Ocean Fix - Druids or Engineers?

SOURCE: Jenny Ernst (kauaijen@yahoo.com) SUBHEAD: This oil well has done more to discredit heroic engineering than anything that has happened in the last 10 years. Image above: Sign "Beach Closed" along the shore in Grand Island, Louisiana. From (http://www.texarkanagazette.com/news/WireHeadlines/2010/05/27/bp-effort-to-plug-gulf-oil-spill-going-a-47.php) By Staff on 17 May 2010 in Decline of Empire - (http://www.declineoftheempire.com/2010/06/technological-progress-and-the-oil-leak.html) In a recent article Our Energy Problems Are Over! I gave Amy Jaffe of the Baker Institute (at Rice University) a very hard time. In Shale Gas Will Rock The World, Jaffe asserted her thesis that abundant unconventional natural gas from shale formations was a game-changer. This gas would supply the world with all energy we will ever need for decades to come. I gave her grief for saying things like this— But the skeptics aren't just overstating the obstacles. They're missing two much bigger points. For one thing, they're ignoring history: The reserves and production of new energy resources tend to increase over time, not decrease. They're also not taking into account how quickly public opinion can change. The country can turn on a dime and embrace a cheaper energy source, casting aside political or environmental reservations. This has happened before, with the rapid spread of liquefied-natural-gas terminals over the past few years. In short, the skeptics are missing the bigger picture—the picture I think is the much more likely one. Amy's thesis about unconventional natural gas, and indeed all Cornucopian (wildly optimistic) views of our energy future, depend on what I call the Assumption of Technological Progress. I stated this usually unstated assumption in a long, technical article called Economic Growth And Climate Change — No Way Out? When I wrote it, I thought I was preparing the way for a groundbreaking article to be published in Scientific American. That didn't turn out to be the case. Here's the Assumption— Technological progress marches on. Improvements are always sufficient to meet the requirements of economic expansion, or drive that expansion. These improvements include, most importantly, civilization's need for energy to fuel growth. For example, net energy returns on investment (EROI) for currently inefficient processes (e.g. biomass to cellulosic ethanol conversions) do not matter because they are based on current science & technology. The Assumption of Technological Progress. Source. In other words, we standardly assume that technology solves all problems. I concluded that this usually implicit assumption should be tossed out— The mere assumption that technological progress will be sufficient to achieve the desired stabilization of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere does not guarantee success. This assumption, like the future economic growth that depends on it, is incontrovertible only because of the faith placed in it, i.e. it must be accepted without proof or verification. It is all well & good to say with great conviction that "failure is not an option" but in the real world, failure is definitely a possibility, so risks grow. Worse yet, unquestioning faith in the impossibility of failure retards efforts achieve the necessary (but still unrealized) technologies required to reduce emissions, for if technological progress—Pielke, et. al call this "spontaneous" innovation—is guaranteed (i.e. comes "for free"), we need not try very hard to make technological progress happen. What I have called The Assumption of Technological Progress should be tossed out in so far as it is no longer in humanity's best interests to maintain it. Last evening I was watching a discussion of the oil leak on the PBS Newshour. Amy Jaffe was one of the participants—she is on the PBS approved "experts" list. Margaret Warner of PBS leads the discussion, and Paul Saffo is another participant. Bear in mind that the science & technology that allowed us drill for oil in the Gulf of Mexico deepwater has also failed so far to stop the oil leak. MARGARET WARNER — Amy Jaffe, how does it look to you in in Houston? What do you think this — this event is tapping into in the American public? AMY JAFFE, Rice University — Well, you know, we, in the American public, we are a big believer that there's a science and technology solution to everything — everything. So — and it was really amazing that the industry — we were sort of running out of oil onshore, and the industry was able to go out to the depths of the earth, under the sea, and keep us driving around in our cars. So, to sit here night after night and watch all these scientists unable to close a simple pipeline, even though it's a very complex engineering problem, as a layperson, when you sit here and watch the oil just spewing out of this pipeline, it is. It's just this horror movie, like we cannot believe that there isn't a technology to close this pipeline. And we, as Americans, believe there's a technological solution to everything. And the idea that we're going to have to wait until August for the technological solution, I think it's just got people just gripped in terror. MARGARET WARNER — Paul Saffo... AMY JAFFE — And it gets to our fundamental core. MARGARET WARNER — So, Paul Saffo, do you — do you agree that it's shaking our faith in technology and in Americans' ability? I mean, usually, we think — part of our whole ethos is, if there's a problem, Americans can fix it. PAUL SAFFO — Well, we have had an uneasy accommodation with our faith in technology for the last 10 years. It was shattered first with the popping of the dot-com bubble. And the whole climate debate circles around us right now. In fact, you see two camps in the climate debate. There are the druids who say we need to turn the clock back because we can't solve it, and the engineers who say we need to accelerate because we can solve this with heroic engineering. This oil well has done more to discredit heroic engineering than anything that has happened in the last 10 years. There's a lot of room for maneuver between so-called Druids and Engineers (Techno-Fixers). One needn't be one or the other, this issue is not Black Or White. That said, a reevaluation of "heroic engineering" and the assumption that technology solves all problems is long overdue. Amy Jaffe has now been forced to rethink her view that technological know-how solves all problems. Her quasi-religious faith in technology has been shaken—it gets to our fundamental core she said, and indeed it does. And the longer the oil leak goes on, the more reason there will be to call the Assumption of Technological Progress into question. I wonder now whether, given a few years to think about it, Amy Jaffe might hesitate to claim that extracting natural gas from shales is a game-changing technology that solves all of our energy problems for decades to come. Here's the PBS Newshour video. (http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/environment/jan-june10/oil2_05-31.html) .

Moutain Top Removal Action

SUBHEAD: We practice leaving little peaks of damaged West Virginia mountain soil in front of Chase Bank's ATMs. Image above: Reverend Billy exhorts the faithful of the Life After Shopping Church. By Bill Talen on 31 May 2010 for RevBilly.com - (http://revbilly.com/participate/forums/topic/1067) Chase Bank officials agreed at their annual shareholder meeting to stop underwriting the strip-mining called “Mountaintop Removal (MTR).” Less than two years ago, the bank managed a $690 million bond offering with the top MTR mining company, Massey Energy. Most environmental orgs, including Rainforest Action Network (RAN) and the Sierra Club, joined citizens’ coalitions, including “Alliance for Appalachia” as well as activists willing to block gates and tree-sit – our friends at “Climate Ground Zero.” RAN pressured the bank from within, buying shares and agitating at annual meetings, including the most recent meeting on May 18, 2010. In New York, we at the Life After Shopping Church sculpted “mountains in lobbies” in branch banks throughout the city. This is the practice of leaving little peaks of damaged West Virginia mountain soil in front of ATMs with information sheets that describe the impact of MTR. Our YouTube video of activist-customers closing their accounts while informing bank officers of the cancer, asthma and heart ailments among those who live in the valleys below MTR operations was a hit on the Net. On Easter Sunday April 4th the “Life After Shopping Gospel Choir” paraded across the East Village with a new mountain for Chase, arriving at the Astor Place branch at about 5 PM. After leaving the mountain, information and a special letter for CEO Jamie Dimon folded inside a plastic Easter egg, the NYPD arrested Talen for refusing to remove the mountain. Well, Earth-a-lujah! After losing our election last year we needed a Resurrection. And we have our mountain songs to sing this summer in our victory lap, with the finale at the West Virginia State Theater on Sat. July 24th. Video above: Reverend Billy film of customer closing Chase account on MTR issue. From (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZtT4mfT0Gc). .

Welcome to Slum Nation

SUBHEAD: German sensibility and American nonsense mark a contrast in culture... And they got Hitler.
Image above: Beer breakfast in Texas for a tailgaiter. From (http://blogs.houstonpress.com/eating/2008/11/choosing_a_breakfast_beer.php). By James Kunstler on 31 May 2010 in Kunstler.com - (http://kunstler.com/blog/2010/05/welcome-home-to-slum-nation.html) It's sad to be a citizen of a nation that can't do anything right. While BP was fumbling its "kill shot" into the Deepwater Horizon hole, and the dying pelicans were flopping in the poisoned marshlands, and rumors seeped across the Internet that nothing short of an atom bomb would avail to stop the underwater oil gusher -- not to mention, meanwhile, all the other problems out there, such as the ongoing melt-away of of capital in every corner of the world -- I found myself in Berlin, Germany, touring the city on a rented bicycle (after a 4,500-mile airplane ride, it is true).
When I was last there in '97, I was struck by how utterly all remnants of Hitler had been erased. I suppose it was a form of post traumatic stress syndrome. Quite a bit of memory has been recovered since then, and new monuments abound, from the Peter Eisenman-designed Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe -- very solemnly eloquent -- to a smaller memorial to Hitler's gay victims in the big park called the Tiergarten. Plaques explaining one Nazi horror after another are now liberally deployed around the old city center, and Herman Goering's Air Force Ministry was left standing as the last example of Third Reich art deco -- a form of extreme stripped down neo-classicism with all femininity removed, no curves, no ornaments. The site of Hitler's bunker is no longer a weed patch, but perhaps appropriately one of the city's rather rare surface parking lots, with a plaque telling the tale and tourist docents pointing out (I swear I heard this) that "...Hitler's bedroom lay about where that white Audi is parked...."
It seemed to me that, altogether, the German expression of regret appears deeply sincere now and absolutely straightforward, with no side-trips into the realm of excuses or attempted explanations. With the German social mentality now restored to normality -- laughter in the busy streets and all dark thoughts of race vengeance banished -- one was prompted to reflect on just how such a civilized folk could fall into a mass psychosis like Naziism. And by extension, it was hard to evade the question as to how the USA might not lurch into something worse. The Germans were punished pretty severely for losing (and starting!) the First World War. Depression and hyper-inflation drove them to their knees. I daresay, too, that something about industrialization meshed with their ethnic neuroses to very bad effect (though this is a subject that would take a book to lay out). Anyway, it drove them batshit. They followed a madman through the gates of hell and made a smoking ruin of their home place.
America today is arguably a far less civilized land, and even more neurotic, than the Germany of the 1930s. We live in places so extreme in ugliness, squalor, and dysfunction that just going to the store leaves a sentient American reeling in angst and anomie. Our popular culture would embarrass a race of hebephrenics. We think that neck tattoos are cool. A lot of our pop music is overtly homicidal. Our richest citizens have managed to define a new banality of evil. Our middle classes are subject to humiliations so baroque that sadomasochism even fails to encompass the finer points. And we don't even need help from other nations to run our own economic affairs into the ground -- we're digging our national grave with a kind of antic glee, complete with all the lurid stagecraft that Las Vegas, Hollywood, and Madison Avenue can muster.
Biking around Berlin -- especially the non-tourist neighborhoods, and the beautiful, shaded paths beside the little river Spree, where young people sat enjoying the simple tranquility of the waterside on a spring day -- I could only imagine the scene back home at the Indianapolis Speedway (or the dozens of Nascar ovals around Dixie) -- the frantic idiocy of America-on-wheels, the fat slobs in beer can hats grilling cheez dogs in the parking lots, letting loose their asinine rebel yells as though this made men of them, and above it all the deafening noise of a people literally driving themselves to death and madness.
Meanwhile, the evil plume of crude oil in the Gulf of Mexico grows ever-larger by the hour and every living thing in that quarter of the sea faces slow death. That's our memorial-in-the-making to ourselves. I feel sorry for Barack Obama in this situation. Dmitry Orlov is right: this is our Chernobyl. This is the cherry-on-top of all our feckless foolishness. Memorial Day this year is the welcome mat to our hard time. We'll be lucky if some honorable as-yet-unknown colonel in the wadis of Afghanistan comes home to overthrow president Glenn Beck, or whichever lethal moron ends up in power after 2012. We'll be a very different America then, with no going back.
Coming home to the USA was like re-entering a special kind of mega-slum where nothing that can be screwed up is left un-screwed up. My Delta flight was two hours late, of course. Amusingly, the explanation given was that new runways were under construction at JFK airport -- like, Delta just discovered it that morning, or somehow they've been unable to work that into their scheduling process after months and months. The things we tell ourselves are so absurd that even the late George Carlin couldn't make them up. We stopped on the tarmac at JFK because they didn't have a gate for us. We passengers were put onto some kind of people-mover contraption. The engine failed so we we sat in this steel box in 90-degree heat until they fetched another one. Then there was the journey through a set of dim tunnels to customs, and another journey up a steep ramp shared by motor vehicles and their exhalations to the terminal exit. Welcome home to Slum Nation. .

Is BP "siphoning" our well?

SUBHEAD: Is British Petroleum trying to cap the Gulf oil well, or keep it flowing? Image above: It used to be American gas tanks were not locked. That ended during the gas shortages of the 1970's when siphoning became protifable. From (http://www.flickr.com/photos/36503805@N00/3911738871). by Mike Adams 31 May 2010 in Natural News - (http://www.naturalnews.com/028898_British_Petroleum_Gulf_Coast.html) Today, I spent my time interviewing people on the Gulf Coast from Mississippi to Louisiana. Several of those interviews were conducted on camera, and you'll be seeing those videos as early as tomorrow on NaturalNews. Interestingly, it turns out that a lot of the people living on the Gulf Coast have a history of working with oil companies -- and even on oil rigs. I spoke to several people who have a work history with BP, and two of them told me they are certain that British Petroleum is NOT trying to stop the oil coming out of the well. What they are trying to do, I was told, is SAVE the oil well so that they can capture the oil and sell it. This claim stands in direct contradiction to what BP says. The company insists it's trying to stop the flow of oil from the well. But if you look at BP's actions, what they're really trying to do is siphon off the gushing oil where it can be pumped to a tanker ship and sold as crude. It is a simple matter, by the way, for oil companies to separate water from oil. They do it all the time in oil fields all across America. So if they can siphon off the oil from the Deepwater Horizon well -- even if it's mixed with water -- they can sell it for potentially billions of dollars. It raises the question: Is the economic promise of captured oil causing BP to avoid using its best effort to cap the well? Tapping, not capping Notice that the new device they're lowering onto the well is designed not to close it off but to pump the oil to an awaiting ship. This is a plan to "capture" the oil, not to seal off the well. The mainstream media hasn't picked up on this yet, by the way. To my knowledge, no one is yet reporting this story that BP may have never had any intention of actually capping the deep sea well. We already know BP has been extremely dishonest with the media about this entire situation. By distorting the truth and lying to the public, BP has lost all credibility with almost everyone (Governors, Senators, journalists, etc.). So how can we trust that BP is actually trying to cap this well when there's so much money to be made from allowing it to keep spilling oil that can soon be captured? In other words, it's in BP's financial interests to avoid capping the well and claim the well can't be capped when, in reality, what they may be trying to do is buy more time until they can lower a "capture containment device" onto the well head that can direct all the outflowing crude oil to BP's awaiting tanker ships. In talking to the people face to face here on Gulf Coast, I learned that Gulf Coast people don't trust BP, and they don't trust the company's intentions. Today was the first I had heard of the BP agenda to "keep the well flowing" yet suddenly this theory makes sense. BP, after all, went through all the trouble and expense to drill the well. Why wouldn't they want to cash in on the crude oil coming out of it? To collapse the well and plug it for good would destroy BP's chance to siphon off oil and sell it for profit (until at least August, when the pressure relief wells are expected to be completed). And that is perhaps the single most important reason why oil is still flowing out of that well right now. As one person I interviewed today put it, "Why should a British petroleum company care about what happens to America's shores?" After all, the financial payoffs to the businesses hurt by the spill may pale in comparison to the billions of dollars in profit to be had from tapping -- not capping -- the well and turning crude oil into raw cash. There will be more to this story. Let's see if the mainstream media picks up on this angle... Watch for video interviews with the people on the Gulf Coast. We'll be publishing them on NaturalNews starting as early as tomorrow. I'm headed to New Orleans tomorrow to check out the local scene there and see what else I can find out by talking to the locals on the front lines. .

Australia Takes Japan to Court

SUBHEAD: Australia begins legal action in international court to stop whaling by Japan. Image above: Whale meat on sale at the Tsukiji fish market in Japan. Photo by Stefan Powell.

By Matthew McDermott on 28 May 2010 in Tree Hugger - (http://www.treehugger.com/files/2010/05/australia-takes-japan-to-court-stop-whaling.php)

Threatened for some time now, Australia has begun legal action against Japan to stop whaling in the Southern Ocean. Formal proceedings will begin in The Hague next week and would lead to a provisional order for Japan to halt whaling ahead of a full hearing. As you might imagine, the Japanese fisheries ministry isn't too pleased:

"We will continue to explain that the scientific whaling that we are conducting is lawful in accordance with article eight of the international convention for the regulation of whaling," said the ministry's deputy press secretary Hidenobu Sobashima. Mr Sobashima said the issue "shouldn't jeopardize the overall good relations between Japan and Australia". (BBC News)

Indeed, Australian officials echo the sentiment of cordiality, with Foreignn Minister Stephen Smith saying, "Whatever our differences on whaling, this issue should not be allowed to jeopardize the strength and the growth of our bilateral relationship." (Reuters)

Whaling Peace Plan Ironically Declares War on Whales All of this comes as a so-called 'peace plan' proposed by the International Whaling Commission continues to move forward, which would legalize commercial whaling with stricter quotas--the very type Japan now conducts under the guise of lethal scientific research, permitted under the decades-old international ban on whaling.

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Haiti will Refuse Monsanto Seed

SUBHEAD: Haitian farmers refuse Monsanto's seeds and instead commit to burning them. Image above: Monique, a mother of five, bakes biscuits from clay mixed with a little margarine and sugar on a public playing field. The "mud cakes" are now eaten widely to stave off hunger pangs. From (http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/gallery/2008/jun/10/internationalaidanddevelopment?picture=334697070). By Sara Novak on 30 May 2010 in Tree Hugger - (http://www.treehugger.com/files/2010/05/haitian_farmers_refuse_monsantos_seeds_and_instead_commit_to_burning_them.php)

Food Freedom recently reported that Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, peasant farmer leader of the Peasant Movement of Papay (MPP) called the entry of Monsanto seeds into Haiti "a very strong attack on small agriculture, on farmers, on biodiversity, on Creole seeds. Monsanto's seed donations were an unwelcomed gift to a country with vocal opposition to GMO seeds for fear they would ruin what little agriculture the country has left.

Monsanto will be donating 60,000 seed sacks of hybrid corn and vegetable seeds to Haiti and MPP leader Chavannes Jean-Baptiste has vowed to burn them. According to Food Freedom,

"The hybrid corn seeds Monsanto has donated to Haiti are treated with the fungicide Maxim XO, and the calypso tomato seeds are treated with thiram.[3] Thiram belongs to a highly toxic class of chemicals called ethylene bisdithiocarbamates (EBDCs). The EPA determined that EBDC-treated plants are so dangerous to agricultural workers that they must wear special protective clothing when handling them"

Monsanto is trying to create the same addiction it created at home, abroad. Considering that more than 9 out of 10 soybean seeds in the U.S. are linked to Monsanto. It's the same for cotton and just a little lower for corn. That gives Monsanto complete control over seed companies because no seed company could survive without selling Monsanto's Round Up Ready Seeds.

I wrote last year that with a monopoly on the industry the company can increase prices. In the end, this cycle will hurt farmers who depend on the seeds because farmers can't risk the litigation that would ensue should they replant the seeds. While the initial donation would be free, peasant farmers could never afford to continually pay from them year after year. It's a heartless scheme.

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US Home Prices Continue to Fall

SUBHEAD: New home sales set to plunge in former bubble markets of southern US. Image above: "Suburbia" by Leonard Koscianski, 2008. From (http://lkart.com/landscapes/suburbia). By Prashant Gopal on 29 May 2010 in Bloomberg News - (http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=adSkz7WCGd0o) New home sales in Phoenix and Las Vegas, two U.S. markets hardest hit by foreclosures, are set to plunge as a federal tax credit for homebuying expires, according to data from real estate researcher Metrostudy. A sample of subdivisions in both cities showed sales contracts for new homes “pulled back sharply in May and contract cancellations spiked,” Houston-based Metrostudy said in an e-mail. Would-be buyers canceled about 40 percent of new home contracts in San Diego in May, up from 10 percent in April, the company said. Data on new signings in that city weren’t immediately available. Sales indicators fell after April 30, the last day for homebuyers to sign contracts in time for a federal tax credit of as much as $8,000 for first-time purchases and $6,500 for certain “move-up” buyers. The deadline may have hurried customers to snap up properties when they otherwise would have waited, said Brad Hunter, chief economist based in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, for Metrostudy. CBH Homes, a Meridian, Idaho-based builder whose average house price is about $145,000, countered the post-tax credit slump with a one-month “Tax Credit After Party.” It’s offering as much as $8,000 in savings for signing a contract in May. “Think you missed out on the tax credit? THINK AGAIN,” the company says on its website. “Buyers have a certain mindset,” Holly Haener, director of sales and marketing for CBH, said in a telephone interview. “They want to see that savings.” Phoenix Falls In Phoenix, contracts in the subdivisions surveyed by Metrostudy fell almost 49 percent for the week ended May 24 from the same period a year earlier, Hunter said. More than 8 percent of Phoenix households received a notice of default, auction or foreclosure in 2009, ranking the city the eighth worst in the country, according to Irvine, California-based research company RealtyTrac Inc. Signed contracts in Metrostudy’s Las Vegas subdivisions dropped 12 percent for the week ended May 24 from a year earlier. They climbed 220 percent in the last week of April, an indication of buyer interest in capturing the tax credit before it ended, Metrostudy said. Las Vegas had the highest rate of foreclosure filings in the U.S. last year, with 12 percent of households receiving a notice, according to RealtyTrac. U.S. Property Sales The tax credit helped push U.S. new home sales up 15 percent in April to the highest annual pace since May 2008, the Commerce Department said May 26. “We had this large spike before the tax credit expiration and now we see the downside of that,” Hunter said in an interview. “Based on this research, it seems that a post-credit pullback is under way.” Larry Seay, chief financial officer of Meritage Homes Corp. of Scottsdale, Arizona, said demand has dropped across the company’s markets, which include Phoenix, Denver, Houston, Las Vegas, and Orlando, Florida. “The tax credit during the first four months of the year did positively impact sales,” Seay said. “We’re seeing a bit of a fall since then.” Meritage is prepared to weather any temporary decline because it is selling a greater proportion of lower-cost properties. Companies should avoid price cuts or incentives that drive down already slim margins, said Jason Forrest, president of Fort Worth, Texas-based Shore Forrest Sales Strategies, a consultant for builders. “The solution is to create a strategy and a sales message,” Forrest said. .

Most oil is below surface

SUBHEAD: Only in recent days have scientists been able to build case for extent undersea plumes. Image above: University of Georgia researchers prepare samples drawn from the deep under the gulf. From source article. By Justin Gillis on 28 May 2010 in New York Times - (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/29/science/earth/29plume.html) The ocean caught fire.

As it blazed, a dense column of black smoke rose toward the sky. Oily water, the color of strong tea, slopped up the sides of boats. The breeze carried an acrid smell, like gasoline fumes.

Aboard the research vessel F.G. Walton Smith, anxiety was growing.

Five scientists and six students had come to study the oil leak and its effect on the sea. They brought flasks and gloves, refrigerators and freezers, tiny tools and huge cylinders of gas.

They were not looking for oil on the surface, where it was so thick in places that it was being burned off, but for plumes of fine oil droplets far beneath the waves.

The stakes were high. Two weeks earlier, when some of these scientists had disclosed evidence of undersea oil plumes, their claim had been greeted skeptically by the government. The scientists’ credibility was on the line.

If the plumes did exist, much of the wisdom about combating oil spills might need to be reconsidered. The plumes would suggest that any future oil leak in deep water could be expected to do much of its damage in the sea, not on shore.

But where were the plumes?

After a slow start, American science is finally beginning to tackle the oil disaster in earnest. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the federal agency charged with monitoring the health of the oceans, is sending multiple boats into the gulf. The National Science Foundation, another arm of the government, is issuing rapid grants to finance academic teams, including the one aboard the Walton Smith. BP, the oil company responsible for the spill, has pledged $500 million for research. And scientists like those aboard the Walton Smith are getting emergency financing from the government for their studies.

This stepped-up effort is starting to bear fruit. This week, another research vessel confirmed the existence of a huge undersea plume. And on Thursday, a team of scientists appointed by the Obama administration offered a more credible estimate of the flow rate at the broken well, putting it at two to four times the previous calculation.

That higher estimate only added to the sense among academic scientists that much of the oil must be hovering in the deep sea, instead of surfacing. The goal of the researchers aboard the Walton Smith was to nail the existence of such deep-sea plumes beyond any doubt.

They sailed early this week from Gulfport, Miss., and went back to the spot where they had originally discovered a large plume. It was no longer there.

All one afternoon, the Walton Smith hopscotched across the gulf. The top scientists on board, Samantha Joye of the University of Georgia and Vernon Asper of the University of Southern Mississippi, peered intently at instrument readouts, hoping for a signal.

Down to the bottom of the sea went a huge apparatus designed to test the water and grab samples of it. The results kept coming up clean.

Then, late in the afternoon of the second day at sea, the entire scientific crew suddenly leapt to attention.

The boat had arrived at a new sampling site, west of the oil leak, and the instruments were traveling once again to the bottom. In a clean ocean, they would be expected to produce fairly straight lines on a graph.

Instead, wild squiggles were showing up. The display looked like one of those seismograph readings taken in the throes of an earthquake. At three different depths, the instruments picked up plumes of material drifting through the deep ocean.

Dr. Asper stood back, arms crossed, watching the squiggles appear. “To see something like this is a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” he said. “It’s really remarkable.”

Soon, a giant winch on the rear of the boat hauled special bottles back from the deep, carrying water samples. The younger researchers rushed to the rear deck.

Working quickly in a daisy chain, circling the bottles, they filled small vials and other containers, then hustled back to their makeshift laboratory on the main deck of the Walton Smith.

Over the next few hours, they filtered some of the water. They shook some samples. They stirred some. They pickled some. They bubbled gases through the water. They refrigerated some vials. They froze some more.

Then they got ready to do it all again.

Within a day, word would come that a separate university vessel, the Weatherbird II, had discovered a giant plume stretching in the other direction from the broken well, toward Mobile Bay. That one threatens some of the finest fishing territory in the gulf.

It will take weeks of laboratory work to confirm with certainty that the plumes are made of oil droplets, or more likely, some complex mixture of oil and natural gas. If that idea holds up, the existence of these undersea plumes may well turn out to be the major scientific discovery of the great oil spill of 2010.

It could take years for scientists to assess the deep-sea damage fully, if that is even possible. Among other problems, gulf researchers have long been hobbled by a critical shortage of vessels equipped for oceanography.

Only a handful of such ships ply the Gulf of Mexico, and the best-outfitted boats tend to work for the oil industry. Exploring and protecting the gulf has simply not been as high a national priority as drilling it for oil.

Still uncertain are the fates of deep coral reefs that live in the gulf, as well as the condition of a unique cluster of bottom-dwelling organisms only nine miles from the damaged well. The ultimate impact the spill will have on commercially important fish like tuna and snapper is anyone’s guess.

As the week wore on, the Joye-Asper team found more and more evidence for the existence of the plumes.

The water samples they pulled up suggested that any oil in the plumes was highly diffuse — not even visible to the naked eye. But when several gallons of the water were forced through a fine filter, tiny black oil droplets appeared.

Even in that diffuse form, the plumes were having a drastic impact on the chemistry of the ocean, with dissolved oxygen levels plunging as each plume drifted through the sea.

That, Dr. Joye said, was most likely because bacteria were ramping up to consume the oil and gas — a good thing, over all, but it was creating a heavy demand for oxygen and other nutrients. Aside from the toxic effect of the oil, the declining oxygen was a potential threat to sea life.

Slowly, as the Walton Smith and other boats worked the gulf this past week, the weird physics of a deep-water well blowout came into better focus. The idea that oil rises quickly to the surface of an ocean may be one of the casualties of this disaster.

“Nothing really makes sense out here,” Dr. Joye said as her ship plowed through orange slicks of oil. “I don’t know that you can necessarily trust your intuition.”

From the bridge of the ship, Capt. Shawn Lake made an announcement. Everyone rushed to the outside decks.

Once again, in the middle distance, the ocean was burning.

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Garbage Warrior & the Earthship

SUBHEAD: Is it a real solution with our indigenous materials or a new Levittown made of tires and bottles?  

By Staff on 27 January 2010 review for Uniondocs,org -  
(www.uniondocs.org/garbage-warrior/)

 
Image above: Defiant artchitect Michael Reynolds in the process of building home from "garbage". From (http://thecia.com.au/reviews/g/garbage-warrior.shtml).

What do beer cans, car tires and water bottles have in common? Not much unless you're renegade architect Michael Reynolds, in which case they are tools of choice for producing thermal mass and energy-independent housing.

For 30 years New Mexico-based Reynolds and his green disciples have devoted their time to advancing the art of "Earthship Biotecture" by building self-sufficient, off-the-grid communities where design and function converge in eco-harmony. However, these experimental structures that defy state standards create conflict between Reynolds and the authorities, who are backed by big business.

 Frustrated by antiquated legislation, Reynolds lobbies for the right to create a sustainable living test site. While politicians hum and ha, Mother Nature strikes, leaving communities devastated by tsunamis and hurricanes. Reynolds and his crew seize the opportunity to lend their pioneering skills to those who need it most.

Shot over three years and in four countries, Garbage Warrior is a timely portrait of a determined visionary, a hero of the 21st century. Garbage Warrior is a feature-length documentary film telling the epic story of maverick architect Michael Reynolds, his crew of renegade house builders from New Mexico, and their fight to introduce radically different ways of living.

A snapshot of contemporary geo-politics and an inspirational tale of triumph over bureaucracy, Garbage Warrior is above all an intimate portrait of an extraordinary individual and his dream of changing the world. www.garbagewarrior.com

 
Video above: Here's a look at extreme green living, in an 'Earthship'. From (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ENIhmDskmY

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Rolling Over 65

SUBHEAD: That's officially old. It's like turning that 100,000 miles on the odometer of your car. Not a real milestone so much as another billboard along the way. Image above: The author ruminating in the offices of www.islandbreath.org on 5/28/10 By Juan Wilson on 28 May 2010 for Island Breath - (http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2010/05/rolling-over-65.html) BOOMERS I was born sixty-five years ago (5/28/1945): That was after the first test of an A-Bomb, but before the drop on Hiroshima. After the defeat of Nazi Germany, but before the surrender of Imperial Japan. It has put me in a slightly odd no-where-land regarding the Baby Boom generation. Technically, I was born before the Second world War was won by America, but after it was a foregone conclusion. When I was a young man I was certainly counted a member of the Baby Boom. I was in the first generation to live in the archetypal suburb of Levittown, Long Island, amongst the GI veterans living the dream of house, car and BBQ. Back then my generation felt that it consisted of those born between 1945 and 1950. Some have even dated the Boom back to 1943. Others have defined the span of Boomers to be those born between 1946 to 1964. What the..? As I've aged, the Baby Boom era has gotten younger. Hell, 1964 is years after Bob Dylan started cutting albums for Columbia Records. It's after the Vietnam War had begun. I'd call those born then the V Generation, maybe. Certainly not Boomers. HIPPIES The same sort of phenom happened to me regarding hipness. I am of an age to have fallen between the Beat Generation - Beatniks (coffee houses, jazz, beat poetry, marijuana) and the Acid Generation - Hippies (free-stores, psychedelic music, underground cartoons, LSD). Again, 1964 seems to be a kind of watershed. In 1963, as Beat Generation member, I saw the original Dave Brubeck Quartet jazz ensemble... but by 1965 I had sampled Sandoz Lab LSD in a Manhattan artist's loft as an entry to the Acid Generation. By the time of the 1967 Summer of Love in San Francisco, when mobs of youngsters (including myself) descended on the city to see what the brouhaha was all about, the residents of Haight Ashbury held a march celebrating the death of the Hippie. But somehow youngsters seem to have glommed onto the Hippie thing and now anyone born even into the 1980's can consider themselves in the Hippie generation. Many skipped-over identifying with the Disco scene... probably a good idea. EYE WITNESSES Two people dear to me wrote this on my birthday. My son, John, said,
"I was talking to a group of 8th graders about Iraq and Afghanistan the other day and realized half way through the conversation that they had no memory of 9/11 or the early years of the Bush Administration and therefore no emotional response. It was a bit of a shocker! Luckily as a result their collective conclusion was that both wars were pointless and a waste of lives and money! Sometimes the emotional detachment time can be useful. Maybe the next generation won't have an attachment to empire and oil. "
A mutual friend, Dana, whose age falls between us, responded,
"John, that's how I feel when I mention Viet Nam. Their eyes gloss over and I realize just how old I really am."
History really begins when there is no one left who lived through the events in question. When there are no more eyewitnesses... when there are only cold artifacts. As it is, I have personally listened live to the music of 8 decades. The 40's, 50's, 60's, 70's, 80's, 90's, 00's, 10's. That means without the clawing veil of nostalgia... I've heard Lena Horn and Lady Gaga both as new and fresh. That seems incredible. How old am I? I can remember when toys contained no plastic... just wood, metal, string. I now own an iPod Touch. My grandmother lived from about 1890 to 1971. She visited and lived in Southwest US over several decades. On her first trip to Arizona she arrived by a horse drawn stagecoach when Arizona was a territory in Indian country. Her last departure from the bustling state was from modern Phoenix on a Boeing 707 jet. A single life can span seven generations and not much more. You may have been held in the arms of your great-grandmother, and hold in your arms your great-granddaughter. Their eye-witness memories of you are your extent in this world. .

BP Top Kill Suspended

SUBHEAD: Too much 'Mud' escaping, BP hopes to resume plug attempt after midnight. There's no wildlife in Pass a Loutre. It's all dead. Image above: Still from video showsattemptto plug the gushing BP oil well 5,000 feet below surface of in the Gulf of Mexico. From (http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2010/05/27/gulf-of-mexico-spill.html). By Staff on 27 May 2010 for Associated Press - (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/05/27/top-kill-results-awaited_n_591522.html) BP's efforts to plug its gushing oil well suffered a setback late Wednesday. The New York Times reported that the company made the decision to stop its "top kill" plug attempt because too much of the heavy, man-made mud being used to plug the well was escaping from the leak, along with a mixture of oil.

According to the Times, a BP technician said that engineers will revise their plans and hope to resume "top kill" efforts by midnight.

"Top kill" is the company's boldest attempt yet to plug the gusher that has spewed millions of gallons of oil over the last five weeks. BP hopes that by pumping mud into the well, it can overpower the steady stream of oil. The company wants to eventually inject cement into the well to permanently seal it.

The stakes are high. Fisherman, hotel and restaurant owners, politicians and residents along the coast are fed up with BP's so far ineffective attempts to stop the oil leak that sprang after an offshore drilling rig exploded April 20. Eleven workers were killed, and by the most conservative estimate, 7 million gallons of crude have spilled into the Gulf, fouling Louisiana's marshes and coating birds and other wildlife.

The top kill has worked above ground but has never before been tried 5,000 feet beneath the sea. Company officials peg its chance of success at 60 to 70 percent.

President Barack Obama said "there's no guarantees" it will work. The president planned a trip to Louisiana on Friday.

"We're going to bring every resource necessary to put a stop to this thing," he said.

Meanwhile, dozens of witness statements obtained by The Associated Press show a combination of equipment failure and a deference to the chain of command impeded the system that should have stopped the gusher before it became an environmental disaster.

In a handwritten statement to the Coast Guard obtained by the AP, Transocean rig worker Truitt Crawford said: "I overheard upper management talking saying that BP was taking shortcuts by displacing the well with saltwater instead of mud without sealing the well with cement plugs, this is why it blew out."

At a Coast Guard hearing in New Orleans, Doug Brown, chief rig mechanic aboard the platform, testified that the trouble began at a meeting hours before the blowout, with a "skirmish" between a BP official and rig workers who did not want to replace heavy drilling fluid in the well with saltwater.

The switch presumably would have allowed the company to remove the fluid and use it for another project, but the seawater would have provided less weight to counteract the surging pressure from the ocean depths.

Brown said the BP official, whom he identified only as the "company man," overruled the drillers, declaring, "This is how it's going to be." Brown said the top Transocean official on the rig grumbled, "Well, I guess that's what we have those pinchers for," which he took to be a reference to devices on the blowout preventer, the five-story piece of equipment that can slam a well shut in an emergency.

A live video stream Wednesday showed pictures of the blowout preventer, as well as the oil gushing out. At other times, the feed showed mud spewing out, but BP said this was not cause for alarm.

A weak spot in the blowout preventer could blow under the pressure, causing a brand new leak.

Gene Beck, a petroleum engineering professor at Texas A&M in College Station, said the endeavor would likely fail quickly if the mud could not overcome the pressure of the oil. "The longer it goes, maybe the better news that is," Beck said.

Frustration with BP and the federal government has only grown since then as efforts to stop the leak have failed.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser, both outspoken critics, led a boat tour around the oil-fouled delta near the mouth of the Mississippi River.

Through the Mississippi's South Pass, there were miles-long passages that showed no indication of the oil, and the air smelled fresh and salty. Nearby fish were leaping and tiny seabirds dove into the water.

But not far away at Pass a Loutre, the odor wafting above the oily water was that of an auto shop.

"We have yet to see a plan from the Coast Guard, a plan from BP, a plan to keep it from coming in, a plan to pick it up," Nungesser said of the oil.

"There's no wildlife in Pass a Loutre. It's all dead," Nungesser said. .

Need to Return Plantation Water

SUBHEAD: Sugar plantation told by state water commission to restore water to Maui streams. Image above: East Maui Irrigation Company ditch at Twin Falls removes water from natural streambed. From (http://mauiguidebook.com/hikes/east-maui-irrigation-emi). By Staff on 27 May 20210 for the Associated Press - (http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D9FV8GGO0.htm)

Hawaii's last sugar plantation on Wednesday grudgingly accepted and Native Hawaiian residents swiftly rejected a water commission ruling ordering the restoration of water to six East Maui streams, some of it on a seasonal basis.

The action came a day after the state's water commission voted to order Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar to return water to the streams to improve habitat for native plants and animals and to provide Hawaiians in the area with water to farm taro.

The ruling addresses a decade-long legal dispute between the plantation and Native Hawaiians living at the base of the East Maui mountains where HC&S has been diverting water for its fields since the late 1800s.

Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar General Manager Chris Benjamin called the ruling "another bite from the apple," noting the commission two years ago ordered the plantation to give up millions of gallons a day from eight other streams. He said the decision would lead to "another sizable reduction in its access to water."

Yet Benjamin said in a statement that "we appreciate" commissioners recognized that the company needed more water during the summer and allowed for a seasonal restoration of stream water.

HC&S says it needs the water to survive, warning that 800 employees could lose their jobs if it goes out of business.

Alan Murakami, an attorney for Native Hawaiian complainants, said he would challenge the ruling.

Murakami had asked the commission to restore water to 19 East Maui streams, but the panel left the status quo in place for 13 of the streams. The decision would hurt Hawaiian traditions and practices, he said.

"They will certainly have less habitats from which to gather, and estuaries from which to fish, both of which are critical to the survival of the Hawaiian culture on that coastline," Murakami said.

He accused the water commission of failing to adequately consider Native Hawaiians' rights to the water and only taking into account HC&S' arguments about the important role the company plays in the local economy.

"It's simply outrageous -- the lack of understanding of their public trust duties and the degree to which they're supposed to adhere to them," Murakami said.

The company began diverting water from East Maui to irrigate sugar cane fields in the central part of the island in 1876.

The company uses East Maui stream and well water to irrigate about 30,000 acres in the Central Maui valley. The plantation, one of Maui's biggest employers, indirectly supports dozens of vendors such as heavy equipment and fuel providers.

Native Hawaiians have relied on East Maui's streams to fish and farm taro for hundreds of years.

The commission ordered some water to be restored to Makapipi and Hanawi streams year-round.

It voted to restore some water to four streams -- Waikamoi, West and East Wailuaiki and Waiohue -- only in the wet season.

Murakami argued the company could restore more water to the streams without jeopardizing its business by lining reservoirs to prevent water seepage and otherwise reducing water waste.

The company has said it had already invested in steps to prevent water waste.

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World After Abundance

SUBHEAD: As abundance wanes and poverty spreads, we will see the rise of monasticism to preserve aspects of civilization. Image above: The Tiger's Nest monastery in the mountains of Bhutan at an altitude of 10,000 feet. From (http://www.wayfaring.info/2008/03/15/tigers-nest-monastery/). By John Michael Greer on 27 May 2010 in Archdruid Report - (http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2010/05/world-after-abundance.html) [Editor's note: We corrected reference to 2008, rather than 2007, as year of historic peak oil price of $147.30] It has been nearly four decades now since the limits to industrial civilization’s trajectory of limitless material growth on a limited planet have been clearly visible on the horizon of our future. Over that time, a remarkable paradox has unfolded. The closer we get to the limits to growth, the more those limits impact our daily lives, and the more clearly our current trajectory points toward the brick wall of a difficult future, the less most people in the industrial world seem to be able to imagine any alternative to driving the existing order of things ever onward until the wheels fall off. This is as true in many corners of the activist community as it is in the most unregenerate of corporate boardrooms. For most of today’s environmentalists, for example, renewable energy isn’t something that people ought to produce for themselves, unless they happen to be wealthy enough to afford the rooftop PV systems that have become the latest status symbol in suburban neighborhoods on either coast. It’s something that utilities and the government are supposed to produce as fast as possible, so that Americans can keep on using three times as much energy per capita as the average European and twenty times as much as the average Chinese. Of course there are alternatives. In the energy crisis of the Seventies, relatively simple conservation and efficiency measures, combined with lifestyle changes, sent world petroleum consumption down by 15% in a single decade and caused comparable drops in other energy sources across the industrial world. Most of these measures went out the window in the final binge of the age of cheap oil that followed, so there’s plenty of low hanging fruit to pluck. That same era saw a great many thoughtful people envision ways that people could lead relatively comfortable and humane lives while consuming a great deal less energy and the products of energy than people in the industrial world do today. It can be a troubling experience to turn the pages of Rainbook or The Book of the New Alchemists, to name only two of the better products of that mostly forgotten era, and compare the sweeping view of future possibilities that undergirded their approach to a future of energy and material shortages with the cramped imaginations of the present. It’s even more troubling to notice that you can pick up yellowing copies of most of these books for a couple of dollars each in the used book trade, at a time when their practical advice is more relevant than ever, and their prophecies of what would happen if the road to sustainability was not taken are looking more prescient by the day. The irony, and it’s a rich one, is that our collective refusal to follow the lead of those who urged us to learn how to get by with less has not spared us the necessity of doing exactly that. That’s the problem, ultimately, with driving headlong at a brick wall; you can stop by standing on the brake pedal, or you can stop by hitting the wall, but either way, you’re going to stop. One way to make sense of the collision between the brittle front end of industrial civilization and the hard surface of nature’s brick wall is to compare the spring of 2010 with the summer of 2008. Those two seasons had an interesting detail in common. In both cases, the price of oil passed $80 a barrel after a prolonged period of price increases, and in both cases, this was followed by a massive debt crisis. In 2008, largely driven by speculation in the futures market, the price of oil kept on zooming upwards, peaking just south of $150 a barrel before crashing back to earth; so far, at least, there’s no sign of a spike of that sort happening this time, although this is mostly because speculators are focused on other assets these days. In 2008, though, the debt crisis also resulted in a dramatic economic downturn, and just now our chances of dodging the same thing this time around do not look good. Here in the US, most measures of general economic activity are faltering where they aren’t plunging – the sole exceptions are those temporarily propped up by an unparalleled explosion of government debt – and unemployment has become so deeply entrenched that what to do about the very large number of Americans who have exhausted the 99 weeks of unemployment benefits current law allows them is becoming a significant political issue. Even the illegal economy is taking a massive hit; a recent NPR story noted that the price of marijuana has dropped so sharply that northern California, where it’s a huge cash crop, is seeing panic selling and sharp economic contraction. What’s going on here is precisely what The Limits to Growth warned about in 1973: the costs of continued growth have risen faster than growth itself, and are reaching a level that is forcing the economy to its knees. By “costs,” of course, the authors of The Limits to Growth weren’t talking about money, and neither am I. The costs that matter are energy, resources, and labor; it takes a great deal more of all of these to extract oil from deepwater wells in the Gulf of Mexico or oil sands in Alberta, say, than it used to take to get it from Pennsylvania or Texas, and since offshore drilling and oil sands make up an increasingly large share of what we’ve got left – those wells in Pennsylvania and Texas have been pumped dry, or nearly so – these real, nonmonetary costs have climbed steadily. The price of oil in dollars functions here as a workable proxy measure for the real cost of oil production in energy, resources, and materials. The evidence of the last few years suggests that when the price of oil passes $80 a barrel, that’s a sign that the real costs have reached a level high enough that the rest of the economy begins to crack under the strain. Since astronomical levels of debt have become standard practice all through today’s global economy, the ability of marginal borrowers to service their debt is where the cracks showed up first. In the fall of 2008, many of those marginal borrowers were homeowners in the US and UK; this spring, they include entire nations. What all this implies, in a single phrase, is that the age of abundance is over. The period from 1945 to 2005 when almost unimaginable amounts of cheap petroleum sloshed through the economies of the world’s industrial nations, and transformed life in those nations almost beyond recognition, still shapes most of our thinking and nearly all of our expectations. Not one significant policy maker or mass media pundit in the industrial world has begun to talk about the impact of the end of the age of abundance; it’s an open question if any of them have grasped how fundamental the changes will be as the new age of post-abundance economics begins to clamp down. Most ordinary people in the industrial world, for their part, are sleepwalking through one of history’s major transitions. The issues that concern them are still defined entirely by the calculus of abundance. Most Americans these days, for example, worry about managing a comfortable retirement, paying for increasingly expensive medical care, providing their children with a college education and whatever amenities they consider important. It has not yet entered their darkest dreams that they need to worry about access to such basic necessities as food, clothing and shelter, the fate of local economies and communities shredded by decades of malign neglect, and the rise of serious threats to the survival of constitutional government and the rule of law. Even among those who warn that today’s Great Recession could bottom out at a level equal to that reached in the Great Depression, very few have grappled with the consequences of a near-term future in which millions of Americans are living in shantytowns and struggling to find enough to eat every single day. To paraphrase Sinclair Lewis, that did happen here, and it did so at a time when the United States was a net exporter of everything you can think of, and the world’s largest producer and exporter of petroleum to boot. The same scale of economic collapse in a nation that exports very little besides unpayable IOUs, and is the world’s largest consumer and importer of petroleum, could all too easily have results much closer to those of the early 20th century in Central Europe, for example: that is, near-universal impoverishment, food shortages, epidemics, civil wars, and outbreaks of vicious ethnic cleansing, bracketed by two massive wars that both had body counts in the tens of millions. Now you’ll notice that this latter does not equate to the total collapse into a Cormac McCarthy future that so many people like to fantasize about these days. I’ve spent years wondering why it is that so many people seem unable to conceive of any future other than business as usual, on the one hand, and extreme doomer porn on the other. Whatever the motives that drive this curious fixation, though, I’ve become convinced that it results in a nearly complete blindness to the very real risks the future is more likely to hold for us. It makes a useful exercise to take current notions about preparing for the future in the survivalist scene, and ask yourself how many of them would have turned out to be useful over the decade or two ahead if someone had pursued exactly those strategies in Poland or Slovakia, let’s say, in the years right before 1914. Measure the gap between the real and terrible events of that period, on the one hand, and the fantasies of infinite progress or apocalyptic collapse that so often pass for realistic images of our future, on the other, and you have some sense of the gap that has to be crossed in order to make sense of the world after abundance. One way or another, we will cross that gap; the question is whether any significant number of us will do so in advance, and have time to take constructive actions in response, or whether we’ll all do so purely in retrospect, thinking ruefully of the dollars and hours that went into preparing for an imaginary future while the real one was breathing down our necks. I’ve talked at quite some length in these essays about the kinds of preparations that will likely help individuals, families, and communities deal with the future of resource shortages, economic implosion, political breakdown, and potential civil war that the missed opportunities and purblind decisions of the last thirty years have made agonizingly likely here in the United States and, with an infinity of local variations, elsewhere in the industrial world. Those points remain crucial; it still makes a great deal of sense to start growing some of your own food, to radically downscale your dependence on complex technological systems, to reduce your energy consumption as far as possible, to free up at least one family member from the money economy for full-time work in the domestic economy, and so on. Still, there’s another dimension to all this, and it has to be mentioned, though it’s certain to raise hackles. For the last three centuries, and especially for the last half century or so, it’s become increasingly common to define a good life as one provided with the largest possible selection of material goods and services. That definition has become so completely hardwired into our modern ways of thinking that it can be very hard to see past it. Of course there are certain very basic material needs without which a good life is impossible, but those are a good deal fewer and simpler than contemporary attitudes assume, and once those are provided, material abundance becomes a much more ambivalent blessing than we like to think. In a very real sense, this way of thinking mirrors the old joke about the small boy with a hammer who thinks everything is a nail. In an age of unparalleled material abundance, the easy solution for any problem or predicament was to throw material wealth at it. That did solve some problems, but it arguably worsened others, and left the basic predicaments of human existence untouched. Did it really benefit anyone to spend trillions of dollars and the talents of some of our civilization’s brightest minds creating high-end medical treatments to keep the very sick alive and miserable for a few extra months of life, for example, so that we could pretend to ourselves that we had evaded the basic human predicament of the inevitability of death? Whatever the answer, the end of the age of abundance draws a line under that experiment. Within not too many years, it’s safe to predict, only the relatively rich will have the dubious privilege of spending the last months of their lives hooked up to complicated life support equipment. The rest of us will end our lives the way our great-grandparents did: at home, more often than not, with family members or maybe a nurse to provide palliative care while our bodies do what they were born to do and shut down. Within not too many years, more broadly, only a very few people anywhere in the world will have the option of trying to escape the core uncertainties and challenges of human existence by chasing round after round of consumer goodies; the rest of us will count ourselves lucky to have our basic material needs securely provided for, and will have to deal with fundamental questions of meaning and value in some less blatantly meretricious way. Some of us, in the process, may catch on to the subtle lesson woven into this hard necessity. It’s worth noting that while there’s been plenty of talk about the monasteries of the Dark Ages among people who are aware of the impending decline and fall of our civilization, next to none of it has discussed, much less dealt with, the secret behind the success of monasticism: the deliberate acceptance of extreme material poverty. Quite the contrary; all the plans for lifeboat ecovillages I’ve encountered so far, at least, aim at preserving some semblance of a middle class lifestyle into the indefinite future. That choice puts these projects in the same category as the lavish villas in which the wealthy inhabitants of Roman Britain hoped to ride out their own trajectory of decline and fall: a category mostly notable for its long history of total failure. The European Christian monasteries that preserved Roman culture through the Dark Ages did not offer anyone a middle class lifestyle by the standards of their own time, much less those of ours. Neither did the Buddhist monasteries that preserved Heian culture through the Sengoku Jidai, Japan’s bitter age of wars, or the Buddhist and Taoist monasteries that preserved classical Chinese culture through a good half dozen cycles of collapse. Monasteries in all these cases were places people went to be very, very poor. That was the secret of their achievements, because when you reduce your material needs to the absolute minimum, the energy you don’t need to spend maintaining your standard of living can be put to work doing something more useful. Now it’s probably too much to hope for that some similar movement might spring into being here and now; we’re a couple of centuries too soon for that. The great age of Christian monasticism in the West didn’t begin until the sixth century CE, by which time the Roman economy of abundance had been gone for so long that nobody even pretended that material wealth was an answer to the human condition. Still, the monastic revolution kickstarted by Benedict of Nursia drew on a long history of Christian monastic ventures; those unfolded in turn from the first tentative communal hermitages of early Christian Egypt; and all these projects, though this is not often mentioned, took part of their inspiration and a good deal of their ethos from the Stoics of Pagan Greece and Rome. Movements of the Stoic type are in fact very common in civilizations that have passed the Hubbert peak of their own core resource base. There’s good reason for that. In a contracting economy, it becomes easier to notice that the less you need, the less vulnerable you are to the ups and downs of fortune, and the more you can get done of whatever it is that you happen to want to do. That’s an uncongenial lesson at the best of times, and during times of material abundance you won’t find many people learning it. Still, in the world after abundance, it’s hard to think of a lesson that deserves more careful attention. .

Google Phone Picks Lunchspot

SUBHEAD: Google introduces smart phone that whispers ads in your ear based on voice recognition. Image above: Still frame from Verizon TV ad of Google smart phone operating system displaying location of lunchspots options laid over live touch screen. From video in source article. See ONN video below. By Ionut Arghire on 18 May 2010 in SoftPedia.com - (http://news.softpedia.com/news/New-DROID-and-DROID-Incredible-Ads-Emerge-142304.shtml) Wireless carrier Verizon has deployed a pretty interesting ad campaign for the DROID by Motorola that it released back in November 2009, but things didn't stop there. Two new commercials have emerged for the DROID, along with a new ad for another high-end Android-based mobile phone the operator launched on its airwaves, the DROID Incredible by HTC. The video ads for the DROID by Motorola are mainly focused on the applications that are available for the device from the Android Market. Of course, DROID is a mobile phone that does offer access and support for a wide range of software solutions available for download from the app portal. While the first commercials were focused on the phone, the new ones bring the Android platform to the front, showing that the carrier is determined to support the OS in its attempt to conquer the market (check on the second and the third videos below to learn more). For what it's worth, the DROID by Motorola is already popular among users, and id requires no further presentation, yet one cannot say the same about the DROID Incredible. Although the phone registers high demand at Verizon, with stock problems reported ever since it got launched at the carrier, there are still features that customers do not know, and the newly spotted video ad is meant to shed some light on one of them. The DROID Incredible is powered by a 1 GHz Snapdragon processor from Qualcomm, which provides both speed and raw power to users. Take a look at the first video embedded below to see what Verizon has to say on the matter. The handset can be seen in this commercial, unlike the previous one, which only named it, and enthusiasts will certainly remember the first DROID Does ads when looking at it. Hopefully, the carrier will be able to resolve the current stock issues it has with the device, so that its customers can benefit to the full from the speed it delivers.
Google, Ads & Phones Go Together Video above: Satire created by the Onion News Network. From(http://www.theonion.com/video/new-google-phone-service-whispers-targeted-ads-dir). By Miguel Helft on 8 OCtober 2007 in the New York Times - (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/08/business/media/08googlephone.html) For more than two years, a large group of engineers at Google has been working in secret on a mobile phone project. As word about their efforts has trickled out, expectations in the tech world for what has been called the Google phone, or GPhone, have risen, the way they do for Apple loyalists ahead of a speech by Steven P. Jobs.

But the GPhone is not likely to be the second coming of the iPhone — and Google’s goals are very different from Apple’s.

Google wants to extend its dominance of online advertising to the mobile Internet, a small market today, but one that is expected to grow rapidly. It hopes to persuade wireless carriers and mobile phone makers to offer phones based on its software, according to people briefed on the project. The cost of those phones may be partly subsidized by advertising that appears on their screens.

Google is expected to unveil the fruit of its mobile efforts later this year, and phones based on its technology could be available next year.

Some analysts say that the Google project’s effect on the wireless industry is not likely to be as profound, at least initially, as that of Apple’s iPhone, whose revolutionary look and features have redefined consumer expectations for mobile phones.

“The iPhone was a milestone in terms of how people use a mobile device,” said Karsten Weide, an analyst with IDC. “The GPhone, if it does come out, will help Google with distribution for their online services.”

At the core of Google’s phone efforts is an operating system for mobile phones that will be based on open-source Linux software, according to industry executives familiar with the project.

In addition, Google is expected to develop mobile versions of its applications that go well beyond the mobile search and map software it offers today. Those applications may include a Web browser to run on cellphones.

While Google has built phone prototypes to test its software and show off its technology to manufacturers, the company is not likely to make the phones itself, according to analysts.

In short, Google is not creating a gadget to rival the iPhone, but rather creating software that will be an alternative to Windows Mobile from Microsoft and other operating systems, which are built into phones sold by many manufacturers. And unlike Microsoft, Google is not expected to charge phone makers a licensing fee for the software.

“The essential point is that Google’s strategy is to lead the creation of an open-source competitor to Windows Mobile,” said one industry executive, who did not want his name used because his company has had contacts with Google. “They will put it in the open-source world and take the economics out of the Windows Mobile business.”

Some believe another major goal of the phone project is to loosen the control of carriers over the software and services that are available on their networks.

“Google’s agenda is to disaggregate carriers,” said Dan Olschwang, the chief executive of JumpTap, a start-up that provides search and advertising services to several mobile phone operators.

Google declined to comment on any specifics of its mobile phone initiative. But its chief executive, Eric E. Schmidt, has said several times that the cellphone market presented the largest growth opportunity for Google. “We have a large investment in mobile phones and mobile phone platform applications,” Mr. Schmidt said in an interview this year.

Industry analysts say that Google, which has little experience with complex hardware, faces significant challenges.

“Running a Web site and a search engine is one thing,” said Mr. Weide of IDC. “But developing a phone is a whole different game. It will not be easy for them.”

Mr. Weide added that Google’s impact on the industry will depend to a large extent on its ability to sign deals with wireless carriers that distribute hundreds of millions of phones each year and often control what software and services run on them.

Some carriers, especially in the United States, are likely to give Google a cool reception. Companies like Verizon Wireless and AT&T have spent billions of dollars building and upgrading their networks, establishing relationships with customers, subsidizing handsets and creating their own mobile Internet portals. Now they want to make sure those investments pay off, in part, through mobile advertising, and they see Google and other search engines, who are after the same ad dollars, as competitors.

As a result, most carriers in the United States have chosen to shun the major search engines for now. Instead, they have promoted the search engines and ad systems of small technology companies like JumpTap and Medio Systems, whose services they can stamp with their own brands.

Most carriers declined to comment on Google’s plans. But Arun Sarin, the chief executive of Britain’s Vodafone Group, which offers the Google service on its phones, said it was not clear what compelling functions Google would offer that are not already available.

“What is it that is missing in life that they are going to fulfill?” Mr. Sarin said. “It is not a no-brainer. You can reach Google already through a number of devices. You don’t need a Google phone to do that.”

Google’s desire to loosen the carriers’ control over their networks has hardly been a secret. The company recently lobbied the Federal Communications Commission to impose rules on any carrier who wins a coming auction for valuable wireless spectrum. The rules, which the F.C.C. adopted despite opposition from Verizon and others, require that the network using a portion of that spectrum be open to any handset and software applications from any company.

Google said it is considering bidding for some of that spectrum. But regardless of who wins it, phones based on Google’s software would be able to take advantage of it.

Google’s lobbying, as well as its work on a phone software platform that would be open to other applications, represent an effort to bring to the mobile Internet the dynamics of the PC-oriented Internet, which is free of control by network operators. Google is hoping that it can beat competitors in an open environment.

The mobile phone project at Google was built in part around Android, a small mobile software company it acquired in 2005. An Android co-founder, Andy Rubin, had founded Danger, which created the popular T-Mobile Sidekick smartphone. Mr. Rubin works at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, but another part of Google’s team is reported to be in Boston, where Android’s co-founder, Rich Miner, another veteran of the mobile phone industry, is based.

Some analysts say there are no guarantees that Google will be able to replicate its online success in the mobile world.

“The wireless market does not have the same global scale and scope efficiencies, nor the lack of transactional friction, of software on the Internet,” said Scott Cleland, a telecommunications industry analyst who recently testified before the Senate against Google’s proposed acquisition of DoubleClick.

“It is a completely different world and completely different set of economics,” said Mr. Cleland, who has opposed Google on a number of policy issues.

Microsoft, whose mobile operating system has been available for years, has distribution agreements with 48 handset makers and 160 carriers around the world. Still, only 12 million phones sold this year will be based on Microsoft’s software, giving it 10 percent of the smartphone market, according to IDC.

Microsoft declined to comment on potential competition from Google. “The market is huge, and our partners are really motivated to bring Windows Mobile phones to market,” said Doug Smith, director for marketing of Microsoft’s mobile communications business.

Mahesh Veerina, the founder and chief executive of Celunite, which makes cellphone software based on Linux, said Google’s offering was likely to be attractive to small carriers, who may see it as a competitive weapon.

But if Google-powered phones prove to be a hit with consumers, other carriers may feel pressure to follow suit, said Richard Doherty, director for the Envisioneering Group, a consulting firm.

“No one wants to be the last carrier to endorse Google,” Mr. Doherty said.

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Big Isle Land Sale on Hold

SUBHEAD: County took Hamakua land for back taxes. Market too down for resale to balance the books. Image above: View along the east coast of Big Island on the Hamakua Coast. From (http://www.lavaocean.com/NaturalWondersofHilo.htm). By Nancy Cook Lauer on 25 May 2010 in the Hawaii Tribune - (http://www.hawaiitribune-herald.com/articles/2010/05/25/local_news/local03.txt) With the administration giving up for now on selling Hamakua lands, one councilman wants to revoke the county's authority to do so without future council approval. Mayor Billy Kenoi announced Monday the administration has canceled a bid opening scheduled for that day and will hold off on future sales attempts until the market improves. Despite several months of advertising, a land tour with prospective buyers and several scheduled bid openings, the county received no bids above the appraised value, the minimum allowed by law. "We weren't going to give the land away and we weren't going to engage in a fire sale," Kenoi said. Kohala Councilman Pete Hoffmann says the council's authority to sell the land -- a controversial vote that brought many Hamakua residents out in force to oppose the measure -- came because council members were under the impression the budget couldn't be balanced without the sale. The County Council voted 6-3 in November on a resolution allowing Mayor Billy Kenoi to sell 737 acres of the holdings the county had received in lieu of taxes from bankrupt Hamakua Sugar Co. in 1994. At the time, county officials predicted the sale would bring in $8.2 million. That figure was reduced by a couple of million after appraisals came in. But the administration was able to balance this year's budget without selling the land and has put in only $10,000 in land sales in the new budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1. Kenoi said he wants to retain authority to sell the land when the market improves and said he opposes the council taking away the right to do so. "I believe we need to keep all our options open," Kenoi said. .

Condos Getting in Trouble

SUBHEAD: Condominium boards on Maui are being drained as maintenance fees dry up. This will hurt tourism.

Image above: Kauhale Makai Condominium on the ocean in Kihei, Maui, Hawaii. From (http://activerain.com/blogsview/845359/kauhale-makai-condominium-kihei-maui-condominiums-)

By Harry Eagar on 26 May 2010 in the Maui News - (http://www.mauinews.com/page/content.detail/id/531847.html)

A condo owner who had his water shut off after he stopped paying common area maintenance fees said he could get by for a while, but condo associations on Maui may not fare as well.

Nai'a Properties President Penny Munroe, who has managed multifamily properties on Maui for 15 years, said two of the condo associations she works with are on the verge of collapse because so many apartment owners have fallen behind on their fees.

"I have never run into this before," Munroe said.

Munroe said the Condominium Council of Maui has been trying to educate condo associations for a year and a half about the looming financial crunch. Nai'a has insisted that its clients write budgets that anticipate uncollected debts and prepare to manage shortfalls.

Ron Wilson was featured in a story Sunday by The Maui News about condo owners who fall behind on their fees. He said his association, Kanani at Wailea, is not in danger of financial collapse but is having trouble collecting from members like him who cannot pay their maintenance fees.

Wilson's condo was foreclosed and sold at auction, although he is continuing to live in the unit until Bank of America tells him to move out.

After he stopped paying fees, his association warned that it would cut off his water if he didn't settle the debt. Wilson filled buckets and tubs with water, and his service was turned off Sunday morning.

"It's a good lesson in conservation," he said Monday. "I realized how much water you waste and how much you really need."

He said he "could hold out all summer," but since BofA will have to file notice of its takeover within a few days, the bills will then be the responsibility of the bank, which should answer at least part of the Kanani association's problems.

Associations have few options when they cannot collect, said Munroe, but she was surprised to hear that Hawaiiana had followed through on its plan to shut off water. Hawaiiana did not respond to inquiries.

Munroe is very worried that associations with big accounts receivables are going to fail. "It's going to start happening," she said. "What with the foreclosures, the filing for bankruptcy and the lease rent negotiations, people just cannot pay."

Two of her clients are very shaky, she said. The boards have done what they can to cut expenses, including deferring maintenance and cutting services.

Munroe recently attended a conference on the Mainland, where condo associations also are facing this problem, although the amounts of money are often larger in Hawaii.

"They're in the same boat," Munroe said, who met with other associations to share ideas about how to deal with the problem.

There is little precedent to suggest what options are available. As far as Munroe knows, only one condo association in Hawaii went into bankruptcy, some years back, and that was not a matter of finances.

She is also concerned about the snowball effect of condo budget cuts. It's bad enough when services are cut for full-time residents, but cutting services for units that are run as short-term rentals can drive away tourists even more.

One of the Nai'a's nearly broke clients is entirely investor-owned, all absentees, with no resident manager and no on-site presence, she said.

Boards did not expect such problems, she said, and already one board member she knows has resigned, "because he couldn't deal with it."

"We have a well-trained, large team of attorneys and other experts" on Maui who are exploring every avenue for rescuing the finances of hard-pressed associations.

Wilson said that isn't a problem at Kanani, where he was board president last year. It has 32 units, of which only three are not paying dues: his place, one that was never occupied and one that is in foreclosure but occupied by tenants.

There was no point in shutting off the water on the unoccupied unit, and it would not make sense to shut off the tenants, who are not responsible for the dues, he said. That left him.

"I'm camping out," he said. Friends have called, offering him a place to shower and tips on finding a new home.

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