By Juan Wilson on 25 February 2010 for Island Breath -
Image above: Still frame from video below. No, it's a wave not a tsunami. Yes, that's a surfer.
I don't usually post videos for the sake of entertainment unless it is satire. This clip caught my eye and breath. I cannot imagine getting onto such a ride voluntarily, but there are those that do. Once you start there is no getting off. Events just take you along and your heroic, yet incremental, efforts to shape the course ahead relies on skill, luck and experience. I guess we are all in that boat when it comes to where the Peak Oil wave is taking us. As my old friend Tom Teitge (once of Hanapepe Town) was fond of saying; "Surf all Things!"
Video above: "Stuck in Tsunami" video of surfer on monster wave. From (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AlPqL7IUT6M)
“See, the world we come from -- there’s no green there -- they killed their Mother.”At another point, Colonel Quaritch, the homicidal Marine commander played with gusto by Stephen Lang, refers to Scully’s previous service with the First Marine Reconnaissance unit on Earth, highlighting his three combat tours in Venezuela. “That was some mean bush,” he says. Then, speaking of his own combat record, Quaritch alludes to fierce fighting in Nigeria. For anyone familiar with the present competition for global energy resources, Venezuela and Nigeria stand out as major oil producers with a history of civil strife. 2144 in 3-D Imagine them, then, on a future, energy-starved planet. In fact, I can easily picture such a future, so let me take one more step and offer myself to Cameron as a technical consultant on his prequel. Admittedly, I wouldn’t be the person to write the film’s plot or script -- I know my limits -- but when it comes to charting future resource wars, I think I could be useful. Drawing on Cameron’s clues in Avatar and my own books, including Resource Wars, Blood and Oil, and Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet, let me just sketch out the prequel scenario I envision: It’s the torrid summer of 2144, just a decade before Avatar begins. (That movie takes place in summer 2154, after a flight from Earth that, we’re told, involves six continuous years of sleep, which helps us backdate Jake Scully’s Venezuelan combat tours.) As it has been for decades, the world is at war, with competing power blocs fighting bitterly over a diminishing pool of vital resources. Three great power centers dominate the global resource struggle, all located in the northern latitudes where the climate still remains tolerable and the land still receives sufficient rainfall to support agriculture. • The first of these, in whose legions both Scully and Quaritch fight, is the North American Federation, founded after the United States, facing desertification in its southern half, invaded and absorbed Canada. • The second, Greater China, incorporating northern China, the Korean peninsula, and eastern Siberia (seized from Russia in a series of wars), dominates what’s left of Asia. • The third, the North European Alliance, encompassing Germany, Russia (west of the Urals), and Scandinavia, relies heavily on Arctic resources. As in the world portrayed by George Orwell in 1984, these powers continually jockey for dominance in shifting alliances, while their armies face one another in the torrid, still relatively resource-rich parts of the planet. In this neo-Orwellian world, warfare and the constant pressure of resource competition are the only constants. Thanks to global warming, the planet’s tropical and subtropical regions, including large parts of Africa, the Mediterranean basin, the Middle East, and South and Southeast Asia, as well as Mexico and the American Southwest, have become virtually uninhabitable. Many island nations and coastal areas, including much of Florida, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and the Philippines, lie under water. Critical raw materials like oil, coal, natural gas, uranium, copper, and cobalt are perennially scarce. Starvation is a constant fear for those not affluent enough to pay for increasingly expensive genetically-modified crops and meat produced on corporate farms with multiple chemical inputs. Large-scale industrial civilization still persists, but many once-industrialized areas have been abandoned, and what factories and transport systems remain are constantly constrained by limited energy supplies and the lack of steady flows of vital resources. Oil is particularly hard to come by, and so, in all three power blocs, its use is largely restricted to the military, security forces, emergency services, the largest of corporations, and the very rich. (If you want to get a sense of such a world, imagine Mel Gibson’s 1979 movie Road Warrior on steroids.) Other sources of energy, including natural gas and uranium, are also in increasingly scant supply. Renewable sources, including wind and solar power, help to make up some, but not enough, of the difference, while a shortage of critical minerals -- copper, cobalt, tin, manganese, titanium -- limits the scale of many industrial undertakings. For ordinary people -- and only somewhat less so for the elites of the planet’s heavily militarized states -- survival is a constant struggle. Outside of the industrialized power centers, life involves a daily search for food, water, and energy of any sort, as well as whatever precious goods (gems, weapons, bits of technology) might be traded to get those basics. For the big corporations and their government sponsors, as they send the Scullys and Quadritches to the distant corners of the planet to enforce their will, the struggle is no less fierce for control of the world’s few remaining deposits of oil, natural gas, coal, copper, and uranium. In 2144, only five areas of the world still possess any significant reserves of oil and natural gas: Russia (and contiguous areas of the former Soviet Union), the Persian Gulf, West Africa (including Nigeria), the Orinoco basin of Venezuela, and the now long ice-free Arctic. Even these areas have been substantially depleted, giving the remaining deposits staggering value to whichever country or company controls them. If these are not quite as valuable as “unobtanium,” the rare metal being plundered from Pandora and brought back to Earth, they are close enough to be thought of as “barely-obtanium.” Life (and Death) on a Depleted Planet For the record, I’m being an optimist here for the sake of Avatar: Earth’s Last Stand. Based on my own assessment of planetary energy resources, I doubt that any oil or natural gas worth drilling for will remain in 2144. But for narrative purposes, if such deposits are to be found anywhere almost a century and a half from now, the likely candidates are: the Persian Gulf area because it still possesses the world’s largest combined reserves of oil and natural gas, and so probably will be the last to run out; Russia, Africa, and the Orinoco basin because they have to date been spared intensive exploitation by the major Western firms, and so still retain substantial recoverable reserves; and the Arctic, which will only become fully accessible to oil producers when global warming has melted the ice cap. Given the tripartite global power structure of 2144, Russian oil and gas reserves will have been divided between the North European Alliance, controlling western Siberia and the Caucasus, and Greater China, garrisoning eastern Siberia and Central Asia. The Arctic will be a constant source of conflict among all three blocs, with periodic fighting breaking out concerning overlapping territorial claims in the region. That leaves the Persian Gulf, West Africa, and Venezuela -- the sites of constant warfare between the Na’vi of this planet and the various expeditionary forces sent out by the three big power blocs which, often in temporary alliances of convenience, will also be fighting each other. Already, we can get a sense of what this might look like. Under its ultra-nationalist president Hugo Chávez, Venezuela has sought to distance itself from its traditional client, the United States, and bolstered its ties with Russia and China. As part of this effort, Venezuela has purchased billions of dollars worth of arms from Russia and forged a strategic energy alliance with China. Claiming evidence of a U.S. plan to invade his country, Chávez has also conducted sizeable self-defense maneuvers and strengthened the military’s control over ports and other infrastructure. Looking into the future, one can imagine a time, some decades distant, when Venezuela is a satellite of Greater China and its deposits of heavy oil -- the largest remaining on the planet -- are reserved for China’s exclusive use. Under these circumstances, it is not hard to imagine a move by the North American Federation to oust the prevailing Venezuelan regime by launching an invasion on a remote stretch of coast and striking out for the capital, Caracas. The Venezuelans, backed up by Chinese expeditionary forces, might manage to halt the invasion, but fail to dislodge the North Americans, holed up in harsh patches of the countryside. Brutal fighting might follow -- the "mean bush" mentioned by Quaritch in Avatar. Jake Scully, sent back into this gruesome contest for his third deployment, is gravely wounded and barely survives the trek back to safety. If Venezuela is still a peaceful land today, Nigeria is already conflict-ridden and certainly destined to be a major battlefield in the unending resource wars of a future planet. Possessing the largest pool of untapped oil and natural gas in Africa, it is already the site of a fierce competitive economic struggle involving the United States, China, Russia, and the European Union, all of which seek to exploit the nation’s energy riches. Nigeria’s oil and gas reserves were first developed by Royal Dutch Shell and British Petroleum (now BP) -- a legacy of the country’s past as a British colony - but now American, Chinese, and European firms have acquired drilling rights to valuable hydrocarbon deposits. Russia, too, has entered the scene, promising to help build a natural gas pipeline from the Niger Delta in southern Nigeria across the Sahara to the Mediterranean coast for eventual shipment to Europe. Disgruntled inhabitants of the Niger Delta area, where most of the country’s oil is produced and few benefits are ever seen, have taken up arms in a struggle to receive a bigger share of the nation’s oil revenues. Both the United States and China are competing to provide the Nigerian government with military aid to defeat the insurgents, hoping to strengthen their respective positions in the country’s oil fields in the process. Again, it’s not much of a stretch to imagine a scenario in which, 134 years from now (or a lot sooner), Nigeria has fallen under the sway of Greater China or the North American Federation and Colonel Quaritch and his cohort are carrying out combat operations in the Delta’s jungle regions, a setting not so unlike Pandora’s, with obvious Cameron-esque possibilities. Where else might Scully, Quaritch, and their buddies be sent to fight? As a start, don’t assume that the current fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan will simply end or that the United States will ever willingly withdraw its forces from a whole string of bases in the Persian Gulf area. As long as the United States obtains part of its oil from the region -- and the North American Federation might still be fighting to do so in 2144 -- U.S. forces are likely to remain. Given the historic enmities that divide the region and a widespread antipathy to the U.S. presence, don’t be surprised if North American Federation forces are still in battle there deep into the twenty-second century. Finally, the warming Arctic, not currently on the global conflict map, could also experience warfare as it attracts major oil and gas drilling operations. The region also houses some of the world’s last remaining indigenous communities that still practice a traditional way of life, and which will undoubtedly face the sort of habitat-destroying invasions pictured in Avatar. Still, as Cameron imagined, despite constant warfare, the North American Federation (like the other major power centers) will, by 2144, still find itself in desperate need of vital materials, no longer easily available on this planet. Economic conditions, even for privileged elites, will by then be deteriorating rapidly. It is in this context that the giant mining corporations might join in a fabulously expensive bid to use space travel to replenish the planet’s resources, voyaging to distant Pandora to extract its precious supply of unobtanium, a miraculous new source of energy. It’s not that hard to imagine just such a future world if we continue on our present course toward ever greater resource consumption, increased carbon emissions, and the militarization of resource dependency. Can you doubt that the movie Cameron and I would make, Avatar: Earth’s Last Stand, would be both gripping and spectacular? It would be an amazing, if tension-producing place to visit in 3-D. Here’s the only catch: you wouldn’t want to live there. .
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has reviewed the 9 volume long Draft Environmental Impact statement of the Guam / CNMI military buildup. Their assessment is that the DEIS is "Environmentally Unsatisfactory". The USEPA gave the DEIS an EU-3 rating. This is the absolute worst rating that the USEPA could have given to the DEIS.
Here's some of their reasons for this rating. For the EU rating the USEPA cites the lack of a specific plan to address the wastewater treatment and water supply needs of the construction workers and induced population growth. The USEPA says this may result in "significant adverse public health impacts."
The second reason is that the "project will result in unacceptable impacts to 71 acres of high quality coral reef ecosystem in Apra harbor."
Then there are the reasons for the 3 rating. The category 3 rating is also the worst rating that they can give it means that the DEIS is inadequate. The first reason for this is that the DEIS offers no specific workable plan for addressing the enormous increase in Guam's population. Finally, the methodology used in the DEIS for evaluating the full extent of impacts to coral reef habitat is not adequate. That is the DEIS does not present an adequate plan for mitigating the unavoidable loss of coral reef habitat.
The EPA also listed several primary concerns. First that the DEIS inappropiately excludes the impacts of construction workers and induced population growth. Secondly the military realignment to Guam will result in an immediate island-wide shortfall in water supply. This will result in low water pressure which has a direct result on public health. It could lead to increased exposure to water borne disease from sewage stormwater infiltration into drinking water and low water pressure for fire fighting. It could also result in saltwater intrusion into Guam's acquifer. Then there is the problems of an already inudated wastewater system. The USEPA says the miltary buildup will result in an increase in raw sewage spills. This means people will be exposed to raw sewage in their drinking water supply, ocean recreation, and shellfish consumption. Finally DOD's inadequate assessment of the dredging of coral in Apra harbor could lead the USEPA to find them in violation of the Clean Water Act.
Furthermore the USEPA states that "These impacts are of sufficient magnitude that EPA believes the action should not proceed as proposed."
CCU Chairman Simon Sanchez has read some of the USEPA's comments and he says they mirror most of what GWA has been saying all along. Sanchez will be meeting with the USEPA and DOD on the second week of March.
Meanwhile the USEPA says that if they are unable to resolve their concerns they may forward the matter to the Council on Environmental Quality.Video above: Report on EPA review on Guam military DEIS From (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I7m9UYIVx4I) See also: Ea O Ka Aina: Guam as modern Bikini Atoll 12/25/09 .
"Prescription for the Planet" was written by Tom Blees and published in 2008. It was recommended to me, with a strong sense of urgency, by a couple friends. It is written in a very compelling style, which is too bad because it suckers people into the kind of wishful thinking for which we’ve become infamous in this country.
Indeed, "Prescription for the Planet" promises to save the planet. But instead, it develops a prescription for furthering the industrial economy and therefore killing the planet. Saving? Killing? Apparently some people think these words are synonymous.
Ultimately, Blees’ plan boils down to two “solutions,” both of them extremely suspect. First, he claims we can we can ramp up production of renewable energy systems and also fourth-generation nuclear reactors to keep the power on. Indeed, Blees claims our lives depend on electricity. As such, he dismisses the first two million years of the human experience. If our lives depend on electricity, it’s because we’ve abandoned a viable, durable set of living arrangements in exchange for endless opportunities to destroy the living planet. Second, Blees promotes the notion that boron-powered automobiles will keep us on the highways. And he thinks that’d be a good thing. After all, boron seems to be essentially limitless on this world. Just as crude oil seemed, not so long ago.
First, let’s consider and dismiss Blees’ electrical option. Figures on energy supply and efficiency are readily available for renewable systems, so it is relatively simple to evaluate Blees’ map to determine whether “alternative” energy sources can fill the void at the scale of a world with nearly seven billion people.
They can’t. And it’s not even close. I don’t know a single energy-literate individual who thinks we can replace fossil fuels with alternatives by 2030. Most people who write about energy issues have concluded we’ll be firmly in the post-industrial Stone Age well before 2030. I’ll not run the numbers here because I’ve run them many times already, and so have a lot of people a lot smarter than me. But I’ll start by picking a few nits, then I’ll move on to the big-picture moral issues we try so hard to avoid in our national conversations.
And, I’ve written about one kajillion times, that all electrical power is derived from oil, even nuclear power. We use plenty of oil to transport nuclear materials (even the stuff Blees discusses). And also for maintaining the grid. And then there’s the massive mountain of concrete needed to build cooling towers for nuclear power plants. As a result, nuclear plants become carbon neutral only after about 20 years in operation, at which point we start shutting them down for safety reasons.
And what about those cars? Building a planet’s worth of boron-powered cars will require a lot of oil. My Prius uses less energy than the cars Blees writes about, but it still requires more energy to construct than a Hummer. I seriously doubt we have enough oil in the world to make enough cars to replace the U.S. fleet, much less get a billion Chinese cars on the road. And then there’s the issue of financing, in a world where credit is drying up faster than Lake Mead. Who will be able to buy a $40,000 car with cash?
If all goes according to Blees’ plan, the first fourth-generation nuclear power plant will be producing electricity in 2015. I strongly suspect, and hope, that we’ll be in the new Dark Age by then. This Dark Age will cause much suffering and death among industrial humans. And I think it’s our only chance to save the living planet, and our own species.
Further along Blees’ road to ruin, by 2020 plasma energy will fulfill 5% of our energy “needs” and boron-powered cars will be filling the roads. I cannot imagine a scenario in which we will avoid landing in the post-industrial Stone Age by then.
And even further along the route of Blees’ nuclear wet dreams, we’ll have all the nuke plants we need to satisfy the world’s demand for electricity by 2050. If we come even remotely close to that goal, there will be no humans on the planet to use the electricity. The latest (ultra-conservative) projections indicate extinction of our species by mid-century.
And that’s just the small stuff. The moral issues are much more daunting.
The further we go into ecological overshoot, the worse the outcome will be for every species on the planet, including our own. Maintaining the ability to produce more cars, and more babies, is a prescription for the planet, all right: a prescription for disaster. There are limits to growth. I strongly suspect they’re driven, in this country, by the price of oil. If not, rarity of other materials will force our hand.
Hopefully, our hand will be forced in time to prevent our extinction. It won’t happen, though, if we return to the American lifestyle of happy motoring. We certainly do not need to export car culture, and its many attendant consequence, to other nations.
Meanwhile, against Blees’ backdrop of fourth-generation nuclear ambitions, Barack Obama is pushing for an older version of nuclear dreams. He’s committing serious bling to build nuclear reactors in all the wrong places, ignoring the fact that nuclear power is the twentieth century’s most expensive technological failure. Even Time magazine knows this bet won’t pay off, that the nuclear dream is really a nightmare. Even as Obama pursues failed technology in the homeland –- while denying other countries the same option — he wants to maintain or expand our nuclear arsenal in the name of security (sic).
Fortunately, the next great economic crash is right around the corner. After the China bubble pops, the human population bubble surely will follow. It’s time to grow accustomed to chaos as an everyday event.
As usual, you can count on me for the good news associated with life in the doomosphere. Soon enough, we won’t be threatening the entire living planet with extinction via carbon dioxide emissions. Or by flooding the atmosphere with methane.
Soon enough, we won’t be spending all your hard-earned tax money on oil, much less on securing that oil at the point of a bazooka. Soon enough, Afghanistan will be a distant memory instead of a broad expanse of imperial killing fields. Soon enough, Obusha will not be able to order the massacre of civilians on a whim. Soon enough, the world’s largest companies will not be able to cause $2.2 trillion worth environmental degradation each year.
On the other hand, it’s time you started thinking about how to spend your own money, while sellers still think it has inherent value.
I know my message is not the one desired by industrial humans. We want our children to have more stuff than we had. Instead of more stuff, I want them to have more of the living planet, if only to insure their own survival (and that of our species). In contrast, Obama’s dream is the same as Ronald Reagan’s dream: economic growth at all costs, including obedience at home, oppression abroad, and the devastation of the planet and all non-Americans (with the possible exception of Israelis).
Western civilization is omnicidal. We need to stop murdering the living planet on which we depend, instead of attempting to extend the reach of western civilization. And we’re running out of time. Fortunately, the conquest of the living planet has turned into a war. And now, finally, this war has two sides. Which side are you on?
The federally funded programs, similar to the cash-for-clunkers auto rebate program last year, are intended to improve energy efficiency and stimulate the economy. Rebates differ by state and appliance.
Eight states launched programs this month, including New York, which offered $50 to $75 rebates on refrigerators, washers and freezers. On opening weekend, "There were people waiting outside every store to get started," says Doug Moore, president of appliances for Sears, which opened early to meet demand.
New York's $18.7 million program was set to expire Sunday but was extended because millions remained. "It's been a boon to consumers and retailers," says Francis Murray, CEO of the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority.
Michigan launched its program Feb. 10. It expects it'll take four months to distribute the $9 million in rebates, says Stephanie Epps, appliance analyst for the Michigan Bureau of Energy Systems. "The weak economy has a lot to do with it," Epps says.
Some states started programs earlier. Each state sets the rules and dates of their programs. Oregon and Kansas require applicants to be low income. Alaska has reserved rebates for people with disabilities.
To qualify for rebates, consumers must buy Energy Star appliances, which meet energy standards set by the federal government and are up to 30% more efficient than standard models, Murray says.
Many states offer rebates for refrigerators, washing machines, dishwashers and water heaters, Moore says. Some states are more restrictive. Many offer extra rebates if consumers recycle old appliances. Rebates are largely first come, first served. In Michigan, consumers can reserve rebates, then buy and apply, Epps says.
The Department of Energy, at www.energysavers.gov, provides information on each state's program.
Some say the programs' costs will outweigh the benefits. University of Delaware economics professors George Parsons and Burton Abrams estimate that for every dollar spent on the programs, they'll return 94 cents in environmental benefits.
The benefits will be muted because some consumers will buy appliances they would've bought anyway, Parsons says. Some appliances will be retired sooner than they could be. Also, some people may buy new refrigerators but keep old ones, too.
Hawaii Appliance Rebates (http://www.energysavers.gov/financial/rebates/state_HI.cfm)
The State of Hawaii will implement a mail-in rebate program to help residents replace older, inefficient appliances with ENERGY STAR® qualified appliances. The program, to be run through Hawaii’s utilities, is tentatively scheduled to begin in April 2010, and will continue until funds are depleted.
Eligible products include
Residents must include both the new appliance sales receipt and proof that the replaced products were removed and recycled.
Total Funding: $1,236,000
For more than two decades, Toronto artist Edward Burtynsky has been making large-scale photographs of scenes of humankind's staggering ability to bend the natural landscape to its will. From freight trains slicing through sheer mountain faces to rivers of molten slag in Northern Ontario to the oil-saturated beaches of the Chittagong Delta in Bangladesh, where decommissioned oil tankers are broken down for scrap, Burtynsky has captured the startling scale of humanity's viral invasion of the planet – one that has only accelerated since his work began.
Most recently, Burtynsky mounted a show of work specific to the oil industry: both its environmental ravages and its globe-spanning influence. He's currently at work on another long-term project about something more elemental: water, both its absence and its absolute necessity.
Q: In the past, your work with heavy industry hasn't necessarily been topical – railways, mining, ship-breaking all operate at an astonishing scale but aren't necessarily front-of-mind issues. With oil, and now water, you've turned to some real hot-button subjects.
A: I think, as I'm progressing through this train of thought, which started 30 years ago, the next logical step for me as an artist – this is where it was pointing to. Mining, resource extraction – those are big issues. I think when we're engaged with transforming a landscape for our own use, it always raises a lot of questions because of the scale at which we engage.
But here, with the water issue, the difference is that there's a water crisis brewing. You can talk about climate change or peak oil; either one of these can bring on seismic changes in our society. But water has the most potential for dramatic, immediate impact. For instance, when water's not there, there's not a lot of time. Within days, cities collapse, society starts to unravel.
Q: With this kind of urgency, it would be easy for the work to come across as alarmist. But you've always taken a distant perspective – standing far back and letting the images tell their own story.
A: Sure. My work has always been a journey of learning, trying to understand our world and where the thresholds are: how we're using the planet and where we're coming close to the edge.
That's been the undercurrent, without the work being didactic, but trying to hover within that zone of contemplation.
Q: In a way, with oil and now water, that allows a deeper kind of contemplation, in that these are the two things that underpin our continued existence on the planet and they're both in crisis.
A: Well, yeah. Only 3 per cent of the world is water and we're using it like drunken sailors. We don't have a system as beautiful and efficient as the hydrological system, where evaporation from the oceans can be taken into the clouds and drop fresh water onto our land.
We've taken for granted that this is an infinite cycle – we're always going to have this, refreshing our land, our lakes and rivers. We're quickly finding out that this is not the case.
Q: So is this a departure from your previous priorities, of industrial consequences, to something more elemental?
A: Not necessarily. I'm not just trying to paint this bigger picture of humans and water.
One of the chapters I'm working on is how human beings control water, because if you can do that, ultimately, that's at the core of political power and you can control society.
If you don't have water, you don't have food – it's at the base of the hierarchy – if you don't have basic needs dealt with then you have no control. You have people who are ecological refugees, immediately.
It could get very ugly as people are literally trying to land on the shores of a country where they see hope of solving their problems. And I believe we'll be seeing this sort of thing in my lifetime.
Q: So this is really the undercurrent: political power and control.
A: Absolutely. And that has made for some very short-term thinking. In the Southwestern U.S., the biggest aquifer in North America has been feeding the corn boom, and they're literally draining it dry. It would be like if you were given a lake that spanned seven states, and put a straw in it and sucked it dry. It would be like draining Lake Superior.
When you hit the bottom, that's it; there's no rain there. This has huge implications, at least initially, for the economy down there. You won't be selling retirement condos in Arizona and California if you tell them there's only 10 years of water left.
Q: So what happens?
A: That's where it gets interesting. There will be a howl that will ring across the world, especially from the wealthy, towards every political force there is. They'll be looking at anything – the Great Lakes, anything – to save this investment.
Video above: Edward Burtynsky, TED prize talk on sustainability and photography (http://vodpod.com/watch/1472761-edward-burtynsky-ted-prize-talk-on-sustainability-and-photography)
See also: Ea O Ka Aina: Photographs of Oil 11/1/09
1. In 200 words or less, why are you running to serve on the KIUC Board of Directors?
2. In 100 words or less, what experience and/or expertise will you bring to the board?
3. In 200 words or less, what would you do as a board member to help the co-op meet its renewable energy goals? (Generating at least 50 percent of its electricity renewably without burning fossil fuels by 2023).
Below are the candidates response.
Carol Bain *****
1. Two key reasons I am running to serve on the KIUC Board of Directors:
• To guide the KIUC team to reach strategic goals, including reducing our fossil fuel dependence through conservation, efficiency, renewable alternatives.
• To encourage KIUC to recognize the cooperative member as the owner and move away from the investor-owned utility mindset of viewing owners as customers. To better communicate with its members, KIUC shall consider all as partners working together on energy solutions.
KIUC has a tremendous renewable resource that can be tapped: its own membership. As second term KIUC board member, my next priority is to involve our members in the energy challenges that face Kaua‘i. Together, we are the energy solutions leaders.
In 2007, I ran for KIUC board to get access to the information that I knew board members had and succeeded. Once “inside” I became impressed with the highly qualified staff I met. I am confident KIUC has the technical expertise to meet strategic goals, but as a board member my role is to guide our cooperative toward timely completion by keeping on budget, staying informed, asking hard questions, and correct the path if we are off-point.
2. My formal education includes a M Ed. in Educational Communications and Technology and a B.S. in Public Communication and Journalism. I have taught college level communications and journalism courses, and know the importance of research and planning to achieve better outcomes. I own a media production and consulting company. As an experienced grant writer, I understand budgeting for successful projects, the importance of timelines and ongoing evaluation process.
I have three years experience as a cooperative utility board member, served as Policy Chair in 2009, and as a Credentialed Cooperative Director, completed over 15 energy-related workshops including Financial Decision Making; Director Duties & Liabilities; Understanding the Electric Business; Strategic Planning, etc.
I bring the good common sense of an educator, business and home owner and 27-year resident to ask hard questions, demand open communications with membership, and commitment to represent the best interest of all KIUC members.
3. Our electric utility and our island are in a time of transition from energy dependence to independence. During the past three years as a KIUC board member, I contributed a sense of urgency to initiate projects to reduce our dependence upon fossil fuel. Over 2 MW of solar PV systems have been installed on the island and contribute renewable electric energy into our grid every day. Renewable projects are planned, including hydro, biomass, solar thermal and solar PV, that I will continue to support as a board member.
In January 2010, along with other board members, I witnessed the installation of a solar PV project on a KIUC warehouse roof that will provide 68-kilowatt of renewable energy from sunny Port Allen. Every day the sun shines, less fossil fuel will be used.
KIUC has a tighter budget and a vision of energy leadership now, but must be guided along this path. As a board member, I will vote to prioritize conservation projects, oversee the planned implementation of “Smart Grid” technology, and alternatives to fossil fuel.
I will be there to ask the hard questions if renewable energy and conservation projects are delayed, and will be part of the board team to guide KIUC to successfully reach the 50 percent goal by 2023.
Pat Gegen ****
1. I am running for KIUC Board of Directors because I am frustrated with the current board’s actions and their inaction toward meeting the goals they set for themselves or those that have been set by the Hawai‘i Clean Energy Initiative.
After attending the board meetings for the past year I have been witness to many votes that have been contradictory in nature to the stated long-term goals and have not been in the best long-term interest for KIUC’s member owners or our beautiful island. Too many decisions are based on short-term goals that will not set the utility up well into the future. Changes are occurring now but sometimes only because they are being forced on KIUC.
We need a Board of Directors that is focused on the long-term good of the co-op and the island, a board that is looking out for its members’ best interest going forward. I feel that with my background in the energy field and my vision for a clean and renewable based energy future for Kaua‘i I can help guide our utility to be a co-op the member owners can be proud of.
2. I have been involved in the energy field for the past 13 years in a variety of positions. Currently I am a consultant on the design/build team for Honolulu Sea Water Air Conditioning which is going to use the thermal dynamics of the ocean to cool office buildings in downtown Honolulu saving approximately 70 percent of the energy currently used to air condition these buildings.
Prior to this I was involved in the oil and gas industry for over 11 years where my focus was on safety, environmental excellence and profitable production. I was responsible for setting and executing multi-million-dollar budgets and projects as well as the day-to-day operations of the 8th largest and one of the cleanest oil refineries in the United States. Prior to this energy field experience I was a school counselor and teacher for five years in the Kaua‘i District before and after Hurricane Iniki.
3. To help KIUC meet its renewable energy goals I would not have voted for a work plan which includes a fossil-fuel generator like the current board approved.
I would have pushed for a renewed look at this plan and explored other potential generation capabilities to replace this short-sighted lack of vision. I would push for looking at the rate structure and figure out the best method for promoting and encouraging smart conservation while making it attractive for small and large scale power generators to be connected to the KIUC grid.
I would look for ways to not lose the large commercial users of electricity (resorts, government, businesses). The more commercial customers that find alternative energy systems to be more cost effective than KIUC creates a larger burden on those of us dependent on KIUC. If KIUC is to meet the self-directed initiative of reaching 50 percent renewable generation by 2023 (only 13 short years) and they want to keep our future rates in a reasonable area the KIUC board needs to be much more aggressive in committing and moving toward renewable alternatives. I want to help KIUC meet and exceed their current goals in a cost-effective manner for the good of Kaua‘i.
Allan Smith ***
1. I am running for a second three-year term. I will continue to make a positive difference in transforming KIUC to become independent of close government oversight (PUC) and become more member-governed. We will work to achieve a high level of sustainable energy solutions while keeping power affordable and reliable. I have demonstrated that I possess the required skills, knowledge and disciplines required to set policy for this dynamic organization. I have gained more understanding of and insights unique to KIUC’s challenges over the past three years. We need to continue to move ahead smartly.
2. My many years in leadership roles in agribusiness, business and our community give me the basis to share experience and guidance with other board members and senior staff. My working for large land-based companies on Kaua‘i was rewarding and an intimate knowledge of Kaua‘i’s environment, geography, natural resources and our citizens was gained.
3. We must continue to move ahead on two significant areas. The first is conservation- and demand-side management which is not as expensive as new generation equipment. Second is the support of good sustainable projects that use local resources. Products and energy harvested on Kaua‘i need to be brought on line. The 2023 goal of 50 percent renewables will need to have the present projects that are being contemplated such as Green Energy and Pacific West to become successful. New fuels from bio-algae or other not-yet-developed sources will also need to become reality.
Image above: The Headwaters Forest Protest PA system was powered by the H.E.C. in 1995.
Jan TenBruggencate **
1. Our utility requires guidance that is grounded in the needs of the community yet comfortable with both traditional generation and cutting edge technologies. I have been encouraged to serve, both by people inside the utility and in the larger community, and I hope be given the opportunity to help make a difference.
These are challenging times for our electric cooperative. Our almost total dependence on oil for our electrical generation places our county at extreme risk.
The environmental costs of a fossil fuel-based system are undeniable. The security risks associated with supply disruptions are significant. But for most residents, the immediate threat is the uncontrolled volatility in electricity bills associated with swings in oil price. Kaua‘i families cannot budget for power bills that spike and crash.
We need to get stable, affordable power generation in place, and soon. And we must also address electrical demand with conservation and efficiency programs even more aggressive than those now in place. We must — and we can — help residents cut their energy bills without compromising comfort and quality of life.
2. I have lived in Hawai‘i almost all my life. I am active in the community, a coach, volunteer, member of community organizations and the operator of my own small business. Most of my career has been as a researcher and communicator, which I believe are important assets for today’s utility board.
I have long experience in public policy discussions. As a part of my job as science writer with The Honolulu Advertiser, and more recently as an independent consultant, I have worked on many of the conservation, generation, efficiency, renewable technology and other issues facing our electric utility.
3. This goal should not be difficult to achieve if we work hard on it. Just a generation ago, half of the island’s power was produced from renewable resources — primarily bagasse and the power of falling water. We still have a skilled workforce trained and capable of operating biomass and hydroelectric facilities. There appear to be opportunities to move forward on new electricity generating plants in both of these areas. Between them, they could nearly get us to the 50 percent renewable goal.
There are also newer technologies under discussion. Among them, solar thermal, solar photovoltaic, plasma arc, biofuel, landfill gas, waste-to-energy, wind and ocean power. Wave power projects are being tested on both Maui and at Kane‘ohe, O‘ahu.
But just because there’s a bright new energy idea doesn’t mean it’s right for Kaua‘i. We can not simply grab at any project that comes along. Some new energy technologies have significant environmental consequences of their own. Some are just so new they can’t yet be trusted. Some have reliability issues. Some intermittent sources have energy storage challenges for which there are no obvious answers today.
We need careful, considered judgment as we move into the energy future.
Carol Medeiros *
1. One of the main reasons for running for the KIUC Board of Directors was the cost of my electric bill. Whenever something really irritates me, I try to find the reason and if possible find solution. The best place to get the answer is from the board.
I would like to see more communication between the board and the members. Over the past few weeks more good things have come to light that KIUC does for the low-income members.
Having served on two condo boards and also the Dog Fancier’s of Kaua‘i board, it should be a challenge and exciting experience to take on this job.
2. My main qualifications have been developed over the last 35 years as president/treasurer of C.A.L.M. Inc. The business specializes in tax accounting and payroll. I have worked with hundreds of business people in advising on budgeting and helping to make good business choices. With the current economy, good choices are most important. I have two college degrees, was a licensed securities dealer, and also am a paralegal. I was instrumental in setting up Wilcox Hospital and the County of Kaua‘i in their computer systems back in the early 1970s.
3. I have not been able to read the material on the goals of KIUC in the next 13 years.
I can say that they are promoting solar use by giving rebates and loans to residents. The use of wind power, perhaps in a barren location, could be a possibility. Having the solar farms are a great idea. The main savings would come from the residents and businesses by getting solar and buying hybrid cars. We have to make good choices for our personal use.
Commenting on the revised text of this bill HB 2667:"While the Hawaii Superferry operation had its shortcomings, rocky start, and questionable financial forecast, it proved to be a very successful mode of transportation of both persons and property between the islands of Maui and Oahu."Actually, it did not. The financial failings were because of the amount of fuel consumed by these particular vessels, the distances involved, and low ridership partly due to conditions. These were intrinsic to it's failure."The purpose of this Act is to require the department of transportation to conduct a study on the feasibility of establishing a statewide ferry system..."Interesting that this bill as a fallback was turned into a study that's already been done, not once, but twice before. Enterprise Honolulu did a study on the ferry for the Legislature in 2004/2005 and Market Scope Inc. also did a more comprehensive study presented to the PUC. As written, this bill would task the State Department of Transportation (DOT) with doing this study. That's a DOT that has shown itself to be biased and unobjective on even basic logistical matters of a prospective ferry, such as passenger-only, cargo, size, speed, and propulsion. Should newfound objectivity on this matter be expected from DOT-Harbors? Further, the hastily substituted current version of this bill does not indicate how much money is to be wasted on this study, a matter the Finance Committee no doubt should take strong note of. An undeniably realistic conclusion expected from the repetitive study envisioned by this bill would be *subsidizing* a state run ferry service, most likely at a *loss*, to compete with a number of private sector companies by water and air. Not an outcome any better than the present. Now, when there's not enough money for keiki here to have 5 decent, full days of school a week, you are being asked to spend more money on a study that has effectively been done, not once, but twice before? We recommend responsibly deferring or outright killing this bill and leaving the private sector to do a ferry or not based on studies and experience that are already out there. The State of Hawaii should not waste any more money on this. .
Last night I recorded another glimpse of the climate apocalypse, with the author of "Climate Wars" Gwynne Dyer. He outlined the short distance from here to the cliff where long-known natural feed-backs leading to runaway global warming begin, and continue on for millennia. That limit is known as two degrees. Beyond that, great forests melt into fire, liberating their carbon. Beyond that, the Arctic permafrost melts, likely doubling atmospheric greenhouse gases. Five to seven degrees Centigrade of average global temperature rise. Utter disaster.
Dyer says world governments quickly agreed to the 2 degree limit at Copenhagen, without telling the public why. No need to panic the herd.
Dyer says we won't make it in time, before the big climate switch is pulled. You'll hear clips from that speech in an upcoming Ecoshock Show. I can't run the whole speech, because as usual, Gwynne is developing his new work toward another radio or TV program. I appreciate Gwynne sharing his "working notes" with our Radio Ecoshock audience. Kind of a sneak preview.
Find out more at gwynnedyer.com.
Up early this morning, I tune into a climate science web cast from the Center for American Progress. Two top American IPCC scientists, trying not to say too much. Late in this program, I'll have a few clips and comments from that update, hosted by Joe Romm, of the blog climateprogress.org.
But we'll start out with a different sort of scientist. Cloud specialist Tim Garrett stepped in a few people's faces, when he proposed a formula about carbon and the world's wealth. Simply put, unless our economy collapses, to levels you and I would hate, climate change is unstoppable. Garrett bases his jarring statements on a basic law of physics, of thermodynamics.
Read the "Is Global Warming Unstoppable?" article here.
You won't need a science degree to understand our Radio Ecoshock interview.
Following Garrett, we dive deeper into the culture of despair. Keith Farnish is the author of "Time's Up! An Uncivilized Solution to a Global Crisis". I've put lots of Keith Farnish links below, including one to his online book.
Are you ready to become uncivilized?
If collapse is the best solution, would you help kick the system over? Or would you just watch it fall? Farnish has been called a terrorist, and a green realist. Your brain exercise for troubling times.
Let's start with the science of collapse.
[The Garrett interview, and the next interview with Keith Farnish transcribed below, is at www.ecoshock.net]
We've just heard Tim Garrett from the University of Utah - and let's take a quick review.
His paper is titled "Are there basic physical constraints on future anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide?"
The basic thesis, tested against past industrial development, is that neither population nor standard of living have to be included in modeling prediction of climate change. Garrett concludes that civilization, as measured by gross domestic product, is directly related to the amount of carbon burned. More emissions, more wealth. Less emissions, less economic production.
Here is the exact description of the theory, from an abstract of Garrett's paper:
"Here, it is shown both theoretically and observationally how the evolution of the human system can be considered from a surprisingly simple thermodynamic perspective in which it is unnecessary to explicitly model two of the emissions drivers: population and standard of living. Specifically, the human system grows through a self-perpetuating feedback loop in which the consumption rate of primary energy resources stays tied to the historical accumulation of global economic production—or p × g—through a time-independent factor of 9.7 ± 0.3 mW per inflation-adjusted 1990 US dollar."By applying his formula, Garrett says it would take a new nuclear plant built every single day to keep up our current standard of living. As that isn't happening, and may be impossible, the only other solution is economic collapse. In our interview, Garrett suggests a horrible economic crash, which I imagine as diving perhaps to Medieval standards of life, is required just to reach 450 parts per million of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
In the conclusion of that paper we find:
"Viewed from this perspective, civilization evolves in a spontaneous feedback loop maintained only by energy consumption and incorporation of environmental matter.Several science journalists picked up on the paper's underlying prediction: global warming is unstoppable, unless the economic system crashes. And that leads to our next guest. He agrees, and suggests it is our duty, all of us, to help the inevitable hard landing come sooner, rather than later. Why wait until Nature is totally used up, on a nearly dead planet?
Because the current state of the system, by nature, is tied to its unchangeable past, it looks unlikely that there will be any substantial near-term departure from recently observed acceleration in CO2 emission rates. For predictions over the longer term, however, what is required is thermodynamically based models for how rates of carbonization and energy efficiency evolve. To this end, these rates are almost certainly constrained by the size and availability of environmental resource reservoirs."
Alex Smith: What if civilization is a disease, fatal to life on Earth as we know it? That’s the view of Britain’s Keith Farnish, author of the book " Time’s Up! An Uncivilized Solution to a Global Crisis". You might not like what he has to say – or maybe you will. I’m Alex Smith, fearless host of Radio Ecoshock, Keith, welcome to the program.
Keith Farnish: Hi Alex, how are you doing?
AS: Well, good, and I gather you tried Greenpeace for about 5 years, but got frustrated with that carousel of protests and then no real change.
KF: Yes, there was only one action that I ever did that was satisfying, and it was the only action that actually involved something really changing. The problem with most of the – and I’m not going to target Greenpeace in particular, only because I’ve got direct experience with them – but, most of the mainstream environmental groups seem to think that you achieve change by going along with the status quo; by kow-towing to whatever system is in place. And of course you’re going to achieve change relative to what’s going on at the moment, but it’s not significant and if you – and as we go on I’m sure you’ll realise that the kind of change that’s required is certainly not the kind of change that groups like Greenpeace are looking forward to.
AS: Well, you describe our current society as a Culture of Maximum Harm; can you elaborate on that?
KF: Yeah, I must admit those aren’t my personal words – I took them from the peerless Derrick Jensen who some of your listeners will be aware of, and Derrick has written long time on the problems of civilization, particularly Industrial Civilization. The Culture of Maximum Harm really is a way of describing how the system that we have tries to achieve its aims. Imagine that you’re trying to get from one place to another; most people would go from one place to another, they wouldn’t really think about what they’re damaging or the way that they’re doing it in one particular way or another. The Culture of Maximum Harm tries to achieve its journey by taking as much as it possibly can, and by doing as much damage as it possibly can. And the reason it does this is because it has one primary goal, which is achieve continuous growth – and that’s economic growth, in terms of the word “growth” – and economic growth cannot be sustainable. So, this culture, which I believe is unique in human history, is doing something that is uniquely destructive. In other words, it is the Culture of Maximum Harm – it is the most harmful way that humans can exist.
AS: One of your maxims is that corporations cannot be green, why not?
KF: A corporation – and this certainly does follow on from what I just said – a corporation exists in order to achieve economic growth, it exists in order to achieve profit. Worse than just an individual trying to make a bit of money, a corporation wants to make sure that it maximises the amount of return for its shareholders, and in order to do that it has to cause damage in some way, and it does that through a variety of methods. Either it keeps cutting corners, and those can be corners in environmental terms, so it could be ignoring environmental legislation, or it could be paying people as little as it possibly can, or it could be trying to do things as cheaply as possible, in the dirtiest way possible; or it will try and make this profit by taking something that wasn’t there in the first place. So, to take an oil company as an example: you can’t make something from nothing, but if you have a source of energy underground then effectively you’re taking something from nothing...you’re taking that oil, you’re going to burn it up; the act of burning it up makes you money, and that is essentially how a corporation runs and makes its profit – by taking something that it didn’t have to put back in. Corporations are never going to be sustainable by their nature, because of the way business operates.
AS: You also dismiss governments as any part of the solution; why do you think politics has become so irrelevant?
KF: Well, it’s a very sad tale; I think it goes back to the history of empire, and the British Empire is a very good example of this. Empire has been always intrinsically tied up with trade. The British Empire was a trading body; it was so large because it reached out to as many places in the world as had things that it could take. So, Britain essentially owned India, South Africa, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and many other territories – I think that’s a very good example of how governments are tied up with industry. If you listen to any politician give a speech of any length you will always hear the word “growth”, you will always hear the word “economy”, and that is because the primary role of a government within Industrial Civilization is to keep the economy growing. It’s essentially no different to a corporation, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way, but I don’t believe that any government of any size exists in this society that isn’t just like a corporation now.
AS: Apparently NASA’s James Hansen agrees with you – in his review of your book on Amazon, he writes, and I quote this for listeners: “Keith Farnish has it right, time has practically run out and the system is the problem. Governments are under the thumb of fossil fuel special interests; they will not look after our and the planet’s well being until we force them to do so, and that is going to require enormous effort. Professor James Hansen of NASA.” Keith, James Hansen is now taking a lot of flak from climate deniers and their ilk for saying that.
KF: I’m not sure it’s necessarily worrying him too much; he has been taking flak for at least the last 20 years from everywhere that possibly could give him flak – the coal industry hate him, the oil industry hate him, an awful lot of Senators hate him, and when he stood up in front of the Senate in 1988 to essentially explain to the American government the potential horrors we were going to face from climate change, he was public enemy number one as far as the US government was concerned. So, this is a little bit of a flash in the pan, but it ...the words that are being used in relation to James Hansen, and myself, are certainly strong: I’ve been described as a “terrorist” and, by connection, so has James Hansen, words like “genocide”, “eugenics” they’ve all been used in relation to my book, and therefore in relation to James Hansen. Absurd, yes, because at no point have I ever said I want to kill anything off or destroy anything, it’s...I genuinely do feel for Hansen because he has put probably more than anyone else, of himself into trying to achieve something which is completely dispassionate, it’s altruistic – he’s not doing it for himself! If he was doing it for himself then he would be a businessman, and James Hansen doesn’t make much money; he’s an adjunct professor, he’s a research scientist. He doesn’t really have anything to gain from this, and he’s lost an awful lot in terms of what...he could have gone on and become a highly successful scientist working for a corporation; he chose the other alternative, he chose to stick to pure science, objective science, and he gets hit a lot for this. Certainly this isn’t the first time, and certainly won’t be the last time he’s going to get hit for this. I’m proud to call him someone that thinks in a similar way to the way I do.
AS: Getting back to your book, I think we all fear that our economic system is on life-support. You’ve called for an end to industrialised civilization, saying it will fall apart anyway; why should we help it go down – wouldn’t we be sabotaging our own way of living?
KF: Well, we would be sabotaging the way of living that is highly destructive – it depends how dependent you are upon it. I believe that there are certain dependencies that we can do without. I’m not talking about immediately walking away, going off grid, throwing away your job or anything like that; we’ve all got to live, we’ve all got to feed our families, we’ve all got to keep warm, got to have a roof over our heads and there are many situations in which people are tied to this system, so I would be reckless to say that you must abandon this immediately. However, economic growth is not something that can ever be sustainable, so essentially by not having economic growth what you’ve taking away is something that always takes, something that always destroys – and that’s got to be a good thing. And I don’t believe that not having economic growth will be destructive to anything but the systems of power that dominate the way we live.
I think that undermining, or sabotaging the economic growth machine is a fundamentally good thing; some people have said and written that that is effectively terrorism – well, yes, in a way because the...there is something, and I don’t know what the term that is used in the USA but in Britain it’s called Critical National Infrastructure, and the large financial organisations within the UK are protected under various laws, various security laws, and no doubt they are protected under the various Patriot Acts and other laws in the USA because they are considered to be fundamental – they make money for the economy. It is a complete misnomer to place them in the same context as the kinds of things that actively save peoples’ lives like medical services. Yet, they are considered – these financial organisations – are considered by governments to be just as important as medical services, as the water supply, as the food supply, and there’s got to be something wrong there.
AS: This is Radio Ecoshock with Alex Smith. We’re talking about kicking it all over with author Keith Farnish. One key idea in your book “Time’s Up!” is that of Connection – can you describe that for us?
KF: It’s very difficult to describe more than one’s personal idea of connection but I can give you an idea of the background. If you look at the way humanity has existed for hundreds of thousands of years, it has required a fundamental connection to the cycles and the processes that take place around the various groups and communities. These groups and communities wouldn’t be able to survive if they didn’t understand the cycles of nature; if they didn’t understand the different ways that animal and plant life, and other forms of biological entities co-exist. So, in effect, these people, as have existed for far longer than civilization has, are part of nature – they are deeply connected to the natural ecosystem. Civilization tries to pull us away from that – it gives us this alternative way of living which requires us to be disconnected and, what I’ve written about extensively in the book is that we have to become reconnected, otherwise I don’t think that we can really understand how disconnected we have become.
There is a myriad of different ways of connecting; it’s unique to the individual: writer Carolyn Baker talks about this in far more strident terms than I do, and she considers the idea of Connection to be a deeply spiritual thing and, in a way, it is because it brings things out of you that most people – certainly people within civilization – haven’t realised have been within themselves. So, when you sit on a beach, or when you sit in the woods, or when you walk around and listen...you really listen, and really smell and taste and touch what’s around you, then it does bring something out in yourself that is spiritual, in a way. But that’s the Connection coming out, this is something that is fundamental to who we are as human beings and unless we understand that deep connection between humanity and the rest of nature then I don’t believe we’re in a position to really understand what we’re doing to the world and how we can get back.
AS: The next step, you say, is to focus on the Tools of Disconnection. What are some of the ways we become separated from real being and the natural reality?
KF: I put down ten Tools, but there may be even more of these; it was really a way of making people understand the different ways that we live have, all of them, disconnected parts within them, so for instance some of the Tools I’ve suggested are, for instance, the way that we’re advertised to – this idea that we can have a wonderful way of living, but as long as it’s in terms that the corporations sell to us. There are other Tools like authority and if you look at the work of Stanley Milgram, for instance, in the 1950s he demonstrated unequivocally that you could make people do whatever you want them to do providing you have this chain of command – this form of authority; and authority is fundamental to the way that civilization works. You have a hierarchy, you look up to people, some people look down upon others, but essentially we play our parts because there is this authority.
But all of this is different; this is not connected to the real world. There’s other Tools of Disconnection which are much more obvious, like abuse – physical abuse – you have military forces which are, all around the world, abusing people, are killing people; and you look at, for instance, what goes on in China constantly then whenever anyone steps out of line and goes against the status quo in China then they are “disappeared”. They are taken out of the system because there is the potential that they may make other people realise that this isn’t quite the way to live – it isn’t quite the way that we should be going along with things.
One of the Tools of Disconnection which is particularly powerful which, unfortunately, a lot of environmentalists are guilty of is the idea of Hope. And I think it’s very, very telling that Obama used hope as his most powerful tool for looking towards the future. This message was coming from someone who is, to all intents and purposes, at the head of the system. He has some good intentions; however, the idea of giving someone hope takes away your ability to act: rather than going out and actually doing something, if you can just be given enough hope – if you can be given the idea that if you just hope enough then things are going to get better then it disables you. It stops you doing things. So I consider Hope to be one of these Tools of Disconnection as well.
AS: Paul Simon famously sang that there are a Hundred Ways to Leave Your Lover and, Keith Farnish, you’ve found over a hundred ways to undermine the system. Can you give us just a couple of examples?
KF: There’s an article I have written on The Earth Blog which is...it’s not complete yet, because I keep discovering all these little things. I mean I want to be very clear that the idea of Undermining the System is not about...this is not about the things that have been written about in the blogs recently about destroying cities and blowing up dams and things like this; the Undermining is about undermining these Tools of Disconnection. It’s about giving people their freedom back, it’s about giving people their minds back so they can reconnect – so they can live in a way that humanity was meant to live.
But there’s lots of these ways, and one very easy example is simply turning televisions off; so if you can turn a television off in a public place people actually realise – and I’ve experimented doing this in public places – people suddenly come back to their senses! They were blindly watching this screen churning out adverts, and the TV went off - and I’ve got a remote control device that actually does this – and suddenly they’re looking around going “Oh!” and then they go back to their normal lives. But there’s lots more of these things: you could subvertise advertising billboards, so writing things on billboards that actually go counter to the messages the advertisers want you to do. You could send out fake press releases as a company representative, actually giving the truth about what the company are doing. So, “PRESS RELEASE: So-and-so company admits to environmental mismanagement.” Well, of course, the company wouldn’t do that but if you manage to do it and you make it look convincing enough then you’ve undermined that company. But there are dozens and dozens of these things, and I think they’re only limited by the imagination.
AS: If I understand you correctly, a few people can start a trend that radiates into much bigger things. You speak of the power of Pioneers and Early Adopters; tell us about that.
KF: The idea of stratifying society, for want of a better term...it’s really something that you see all the time: the concept is called Diffusion of Innovations and it’s just one of the ideas that I touch upon, but it’s...you’re always going to have these Pioneers, you’re going to have people that take up an idea and they don’t just agree with the idea, they actually act on it. So there are an awful lot of people out there – a surprising number of people – who are really taking the bit between their teeth and starting to live in ways that are far closer to the way that humanity was meant to live. And there are other people who are a bit further up, they are a bit further on the timescale and it’s a larger chunk of people – these Early Adopters – and they may be influenced by these Pioneers because they might be in the same peer group or the same social group, and so they’re more likely to change than had these Pioneers not been there. And then you have the much larger chunks of people which are the bulk of society, the Early and the Late Majority and this is what you would probably call in America the Middle Classes, in Britain we call it Middle England: the people who the governments are always trying to appeal to. This is going to come much later, these kinds of changes, but it can’t happen unless these earlier groups start changing, I believe.
It’s a little bit more complicated than that because you also need these Connectors and Mavens and Salespeople, which people have read about in The Tipping Point; these things all fit together as does the Undermining. But you don’t actually need millions of people to be actively changing to create change. As long as the momentum gets started up and it’s done in the right way, then quite fundamental change can happen with just a few people.
AS: Suppose we hurry the process of crashing civilization; what do you picture happening next?
KF: It’s not a nice thing to think about, this idea of crashing civilization. There are various writers like James Kunstler, and Carolyn Baker who I mentioned, who are very much of the mindset that it’s going to happen anyway, and it’s going to happen soon; and, in fact, is happening as we speak. Certainly with the economy we’ve seen a few of these effects, of what happens when a mismanaged economy collapses – and the people at the top continue to cream off what they want, but the people at the very bottom suffer the most. This is a symptom of the kinds of things that are happening at the moment: this is crash. Oil crises are going to happen – I believe we’ve reached the oil peak; you’re going to have other kinds of peaks as well, you’re going to have peak gas, you’re going to have peak nuclear. As the energy supplies run out then you’re going to get a strange situation which probably mimics what’s happened with the economy, whereby the people at the top get what they want, and the people right at the bottom suffer the most. And it’s the people who are economically at the bottom who, and particularly urban people, who do tend to suffer most when anything like this does happen.
I don’t think you can be too explicit about this: if you are in a situation when you’re going to suffer anyway, because of any of these crashes – and they are going to happen – then you’re the people who really need to gear yourselves up for this situation. Read authors like Sharon Astyk, who writes wonderfully about gearing yourself up for hard times, and try and get out of being so dependent on Industrial Civilization. It’s not easy but there’s certain things you can do to simplify your life that can protect yourself against it. I don’t want to cause a destructive crash; I want to somehow get the situation where we’re in control of this slow downfall of civilization. And I think that’s a much kinder way of going through the motions of a collapsing civilization than just having this shock, after shock, after shock which is going to happen as the economy, the energy, water and all these other things start crashing.
AS: Where can people find your blog if they want to follow up on this?
KF: Right, well I’ve got a website that’s got the whole book on, which is the unprinted version – that’s www.amatterofscale.com. I run something called The Earth Blog, which is www.theearthblog.org, and on this I publish various essays which, many of them have been extensions of what I’ve written. And there’s also a site called The Unsuitablog - that’s just www.unsuitablog.com - and that’s starting to contain these ideas, these Undermining Tasks; it’s been about greenwashing up to now, but I think we’ve got to start getting a bit active, and start thinking about how to get round this system that tries to take everything away from us. The Unsuitablog’s going to get a bit edgy in the future, and that’s probably the one to keep an eye on.
AS: This is Radio Ecoshock with Alex Smith. We’ve been delving into deep green thought with one of Britain’s more controversial thinkers, Keith Farnish. He’s the author of the book, Time’s Up! An Uncivilized Solution to a Global Crisis, published by Green Books. Thank you so much, Keith.
KF: Thank you, Alex.
* * *
[Alex Smith continues with the same show, and helps his audience understand the political problem with the integrity of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change:]
I attended two meetings via web casts this week.
One was a re-assessment of Copenhagen, and the way forward, from the British publisher Earthscan.
There I met David Satterthwaite, our radio guest next week. His recent work on the realities of human settlement, slums, and western consumerism - fits in perfectly with the new Worldwatch 2010 State of the World Report. I interview that report's project director, Erik Assadourian, as we ask "Is it them, or is it us?" Next week, on Radio Ecoshock.
My second web cast was provided by the Center for American Progress, and hosted by uber-blogger Joe Romm. His spot climateprogress.org really is the indispensable climate blog, as author and New York Times columnist Tom Friedman called it.
On the web cast, we got to hear from two top American scientists, who have helped organize IPCC reports: Dr. Michael MacCracken and Dr. Christopher Field. Dr. MacCracken has been a Radio Ecoshock guest.
I'm not going to lie to you. At time the web cast was timid to boring, as the two scientists were so careful about the limits of the IPCC process. You had to re-interpret wonk speak, to realize this Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is not really up to the task of warning the world about the real threat.
Why not? Let me count just a few reasons.
One: the whole pile of summaries, the things you, and I, and politicians actually read, must be agreed to, line-by-line, by each and every government in the world. That means, for example, Saudi Arabia, the giant oil producer who denies climate change, has to sign on. It's almost like having Dick Cheney approve everything the Obama administration does. Oh wait, it seems like that's happening in the Senate anyway.
Two: when incompetence, and possibly corruption in the case of grand-leader Pachauri show up, the IPCC has no agency to investigate, to correct the problem, or even to handle the press. Pachauri was involved with the unscientific and botched prediction about the Himalayan glaciers melting by 2030 - now shown to be contrary to the common knowledge of most glacier experts. A member of the team acknowledged they knew the information to be false.
Yet Pachauri helped get that wrong prediction into the report, and then personally profited from the panic by the Indian government. His company got fairly big money to find out more, about a problem with did not exist at the levels claimed.
It stinks of corruption, not a new idea at the United Nations. I've posted a list of Pachauri 's various businesses, and it's a long list, in my blog for this week. He should resign.
Here is an article which claims a direct conflict of interest for Dr. Pachauri , when it comes to carbon trading.
The same blog goes into detail about Pachauri 's business holdings and roles. It doesn't look good.
And let's not forget that Pachauri is essentially President George W. Bush's man. Bush objected to Robert Watson heading the IPCC, and pushed for Pachauri instead. Another very bad sign.
None of this was mentioned by the upright scientists at the American Progress web cast. They admit a major mistake was made, but don't criticize either the man, or the system that let him get away with it. Pitiful.
Three: there are a lot of things that science simply can't address, that matter a lot. For example, when the assembled scientists realized they didn't know how to predict Arctic ice melt, they just left that out of the calculations of sea level rise. So their prediction of a few millimeters rise by 2100 was laughable.
There's a lot more unknown unknowns, including public panic, climate wars, and climate trauma, and mass migration, just to name a few. Those demons are outside the realm of science, but definitely part of what we need to understand, or at least plan out with the best guesses.
Four: the IPCC is always 5 years behind current science. And why do we only report every five years, on a problem that suggests we only have ten years left to act, if that, before Nature takes over control of the greenhouse? We need a permanent climate war room, or rather a peace room.
Five: experience with past reports shows, the IPCC always underestimates both the urgency, and the severity of the impacts of climate disruption.
I run a couple of the best clips from the web cast, which you can see in full here.
In our first radio clip, Dr. Christopher Field echoes, almost exactly, the theory we heard in our first interview, with Tim Garrett. Carbon equals wealth.
Then Field adds to a list of climate change impacts, already begun by Michael MacCracken.
And finally, Dr. Michael MacCracken expands on everyone's nightmare, melting permafrost.
Still, it was a worthwhile web cast by the Center for American Progress, February 2nd, 2020. My thanks to Joe Romm, super-climate blogger at climateprogress.org, for at least trying to keep it lively.
Most of the talk about the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC, was diplomatic - and disappointing.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and in fact the whole U.N. system for negotiations, isn't working. If anything, it's working against us.
Frankly, we need a new public body to measure and predict the climate threat in real time. Let scientists say what they can prove, without censorship from Saudi Arabia, George Bush, or whoever. Maybe it can all be built as a knowledge machine on the Internet. Heaven knows who will fund and control it. Maybe some billionaire will care enough about the future to fund it, and let it go, without strings. Maybe we can find a few honest women and men?
Something has to change, or we are toast.
Can the public stomach the awful truth? Or, will we go down in a sea of denial and business-as-usual?
It's almost to the point, where the danger to the world as we know it, might matter as much as the Toyota recall, or who won the Oscars. I know that's a big claim, but that's the way I see it.
The Radio Ecoshock website is ecoshock.org.