are long past the point at which the unraveling of the industrial age can be prevented, and our options at this point are limited to facing the difficult future ahead of us, on the one hand, or pretending it isn’t there until it overwhelms us, on the other. She dissects the logic of those who only want to hear about solutions, tracing it back into its deep roots in the fear of death and the attempt to cling to familiar patterns of meaning even when those no longer make sense of our experience, and she tackles the awkward but necessary issues all of us have to confront as decline and fall sets in: the need to mourn, to confront the reality of death, to find new narratives to make sense of a rapidly changing world.
For Baker, then, the core task of our time is not how to prevent collapse; decades of mishandled opportunities have put that hope out of reach. Nor does she embrace the futile strategy of trying to hide out in survivalist enclaves until the rubble stops bouncing. Instead, she calls us to face collapse squarely and personally, as a reality that is already shaping our lives, and will do so ever more forcefully in the years to come. Facing collapse, in turn, requires us to deal with the whole realm of personal baggage we each bring to the experience of decline and fall. That’s a crucial issue, for the unstated psychological and religious subtexts of the crisis of industrial civilization have played a huge role in confusing the already complex issues facing the world just now.
Thus it’s vital to realize, when somebody insists that technological progress will inevitably lead our species to immortality among the stars, or when somebody else insists that contemporary civilization has become the ultimate incarnation of everything evil and will shortly be destroyed so that the righteous remnant can inhabit a perfect world, that what they’re saying has very little to do with the facts on the ground. Rather, these are statements of religious belief that coat mythic themes millennia old in a single coat of secular spraypaint. If, dear reader, one or the other of these is your religion, that’s fine – you have as much right to your faith as I have to mine – but please, for the love of Darwin, could you at least admit that it’s a religious belief, an act of faith in a particular constellation of numinous experience, rather than a self-evident truth that any sane and moral person must automatically accept?
This last point, I have to admit, goes a little beyond what Baker has to say, and in fact my central criticism of Sacred Demise is precisely that it doesn’t quite manage to apply its sharpest insights to Baker’s own point of view. That view is perilously close to the latter of the religious viewpoints mentioned above; for Baker, the diverse and morally complex reality of the industrial world is flattened into a single vast and terrible abstraction labeled by turns Civilization and Empire, the exact equivalent of Babylon and the kingdom of Satan in her historical mythology. Psychologically, this might best be described in Jungian terms as a bad case of projecting the shadow; in religious terms, it represents a drastic confusion between the realms of being, mistakenly mapping one of the great themes of myth and religious vision onto the messy and prosaic realities of everyday existence.
For all that, Sacred Demise is a crucially important book. It is not the last word on the subject, nor do I think Baker would want it to be; rather, it’s the first word in a conversation that we desperately need to start, as the high notes of economic crisis mingle with the basso-profundo of declining energy reserves, pushing us further and further away from the world of business-as-usual fantasy we have tried to inhabit for the last quarter century. We need to start talking about how we can hold onto our humanity in bitter times; about how we can find reasons for hope and sources of necessary joy as so many of our former certainties crumble to dust; about what stories we can use to bring meaning to the world when so many of our familiar meanings no longer make sense of anything. In order to face the realities of decline, in other words, we have to face ourselves, and Baker’s book is a significant contribution to that vital task.

Kauai General Plan

SUBHEAD: Although its ten years old this plan still looks forward with some community wisdom.  

By Juan Wilson on 2 April 2009 for Island Breath -  

Image above: Suburbia delivered to your door. Ad for $2.3-million house in Princeville that reads... "appealing with a mixture of traditional Hawaiian Plantation living and Old World style & craftsmanship". From(http://www.hawaiiinformation.com/Public/SummaryResults.asp?AGENT=64224)

How did it ever get to be that we would be building multi-million-dollar traditional Hawaiian plantation cottages on suburban cul-de-sacs?

It was not the fault of the Kauai General Plan. The Kauai General Plan has been ignored since it was completed in 2000. This is largely because if observed and followed it would have shut down many of the get-rich-quick developments that have laid waste to our island in the last decade. It is likely that the current economic collapse may slow things down enough for us to take a second longer look at this plan. It may need revising, but it was essentially sound.

Maybe now we can follow our own good advice.  

The General Plan In Section 1.2 in Chapter One of the 2000 Kauai General Plan its purpose is defined: 
"The Plan fulfills legal mandates of State law and the Charter of the County of Kauai. More importantly, it provides guidance for land use regulations, the location and character of new development and facilities, and planning for County and State facilities and services." "The General Plan is a direction-setting, policy document. It is not intended to be regulatory in the sense of a zoning code or other land use regulation. The General Plan represents an opportunity to look at the whole island, to think about the future, and make early decisions about issues and opportunities. The specificity of the General Plan depends on the level of agreement that can be reached concerning (a) vision and direction and (b) strategies for achieving the vision."
 The plan sought to achieve goals of Kauai looking forward twenty years. A vision for Kauai 2020 was developed through a series of community meetings in 1999.

Kauai discovered that it's goal was to stay 'rural'.  
"As stated in the Vision, 'rural' describes many aspects of Kauai that people value: lush vegetation; broad expanses of agricultural lands giving wide open vistas; small communities where people know each other; the absence of city noise and lights; not feeling crowded. An essential part of the Vision and one of the driving ideas of the General Plan is to preserve Kauai’s special rural character. Kauai’s rural character lies not just in those lands classified as 'rural' or 'agriculture'. Instead, it lies in how the parts of the island fit together – the relationship of urban settlements to open lands, how the built areas relate to the natural features of the landscape, how people get around."
 The vision of keeping Kauai rural as was the result of public meetings to determine community values. Section 2.1 of the Plan states:  
"The Community Values were formulated by the Citizens Advisory Committee, using input from 25 outreach meetings with a variety of community, business and public interest groups. The statement was revised based on public review and the initial round of Planning District meetings in June 1998."
The results of those community meetings and the subsequently developed General Plan were to preserve and enhance the priorities of people of Kauai. The first four priorities of the Vision of Kauai 2020 were as follows:
  1. Protection, management, and enjoyment of our open spaces, unique natural beauty, rural lifestyle, outdoor recreation and parks.

  2. Conservation of fishing grounds and other natural resources, so that individuals and families can support themselves through traditional gathering and agricultural activities.

  3. Access to and along shorelines, waterways and mountains for all. However, access should be controlled where necessary to conserve natural resources and to maintain the quality of public sites for fishing, hunting, recreation and wilderness activities valued by the local community.

  4.  Recognition that our environment IS our economy, our natural capital, the basis of our economic survival and success. 
These priorities fit well with our priorities in the future. We need to find a way to feed ourselves and have a culture based on what we find here on Kauai, not what mainland suburbs promised but failed to deliver.

Rural, not Suburban, Kauai

SUBHEAD: It's time to get off the Grid, out the Matrix and live on Kauai.  

By Juan Wilson on 2 April 2009 for Island Breath -  

Image above: Unidentified home off the grid on Kauai agland. A charming cottage or illegal domicile. Photo by Juan Wilson.

This week the County of Kauai is engaged in determining what exactly is happening on the farms in Moloaa. The suspicion is that many government regulations are being ignored and somebody needs to put a stop to that.

Last week the Planning Commission was considering a change in regulations that would allow farmers to provide housing for their workers and not permit residential suburban sprawl on agricultural acreage. It seems that there is a fear amongst some that a new arrangement of living on Kauai is coming about and somehow the county government won't be in control or have power over it.

There are ways to accomplish providing adequate housing for farm workers and ensuring that rich home-speculators don't become farmers in name only. Here are a few techniques I think might work here on Kauai: 1) Do not provide the standard suite of suburban auto infrastructure. That would include public two-way hard-surfaced roads designed for automobiles. This would reduce or modify county services delivered now by bloated police cruisers, firetrucks, and ambulances to everybody's front door.

This is crucial, in that today's suburban sprawl is totally dependent full access to all places by automobile. This means that limited access to inland farm areas would be allowed on driveway size "roads" by small service vehicles. You walk a distance to your front door. You don't enter your home from the garage. 2) Don't bring in the Matrix of services that will fail and have made the American Dream a nightmare.

That means no KIUC power grid, cable TV and phone lines threading through our landscapes. It also means no water department hookups or trash pickups. Each farm will catch and store water. It will use off-grid, alternative energy (wind and solar generated with maybe some cases of micro-hydro). 3) Provide "collective" housing in some form or another. Ranchers for years did such a thing with bunkhouses.

Inversely, provide private sleeping cottages and collective eating and living areas, like at summer camps. This should scare off the AIG bonus babies seeking asylum in paradise. Surely, the county is supported by property taxes and the whole apparatus of planning and building and tax assessment is geared to keeping the coffers in Lihue filled.

That means if you want to keep feeding the county coffers, you cannot let the people just live anyway they please on thousands of acres of "wasted" land. Just to see what it would look like, I have been working on a layout plan to divide unfarmed cane-land into half acre permaculture sites that are off-the-matrix. More on that in another article.


Let Moloaa farmers farm

SUBHEAD: Farmers harvest high hopes for farm worker housing bill before Kauai Planning Commission.  

By Danny Brown on 10 March 2009 in The Garden Island News -  

Image above: Rod Smith takes a break outside his makeshift Kauai farm home. Photo by Danny Brown

A farm worker housing bill before the county Planning Commission would enable farmers to build homes on agricultural land on Kaua‘i. A flickering glow from a tarp-shed is the only light on a Kaua‘i farm field at dusk. A banjo twangs away inside, where five farm workers sit on salvaged car seats and upside down buckets talking over the music.

They’re stained in orange dirt; it seeps up their legs from their feet. There’s a 5:30 harvest in the morning and they wander off to bed early — bed being makeshift campsites underneath the trees
In the eyes of the law, this is illegal.

They’re not allowed to live on the land they work, but if they didn’t the farmers claim there would be no other way to get the work done. So for the last few decades the law has feigned blindness.

“I’m tired of having to live like a criminal on my own land,” said Moloa’a farmer Scott Pomeroy.
Pomeroy works 12- to 14-hour days growing organic fruits and vegetables for local Kaua‘i markets and stores. He sleeps in his tool-shed so he can work before sunrise.

“We just want to build small structures to house our workers, but because developers took advantage of the law small farmers end up being the ones who get squished.”

Today, county officials plan to review a farm worker housing bill to amend county zoning laws, allowing farmers and their workers to live on agriculture land. “Over the last 30 years or so there’s been a significant amount of ag land divided and subdivided into housing developments,” said former Councilwoman and Mayor JoAnn Yukimura, who is one of the original authors of Bill 2293. “This bill is intended to enable farm workers housing without creating a loophole for developers to parcel up the last of Kaua‘i’s farms.” A coalition of farmers met Saturday to discuss the final language of the bill before submitting it to the county Planning Commission.

The main debate focused on defining what constitutes a “Farm,” a “Farm Worker” and “Farm Worker Housing.” President of a constituency of farmers known as the Farm Bureau, Roy Oyama is a stocky Hawaiian with sun-worn skin and a concrete handshake. “Farmers can’t compete with businesses here that are able to pay laborer’s high wages,” he said.

“Ten or 12 bucks an hour just won’t cut it for paying rent on the island, considering the type of work they do. In order to entice people to work the land we need to be able to offer them something more competitive such as a free place to stay.”

 At the very least Louis Wooten of Kunana Dairy, Kaua‘i’s only dairy farm, said she’d like to be able to build her workers a separate kitchen. In order to comply with the current zoning law, she and her husband live with six to eight other workers under their roof.

Two years ago they had a separate kitchen for them but were forced to remove it when the Planning Department ruled it was not legal. “I understand they’ve got rules to follow and they’re doing their job, but right now the rules don’t allow us to live properly,” she said.

Deputy Planning Director Imai Aiu said that while the department has been working to bring farmers under compliance with the law, there is currently a section of the code that allows them to apply for temporary housing permits. But for farmers the process is too convoluted and fails to offer the appropriate amount of housing.

In January 2008, a group of them invited council members to their farms to demonstrate how sufficient lodgings are necessary for productivity. “I remember one farmer showed us two fields,” said Councilman Jay Furfaro.

“One was properly weeded and maintained. The other wasn’t. The farmer said that the one that looked bad was the one he couldn’t retain a workforce to farm because there was nowhere for them to stay.”

The bill is important, he said, because Kaua‘i currently imports 97 percent of its produce and needs to work on becoming more self-sufficient. “Kaua‘i’s zoning ordinances weren’t intended to discourage farmers,” Furfaro said.

 The first zoning ordinance passed in 1972 following the first of four closures of the island’s sugar and pineapple plantations. “People used to live outside of the plantations and travel in to work,” said Yukimura. “(The plantations) were thousands of acres large.” Currently, one plantation still exists. Yukimura said that the county council predicted the closing of plantations.

In order to stop the wholesale subdivision of agricultural land it passed zoning ordinances. “But it wasn’t able to completely stop developers,” she said. “They found ways around the law sighting totally unanticipated condominium laws. In the 80s there was a recession, then in the 90s there was a hurricane, which was able to leave Kaua‘i less developed than the other islands.

But then about a decade ago the developers started flocking here.” Moloa’a Organica’a farmer Ned Whitlock put it succinctly: “This bill would take farmers out of limbo so their neighbors or the county can’t just come in on the land and fine you, sue you or kick you off.”

One farm worker who wished to remain anonymous said that if the bill failed to pass and the farmers had to kick them off the land he was certain most would find other occupations. “I could get paid at a good job so much more than the hourly wage I get paid here. If I worked full time at a job-job I’d have benefits.

But I’m not here for the money. I’m here because I like living outside on farm. “And that probably wouldn’t be a good thing,” he added weeding out a sprout of wheatgrass with a ho. “You can have the land to grow the food, but if there’s no one to work it, then it doesn’t matter how much land you have.”


Save Kokee!

SOURCE: Judy Dalton dalton@aloha.net
SUBHEAD: Final Plan contains all the elements the Public Opposed!

Image above: Entrance of Disneyland. in Anaheim, Caifornia in the 1960's.  

Public Meeting--Koke'e Advisory Council and DLNR: Final Master Plan for Koke'e and Waimea Canyon State Parks  

Thursday, April 2, 2009 at 5:30pm  

Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School Cafeteria, 4431 Nuhou St. in Lihue (Puhi) This meeting may be our last opportunity to be a voice for Koke`e. The Koke`e Advisory Council is intended to be the voice for the community. The Council is being asked to give recommendations to the BLNR on the Master Plan which still contains virtually all of the proposals the community has consistently objected to, including:

  • An entry station with gate to collect entry fees and control park access, to be located immediately north of the junction of Waimea Canyon Drive and Koke`e Road near mile marker 6.9
  • The development of a new "lodge complex," at Kanaloahuluhulu Meadow, without defining or limiting the size and scope of this potential hotel with additional parking.
  • The development of a new "Park Visitor Service Center" at Kanaloahuluhulu Meadow.
  • The possibility of replacing all of the existing buildings at the meadow without defining or limiting the size and scope of the buildings.
  • A permanent concession building at Waimea Canyon Lookout.
  • Development of an unlimited number of lower elevation viewpoint turnouts.
  • Development of new parking lots at trailheads (45 vehicles at Discovery Center, 50 at Kaluapuhi Trail across from Awa`awapuhi Trail) and expansion of Kalalau, Waimea Canyon and Pu`u Hinihina lookouts.
  • Super-sized railings at lookouts, guardrails and along pathways.
  • Increase fees to hunt, fish, and gather.
  • The overall goal is to increase revenues to the DLNR for statewide projects, not limited to Koke`e.

 What will remain of our future wilderness experience? Want to give testimony, but are unable to attend this meeting? Please email it to testimony savekokee.org as plain text, and we will present it for you! For more information, please contact us at info@savekokee.org

 See also:
Island Breath: Kokee will never be the same 7/27/06


SUBHEAD: Our strategy must change from crisis prevention to crisis management.
By Richard Heinberg on 01 April 2009 in Museletter #204
Image above: US fighter planes fly over Kuwati oil fires in 1991. From http://planetsave.com/blog/2007/12/14/war-not-healthy-for-gaia/us-aircraft-fly-over-kuwaiti-oil-fires-in-1991|
The general picture is clear enough. A combination of peak oil, climate change, and the bursting of the mother of all economic bubbles will result in a collapse of the global economy, perhaps of civilization itself. If we are still to avert the worst of a crisis that could eventuate in untold death, destruction, and tragedy, we need to restructure the world's energy systems and money systems immediately.
This message (in one form or another) is issuing from scores of independent writers, environmental organizations, and economic analysts. Indeed, even before anyone had ever heard of a Credit Default Swap, going all the way back to the early 1970s if not earlier, similar warnings were periodically heard.
But forecasting global catastrophe can be a tricky business, because everyone wants to know just when it will happen. And there's the rub. As a card-carrying member of the Cassandra Club, I've found this a perennial briarpatch. There have been so many variables at play that about all one could say with absolute confidence is that industrial civilization will run out of rope "sometime in the first two or three decades of the 21st century." But most people consider that too vague, and institutional leaders have shown repeatedly that they are likely to respond only to definite warnings about fairly imminent catastrophe.
This puts an unfair onus on those in the business of waking the world up to the impending crunch. Jump the gun and you wind up sounding silly; make a conservative forecast for some bland-sounding disruption sometime in the distant future and you fail to motivate anyone to change course
Some recent readings have highlighted these pitfalls in fascinatingly different ways, leading me to draw a fairly striking conclusion (which we'll get to in a moment) regarding the current global economic crash.
One of these readings is Paul Ehrlich's 1968 "The Population Bomb". There is still much to admire in this book, over 40 years since its publication. Here is mention of the greenhouse effect, along with good analysis of ecosystem degradation, pollution, and the fragility of industrial agriculture. However, the author famously forecast events that didn't happen within the timeframe he thought they would (I say "famously," because pro-growth PR trolls have made a cottage industry out of bashing Ehrlich ever since). Granted, these "forecasts" were presented only as likely scenarios, but many readers came away anticipating enormous famines in the 1970s—which, of course, never occurred (or were they merely postponed?).
Another wonderful book from decades past (in this case, 1978) by Warren Johnson, titled "Muddling Toward Frugality: A Blueprint for Survival in the 1980s" , is a reminder of lost opportunities.
Muddling is one of the classics of a genre that also includes William Catton's Overshoot. Johnson begins the book with "An Ecological View of History" that manages, in 25 pages, to tell the story of our species about as concisely and clearly as anyone has managed to do (I have a particular fondness for encapsulated cultural-ecological histories—and offered my own version in the first chapter of "The Party's Over"—so I know a good one when I see it). He goes on to explain the inevitability of the coming ecological-economic-demographic crisis, again with lucidity. The remainder of the book is a discussion of how we can "muddle through" the tough times ahead toward a way of life that is more localized and less consumptive of energy and resources.
The book is suffused with the aura of its time. In 1978 the world was reeling from soaring energy prices and was in economic turmoil. Johnson assumed that those high prices would continue, and that gradually society would adjust. It would all be rather painful, but we would eventually figure out, through trial and error, how to accommodate ourselves to scarcity, giving up on economic growth and learning to live within limits. Reading this in 2009, it's pleasing to learn about the relatively shock-free future we can look backward to.
Johnson does note that a few potholes could get in the way of successful muddling. For example, if climate change accelerates, if the economy collapses, if there is geopolitical conflict over remaining resources, or if (as a result of any of these problems) political institutions become destabilized, then muddling just won't cut it.
Tellingly, most of these scary developments have come to pass.
One possibility Johnson didn't discuss: What if energy prices fall? Well, in that case there would be no pressure to adapt, and society would go back to its old bad habits of growing and consuming. Then the crunch, when it finally did arrive, would be much worse, making muddling impossible.
That, of course, is exactly what has occurred in the interim. Oil prices plummeted in the mid-1980s, stayed low through the '90s, the SUV was born, and here we are.
Another recent read: Australian politician and foreign correspondent Colin Mason's "The 2030 Spike: Countdown to Global Catastrophe", published in 2003. The book's thesis was recently supplemented by Jonathan Porritt's essay, "Avoiding the Ultimate Recession": both writings hinge on essentially the same forecast for a giant economic-environmental crunch in about twenty years as a result of converging circumstances that include oil depletion, overpopulation, climate change, food and water shortages, and (in Mason's analysis) a breakdown of international law.
Mason paints a dire picture of life two decades hence, and then in the rest of his book helpfully details 100 priorities for immediate action to avert the new Dark Age. It's all great stuff. But the question that lept to my mind the moment I saw the book's title was: Do we really have until 2030?
Porritt, to be fair, says all of this could happen as soon as 2020. But still, the essential notion both authors share is that we have one bounce left before the splat, a period of business-as-usual that we must use wisely as a time for rapid proactive re-engineering of society to avert catastrophic climate change, environmental collapse, and resource depletion.
Mason and Porritt understandably don't want to make Ehrlich's or Johnson's mistakes. Porritt tellingly titles his essay "Avoiding the Ultimate Recession". He's saying (paraphrasing now): "Hey folks, what we're seeing currently may be bad, but we'll get over it. What happens in a decade or two when climate change kicks in will constitute a Depression from which there is no recovery. So let's get ourselves in gear to make sure that doesn't happen."
But the enormity of the current economic meltdown raises the question: Is this really just a hiccup, or is it the beginning of the end (not of the world, perhaps, but certainly of life as we have known it for the past decades)?
It's still a judgment call, at this point.
Maybe Geithner and Bernanke can pull off a miracle and stabilize the economy. In that case, with energy demand having fallen so far below its level of just a year ago, it might take as long as five years from now—who knows, maybe even seven—for depletion and decline to cause oil prices to spike again, giving the economy the coup de grace. At that point, there can indeed be no recovery, only adaptation. That's the best-case scenario I can imagine (in terms of preserving the status quo).
But I have a hard time picturing that. A much more likely scenario, in my view: We will see a few months of fairly gradual economic deterioration (slowed by the mighty efforts of the Bailout Brigade), followed by a truly ugly global economic meltdown. The result will be a general level of economic activity much lower than the world is accustomed to. Efforts to right the ship will include protectionist legislation (that will provoke international confrontations), the convening of world leaders to create a new global currency and financial system (which probably won't succeed, at least not the first time around), and various populist uprisings that will lead to political instability around the globe. Energy demand will remain low, but energy production will fall dramatically due to lack of investment. Carbon emissions will therefore fall too, so the world's attention will be diverted from tackling the greenhouse gas issue, even though climate impacts from previous carbon emissions will continue to worsen.
But here's the crux of the matter: unlike the situation the world faced in the 1970s, there is no prospect for another cheap-energy bounce this time. It's too late to muddle. We have run out the clock on proactive adaptation. From now on, collective survival will hinge on the strategies we adopt for emergency response. Some strategies will make matters worse, while others will lay the groundwork for better times to come. This is what it has come to. One doesn't wish to sound shrill, but there it is.
The closer we have gotten to the crunch, the smaller the margin of error in predicting it. There really isn't that much difference between Porritt's most pessimistic date for catastrophe (2020) and my most wide-eyed optimistic one (2016). But perhaps the closer we get to the event horizon, the less discussions over timing really matter, because the whole conversation makes sense only as a way of motivating coordinated action prior to the crunch. Once the unwinding has begun, no more preparation is possible. Our strategy must change from crisis prevention to crisis management.
That's where we are right now, in my view.
So what we desperately need to be talking about are ways to manage crisis that will minimize human suffering while preserving the environment and laying the groundwork for a sustainable way of life for future generations.
It's a new conversation, so it will take a while to re-orient ourselves to it. But let's not take too long. One thing we can say about the timing that I think just about everyone would agree with: it's speeding up.

The Back-to-the-Lander

SUBHEAD: Prepare to collapse forward to a soil-based society. By Scott Carlson on 01 April 2009 in The Urbanite Magazine http://www.urbanitebaltimore.com/sub.cfm?issueID=71&sectionID=4&articleID=1190 image above: Tradiditional Indian agriculture in crisis. From http://www.agricultureinformation.com/mag/?p=786 Vandana Shiva, India’s leading environmental activist, says that the industrialized West is literally consuming the developing world. We eat cinnamon that comes out of Thailand, bananas from Central America. To feed our ever-growing appetites, we push industrial agriculture methods on once-traditional agrarian societies, and now we want these faraway lands to produce a different kind of food: biofuel, to feed the West’s automobiles. At some point, Shiva argues, we’re going to have to choose between sacred cow and sacred car. Shiva founded an organization called Navdanya to promote research in organic agriculture and saving heirloom seeds. In her 2008 book "Soil Not Oil: Environmental Justice in an Age of Climate Crisis", she argues that the rebirth of sustainable, traditional agriculture offers the best way forward, in both India and in the West. “There is a myth that there are agricultural societies, and then there are industrial societies and service societies, as if when you become an industrial or service society you don’t need food,” she says. “As we hit climate chaos, as we hit peak oil, assuming that you can get your food from far away and use fossil-fuel-intensive systems to produce food is totally not sustainable. Bringing food security close to home will have to be the project of the future.” Q: Soil Not Oil seems to be about the tension between traditional agriculture and industrial agriculture. How is this playing out in India? A: It is playing out in a very tragic way. An imposed, fossil-fuel-driven industrial agriculture, which has been globalized through the World Trade Organization rules, has pushed hundreds of thousands of Indian farmers to suicide. The suicides as an epidemic started in 1998. That is the year that the new seeds were brought into India in a large scale—the genetically engineered seeds. That is the year that the World Trade Organization was used by the United States to remove import restrictions. The combination of high-cost, nonrenewable seeds [that produce sterile fruit]—under the monopoly control of one company, Monsanto—and the falling price of cotton with the subsidies that the United States gives its cotton growers is really the squeeze that forced Indian cotton farmers into debt. And that unpayable debt is what has pushed farmers to suicide. Q: But if you have to feed more than a billion people, as farmers in India do, isn’t it impractical to hang on to traditional farming methods? A: Here, they want to connect all of India with superhighways, and 90 percent of the roads haven’t been built. They won’t be built because of the financial collapse. So this huge dream of a totally motorized world and tractorized agriculture is already failing in front of our eyes. It failed in Cuba under very tragic circumstances—under [the U.S.-imposed] trade embargo. But they rebuilt their agriculture [based on] principles that ancient cultures practiced. Now I don’t call that being locked into tradition. It’s highly innovative. I see fossil-fuel-free farming as a future of agriculture—not because of nostalgia, not because of romanticism, but because of a very hard-nosed realism. If your fertilizer prices have tripled in the past year, there is no way to carry on depending on chemical fertilizers. If your phosphate requirements in chemical agriculture are going to run out in the next twenty years, you’d better get ecological, organic sources. To depend on an agriculture that requires oil inputs at every step would be developing a system at this point that has no future. Q: Beyond the farm, how has the push for an industrialized culture affected the developing world? A: Third-world cultures are very culturally diverse, and India is really the home of diversity. It is our strength, as long as there is peace, justice, and sustainability. But when the stresses of the globalized war economy start to impinge on a diverse culture, we see more of the Mumbai kind of phenomenon. [The terrorist attacks in] Mumbai ended up being world news, but there have been a hundred Mumbais in the past decade in India. They didn’t become big news because they weren’t at hotels where Westerners stay; they were on trains and buses where ordinary Indians travel. Just like a field cracks up when it is dry, our societies are cracking up because they are being dried up economically. I can see that if we don’t have a major shift toward equality and justice, we will not be able to hold our societies together. This cracking up shows up as ethnic conflicts or regional conflicts, but at the root of it are two issues everywhere: access to resources and access to livelihood. As that access shrinks because of a globalized economy and a limitless appetite for growth, people start looking at their neighbors as a problem. Q: Tell me about your agricultural organization, Navdanya. A: “Navdanya” means both “a new gift” as well as “nine seeds.” I started it in 1987 when I first realized what the agenda of the chemical and agribusiness companies was, in terms of controlling the seed through genetic engineering and patenting. Their vision was one of dictatorship over life, not just dictatorship over people or one country. I wanted seeds and life forms to evolve freely and not be forced into genetic engineering or into patenting. The original idea was to create seed banks that farmers could access, get seeds from, and continue to grow crops in diversity. Of course, this led very quickly to an organic movement. The fascinating thing about saving seeds and biodiversity that I have learned is that you conserve biodiversity by eating it. Now that sounds paradoxical, but it is true. If you continue to eat amaranth, you will grow amaranth. If you eat two hundred kinds of rice, you will grow two hundred kinds of rice. So eating is literally shaping the landscape and ecology of our planet. Q: Practically speaking, how do you get back to a soil-based, rather than oil-based, society, culture, and economy? A: I wouldn’t say “get back to.” I would say “go forward to.” Going forward to a soil-based society means building economies of place, and economies of place means recognizing the ecological limits of the place where you are. It means grounded economies. The financial collapse is going to compel us to look for livelihoods beyond the false speculations and the credit spending, where you spend more than you earn. I feel that the combination of climate change, peak oil, and the financial collapse provides an opportunity for us to build economies of place that will shift not just from oil to soil, but it will shift from financial capital to people as the real wealth—people as both the generators of wealth as well as wealth of communities. If we can get there, we will have a future. If we can’t get there, we will see more and more conflicts emerge around the world in conditions of new scarcity.

Supreme Court decides Hawaii Case

SUBHEAD: U.S. Supreme Court rules in Lingle's favor over sale of Hawaii's ceded lands By Pacific Business News (Honolulu) on 31 March 2009 http://pacific.bizjournals.com/pacific/stories/2009/03/30/daily20.html?surround=lfn image above: Kanaka Maoli demonstrates that their land was seized and not ceded. From (http://www.hawaiiankingdom.info/C1126750129/E20081227174415/index.html) The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the 1993 Apology Resolution did not strip the state of its authority to sell or transfer 1.2 million acres of ceded lands. The court’s unanimous decision overturns a previous ruling by the Hawaii Supreme Court that blocked the sale of land conveyed to Hawaii when it became a state. “I will continue to monitor the case as it is taken back up by the state courts,” said Sen. Daniel Akaka, in a prepared statement in response to the ruling. “I still believe the best way forward is through direct negotiations between the state and federal governments and a federally recognized Native Hawaiian government. For these issues to be resolved, Native Hawaiians need a seat at the table. Mainland indigenous people have this opportunity and Native Hawaiians deserve the same chance.” The case dates back to 1994, when the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and four Native Hawaiians sued the state for its plans to sell public land on Maui and the Big Island to residential developers. The property involves ceded lands, once controlled by the Hawaiian monarchy but taken over by the United States when Hawaii was annexed as a territory in 1898. The federal government turned over the land when Hawaii became a state in 1959, with the agreement that it be used generally to benefit the public and specifically the Native Hawaiian people. Some of the revenue from leases of ceded lands is used to fund OHA, which is a state agency. In 2002, a state court ruled in favor of the state, saying it could sell the lands. That decision was overturned last year by the Hawaii Supreme Court and the ruling was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court’s opinion is available here http://www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/08slipopinion.html. .

Obama about-face in war policy

SOURCE: Jon Letman (jonletman@hawaiian.net) SUBHEAD: Announcement a welcome change from continuation of Bush policy. By Sam Izdat on 1 April 2009 in the London Daily News LONDON (AP) In a major policy shift and surprise announcement, President Barack Obama has turned the G20 summit in London as a forum to announce the United States will accelerate its withdrawal from Iraq and the closure of all U.S. military bases in that country. A total withdrawal has been moved up from August 2011 to July 31, 2009. More startling, however, was today's unexpected announcement that the U.S. is going to begin withdrawing all military personnel and advisors from Afghanistan starting this summer. Fresh from a meeting with British prime minister Gordon Brown and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Obama said, "I want to be clear about this - in this time of global financial crisis, America simply cannot afford to police the world or chase terrorists without a time limit. To continue the same policies of the previous administration would utterly irresponsible." In the wake of a deadly attack on a police academy in the Pakistani city of Lahore that killed eight policemen and injured nearly 100 on Monday, Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud claimed responsibility and threatened to attack the White House in retaliation for continued U.S. missile strikes. Although Obama officials deny a direct link, the U.S. president today announced, "It's over. We are wrapping up this so-called War on Terror and bringing all our military home now. All of them. To continue our occupation - and let us make no mistake, that's what this has been - of both Afghanistan and Iraq, is wrong. Very wrong." Obama went on to say that the U.S. would immediately cease unmanned predator drone attacks along the Pakistan-Afghan border which have reportedly killed nearly 300 civilians since 2008. The U.S. military's use of unmanned drones has gone from a handful to over 5,000 since the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. "For the U.S. to have men and women sitting in bunkers safely in the United States operating drones that bomb foreign countries and kill innocent civilians is indefensible and the U.S. is terminating this policy starting today. If Americans wanted the War on Terror to continue, they could have voted for a third Bush term." Obama said. He added that U.S. citizens who believe America will stop waging war as described above must really be April Fools. .

We Are Only Human

SUBHEAD: How the heck did it come to this?

By Paul Chefurka on 31 March 2009 in Approaching the Limits to Growth
Image above: Early human family dealing with immediate needs. From http://www.babble.com/CS/blogs/strollerderby/archive/tags/primatology/default.aspx

I assess human actions, inaction and decisions through a lens formed by three core aspects of biologically evolved human psychology:

1. Humanity suffers from a pervasive sense of separation: self/other, us/them, body/mind, matter/spirit, humans/resources. This issue is very well addressed in Charles Eisenstein’s online book The Ascent of Humanity. I have concluded that this sense of separation is the inescapable Faustian price we have paid for the self-awareness granted by our neocortex.

2. Our brains evolved to favour immediate threats over distant ones. Immediate, visible threats merit a strong, emotional response; distant, abstract threats are ignored. This hyperbolic discount function is a good survival strategy out on the African veldt, but less so in the modern industrial world with its abstract and unseen threats -- our cleverness has far outrun our inbuilt caution.

3. Humans are not rational creatures, we are rationalizing creatures. We have a tendency to make most of our decisions at an unconscious level and dress them up with socially acceptable rationalizations only post–facto, after they emerge into our awareness fully-formed.
As far as I can tell, these are universal human traits that spring directly from the physical structure of the brain.

When I combine those three characteristics, I see a rather cautionary picture:
We appear to be creatures that will treat the entire world as a resource base for human use. We will ignore the consequences of the resulting actions until we are directly and personally affected, and we will accomplish this by reframing our decisions and actions as being manifestly reasonable. Even worse, we will resist mightily any attempt to shift our beliefs through the application of reason or the presentation of facts.
In short, we are a sentient species that is peculiarly unsuited to dealing with the results of its hypertrophied cleverness and is unable to respond preemptively to looming disaster.
These are general traits that we all seem to share to a greater or lesser extent. Some of us are particularly fortunate to have escaped the constraints of our discount function. Only a few of us are aware of our sense of separation, and even fewer work to overcome it. Almost none of us escape the effects of our rationalizing thought patterns.
As a result, the box we now find ourselves in, whether it’s the box of population, pollution, climate change, ecological degradation, resource depletion or hierarchic instability appears in large measure to have been biologically inevitable.

This is why I have concluded that it’s largely a waste of energy to try and stop the onrushing trains, to avoid or reverse the consequences of our behaviour. Given the existence of our steep discount function, the mere fact that the threats are now widely recognized means that the trains are essentially on top of us.
Of course it’s not in human nature to sit idly by in the face of a threat. The future is rather unpredictable, and anything we can do to mitigate the effects of the damage we’ve caused is useful. However, I see quite a bit of evidence that points 1 and 3 are still widely in play, even among the ranks of the environmentally and ecologically aware.
One of the things I try to do when I come up with an absolutely great idea is to ask myself, “Is it really a great idea? Why do I think so? What am I getting out of this idea (like status, vindication, self-esteem, pride, etc.) that might be colouring my perception of it? Are there other ways of looking at the question?”
I think it would help if people were more self-critical about the ideas they propose, but given the argument I’ve already made, I have only limited hope for that.

The revolution of the flowers

SUBHEAD: The revolt of the militant gardeners.

By William Kotke on 25 March 2009 in Speaking Truth to Power
Image above: U.S. Delta Company soldier talks to Iraqi farmer. From http://www.arcent.army.mil/cflcc_today/2007/march/mar01_04.asp
The use of the word Revolution will cause the secret police who are doing world-wide electronic surveillance, to open another file (Hello! Project Echelon). That's just fine. Those dinosaurs need some alternative information. 

The information for them is that they, the governments that employ them and the bankers that own the governments, are on a severe downhill slide. The growth system that they depend on has reached its apogee. The fuel of that growth over the centuries has been topsoil, forests, fish stocks, clean water, petroleum and a dependable climate in which to grow food. That's all over now; industrial civilization has eaten it all up.

The most creative ideas of present world leaders is to make money and grow big - that's it! The machine world of industrial civilization is dead. The hollow personalities and biorobots of the planetary ruling elite have led the human species into a cul de sac. The joke is, now that the human species is facing extinction from mass die-off and the final nuclear exchange over the last of the resources - these fat men in business suits are down on the floor scrambling for the last coins.

What a joke! Take power in a crumbling civilization that is hell bent on planetary suicide? No thanks. An exponentially exploding population, each with expanding material consumption: based on dwindling resources, and a dying planet, will not work!

My German immigrant grandfather was a hard working sawmill worker with five children, who built his own house and lived frugally in Northern Idaho, until the depression, when the sawmill shut down and the banker locked the door and left town with all the sawmill workers' savings, just like hundreds of other bankers around the country. But did the sawmill workers learn anything? No, they lived in a controlled information environment. They were saving up for a 1949 Chevrolet after the war. They liked Ike. They even said that some of the leaders were born again Christians. They were led along.

My family progressively lost their independence in the slide toward dependence. The grandchildren do not have the skills to build a house.

My mother grew up living in a hole in the ground called a "dugout" on a homestead in Western Kansas. They were survivors! None of the children have those skills. We have been forced into specialist slots in the industrial machine. We make money in order to purchase our survival systems. We live a life of powerless dependency upon the financial powers who sign the paycheck and sell the food; powers who's money web connects all the way to the International Bank of Settlements in Switzerland. The world power of money controls our lives.

The Inca civilization that covered a huge land mass in South America functioned without any money. There were no poor people in that society. The money power came and smashed their society. They stole their art objects made of gold, melted them down and sent them away to the bankers of Europe. The living standard of the native people of that area still has not come back up to what they enjoyed five hundred years ago.

In the U.S. we have a similar icon which stands outside the money system. Those were the Minute Men (and Women). These were independent, self-sufficient people with power. At any point they could drop their hoe, grab the musket and go fight the British Empire. The leaders of industrialism dumped vituperation on them, calling them "homespun."

They were probably angered that they couldn't draw these people into the money web of profit and interest. These people were too powerful.

They depended only on their neighbors. They raised their own healthy food. They built their own buildings. They grew the flax and spun the cloth for their own clothes. The money system could not get leverage on them. They were not part of the system that produces profits for the thin layer at the top.

We can vote and vote and vote, for the stooges in business suits that the ruling elite props up for us, but militant gardeners are already rallying to the cry coming out of Western Oregon, "food not lawns!"

The guerilla gardeners are already dropping seeds in vacant lots and railroad right-of-ways. The suits want to rig the game so that we have no representation? Well, we will just take over the food supply of the country and dump the corporate cronies from the industrial food system, in the creek. In Russia after the fall, sixty percent of the food supply was grown in citizen gardens. As we get more power over our own survival systems, we will target the real estate parasites by creating our own solar heated and hand made houses.

The basic fact of empire is centralization of power. This is where the militant gardeners really hit them where it hurts - in the pocket book. Decentralization is the word that causes trembling up and down the halls of the International Bank of Settlements. As the militant gardeners achieve power over their own survival systems through self-sufficiency, they extricate themselves from the web of the money power. Decentralize now!

We take power over our own lives by our creativity! When the planetary food monopoly has collapsed, we will offer food to the suits of all countries, in exchange for dismantling the nuclear weapons which are armed and aimed at us and are so frantically over-produced they are capable of destroying each others societies twenty-eight times over!

Already we can hear the cries of those in coveralls holding pitch forks. Land reform! We, the descendants of our great leader, Emiliano Zapata say, "Land to the tiller!" The ownership of our planet has the same configuration as the 500 billionaires who control more wealth than half the world's population.

This revolution won't be easy - We have to change our minds. Do not ask the militant gardeners what they think about the present planetary civilization, ask them how they feel about it. Industrial civilization has created an over- intellectualized culture for us to live in. We live in industrially produced, artificial environments and we are provided with an industrially produced artificial media reality for the intellect to chew on.

We are the culture of the intellect. We are the specialists who know more and more about less and less. We as a society, intellectually understand a million dead in Iraq, but have no feeling about it.

Death and life is simply an intellectual equation for the industrialist, but life is a feeling for the militant gardener who is encouraging life to grow. Reality comes down to a cash nexus for the industrialist and reality comes down to the intelligence of the heart for the militant gardeners. The intelligence of the heart has already produced whole, enveloping, conclusive feelings about the present planetary situation while the narrow intellect continues to churn out details.

The superpredators of empire have stolen our being, and as the Native American prophet, John Trudell says, they are feeding on that energy.

The empire has defined our power away. Militant gardeners know that high school science experiments show that germinating seeds which are prayed upon grow more vigorously than nearby seeds that are disparaged. The ruling elite's definition of what a human is, says we can't do that.

Everybody has an aunt or a grandma who has precognitive dreams. That's out too. Many have uncles or grandfathers who communicate with plants and trees. Why are these human abilities - and many more! - kept secret? They are kept secret because the empire has defined us into powerlessness. If we believe we can't do those things, we can't. We are living beings and we communicate with the living beings around us through the intelligence of the heart.

The intelligence of the heart allows the militant gardener to have respect for life itself. This is the political program: respect life, cooperate with life and help it grow here on our blue planet.

The economics of the gardening revolution is the solar budget. The climax ecosystem, such as an old growth forest or a natural prairie, is the most efficient at producing volume of photosynthesis because climax ecosystems have the greatest number of species per area (biological diversity). Photosynthesis, which is the initial energy feed of the living planet, then becomes the standard of economic measurement.

As individual plants grow old and fall on the soil, the soil community transforms this energy into food for new plants. This is a biological energy flow system. The economics of gardening is to add to that energy flow and to restore ecosystems in the surrounding area. The Solar Currency would then be generated by the increased health and vigor the humans were adding to the earth's life (growth of biomass per acre).

Militant gardening is only a precursor to growing our own lives, the lives of the children and the life of our village. Love is the power of militant gardening. Experiments by high school students show that love makes plants grow better than those disparaged. Gardeners also grow children.

One does not plant the seeds until the soil is prepared. In a gardening village where conscious conception is practiced, parents who have made the choice to conceive would be especially loved in a ritual manner by the elders. Medical research has shown that the future child will be shaped by genomic imprinting of the parents and the condition of their genes before conception. The conception itself, in a gardening village, would be ritually accomplished with the full conscious intent of the parents and village.

The celebrated medical researcher, Bruce Lipton has demonstrated that the DNA of the fetus in utero changes with impacts on the mother. As the mother perceives reality and reacts, her body produces a set of particular hormones from among the large inventory that we have. The hormones flow through the blood and trigger actions by various organs.

These hormones then get her body ready for the event she is perceiving. They also go in the bloodstream to the baby which reacts in kind. If the mother is subject to fear-stress, then hormones of the flight or fight nature are produced. This cuts off blood to the forebrain and gives it to the reptilian brain for a physical response.

In a fear based culture such as industrial civilization, there is constant stress. Gardeners know that when plants are stressed they become unhealthy.

Many hundreds of medical studies have shown that babies born to anxious mothers will more often suffer a wide array of diseases and disabilities and die sooner than others. What these new medical revelations point to is that money has nothing to do with a child's ultimate flowering. In a village, where gardeners could sing, chant or communicate in some other regular way, with the baby in utero, this would add to the baby's healthy growth by spreading the love vibrations to it.

Each human is an extremely tender flower that can be injured by fear, anger and violence. The more care we can focus on growing children, means the more healthy and bright our children will be and the better chance our species will have to survive. This is true progress and growth.

In a village where the growth of life is the practice, the child bearing women are the centerpiece. The child bearing woman is the mother of the village and the hope of the future. It is from this biological fact that the structure of village society can flow.

The CIA and other spook degenerates have been fomenting revolts around the world and naming them with advertising words, like "the orange revolution," the "velvet revolution" and such. Contrarily, the revolt of the militant gardeners could- legitimately- be called, "the revolution of the flowers," because every garden has them.

Wm. H. Kötke has been disturbing the establishment and committing thought crimes for a long time and is the author of, The Final Empire: The Collapse of Civilization and the Seed of the Future and Garden Planet: The Present Phase Change of the Human Species, which can be viewed at www.gardenplanetbook.com.