Change Hawaii's Energy Game

SUBHEAD: Providing dedicated funding to our preferred energy future. Image above: Tax subsidized photovoltaic panels being installed on roof in New South Wales, Australia. From (http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/03/13/2515891.htm). By Jeffrey Mikulina on 6 April 2010 in Star Bulletin - (http://www.starbulletin.com/editorials/20100406_2_policies_could_change_Hawaiis_energy_game.html)

Thirty-five days. That — according to the 2009 Hawaiian Electric Industries Annual Report — is the length of time before Hawaii's electricity shuts off should something disrupt the flow of oil to our islands. It's the length of time between comfort and chaos.

If Hawaii hopes to free itself from this dangerous addiction to imported fuel, we'll need to change our energy game. Rolling the dice on the availability of cheap oil is a gamble that just doesn't work in an era of changing economies, changing world order and a changing climate.

Two such game-changing policies are currently pending before Hawaii lawmakers. The first, House Bill HB 2643, would eliminate the upfront cost of solar energy and efficiency for homeowners across the state. The second, HB 2421, would tack a small surcharge on most oil consumed in the state and apply those funds to clean energy and agricultural security programs.

ACCESS TO CLEAN ENERGY

Most Hawaii residents would like to use solar energy in their homes, but they don't. The upfront cost of solar — whether it is a few thousand dollars for solar water heating or tens of thousands for photovoltaic — is the deal breaker.

So what if we could eliminate that upfront cost by putting the power of government bond financing to work? That's exactly what Berkeley and dozens of other cities have done. Called "property assessed clean energy," or PACE, the program essentially allows a homeowner to use bond money to pay for solar or energy efficiency investments. The bond is then repaid over time through an increase in the homeowner's property tax. The magic is that the homeowner's energy savings exceed the increase in property tax, decreasing the cost of living immediately.

Residents benefit immediately by lowering the cost of home ownership; the state benefits with an increase in clean energy; and the economy benefits from having steady growth in high-tech clean energy and efficiency jobs. The program is genius — enough that Harvard Business Review named it one of the "Top 10 Breakthrough Ideas" for 2010.

By removing the upfront cost of solar and energy efficiency, a Hawaii PACE program would make clean energy accessible to households from Hilo to Hanalei. It changes the game.

PUTTING A TAX ON CARBON

Beyond using solar and energy efficiency at home, broad changes need to be made in how we produce and use energy. The critical elements of Hawaii's clean energy future — efficiency, smart-grid infrastructure and planning — require up-front investment. It makes sense to tap the source of our problem, imported oil, to invest in our clean energy solutions.

The right policy would discourage oil use while providing funding to promote clean energy alternatives. An oil tax could raise tens of millions of dollars annually at a monthly cost to residents that's equivalent to a Starbucks "grande" coffee. Unlike most other taxes, residents can easily offset the barrel tax: a few compact fluorescent bulbs and keeping the car's tires properly inflated will offset any additional cost.

The idea of an oil tax for clean energy has support among experts — and residents. In a Washington Post interview last month, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, stated, "I absolutely believe a price on carbon is essential."

According to two separate statewide surveys, an astounding 70 percent of Hawaii residents would be willing to pay $5 additional each month on energy bills if the money went to fund clean energy solutions. Rarely does an opportunity to pay more for something receive such broad support.

But the success of the policy rests on lawmakers' ability to resist the urge to reroute the revenue to the general fund. The funds from the carbon tax should be used to wean Hawaii from oil, with first priority being energy efficiency programs aimed at lowering residents' and businesses' energy bills. While other programs are certainly worthwhile, reducing oil's burden on our economy would simply make everything else more affordable. The carbon tax would be a down payment on our clean energy future — something that would pay future dividends to every resident and business in the state.

Done right, these two policies would truly change the energy game in Hawaii. We need to make clean energy accessible to all and provide dedicated funding to our preferred energy future. While passing such bold measures takes political courage, doing nothing leaves us with only 35 days of comfort.

Jeffrey Mikulina is executive director of the Blue Planet Foundation. See www.cleanenergyhawaii.org for more information on these measures.

Duke Aiona’s Christian Hawaii

SUBHEAD: Working under Linda Lingle, our Lieutenant Governor wishes to make his religion the law of the land.

Image above: Heavily photoshopped image of Duke Aiona's other boss, the aging Ed Silvoso, the CEO of International Transformation Network, a "harvest" evangelical Christian church with a big plan. From (http://www.flickr.com/photos/harvestevan/2960911961). For more on ITN in Hawaii see http://www.harvestevan.org/faculty1.html.

[Editor's Note: I knew James R. "Duke" Aiona Jr. gave me the creeps. Now I know why. It wasn't just because he is a Hawaiian Republican, but because he's a religious zealot.]

By Kathleen Sands on 7 April 2010 in The Garden Island News - (http://thegardenisland.com/news/opinion/mailbag/article_37a1d2b4-4209-11df-8b9b-001cc4c002e0.html)

It’s no wonder that Pat Robertson, who has long advocated a “Christian America,” describes Duke Aiona as an “attractive” candidate for governor of Hawai‘i. Robertson notes on his Web site that Aiona is a leading member of Transformation Hawaii, a branch of the International Transformation Network, whose stated mission is “to win all nations for Christ.” Fair enough, if “nations” means “peoples,” but that’s not what ITN is talking about.

ITN endorses a doctrine sometimes called “Dominion” or “Seven Mountains” theology. These call upon fundamentalist Christians to “take dominion” over the “seven mountains” of culture, two of which are government and public education. In other words, they seek to establish Christian theocracies. As those who lived under the Taliban can attest, theocracies have lethal consequences.

Take, for example, Uganda, a nation ITN holds up as a shining example of Christian-dominated government. As documented by journalist Bruce Wilson, ITN members there support a law that would execute gays and imprison people who fail to report them. In the U.S., allied with similar groups, ITN is attempting to take over the governments of Orlando, Newark and other cities with their brand of Christianity. Street by street, they seek to expel the “demons” that they say account for social problems. They target not only gangs and drugs, but also Hindus and Buddhists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, gays, practitioners of new age spiritualities — in short, anyone who opposes their Christian theocracy.

So if you care about the Constitution, Aiona’s involvement with Transformation Hawai‘i and the ITN is not “attractive” at all. Both the federal and Hawai‘i Constitutions prohibit any “law respecting the establishment of religion.” That means, at the very least, that our governments may not endorse one particular religious viewpoint over others. As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor put it, government may not “send the message” that those who hold a particular belief are “insiders, favored members of the political community,” or that those who don’t share that belief count for less (Lynch v. Donnelly, 1988).

What message did Aiona send on Dec. 8, 2004 at Castle High School when he claimed Hawai‘i’s public schools for Christ and prayed that Hawai‘i would become the nation’s “first Christian state?” (Honolulu Advertiser, 05/18/05) This was an elaborately orchestrated event, simulcast to thousands in 77 locations — many of them other pubic schools. It was exactly the kind of school-sponsored prayer that’s repeatedly been forbidden by the Supreme Court, and Aiona led it in his capacity as lieutenant governor. You can bet that students who were Buddhist, Jewish, or religiously unaffiliated “got the message” that they count for less in Hawai‘i.

What message did Lt. Gov.Aiona send on Jan. 17, 2010, when he headlined a rally opposing civil unions, at which Dennis Arakaki proclaimed Hawai‘i’s capitol to be “the Lord’s House?” In Hawai‘i, the opposition to gay rights has been led by a coalition of conservative Christians who (like Transformation Hawai‘i) claim to speak for all Christians. The truth is, many Christians — both individuals and whole denominations — vigorously support equal rights for gays and lesbians. So do Reform Judaism, Renewalist Judaism and, most recently, the Honpa Hongwanji Buddhist mission. But for Aiona and other “Christian” nationalists, Christians who don’t agree with them aren’t really Christians at all, and religions that support gay rights aren’t real religions. If you value religious liberty, this should alarm you.

Aiona argues that his faith is important to his public as well as personal life. When he was a judge, he says, he prayed for those he sentenced. Of course he did. What judge does not, in his or her own way, pray for those who have committed crimes and their victims? Aiona also says that public officials need not relinquish their beliefs. Correct again, but again not unique: most good people who enter public life are motivated by deep convictions. All of this is well within the Constitution, and none of it is unique to social conservatives, to Christians, or to religious people of any kind.

The Constitution does not require the removal of religious life from the public sphere. But it does prohibit the government from endorsing a particular religious viewpoint or agenda. When government officials cross that line, religious liberty slides into religious tyranny. Hawai‘i voters should be concerned about Aiona’s active participation in Transformation Hawai‘i and the ITN global network and should ask him to explain how he reconciles his activism in those organizations with Constitutions he has sworn to uphold.

(Kathleen Sands writes this as an individual citizen of Hawai’i, not as a university employee.)

• Kathleen Sands, is Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of Hawaii, Manoa, in Honolulu

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Twilight of the Machine

SUBHEAD: A civilization that lives by the machine can expect to die by the machine as well.


By John Michael Greer on 7 April 2010 in Archdruid Report -
(http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2010/04/twilight-of-machine.html)

Image above: Detail of photo of interior of abandoned Ashley Coal Breaker in Pennsylvania, USA. From (http://www.flickr.com/photos/earthmagnified/3829787396/sizes/o/in/set-72157617903051405). See also (http://forgottenpa.blogspot.com/2007/09/ashley-coal-breaker.html)  

The end of the age of cheap abundant energy, as last week’s Archdruid Report argued, brings with it an unavoidable reshaping of our most basic ideas about economics and, in particular, economic development. For the last three centuries or so, the effective meaning of this phrase has centered on the replacement of human labor by machines.

All the other measures of development – and of course plenty of them have been offered down through the years – either reflect or presuppose that basic economic shift. The replacement of labor with mechanical energy has even come to play a potent role in the popular imagination.

From the machine-assisted living of The Jetsons to the darker image of reality itself as a machine-created illusion in The Matrix, the future has come to be defined as a place where people do even less work with their own muscles than they do today.

All this is the product of what an earlier post called the logic of abundance: the notion, rooted right down in the core of the contemporary worldview of industrial society, that there will always be enough resources to let people have whatever it is that they think they want.

Abandon that comfortable but unjustifiable assumption, and the future takes on a very different shape.

In a world where everything but human beings will be in short supply, it makes no sense whatever to deploy increasingly scarce resources to build, maintain, and power machines to do jobs that human labor can do equally well.

An example may be useful here, so let’s take Rosie the Riveter, the iconic woman factory worker of Second World War fame, and match her up against one of the computer-guided assembly line robots that have replaced so many workers in production lines in the industrial world; we might as well pit icon against icon and call the robot HAL 9000.

Both of them serve the same economic function, we’ll assume, riveting parts together on an assembly line. It’s a credo of contemporary economics that HAL is more efficient than Rosie; since the term “efficiency” in contemporary economic parlance means “labor efficiency,” or in other words how much production you can get per worker, any machine is by definition more efficient than human labor.

In a world of resource constraints, though, this definition of efficiency becomes very hard to justify. It may be true that HAL can work long shifts at all hours with only the very occasional break for maintenance – at least this is what the robot salesman will tell you – and Rosie cannot.

Still, in a world of resource scarcity, Rosie has a crucial advantage that more than offsets HAL’s capacity for night shifts: her operating requirements are much less energy- and technology-intensive to meet than HAL’s. We can start with the energy source used by each riveter.

HAL requires electricity – quite a bit of it, within fairly tight specifications of voltage, amperage, and cycles per second. For her part, Rosie requires food, and though she’s been known to take a second helping in the factory cafeteria, her fuel needs are fairly modest compared to those of the machine. Her tolerances for variability in energy sources are also much broader than HAL’s – if you have trouble believing this, a few minutes paging through an old wartime cookbook should settle the issue.

HAL’s maintenance requirements are just as exacting. He needs lubricants that meet precise specifications, and an assortment of spare parts ranging from zinc bushings to integrated circuits, none of which he can provide for himself.

All of them must be manufactured off site, and some (such as the integrated circuit) cannot be made without extremely expensive, complex facilities demanding intricate technological infrastructures of their own. Rosie’s maintenance needs, by contrast, involve little more than eight hours of sleep and a modest additional amount of food. (“I’ll have two scoops of slumgullion today, Franny, thanks; it’s been a hard shift.”)

When it’s necessary to replace HAL, a huge array of industrial facilities – mines, smelters, chemical plants, chip fabrication plants, and one or (usually) several factories – have to be brought into play to produce HAL 9100.

Unlike HAL, Rosie can manufacture her own replacement, and while it will take most of two decades before Rosie Jr. is ready to tie her hair up in a bandanna and take her place on the assembly line, Rosie’s own working life is longer still, so the replacement cycle is not a problem for her. In a world with nearly seven billion people on it, of course, it’s hardly necessary to wait for Rosie herself to reproduce in order to find a new riveter, or ten thousand of them.

Finally, what happens if the economy changes so that there’s no longer a need for as many riveters, as happened (for example) at the end of the Second World War?

It might be possible to retool HAL for some other industrial process, but for reasons of efficiency, most assembly line robots are designed for a very limited range of operations, and get mothballed or go to the scrap heap (to the tune of a substantial tax write-off) when the demand for their services goes away.

Rosie, on the other hand, is capable of a nearly limitless range of productive economic activities, and can head off to some other career when the factory closes down, leaving HAL to sing “Daisy May” to himself on the deserted assembly line.

All this could be developed at even greater detail, and with less whimsy, but I trust the point has been made: HAL’s appearance of greater efficiency depends on access to a support system of factories and services vastly larger than the one Rosie needs, and his support system necessarily depends on the availability of cheap abundant energy and a wide range of specialized resources and supplies, while hers need not do so.

What makes HAL more economical in an age of resource and energy abundance is ultimately the abundant supply and low cost of fossil fuel energy. During an age of resource scarcity, the equation changes completely, because the goods and services that support Rosie can be produced with a much simpler technology, and with much less in the way of concentrated energy, than the goods and services that support HAL.

There’s a reason for this, of course: human beings evolved over millions of years in a world of energy and resource scarcity, along with all other living things. Our hominid ancestors, and all their ancestors down the lineage of evolution all the way to those first prokaryotic cells back in the dank Archean mists, spent most of their lives confronting the hard logic of Malthus by which population rises right up to the limits of carrying capacity.

There are some multicellular organisms that have requirements as exacting and purposes as limited as most machines, but not many, and our species ranks right up there with rats, crows, and cockroaches among Nature’s supreme generalists. It’s only in the highly atypical conditions of the last three centuries, then, that machines become more economical than human laborers.

This is why, for example, nobody in the Roman world thought of using Hero of Alexandria’s aeolipile, the first known steam engine, as a source of power for industry or transport.

Craft traditions in the Roman Empire would certainly have been up to the challenge, and the aeolipile was much discussed at the time as an interesting curiosity; what was lacking was the recognition that the black gooey stuff that seeped from the ground in certain places, or the black flammable stone we call coal, could be extracted in large quantities and turned into fuel.

 Lacking that, in turn, the aelopile could never have been more than an interesting curiosity, for the fuel supplies the Roman world knew about were already committed to existing economic sectors, while human and animal muscle were abundant, familiar, and cheap.

As the industrial age winds down, in turn, human muscle will again be abundant. Will it be cheap? Almost certainly, yes – and that means that real wages for most people in the industrial world will continue their current slide toward Third World levels. I wish I could say otherwise, not least because my chances of taking part in that slide are tolerably high.

Still, part of what has made the last three centuries so atypical is the extent to which ordinary people in the industrial world have been able to rise out of the hand-to-mouth existence typical of most of humanity for most of history, and partake of a degree of comfort and security that monarchs of past ages have often sought in vain. That state of affairs could never have been permanent, because it was made possible only by using up fantastic amounts of fossil sunlight at a pace so extravagant that the quest to figure out what to do with all that energy has been a major driver of economic change for more than a century now; it’s simply our bad luck to live at a time when the bill for all that extravagance is coming due.

All this should be fairly straightforward and uncontroversial. It isn’t, of course, because the contemporary faith in the superiority of the machine reaches deep into the irrational levels of our collective psyche.

When Lewis Mumford titled one of his most significant books The Myth of the Machine he was not engaging in hyperbole. The thought that Rosie the Riveter could go head to head with HAL 9000 under any conditions, and win hands down, is unthinkable to most of us; it’s a matter of folk belief throughout industrial society that the machine always wins, or at least that any victory over it is as temporary and fatal as John Henry’s Pyrrhic triumph over the steam drill.

The machine is our totem, the focus of a great deal of our culture’s sense of value and purpose, and most people in the industrial world accord it the same omnipotence that older religions claim for their gods. The sheer volume of popular culture over the last century or so that fixates on the notion of machines taking over the world, and treating humanity the way industrial humanity has so often treated other living things, is one indicator of the mythic power machines have come to hold in our collective imagination.

It’s for this reason, I think, that so many of us simply can’t imagine a future in which machines will be less economically viable than human labor. Yet if it costs the equivalent of $5 a day to hire a file clerk and a secretary at Third World wage scales, and it costs the equivalent of $10 a day in expensive and unreliable electricity to run a computer to do the same things, those businesses that hope to succeed will hire the file clerk and the secretary, and the computer will be left to gather dust.

Now it’s true, as fans of computers are quick to point out, that computers will do things that secretaries and file clerks can’t, but the reverse is also true – try asking your computer sometime to go pick up takeout lunch for the office from a place that doesn’t deliver – and many of the abilities unique to computers are conveniences rather than necessities; businesses got along very well without them for thousands of years, remember.

 Once again, however, this points up the value of E.F. Schumacher’s concept of intermediate technology – or, as it was usefully retitled in the Seventies, appropriate technology – for the deindustrial future. The technology that’s useful to help a human worker do his job more effectively is not the same as the technology that’s needed to replace him with a machine.

As cheap abundant energy becomes a thing of the past, replacing workers with machines will no longer be a viable option, but providing workers with tools that will make their labor more productive is quite another matter.

The problem here is that very few people are used to thinking in these terms. The vast majority of thinking about appropriate technology these days still envisions it, as Schumacher did, as something to be used in Third World countries only.

Worse still, while every industry in the world once had a vast amount of practical knowledge about the tools and training human workers needed to do their jobs well, nearly all of that knowledge is endangered if it hasn’t already been lost. Consider the slide rule as one example among many.

Until the 1970s, it was the engineer’s inseparable companion; every technological advance from the mid-19th century until Apollo 11 landed on the Moon was made possible, in part, by competent manipulation of this simple, flexible, ingenious tool by people who knew how to make the most of its strengths and work within its limits.

 Since it doesn’t require a massive and technologically complex support structure to construct, maintain, and operate them – any good cabinetmaker can make one, and their proper fuel is a scoop of the same slumgullion that kept Rosie going on her shift – slide rules are likely to be just as useful on the downslope of the industrial age as they were on the way up.

If, that is, anybody on Earth still remembers how to use one when we get to that point along the curve of deindustrialization. This is where the myth of the machine – the conviction, as irrational these days as it is pervasive, that the best person for any job is always not a person at all, but a machine – stops becoming a curious twist of our collective imagination and turns into a trap we ignore at our peril.

 As peak oil moves closer to center stage in the historical drama of our time, making the gargantuan technostructure we’ve built on a foundation of cheap abundant energy ever more problematic to sustain, the most common response from the centers of power and the masses alike is to call for the development of even more complex, gargantuan, and tightly interlinked machines, pushing the technostructure in the direction of greater risk and greater dysfunction.

 It’s hardly an exaggeration to suggest that if it turned out we were all about to perish en masse from building too many machines, the first reaction of most people in today’s industrial cultures would likely be to insist that the answer was to build more machines.

Thus we will doubtless see plenty of shiny new machines built in the years to come, and they will doubtless do their fair share and more to push industrial civilization further down the arc of its decline.

As the ancient Greeks knew well, it’s the essence of tragedy that the arete, the particular excellence, of a tragic hero also turns out to be his hamartia or fatal flaw; put another way, a civilization that lives by the machine can expect to die by the machine as well.

Still, among the heretical minority that has learned to mistrust the myth of the machine, it may well be worth remembering that as the age of scarcity dawns, educating people is a far more useful project than building machines, and doing as much as possible to insure that individuals, families, and communities have the skills and simple tools they need to work productively is one very promising response to the future ahead of us. We’ll talk about one application of that approach next week.

"Eaarth" by Bill McKibben

SUBHEAD: Bill McKibben hopes to take his readers by the collars and shake them in his new climate change wake-up call, Eaarth.
 
By Phil England on 6 April 2010 in Ecologist
(http://www.theecologist.org/reviews/books/457395/eaarth_by_bill_mckibben.html)



 
 Image above: Detail of cover of new Book by Bill McKibbon "Eaarth: Making Life on a Tough New Planet". From (http://www.amazon.com/Eaarth-Making-Life-Tough-Planet/dp/0805090568).  
 Even those of us who have done our best to look climate change squarely in the eye have had to retreat into comfort zones and shield ourselves from time to time from some of the worst messages coming out of the scientific community. Now, in the wake of the failure of Copenhagen, McKibben challenges us to take the blinkers off with a new book "Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet".

McKibben was the first author to write a book about climate change for a general audience ("The End of Nature" in 1989, after James Hansen had first raised this issue in Congress in 1988). Twenty years later, his principle message is that climate change is no longer just a nebulous threat to our grandchildren or to our children; it’s a real and present danger, here and now. McKibben takes us by the hand and leads us through the profound, and in some cases largely irreversible, effects of the 1ºC rise in global average temperatures that we have experienced already.

Changes in rainfall patterns are causing permanent drought in places such as Australia and the American Southwest, increasing the intensity and frequency of hurricanes and cyclones and extending the wildfire season in California by 78 days compared to the 1970s and 1980s, with fires burning four times as long.

 Increasing temperatures have caused rapid melting of the Arctic, an expansion of the tropics by more than two degrees of latitude both north and south, and provided the conditions for the Mountain Pine Beatle to lay 33 million acres of forests in the Rocky Mountains to waste. Ocean acidity is up by 30 per cent and coral reefs are threatened with permanent extinction. Increasingly erratic and unpredictable weather is affecting food security and impacting especially on those who live directly off the land.

Natural feedback mechanisms that threaten to accelerate the warming process are starting to kick in. And, as if to add insult to injury, our predicament is complicated by the fact that we are entering an economic crisis that is likely to become permanent once we fully understand the implications of Peak Oil. A 2008 study that compared the business-as-usual scenarios of the pioneering 1972 'Limits to Growth' report with thirty years of reality concluded we are indeed on the path to collapse.

In with the new
 If you survive this ghost-of-climate-present survey of our ‘new’ planet and make it to the second half of the book, you’ll find that in order for us to survive, McKibben advocates a new mindset that jettisons ideas of growth, consumer lifestyles, bigness and complexity.

 Surprisingly for the person who has spearheaded the 350.org’s global campaign to put the latest science at the heart of the global talks on climate change, he has little to say about what a science-based and just global climate deal would look like.

When discussing the 'grand bargain' needed to seal an international climate deal, he flags up the perilous state of the economy and the fact that Americans would balk at extra taxes to fund windmills in China, but doesn’t mention any of the alternative sources of finance that are available to negotiators, for example, the proposed 'Robin Hood' Tobin tax on financial transactions. Rather than discussing the alternatives to economic growth put forward by Herman Daly or Tim Jackson, McKibben proposes that the idea of 'maintenance' should replace 'growth' or 'expansion' as a guiding principle. In an economically broke, climate-changed world what role is there for national government? After a protracted look at American history McKibben concludes, ‘not much’.

Community focus
His solutions are mainly community-based and focused on meeting our top-line needs: food, energy and, surprisingly perhaps, the internet. He is fantastic on food, highlighting both the impressive upswing of initiatives across the US as well as inspirational solutions for food security in poor countries.

Here it is clear that we need to relocalize and go small not because, as Mckibben puts it, 'mammals get smaller in the heat and so should governments', but because our current system of industrialized agriculture is vulnerable to Peak Oil, threatens food security in poorer nations and is responsible for a large proportion of greenhouse gases.

Small, smart, labor-intensive, natural systems are undoubtedly the way to go. He is less convincing on energy, dismissing national projects in favor of domestic solar and wind (perhaps he needs to have a chat with George Monbiot about that). McKibben rounds off by arguing that we should make every effort to save the internet - a boredom-saving, information sharing, transport bypassing, low-energy device that facilitates low-carbon services (such as car sharing and Freecycle).

It’s also a window on a liberal culture that might otherwise be stifled in a small community, and has enabled the amazing, local-yet-global campaigns (Step It Up and 350.org) that he has spearheaded and fronted.


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Are they spraying aluminum?

SUBHEAD: Could there be world-wide contamination from stratospheric aerosol geo-engineering programs using aluminum particles? [Publisher's note: Yes we have stepped into the quagmire of chemtrail conspiracy theory. Enough people are talking about it to cause us to report the issue. Proceed at your own risk.] Image above: Typical chemtrails grid caused by commercial jet aircraft laid over a suburb of Amsterdam. By Michael J. Murphy on 6 April 2010 in Counter Currents - (http://www.countercurrents.org/murphy060410.htm)

Geo-engineers gathered once again near Monterey California at the Asilomar International Conference on Climate Intervention Technologies meeting to develop norms and guidelines for what they say will be “controlled experimentation” on geo-engineering the planet. While many claim that stratospheric aerosol geo-engineering (SAG), aka chemtrail programs are in full-scale deployment, organizers of this meeting showed a lack of transparency by either denying or holding reporters to a high set of rules which limited what information was brought to the attention of the public.

While we might never know how much information from the conference was suppressed in articles and reports, we do know some of the information that was not included. The issue of current SAG deployment and the use of aluminum in these programs seemed to be missing from reports and articles that came out of the conference.

Mauro Oliveira, webmaster of http://www.geoengineeringwatch.org said that aluminum became a concern to many after the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) meeting when independent journalists sent shockwaves around the world after breaking the story of scientists discussing the plausibility of spraying 10 to 20 mega-tons of aluminum into the sky in SAG campaigns.

Francis Mangels, a retired USDA/USFS Biologist commented on the use of aluminum by saying,

“Although aluminum is an abundant element, it does not exist naturally in the environment in free form. Dispersing massive amounts of ultra-fine aluminum particulates as proposed by geo-engineers into the stratosphere would have unquantifiable human health and environmental impacts”.

When scientists were asked about the risks associated with the use of aluminum sprayed as an aerosol in SAG programs, they admitted that they have only begun to research aluminum and have published nothing.

They also admitted that something terrible could be found in the future that they don’t know about. Also, when asked about deployment of current programs, scientists denied that any SAG programs have been deployed. This contradicted the findings of many who claim that SAG programs are well under-way and that high amounts of aluminum and other harmful substances from these programs are being found resulting in the devastation of eco-systems and the health of people around the world. Like the AAAS meeting, the Asilomar geo-engineering conference hosted some of the world’s leading geo-engineers, environmental groups and scientists who gathered to discuss various issues relating to SAG. Unlike the AAAS meeting, reporters were either denied attendance or set to a high standard of rules which included a ban on daily reporting, quoting, and recording anything from the meeting without the consent of presenters.

Stewart Howe was one of the reporters denied access into the conference. Howe helped break the story about aluminum when he was sent to the AAAS meeting in San Diego to report for Infowars. He feels that he was denied access because of this and his reporting of evidence that suggests SAG programs are in full-scale deployment. Howe said,

“Due to the devastating effects of aluminum and world-wide claims of current deployment, transparent reporting of this could devastate the entire SAG agenda compromising billions of dollars in contracts.”

He went on to say that it was apparent that this meeting had no intentions of being transparent. Whereas many reporters were denied access to this event, some “privileged” journalists did have the opportunity to attend. Although some of the articles about the conference appeared to be critical of geo-engineering, they largely ignored the use of aluminum and other serious issues that could have impacted or changed the damaging components of the SAG agenda. Due to their agreement to the strict, non-transparent guidelines of the conference, the reporting journalists not only helped keep some of the meeting secret, they also helped hide the fact that geo-engineers are “planning” to use aluminum in SAG programs.

Some articles were also falsely written stating that geo-engineers are planning on using sulfur in the various SAG campaigns. This contradicts articles written by some reporters who attended the AAAS meeting and quoted scientists as stating that they initially considered using sulfur for the program; however, aluminum is more effective and will be the ingredient considered for use. To date, scientists have not corrected the journalists who falsely reported the use of less damaging sulfur instead of harmful aluminum as being an ingredient for SAG programs.

Let’s look at this issue a little more closely. People from around the world are witnessing white trails behind airplanes and believe them to be a product of SAG programs that scientists deny exist. People are also reporting test results of high amounts of aluminum, barium and strontium in their snow, rain and soil where the alleged spraying is occurring. These are the exact substances that scientists are “considering” implementing into the various SAG programs discussed at the AAAS meeting.

Shockwaves were sent around the globe after the AAAS meeting because of reports that led many to believe that the destruction of eco-systems and the massive amounts of aluminum found in the snow, rain and soil are in fact from SAG programs that have already been deployed. As a result of these reports, many around the world are asking questions about the current deployment and the dangers of using aluminum in these programs. And finally, journalists are restricted from reporting certain facts from this conference that could be damaging to the SAG agenda. Could transparent reporting of certain facts threaten the current and future deployment of SAG programs around the world? Could denying independent reporters the freedom to openly report on this meeting be an attempt to cover-up allegations that SAG programs are in full-scale deployment and are also destroying eco-systems around the world with the use of aluminum?

Is it possible that the reporters who were allowed into this meeting were invited for the purpose of protecting the corporate and political interests of those involved with SAG programs? What would the political and monetary implications be for those who have vested interests in SAG if the larger public was made aware of the multiple environmental and health effects of spraying mega-tons of aluminum into our environment?

Whatever the reason for this lack of transparency and denial of information, we the public need to hold both reporters and scientists to a higher degree of professionalism, transparency and ethical consideration when it comes to these and other issues of public interests. The future of our health and environment is dependent upon it.

More information and videos on the subject of geo-engineering/chemtrails can be found on my blog at http://truthmediaproductions.blogspot.com . I can be reached at whtagft@hotmail.com.

Video above: Chemtrails - Part One. Seeding sky with aluminum particles changes soil PH. From http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PtlOXhSnNw8

See also: Climate Effects of Geoengineering Using Cloud Seeding and Stratospheric Aerosols (http://aaas.confex.com/aaas/2010/webprogram/Paper1200.html) Can We Offset Global Warming By Geoengineering The Climate With Aerosols? (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080217094602.htm) Scientists Weigh Geoengineering in Global Warming Battle (http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/columnist/vergano/2009-04-19-geoengineering_N.htm) .

Providence and the end of smug

SUBHEAD: Smug implies a wrong relationship with nature. We don’t even concede that we are surfing on a wave of natural providence. Image above: David Beckham behind the whell of a Porsche convertable. From (http://thecount.com/2009/01/09/hollywood-needs-you-german-super-cars-feel-economic-wrath-too) By Simon G. Powell on 5 April 2010 in Reality Sandwhich - (http://www.realitysandwich.com/natures_providence_and_end_smug)

The harmony of natural law . . . reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection. --Albert Einstein.

We have big heads. Large crania. These house big brains and also, it must be said, unlimited smug. Smug of such abundance that we tacitly promote ourselves as the greatest thing on two legs, the greatest species that ever ruminated on Earth.

We love ourselves. We worship human intelligence and human creativity. Look at the towering edifices we construct, the extensive ideologies we build and champion, the vast political movements we support, the burgeoning corporations we bow to and serve, and the enormous armies we wield to protect ourselves.

We are a truly massive species. We stomp around and push aside everything in our smug way. Our urge to conquer is devastating. We try to own all and everything -- islands, mountains, coastal waters, rivers, genes, crops, medicines. We even went all the way to the moon and stuck a flag in it in order to smugly suggest ownership. One day the entire Universe will be alerted to our smug presence. In fact, we have already started naming distant stars after ourselves.

Observe also the red carpets we roll out for our most cherished movie stars and the millions of dollars we lavish on them to promote inane products. Behold too the statues we fashion of our most esteemed cultural icons. To be sure, sometimes a large statue is simply not enough to embody such veneration. Thus we find entire mountains reshaped into the seemingly noble visages of American presidents. This is smug carved large and wide.

We even invented god in our smug image. We invariably call god "he." Some may say this is simply convenience. But it is more than that. Talk of god being "he" betrays the fact that we view god as having similar qualities to man. After all, man is so cool and so powerful and so wise (Homo sapiens means wise man) that any creative intelligence lying at the heart of reality must be man-like in some way.

And so it is that we adore and elevate ourselves. We are the ones. Indeed, it appears we have full dominion over the Earth and all that goes with it. The biosphere is under our smug control. Nature works at our smug behest. How, pray, did the biosphere work on its own without us for billions of years? Doesn’t matter! Because we are here now and we will manage the globe as we see fit. Nature will be co-opted to perform at our smug whim.

The land developer who gives the final nod of approval for a rainforest to be smashed asunder gloats with smug at the sheer power he wields. Even if he is informed that millions of exquisite speciated expressions of natural organismic intelligence will be destroyed in the developmental process, this only gives him pause for more smug. We can do whatever we like. We run the biospherical show. The smug is here. The smug has seized power and control.

A rich business man, after years of hard work, speeds off in his brand new sleek flash Porsche. His face is a picture of smug. He has earned the right to radiate smug. He put the hours in, he took the risks, he made his own lucky breaks -- his smug place at the wheel of a gleaming new Porsche has been hard won. Smug is ours to harbour and emit.

Smug implies a wrong relationship with Nature

Smug cannot exist in the context of the real world. Consider this: the Universe is made of energy. Everywhere this energy is flowing freely and providentially. Suns, for instance, radiate high grade energy in every direction for billions of years. That is what they do. Suns do not horde energy or hold back -- rather they serve the unconditional free flow of energy that defines the way Nature works. Such natural providence means that everything under the sun is freely given.

Since the biosphere is plugged into the sun this means that the biosphere is being freely provided with 24/7 high grade life-supporting energy. The same applies to the evolution of life. The life potential that has unfolded over the last 3.5 billion years has been freely given. The potential for DNA to complexify, the fact that proteins can fold and self-organise themselves into exquisite arrangements of bio-logic, the fact that cells can thrive and self-repair, the fact that life can find a biological way to solve all manner of problems -- all these amazing potentials are likewise given free by Nature.

In other words then, organic life on Earth is an unfolding potential that, like an axiom, is given. To reiterate: everything is given, everything stems from Nature’s providence. This is especially the case with us. We are given life and we are given consciousness. Thus, we literally find ourselves alive and mindful. We did not engineer the human organism. We did not design the human cortex. Nor did we make the various potentials of the human cortex. Nature provided everything. And here’s the rub -- for we do not accord intelligence or acumen or skill to Nature. Worse, we don’t even concede that we are surfing on a wave of natural providence.

Let me further clarify why our smugness is unfounded. Take a child genius pianist. Or an acclaimed painter. Regardless of whether they are smug or not, we may marvel at their talent. But where did such talent come from? Obviously the child musical prodigy has a cortex blessed with unusual musical processing power whilst the acclaimed painter is blessed with artistic talent. In other words, each has been provided, through genetic means, with an enhanced prowess of some kind. Talented people do not make their talents, rather they inherit them. And if they spend time honing their talents this is because they have inherited that ability too.

The same holds true of the business entrepreneur with his swanky new Porsche. If he made his fortune through business acumen this is only because he has been blessed with a brain/mind able to cogitate in a certain way. Maybe he has inherited a slightly more cunning mode of perception.

The point is that men do not fashion their own organism and the various potentials associated with those organisms. Men find themselves with certain abilities and potentials. And even if we work hard to explore any given potential, this is only because we have also been given the ability to do this as well!

What about a genius like Einstein? Ditto as before. Einstein was born with the potential for intellectual genius. Like the rest of us, as Einstein went through life he explored the potential of his own mind, worked out what he was good at, what he a had a talent for, and thereby explored that potential granted him by Nature. We cannot escape from Nature’s providence -- everything is given to us.

So if we grant that all the great things in life stem, ultimately, from Nature’s providence, then what the hell are we so smug about? We didn’t make the human race. We did not engineer the human brain/mind complex. We didn’t construct ecosystems or the essential services that they provide. We don’t make fresh air or fresh water or fresh sunlight. We didn’t make space and time. We receive everything -- life, conscious awareness, resources. Even the ability to give and receive love is granted to us. Everything is provided by Nature and we take it from there. And if we make something good of our lives then our ability to do so is likewise granted to us. If all this is humbly acknowledged it is hard to be smug about anything we do.

When we start pondering these truths we place ourselves in a right relationship with the rest of Nature. For we sense the larger whole that defines us and supports us. And once we sense the significance of the larger whole and see it as being the smart provider of all that we are, then we may start to behave in a more humble and more eco-friendly manner. Thus, until we acknowledge the all pervasive flow of natural providence in which we are embedded and admit that Nature is both smart and generous in terms of its creative prowess, then we will have a wrong relationship with the larger system that sustains our existence. The days of smug are numbered. The time has come to earnestly re-evaluate our place in the overall scheme of Nature.

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Economic History in 10 Minutes

SUBHEAD: Fractional reserve banking will produce results of a Ponzi scheme. A few may profit, but the vast majority will lose what they have. Image above: Detail from "Christ Driving the Moneychangers from the Temple" by Rembrandt van Rijn, 1626. From (http://dallasatheists.blogspot.com/2009/11/temple-tantrum.html) By Richard Heinberg on 5 April 2010 in Post Carbon Institute - (http://www.postcarbon.org/article/87479-economic-history-in-10-minutes)

Throughout over 90 percent of our species’ history, we humans lived by hunting and gathering in what anthropologists call gift economies. People had no money, and there was neither barter nor trade among members of any given group. Trade did exist, but it occurred only between members of different communities.

It’s not hard to see why sharing was the norm within each band of hunter-gatherers, and why trade was restricted to relations with strangers. Groups were small, usually comprising between 15 and 50 persons, and everyone knew and depended upon everyone else. Trust was essential to individual survival, and competition would have undermined trust. Trade is an inherently competitive activity: each trader tries to get the best deal possible, even at the expense of other traders. For hunter-gatherers, cooperation—not competition—was the route to success, and so innate competitive drives (especially among males) were moderated through ritual and custom, while a thoroughly entangled condition of mutual indebtedness helped maintain a generally cooperative attitude on everyone’s part.

Today we still enjoy vestiges of the gift economy, notably in the family. We don’t keep close tabs on how much we are spending on our three-year-old child in an effort to make sure that accounts are settled at some later date; instead, we provide food, shelter, education and more as free gifts, out of love. Yes, parents enjoy psychological rewards, but (at least in the case of mentally healthy parents) there is no conscious process of bargaining, in which we tell the child, "I will give you food and shelter if you repay me with goods and services of equivalent or greater value."

For humans in simple societies, the community was essentially like a family. Freeloading was occasionally a problem, and when it became a drag on the rest of the community it was punished by subtle or not-so-subtle social signals—ultimately, ostracism. But otherwise no one kept score of who owed whom what; to do so would have been considered very bad manners.

We know this from the accounts of 20th-century anthropologists who visited surviving hunter-gatherer societies. Often they reported on the amazing generosity of people who seemed eager to share everything they owned despite having almost no material possessions and being officially listed by aid agencies as among the poorest people on the planet.

Anthropologists routinely felt embarrassed by this generosity, and, in one instance after another, after being gifted some prized food or a painstakingly hand-made basket, immediately offered a manufactured knife or ornament in return. The anthropologists assumed that natives would be happy to receive the trinkets, but the recipients instead appeared insulted. What had happened? The natives’ initial gifts were a way of saying, "You are part of the family; welcome!" But the immediate offering of a gift in return smacked of trade—something only done with strangers. The anthropologists were understood as having said, "No, thanks. I do not wish to be considered part of your family; I want to remain a stranger to you." It was the ultimate faux pas!

Here is all of economic history compressed into one sentence: As societies have grown more complex, larger, more far-flung and diverse, the tribe-based gift economy has shrunk in importance, while the trade economy has grown to dominate nearly every aspect of people’s lives, and has expanded in scope to encompass the entire planet.

With more and more of our daily human interactions based on exchange rather than gifting, we have developed polite ways of being around each other on a daily basis while maintaining an exchange-mediated social distance. This is particularly the case in large cities, where anonymity is fostered also by the sheer numbers of people one sees from day to day. In the best instances, we still take care of one another—through government programs and private charities. We still enjoy some of the benefits of the old gift economy in our families and churches. But increasingly, the market rules our lives. Our apparent destination in this relentless trajectory toward expansion of trade is a world in which everything is for sale, and all human activities are measured by and for their monetary value.

Humanity has benefited in many obvious ways from this economic evolution: the gift economy really only worked when we lived in small bands and had almost no possessions to speak of. So letting go of the gift economy was a trade-off for progress—houses, cities, cars, iPods, and all the rest. Still, saying goodbye to community-as-family was painful, and there have been various attempts throughout history to try to revisit it.

Communism was one such attempt, and we know how that worked out. Trying to institutionalize a gift economy at the scale of the nation state introduces all kinds of problems, including those of how to reward initiative and punish laziness in ways that everyone finds acceptable, and how to deter corruption among those whose job it is to collect, count, and reapportion the wealth.

But, back to our tour of economic history. Along the road from the gift economy to the trade economy there were several important landmarks. Of these, the invention of money was arguably the most important. Money is essentially a tool to facilitate trade. People invented it because they needed a medium of exchange to make trading easier, simpler, and more flexible.

Once money came into use, the exchange process was freed to grow and to insert itself into aspects of life where it had never been permitted previously. Money simultaneously began to serve other functions as well—principally, as a measure and store of value.

Today we take money for granted. But until fairly recent times it was an oddity, something only merchants used on a daily basis. Some complex societies, including ancient Egypt, managed to do almost completely without it; even in the U.S., until the mid-20th century, many rural families used money only for occasional trips into town to buy nails, boots, glass, or other items they couldn’t grow or make for themselves on the farm.

In his marvelous book The Structures of Everyday Life: Civilization & Capitalism 15th-18th Century, historian Fernand Braudel wrote of the gradual insinuation of the money economy into the lives of medieval peasants:

"What did it actually bring? Sharp variations in prices of essential foodstuffs; incomprehensible relationships in which man no longer recognized either himself, his customs or his ancient values. His work became a commodity, himself a ‘thing.’"

While early forms of money consisted of anything from sheep to shells, coins made of gold and silver gradually emerged as the most practical, universally accepted means of exchange, measure of value, and store of value.

Money’s ease of storage enabled industrious individuals to accumulate substantial amounts of wealth. But this concentrated wealth also presented a target for thieves. Thievery was especially a problem for traders: while the portability of money enabled them to travel for long distances to purchase rare fabrics and spices, highwaymen often lurked along the way, ready to snatch a purse at knife-point.

These problems led to the invention of banking—a practice in which metal-smiths who routinely dealt with large amounts of gold and silver (and who were accustomed to keeping it in secure, well-guarded vaults) agreed to store other people’s coins, offering storage receipts in return. Storage receipts could then be traded as money, thus making trade easier and safer.

Eventually, goldsmith-bankers realized that they could issue paper receipts for more gold than they had in their vaults, without anyone being the wiser. They did this by making loans of the receipts, for which they charged a fee amounting to a percentage of the loan.

Initially the Church regarded the practice of profiting from loans as a sin—known as "usury"—but the bankers found a loophole in religious doctrine: it was permitted to charge for reimbursement of expenses incurred in making the loan; this was termed "interest." Gradually bankers widened the definition of "interest" to include what had formerly been called "usury."

The practice of loaning out receipts for gold that didn’t really exist worked fine, unless many receipt-holders wanted to redeem paper notes for gold or silver all at once. Fortunately for the bankers, this happened so rarely that eventually the writing of receipts for more money than was on deposit became a perfectly respectable practice known as fractional reserve banking.

It turned out that having increasing amounts of money in circulation was a benefit to traders and industrialists during the historical period when all of this was happening—a time when unprecedented amounts of new wealth were being created, first through colonialism and slavery, but then through the harnessing of the enormous energies of fossil fuels.

The last impediment to money’s ability to act as a lubricant for transactions was its remaining tie to precious metals. As long as paper notes were redeemable for gold or silver, the amounts of these substances existing in vaults put at least a theoretical restraint on the process of money creation. Paper currencies not backed by metal had sprung up from time to time previously; by the late 20th century, they were the near-universal norm.

Along with more abstract forms of currency, the past century has also seen the appearance and growth of ever-more sophisticated investment instruments. Stocks, bonds, options, futures, long- and short-selling, derivatives, credit default swaps, and more now enable investors to make (or lose) money on the movement of prices of real or imaginary properties and commodities, and to insure their bets, and even their bets on other investors’ bets.

Probably the most infamous investment scheme of all time was created by Charles Ponzi, an Italian immigrant to the U.S. who, in 1919, began promising investors he could double their money within 90 days. Ponzi told clients the profits would come from buying discounted postal reply coupons in other countries and redeeming them at face value in the United States—a technically legal practice that could yield up to a 400 percent profit on each coupon redeemed due to differences in currency values.

What he didn’t tell them was that each coupon had to be redeemed individually, so the red tape involved would entail prohibitive costs if large numbers of the coupons (which were only worth a few pennies) were bought and redeemed. In reality, Ponzi was merely paying early investors returns from the principal amounts put down by later investors.

It was a way of shifting wealth from the many to the few, with Ponzi skimming off a lavish income as the money passed through his hands. At the height of the scheme, Ponzi was raking in $250,000 a day, millions in today’s dollars. Thousands of people lost their life savings, in some cases having mortgaged or sold their houses in order to invest.

A few critics (primarily advocates of gold-backed currency) have called fractional reserve banking a kind of Ponzi scheme, and there is some truth to the claim. As long as the real economy of goods and services within a nation is growing, an expanding money supply seems justifiable, arguably necessary. However, a resource-consuming economy cannot continue to grow forever on a finite planet.

Units of currency—which exist today mostly in the form of electronic bookkeeping entries—are essentially claims on labor and resources; and, as those claims multiply (with the growth of the money supply), and as resources deplete, eventually the remaining resources will be insufficient to satisfy all of the existing monetary claims. And so those claims will lose value, perhaps dramatically and suddenly. When this happens, paper and electronic currency systems based on money creation through fractional reserve banking will produce results somewhat similar to those of a Ponzi scheme: i.e., a few may profit, at least temporarily, but the vast majority will lose much or all of what they have.

Is this the end of the story? As society dramatically simplifies itself in the wake of fossil fuel depletion, will we revert to some form of gift economy? Or will we catch and steady ourselves on some intermediate rung on the ladder of economic development?

Only time will tell. Perhaps a general knowledge of our economic history can help us assess the options ahead and plan for a managed "money descent," just as some far-seeing Transition communities are planning for "energy descent."

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False Spring 2010

SUBHEAD: All these lovely mild days, I confess, made me very nervous. Something is happening... out there. Image above: Cherry blossoms in Chautauqua County, New York. The temperature was in the 40ºF range back in April of 1995. Photos taken by Juan Wilson. By James Kunstler on 5 April 2010 in Kunstler.com - (http://kunstler.com/blog/2010/04/false-spring.html) In a place like upstate New York, north of Albany, where April is more generally known as "mud season," and the wait for "ice-out" on the big lakes takes forever, and on frigid nights the windigos steal through the tops of the tall pines -- it would seem foolish to complain about perfectly beautiful weather.
We just had a week in the 70s, with more to come. The grass went from ochre to bright green in about thirty-six hours. The buds are popping like mad. This is usually what the first week of May is like around here, and that fact alone may explain New York state's relentless population drain over the past forty years.
I was out on my bicycle, naturally, taking it all in -- like, why sit inside and sulk because the weather is strange in a pleasant way? -- and I ventured into the outlands east of town, where an impressive number of gigantic new houses had landed like alien mother-ships in the former cow pastures and wood lots. Of course, the aesthetics were an issue apart from the socio-economics of it, but nonetheless interesting.
Each new, gigantic house seemed the result of a losing struggle to reinvent basic design principles that did not require re-invention. I doubt the spirit of joyous "creativity" among the star-architects has seeped down to the level of the provincial house-builders, who, after all, are just assemblers of modular materials like dimensional lumber and eight-foot sheet-rock. It's their inability to assemble these parts coherently that's really striking, so what you get is an endless variety of mistakes along with a complete absence of anything done really well -- which may be the essence of what the "diversity" craze has really meant to us, the ethos of current times.
The abiding quality of all these houses was grandiosity (by which I do not mean grand-ness). That, too, is a signature of these times in America -- the nation too big to fail and tragically destined to do just that on account of its too big to fail-ness. And, of course, one could not fail to wonder, cruising by these hideously ponderous houses, whether as a matter of fact they were failing in terms of the owners' ability to keep up with the payments, for instance. Image above: On the same day, near the cherry tree, comfrey was growing, still covered with snow, and surrounded by new dandelion greens. In the 1990 there were at least two occasions when the cherry blossoms had snow on them as late as Mother's Day in Panama, NY (Chautauqua County). One after another, I pictured a husband and wife within sitting in the sunny breakfast room on Easter morning humped in tears as they sorted through stacks of bills and bank statements... and I imagined the yellow foreclosure tape a few weeks hence atop the weird split-block portico treatments and misbegotten arrays of concrete balusters, and the colossal Palladianesque windows with their pathetic snap-in muntins (and the fantastic solar heat-gain, not figured-in by the designer-builder, that would turn the lawyer-foyer into something like a crematorium by two p.m.)... and the pension fund in Wisconsin or Norway that was sitting on the booby-trapped CDO that contained this sketchy mortgage and thousands of others just like it... and, well, this choo-choo of thoughts led to envisioning the train-wreck of economies and nations that lies in wait just around the bend....
One also could not fail to reflect on the recklessness of a nation that placed untold million-dollar bets on the idea that it would be possible to travel anywhere in an automobile from houses like these a few scant years from now. This far along in the tribulations of our time, most Americans still have not heard of peak oil, and the few who have regard it as some figment that Ralph Nader or Al Gore conjured up on an acid trip in a sweat lodge. The more sophisticated among the mentally unwashed are certain that the earth has a creamy nougat center of low-sulfer light crude oil, or they heard that the Bakken formation in Dakota holds more oil than Saudi Arabia, or that the whole US car and truck fleet will be electrified in a year or two, or that we can drill-baby-drill our way to permanent oil abundance, or just that the American can-do spirit will come up with something to keep Happy Motoring alive because we're the greatest! Such grandiosity!
Personally, I look at these houses scattered around what was only recently a dedicated farm landscape and I am quite sure that the denizens within will be marooned in their great rooms, and that very probably many of them will have no job to go to -- in the conventional sense of what we think a job is, in some corporation or institution -- and that in a surprisingly short span of years these buildings will be ruins or squats. I think these thoughts after struggling up a rather steep hill more than half-a-mile (and many others previously). A trip anywhere from here, to do anything, and the return trip, would occupy an entire day even for someone in decent physical condition. Somebody accustomed to rations of Cheez Doodles and Mountain Dew would be dead by then. There will be lots of dead.
On the macro level, the feeling spreads across the USA that our troubles are behind us. Employment is ticking up. The S & P index only goes up now. The banks have stabilized and those "toxic assets" (which I call "frauds" and "swindles") have been disarmed and safely buried under Yucca Mountain. Housing starts may still be weak, but the "gaming" industry is making great strides in places like the old Puritan commonwealth of Massachusetts, so soon we'll have a virtually automatic economy of leisure-and-entertainment paid for by creaming off a small percentage of the quarters pumped into video slot stations. No doubt the Chinese will be jealous and try to imitate us.
All these lovely mild days, I was not unconscious of the eeriness of the weather and the possible insidious effects of it on the local ecosystem in everything from the added generations of deer ticks carrying Lyme disease and the death of the honeybees to the fate of this year's apple crop. I confess: it made me very nervous. Something is happening... out there. .

Tapped - The Movie

SOURCE: Kenneth Taylor (taylork021@Hawaii.rr.com) SUBHEAD: Protect your health and the health of Planet Earth. Don't drink plastic bottled water. Image above: Graphic logo from titles of "Tapped - The Movie". WHAT: Tapped - The Movie is to be shown on Kauai and is an effective warning to stop drinking water out of plastic bottles. Plastic containers are hazardous to your health. Watch the movie at the following locations to learn why: WHEN & WHERE: Sunday, April 11, 6 PM Lihue Neighborhood Center, 3353 Eono Street - Surfrider Foundation Wednesday, April 14, 6 PM Kekaha Neighborhood Center 8130 Elepaio Road Thursday, April 15, 6 PM Hanapepe Neighborhood Center 4451 Puoloo Road Saturday, April 17, 3 PM Koloa Neighborhood Center 3461 Weliweli Road Thursday, April 22, 6:30 PM Kapa'a Library 1464 Kuhio Highway Saturday, April 24, 3 PM Kalaheo Neighborhood Center 4480 Papalina Road Thursday, April 29, 6 PM Waimea Neighborhood Center 4556 Makeke Road SPONSORS: This film is brought to Kauai Island from the following organizations. The Surfrider Foundation, Zero Waste Kauai, Malama Kauai, Malama Kauai, GMO Free Kauai, The Sierra Club, The Vegetarian Society of Hawaii. REVIEW: (http://www.greenzer.com/blog/5183-tapped-documentary.html)

Before you start rolling your eyes and saying “another eco-documentary?” and then “and it’s about bottled water?”, bear with us. Sure, settling in to watch a film that focuses solely on bottled water sounds boring, but Tapped is anything but. The eco-doc investigates and explores all areas of bottled water and the results are in turn both shocking, appalling, and inspiring.

Brought to you from the producers of Who Killed the Electric Car, Tapped spills the goods on all the bad in the bottled water industry. Think you already know everything there is to know about why we shouldn’t be buying bottled water? You might not. Maybe you acknowledge the environmental issues of using petroleum to make the plastic and not recycling the bottles after (leaving them to linger for hundreds of years), but do you think about the carbon emissions that come from transporting the water from the facility where it’s bottled to your local store? What about the fact that bottled water is less regulated than tap in many cases, and is, in fact, tap water just without the pesky government monitoring. And that’s just the tip of the ice berg (or, in this case, the first sip of the bottle). Click here to read more.

Tapped: The Movie Trailer See also: Ea O Ka Aina: Don't Drink the Bottled Water 8/13/09 Ea O Ka Aina: Bottled Water & Energy 3/10/09

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Superferry Transportation Study

SOURCE: Dick Mayer (dickmayer@earthlink.net) SUBHEAD: The Hawaii State Legislature is preparing to waste more scarce funds on Superferry studies. Image above: A detail of early Superferry website promo claiming passage to Kauai starting in July 2007. It didn't happen. From (http://www.alohadrugs.com/2007/01/launching-of-hawaii-super-ferry-ends.html) [Source's note: The Ferry Study Bill passed the Senate's Ways and Means Committee by a vote of 6-5 (Senator English was "excused". The new Senate draft makes no changes from the House draft but has a new "virtual date" of "July 1, 2050 to facilitate further discussion on the measure" (that will likely be changed later) and NO funding YET. The Department of Transportation could use some of its own funds or potentially some of its Special Harbor users funds to conduct the ferry study. Here is the latest draft] HB 2667 HD 2 SD 1 RELATING TO FERRIES. (http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/session2010/lists/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=HB&billnumber=2667) BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF HAWAII: SECTION 1. The State of Hawaii is made up of a chain of islands, six of which have major population centers. Unlike other states, Hawaii does not have the benefit of being linked to other states through the federal interstate highway system or a network of intersecting state and local highways and roads. With the exception of slow, time-consuming interisland shipping and barge operations for the transportation of property between the islands, the only link between the islands for the transportation of persons is air transportation, with our present reliance on two interisland carriers and a few smaller commuter operations. However, this reliance on air transportation may be misplaced. With the exception of the island of Hawaii, each of the neighbor islands is served by only one airport, and each may be subjected to severe operational interruption in the event of a natural disaster, such as a hurricane or earthquake. Even the Hickam Air Force Base-Honolulu international airport complex, with its location along the shoreline on Oahu, may be operationally shut down by a natural disaster. For example, had the airport at Lihue, Kauai, been shut down operationally in the aftermath of Hurricane Iniki, it would have taken days, if not weeks, before any major aid and relief in the form of water, food, medical supplies, and rescue workers could have reached the island. Hawaii is too reliant on its present slow water carriers and air carriers in the event of a major natural disaster. While the Hawaii Superferry operation had its shortcomings, a rocky start, and a 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. It was the missing link in the transportation system between the islands that is so essential for the health, safety, and well-being of the people of Hawaii. 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 and ferry system authority to provide the additional link essential for the carriage of persons and property between the islands of the State. SECTION 2. (a) The department of transportation shall conduct a study to determine the feasibility of establishing a statewide ferry system and a Hawaii state ferry system authority as the primary agency for oversight and regulation of the statewide ferry system. (b) The department shall study various types of ferry systems, including passenger-only and passenger, automobile, and cargo ferry systems, that the department determines are suitable for operations within Hawaiian waters, taking into account such parameters as vessel design and speed, passenger capacity, cargo capacity, automobile capacity, availability of smaller vessels for transportation between the islands of Maui, Molokai, and Lanai, and compatibility with harbor infrastructure. The study shall also include: (1) An analysis of potential costs and revenues of a statewide ferry system, as well as economic, social, and physical or other effects upon residents of and visitors to Hawaii; (2) Any impact a statewide ferry system would have on the State and the counties; (3) Information on the financing of a statewide ferry system, including the establishment of rates, fees, rents, charges, or any other payments or costs associated with a statewide ferry system; (4) Information on the development of a special fund for the financial self-sustainability of the statewide ferry system; and (5) Information on the impact that a statewide ferry system would have on the other water carriers in the State. (c) The study shall also include the following information on the development of a Hawaii state ferry system authority: (1) The composition of the authority; (2) The rights, duties, powers, and obligations of the authority in developing, coordinating, and implementing state policies and direction for the safe transportation of persons and property by ferry between the Hawaiian islands; and (3) The ability of the authority to eliminate or reduce barriers to travel by ferry between the Hawaiian islands and provide a positive and competitive business environment. (d) The department shall submit a report of its findings and recommendations, including any proposed legislation, to the legislature no later than twenty days prior to the convening of the regular session of 2011. SECTION 3. This Act shall take effect on July 1, 2050. Report Title: Transportation; Ferry System Study Description: Requires the Department of Transportation to conduct a study on the feasibility of establishing a statewide ferry system and the Hawaii State Ferry System Authority for the operation of a ferry system between the islands. Effective 7/1/2050. .

Corn virus still on Kauai

SUBHEAD: Seed companies say corn virus under control. Ag Research Center says it is a plant problem without a known solution.

 [IB Editor's note: It is not known what native grasses, insects or other species might be affected or are harboring this decease of Kauai GMO corn production.]

 
Image above: Damage to corn from maize chlorotic mottle virus decease. From (http://nu-distance.unl.edu/Homer/disease/agron/corn/CoMCMV.html)  

By Coco Zickos on 4 April 2010 in The Garden Island - 
  (http://thegardenisland.com/news/local/article_447c58a0-407f-11df-a8cd-001cc4c03286.html)

A corn virus that plagued Kaua‘i in the early 1990s has reared its diseased head again but maize chlorotic mottle is “still in a fairly isolated geographical area,” said Pioneer Hi-Bred International Business and Community Outreach Manager Cindy Goldstein.

“We’re certainly carefully monitoring this,” she said, adding it is “not a concern for hobby farmers” or other agricultural practitioners.

Weather patterns in 2009 were similar to 1989, including a wet fall season, which would explain the “explosion of insects” that transmit the virus from one plant to another, said Kaua‘i Agricultural Research Center Associate Plant Pathologist Dr. Jeri Ooka.

Because there has been “exponential growth” in the seed industry since it first arrived on island in 1969, the virus has not had such detrimental effects as it did in the early 1990s when it was still a “small industry,” he said. Now, corn is a dominate player on the Westside.

Although the disease never really went away, it was controlled for 20 years, Ooka said.

While the virus will “often be present at low levels,” seed companies “will see a spike in the disease sometimes” such as last fall when signs of the virus first began appearing in crops, Goldstein said.
The disease typically infects only younger plants, stunting their growth and reducing the quality and quantity of kernels, she said.

This can lead to a production problem, Ooka said.

Syngenta Hawai‘i Outreach Manager Laurie Goodwin said the virus has not disturbed the company’s profit margins, even though it has been detrimental in some localized areas.

“It depends on how things play out,” she said regarding profitability.

Thus far, the virus has not been known to spread to other plant species, Goldstein said, but it can affect different varieties of corn crops, like sweet and field corn.

The virus is “not really transported by seeds,” especially after they are dried prior to being shipped to countries around the world, Ooka said. The lack of moisture makes them “less transmittable.”
However, the disease “probably got here via seeds being sent here,” he added.

To mitigate impact, seed companies have been “cooperating and collaborating” their efforts, Goldstein said.

“It’s not a huge problem,” Ooka said, but “we want to ensure the plant population is healthy.”
Infected plants are immediately removed, said Goldstein, adding that the virus is not known to live in soil or water. “If they even look like they have something,” the corn is quickly eradicated.

Syngenta has also “been really active in rouging out affected plants,” Goodwin said.

The “question that needs to be answered now” is “what is the alternate host and how is it able to survive?” Ooka said.

“There might be another host besides corn, but so far we haven’t found it in anything else yet,” he said. Once another host is pinpointed, the virus may be brought back down to a “very low undetectable level.”

“We cannot figure out where this thing is hiding,” he said.

The good news is “people don’t get plant viruses,” Goldstein said.

“It’s not a people problem, it’s a plant problem,” Ooka said.


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Eco-friendly wastewater pollution

SUBHEAD: Shrimp farm committed to eco-friendly sustainability while expelling up to 30 million gallons of wastewater effluent and treated shrimp remains into the ocean daily.

By Coco Zickos on 3 April 2010 in The Garden Island -  
(http://thegardenisland.com/news/local/article_83fe4e52-3fbc-11df-85f4-001cc4c002e0.html)
  

 
Image above: The overflow weir on Kekaha’s shrimp farm discharge ditch is currently unused. Photo supplied by George Chamberland.  

[Editor's note: "Shrimp farm committed to sustainability" is the title of this article and is high on the recent list of disingenuous hype that have made the way to the top of the front page of the Garden Island. There is no way a that the daily dumping of 30 million gallons of putrid fishfarm waste onto a living reef is sustainable. It is the antithesis. As of now the shrimp farm volume is so low that no waste water needs to be emitted into the ocean. If Sunrise Capital wants to raise shrimp they should do it at a scale, and with techniques, that do not require polluting the ocean. Moreover, what we should be doing is restoring the natural wetlands of the westside of Kauai. Besides Pearl Harbor, Mana wetlands were the most important source of bird and fish diversity in Hawaii. Now they support the US military and GMO mutated crops. We don't want either. Kauai was fortunate that the last time this shrimp-farm operation went viral that we escaped an uncontrolled spread of shellfish disease. For some history see the TGI articles on closing of and quarantine of this same plant in 2004 when a virus wiped out this plant.]
 
Although Sunrise Capital is seeking a permit to expel up to 30 million gallons of wastewater effluent and treated shrimp remains into the ocean daily, the Kekaha aquaculture operation is committed to implementing sustainable and eco-friendly practices, George Chamberlain said this week.

“Everything I stand for is to do things in an environmentally sustainable way,” he said. Chamberlain is president of Global Aquaculture and an owner of Integrated Aquaculture, which purchased the farming operation last year.

Efforts to reduce nutrient levels to “very” diluted levels to mitigate waste matter have been taken seriously, he said Thursday. The operation has been running at minimal levels over the past year with only a “skeleton crew.”

Plastic-lined ponds include a drain system which periodically removes “settled matter,” along with a “skimmer system” which discards “floating material,” according to Department of Health Clean Water Branch officials.

“The nutrient levels in the immediate vicinity of the discharge into the receiving ocean waters are expected to be elevated from ambient conditions,” CWB officials wrote in an e-mail. “However, the adjacent coastal ocean area is not expected to have any noticeable effect associated with the shrimp farm discharge.”

The level of discharge is expected to be lower than the proposed amount at around 12 million gallons a day when operating “at full speed” with all 50 ponds, which vary from one to one-quarter acre in size, Chamberlain said.

“Exactly whether we need that quantity is still a question,” Chamberlain said regarding the amount in the Draft National Pollutant Discharge Elimination application. “Our future is still uncertain.”
Kama‘aina who frequent the neighboring surf spots such as Kinikinis, Major’s Bay and Family Housing are not confident the environment will be unaffected.

Remembering the “oily, filmy and stinky” water when the farm — owned by Ceatch USA at the time — was operating at full capacity from February 2000 to December 2003, Lawa‘i resident Derek Pellin said he is concerned similar effects will happen again.

“You could almost taste it through your skin,” he said last week.

Pellin noted that he can now see the reef there again. “It’s the first time I’ve seen color. Before, you couldn’t even see your feet.”

Often taking his family to the Westside location, Pellin questioned if the discharge permit would even be a consideration at a more popular beach such as Po‘ipu.

“Maybe our lives not as worthy,” he said.

Chamberlain said the shrimp farm was “never out of compliance” during its years of operation. Historical data demonstrates “no perceptible effect to the coastal water quality,” according to CWB officials.

“This is due in part because the coastal waters in the area have very good water circulation and/or current flow which aids in the natural assimilation and renewal of the ocean waters,” the CWB said. “Additionally, the concentration of nitrogen and phosphorus from the agriculture or aquaculture discharges to the area are much lower than those found in discharges from other domestic or animal wastewater treatment facilities.”

The prospective discharge will join the area’s agriculture run-off which has been dispelled for “close to 100 years,” Chamberlain said. “There has never been any effect over the entire period.”
Chamberlain said it is “with great confidence” that he can say there will be “no effect” to the environment.

Nonetheless, Jason Badua, born and raised on the Westside, said he is “very concerned about this potentially huge source of water pollution.”

“The pollution from unintended agricultural runoff on this island is already bad enough,” he said. “We shouldn’t be adding to it by allowing intentional pollution. I care deeply about this island. This is home.”

Badua, an avid surfer, also raises concern about the “daily dumping of shrimp remains and effluent” which “sharks may become habituated into showing up for free meals served every day.”

Business proposal
Sunrise Capital intends to expand its operations to include a variety of species including moi, kahala and possibly tuna, Chamberlain said.

The aquaculture farm expects to produce several species which would be “sold fresh” only within the state, he said.

“Not attempting to produce any large quantities of any one species to the point of having to freeze and send to the Mainland” is the company’s objective, Chamberlain said. “The minute we have to freeze and process converts the product to a less valuable form.”

Using the most advanced technology and “selectively breeding ... genetically improved animals” will also be part of Sunrise Capital’s “step-by-step process” in the coming years, he said.

Clams and oysters may also be harvested, which would help to “remove the tint of algae” from the wastewater discharge, he said. “Our objective is to recycle and reuse as much as we can.”

Harvesting algae or biofuel could be another possibility in the company’s future.

“Our goal is not so much to ramp up” to a full-scale operation right away, Chamberlain said.
However, within the next year and into 2011, the farm should be performing at a larger capacity, he said.

“This could be quite a benefit to Kaua‘i,” Chamberlain said. “Our goal is to try to make a showcase and have something Kaua‘i can be proud of.”

Water source
To meet its daily fluid needs, Sunrise Capital will only use sea water pumped in from a 550-foot deep well which goes “directly to the farm.”

The water will travel through a volcanic lava bed and will be “filtered over a mile of lava rock,” Chamberlain said. “What comes out of ground is clean, pure ocean water and has essentially very low organic mater.”

In addition, the ponds contain a plastic lining which will make them “totally impermeable” to the ground.

Shrimp virus
The white spot syndrome virus that plagued the farm several years ago, causing the business to cease operations in 2004, had “never been identified in Hawai‘i before,” Chamberlain said.
“What happened to the previous owners was a very unfortunate event,” he said. “It was catastrophic.”
Sunrise Capital “understands what happened to the virus and we know how to control that,” Chamberlain said.
The disease can be transmitted by birds and the company plans on “putting bird netting over the ponds.”
Visit http://www.hawaii.gov/health/environmental/water/cleanwater/index.html to review a copy of the Draft National Pollutant Discharge Elimination application or visit the Kaua‘i District DOH office, 3040 Umi St., Lihu‘e.

Comments must be sent by April 10 to Clean Water Branch, Environmental Management Division, Department of Health, 919 Ala Moana Blvd., Room 301, Honolulu, Hawai‘i, 96814-4920. Objections and requests for a public hearing should also be sent to that address.

Kekaha shrimp operation put under quarantine  

By Chris Cook on 17 April 2004 in The Garden Island - 
  (http://thegardenisland.com/news/article_56685ed4-8ff9-522c-af44-4907362cc5b9.html)

Shrimp from Ceatech's operation in Kekaha are under quarantine. An announcement from the state Department of Agriculture released Friday afternoon said the quarantine on the commercial shrimp farm was put into effect on Wednesday. The quarantine means no shrimp can be moved from the Ceatech Plantation.

A positive test on Ceatech shrimp showed the presumptive presence of the White Spot Syndrome Virus, according to the Department of Agriculture report. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported the outbreak Friday to the Office of International Epizootes, the organization concerned with animal health and the international movement of animals.

"While WSSV is a highly contagious and fatal disease for shrimp and other crustaceans, it does not pose any threat to human health, even if affected shrimp are consumed," the report from the Department of Agriculture said. White spots show on the shrimp and rapid death usually follows, the report said. The positive test is the first known detection of the virus in an aquaculture facility in Hawai‘i. The virus has had outbreaks in Japan, China, Thailand, Korea, the Philippines and in Central and South America.

"Due to the isolation of the farm on Kaua‘i, there is an excellent chance of containing this outbreak and eradicating the disease," said Dr. James Foppoli, State Veterinarian with Department of Agriculture. A problem was noted in one of the 40 growing ponds used by Ceatech in the Kekaha area on April 1. Shrimp samples were then sent for testing to the Aquaculture Pathology Laboratory at the University of Arizona in Tucson. The positive test result was reported to the Ceatech on April 14 and the company reported the situation to the U. S. Department of Agriculture's Veterinary Services Office in Honolulu, which then notified State Veterinarian, Dr. Foppoli.

On Wednesday evening Foppoll and Department of Agriculture chairperson Sandra Lee Kunimoto issued the quarantine. A stipulation of the quarantine is that no shrimp may be moved off the plantation without the authorization of the State Veterinarian. Animal disease control veterinarians from the Honolulu office of the USDA and from the State Department of Agriculture delivered the quarantine notice to Ceatech on Thursday.

 The veterinarians also initiated a "Foreign Animal Disease" investigation as required by USDA protocol, which among other things, involves trying to determine the possible source of the infection and prevent the spread of the disease. Additional samples were taken for testing and work has begun with Ceatech on a clean-up plan, according to the report. The quarantine is expected to be in effect until tests confirm that the facility is free of the disease.

 Last summer the Oceanic Institute in Waimanalo, O‘ahu provided a new line of Pacific white shrimp broodstock for testing to Ceatech. A report provided to The Garden Island said the shrimp were provided for on-farm growth evaluation trials. Ceatech's innovative farming system produces very high yields of distinctively high-quality table shrimp that are marketed in Hawai‘i and the U.S. Mainland under the trade name "Kauai Shrimp." The shrimp farm is in part located on former Kekaha Sugar lands that are leased from the State of Hawai‘i.

 Ceatech has offices in Honolulu where most business functions of the operation are undertaken. Studies show that the Mana Plain area where the Kekaha ponds are located are one of the preferred areas for shrimp aquaculture in Hawai‘i, due to abundant sunshine, isolation from urban areas, hot temperatures and the Westside's dry climate, according to a report found on Ceatech's Web site.

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