Mozambique's Food Riots

SUBHEAD: The violence in Maputo is just the latest manifestation of the crippling shortcomings of the global economy.
Image above: Policeman fires live ammunition into crow. Frame from Rueter's video of food riot in Mozambique 9/1/10. From http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/sep/05/mozambique-food-riots-patel).
By Raj Patel on 5 September 2010 for the Guardian - (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/sep/05/mozambique-food-riots-patel)

It has been a summer of record temperatures – Japan had its hottest summer on record, as did South Florida and New York. Meanwhile, Pakistan and Niger are flooded and the eastern US is mopping up after hurricane Earl. None of these individual events can definitively be attributed to global warming. But to see how climate change will play out in the 21st century, you needn't look to the Met Office (London weather service). Look, instead, to the deaths and burning tyres in Mozambique's "food riots" to see what happens when extreme natural phenomena interact with our unjust economic systems.

The immediate causes of the protests in Mozambique's capital, Maputo, and Chimoio about 500 miles north, are a 30% price increase for bread, compounding a recent double-digit increase for water and energy. When nearly three-quarters of the household budget is spent on food, that's a hike few Mozambicans can afford.

Deeper reasons for Mozambique's price hike can be found a continent away. Wheat prices have soared on global markets over the summer in large part because Russia, the world's third largest exporter, has suffered catastrophic fires in its main production areas. These blazes, in turn, find their origin both in poor firefighting infrastructure and Russia's worst heatwave in over a century.

On Thursday, Vladimir Putin extended an export ban in response to a new wave of wildfires in its grain belt, sending further signals to the markets that Russian wheat wouldn't be available outside the country. With Mozambique importing over 60% of the wheat its people needs, the country has been held hostage by international markets.

This may sound familiar. In 2008, the prices of oil, wheat, corn and rice peaked on international markets – corn prices almost tripled between 2005-2008. In the process, dozens of food-importing countries experienced food riots.

Behind the 2008 protests were, first, natural events that looked like an excerpt from the meteorological section of the Book of Revelation – drought in Australia, crop disease in central Asia, floods in south-east Asia. These were compounded by the social systems through which their effects were felt. Oil prices were sky-high, which meant higher transport costs and fossil fuel-based fertiliser prices. Biofuel policy, particularly in the US, shifted land and crops from food into ethanol production, diverting food from stomachs to fuel tanks.

Longer term trends in population growth and meat consumption in developing countries also added to the stress. Financial speculators piled into food commodities, driving prices yet further beyond the reach of the poor. Finally, some retailers used the opportunity to raise prices still further, and while commodity prices have fallen back to pre-crisis levels, most of us have yet to see the savings.

Is this 2008 all over again? The weather has gone wild, meat prices have hit a 20-year high, groceries are being looted and heads of state are urging calm. The view from commodities desks, however, is that we're not in quite as dire straits as two years ago. Fuel is relatively cheap and grain stores well stocked. We're on track for the third-highest wheat crop ever, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).

While all this is true, it misses the point: for most hungry people, 2008 isn't over. The events of 2007-2008 tipped more than 100 million into hunger and the global recession has meant that they have stayed there. In 2006, the number of undernourished people was 854 million. In 2009, it was 1.02 billion – the highest level since records began. The hardest hit by these price rises, in the US and around the world, were female-headed households.

Not only are the hungry still around, but food riots have continued. In India, double-digit food price inflation was met by violent street protests at the end of 2009. The price rises were, again, the result of both extreme and unpredictable monsoons in 2009 and an increasingly faulty social safety net to prevent hunger. There have been frequent public protests about the price of wheat in Egypt this year, and Serbia and Pakistan have seen protests too.

Although commodity prices fell after 2008, the food system's architecture has remained largely the same over the past two decades. Bill Clinton has offered several mea culpas for the international trade and development policies that spawned the food crisis. Earlier this year, he blamed himself for Haiti's vulnerability to price fluctuations. "I did that," he said in testimony to the US Senate. "I have to live every day with the consequences of the lost capacity to produce a rice crop in Haiti to feed those people, because of what I did. Nobody else." More generally, Clinton suggested in 2008 that "food is not a commodity like others… it is crazy for us to think we can develop a lot of these countries [by] treating food like it was a colour television set."

Yet global commodity speculators continue to treat food as if it were the same as television sets, with little end in sight to what the World Development Movement has called "gambling on hunger in financial markets". The recent US Wall Street Reform Act contained some measures that might curb these speculative activities, but their full scope has yet to be clarified.

Europe doesn't have a mechanism to regulate these kinds of speculative trades at all. Agriculture in the global south is still subject to the "Washington consensus" model, driven by markets and with governments taking a back seat to the private sector. And the only reason biofuels aren't more prominent is that the oil they're designed to replace is currently cheap.

Clearly, neither grain speculation, nor forcing countries to rely on international markets for food, nor encouraging the use of agricultural resources for fuel instead of nourishment are natural phenomena. These are political decisions, taken and enforced not only by Bill Clinton, but legions of largely unaccountable international development professionals. The consequences of these decisions are ones with which people in the global south live everyday. Which brings us back to Mozambique.

Recall that Mozambique's street protests coincided not only with a rise in the price of bread, but with electricity and water price hikes too. In an interview with Portugal's Lusa news agency, Alice Mabota of the Mozambican League of Human Rights didn't use the term "food riots". In her words: "The government… can't understand or doesn't want to understand that this is a protest against the higher cost of living."

The action on the streets isn't simply a protest about food, but a wider act of rebellion. Half of Mozambique's poor already suffer from acute malnutrition, according to the FAO. The extreme weather behind the grain fires in Russia transformed a political context in which citizens were increasingly angry and frustrated with their own governments.

Yesterday, I reached Diamantino Nhampossa, the co-ordinator of Mozambique's União Nacional de Camponeses (National Peasants Union of Mozambique). "These protests are going to end," he told me. "But they will always come back. This is the gift that the development model we are following has to offer." Like many Mozambicans, he knows full well which way the wind blows.

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Bhutan’s Wealth of Happiness

SUBHEAD: Sustainable happiness, combining material well-being with human health, environmental conservation, and psychological and cultural resilience.
Image above: A dzong (fortress/monestary) in Bhutan mountain valley. From (http://www.deshow.net/travel/2008/bhutan_asia_travel.html#pic). By Jeffrey D Sachs on 5 September 2010 in The National - (http://www.thenational.ae/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100905/BUSINESS/709059968/1058&template=columnists)

The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan is unmatched in natural beauty, cultural richness and inspiring self-reflection. From the kingdom’s unique place in the world now arises economic and social questions that are of pressing interest to the rest of the planet.

Bhutan’s rugged geography fostered a hardy population of farmers and herdsmen, and helped cement a strong Buddhist culture, closely connected in history with Tibet. The population is sparse, about 700,000 people on territory the size of France, with agricultural communities nestled in deep valleys and a few herdsmen in the high mountains.

Each valley is guarded by a dzong, or fortress, which includes monasteries and temples, all dating back centuries and exhibiting a masterful combination of sophisticated architecture and fine arts.

Bhutan’s economy of agriculture and monastic life remained self-sufficient, poor and isolated until recent decades, when a series of remarkable monarchs began to guide the country towards technological modernisation (roads, power, modern health care and education), international trade and political democracy.

What is incredible is the thoughtfulness with which Bhutan is approaching this process of change, and how Buddhist thinking guides it. Bhutan is asking itself the question that everyone must ask: how can economic modernisation be combined with cultural robustness and social well-being?

In Bhutan, the economic challenge is not growth in GDP but in gross national happiness (GNH). I went to Bhutan to understand better how GNH is being applied. There is no formula, but, befitting the seriousness of the challenge and Bhutan’s deep tradition of Buddhist reflection, there is an active and important process of national deliberation. Therein lies the inspiration for all of us. Part of Bhutan’s GNH revolves, of course, around meeting basic needs – improved health care, reduced maternal and child mortality, greater educational attainment and better infrastructure, especially electricity, water and sanitation.

This focus on material improvement aimed at meeting those goals makes sense for a country at Bhutan’s relatively low income level.

Yet GNH goes well beyond broad-based, pro-poor growth. Bhutan is also asking how economic growth can be combined with environmental sustainability – a question it has answered in part through an immense effort to protect the country’s vast forest cover and unique biodiversity. It is asking how it can preserve its traditional equality and foster its unique cultural heritage.

And it is asking how individuals can maintain their psychological stability in an era of rapid change, marked by urbanisation and an onslaught of global communication in a society that had no televisions until a decade ago.

I came to Bhutan after hearing an inspiring speech by Jigme Thinley, the country’s prime minister, at the 2010 Delhi Summit on Sustainable Development. Mr Thinley had made two compelling points. The first concerned the environmental devastation that he could observe, including the retreat of glaciers and the loss of land cover, as he flew from Bhutan to India.

The second was about the individual and the meaning of happiness. Mr Thinley put it simply: we are finite and fragile physical beings. How much “stuff” – fast foods, TV commercials, large cars, new gadgets and latest fashions – can we stuff into ourselves without deranging our own psychological well-being?

For the world’s poorest countries, such questions are not the most pressing. Their biggest and most compelling challenge is to meet citizens’ basic needs. But for more and more countries, Mr Thinley’s reflection on the ultimate sources of well-being is not only timely, but also urgent.

Everybody knows that hyper-consumerism, as is common in the US, can destabilise social relations and lead to aggressiveness, loneliness, greed and overwork. What is perhaps less recognised is how those trends have accelerated in the US in recent decades. This may be the result of, among other things, the increasing and now relentless onslaught of advertising and public relations.

The question of how to guide an economy to produce sustainable happiness, combining material well-being with human health, environmental conservation, and psychological and cultural resilience, needs to be addressed everywhere.

Bhutan has many things going its way. The country will be able to increase exports of clean hydropower to India, thereby sustainably earning foreign exchange to fund education, health care and infrastructure. The country is also intent on ensuring that the benefits of growth reach all of the population, regardless of region or income level.

The key for Bhutan is to regard GNH as an enduring quest rather than as a simple checklist. Its Buddhist tradition understands happiness not as an attachment to goods and services but as the result of the serious work of inner reflection and compassion towards others.

Bhutan has embarked on this serious journey. The rest of the world’s economies should do the same.

• Jeffrey D Sachs is a professor of economics and the director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. He is also a special adviser to the UN secretary general on the Millennium Development Goals

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Amazonian Civilization

SUBHEAD: Scientists find evidence discrediting theory Amazon was virtually unlivable.
Image above: Men work on an excavation in the Brazilian Amazon rain forest. From article.
By Juan Ferero on 5 August 2010 for the Washington Post -
(http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/03/AR2010090302302.html) To the untrained eye, all evidence here in the heart of the Amazon signals virgin forest, untouched by man for time immemorial - from the ubiquitous fruit palms to the cry of howler monkeys, from the air thick with mosquitoes to the unruly tangle of jungle vines. Archaeologists, many of them Americans, say the opposite is true: This patch of forest, and many others across the Amazon, was instead home to an advanced, even spectacular civilization that managed the forest and enriched infertile soil to feed thousands. The findings are discrediting a once-bedrock theory of archaeology that long held that the Amazon, unlike much of the Americas, was a historical black hole, its environment too hostile and its earth too poor to have ever sustained big, sedentary societies. Only small and primitive hunter-gatherer tribes, the assumption went, could ever have eked out a living in an unforgiving environment. But scientists now believe that instead of stone-age tribes, like the groups that occasionally emerge from the forest today, the Indians who inhabited the Amazon centuries ago numbered as many as 20 million, far more people than live here today. "There is a gigantic footprint in the forest," said Augusto Oyuela-Caycedo, 49, a Colombian-born professor at the University of Florida who is working this swath in northeast Peru. Stooping over a man-made Indian mound on a recent day, he picked up shards of ceramics and dark, nutrient-rich earth made fertile hundreds of years ago by human hands. "All you can see is an artifact of the past," he said. "It's a product of human actions," he said. The evidence is not just here outside tiny San Martin de Samiria, an indigenous hamlet hours by speed boat from the jungle city of Iquitos. It is found across Amazonia. Outside Manaus, Brazil, Eduardo Neves, a renowned Brazilian archaeologist, and American scientists have found huge swaths of "terra preta," so-called Indian dark earth, land made fertile by mixing charcoal, human waste and other organic matter with soil. In 15 years of work they have also found vast orchards of semi-domesticated fruit trees, though they appear like forest untrammeled by man.
Image above: Ancient indigenous Manacapuru pottery was recovered in 2006. From article. Along the Xingu, an Amazon tributary in Brazil, Michael Heckenberger of the University of Florida has found moats, causeways, canals, the networks of a stratified civilization that, he says, existed as early as A.D. 800. In Bolivia, American, German and Finnish archaeologists have been studying how pre-Columbian Indians moved tons of soil and diverted rivers, major projects of a society that existed long before the birth of Christ. Many of these ongoing excavations follow the work of Anna C. Roosevelt. In the 1980s on Marajo Island, at the mouth of the Amazon, she turned up house foundations, elaborate pottery and evidence of an agriculture so advanced she believes the society there possibly had well over 100,000 inhabitants. Her initial conclusions, published in 1991, helped redirect scientific thinking about Amazonia, with younger archaeologists who followed buttressing and building upon her findings. "I think we're humanizing the history of the Amazon," said Neves, 44, a professor at the University of Sao Paulo. "We're not looking at the Amazon anymore as a black box. We're seeing that these people were just like anywhere else in the world. We're giving them a sense of history." The number of scientists who disagree has diminished, but influential critics remain, none more so than Betty J. Meggers, director of Latin American archaeology at the Smithsonian Institution. She said the new theories are based more on wishful thinking than science. "I'm sorry to say that archaeologists like to produce sensational refutation of previous theories," said Meggers, whose 1971 book, "Amazonia: Man and Culture in a Counterfeit Paradise," holds that the region is unfit for large-scale habitation. "You know, this is how you get your promotions." There is also concern among some that the new theories could pose a danger to the Amazon. If the forest were not as unspoiled as previously thought, they wonder, then wouldn't that serve as a green light to developers today? "Just because the indigenous had complex societies that managed the forest can't justify the large-scale transformations in the Amazon today," said Zach Hurwitz, a geographer who consults International Rivers, a Berkeley, Calif.-based environmental group that has raised concerns about dam building projects and mineral exploration. A study of contrasts In some ways, the theory that the Amazon may have been a wellspring of civilization should come as no surprise in the 21st century. In a long perilous journey along Ecuador's Napo River in 1541, Spanish friar Gaspar de Carvajal, a chronicler of the European conquest, wrote of "cities that gleamed white," canoes that carried dozens of Indian warriors, "fine highways" and "very fruitful land." But until recently, scientists and explorers had all but rejected his work as fantastical, the diaries of a man who would write anything to justify to investors back in Spain that the hunt for El Dorado would bear fruit. In sharp contrast, explorers in the 20th century noted that the Amazon held no pyramids or stone aqueducts, like those of Mexico. And the people they encountered belonged to small bands - Amazonian Indians who appeared to be little more than human relics forgotten by time. Roosevelt, a professor of anthropology at the University of Illinois, said that was because the civilizations encountered by Europeans quickly disintegrated, victims of disease. But until their demise, she said, their cultures were anything but primitive. "They have magnitude, they have complexity," she said. "They are amazing."
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Why Learn Permaculture?

SUBHEAD: Our generation is just realizing the earth does not belong to mankind, but that mankind belongs to the earth.
Image above: Tropical permaculture site. From (http://yogizendude.com/2009/09/13/permaculture-creating-a-sustainable-now). By Chuck Burr on 4 September 2010 in Restoration Farm - (http://www.restorationfarm.org/Restoration_Farm/Home/Entries/2010/9/4_Why_Learn_Permaculture_For_the_Children_and_For_Ourselves.html) Permaculture is one of the only ways home for humanity. If one believes in modernism, industrial agriculture and better living through chemistry read no further. However, if you feel something is not right about the way we live, read on. I have come to realize that it is because we have been taught from birth to be dependent on the system or civilization that we have lost our connection to our home—the land, nature and its cultivars. Simply, because we have no connection to the land we have no reason to take care of it or limit our numbers. The skills and relationships with even the most common plants is not given to us as children. Teach your children well Permaculture is a modern translation of first people’s or native knowledge and wisdom. It is a step towards indigenizing the white man. We have to learn permaculture as adults because we were not taught about our home as children. The key may be for us as adults to learn permaculture design skills and then pass this knowledge and established perennial homesteads and communities on to our children. Every child should be able to identify at least 100 plants and name their uses, how to growth them, where they are found and how to process them. Children should learn these skills through action, touch, feel, smell, taste and story. Here is a picture of my kids and one of their best friends picking desert in the berry patch. My children know probably a dozen berries by the shape of the plant at a distance. They know which plant to go to at different times of the year. If I don’t keep a watchful eye though, they can eat much of the fruit before the U-pick customers can get it. Its all good; they are learning their plants the fun way. A home medicinal herb patch is a also great way to teach kids about plants. The other day Charlie had a few bug bites on his foot that were bothering him. He knows how to make a healing clay with comfrey, aloe and coltsfoot. By the time the clay was dry on his foot, he was ready to go play again. Bridge the gap between the garden book and the garden Getting your first garden going can be difficult, especially if you were not taught about plants as a child. The easiest way to start gardening is to buy veggie starts from your local nursery. Get a season or two under your belt and then try starting seeds early and seed sowing directly in the ground after the last frost. We believe learning how to establish your own garden is so important that the SOPI Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) course emphasizes hands-on gardening skills. Permaculture or regeneration begins when you start turning your lawn into a garden haven. One thing will lead to another, after plants will come compost, then fruit or nut trees and later preserving and sharing your surplus. There is nothing better than a preserving party in the fall—oh ya. Let some of your plants go to seed and save the seeds. Serious seed savers will want to look into a set of seed cleaning screens like the set of eight graduated screen sizes from Horizon Herbs. Self-reliance allows you to begin stepping away from “the system” We have to learn how to unhook ourselves from modern culture. Self-reliance is about reducing our need to work in the cash wage economy. It also enables us to begin making a living doing what we love at home with our family and friends. The Amish call the process avoiding entanglements with modern culture. For example, old order Amish drive wagons with wood wheels because they do not want to be dependent on modern culture to fix or replace a rubber tire. My ideal is to learn the skills to not only grow your own food but also to build your home from the materials on site. Here is a small home at the Cob Cottage Company in Coquille, Oregon. A dwelling like this can have a rocket mass stove, hypo-cast under a bench or sleeping loft, living roof and even an attached greenhouse. Imagine gathering a few of these together and have the community garden in the center. Land is expensive enough, do your best not be paying more for the home than the land. I tell young people they are better off living in a yurt on a small piece of good land that you own with water near a community than you are living in a house the bank owns. For one person or family an expensive home can be the biggest boat anchor holding one back from self-reliance. Our SOPI PDC not only covers how to grow food but also how to develop a group of friends with many of the skills that you need to be reasonably self reliant. Think in terms of group skills, not a nuclear family, think extended family. You need to find a small group with combined skills of farming, building, healing, water systems, energy and so on. One person cannot know it all, “look for skills not money” as Bill Mollison says. You personally need to develop at least one really strong skill, probably a couple. Going forward, we need to focus on social and economic structures as much as we do on gardens and landscapes. We have to regain our connections to each other and the land. This is a holistic design process to create the interdependence we need going forward as groups instead of as individuals. Remember, we are taught to compete with each other for grades and jobs since birth. We have to relearn group or tribal cooperation. This grid of suburban homes can be a bit of a prison if used the way it was intended, each to their own cell. Urban/suburban communities can become small villages if people work together to relocalize. The Abundance Garden Cooperative is one such example here in Ashland, Oregon of ten families working together to grow their own food. It started with a permaculture design course. Get started The point of why permaculture is not about design, zones and sectors it is about finding a doorway that allows our generation to begin the journey away from modern culture. We need a holistic structures that get back to using nature as a model. Once future generations are living back with nature instead of through civilization then humanity will be sustainable or regenerative again—we will begin the healing process to reverse 10,000 years of exploitation since the agricultural revolution. Honestly that is a big job and a long road ahead but nature has the capacity to heal herself if we let succession continue uninterrupted. At SOPI and Restoration Farm, I point out that we are one of the few farms I know of that actually builds topsoil, builds biodiversity and allows succession to continue uninterrupted. That is a start but we still have to drive to town more frequently than I would like. Now we are beginning to work on the social community structure part. Our generation is only awakening to the need to move to a new cultural direction away from the earth belongs to man to humanity belongs to the earth. We are only beginning the journey. Let’s get as far as we can, learn as much as we can, establish as much as we can and pass it along to the children. We are just beginning but we can start somewhere—start where you are, attract others, share resources, surpluses and land that you may have. Have fun with it all; meet new friends. Life is a journey—it is time for the next chapter. Go out and find your community or tribe. Combine what you have of skills, energy, money, land or home. Think out side of the box, in fact get rid of the box.
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Fear in the Headlights

SUBHEAD: Our leaders' foolish intransigence insures a political convulsion following the onset of an involuntary restructuring.
Image above: Fantasy mashup by Juan Wilson from 'The Kingdoms of Arcania" game screen. Click to enlarge. From (http://thisvirtualworld.com/2008/06/18/care-to-join-me-in-the-lands-of-arcania).
By James Kunstler on 6 September 2010 in Kunstler.com -
The toils of summer are bygone now. The days grow shorter and America stands in the darkling road of its own prospects like a dumb animal frozen in the blinding light of approaching fury. The White House must be a strange place these days with the management of the USA turned over to astrologasters, alchemists, prayer-wheel spinners, fakirs, viziers, necromancers and other visitors from occult realms unaffiliated with the dominion of reality.
One of these characters, Ms. Christina Romer, at a luncheon celebrating her departure as chief of the White House Council of Economic Advisors (i.e. readers of spilled goat innards) even blurted out that she had no idea what's been going on in banking and business and how come America can't be more like it was in 1999. Don't cry for Christina. A cushy chair awaits her at the Hogwarts Berkeley outpost where she can repose in a trance of unknowing until California slides into its own tar pit of default and disintegration.
It's all a mystery in Washington. Nobody can figure out what happened to their green-eyed champion called Growth, that savior who rights all wrongs and insures our eternal exception from the sad fates of other less-blessed empires. Isn't there a book of conjures somewhere in the Harvard Business School that guarantee perpetual growth -- even if there are different tomes around the campus that describe the essential tragic nature of life, viz., that there is a beginning, a middle, and an end to everything. And while this might not be the end of the human project in North America, it is certainly the end of the cheap oil abbondanza, and everything spun off of it in the way of mass consumer luxury, with air-conditioning and a cherry on top.
My own view -- I might be wrong-- is that we are going through an epochal compressive contraction, which is the opposite of growth. Money is disappearing because debts are being welshed on in such a volume that all the digital dollars conjured out of chief wizard Ben Bernanke's magic booty box are but empty spells cast into a hurricane of broken promises. This is no Hurricane Earl - which stared into the discharge tube of Lloyd Blankfein's cappuccino machine and skidded off whimpering into the fogs of Newfoundland. This economic contraction storm has a long way to go, and it will be taking the USA on a strange journey, a trip more marvelous and hazard-fraught than the trek across the Oregon Trail -- and the destination may be a strange country where promises are taken seriously. What an idea!
In the meantime, the managers of US polity, Mr. Barack Obama and Company, look to continue scattering goat innards on the new carpet in the Oval Office in their desperate seeking for a miraculous return to the non-stop celebration that was ringing through the nation a decade ago. Any moment now, the President will announce some new "program" aimed at propping up house prices -- in order, you understand, to allow banks to pretend that they are still solvent. It won't do a thing for the poor schlemiels who already paid way too much for a house, and it won't do a thing for anyone looking to buy a house with a shrinking income, but it's probably what he'll do, along perhaps with some other cockamamie flim-flams, like temporarily suspending the payroll tax so the American people can stock up on Cheez Doodles and beer for the football festival known as Thanksgiving. I have a better idea: put a seven-trillion-dollar tax on Lloyd Blankfein's cappuccino machine.
I voted for Barack Obama. I don't know about you, but I'm a tad disappointed in how things turned out with him. These days he makes Millard Fillmore look like Frederick the Great. His speech last week on Iraq and, incidentally, economic matters, was such a puffery of hollow platitudes that I was a little surprised he didn't go up in a vapor at the end of it like a genie and retreat inside his desk lamp in a little trail of steam. Nobody can figure out why he keeps the same krewe of viziers at his elbow after all these months of failure to engage with reality. The voters were expecting a champion and got a Labradoodle instead.
Not that his political adversaries are any better. In fact, I wouldn't depend on John Boehner to pull a straight furrow in three feet of dry loam, or Mitch McConnell to tie his own shoelaces and chew gum at the same time but its certainly reassuring to know that Sarah Palin is waiting offstage to enter the 2012 national beauty pageant and that all of America can stop wasting money on education now that Fox News has installed a blackboard on Glenn Beck's soundstage.
Let me tell you exactly what is going on "out there." The so-called developed world is watching two giant forces race each other to put an end to business-as-usual for industrial civilization. These two forces are the catastrophe of debt and predicament of oil supplies. They had been running neck-and-neck for a few years, but now the catastrophe of debt is pulling slightly ahead. But even this is an illusion because these two forces are actually hitched in tandem, with the rickety cart of civilization bouncing perilously behind them, and whatever one of these forces does will affect the other. Bad debt will eventually cripple the global oil industry's ability to perform, and the failures of the oil industry will only amplify the killing force of debt. It's that simple.
And the simple moral of the story is that the only sane thing America can do is simplify itself, de-complexify its dangerously hyper-complex organs of daily life. I've stated them before but, briefly, this means simplifying the way we do farming, commerce, transportation, inhabiting the landscape, schooling, medicine, and banking. Everything we do to add additional layers of complexity to these already tottering systems will guarantee an eventual orgy of blood and material destruction to this land. Everything we do to prop up the unsustainable instead of reconstructing the armatures of everyday life will make American life a nightmare in a very few years ahead.
It must be the case that President Obama and the other denizens of high places do not have a clue what I might mean by all this -- though I am hardly the only one advancing this set of ideas and it is not really radical considering the alternatives. But our leaders' foolish intransigence insures a political convulsion that will follow the onset of an involuntary restructuring that can't be avoided anymore, because reality has mandates of its own, and is closer to God than all the hosts of our ridiculous politics.
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The Greening of Greed

SUBHEAD: The liquidity trap and corporate greed are green after all! Who would have guessed?
Image above: Green dressed factory workers in Antwerp, Belgium, celebrating the closing of their GM Opel plant (with a generous severance pay). From (http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/gm-commits-532m-to-antwerp-plant-shutdown). By Steve Ludlum on 4 September 2010 in Economic Undertow - (http://economic-undertow.blogspot.com/2010/09/greening-of-america.html) Everywhere you look there is the torrent/onrush of bad economic and political news. After two years of recession and substantial intervention on the part of spending authorities, US un(der)employment is essentially unchanged at a depressionary 17%. Entrained within this is a corresponding absense of final demand for goods and services other than what is the minimum required for survival. Robert Reich:
The number of Americans willing and able to work but who cannot find a job hasn’t stopped growing since the start of 2008. All told, about 22 million Americans are now jobless. Add in those who are working part-time who’d rather be working full time, and we’re up to 25 million.

And because most families depend on two paychecks, the practical impact is almost double.

All this has a negative multiplier on the economy. If families can’t pay their bills, their mortgages become delinquent (that’s why mortgage delinquencies keep rising), their credit card bills go unpaid (we’re seeing a notable rise in credit card defaults), and they can’t afford to buy anything other than necessities (hence auto sales have plummeted, new homes sales are down, and retail sales are in the pits).

As a result, more and more businesses decide to lay off workers (or refrain from adding them) because they can’t sell the goods and services they produce.

If jobless Americans aren't consuming, they aren't harming the planet. There is something deliciously ironic about corporations greening the country by firing their help. China - which makes cheap domestic/household goods - exports the goods we cannot afford to make ourselves to us; our ability to provide for our own at a profit ... has vanished. The lack of final demand is eroding retailers other than those who sell the cheapest (Chinese) goods. (Video) Empty stores do not spew hydrocarbons or CO2 into the atmosphere. Vanishing retail is good for the environment! Also vanished alongside retail is good government. The country is in trouble when charlatans such as Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin are in ascendency.
What has allowed Beck to occupy center stage is the failure of rational political figures to articulate the terms of the convulsion that American society faces, brought about not by communists and other John Bircher hobgoblins but by the forces of history. The failure at the political center is a conscious one of nerve and will, of elected officials in both major parties playing desperately for advantage in defiance of the truth -- this truth being that the USA went broke trying to swindle itself into prosperity. Add to this the failure of the law to go after the swindlers, which has undermined the fundamental belief in the rule of law that enabled this society to function as well as it did previously.
Malfunctioning government is bad for business ... but excellent for the environment. When thriving businesses are replaced by weed- strewn lots the winners are the weeds. State and local governments are also on the ropes as tax revenues show no sign of recovering to pre- crisis levels. As property values plunge, more layoffs are in the pipeline. When this vicious cycle really heats up the consequent vacant and crumbling housing in abandoned suburbs across America will be prime habitat for coyotes, mountain lions, ground squirrels and deer. The German military has joined the US's in taking imminent peak oil - and its consequences - seriously. Unlike the rest of the establishment, militaries operate in reality- based environments.

3.2 Systemic risks after reaching a “tipping point”

In addition to the gradual risks, there might be risks of non-linear events, where a reduction of economic output based on Peak Oil might affect market-driven economies in a way that they stop functioning altogether, leaving the possibility of a relatively steady downward trajectory.

Such a scenario could develop through an initially slow decline of trade and economic activity, combined with higher stress on government budgets from lower tax income, higher social cost and growing investment into alternative technologies.

Investment will decline and debt service will be challenged, leading to a crash in financial markets, accompanied by a loss of trust in currencies and a break-up of value and supply chains – because trade is no longer possible. This would in turn lead to the collapse of economies, mass unemployment, government defaults and infrastructure breakdowns, ultimately followed by famines and total system collapse.

I could have written this myself! Sounds like an environmental silver lining, right? Floods and droughts worldwide suggest that rising global climate instability may not be a left- wing fraud after all. Al Gore may be right! A consequence of the horrendous weather has been a sharp rise in food prices. A rise in food price does not lead to demand destruction as is the case with 'luxury good' petroleum. People will pay whatever price is commanded for something to eat. It goes without saying that widespread famines are good for the environment. Less people means less pressure on vital ecosystems. In this light, biofuels diverting food from humans to cars is good for the planet! Soylent Green is People! As David Goldman suggests the opportunity for the US to imitate Japan and slip into a genteel senescence is a mirage. Not only does the US not save enough ... it really cannot:
The question we discussed was not whether America would suffer a “Japan-style stagnation,” but whether America would be lucky enough to sustain a Japanese style stagnation.

We’ve been taking about the comparison to Japan for quite some time. During Japan’s “lost decade” of the 1990s, everyone was working, everyone kept their homes, everyone maintained their lifestyle (minus some shopping trips to Paris), and life carried on more or less the same. America enters the second decade of the millennium with un- and underemployment around 20%.

Japan went through its great retirement wave in the 1990s, just as America must during the 2010s. But the Japanese for years had saved massively, and exported massively in order to do so. If a country’s population ages rapidly, the soon-to-retire cohort will shift from consumption into savings. Japan had insufficient young people to absorb the investment requirements of the 40- and 50-year-olds, and therefore had to invest overseas. Japan’s industrial genius made it the world’s premier exporter, and Japan was able to save successfully to fund the retirement wave–even though consumption remained weak and real estate prices fell and the stock market fell to a third of late 1980s peak.

How are Americans going to save? They can’t buy home mortgages; they could buy US Treasuries at 2.5% for a 10-year maturity; they can buy the junk bonds now flooding the market; or they can leave their money in cash at a fraction of a percent. As aging American shift from consumption to saving, they must do so by reducing domestic purchases.
Which erodes final demand, which increases joblessness which shrinks the amount of money available for savings. Everywhere there is another vicious cycle becoming entrenched. Where is the 'good news' to propel economies and markets higher? Where is the big idea - a new 'Internet' or jet airplane or diesel engine or typewriter or sewing machine or bicycle - that will spawn a hundred- thousand new factories? America manufactures bailouts and poverty. What is the ticker symbol for poverty? Does it have an Exchange Traded Fund? Meanwhile, the government lacks the tools to be able to much influence events; one sock puppet can only gesture to the other. What remains is the Federal Reserve. What (worthless) asset will it buy next to support the dwindling rally on Wall Street? Treasuries do not need the assist as erosion worldwide directs a flow of dollars into Treasury safe- havens.
More likely is the Fed's renewed purchase of mortgage- backed securities, to add more base money (triggering more joblessness?) and prop up sagging real estate sales. Another $2 trillion added to its balance sheet would in effect be new money, it would not be inflationary (it would be hoarded by corporations and those closest to the money spigot) and would answer the call for otherwise useless asset swap Quantitative Easing (QE). It would also mean the next call for QE will require a $4 trillion balance sheet expansion and a $8 trillion after that. A trillion here, a trillion there, pretty soon it adds up to real money! For the Fed, the road to irrelevance is paved with paper dollars. Not that these paving stones are sans value; quite the contrary, all dollars priced in crude oil have value (even though the Japanese yen has greater value in the FX market). As crude becomes more dear it will be hoarded at a remove by the requirement that Americans save. Since ordinary Americans cannot save, the corporations will 'save' for them by hoarding cash and in the process ... oil. The liquidity trap and corporate greed are green after all! Who would have guessed? Hear also:
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Diana LaBedz for Mayor

SUBHEAD: Diana LaBedz has given us a real choice. On September 18th please vote to make her our next mayor.
Image above: Photo of Diana LaBedz during debate with current Mayor Carvaho on 8/30/10. From (http://thegardenisland.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/article_a7f0f62e-b731-11df-b017-001cc4c03286.html).
[Editor's note: Island Breath will list candidates that it supports for the 2010 midterm elections and local races this coming week. In the meantime, here is an article by Andy Parx endosing my personal choice for mayor.]
By Andy Parx on 31 August 2010 in Park News Daily -
The clear choice for Mayor of Kauai is Diana LaBedz and PNN is happy to endorse a candidate whose positions reflect many of the aspirations of the environmental, sustainability and controlled growth community. Yes we could say we’d vote for a potted plant rather than reinstall the crony-addled incompetent and corrupt administration of Mayor Bernard Carvalho. His reign has been an exercise in perpetuation of the old boy political machine, perfecting the “fire, ready aim” style of his predecessors by filling jobs- even civil service positions- as well as boards and commissions with special interests, political supporters, campaign contributors and other assorted hacks and operatives with no regard for skills or even competence. But despite her inexperience in the world of politics, in LaBedz we have the opportunity to elect a truly dedicated progressive who has been a decades-long advocate for many of the kinds of changes we seek to grow Kaua`i in a sustainable, environmentally sensitive and socially responsible manner. LaBedz has pledged to use the current laws to protects our oceans, beaches and reefs, a passion of hers for years. She supports the “zero waste” concept for dealing with our festering solid waste management crisis. She will oppose the growth of the GMO industry and instead support the perpetuation of pesticide-free, organic farming. She supports passage of a measure similar to the one passed on the Big Island that would make cannabis enforcement the lowest priority for the police and would seek a federal permit to grow industrial hemp offering new industry creating many jobs. She has pledged to focus on creating opportunities for clean carbon-free energy and opposes an incineration plant. We always say we wish we had someone to vote for who has these kinds of values. As Diana says, her only “special interest” is “the health of the island, it's people and our planet”. As a matter of fact, she is not soliciting campaign contributions which is certainly a breath of fresh air. Diana LaBedz has given us a real choice. On September 18 please support Diana LaBedz and make her our next mayor.
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Media Marijuana Misinformation

SOURCE: Diana Labedz (DianaLaBedz@aol.com) SUBHEAD: News outlets continue to ignore research that belies government anti-pot propaganda.
Image above: The Island Hemp & Cotton store in Kapaa on Kauai. Hawaii. From (http://travel.webshots.com/photo/1162685607035626597wZNpnQ)
[Editor's note: Diana LaBedz is a candidate for mayor of Kauai. She adovates de-criminalization of marijuana use and the cultivation and production of hemp related products on our island. There will be a Hemp discussion and information exchange on KKCR "The Garden Show" on Wednesday, September 8th from 12-1:00pm] By Paul Armentano on 29 August 2010 for Alternet.org - (http://www.alternet.org/story/148013/5_things_the_corporate_media_and_government_don%27t_want_you_to_know_about_marijuana)
Last September I penned an essay (http://www.alternet.org/drugs/142815) for Alternet entitled Five Things the Corporate Media Don’t Want You to Know About Cannabis. In it I proposed,
“News outlets continue to, at best, underreport the publication of scientific studies that undermine the federal government's longstanding pot propaganda and, at worst, ignore them all together.”
Nearly one year later little has changed. Here are five additional stories the mainstream media doesn't want you to know about cannabis. 1. CANCER
Long-term marijuana use is associated with lower risks of certain cancers, including head and neck cancer. The moderate long-term use of marijuana is associated with a reduced risk of head and neck cancers, according to the results of a population-based case-control study conducted by investigators at Rhode Island's Brown University and published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research. Authors of the study reported, "After adjusting for potential confounders (including smoking and alcohol drinking), 10 to 20 years of marijuana use was associated with a significantly reduced risk of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma” compared to subjects who never used pot. Researchers further reported that subjects who smoked marijuana and consumed alcohol and tobacco (two conclusive high risk factors for head and neck cancers) also experienced a reduced cancer risk compared to non-cannabis users. “[W]e observed that marijuana use modified the interaction between alcohol and cigarette smoking, resulting in a decreased (cancer) risk among moderate smokers and light drinkers, and attenuated risk among the heaviest smokers and drinkers. "Our study suggests that moderate marijuana use is associated with reduced risk of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma,” investigators concluded. Similarly, a 2006 UCLA study of more than 2,200 subjects reported that marijuana smoking was not positively associated with cancers of the lung or upper aerodigestive tract – even among individuals who reported smoking more than 22,000 joints during their lifetime. Researchers further noted that among some users of the drug, cannabis smoking appeared to have a cancer preventive effect. Nevertheless, mainstream U.S. media outlets exhibited little-to-no interest in reporting on the Brown University findings, which failed to even garner a mention locally in the Providence Journal. One month following the study’s publication, international media wire service Reuters did devote some half-hearted coverage, which it published under the overtly skeptical headline “Could smoking pot cut risk of head, neck cancer?” 2. SAFETY
Most Americans acknowledge that pot is safer than booze. Despite over 70 years of government propaganda alleging that cannabis is far more dangerous than alcohol, the reality is that few Americans believe it. Nor should they. According to an August 2010 national Rasmussen poll, fewer than one in five Americans believe that consuming pot is more dangerous than drinking alcohol. By contrast, fifty percent of respondents, including the majority of those who said that they drank alcohol, rated the use of marijuana to be less dangerous than booze. By all objective measures the majority is correct. According to a 2009 report by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (which, not surprisingly, also went unreported by the mainstream press), health-related costs per user are eight times higher for drinkers than they are for those who use cannabis, and are more than 40 times higher for tobacco smokers. It stated, "In terms of (health-related) costs per user: tobacco-related health costs are over $800 per user, alcohol-related health costs are much lower at $165 per user, and cannabis-related health costs are the lowest at $20 per user." A previous analysis commissioned by The World Health Organization agreed, stating, “On existing patterns of use, cannabis poses a much less serious public health problem than is currently posed by alcohol and tobacco in Western societies." So then why is the federal government still insisting on arresting and criminally prosecuting adults who consume pot in the privacy of their own homes? And why hasn’t the corporate media ever demanded that our elected leaders answer this question? 3. DISCRIMINATION
The enforcement of marijuana laws is racially discriminatory. Minorities, particularly African Americans and Hispanics, disproportionately bear the brunt of marijuana arrests despite using cannabis at rates similar to – or in some cases, less frequently – than whites. For example, an August 2010 study (PDF) commissioned by the Drug Policy Alliance reported that African Americans are arrested for marijuana possession offenses in California at more than twice the rate of Caucasians. Authors determined: "Young blacks use marijuana at lower rates than young whites. Yet from 2004 through 2008, in every one of the 25 largest counties in California, blacks were arrested for marijuana possession at higher rates than whites, typically at double, triple or even quadruple the rate of whites.” The study concluded, "[B]acks were arrested for simple marijuana possession far out of proportion to their percentage in the total population of the counties. In the 25 largest counties as a whole, blacks are 7% of the population but 20% of the people arrested for possessing marijuana.” Arrest figures from New York City, the marijuana arrest capitol of the world, tell a similar tale. In 2009, New York City police made 46,400 lowest level marijuana possession arrests (NY State Penal Law 221.10) involving cases where cannabis was either used or, more often than not, possessed in public. Of those arrested, 54 percent were African American, 33 percent were Hispanic, and only ten percent were Caucasian. (Blacks and Hispanics together comprise approximately half of the city's population.) Nationally, the black arrest rate for marijuana offenses is 2.5 times the arrest rate for whites, according to a NORML commissioned study from 2000. Yet it wasn’t until this year that civil rights organizations like the California chapter of the NAACP and the Latino Voters League finally began talking about the racially motivated nature of marijuana law enforcement. For the most part, editors and reporters for the MSM have still yet to notice. 4. SCHIZOPHRENIA
Marijuana may be helpful, not harmful, to people with schizophrenia. For years now the mainstream media has run rampant with reports that smoking cannabis causes or exacerbates mental illness, particularly schizophrenia. Yet several overlooked studies published earlier this year indicate that pot may actually be helpful to some patients with the disease. For example, in May a team of researchers writing in the Canadian Journal of Nursing Research reported male schizophrenic subjects consumed marijuana "as a means of satisfying the schizophrenia-related need for relaxation, sense of self-worth, and distraction." (Survey data published in 2008 in the International Journal of Mental Health Nursing also reported that many schizophrenic patients obtain relief from cannabis, finding that subjects consumed cannabis to reduce anxiety, mitigate memories of childhood trauma, enhance cognition, and "improve their mental state.") A separate assessment of schizophrenic patients published in June in the journal Schizophrenia Research found that subjects with a history of cannabis use demonstrate higher levels of cognitive performance compared to patients who had never used the drug. Investigators at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, the Zucker Hillside Hospital in New York, the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and Princeton University compared the neurocognitive skills of 175 schizophrenics with a history of cannabis use with 280 subjects with no history of illegal drug use. Researchers reported that cannabis users demonstrated "significantly better performance" compared to nonusers on measures of processing speed, verbal fluency, verbal learning, and memory. Marijuana use was also associated with better over all GAF (Global Assessment Functioning) scores. Authors concluded: "The results of the present analysis suggest that (cannabis use) in patients with SZ (schizophrenia) is associated with better performance on measures of processing speed and verbal skills. These data are consistent with prior reports indicating that SZ patients with a history of (cannabis use) have less severe cognitive deficits than SZ patients without comorbid (cannabis use). ... The present findings also suggest that cannabis use in patients with SZ may not differentially affect the severity of illness as measured by clinical symptomatology." A second study published in 2010 by this same research team also questioned the media’s often repeated claim that pot use is a root cause of the illness, finding that cannabis use is not independently associated with the onset of psychosis in first-episode schizophrenia patients. The researchers concluded: "Although cannabis use precedes the onset of illness in most patients, there was no significant association between onset of illness and (cannabis use) that was not accounted for by demographic and clinical variables. ... Previous studies implicating cannabis use disorders in schizophrenia may need to more comprehensively assess the relationship between cannabis use disorders and schizophrenia." Other than this single story by Time Magazine’s Maia Szalavitz, no other media outlets made mention of any of the above studies, and most continue to promote the federal government’s specious allegation that pot use causes depression, schizophrenia, and suicide. 5. DRUG TESTS
Workplace drug testing programs don’t identify impaired employees or reduce on-the-job accidents. Workplace urine testing programs are an inadequate method for identifying employees who are under the influence, and do not significantly reduce job accident rates, according to a completely ignored study published this past March in the scientific journal Addiction. Investigators at the University of Victoria in British Columbia reviewed 20 years of published literature pertaining to the efficacy of workplace drug testing, with a special emphasis on marijuana – the most commonly detected drug. Researchers found: "[I]t is not clear that heavy cannabis users represent a meaningful job safety risk unless using before work or on the job; urine tests have poor validity and low sensitivity to detect employees who represent a safety risk; drug testing is related to reductions in the prevalence of cannabis positive tests among employees, but this might not translate into fewer cannabis users; and urinalysis has not been shown to have a meaningful impact on job injury/accident rates." Authors concluded, "Urinalysis testing is not recommended as a diagnostic tool to identify employees who represent a job safety risk from cannabis use." Not recommended but prevalent nonetheless. Many public employees in the United States are now mandated to submit to drug testing under federal workplace guidelines. And many private companies are no better. According to a 2006 survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, 84 percent of employers required new hires to pass drug screenings, and 39 percent randomly tested employees after they were hired. Apparently corporate America, much like the corporate media, just hasn’t heard the news.
For more info about Diana LeBedz for mayor:
See also:
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In the Name of Aloha

SOURCE: Tom Legacy (tlegacy@hawaii.rr.com) SUBHEAD: Puna Dawson's Celebration of Peace on Kauai from September 1 - 13.

By Puna Dawson on 1 September 2010 in The Name of Aloha -
(http://www.livealoha.sakura.ne.jp/english/englishmenu.html

Image above: Puna Dawson and her halau. From source website.


My island is fragile and endangered! Our cultural values will disappear if we don't nurture them. I ask that you share with me the caring of the aina (land) that I have been born to, I ask for your appreciation as you come to enjoy the hospitality of my cultural practices and history. I ask that you help to ensure these gifts for my grandchildren, their great grandchildren and all people of the world for the future.

You are invited to join us In the name of Aloha, a Celebration of Peace, September 1st through September 13th, 2010 on Kauai. Come celebrate together, our mokupuni (island), as we experience and learn Hawaiian Culture and Practices with our island people. Huaka'i and Ha'awina (travel and lesson), designed to make you aware the fragile state of our island resources will provide educational hands-on learning at traditional sites. Pulling kalo, canoe culture, lauki/hau pa'u making, are just a few of the experiences planned.  

SCHEDULE:
9/5/10, Sunday, 5 am to 2 pm: Kealoha Lulu Phon (Aha Hula) at Hauola near Hikinaakala Heiau. Expreience Ala a Papa and Witness Hula Practitioners in ceremonial celebration

9/6/10, Monday, 6 pm to 9 pm: Huakai Papa Niu/Ohe Hano Ihu at Aloha Beach Resort. Experience Niu (coconut) from the root to the leaf, and Bamboo Noseflute.

9/7/10, Tuesday, 6 pm to 9 pm: Huakai at Papa Kani Ka Pila at Aloha Beach Resort. Experience our island musicians as they share their talents. Play and learn with them.

9/8/10, Wednesday, 7:30 am to 4 pm: Huakai at Papa Kanu I Kapono Charter School Anahola Kanu Club Pahu/Kanu at Anahola /Aliumanu. Experience a Hawaiian Charter School and Pahu/Canoe Culture.

 9/9/10, Thurday, 7:30 am to 4 pm: Waipa Ahupuaa Experience at waipa, Rrom the Mountain to the Ocean. Experience Kanu (planting), Hukikekalo (gathering), Lawaia (fishing), Waa Papa heenalu (canoe, surfing).

 9/10/10, Friday, 7:30 am to 1 pm: Huakai Papa Westside at Hanapepe to Waimea. Experience the salt ponds, Kukuipuuone and a'ali'i at Waimea /Kokee.

9/11/10, Saturday, 11 am to 3:30 pm: Ka Pa Hula Hoike at Kamokila Village. experience the formal acknowledgement of Hula-Kuleana and enjoy a le'a Le'a Luau!

9/12/10, Sunday, 12 pm to 4 pm: Pre-Concert "Hospitality, Kauai lavor" Hoolau Lea at Kauai Community College Performing Arts Center. Experience Hospitatlity with a taste of Kauai.

 9/12/10, Sunday, 4 pm to 6 pm; All in the Ohana Concert Fundraiser at Kauai Community College Performing Arts Center. Experience a big cast of Ohana with a rich history, sharing their Aloha through music and dance!

9/13/10, Monday, 11:30 am to 2:00 pm: Mahalo Gathering at Kauai Beach Resort. Experience a time of Gratitude.  

INFO:

CONTACT:

Barking Sands Going Off Grid

SUBHEAD: A fragile domestic electricity grid makes military installations unnecessarily vulnerable.

By Sophie Cocke on 27 August 2010 in Pacific Business News -  
(http://pacific.bizjournals.com/pacific/stories/2010/08/30/smallb4.html?b=1283140800%5E3866931)

Image above: The "Helios" solar power plane on first test flight over Niihau after take off from PMRF 7/14/01.


The Pacific Missile Range Facility in Barking Sands, Kauai, aims to generate all its electricity off-grid by 2015.

The goal is part of a clean-energy initiative under way at the Naval facility that employs between 900 and 1,300 workers.

The more than 200 lights that line the missile range’s 6,000-foot runway are now powered by the sun, as are the street lights. The base is seeking bids on a contract to install photovoltaics on 10 rooftops and is collaborating with Kauai County to capture methane gas from a landfill to generate power.
Its renewable-energy strides are coupled with efforts to retrofit the base with energy-efficient lighting and appliances and install advanced meters that allow personnel to monitor energy usage. The base reduced electricity usage by almost 15 percent between 2008 and 2009.

“I’m quite proud of the efforts that have been made out here,” said base spokesman Tom Clements.
The missile range’s advances are part of a larger military effort to help Hawaii meet its goal of 70 percent clean energy by 2030 as well as aggressive measures under way on a national level to reduce dependency on imported petroleum.

Risks of disruption to foreign oil supplies, rising costs of a declining resources and concerns about the security of the nation’s electric grids have spurred efforts to cultivate alternative-energy sources and curtail energy use, according to reports from the U.S. Pacific Command and the Center for Naval Analyses Military Advisory Board.

Security of the electric grid is of particular concern.

“A fragile domestic electricity grid makes our domestic military installations, and their critical infrastructure, unnecessarily vulnerable to incident, whether deliberate or accidental,” according to a report by the Center Naval Analyses Military Advisory Board.

The military also plans to “island” other Hawaii installations, including Schofield Barracks, Kaneohe Marine Corps Base, the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and Fort Shafter.

But, given that the military is Hawaii’s single largest consumer of electricity, using on average three gigawatts of electricity a day, the impact that its move off-grid could have on consumer rates has caused some concern.

“There’s no doubt that more of the burden shifts to the residents as more people who have the means to go off-grid do,” said Brad Rockwell, program manager for the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative. “It will definitely impact us and we would hope they wouldn’t go in that direction. We’ve always had a good relationship with them and hope that we can help them meet their needs as they help us meet ours.”

The missile range buys on average 12.5 million kilowatt-hours of electricity a year from the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative, or approximately 3 percent of the utility’s energy sales. With average rates of 32 cents per kilowatt hour, this amounts to a $4 million-a-year energy bill for the Navy.
While taking bases off-line could affect consumer rates, a report by the Pacific Command details several ways in which it also can benefit the community, including assisting residents if there is an electrical outage due to a natural disaster. If smart-grid technology is implemented, the bases also can feed excess energy back into Kauai’s electric grid.


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Kekaha Shrimp Farm Discharge

SUBHEAD: About the just announced shrimp farm discharge permit meeting.
Image above: Image above: One of several 12" PVC discharge pipe from shrimp basin flows into ditch headed to ocean. Note dead plants in ditch coated with white accretion. Photo by Juan Wilson in 2009.
[Editor's note: Invitation below to the Sunrise Capital Informational Meeting and Field Trip to review the NPDES permit application for 25 million gallons a day of discharge, 8 1/2 times the daily outflow volumn of the BP oil spill and more daily discharge than the whole Kaua'i Water Department. The following invitation was apparently sent to only 12 invitees.] By Joanna Seto on 3 September 2010 for Hawaii Department of Health -
Subject: National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Informational Meeting and Field Trip Sunrise Capital, Inc. Zone of Mixing No. ZM-271 NPDES Permit No. HI 0021654 The Department of Health (DOH), with the cooperation of Sunrise Capital, Inc., will be holding an informational meeting and facility field trip on September 16, 2010, at the Sunrise Capital, Inc. shrimp farm facility located at 6556 Kaumualii Highway, Kekaha, Island of Kauai, Hawaii. The DOH apologizes for the short notice, but wanted to have this event when Sunrise Capital’s management would be able to be in Kauai to represent the facility and provide a facility tour. The selection of the meeting site at the Sunrise Capital facility will allow for the convenient physical viewing the facility operations as part of or upon the conclusion of the informational meeting. Please note that due to the limited space availability of the meeting area at the shrimp farm and logistics concerns associated with accommodating a very large group during the field trip, the DOH has had to limit the number of guests that may be invited to the facility, and therefore is inviting only those 12 persons which the DOH has considered to have submitted comments on the public notice Draft NPDES permit that are substantive in nature. The DOH is cordially inviting you to the Thursday, September 16, 2010 informational meeting and field trip at the Sunrise Capital, Inc. facility. Please RSVP via:
phone (808) 586-4309
RSVP by September 13, 2010, if you plan to attend. Please note that if you are unable to attend, only one (1) person may attend as a substitute for you.
The September 16, 2010 informational meeting and field trip shall begin at 8:30 a.m. and is anticipated to end at 12:30 p.m. Following is the tentative general outline for the informational meeting and field trip, which may not be carried out in the particular order:
1. Overview of the comments and concerns received during the public notice comment period for the Sunrise Capital, Inc. Draft NPDES permit. 2. Discussion on the comments and concerns and possible remedies. 3. Question and answer session about the facility operations. 4. Facility walk through to assist in further understanding of the facility operations.
In your RSVP response please indicate if you will or will not attend, if not, the substitute person, if any, and the NPDES Permit No. HI 0021654. If the DOH does not receive your RSVP response by September 13, 2010, we will assume that you will not attend. Should you have any questions, please contact Ms. Joanna L. Seto, Supervisor of the Engineering Section, Clean Water Branch, at (808) 586-4309. Sincerely, Joanna Seto for ALEC WONG, P.E., CHIEF Clean Water Branch Joanna L. Seto Engineering Section Supervisor Clean Water Branch State of Hawaii Department of Health
See also:
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World in Collapse

SOURCE: Kenneth Taylor (taylork021@Hawaii.rr.com)
SUBHEAD: An interview with Robert Jensen about our world going through a collapse.
Image above: Photo portrait of Robert Jenson. From (http://thirdcoastworkers.coop/about-us/community-advisory-board).
By Alex Doherty on 1 September 2010 for New Left Project -
Robert Jensen is a professor in the School of Journalism at the University of Texas. He spoke to NLP’s Alex Doherty about the threat of environmental catastrophe. Alex Doherty: You have written that: "To be fully alive today is to live with anguish, not for one’s own condition in the world but for the condition of the world, for a world that is in collapse." Even amongst environmentalists it is rare to describe our situation in such apocalyptic terms. Why do you think it is justified to describe the world as collapsing? Robert Jensen: Take a look at any measure of the fundamental health of the planetary ecosystem on which we are dependent: topsoil loss, chemical contamination of soil and water, species extinction and reduction in biodiversity, the state of the world’s oceans, unmanageable toxic waste problems, and climate change. Take a look at the data, and the news is bad on every front. And all of this is in the context of the dramatic decline coming in the highly concentrated energy available from oil and natural gas, and the increased climate disruption that will come if we keep burning the still-abundant coal reserves. There are no replacement fuels on the horizon that will allow a smooth transition. These ecological realities will play out in a world structured by a system of nation-states rooted in the grotesque inequality resulting from imperialism and capitalism, all of which is eroding what is left of our collective humanity. “Collapsing” seems like a reasonable description of the world. That doesn’t mean there’s a cataclysmic end point coming soon, but this is an apocalyptic moment. The word “apocalypse” does not mean “end.” It comes from a Greek word that means “uncovering” or “lifting the veil.” This is an apocalyptic moment because we need to lift the veil and have the courage to look at the world honestly. AD: Why do you think many leftists shy away from such language when discussing the environment? RJ: I think not only leftists, but people in general, avoid these realities because reality is so grim. It seems overwhelming to most people, for good reason. So, rather than confront it, people find modes of evasion. One is to deny there’s a reason to worry, which is common throughout the culture. The most common evasive strategy I hear from people on the left is “technological fundamentalism” -- the idea that because we want high-energy/high-tech solutions that will allow us to live in the style to which so many of us have become accustomed, those solutions will be found. That kind of magical thinking is appealing but unrealistic, for two reasons. First, while the human discoveries of the past few centuries are impressive, they have not been on the scale required to correct the course we’re on; we’ve created problems that have grown beyond our capacity to understand and manage. Second, those discoveries were subsidized by fossil-fuel energy that won’t be around much longer, which dramatically limits what we will be able to accomplish through energy-intensive advanced technology. As many people have pointed out, technology is not energy; you don’t replace energy with technology. Technology can make some processes more energy-efficient, but it can’t create energy out of thin air. I’ve had many left colleagues tell me that they agree with some or all of my analysis, but that “people aren’t ready to hear that yet.” I translate that to mean, “I’m not ready to hear that yet.” I think a lot of leftists displace their own fear of confronting these difficult realities onto “the masses,” when in fact they can’t face it. The other factor is that truly crazy end-times talk, which comes primarily from reactionary religious sources, leads many people to reflexively dismiss any talk of collapse. So, it’s important to be clear: I’m not predicting the end of world on a specific date. I’m not predicting anything. I’m simply describing what some of us believe to be the most likely trajectory of the high-energy/high-tech society in which we live. And I’m suggesting that we keep this trajectory in mind as we pursue left/feminist critiques of hierarchy and domination, in the hope that more egalitarian and humane models for human organization can help us deal with collapse. AD: Given the severity of the situation you are describing what are the implications for left activism? Should other forms of activism be abandoned in order to focus on the threat of climate change? How realistic are proposals for alternative economic systems such as green bio-regionalism or participatory economics in the context of climate catastrophe? RJ: First, I think every political project -- whether it is focused on labor organizing, resistance to white supremacy, women’s rights, anti-war activity -- has to include an ecological component. That doesn’t mean everyone has to shift focus, but I think there is no meaningful politics that doesn’t recognize the fragility of our situation and the likelihood that the most vulnerable people (both in the United States and around the world) are going to bear the brunt of the ecological decline. A responsible left/feminist politics should connect the dots whenever and wherever possible. Here’s one obvious example: U.S. imperial wars, born of a patriarchal system, are waged to support corporate interests in the most crucial energy-producing regions of the world, which are predominantly non-white. Resistance to those wars requires a critique of male dominance, white supremacy, capitalism, and the affluent First-World lifestyles that numb people to the reality that they are morally implicated in these wars. Those wars are dramatically escalating the intensity and potential destructiveness of the coming collapse. Concern for justice and ecological sustainability demands an anti-war and anti-empire politics. There is no way to focus on one aspect of an injustice without understanding these intersections. Second, more than ever, “let a hundred flowers blossom.” When we know so little about what’s coming, it’s best if people pursue a variety of strategies that they feel drawn to. In Austin, I’m working primarily with one group that advocates for immigrant workers (Workers Defense Project) and another that helps people start worker-owned cooperative businesses (Third Coast Workers for Cooperation). Neither group is focused specifically on the ecological crises, but there’s incredible energy and ideas in these groups, and they create spaces for advancing a coordinated critique of capitalism, white supremacy, and patriarchy, all with an understanding of the ecological stakes. Maybe it’s natural for people to want to believe that they have hit on the solution to a problem, but I believe that the problems are complex beyond our understanding, and it’s not only unlikely that there’s a single solution but there may be no solutions at all -- if by “solution” we mean a way to continue human existence on the planet at its current level. We need experiments on every front that help us imagine new ways of being. AD: Lately you have been writing about the way people react emotionally to the reality of climate change. Why do you believe that is an important topic? What is your emotional response to humanities current predicament? What reactions have you seen in others? RJ: It’s not just climate change, of course, but the multiple ecological crises. Anyone who is paying attention is bound to have some kind of emotional response. I think emotions are important because we are emotional animals. It really is that simple. How can we confront the end of the systems that have structured our lives and not have powerful emotional reactions? Yes, we have well-developed rational capacities, but in the end we are animals who feel as much, or more, than we think. And if thinking and feeling are not wholly separate processes but are part of the way people understand the world, it is folly not to pay attention to our emotional reactions. None of this should be confused with the apolitical therapy culture that dominates in the United States. I’m not talking about emotions separate from politics, but the emotions that flow from political engagement. To borrow a phrase from a friend, I wake up every morning in a state of profound grief. We humans have been given a privileged place in a world that is beautiful beyond description, and we are destroying it and destroying each other. I cope with that by building temporary psychological damns and dikes to hold back that grief. But the emotion comes so powerfully from so many different directions that life feels like a process of constantly patching and moving and rebuilding those damns and dikes. Some of this is intensely personal, but for me the political work is a crucial part of that coping process. If I weren’t politically active, I would lose my mind. The only way I know how to cope is to use some of my energy in collective efforts to try to build something positive. There is a lot of individual variation in the human species, which means there will be lots of different reactions as the reality of our predicament sets in. I worry that in a society like the United States, where so many have lived for so long with abundance and a sense of entitlement, people won’t be able to face up to the dramatic changes that are inevitable. That could lead people to accept greater levels of hierarchy and authority if political leaders promise to protect that affluence. In that case, people’s inability to deal with the emotions that arise out of awareness of collapse could usher in an era of even more unjust distribution of wealth and resources in an even more violent world. The only way to combat that is to talk openly about what we see coming and work to create conditions that allow us to rely on the best of our nature, not the worst. AD: You dismiss the possibility of technological solutions to climate change but given the severity of the crises we are facing do we not have a duty to try everything we can to avert disaster? Shouldn't we be ramping up research into alternate fuels and renewable energy resources? What about geo-engineering as way to avert the worst effects of climate change? RJ: I don’t dismiss the relevance of advanced technology to sensible policy proposals. I do dismiss the claim that because we want to solve problems with technology we will invent that technology, and that it will be safe and not cause new problems. I reject that because it strikes me as a fantasy that ignores history and diverts us from the reality of the present. So, yes, we have that duty, and I support serious investment in alternative energy. My concern is that the culture’s technological fundamentalism leaves people vulnerable to scams. The first step is to recognize we are all going to live in a lower-energy world fairly soon, and that means a massive shift in how we live in the First World. There is no replacement for that fossil energy, and we had better come to terms with that. When we don’t recognize that, we are more easily suckered into absurd schemes like the tar sands in Canada, which is an ecological disaster. The same for biofuels and the absurd claim that we can sustainably replace fossil fuels with ethanol, which is also an ecological loser. Geo-engineering goes a step beyond that, into real insanity. Proposals to manipulate the planetary ecosystem through schemes like putting reflective particles into the atmosphere, or mirrors in space to deflect sunlight, or altering the clouds -- all of them prove that we haven’t learned the most important lesson of the industrial era. We have not learned, as Wes Jackson puts it, that we are far more ignorant than we are knowledgeable. We have a history of imagining that our knowledge is adequate to manage major interventions into the ecosystem, leaving us to face the unintended consequences of those interventions. At this point, there is no rational approach to the ecological crises that doesn’t start with this recognition: We are going to live in a low-energy world that is powered primarily by contemporary sunlight, not the ancient energy of fossil fuels. As a society we are not prepared, in terms of either physical infrastructure or cultural awareness, to deal with that. Anything that further delays coming to terms with this reality is a threat to life on the planet, not a solution. AD: In a recent talk you said that "I am glad to see the end of most of what we have come to call “the good life,” for it never struck me as all that good, at least not for most people and other living things." In what respects do you think contemporary capitalism has failed to meet the needs of even the most privileged sectors of western societies? RJ: Capitalism is the most wildly productive economic system in history, but the one thing it cannot produce is meaning. Even more troubling is the way, through its promotion of narcissism and mindless consumption, that capitalism undermines the larger culture’s ability to create real meaning. Virtually all of what is good in society -- solidarity, compassion, creativity, ethics, joy -- comes from outside capitalism, giving the illusion that capitalism is a civilized system. It’s a cliché, but important enough that we sing it over and over: Money can’t buy you love. Capitalism cannot create a healthy human community, and it undermines the aspect of human nature rooted in solidarity and love. The other obvious failure of capitalism is its contribution to the erosion of the health of the ecosystem. Humans have been drawing down the ecological capital of the planet since the invention of agriculture about 10,000 years ago, but that process has intensified dramatically in the capitalist/imperialist/industrial era. Our culture is filled with talk about the success of capitalism even though that system degrades our relationships and threatens our existence. That’s an odd definition of success. AD: Are there any writers on this topic whose work you would like to recommend? RJ: Wes Jackson is one of my most trusted sources on these issues. Wes is a scientist working in research on sustainable agriculture, but his critique encompasses politics, economics, and culture. His new book, Consulting the Genius of the Place: An Ecological Approach to a New Agriculture, is due out this fall, and I’m looking forward to reading. I think Bill McKibben’s latest book, Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet, is important, though I think his faith in the power of the internet to help us through the transition is dangerously naïve. William Catton’s books Overshoot and Bottleneck have also helped me come to terms with reality. In addition to the ecological questions, I think we also have to keep focused on the political and cultural questions, about how the existing distribution of wealth and power are serious impediments to meaningful change. That means continuing to think about the predatory nature of empire and capitalism, and the degree to which patriarchy and white supremacy structure our world and undermine our capacity to be fully human. • Robert Jensen is a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin
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