[Editor's Note:This is the prologue to the author's latest book, "America's Dim Mak Points", published by Anvil. "Adherents of Dim Mak say that its practitioners are capable of inflicting serious harm to an individual by disrupting their qi or energy flow throughout their meridian channels, causing stagnation of qi, which in turn can lead to injury or death." Wikipedia.] image above: Illustration of Dim Mak pressure points on human head. From http://nursemyra.wordpress.com/2009/03/10/press-this-fortune-cookie/ By Victor Corpus on 23 June 2009 in NewsBreak http://newsbreak.com.ph/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=6339&Itemid=88889094 May you live in interesting times,” so goes a Chinese curse. We are indeed living in interesting times. Right before our eyes, we are witnessing the rapid decline of the United States, the lone superpower left in this planet. The global danger arises when the superpower uses its military might to cling to its waning status and forcibly maintain its dominance over a unipolar world order, or instigates a major war to pump prime its failing economy. The signs of decline are all over the western media. The subprime crisis in the U.S. housing industry is wreaking havoc on some 2 million homeowners losing their homes. The crisis of confidence has spread into the financial sector. Big-name banks and financial institutions such as Citibank, Bank of America, Wachovia, Morgan Stanley, Washington Mutual, AIG, JP Morgan Chase, Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers, and Bear Stearns have either written off billions of dollars in losses or gone bankrupt. U.S. government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have gone into receivership and taken over by the American government. From across the continent, the same financial havoc ravaged Northern Rock, Royal Bank of Scotland, HBOS, Credit Suisse, Barclays, HSBC, Fortis NV, Deutsche Bank and UBS. As of this writing, there is still no light at the end of the tunnel for the U.S. and her Western allies. In Citibank alone, 53,000 jobs evaporated overnight, while some 3,000,000 jobs are threatened in the impending collapse of the U.S. auto industry if no bailout is forthcoming from the government. Exacerbating the crisis of confidence in the financial sector is the continued decline of the once almighty dollar. The strength of the dollar lies in the fact that it is the currency of choice in oil transactions. Central Banks all over the world have to stock up on dollars to pay for their oil expenditures. Once major oil producers decide to shift to other currencies, the dollar’s foundation will be threatened. Saddam Hussein of Iraq attempted to do this, and he paid dearly for it. His attempt to shift currency could be one of the major reasons for the U.S. invasion of Iraq. By trading oil in euro, Saddam pointed a dagger right at the heart of the U.S. economy. His move could have triggered a stampede away from the U.S. dollar. But now, big world players are starting to set up their own oil bourses -- St. Petersburg in Russia, Shanghai, Zhengzhou, and Dalian in China, and Mumbai in India -- and are shifting to other currencies for oil transactions. There is also the shift by Venezuela, Iran, Sudan, Kuwait and Syria away from the declining U.S. dollar in trading their oil. Saudi Arabia, UAE, South Korea and Qatar are also seriously considering abandoning the U.S. dollar. These developments put the ubiquitous dollar in a precarious position. Whereas before, the U.S. merely has to print money in exchange for oil and other import requirements, relying on the fact that the U.S. dollar is the reserve currency of choice of the world, now, this exploitative setup is about to end. The U.S. dollar has been falling in value against the euro and other major currencies since 2001. In 2009, the dollar continued on its downward spiral. With all those hundreds of billions of dollars of bailouts and stimulus packages slated for 2009, the U.S. will be forced either to print more money or go deeper in debt (since it cannot depend on the dwindling tax revenues pulled down by mounting unemployment and corporate bankruptcies). The U.S. has unwittingly placed itself in a Catch 22 situation. It is like being forced to choose between a “seppuku” disembowelment or jumping into a quicksand. The “seppuku” in this case is the overuse of the printing machine to print the dollar bills it needs to bailout its sinking economy that can turn the U.S. into another Zimbabwe. The other option is to jump into the quicksand of debt that will bind the U.S. into a debt trap where there is practically no escape. Whether the U.S. chooses to print more dollars or go deeper in debt, the result will be the same – a free falling U.S. dollar. In addition to the dollar decline, the production output of American industries is also shrinking. Countless U.S. manufacturers have shifted their operations to China and India where the cost of labor is much cheaper. Such migration of manufacturing results not only in the loss of national production capacity but also the loss of employment for millions of Americans. The diminution of U.S. manufacturing capacity means increasing trade deficits with the rest of the world. The U.S. trade deficit amounted to U.S. $ 711 billion in 2007, according to the U.S. Commerce Department; the trade gap with China alone was more than $250 billion. The increase in the trade deficit, in turn, means a corresponding increase in the national debt. The U.S. has to borrow almost $2 billion a day to keep its country running. And China, surpassing Japan, is now America ’s largest creditor. From the U.S. federal government down to the individual American credit card holder, America is neck-deep in debt with virtually zero savings. In a blink of an eye, the U.S. has turned from a creditor- to a debtor-nation. The huge foreign debt is coupled with huge federal budget deficits. The federal deficits are exacerbated further by the billions of dollars dissipated in pursuit of America’s so-called “War on Tyranny” and ”War on Terror” in Iraq and Afghanistan. Combine this with excessive defense spending of more than half a trillion dollars annually and you have a specter of a financial meltdown similar to what befell the former Soviet Union. The United States’ repulsively arrogant unilateralist moves, especially in Iraq, alienated friends and foes alike. The alienation of major European allies, such as France and Germany, from the U.S. has seriously undermined the cohesiveness of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance. Russia took advantage of the weakened ties by driving a wedge between the so-called Old and New Europe using oil and gas as a weapon. The move has the potential of splitting NATO in the event of a major crisis. In the looming disaster of peak oil, countries are desperately scrambling to secure oil resources for themselves to the exclusion of others. An exclusive consortium of oil and gas producers led by Russia are entering into long-term contracts with select consumers like China and India, to corner the last remaining major oil and gas reserves on the planet. With the growing scarcity of oil resources worldwide, the last remaining nations with large proven oil deposits are banding together to gain geopolitical leverage. They, in turn, enter into strategic partnerships with preferred consumer nations. Key energy producers in this elite consortium that is led by Russia include Iran, Venezuela, Brazil, Bolivia, Algeria, Indonesia, Malaysia, Kazakhstan, Sudan, Angola, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. There is a strong possibility that other Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) members, such as Saudi Arabia, may opt to join. An indicator of this is the planned construction by Saudi Arabia of a huge oil reserve depot and petrochemical plant in China. Saudi Arabia has also entered into a long-term supply contract with China. Aside from China and India, the other major consumer countries include Germany, Italy, France, Austria, Hungary, Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Switzerland. Unfortunately for the U.S. and the United Kingdom, they are “locked out” from this exclusive club. Corollary to this is that it would bar the oil majors of America and England from tapping into the last few remaining oil and gas fields. Similarly, Japan and South Korea, (or perhaps even India ) may find themselves in the same leaking boat with the U.S. if they don’t play their diplomatic cards right. For the unfortunate ones who are locked out, artificially-induced peak oil will hit them first before the impact of genuine peak oil affect the rest of the planet. The global economic and financial crisis that started in the U.S. housing sector has now spread and infected the rest of the world. While the U.S. government is throwing hundreds of billions of dollars into a black hole of insolvent financial institutions and collapsing corporate giants, China ’s response to the crisis is to gobble up strategic resources at fire sale prices and modernize infrastructure. The crucial difference between the U.S. and China is that the U.S. entered the crisis inundated with debt while China was awash with cash and serving as the biggest creditor of the U.S. When the dust finally settles, the U.S. may find itself crushed deeper in debt while China will emerge stronger than ever. America ’s comprehensive national power is rapidly being eroded by the ongoing crisis. China, on the other hand, is utilizing its huge foreign exchange reserves to win more friends and allies, buy key resources or lock out their supply, and further enhance the other major components of its own comprehensive national power (education, science and technology, research institutions, social welfare, health services, domestic markets, etc.) in the midst of such global crisis. One may ask: Why is the U.S. being ostracized as an outcast by so many countries? A simple explanation would be American hubris and hypocrisy. While preaching human rights to Sudan and China, the U.S. supported the existence of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib prisons in Cuba and Iraq respectively. Other secret “rendition” camps are scattered all over the world. America is vocal in criticizing China for polluting the environment, but refuses to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. With the historic emergence of President Barack Obama, a ray of hope for positive change is shining in the American horizon. People all over the world wait with baited breath to see him succeed in attaining his campaign promises. One of Mr. Obama’s first acts as U.S. president was to order the closure of the infamous Guantanamo prison in Cuba. However, a few days after President Obama ordered the closing of Guantanamo, U.S. $60 million was approved for the expansion of the Bagram Air Base detention facility in Afghanistan. Some fear that this Afghan prison will serve as “Obama’s Guantanamo.” The last remaining bastion of the U.S. as a superpower is a military machine and defense budget with no equal. The U.S. is spending some $528 billion annually for its defense. This huge war chest is more than 10 times that of China (U.S. $ 49.5 billion). According to the Newsweek Special Edition Issue for 2008, “the U.S. defense budget is bigger than 15 of the next biggest defense spenders in the world combined.” But even this last bastion of superpower strength is now being seriously challenged asymmetrically. Within this gargantuan structure, there are soft spots that, when stricken, can cause the entire structure to collapse. These vulnerable spots are the Dim Mak points that are the subject of what follows. Unrestricted Warfare Unrestricted warfare, like asymmetric warfare, is a weapon of the weak to fight and defeat the strong. It is a form of fighting where anything goes: “a poke in the eye, a stab in the back, a kick in the groin.” Anything that will help the weak defeat the strong is brought into play. Nothing is prohibited. No target or weapon is off limits. If ever a major war erupts between superpower America and weaker nations like China, Russia, or Iran, we can expect the weaker ones to resort to unrestricted warfare. It will not be confined to a mere shooting war. It will involve combat on land, sea, air, in outer space, cyberspace and even into the microbial realm. It will encompass attacks on a nation’s electric grids, computer networks, strategic resources, oil supply routes, logistic sea lanes, national currency, trade, banking and finance, stock exchange, basic services, and the nation’s social fabric. It will also include combat in the realms of media, the environment, diplomacy, culture, and the struggle for alliances. Unrestricted warfare was conceptualized by two senior colonels of the People’s Liberation Army of China, Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui, in their famous book, Unrestricted Warfare published in 1999. Qiao’s famous quote on the subject is that... "the first rule of unrestricted warfare is that there are no rules, with nothing forbidden." Usually, rules are laid down by the strong to dominate the weak. To level the playing field, the weak has to break the rules, avoid the enemy’s strength, and hit the strong side at its most vulnerable points. Another Chinese theorist on modern warfare, Chang Mengxiong, compared China 's form of fighting to "a Chinese boxer with a keen knowledge of vital body points who can bring an opponent to his knees with a minimum of movements.” It is like key acupuncture points in ancient Chinese medicine. Puncture one vital point and the whole anatomy is affected. Acupuncture is normally used for healing. But some acupuncture points called Dim Mak, when hit in a specific way at certain times of the day can cause paralysis or instant death. If America ever wages war against China, say, over Taiwan, then it should be prepared for the following Dim Mak points in its [national] anatomy to be the focus of attacks. Each one of these vital points can bring America to its knees with a minimum of effort: • Vulnerability to Electro-information Attack • Dependency on Foreign Oil • U.S. Dollar Vulnerability • Diplomatic Isolation • Geographical Military Handicap • Asymmetric Vulnerability • Satellite-based Military Command and Control • Aircraft Carrier Battle Groups
SUBHEAD: Former President Rafsanjani poised to politically outflank Supreme Leader Khamenei. By Eurasianet.org on 22 June 2009 - (http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/insightb/articles/eav062209.shtml)Looking past their fiery rhetoric and apparent determination to cling to power using all available means, Iran's hardliners are not a confident bunch. While hardliners still believe they possess enough force to stifle popular protests, they are worried that they are losing a behind-the-scenes battle within Iran's religious establishment.
Image above: Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (right) shown here voting with reform leader Mohammad Khatami (left) in 2006.Photo by Amir Kholoosi. From (http://www.payvand.com/news/06/dec/1197.html).
A source familiar with the thinking of decision-makers in state agencies that have strong ties to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said there is a sense among hardliners that a shoe is about to drop. Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani - Iran's savviest political operator and an arch-enemy of Ayatollah Khamenei's - has kept out of the public spotlight since the rigged June 12 presidential election triggered the political crisis. The widespread belief is that Rafsanjani has been in the holy city of Qom, working to assemble a religious and political coalition to topple the supreme leader and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. "There is great apprehension among people in the supreme leader's [camp] about what Rafsanjani may pull," said a source in Tehran who is familiar with hardliner thinking. "They [the supreme leader and his supporters] are much more concerned about Rafsanjani than the mass movement on the streets." Ayatollah Khamenei now has a very big image problem among influential Shi'a clergymen. Over the course of the political crisis, stretching back to the days leading up to the election, Rafsanjani has succeeded in knocking the supreme leader off his pedestal by revealing Ayatollah Khamenei to be a political partisan rather than an above-the-fray spiritual leader. In other words, the supreme leader has become a divider, not a uniter. Now that Ayatollah Khamenei has become inexorably connected to Ahmadinejad's power grab, many clerics are coming around to the idea that the current system needs to be changed. Among those who are now believed to be arrayed against Ayatollah Khamenei is Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the top Shi'a cleric in neighboring Iraq. Rafsanjani is known to have met with Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani's representative in Iran, Javad Shahrestani. A reformist website, Rooyeh, reported that Rafsanjani already had the support of nearly a majority of the Assembly of Experts, a body that constitutionally has the power to remove Ayatollah Khamenei. The report also indicated that Rafsanjani's lobbying efforts were continuing to bring more clerics over to his side. Rafsanjani's aim, the website added, is the establishment of a leadership council, comprising of three or more top religious leaders, to replace the institution of supreme leader. Shortly after it posted the report on Rafsanjani's efforts to establish a new collective leadership, government officials pulled the plug on Rooyeh. Meanwhile, the Al-Arabiya satellite television news channel reported that a "high-ranking" source in Qom confirmed that Rafsanjani has garnered enough support to remove Ayatollah Khamenei, but an announcement is being delayed amid differences on what or who should replace the supreme leader. Some top clerics reportedly want to maintain the post of supreme leader, albeit with someone other than Ayatollah Khamenei occupying the post, while others support the collective leadership approach. To a certain degree, hardliners now find themselves caught in a cycle of doom: they must crack down on protesters if they are to have any chance of retaining power, but doing so only causes more and more clerics to align against them. Security forces broke up a small street protest on June 22 involving roughly a thousand demonstrators who had gathered to mourn the victims of the government crackdown two days before. Also on June 22, a statement issued in the name of the Revolutionary Guards demanded that protesters immediately stop "sabotage and rioting activities," and threatened to unleash "revolutionary confrontation" against anyone who took to the streets. Such a showdown could come later this week. One of the country's highest-ranking clerics, Grand Ayatollah Hussein-Ali Montazeri has declared three days of mourning for those who have died in street protests. Grand Ayatollah Montazeri's declaration could bring thousands of Tehran residents back out into the streets starting on June 24. Meanwhile, the Guardian Council, an unelected state body with election oversight responsibilities, announced June 21 that it had found numerous irregularities connected with the June 12 presidential vote. A council spokesman, for example, admitted that the number of votes cast in 50 cities throughout the country exceeded the number of registered voters in those locations. The Guardian Council indicated that there may be as many as 3 million suspect ballots, but stressed the suspected cases of fraud were not such that it could have influenced the outcome of the vote. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. Ayatollah Khamenei has repeatedly characterized the election as a "divine assessment" of Ahmadinejad's popularity. An election analysis released by the London-based Chatham House appeared to confirm that the official results, in which Ahmadinejad was said to have won with nearly two-thirds of the vote, could only have been achieved with massive vote-rigging. The report was based on voting patterns from previous national elections, and on a 2006 census. "In a third of all provinces, the official results would require that Ahmadinejad took not only all former conservative voters, all centrist voters and all new voters, but also up to 44 percent of former reformist voters, despite a decade of conflict between these two groups," said the report, which was prepared with the help of the Institute of Iranian Studies at the University of St. Andrews. The report also used statistical arguments to dispute the notion that Ahmadinejad was popular in rural areas of Iran. "That the countryside always votes conservative is a myth," the report said.
See also: Ea O Ka Aina: Iran's Rooftop Revolution 6/21/09 .
SUBHEAD: On climate-change the real negotiation is between humans on the one hand and chemistry and physics on the other. By Bryan Walsh on 17 June 2009 in Time http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1905102,00.html?xid=rss-topstories
Image above: Detail of movie poster for 2002 disaster movie "Scorcher". From http://billbrownmusic.com/scorcher.htm Even as Congress belatedly tackles legislation that would cut U.S. carbon emissions and international negotiators bickered over a global climate deal in Bonn, Germany, a new report by several federal agencies underscores the truths that too often risk getting lost in politics: global warming is real, it's happening now, and if we don't act soon, the consequences are likely to be catastrophic. (Read "The Human Cost of Climate Change.") Scientists and officials working with the U.S. Global Change Research Program released on June 16 the first climate-change assessment to be completed during Barack Obama's presidency. The assessment, which is required periodically by Congress, breaks down the predicted effects of global warming in the U.S. by region and sector; it contains no new research, but it paints a detailed and worrying picture of what a warmer America will be like 10, 50 and 100 years from today. "It is clear that climate change is happening now," says Jerry Melillo, a lead author of the report and an ecologist at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass. "The observed climate changes we report are not opinions to be debated. They are facts to be reported." (See pictures of the effects of global warming.)
Produced by 13 federal agencies and several major universities and research centers, the climate report found that if carbon emissions continued growing unabated, the mainland U.S. would heat up anywhere from 7 degrees Fahrenheit to 11.5 degrees Fahrenheit by 2090, with some margin of error. That's similar to the predictions found in the 2007 report by the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, but the real value of the new assessment is found in its detailed breakdown of the different effects warming will have in various regions of the U.S. — in a country as geographically vast and diverse as the U.S., climate change won't be felt monolithically. Here are a few of the report's highlights: Water Woes. Precipitation will generally become heavier in northern areas, and will tend to fall in severe downpours, leading to more widespread flooding. Meanwhile, the South — and especially the Southwest — will become drier. That's alarming because the Southwest and Southeast, where populations are growing faster than in any other U.S. region, are already struggling with drought. Heat Index
Get used to sweating. Under a business-as-usual course, by the end of the century, Washington, D.C., could average as many as 90 to 100 days a year above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, up from around 30 to 40 days now. Southern Florida and southern Texas could see more than 160 days a year above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Polar Thaw
Climate change is being felt first in the Arctic regions, which explains why Alaska is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the country, and could warm by as much as 13 degrees Fahrenheit in the next 50 years. That will melt sea ice and severely affect already endangered species like the polar bear and the walrus. And warming could ruin the state's valuable fisheries — as sea temperatures warm, the habitat for cold-water fish like salmon and trout could all but disappear in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. Northeastern Exposure
Warming will make skiing, ice-skating and snowmobiling pastimes of the past in many areas of the Northeast, decimating the multibillion-dollar winter-sports industry. The center of maple-syrup production will shift from New England to Canada, and production of apples and other produce that depend on cooler winters will decline. Early Deaths
All those heat waves will take a serious toll on human health, with a significant increase in deaths due to high temperatures. The poor and the young will be most vulnerable. The predictions, based on unchecked growth in carbon emissions over the next several decades, are scary. Equally scary is what has already happened. The assessment shows that over the past few decades, winters in the Midwest have warmed by a few degrees, and the number of winter days without frost has increased by about a week. Sea levels have already risen by 8 inches or more in some coastal areas of the U.S., and under the business-as-usual scenario, they could rise 3 to 4 feet by the end of the century — enough to put much of Florida, including the Everglades and the Keys, under water. "Much of the foot-dragging on addressing climate change reflects the perception that it is way down the road and only affects remote parts of the planet," says Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which contributed to the study. "This report demonstrates that climate change is happening now and in our backyard." The timing of the new report is perfect. A bill to cap U.S. carbon emissions, sponsored by Democratic Representatives Henry Waxman and Edward Markey, is making its way through Congress and could be up for a vote in the House of Representatives as soon as next week. Although the bill has the support of the White House and has been watered down considerably to earn centrist and conservative votes, it will still struggle to become law. Opponents argue that cap and trade will ruin the U.S. economy by raising energy prices. But while there are arguments to be made against cap and trade, what's increasingly certain with every new scientific report is that the time for empty talk has expired. Negotiating a solution among members of Congress and the nations of the world — won't be simple, but as the environmental author Bill McKibben wrote in a June 11 review in the New York Review of Books, that might be the easy part: "The real negotiation is between humans on the one hand and chemistry and physics on the other. And chemistry and physics, unfortunately, don't bargain." Facts are facts. See pictures of the world's most polluted places. See TIME's special report on the environment.
SUBHEAD: Iran is coming undone much like it did in 1979. Maybe they'll get it right this time. By Juan Wilson on 21 June 2009 for Island Breath -
Image above: A young Iranian women in chador about to have chai (tea) on bazaar roof in Isfahan. From (http://dodihi.bloog.pl/kat,193696,index.html)
"The revolution will not be televised... it will be blogged & twittered."
I lived in Iran for over a year between July of 1975 and September of 1976. When I arrived at Teheran Airport from New York City I had no visa and I was carrying about one-hundred audio-cassette tapes I had made to entertain myself. I was immediately separated from my tapes and taken away by security police.
It seems you were supposed to tell people ahead of time you were coming before entering their country. It never dawned on me. I had only been to Canada and Mexico, and back then crossing country borders in North America was as easy as going from Manhattan to Hoboken, New Jersey. Who knew?
The police finally let me go when they realized I was supposed to start work for a relative of the Shah the next day. I might not have had a visa but I had a job. The deal was that I was there to do planning and architectural work for Empress Fara Dibah's cousin, Kamran Diba. Kamran was the senior partner in DAZ Planning and Architecture.
The police did not, however, return my many homemade cassette music tapes. They said they had to listen to them first. It took three months of badgering to get them back. It turns out that in 1975 cassette tapes were the way ayatollah Khomeini brought the message of revolution to Iran from his exile in Paris. Tapes would arrive at a neighborhood mosque. Besides distributing tapes to other locations, a cleric would wait until night and then play the tape through the call-to-prayer public-address systems set up on the mosque roof. A high-tech presence for a medieval ayatollah.
The DAZ planning and architecture firm received all the work it could handle on planning towns and new cities throughout the country. I worked on everything from new gambling resorts on the Caspian to gated communities for Russian engineers in Isfahan.
I was there because, in 1975 after a year of OPEC oil crisis, the architectural firm I worked for in NYC, Davis Brody & Associates, needed a partnership in the middle-east to stay afloat. Big planning and engineering firms throughout the world were trying to get a foot in the door of any country that had oil money. Back then, if you were a firm with Jewish partners that meant Iran. The Shah was friendly.
Teheran is a dusty hot town in the summer. Most buildings were built side-by-side and flush with the street. Any yards, usually in the rear, were walled. Little breeze moved through the roses or stirred the fountains in the gardens, so most people retreated to the roof as the sun went down. There they could feel the cool air moving down into town from the valleys of the Alborz Moutnains. Snow might still be seen on their 12,000 foot peaks.
Image above: A typical dinner at a rooftop restaurant in Teheran. Roast lamb with rice (note raw egg) and a cold glass of yogurt drink. From(http://home.att.net/~aturpat/photo.htm).
Almost all buildings in Teheran had flat stucco roofs that were accessible from inside. Restaurants strung up Chinese lanterns and served platters of chelo kabob (lamb and rice) and glasses of maast (carbonated yogurt drink). Whole families would set up cots on Persian carpets and camp out on their roof and watch the stars twinkle.
I celebrated the 200th birthday of the United States watching a spectacular US military fireworks show from the roof of a friend's home in west Teheran after sunset. My friends and I sat in the cool of the night drinking beer wondering at the weirdness of it all. Weird because we Americans celebrated in a foreign country with booms and explosions (just good fun), but were a little shook up when we heard automatic gunfire in the middle of the night that never made the next day's paper.
It seems a revolution of some sort was going on amongst the Iranian people and we did not know much about it. The Shah had his hands full and did not want a lot of news about it getting around. Supposedly, while I was there, everything was just hunky-dorry, despite the occasional automatic gunfire at night.
This summer the nighttime roofs of Teheran are a place where a revolution is seething. People are chanting from the street "God is Great! Death to the dictator!" Not unlike the chants of thirty years ago. Then, like now, the inspiration is coming from the young, the idealistic, the educated, and the cosmopolitan. Women are now in the forefront of the action. But now the call to revolution is not coming from cassette-tapes in the mosques. Iranians are using the technology at hand. Cellphones, Twitter, Facebook, etc.
My experience with the young planners and architects at DAZ was that they rejected the Shah's effort to make Teheran look like a western European capital. They wanted a Persian expression of architecture and culture. Many were sympathetic to his ouster. I was not in Iran in 1979 for the fall of the Peacock Throne and disgraced exit of Shah Reza Palavi. What the idealists at DAZ got, when the Shah fell, was not what they were hoping for. Maybe this time the young Iranians will get it right. .
SUBHEAD: Creating a place of beauty and delicious abundance on Kauai. By Andrea Brower on 21 June 2009 in The Garden Island http://www.kauaiworld.com/articles/2009/06/21/business/kauai_business/doc4a3de1fa5311d010267141.txt
Image above: Detail of painting "The Garden Prayer" by Thomas Kinkade. From http://s29.photobucket.com/albums/c273/obrady/?action=view¤t=gazebopic.jpg There is a significant and growing movement on Kaua‘i and globally. It is a movement that is political, social, environmental, and often times even spiritual. It is the movement to reconnect with the ‘aina, that which sustains us, by simply learning to grow our own.
More and more people from diverse backgrounds and perspectives are being drawn to the idea of gardening. Some are motivated by their desire to be less dependent on a food system that has gone awry, some do it for health reasons, and others simply do it because it is a lot of fun. Even Michelle Obama recently planted an organic garden at the White House. Home and community gardening offers one of the ways to most rapidly expand local food production. Gardening is a significant food source in many countries, even in some western industrialized countries. In Russia, over 54 percent of the nation’s food is produced in home gardens, and only 7 percent of the country’s land is devoted to food production — proving the productivity of their system. On Kaua‘i, the history of home and community food cultivation is rooted in both pre-contact Hawaiian production systems and plantation culture. Beginning with the canoe crops of the first Polynesian settlers, many ethnic groups have brought to Hawai‘i plants of cultural, medicinal, and societal importance. During the plantation era, villages produced a majority of what they consumed, matching their recipes and cooking styles with what could be cultivated and harvested locally. There are many garden-related projects around the island, including The Kaua‘i Thousand Gardens Challenge, training programs and workshops being offered by Kaua‘i Community College and Malama Kaua‘i, and the growing network of community gardens being supported by the KCC Community Garden’s Project. And it is time to announce another exciting one. Recently, a four acre parcel in Kilauea, located on Wai Koa Plantation, was leased to Malama Kaua‘i for the purpose of establishing a community garden. Malama Kaua‘i thanks residents Bill and Joan Porter, owners of Wai Koa, for their very generous contributions that are making this project possible. Plots will be available in Fall of this year for families, individuals, businesses, and schools that have a desire to grow nutritious foods for themselves and others, learn about organic gardening, connect with the ‘aina, and foster community. For people that are inexperienced, and for those that simply want to enhance their skills, workshops and training programs will be available on site. Local experts on composting and soil remediation, vermiculture, site design and permaculture, pest control, and other gardening topics have committed to contributing to the ongoing success of the project by being available to share their mana‘o with both plot managers and the community at large. A core group of certified permaculturists, long-time Kaua‘i farmers, and garden enthusiasts are in the process of designing the site. It will be a place for the whole ‘ohana, with special areas for the keiki. For all ages, it will be a space for creativity, learning, social bonding, and cultivating a relationship with the ‘aina. All are welcome to participate in the design and development of the site. A community garden is a long-term investment in community food security. The Kilauea site will have a large food forest with a rich diversity of trees. Eventually, the goal is to cultivate enough abundance to supply fresh produce to the neediest in our community, as well as the local area seniors. The garden will also contribute to food security by preserving and perpetuating plant biodiversity. A wide array of native and introduced species will be cultivated, and the garden will host seed and plant exchanges. Volunteers and donations of all kinds are needed to make this vision a reality. The most immediate needs are materials for irrigation and fencing, organic soil inputs, the use of machinery for site development, a mower, tools, trees, working hands, and money. This is a true community effort, and it is going to take the generosity of many to create a place of beauty and delicious abundance. For a detailed list of needed materials and resources visit http://www.malamakauai.org/ If interested in obtaining a plot, e-mail Mel at firstname.lastname@example.org More extensive articles on the subject of gardening will be available in this column in the months to follow. • Andrea Brower is project supervisor for Malama Kaua‘i and can be reached at email@example.com or 635-1659.
SOURCE: Brad Parsons (firstname.lastname@example.org) SUBHEAD: Kawahara, Bynum outmaneuver Asing, Nakamura on County Council rules. By Andy Parx on 17 June 2009 for Parx News Network - http://parxnewsdaily.blogspot.com/2009/06/pnn-kawahara-bynum-outmaneuver-asing.html
Image above: Lani Kawahara and Tim Bynum from Kauai County government portraits. From www.kauai.gov/Government/OfficeOfTheCountyClerk/CountyCouncil/CouncilMembers20082010/tabid/277/Default.aspx In a masterful piece of political theater, Councilperson Lani Kawahara succeeded in putting a discussion of her and Tim Bynum’s reforms on the council’s agenda at either the July 8 or July 22 meeting with even Chair Kaipo Asing in the end being forced to reluctantly vote “aye” along with the other six councilmembers.
Two weeks ago Bynum’s attempt to add a resolution to that day’s agenda was nixed by the County Attorney Al Castillo as being a violation of the Sunshine Law. This time when the subject of approval of the agenda came up, it was Kawahara who asked to simply add a “communication” to the agenda that would require discussion of the changes be discussed on the agenda at the next council meeting on July 8th. Last meeting Bynum and Kawahara were opposed by the other five councilmembers. This time though the first chink in the armor was an apparent 180 by councilmember Jay Furfaro who immediately said that “if the purpose is discussion... that doesn’t sound unreasonable”, Although he tried to block an attempt to discuss council rules at the last council meeting, public pressure seemed to have caused him a change of heart. Then Castillo surprisingly decided that he could split the baby and announced that, in his legal opinion, discussing adding the matter to a future agenda differed from discussing the actual subject matter as far as the Sunshine Law was concerned. “It’s just a communication”, he told an apparently stunned Asing and the rest of the council. “This time there’s no substance to it (so) it’s not of ‘reasonably major importance’ and will not ‘effect a significant number of persons’.” In her presentation, an animated and obviously nervous Kawahara stood up and listed the reforms to the council rules she and Bynum have requested be discussed including on-line access to all public documents, timely distribution of materials addressed to councilmembers and most importantly, an enforcement of the rule providing for councilpersons to have the ability to place matters on the agenda. The issues are fully detailed at their kauaiinfo web site which has recently been updated with minutes of recent council meetings going back to February 25. She also referred to the on-line petition supporting the changes which, she said had 290 signatures. Her “communication” asked that discussion of these matters be placed on the agenda of the next regular council meeting, July 8. That gave Councilperson Darryl Kaneshiro an opening to say to Castillo “so the 290 signatures is not a significant amount” intimating that if 290 people were concerned with the issue that would constitute “a significant number of persons” who would be effected. But Castillo reiterated that by only introducing a communication to place the matter on a future agenda, that is the action that must meet the standard and that the actual substance would be discussed on July 8 at a duly agendaed meeting “I’ve got to split this” he said, “It’s the legal analysis”. Asing still not satisfied said “placement of the minutes on the web site?” referring to one of the reforms Kawahara and councilperson Tim Bynum have asked for. “That’s going to affect the whole county.” But Castillo again said he was separating the substance from the request to put it on a future agenda. Furfaro then reiterated his support for having the discussion saying “by a 2/3 vote this council has the ability to put this matter on the agenda” although he noted that the chair has “the management rights” to say on which agenda it would appear. Then in a jaw-dropping, politically tone-deaf statement Asing took one last stab at retaining control. “Why would we want to discuss in-house rules with the public?” he asked Castillo. “There are in-house rules and you want to take that and discuss that in a public forum? Why would you want to do that?” Furfaro then pointed out that “our rules are passed in a public forum, by resolution” and Bynum added that they can be changed by “subsequent resolution” all in public, open meetings. Asing then called what he said would be a “short recess”. According to witnesses, during the next hour a flurry of animated conversations between Asing and Castillo and County Clerk Peter Nakamura ensued. Toward the end of the hour Nakamura was observed conversing with Kaneshiro. When the meeting was called back to order, in an obviously scripted manner a defeated Asing immediately called on Kaneshiro who, in a face-saving move for both himself and Asing, noted that the request was encroaching on the managerial duties of the chair and asked that the communication be amended to provide for adding the item to either the July 8 meeting or, if the agenda was too full, the July 22 meeting. Without discussion Asing called for a vote on the amendment, to which all councilmember including Asing voted “aye”. Then also without discussion the council unanimously voted aye to adding the item to the agenda of the meeting of either July 8th or 22nd. Neither councilmember Derek Kawakami nor Dickie Chang ventured a comment during the discussion essentially exhibiting a deer in the headlights expressions along with a bewildered “what just happened” look after the item was added to the future agenda. But the day of challenges to the abuse of power by, not just the chair but under his direction, Nakamura (as PNN has detailed over the past two weeks) was not over. This time it was Bynum taking the reigns in order to highlight the way he and other councilmembers have been denied access to communication that are addressed to them. First Bynum detailed how a bill that was on this week’s agenda related to changes to the shoreline setback law that the council passed last year had been time-stamped as “received” by the clerk on May 12 but, Bynum said, he had not gotten the new bill until June 12 and the related documents “just yesterday” He noted that council rules require the county clerk to “forward at once” all communication to those to whom they are addressed, noting the measure was addressed to the “chair and all councilmembers”. The bill had come from the planning department along with amendments, transcripts and staff reports that resulted from planning commission review. Bynum said that he had been following the bill closely and had even recently asked the planning director what the delay was since the bill had been disposed of by the planning commission in April. The planning director had expressed surprise that it hadn’t gotten to Bynum and said he had forwarded it the council at the time. Bynum complained that this left him with only a day to review the voluminous materials rather than five weeks, saying that this kind of thing was a common occurrence. Furfaro offered an explanation in saying that legislation is supposed to be “managed” by the appropriate committee chair according to council rules and took responsibility for withholding the material. He said he had received the bill and materials as planning committee chair and claimed that to forward them to all councilmembers would put him in jeopardy of violating the prohibition on “serial one-on-one” communications, referring to a recent letter from the OIP that had admonished him for violating serial one-on-one prohibitions. He noted that the Earth Justice organization had pointed out some “conflicts” in the law and that might have accounted for the delay, waving a letter to the planning department he planned to send asking about those changes. Though he did not say what the letter specifically referred to, PNN filed a complaint with the OIP in December regarding a serial one-on-one communication accusing Furfaro of violating that provisions of the Sunshine Law. But it didn’t end there. When the routine quarterly report from the Kaua`i Humane Society came up on the agenda Bynum again compained that although it was received by the clerk on May 27 he had just gotten it last week, noting that this time it had nothing to do with “managing legislation”. Bynum noted that these were only examples and that there are literally dozens of communications addressed to him every week that he never receives. That spurred the only remark made by rookie Councilperson Kawakami who said Nakamura’s actions were “OK with me”. “The last thing I want is to be overwhelmed with communications” he said thanking the clerk for screening and limiting his interactions with his constituents. Asing then exploded at Bynum saying that “this is the first time in 26 years” that any councilmember had complained about any of the rules or the process and that Bynum seemed to “have all sorts of complaints. Asing routinely protested council policy and rules when he was a dissident early in his political career when he was on the losing end of many 6-1 votes and as have other councilmembers over the years. It was at that point that county Attorney put a halt to the discussion saying that "subtle allegations against the county clerk (are) an employment matter” and should only be discussed in executive session.
Ea O Ka Aina: King Kaipo 6/4/09
SUBHEAD: But we keep reading through all this doomer porn, toss in our sleep, get grey hair, and curse the darkness. By Albert Bates on 19 June 2009 in The Great Change http://peaksurfer.blogspot.com/2009/06/doomer-porn.html
Image above: Photograph of Volcano National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii by David Olson.From http://www.forbestraveler.com/best-lists/quietest-places-slide-4.htmlGlobal population, limits to growth, peak oil and climate change activists have been coming up with such similar contraction scenarios that they are beginning to echo each other. At the same time, there is a tendency in each community to think of their cause as more serious or profound than that of the others. For instance, the global warming community is seen by peak oilers as blind to the effects of energy and economic collapse, most notably on greenhouse gas emission projections. Yes, they acknowledge, we will have to suffer some climate karma that is already in the pipeline, but it won’t be as bad, as shocking, or as soon, as peak everything and the tidal wave of collapse that follows.
As the stragglers who came to the Peak Oil Revival Camp meetings after having got religion with climate change, we confess to having never quite received that part of the Peak Oil gospel with an open mind. And sadly, with each passing year, the evidence mounts that faith-based graspings were indeed misplaced. We really are doomed, and climate is a much bigger threat than energy and economic collapse. If you lose your economic underpinnings, you could fall back on the economic development chart to where you were in 1930, or 1830, or even 1330, but you are still around as a species, assuming you don’t totally lose your cool and just nuke everything in sight on your way down. In contrast, if you lose your climate underpinnings, it’s game over, man. You not only take down the higher vertebrates, homo included, but everything alive on this third rock from the sun, potentially even the microbes in deep caves and ocean depths. Earth, meet Venus. Every so often, and it seems to be coming more often now, our really dire climate nightmare, the scary runaway scenario we depicted in Climate in Crisis in 1990, gets support from the latest scientific publications. This week there was another really big boost to our pride, if you can call it that. First, let us back up a month to May 19, and the publication by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s study involving 400 supercomputer runs of the best climate change measurements currently available. Conclusion: the effects of climate change are twice as severe as estimated just six years ago and the median probability of surface warming by 2100 is now 5.2 degrees Celsius, compared to a finding of 2.4 degrees as recently as 2003. Moreover, the MIT group rated at 90% possibility a warming to 7.4 degrees by 2100 (and still accelerating). This, in spite of our feeble efforts at cap, trade, contraction and convergence. A second report, by the Global Humanitarian Forum, found that 300,000 deaths per year are already attributable to climate change-related weather, food shortages, and disease. That could be called our baseline, or background count — of the 20th-century-long experience of less than a 1 degree C change. All of these findings set the stage for the report released this past week by the Advisory Committee on Global Change Research, Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States (Cambridge University Press, 2009). The authoring team was headed by senior climate scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and included half a dozen government agencies and laboratories and senior researchers from a dozen universities. Just reading the introduction is refreshing, because it cuts through so much of the b.s. that passes for public debate these days. The “Impacts” report takes the projections for the coming decades to about as fine a grain as can be had, given the behavior of interrelated and reciprocating climate systems undergoing rapid destabilization. Here are some findings that really gave us a 1990 déjà vu feel, all over: Warming over this century is projected to be considerably greater than over the last century. The global average temperature since 1900 has risen by about 1.5ºF. By 2100, it is projected to rise another 2 to 11.5ºF. The U.S. average temperature has risen by a comparable amount and is very likely to rise more than the global average over this century, with some variation from place to place. Climate-related changes have already been observed globally and in the United States. These include increases in air and water temperatures, reduced frost days, increased frequency and intensity of heavy downpours, a rise in sea level, and reduced snow cover, glaciers, permafrost, and sea ice. A longer ice-free period on lakes and rivers, lengthening of the growing season, and increased water vapor in the atmosphere have also been observed. Over the past 30 years, temperatures have risen faster in winter than in any other season, with average winter temperatures in the Midwest and northern Great Plains increasing more than 7ºF. Some of the changes have been faster than previous assessments had suggested. Likely future changes for the United States and surrounding coastal waters include more intense hurricanes with related increases in wind, rain, and storm surges (but not necessarily an increase in the number of these storms that make landfall), as well as drier conditions in the Southwest and Caribbean. These changes will affect human health, water supply, agriculture, coastal areas, and many other aspects of society and the natural environment.
Impacts are expected to become increasingly severe for more people and places as the amount of warming increases. Rapid rates of warming would lead to particularly large impacts on natural ecosystems and the benefits they provide to humanity. Some of the impacts of climate change will be irreversible, such as species extinctions and coastal land lost to rising seas. Unanticipated impacts of increasing carbon dioxide and climate change have already occurred and more are possible in the future. For example, it has recently been observed that the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration is causing an increase in ocean acidity. This reduces the ability of corals and other sea life to build shells and skeletons out of calcium carbonate. Additional impacts in the future might stem from unforeseen changes in the climate system, such as major alterations in oceans, ice, or storms; and unexpected consequences of ecological changes, such as massive dislocations of species or pest outbreaks. - Unexpected social or economic changes, including major shifts in wealth, technology, or societal priorities would also affect our ability to respond to climate change. Both anticipated and unanticipated impacts become more challenging with increased warming. In an increasingly interdependent world, U.S. vulnerability to climate change is linked to the fates of other nations. For example, conflicts or mass migrations of people resulting from food scarcity and other resource limits, health impacts, or environmental stresses in other parts of the world could threaten U.S. national security. The European heat wave of 2003 [with >30,000 heat-fatalities] is an example of the type of extreme heat event that is likely to become much more common. If greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase, by the 2040s more than half of European summers will be hotter than the summer of 2003, and by the end of this century, a summer as hot as that of 2003 will be considered unusually cool. There are also concerns regarding the potential for abrupt release of methane from thawing of frozen soils, from the sea floor, and from wetlands. Recent findings indicate that it is very likely that the strength of the North Atlantic circulation will decrease over the course of this century in response to increasing greenhouse gases. This is expected because warming increases the melting of glaciers and ice sheets and the resulting runoff of freshwater to the sea. This additional water is virtually salt-free, which makes it less dense than seawater. Increased precipitation also contributes fresh, less-dense water to the ocean. As a result, less surface water is dense enough to sink, thereby reducing the conveyor belt’s transport of heat. The best estimate is that the strength of this circulation will decrease 25 to 30 percent in this century, leading to a reduction in heat transfer to the North Atlantic. It is considered very unlikely that this circulation would collapse entirely during the next 100 years or so, though it cannot be ruled out. While very unlikely, the potential consequences of such an abrupt event would be severe. Impacts would likely include sea-level rise around the North Atlantic of up to 2.5 feet (in addition to the rise expected from thermal expansion and melting glaciers and ice sheets), changes in atmospheric circulation conditions that influence hurricane activity, a southward shift of tropical rainfall belts with resulting agricultural impacts, and disruptions to marine ecosystems. While it would be comforting to sit back and bask in the revealed glory of 20-year-old predictions come true, we are instead left with a deep and abiding sense of foreboding that colors everything we say and do now. Finding ourselves trapped in a burning building, we have to search out and consider any potential escape routes, and quickly. We can ignore the deniers, because they are only impediments to us now. Our survival, and that of the experiment of life on a blue water world, depends on our ability to keep clarity and resolve as all around us the flames and smoke are rising. That is the only reason we keep reading through all this doomer porn, toss in our sleep, get grey hair, and curse the darkness. And yet… the line we have adhered to for the past 29 years, although it has yet to come into general discussion, is that what is required is a change of culture, change of lifestyle, change of consciousness and change of direction. Growth is so 20th century now. We can forget that. Just don’t forget that what we need to do to extricate ourselves is also going to make our lives vastly better, and still better for our children, although, for them, it will be quite a bit warmer for a while.
SOURCE: Elli Ward (email@example.com)
SUBHEAD: Meeting Thursday June 25 at Lihue Civic Center.
Image above: Stirling Solar-Thermal Generators in southwestern United States could work in Hawaii. From(http://www.sprol.com/2005/10/stirlingsandia)
Apollo Kauai Meeting. Representative Mina Morita, Chair of the Energy and Environmental Committee, will be informing us about relevant legislative actions. " We finally have the will to acheive energy independence" says Morita.
Your presence and input will be greatly appreciated. Please spread the word to friends, co-members, and people interested in seeking environmentally responsible solutions to our unsustainable practices.
Lihue Civic Center (County Office Building), Moikeha Rm.
Thursday, June 26th at 6:00pm
Apollo Kauai http://apollokauai.org
SUBHEAD: Transition communities gear up for society's collapse with a shovel and a smile. By Alastair Bland on 17 June 2009 in The North Bay Bohemian http://www.bohemian.com/bohemian/06.17.09/feature-0924.html Image above: Illustration of a post oil future.From http://yesterdaysfuture.net/blog/?p=178 Three years ago, David Fridley purchased two and a half acres of land in rural Sonoma County. He planted drought-resistant blue Zuni corn, fruit trees and basic vegetables while leaving a full acre of extant forest for firewood collection. Today, Fridley and several friends and family subsist almost entirely off this small plot of land, with the surplus going to public charity. But Fridley is hardly a homegrown hippie who spends his leisure time gardening. He spent 12 years consulting for the oil industry in Asia. He is now a staff scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and a fellow of the Post Carbon Institute in Sebastopol, where members discuss the problems inherent to fossil-fuel dependency.
Fridley has his doubts about renewable energies, and he has grave doubts about the future of crude oil. In fact, he believes to a certainty that society is literally running out of gas and that, perhaps within years, the trucks will stop rolling into Safeway and the only reliable food available will be that grown in our backyards. Fridley, like a few other thinkers, activists and pessimists, could talk all night about "peak oil." This catch phrase describes a scenario, perhaps already unfurling, in which the easy days of oil-based society are over, a scenario in which global oil production has peaked and in which every barrel of crude oil drawn from the earth from that point forth is more difficult to extract than the barrel before it. According to peak oil theory, the time is approaching when the effort and cost of extraction will no longer be worth the oil itself, leaving us without the fuel to power our transportation, factories, farms, society and the very essence of our oil-dependent lives. Fridley believes the change will be very unpleasant for many people. "If you are a typical American and have expectations of increasing income, cheap food, nondiscretionary spending, leisure time and vacations in Hawaii, then the change we expect soon could be what you would consider 'doom,'" he says soberly, "because your life is going to fall apart." The Great Reskilling But is it the end of the world? Fridley and other supporters of the Transition movement don't believe it is. First sparked in 2007 in Totnes, England, Transition was launched when one Rob Hopkins recognized that modern Western society cannot continue at its current pace of life as fast access to oil begins to dwindle. Global warming and economic meltdown are the two other principle drivers of the Transition movement, but in an ideal "Transition Town," society would be ready for such changes. With limited gas-powered transport or oil-based products, a Transition community's citizens would live within cycling distance of one another in a township built upon complete self-sufficiency, with extremely localized infrastructure for agriculture, clothes making, metal working and the other basics of life which the Western world largely abandoned to factories in the late 1800s, when oil power turned life into a relatively leisurely vacation from reality. Now, Transitionists say, it's time to get back to work—and quick. Localized efforts have sprouted from the ground up in Santa Cruz, Cotati, Sebastopol, San Francisco and many other towns worldwide, where residents and neighbors are putting their heads together and collaborating on ways to relocalize themselves, bolster self-sufficiency and build the resilience that communities will need to absorb the shock of peak oil. Scott McKeown is among several initiators of Transition Sebastopol. A 53-year-old event coordinator by vocation, McKeown believes that as early as 2012 the global economy could founder. "That's when it's really going to hit the fan," he says. "We're not there yet, but we will be very soon." McKeown founded Peak Oil Sebastopol in late 2007 as a public discussion forum for what was then becoming a popular topic of relevance among social reformers. Yet Peak Oil Sebastopol eventually proved a bit too heavy on the talking for McKeown. "I wanted to shift from a discussion group to an action-based effort," he explains. "Transition attracted me as a way in which we could actually begin doing something." Transition Sebastopol was born in 2008 as the ninth Transition Town in the United States. Boulder was the first; Sandpoint, Idaho, the second. Today, 27 Transition Towns, also called Initiatives, have assumed life across the nation, and what began as an idea has become a concrete reality in which people are taking action. In particular, McKeown has seen tremendous community interest in the growing of food. Currently, the average parcel of food comes from untold distances away. The common estimate is 1,500 miles, though some experts assure that most food travels much farther. Such external dependence will no longer be feasible after peak oil, and communities must be capable of producing all their own goods in fields, orchards and gardens within miles. In and around Totnes, for example, community nut trees have been planted as a sure source of protein and calories in an uncertain future. In outlying regions of the Bay Area, backyard food production is already an after-work hobby for thousands, and interest in edible gardens appears to be growing fast. At Harmony Farm Supply in Sebastopol, demand for edible plant seeds, starters and saplings has never been greater, according to nursery manager Kirsten Tripplett. She estimates that sales of lettuce, kale and tomato seedlings has jumped by 25 percent this year, with a particularly large portion of sales going to customers who have never before gardened. Fruit and nut saplings, too, sold out weeks ahead of schedule this winter. "My reading is that this is the silver lining to the economy going south," she says. McKeown, though, calls food production "the entry-level thing to do" among Transitionists; other essential actions must be taken for a Transition Town to cushion itself against the drastic changes predicted in post-oil society. A viable Transition Town must be capable of producing its own materials, tools and other products that society now imports from half the globe away. With machines and factories no longer readily available, almost every citizen would need to participate at some level in production of food, energy and goods. To address this, Transition founder Hopkins details a 12-part process in The Transition Handbook, which has sold more than 10,000 copies nationwide. In its pages he describes, among other essentials, "the Great Reskilling," an effort in which communities must retrain men and women in such trades and artistries as seed-saving and food-growing, pickling vegetables, building simple structures, installing rain catchment systems, building composting toilets, and many other fundamental life skills which most of us simply know nothing about. Crude Scenario Yet it was only a little over a century ago that society first got swept up on the thrilling wave of oil-age progress. In the 1850s, societies functioned largely as local entities, without deep reliance on global economies or crude oil. Many, if not most, Americans lived on or near farms. We knew how to labor with our hands and feed ourselves. In short, people worked—and our elders can just about remember that era. In fact, The Transition Handbook includes a chapter titled "Honoring the Elders," urging Transitionists to dredge from old-timers information and anecdotes from the days before cheap oil. McKeown is currently at work on such a project for Transition Sebastopol, seeking out locals in their 80s and 90s who were young adults during or before the Great Depression. "It would do us good to talk with these people who remember what it was like to live in a pre-hyperconsumption era," he says. Michael Levy, a private music teacher who helped found Transition Santa Cruz last summer, agrees that scaling back on individual consumption is among the most fundamental of actions in the Transition movement.
"Most of us don't know how to grow food or preserve food so that we can have things in the winter that grow in the summer. We also don't know how to make basic things, like structures and buildings. Even simple tasks like repairing clothes, we just don't even bother anymore. We've become a throwaway society." With peak oil and economic ruin looming over us like teetering skyscrapers, Transitionists argue that we can no longer afford such wastefulness. For a while, perhaps even a few more years, this matter may remain one of individual choice and lifestyle, but eventually prices will rise, imported products will begin dwindling from shelves, and we will have no choice but to move into a new era. Fridley says too many Americans believe in solutions to all problems, but peak oil is a terrible anomaly among crises, he explains, because there is no solution. Fridley doesn't even see any hope in solar, wind, water and other renewable energy sources. Even nuclear power creates only electricity, while crude oil is the basis for thousands of synthetic products. "There is nothing that can replace oil and allow us to maintain life at the pace we've been living," he says. "Crude oil is hundreds of millions of years of stored sunlight, and we're using it all up in a few generations. It's like living off of a savings account, whereas solar energy is like working and living off your daily wages." The sheer cost-efficiency of oil eclipses all supposed alternatives. Removed from the ground and burned, oil makes things move almost miraculously. A tank of gasoline in a sedan holds enough energy to equal approximately five years of one person's rigorous manual labor. Historically, too, oil has been very easy to get since the world's first well was drilled in Pennsylvania in 1859; for each barrel's worth of energy invested in the process of accessing crude oil, 30 barrels are produced, says Fridley. By contrast, ethanol is a paltry substitute; each barrel's worth of ethanol invested in ethanol production produces a mere 1.2 barrels of raw product. Other renewables offer similarly poor returns. "The thermodynamics just don't add up," Fridley says. Put another way, societies of the pre–oil age worked their butts off. They had to. Roughly 90 percent of the population toiled in jobs that produced our energy, food and water, while just 10 percent reaped the rewards, holding soft-palmed positions in politics, the arts, begging and prostitution, to name several fields. Today, by contrast, merely 5 percent of Americans work jobs that relate to producing food and energy, while 95 percent reap the rewards, many working at abstract tasks in offices. In a world suddenly without machine labor, this top-heavy imbalance is poised to capsize. Post-Peak Pleasures Asher Miller, executive director of the Post Carbon Institute, has been trying to convey the urgency of peak oil to the North Bay community for several years. Miller, a full supporter of the Transition movement, believes global peak oil occurred last summer. From here on out, we will see severe price instability of many foods and products as change comes unfurling. The age of cheap, easy energy is over. Miller likens the last 150 years to a feeding frenzy. "This kind of thing happens to any species that suddenly finds an abundant food source. Its population explodes and things go way out of balance. Oil was our food source, and we went crazy for a while." The theory of abiotic oil counters that of peak oil. The theory holds that forces within the mantle of the earth create crude oil just as fast as we burn it up. Proponents of the notion believe, then, that oil is a renewable resource and that peak oil cannot happen. Some of these same theorists have called peak oil a lie promoted by greater powers as a means of artificially hiking prices. Little to no evidence, however, supports the existence of abiotic oil. Even the peak oil theory does not claim that oil will ever run out entirely; it will only become increasingly scarce and expensive. Miller believes the things we have today may still be available in the simpler times ahead; there will just be fewer of them and they'll be more expensive. "I'm sure you'll always be able to get something if you pay for it," he says. "It just might cost you $10,000 to buy a computer." Fridley does not see peak oil as doomsday, though he predicts that there might be "die-off," just as marine algae bloom and crash periodically. In fact, Fridley views Transition as a process of world improvement. The environment around us has been falling apart for decades due to our excessive lifestyles, he notes. In our oceans and wildlands, doomsday has already arrived with deforestation, water pollution, fisheries collapse, extinction and other plagues. Peak oil presents an urgent cause to rethink and reshape our lives and the world for the better, he says. Jennifer Gray, who founded Transition United States in Sebastopol two years ago, also believes peak oil could open doors to happiness that most Americans never knew were there. A native of the United Kingdom, Gray moved to Mill Valley in 2007 after helping to get Transition rolling in Totnes. She believes that redefinition of wealth is one of the essentials to the Transition movement. "We need to make that paradigm shift that having less may actually mean that you have much more, and in this country it's hard to convince people of that." Shit Has Hit But the worst-case predictions of post-oil society come from Santa Rosa attorney Matt Savinar, a controversial figure in peak oil premonitions. His website, Peak Oil: Life After the Oil Crash (www.lifeaftertheoilcrash.net), offers an informational survivor's guide for what he is certain is an impending disaster. While other peak oil thinkers frequently talk about "when" the shit hits the fan, Savinar says it already has. "The shit is hitting the fan now," he says unequivocally. "It's just happening in slow motion, and it's not hitting equally in all places." Asked what individuals can do to ease their way into life after the oil crash, the 30-year-old advises people to "learn basic camping skills." Wilderness survival tactics will also be handy in the world that's dawning. He urges Americans to relocate geographically to within miles of their families, as social support networks will be crucial in the coming age. For himself, Savinar hopes to marry into a large family. While Transitionists see the coming change as one of potential enrichment—community gardens, cycling, skilled artisans at every corner—Savinar's outlook is a bleak and shadowy contrast. He warns that in the foreseeable future the world will experience "staggering horror." While life in remembered times has been about "the pursuit of victory and money," life in the near future, he predicts, "will be about tragedy. We've been able to externalize this reality to the future and to other places only because we had access to this incredibly dense source of energy," he says. No longer. Savinar can't say when, but he believes that a time will come well within just one generation when even supermarkets must close their doors. Then, unless the goal of Transition—to build resilience into communities—takes effect soon, chaos could only ensue in a culture so spoiled by excess and mass consumption as ours. In the North Bay, says the Post Carbon Institute's Miller, residents have the open space, the soil, the sun, the water and the resources to hit the ground running when peak oil arrives. What the community doesn't have, he says, is a full collective understanding of how much people need to cut back on individual consumption and how quickly they need to do it. Savinar says too many people's happiness depends dearly on external items and flimsy concepts of wealth. These people must reprioritize their value systems now and quit "waddling through Wal-Mart." They must wean themselves from the comforts of supermarkets, leisure time and television. They—we—must forfeit luxuries; instead of feasting on steak, one may have to give thanks to a plate of beans and rice. Instead of vacations to Europe, we might have to settle for camping weekends at Salt Point State Park. Because, if the predictions are true, we will not always have Paris. Forever Growth? Fridley has seen peak oil coming for years. From his small Sonoma farm, he may be prepared to feed himself, but our world's dependence on oil goes far beyond food production. Even electric machines need crude oil byproduct. "Every single machine in the nation runs on lubrication," Fridley says. "If that lube isn't there, then what?" In theory, the world freezes up. A person may first digest this concept as an abstract, distant nebula, like climate change, extinctions, water pollution and other newspaper headlines. However, when the reality of peak oil hits—when it hits a person so that his or her personal life is deeply affected—it hits hard. "It's hard to internalize," says Miller, who has seen many people react in many ways to being told that the world in which they have grown so comfortable is about to end. "One tendency is for people to believe that there is a solution, that technology will fix it or that the powers that be will fix it." But technology and the powers that be run on oil. Santa Rosa author Richard Heinberg, a senior fellow with the Post Carbon Institute, described peak oil in his much lauded 2003 book aptly titled "The Party's Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies", and indeed, most experts on the matter now agree that the party is over. Transitionists are readying for the new era with open arms while struggling to convince others of the severity of the matter. In Santa Cruz, several city figures, including councilman Don Lane and the city's climate action coordinator Ross Clark, have stepped up and proven themselves allies of the Transition movement, attending multiple community meetings. San Francisco, too, has acknowledged peak oil, and a city-appointed task force recently submitted to the supervisors a 120-page report detailing the city's vulnerabilities to the crisis. Savinar has been trying for years to invite government participation in peak oil preparation. In 2005, he sent a letter of warning to each member of the Santa Rosa City Council, advising that they begin aggressively readying the community for peak oil and its aftermath. The letter was articulate and "lawyerly," he says, and included a copy of Heinberg's Party's Over in each package, yet not one councilperson responded. "And I guarantee that if I was a car manufacturer and I scribbled out a letter with crayons, they would have answered me," he says with a short laugh. Fridley also believes assistance will not come from the world's leaders. Transition can only be a grass-roots revolution. He points out that Secretary of Energy Steven Chu was previously the director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, where Fridley has done much of his thinking about peak oil and Transition. "[Chu] was my boss," Fridley says. "He knows all about peak oil, but he can't talk about it. If the government announced that peak oil was threatening our economy, Wall Street would crash. He just can't say anything about it." Thus, world leaders would like to have the populace believe that this oil-age feeding frenzy will continue forever, that the economy will continue to expand and grow. At the 2008 G-8 Summit on the Japanese island of Hokkaido, for example, our leaders declared a resolution to resume economic growth. Fridley says such a goal is impossible, yet no one wants to face the fact. "Ask scientists if something can grow forever exponentially, and they'll say, 'No.' Then ask how our economy can keep on growing, and they'll say, 'Well, it has to.'" Elsewhere, many politicians and leaders have been reluctant to address peak oil, and full governmental leadership may never arrive. Levy believes that politicians locally and nationally will be even more reluctant to discuss peak oil than they've been to address climate change. "Transition is probably going to grow from the ground up before the government comes onboard," he predicts.
SUBHEAD: Master Storyteller Randy Wichman will present at at Limahuli Garden. By Jon Letman on 19 June 2009, National Tropical Botanical Gardens - http://www.ntbg.org/sharing/news.php?id=566 image above: Illustration provided by NTBG WHO: Randy Wichman, President of the Kauai Historical Society. WHERE: Limahuli Garden and Preserve in Haena, located on the Kūhio Highway approximately ¼ -mile before Ke‘e Beach. WHEN: Friday July 3rd, 7:30 to 9:00pm WHAT: Second event in an outdoor series offers a very special opportunity to learn about Kaua‘i’s cultural history from contemporary keepers of these arts while experiencing the majesty and mana of Limahuli Garden in the moonlight. Advance sales are available immediately with proceeds benefiting Limahuli Garden and Preserve. Transmission of oral histories through storytelling, music, and dance are among some of the most highly esteemed Hawaiian arts and there may be no finer place on Kaua‘i to enjoy a master storyteller share historical tales of Hā‘ena, including the epic of Pele and Hi‘iaka. Mr. Wichman is the president of the Kaua‘i Historical Society and a native Hawaiian. The cost for this summer’s eve event is $35 when purchased by July 2 or $40 on the day of the event, with a $5 discount for Garden members. There is no charge for children under 13 accompanied by an adult. Attendees are asked to bring a beach chair, mat, and at least one flashlight per family. Parking is very limited and carpooling is strongly encouraged and appreciated. SPONSORED BY: National Tropical Botanical Gardens (NTBG), Limahuli Garden and Preserve CONTACT: Call Limahuli Garden’s Visitor Center at 826-1053 to reserve your place and pay by credit card, or stop by the Center. Limahuli Garden is open Tuesday - Saturday, 9:30 a.m. - 4 p.m. Visit www.limahuli.ntbg.org on the Web to learn more about these and other activities and offerings at Limahuli Garden.
SUBHEAD: We have to push the government to do the right thing.
By Jan Lundberg and Jeff Garritsen on 18 June 2009 in Culture Change http://www.culturechange.org/cms/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=460&Itemid=1 Image above: Satirical book-cover graphic of Obama as boxer. Artist unknown. From http://www.bartcop.com/2307.htm Time to Take the Gloves off with Obama The clock is ticking, and we are not building life boats. As the population's options close and a harder ecological and socioeconomic fall is assured more each day, Barack Obama is leading the thumb twiddlers, albeit with eloquence and charm. What passes for policy debate today seldom reckons with the life and death issues of climate extinction, petrocollapse, and the social chaos ahead. Obama is dealing with a heck of a lot, granted. This alone is supposed to quiet the people quite a bit, and despite the Depression, ecocide and unending war, it has worked rather well. With his likability and intelligence – after the "Führer Bushler" -- Obama is thus the perfect man for our times if you're basically clinging to the status quo. Take health care (more accurately, medical care). It is certainly a burning issue, what with increasing suffering across the board both physiologically and financially. One in six dollars goes to the attempt to buy health through treatments. But throwing a trillion dollars at disease and pain will do nothing that lasts if we still live in a toxic environment and if diet remains one of processed foods grown in depleted soils. This illustrates that Obama and the rest of the politicians, medical industry and the corporate world are operating within a hopeless cultural straight-jacket. This milieu is enforced through every speech, commercial, and policy. So, whether we are willing to cut Obama generous slack or not, he is unable to be effective as the general crisis grows. It is in areas where Obama can be effective that popular agitation can and must take place. So far, this is constrained by the fact that Obama has a nice smile and is the first black man to take office as President and Commander In Chief. I say “Wow!” too. But is the Obama we hope exists really the man behind the curtain? Without much critical thinking, while Der Bushler is still in our memory, Obama gets a free pass –- aided by the nation's reluctance to hit the streets en masse as happens in Iran, France, Mexico and elsewhere. The consensus among “progressives” seems to be “Obama's a nice guy, and he gets it, but he's not allowed to do much.” However, he has made many a presidential decision for the worse on many issues. Even as president-elect he urged the White House to cut loose the $700 billion bail-out for the financial sector. This was a blank check, we all found out, but it was an “honest gesture” of faith in the capitalist system –- synonymous with the good ol' Red, White and Blue. There is the true problem. As people romanticize the U.S. and “Mr. President” there can be no meaningful change. So the Commander In Chief must do as his masters dictate and as he pleases: to keep the profitable war machine well oiled, and keep Detroit cranking out death machines in the name of jobs. One consequence of a "middle" position is serious disappointment: One of our contributing editors, after reading a draft of this essay, pointed out, "There is a name for letting all the war criminals/bank embezzlers/torturers go without prosecution. It is called collusion."
The disappointments keep adding up. With today's news on the Obama administration's letting down gay federal couples for health care, a whole constituency has been alienated. Like all politicians, there are two sides to Barack Obama. He knows that driving cars is a lifestyle to question, as he said last December. But in his slick style this passes for action, while his pen-strokes squander the nation's waning ability to convert industrial capacity to humane tools of sustainability. The longer this is delayed, in hopes of resumed car sales on the former scale, the less chance there is of any smoothness to a post-peak oil transition. The “American People” have ceased to be productive. Rather, they have been turned into consumers whose buying power has floated an economy of tacky expansion. As we have seen, this came from “funny money” from ballooning debt and fleeting “home equity.” These mechanisms have nothing to do with forging a community with self-reliance. But that is our task. Obama may agree with that, on some emotional level, but he cannot buck the corporate elite. The same old financial establishment surrounds him, Israel lobby to boot. He can have a hip First Lady who plants a “Victory Garden,” but unless action across the board deals with food security and the need to get off fossil fuels now, Obama serves to stall action for survival as he defends the status quo of exploitation both human and of nature.
When success is defined as one's using the least possible amount of energy -– as hoped for by Republican Congressman Roscoe Bartlett –- our culture is based on the false security of materialism and destruction for profit. What Obama has by now figured out is, we have a Waste Economy. Why anyone wants to see the inequitable Waste Economy resume growth is exactly why anyone sells out future generations for short-term comfort. Obama's Mistakes/Crimes Mountain-top removal for coal mining is implicit in “clean coal” and the use of the electric grid. Obama fully knows this, but has gone along with making much of Appalachia a national sacrifice zone. As with nuclear, coal is for unneeded power that has to date been unquestioned. Obama is schizoid and hypocritical on the subject of raising healthy, educated children when he says turning off the TV is necessary, yet he feels he must bomb Afghani and Pakistani children in “collateral damage.”
The banksters and financial fraudsters, along with the non-federal private Federal Reserve, are Obama's most powerful constituency. Ironically, as they help bring down the financial system and the economy, they are the unwitting heroes of collapse. But betrayal is betrayal: “What in gods' name are you doing listening to Geithner and Summers?” The real contest is between the corporado elite and the common people. The corporados know their end is in sight, so they're trying to take all they can before money becomes paper "rubbish," as Dmitry Orlov predicts.
Is an honest mistake being made? Actually, history is a guide. In 1931 President Hoover bailed out the banks in an attempt to unfreeze the credit markets. It didn't work then and it won't work now.
Mr. President: “What in the hell do you think you will accomplish by sending troops to Afghanistan? Don't you know empires go to Afghanistan to die?!” If you're for justice and jobs, GM should be forced as part of the bankruptcy deal to rebuild the rail trolley systems they destroyed in conspiracy with Standard Oil of California, Phillips Petroleum, Firestone Tire and Mac Truck in the 1940s and '50s. The car will not be a part of our future -- peak oil we see to that. So why try to prop up the car infrastructure and its related oil-dependent industries? Economic expansion without cheap energy and a compromised ecosystem is a dead end. What is Obama's vision for this country? Where's the change? If we take off our rose colored glasses we see Obama is the perfect defender of the system, so he cannot be our friend. He is basically a kinder and gentler George Bush. And would Hillary Clinton really have been a less progressive president than Obama? I think we've found out: we bought the same model, just a different color and gender. As Obama-worship peters out and the leftover campaign signs finally come down, we have to push the government to do the right thing – to the extent possible. Yet, as Thomas Jefferson spelled out, the power is not vested in Obama, but in ourselves. Da Prez Man has himself, as a former community organizer, admitted same.