Unsustainable Modern Capitalism

SUBHEAD: An interview with John Perkins, author of "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man".

By Anthony Wile on 27 February 2011 in The Daily Bell -  

Image above: Still from video of John Perkins interview. See below.
Introduction: As Chief Economist at a major international consulting firm, John Perkins advised the World Bank, United Nations, IMF, U.S. Treasury Department, Fortune 500 corporations, and countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. He worked directly with heads of state and CEOs of major companies. His books on economics and geo-politics have sold more than 1 million copies, spent many months on the New York Times and other bestseller lists, and are published in over 30 languages. John's Confessions of an Economic Hit Man (70 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list) is a startling exposé of international corruption. His The Secret History of the American Empire, also a New York Times bestseller, details the clandestine operations that created the world's first truly global empire. His Hoodwinked is a blueprint for a new form of global economics. The solutions are not "return to normal" ones ... His writings detail specific steps each of us can take to create a sustainable, just, and peaceful world. John is a founder and board member of Dream Change and The Pachamama Alliance, nonprofit organizations devoted to establishing a world our children will want to inherit, has lectured at more than 50 universities around the world, and is the author of books on indigenous cultures and transformation, including Shapeshifting, The World Is As You Dream It, Psychonavigation, Spirit of the Shuar, and The Stress-Free Habit.

Daily Bell: Please treat this interview as if no one knew about you or your bestselling books. Give us some background on where you grew up and how you entered the CIA.

John Perkins: I grew up in New Hampshire and went to business school in Boston. At that time, I was approached by the National Security Agency (NSA), not the CIA, for a series of very sensitive tests including lie detector and personality test. They concluded I would make a good economic hit man, which is essentially a con artist with an economic background. They also said they found several weaknesses in my character that maybe they could use as hooks that would bring me into their game. Primarily, money, sex and power. Being that I was a young man, I was seduced by all of them.

Daily Bell: You were chief economist at a major international consulting firm; how did you gain that position?

John Perkins: After the NSA recruited me, I joined the Peace Corps. When I came out of the Peace Corps, Charles T. Maine hired me. It was a Boston consulting firm and the Sr. VP who hired me had very close ties to the NSA and the intelligence network of the United States in general. What I came to realize was it was all part of the scheme to turn me into an economic hit man. The first economic hit man, guys like Kermit Roosevelt, who overthrew the democratically elected President of Iran actually worked for the CIA.

But the weakness in that system was that if guys like Kermit Roosevelt had been discovered, the US government would have been in deep trouble. So very soon after that experience, they started to use private consultants, instead of actual government employees to do this work. Companies like Charles T. Main were brought in with legitimate contracts, working for the state department or the World Bank or the treasury department or USAID or other organizations and within these organizations were guys like me who did this special field of work.

Daily Bell: Interesting. You advised the World Bank, United Nations, IMF, U.S. Treasury Department, Fortune 500 corporations, and countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. What is your opinion of the World Bank?

John Perkins: The World Bank is a tool of economic hit men, there is no question about it. It's the tool of big corporations, the IMF and most of what we call intelligence agencies of the United States, CIA and NSA. Essentially the job of all these organizations is to help what used to be just US businesses – now we call them multi-nationals – get themselves established around the world in positions where they can exploit the world's resources, natural resources and human resources.

All of these organizations are basically tools of what they call the corporatocracy. The men and a few women who run the biggest and most powerful corporations also run most of the government. Economic hit men help channel the resources of organizations like the World Bank and the IMF, the NSA and the CIA to support the larger agenda.

Daily Bell: The IMF?

John Perkins: It's a servant of the corporatocracy, of economic hit men. One of my jobs as an economic hit man was to identify countries that had resources like oil and arrange huge loans for those countries from the World Bank and sister organizations. But the money would never go to the actual country; instead it would go to our own corporations to build infrastructure projects in that country like power plants and industrial parks; things that would benefit a few very wealthy families.
So then the people of the country would be left holding this huge debt that they couldn't repay. We would come back and say, "well, since you can't repay your debt, you have to restructure your loan." That's when the IMF comes in.

So the World Bank makes the original loan and IMF shows up and says, "We'll help you restructure your loan, but in order to do that you have to meet certain conditionalities. You have to sell your oil or whatever the coveted resource is at a cheap price, to the oil companies without restrictions." Or they would suggest the country sell electric utilities, water and sewage, maybe even your schools and jails to private multi-national corporations. Or maybe allow military bases to be built; these sorts of things.

Daily Bell: The United Nations?

John Perkins: I think the United Nations has an important function that it should be performing. We need an organization like that in the world today. Unfortunately, the United Nations has been rendered basically impotent. The United Nations was very opposed to us going into Iraq, but the Bush administration totally ignored that and went in anyway. I think it's very unfortunate that the United Nations has been emasculated by the United States.

Daily Bell: What do you think of the Bank for International Settlements? Is it true that it has worldwide and absolute immunity? Why does a central bank for central banks need sovereign immunity? How is that even enforceable?

John Perkins: It's enforceable because that's the way the laws are written in all the various countries that we inhabit. As long as the people who are running the banks and corporations also control politicians, which today they do around the world, then they get to write the laws. It's interesting that during a lot of my lifetime in the United States, for example, our laws were written by elected officials, but today that is not the case. Today in the United States lobbyists write the laws; the elected officials are essentially owned by big corporations. That's not true on all issues, but it's true on the big issues that affect big corporations. We've reached a new geopolitical reality that we have never known before. This is a new situation.

Daily Bell: You have been extraordinarily successful as a writer. And you have worked directly with heads of state and CEOs of major companies. What do you think of Western corporations? Aren't they a product of legislative activity? Wouldn't we be better off had the Western legal system not created corporations in the first place?

John Perkins: I can't speculate on what might have happened if corporations were not created but capitalism has been around for about 400 years and has taken many different forms. But in the last years since the 70s, and particularly beginning in 1980 when Ronald Reagan, then President of the United States, many leaders around the world embraced what I call predatory capitalism, which is very well defined by the economist, Milton Friedman, from the Chicago School of Economics.
Friedman said the only goal of business should be to maximize profits regardless of the social or environmental costs. That was a radical statement.

When I went to business school in the 60s, we were taught that a good CEO makes a decent rate of return for his investors, but he also has to be a good citizen and the corporation should be a good community citizen. Pay reasonable taxes. Take care of the suppliers, take care of the employees; take care of the customers, not just profits.

So we entered this phase where we have embraced this form of capitalism that says maximize profits regardless of the social or environmental cost. It's a terribly destructive and unsustainable philosophy to have and we must turn that around. My goal or orientation is to try to make corporations become more responsible. The new goal should be go ahead and make a decent rate of return for your investors, but only to do so on a playing field that says we are going to be sustainable and just and peaceful. They are the public servants and they should realize they have a greater obligation than making just maximizing profits.

Daily Bell: Your Confessions of an Economic Hit Man spent 70 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, and is a startling exposé of international corruption. Tell us more about how you came to write it.

John Perkins: I started writing it in the 80s after I stopped being an economic hit man. I contacted other economic hit men and jackals who destabilize government when hit men fail; I contacted these people to include them in the book. Then I received anonymous phone calls; threats on my daughter's life, and she was very young at the time.

I took the threats very seriously, as I have seen what jackals can do because I failed to corrupt Jaime Roldos, the democratically elected President of Equador and Arias Madreid of Panama; the jackals assassinated both of those leaders.

At the same time I received what you would call, a legal bribe from a big corporation in the United States; they would pay me a very large consulting fee and I wouldn't have to do much work if I would not write this book. So, I didn't write the book; I accepted the consultancy.

On 9/11, I was in the Amazon. I cut short my trip and came back to New York and I stood looking at ground zero looking at the smoldering ruins and I knew I had to write this book. I had to expose the truth about what I had done and what so many others were doing to create a terribly violent, painful, unhappy and unsustainable world. I wrote the whole book in secrecy. It's become my best insurance policy, because any good jackal knows if he assassinated me the book's sales would soar. The book has sold over a million copies in English alone and is now in over 30 languages. If someone shoots me tonight, we'll sell another million.

Daily Bell: Wow. Elaborate on the problems that the CIA, the NSA and American corporations cause.

John Perkins: The problems are pretty self-evident; we have created a world where 5% of us in the United States consume about 30% of the world's resources. The system that we created is a total failure and it causes tremendous misery. People often talk about the prophet of 2012 and Mayan prophecy of doomsday, but I think more than half the people of the world have already met doomsday. They are living in dire poverty and starving to death or on the verge of starvation, so we have created a world that is its own doomsday. This system has been created by organizations like the IMF, the World Bank, the CIA, the NSA and the multinationals.

Daily Bell: It's not just an American system ...

John Perkins: It's a global system; you could say the United States has been the driving force behind it, though. Great Britain has tried in some regards to change it, but the big corporations are really calling the shots around the world. Everything today is pretty much run by the big corporations. Obama is very much under the influence of the corporatocracy.

Daily Bell: What are the solutions?

John Perkins: I think it's very important that we the people of the world come together and realize that we do have power. I want cheap petroleum; if that means destroying the Amazon rain forest, I'll just look the other way. Until we realize that corporations are calling the shots and not the governments and that we are empowering this system, it will continue as is. We have to put pressure on these corporations to become compassionate, good world citizens. In this era of the Internet, I think we have a tremendous opportunity to do that now and make some changes.

Daily Bell: What does the CIA think of your exposure? Are they angry with you?

John Perkins: You will have to ask them because I don't know. I don't know who they are; who would you ask. I can't answer that question.

Daily Bell: Your latest book "Hoodwinked" is a blueprint for a new form of global economics. The solutions are not "return to normal" ones. You are challenging us to "soar to new heights, away from predatory capitalism and into an era more transformative than the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions." Tell us about the book and the steps we can take to build a better tomorrow. Is it through state and UN and activism, or the private sector or both?

John Perkins: Well, as we discussed, it's through the consumer. We need to realize that people that work for corporations are also consumers. At the very top of so many corporations we may have some extreme sociopaths, but the majority of these people at these corporations are good decent people who want to see good things for their children and grandchildren. They don't want to see countries sink beneath the ocean or the glaciers melt, or holes in the ozone.

But we have been sending a very strong message that says we want cheap goods and services even if it means being socially and environmentally irresponsible. We have to send a new message. We have to send the message that we want a just and peaceful world. Stop the desperation and the exploitation. We have to get rid of these terrible conditions, these wars, these consumerist trinkets. We need to create new technologies. Sustainable energy. Getting rid of poverty and injustice is a must.

Daily Bell: Can we do that through more regulation? Does the private sector generally need more regulation? Is that the point? But who would provide it? The UN? Is it better than to have a strong and effective world government? Would you like to see that fully come about?

John Perkins: I think the global recession has proven we need to have regulations to control these greedy people who run these corporations. We must be protected against them. Corporations are there to serve us, the people. Serving the public. I am not for lots of regulation, but I do think you need to level the playing field. It's like getting on a plane and having the security that the pilot knows the proper rules and regulations and has your safety in mind. You need to have that with the economy. Beyond that you let the pilot fly the plane.

As to who does that, is a very important question. It appears each country determines this at present – so maybe it would be good to have a world body to control this, maybe through stock markets and accounting agencies.

Daily Bell: Hmmm...interesting. So, you believe in a greener world. Are you worried about global warming?

John Perkins: Yes, it's a big concern.

Daily Bell: Are you a proponent of Peak Oil? Are we running out of energy?

John Perkins: I don't think that the concern is so much we are running out of energy as that we cannot afford to continue drilling for oil and sending carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The bigger problem is how we use oil not whether we are running out of it or not.

Daily Bell: You are a founder and board member of Dream Change and The Pachamama Alliance, nonprofit organizations devoted to establishing a world our children will want to inherit. When did you become involved with these organizations?

John Perkins: In about 1990, I had been back in SA and met with some of the tribes there and said I wanted to help with saving the rain forest; well they told me, if you want to save the rain forest that's great, but don't come here and try to change us; we are not destroying the rain forest, your people are destroying the rain forest. Your oil companies, your lumber companies, your cattle companies. You have a dream of big buildings, lots of cars and heavy industry, and now you have to understand that your dream has become a nightmare; it's been very destructive. If you want to change the world, you must change the dream of your people.

I thought that was very eloquent. I came back to the United States in 1991 and formed a non-profit called Dream Change; its mission was to create a more sustainable environment. The other organization called Pachamama Alliance is now in 40 countries, with 4000 facilitators. We send money to the Amazon to assist with sustaining a more peaceful, just world. We try to help indigenous people sustain their culture.

Daily Bell: Are you a fan of Hugo Chavez?

John Perkins: I don't know that I am a fan. What I do know is that he changed history. When Hugo Chavez stood up to the CIA in the coup of 2002 and survived that, he sent a strong message throughout the world, particularly to South America. It meant that the United States was a paper tiger and a strong President can survive a coup. He has changed history, there is no question. Depending on who you talk to, they love him or hate him; but he has done a very good job for poor people. I would say he will go down in history as having a huge impact on the world.

Daily Bell: How about Barack Obama? How has he been doing?

John Perkins: Barack Obama is in an incredibly tenuous situation. The man really doesn't have a lot of power. The corporations have the power. Presidents of the United States and everywhere else are extremely vulnerable. A guy like Obama understands that if he rocks the boat too much, he's going to go down. It doesn't have to be a bullet; it can be character assassination.

Everyone has a skeleton in his or her closet and even if a guy like Obama didn't have any skeletons, they can be created, just like the rumors that he wasn't an American citizen, all the rumors. But what we can't forget is that Barack Obama never ran under a campaign saying, yes I can. It was, yes WE can. It's we the people. He can't do it. The people have to stand behind him. He just doesn't have the power.

Daily Bell: Food for thought. Any books or articles you want to recommend to us? Closing thoughts?

John Perkins: I would love to have people subscribe to my newsletter, which comes out twice a month - www.johnperkins.org. I am also on Twitter and Face book. I love having people keep in touch with me that way.

Daily Bell: Thank you for your time. Good luck with your book.

John Perkins: Thank you and keep up your great work. You're the final defenders of freedom of the press.

See also:
Island Breath: Amy Goodwin interviews John Perkins 2/16/05

Wake Me Shake Me

SUBHEAD: It's coming on springtime and things are breaking loose all over the place. I give Saudi Arabia three weeks before it starts to blow up.  

By James Kunstler on 28 February 2011 for Kunstler.com - 

Image above: Family members mourn for protester killed in Bahrain demonstration. From (http://beta.toledoblade.com/World/2011/02/18/Forces-in-Bahrain-Yemen-fire-on-citizens.html).

A quickening of events pulses through lands where for so long time stood still, and the oil - what's left of it - lies locked for the moment beneath hot sands - woe upon all ye soccer moms! - while Colonel Gadhafi ponders the Mussolini option - that is, to be hoisted up a lamp-post on a high-C piano wire until his head bursts like a rotten pomegranate.

Then the good folk of Libya can fight amongst themselves for the swag, loot, and ka-chingling oil revenues he left behind.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton scowls on the sidelines knowing how bad it would look if US marines actually hit the shores of Tripoli (and perhaps how fruitless it might turn out to be). And Italian grandmothers across the Mediterranean wonder why there's no gas to fire up the orecchiette con cime di rapa.

The fluxes of springtime run cruelly across the sands of Araby, clear into Persia where the ayatollahs' vizeers toy with uranium centrifuges and thirty million young people wonder how long they will allow bearded ignoramuses to tell them how to pull their pants on in the morning.

Along about now, I wouldn't feel secure standing next to somebody lighting a cigarette in that part of the world.

Pretty soon we're going to find out just how fragile things are in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, there at the heart of things oily.

Last week, King Abdullah wobbled out of his intensive care unit to spread a little surplus cash around the surging population, but let's remember that their share of the oil "welfare" has been going down steadily in recent years - a simple matter of numbers really.

Putting aside even the common folk, a thousand princes from dozens of different tribes pace restively in the background awaiting the struggle that must follow King Abdullah's overdue transmigration to the farther shore. All along the western coast of the Persian Gulf and down toward the Horn of Africa, dark forces stir. Fuses sputter in Kingdoms from Bahrain to the Yemen.

Also last week, Wikileaks released papers signifying that Saudi Arabia's oil reserves were quite a bit less than they had claimed. It was basically an old story, one that the late Matthew Simmons had published in 2005 just from poring over reams of production data from the Saudi oil fields.

The difference in the Wikileaks story was that this time a Saudi Arabian oil ministry official confirmed the story.

You can bet they are going to have problems keeping the flow rate up. They can sell off some stored inventory for a few weeks, but after that the world will know the truth: Saudi Arabia is in depletion and the oil markets will never be the same.

It hardly made an impression on a US public preoccupied with comings and goings of Charlie Sheen. President Obama wants to pretend that American life-on-wheels will just keep rolling along. He hasn't so much as hinted to the US public that the time approaches when gasoline will have to be rationed either by high prices or odd-and-even licenses plates or some other method.

Charming fellow that he is, his fecklessness in the face of disintegrating oil markets will go down in history as something like Nero's musical solo while Rome burned down.

While these matters work toward deeper complication, Europe faces imminent rollovers of debt that can no longer be rolled over, and upcoming elections in Ireland and Germany that will begin to resolve an every-country-for-itself outcome for the debt follies of the EMU - and especially the big

European banks, which may find themselves getting "haircuts" clear down to their jugular veins. Birds will be flipped to bond-holders and austerity will end up sounding like a kinder-and-gentler version of the gnarliness that really ends up happening.

By the way, for years I've proposed that the time would come when some of the European nations would not be able to depend entirely on the USA doing its dirty work in the Middle East to keep the oil flowing out. That time is now here.

The café layabouts of Italy, the flaneurs of France, and the bratwurst-devourers of Germany may now have to militarize and get into the action in places where American boys have been bleeding out in the sand for decades.

The truth is, we could stand some reinforcements. Something that smells an awful lot like World War Three is shaping up around the Mediterranean and spilling over toward the Indian Ocean. German cruisers are already out there plying the seas off North Africa while the ghost of Erwin Rommel scratches his head on the gritty shores of Tobruk.

Nobody knows how anybody is going to pay for World War Three, but perhaps it is in the nature of an historic crack-up blow-off that the accumulated treasure of generations just gets vacuumed out of every vault and hidey-hole to keep the pyre burning - fire being nature's preferred dry-cleaning agent.

The fate of a few quadrillion credit default swaps contracts may end up as tomorrow's Flying Dutchman, a haunting enigma plying the vapors of eternity, sure to frighten juveniles of the marmoset-like humanoid creatures who succeed us up the evolutionary ladder.

Apparently nature likes to take its creations to the cleaners every so often, to clear the dross and detritus away. This is perfectly understandable, though one might prefer it happened to some other generation.

The Baby Boomers were so effusive over the World War Two cohort because we probably thought we would never have to go through something like that ourselves. The Boomers expected nothing worse than a sequence of diminishing golf scores and blander meals as their horizons moved past assisted living to the final meet-up with God.

Now, it turns out, we get to watch our grandchildren fight over the table scraps of the American Dream - such as it was: Chevies, burgers, reality TV, and all the mortgage obligations you could cram in the kitchen drawer.
It's coming on springtime and things are breaking loose all over the place. I give Saudi Arabia three weeks before it starts to blow up. And even Iran might get the fever.

Plan on a staycation this summer and start thinking about that garden because it's not altogether certain that we'll keep up the conveyer belt of Little Debbie Snack Cakes and other staples of the American table into the supernarkets when diesel fuel hit $10 a gallon and the truckers stay home to watch the Kardashian girls. I'm already getting hungry.


Interviewed by a Climate Zombie

SUBHEAD: The questions provide a glimpse into why we need Gaia University as an alternative to what currently passes for higher education.  

By Albert Bates on 26 February 2011 in The Great Change -

Image above: College girl as a zombie. From (http://www.teefury.com/people/18670/Nerdbaitplus3/).
"For the most part, those calling themselves "skeptics" are nothing of the kind. More often than not, they are fully-imbibed, koolaid-drinking Deniers, who wallow in isolated anecdotes and faux-partyline talking points, egotistically assuming that their fact-poor, pre-spun, group-think opinion entitles them to howl ""corrupt fools!" at 100% of the brilliant men and women who have actually studied and are confronting an important topic."
- Contrary Brin 11 Feb 2010
On February 16th, we were interviewed by a student. Her questions provide a glimpse into why we’ve been so keen to promote Gaia University as an alternative to what currently passes for higher education.

Student: How urgent and concerning of a matter do you think current global warming is?  

Mr. Bates: Climate change is the greatest threat that humans have ever faced. I would put the chances of human extinction at 99.9 percent within 500 to 1000 years. Saving polar bears is useful to focus attention on the problem, but in reality, mammalian life is unsuited for even the climate change now likely to be experienced this century, never mind the centuries still to unfold once pending tipping points are passed.  

Student: Do you believe current warming is caused by human actions?  

Mr. Bates: Yes, like the vast majority of the serious scientists, I think that has been well established as a fact now. To think otherwise is to appeal to faith, not science.

 Student: Do you find flaws in the Greenhouse gas theory or do you think it is a completely accurate explanation for the changing climate?  

Mr. Bates: Greenhouse warming is no longer a theory. It passed through that phase more than 100 years ago. If there were not a greenhouse effect, there would be no life on Earth. I have written about this before. In my book, The Biochar Solution,

I tell the story this way. In 1824, while working in a Paris laboratory on observations of the Earth, Joseph Fourier described the greenhouse effect for the first time: “The temperature [of the Earth] can be augmented by the interposition of the atmosphere, because heat in the state of light finds less resistance in penetrating the air, than in re-passing into the air when converted into non-luminous heat.” It was a remarkably prescient discovery, given the science of the time.

We know now that “heat in the state of light” arrives as high-energy shortwave radiation, able to penetrate atmospheric clouds (or glass windows), and is transformed by contact into infrared, or what Fourier called chaleur obscure (non-luminous heat), which attempts to depart as low-energy long-wave radiation, only to bounce back if obstructed (such as by airborne soot or clouds of greenhouse gases). Fourier appreciated the infrared effect from the work of a contemporary, William Herschel, and was quick to realize that how you warm the Earth is the same as how you warm a greenhouse.

Thirty-seven years later, the Irish physicist John Tyndall demonstrated that water vapor is one of the important components of Earth's greenhouse shield. “This aqueous vapour is a blanket more necessary to the vegetable life of England than clothing is to man,” Tyndall remarked.

In 1898, Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius warned that industrial-age coal burning would magnify the natural greenhouse effect. In the 1930s British engineer Guy Callendar compiled empirical evidence that the heat effect was already discernible.

By the 1950s, measuring equipment had improved to the point where Gilbert Plass could detail the infrared absorption of various gases; Roger Revelle and Hans Suess could show that seawater was incapable of absorbing the rate of man-made CO2 entering the atmosphere; and Charles David Keeling could produce annual records of rising atmospheric carbon levels from observatory instruments in Hawaii and Antarctica. In 1965, an advisory committee warned Lyndon B. Johnson that the greenhouse effect was a matter of “real concern.”

With estimated recoverable fossil fuel reserves sufficient to triple atmospheric carbon dioxide, the panel wrote, “Man is unwittingly conducting a vast geophysical experiment.” Emissions by the year 2000 could be sufficient to cause “measurable and perhaps marked” climate change, the panel concluded.

Since then, every President has been warned by the best scientists in the world that the problem is serious and getting rapidly worse. None except Jimmy Carter has done anything to even slow the problem, and Jimmy Carter demonstrated that it is a political liability to try. That is why it is so certain that humans will go extinct. Our political systems do not evolve even as slowly as our scientific understanding.  

Student: Please comment on the opinion that global warming is caused completely by a naturally fluctuating climate cycle. If this is your view, do you acknowledge any additional human impact or no?  

Mr. Bates: We are trending precisely the opposite from the naturally fluctuating climate cycle, so no, one cannot attribute rapid global climate change to natural processes. It is caused by an imbalance in the carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorous cycles that will take tens of thousands of years, possibly millions, to correct, assuming it does correct and we don't just go the way of Venus.

 Student: Do you think the intensity of the current warming period has surpassed all previous warming periods or is this level of warming nothing new in Earth‘s history?  

Mr. Bates: At this moment we are only a degree warmer than normal, and that is not dissimilar to the Medieval Maximum, when the rapid deforestation going on in many parts of the world contributed to a significant warming in Africa and Europe (leading the Moors to invade Spain and parts of France).

The Medieval Maximum was finally reversed in the 15th to 18th centuries when initially the burst of reforestation from the Black Death and then the depopulation of the Americas so increased the leafy biomass cover of the planet that it brought about the Little Ice Age in Europe. However, one degree is not what has been predicted going forward.

On May 19, 2009, Woods Hole Research Laboratory and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology released a study involving more than 400 supercomputer runs of the best climate data currently available. Conclusion: the effects of climate change are twice as severe as estimated just six years ago, and the probable median of surface warming by 2100 is now 5.2°C, compared to a finding of 2.4°C as recently as 2003.

Moreover, the study rated the possibility of warming to 7.4°C by the year 2100 (and still accelerating thereafter) at 90 percent. Another report, released in 2009 by the Global Humanitarian Forum, found that 300,000 deaths per year are already attributable to climate-change-related weather, food shortages, and disease. That figure could be called our baseline, or background count — of the 20th-century-long experience of a temperature change of less than 1°C. At 5 to 7 degrees by 2100, the current trend would take us to something similar to the Eocene epoch, when crocodiles roamed the arctic regions.

However, we have moved the carbonization of the oceans and atmosphere far beyond the levels that pre-existed the Eocene, principally with the extraction of 500 million years of fossil hydrocarbons but also by reckless land use and desertification. It will take centuries or millennia for the effects of those human-induced factors to fully manifest and so, it now seems probable that what is coming will be far hotter than the Eocene. That is why the Venus Effect has to be taken seriously.  

Student: Do you think there’s a hidden political agenda behind the global warming debate? If so, to what extent do these hidden motives affect the topic?  

Mr. Bates: Yes, of that there is little doubt. Science has already reached a consensus, although it took thousands of scientists many decades to reach it, something, by the way, that has never occurred like that before. The debate is now a political one. The principal drivers are the oil and coal interests (Exxon, the Koch brothers, Saudi Arabia, etc.) that have almost unlimited money to spend buying political favors.

By almost unlimited, I mean billions of dollars each year, many, many times the amounts that are usually spent on political campaigns. The success of unknown politicians with wacko views in this last election is a direct result of that. It is no accident that the key Congressional committees charged with addressing climate change have been disbanded, the EPA is under attack for regulating carbon, and President Obama's climate advisor resigned. The Koch brothers paid for that.

The corruption of the US Supreme Court (specifically the Koch Brothers buying the votes of Justices Scalia and Thomas in the Citizen's United case last year — see this week's New York Times) has now allowed direct and secret donations to climate deniers to come into the US political process from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrein, UAE and others. Big Oil and Big Coal have proven far more powerful than Big Science. That is another reason I put such low odds on human survival.  

Student: In your opinion, should federal action be taken to control greenhouse gas emissions in the United States? Would this achieve enough success in order to offset disadvantages such as possible harm to the U.S. economy?  

Mr. Bates: The US economy would benefit from emissions control. Coal costs the U.S. $500 billion per year in externalized social costs. Other countries (China, South Korea, Germany, Denmark, South Africa, Brazil) have already discovered a little secret: the faster you go green, the greater your competitive advantage.

Those that can go completely carbon neutral by 2030 (like Germany and the UK) will have a strong economic advantage over those who wait until 2050 (like Canada and Australia) or don't go at all (like the US and India). There is an international race on, with real winners and losers. The US has been losing that race for 20 years, which is why our economy is tanking, and that will only get worse.

The phony "War on Terror" is really just a futile oil grab while creating a security state at home in anticipation of food and price riots. So far, Brazil has been winning this economic game, but South Korea is making a strong challenge to catch up. Their economies may be several times the size of the United States in a few years, while we are already at negative net worth and going trillions deeper by the year.

Of course, carbon neutral is not enough, and we need to seriously begin thinking about carbon-negative economies, which is the subject of my new book. It seems likely that is where Brazil may become totally dominant, since carbon-negative agriculture originated there 8000 years ago. And in that is the one tenth of one percent chance that we might still survive as a species, although in a much warmer world. .

In Soil We Trust

SUBHEAD: Building pool of investment capital that is permanently dedicated to the preservation and restoration of the soil.  

By Woody Tasch on 24 February 2011 in Reality Sandwich

Image above: Money in the ground. From (http://coins.thefuntimesguide.com/2010/07/treasure_hunting.php).
"The innate value of this kind of investing is so obvious to me," stated a woman from Ashland, OR during a Slow Money workshop, "that I don't care how much money I make."
That's a stopper. No way around it. An unhittable knuckleball in the fast-pitch world of Buy Low/Sell High.

Innate value? Not caring about how much money we make? What in the world does this mean?
In the case of the woman who said it, it means that that the benefits to her and to her community -- more organic farms, more organic food available locally, a more robust local economy -- are so tangible and so direct that she doesn't need a new benchmark or a new asset class or a fiduciary to explain them.

The word "innate" struck me, when I heard it in this context, as beautiful. Investors talk about the intrinsic value of a company, as distinct from its market cap. But innate value? When I made it to the dictionary, the idea only became more beautiful, rich with connotations of "nature" and "inner," suggesting a confluence of personal values and ecological awareness.

The word "innate" pops up in another most interesting place: E.O. Wilson's term biophilia, which describes the "innate affection humans have for other living organisms." Another of Wilson's terms, biodiversity, is now part of the vernacular. Perhaps biophilia will never become as popular.

Or perhaps the time has come to splice biophilia into the DNA of a new kind of fiduciary responsibility. The kind of fiduciary responsibility that informs the emergence of nurture capital -- a new generation of intermediaries and financial products organized around principles of soil fertility, sense of place, economic, cultural and ecological diversity, and nonviolence.
The kind of fiduciary responsibility

A New Vision
Such talk of biophilia, nurture capital and fiduciary responsibility would have been rather far-fetched as recently as a few years ago. Today this is not the case. It is right in front of us, as plain as day, as confusing as Goldman Sachs' billions made from ultra-fast trading and as tangible as a CSA.

We are moving away from hundreds of trillion of dollars of derivatives towards a new way of thinking about money that integrates social capital, natural capital and financial capital as simply as a CSA.

How "innately beautiful," the prospect of investors connecting more easily with one another and with enterprises near where they live, with fewer layers of intermediation and less financial razzmatazz.

This is the work of Slow Money, a non-governmental organization now nearing the end of its second year, 1,200 members strong, 12,000 signatories strong, more than a half dozen regional slow money initiatives strong, with millions of dollars beginning to flow into dozens of small food enterprises. What we have found during our launch is that people are ready, remarkably eager, in fact, to engage in a new conversation about money, culture and the soil.

"Slow Money is one of the most remarkable initiatives I've seen in decades," says Tom Miller, former head of Program Related Investments at the Ford Foundation, and an early funder of Grameen Bank. "It is the basis for a fundamental revision of our concepts of fiduciary responsibility."

Food and the soil are the entry point for the discussion, but at its heart it is about a new vision of restorative economics, about what comes after industrial finance and industrial philanthropy and industrial agriculture, about what it means to be an investor in the 21st century.

The energy that people are bringing to these concerns is nothing short of remarkable. In March, 2009, when Slow Money had 40 members, NPR called this a "movement." In November, when there were 400 members, ACRES USA called it a "revolution." In December, Business Week reporter John Tozzi cited Slow Money as "one of the big ideas for 2010."

"Slow Money gets right to heart of everything that's wrong with our economy and our culture," wrote Kerry Trueman in the Huffington Post. "It offers a new kind of capitalism in which both farmers markets and stock markets can flourish."

The strength of this response reflects a number of fundamental trends: concern about the volatility of global financial markets and the self-promotion of Wall Street is widespread; frustration with government policies and programs is equally widespread; awareness of problems in the food system is growing; the organic sector is growing; the localization movement is emerging; and, the amount of philanthropic and investment capital going to sustainable agriculture and small food enterprises remains calculated in fractions of a percent.

The task of rebuilding local food systems and local economies is beyond the capacity of venture capital and philanthropy. The vast majority of small food enterprises lack the proprietary technology or scalability that venture capitalists require. Philanthropy is insufficient as well, because farms and processing plants and distribution businesses and restaurants and seed companies and niche organic brands need investment capital. The billions of dollars a year that are needed to rebuild local food systems and local economies, and to restore fertility in the soil of the economy, are going to have to come from somewhere else.

Slow Money
That somewhere else is you and me -- millions of individuals who sense that every time we move in and out of the stock market we are complicit in an economy that is based on a nineteenth-century view of the world and the economy, a view that equates progress and well-being with maximum consumption and which recognizes no ecological limits to growth, a view developed a century or so before we saw the earth rising over the moon and so felt in our bones for the first time that there is no away to which we can throw our waste.

Now, it is time for us to rediscover here with our investment capital. To consider the places where we live, and our land, itself, as much as we consider sectors and distant markets and asset classes when we make our investment decisions.

To catalyze this process, Slow Money is building a national network and local networks, developing a family of new investment products, and creating the Soil Trust, an innovative non-profit fund.

National Network
We start with social capital, so that our transactions will be disciplined by relationships -- farmers, food entrepreneurs, donors, NGO leaders and investors all working together to nurture co-investment relationships, develop deal flow and build shared vision. Slow Money's inaugural national gathering, in September, 2009 in Santa Fe, NM, hosted over 400 attendees from 34 states and six countries. $260,000 was invested in four of 26 presenting small food enterprises.

Our second national gathering was held in June, 2010 in Shelburne Farms, VT, drawing 600 people and facilitating the flow of more than $3 million into eight presenting enterprises (as of early October), with more expected. 24 entrepreneur presentations from this event can be viewed here.

Local Networks
Slow Money groups are meeting regularly in many regions. In Pittsboro, NC, small loans are being made to food enterprises with help from a family foundation.

In Austin, TX a steering committee meets weekly and has hosted one public meeting that was attended by more than 150 people. In Madison, WI, a series of workshops are leading to the design of a local fund. Members of Slow Money Maine have collaborated to make a few small loans. Slow Money Northwest is organizing a Microloan Development Fund and hosted its first meeting for angel investors and entrepreneurs this past fall.

Slow Money Investment Products
Slow Money is exploring with Portfolio 21, RSF Social Finance, Calvert, Mission Markets and BSW Wealth Advisors the creation of for-profit Slow Money products for non-accredited investors, opening the playing field to everyday citizens who want to make sustainable food investments.

 Investments in these vehicles will promote Slow Money's mission in two ways: first, the portfolios themselves will be as proactively targeted at organic food and soil fertility as possible; and, second, the buying and selling of these securities will have structured into them small contributions to the Soil Trust (described below).

Feasibility work is underway on "Slow Munis" (bonds dedicated to local food investing), in collaboration with leading investors and land trust professionals. A number of Slow Money Alliance founding members are launching funds, including Farmland L.P. and the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund.

The Soil Trust
The Soil Trust, a non-profit fund currently in formation, will pool a large number of small donations to create a permanent, philanthropic investment fund dedicated to small food enterprises and soil fertility. The Trust will provide guarantees, co-investment capital and seed capital to local slow money investors.

Why the Soil Trust?

Because our goal is not only to catalyze the flow of capital to small food enterprises and local economies, but to do so in way that "puts back into the soil what we take out." These were Paul Newman's words. We take them to heart. They are integral to the Slow Money Principles, which you can see and sign here http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/6351/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=1637.

The Soil Trust is a vehicle through which individual buy/sell decisions in Slow Money investment products, as well as small individual donations, will be aggregated slowly, over a generation, building a substantial pool of investment capital that is permanently dedicated to the preservation and restoration of the soil. Donations in, investments out. Returns stay in the fund and are reinvested. "Putting back into the soil what we take out" at work.

In foundation lingo, a "100% mission aligned foundation." Put another way, a foundation whose primary purpose is investing, not grantmaking.

The prospects for such a structural innovation are exciting. "Slow Money is not only planting inspiring seeds, but also creating the conditions and the relationships for fundamental change and lasting impact," stated Barry Hollister, of Pittsfield, MA. "I was, and am, therefore, extraordinarily pleased to have been able to make the first contribution, right there on the spot in that tent in Shelburne Farms that was brimming with so many wonderful and talented folks, to the Soil Trust. In Soil We Trust."

The Slow Money Principles
In order to enhance food security, food safety and food access; improve nutrition and health; promote cultural, ecological and economic diversity; and accelerate the transition from an economy based on extraction and consumption to an economy based on preservation and restoration, we do hereby affirm the following Principles:
I. We must bring money back down to earth.

II. There is such a thing as money that is too fast, companies that are too big, finance that is too complex. Therefore, we must slow our money down -- not all of it, of course, but enough to matter.

III. The 20th Century was the era of Buy Low/Sell High and Wealth Now/Philanthropy Later-what one venture capitalist called "the largest legal accumulation of wealth in history." The 21st Century will be the era of nurture capital, built around principles of carrying capacity, care of the commons, sense of place and non-violence.

 IV. We must learn to invest as if food, farms and fertility mattered. We must connect investors to the places where they live, creating vital relationships and new sources of capital for small food enterprises.

V. Let us celebrate the new generation of entrepreneurs, consumers and investors who are showing the way from Making A Killing to Making a Living.

 VI. Paul Newman said, "I just happen to think that in life we need to be a little like the farmer who puts back into the soil what he takes out." Recognizing the wisdom of these words, let us begin rebuilding our economy from the ground up, asking:  

* What would the world be like if we invested 50% of our assets within 50 miles of where we live?  
* What if there were a new generation of companies that gave away 50% of their profits? 
* What if there were 50% more organic matter in our soil 50 years from now?

To sign the principles, please go here.
To find out more, visit www.slowmoney.org.

Mid East & Mid West

SUBHEAD: What we witness across the Arab World and our own middle America is part of the same phenomena - adjustment to poverty.  

By Juan Wilson on 27 February 2011 for Island Breath - 

Image above: We are all brothers. From (http://riadzany.blogspot.com/2010/06/death-of-interfaith-leader-sheikh.html).

Mid East
Like it or not, the world is adjusting to a new normal. The outbreak of dissatisfaction across the Arab World now includes Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Iran, Bahrain, Algeria, Yemen, Kuwait, Morocco, and Iraq. Tunisia and Egypt led the way with largely peaceful populist uprisings. Inflation, particularly rising food prices, drove the revolutions.

The price of wheat doubled in the last year and food can be half of a lower-middle class income in that part of the world. This food crisis has been due largely to Climate Change related disasters in grain producing areas such as Russia, China and Australia.

Population growth and lack of water in the Arab world exacerbates the the situation. Whatever hope the majority of the population in the Middle East had of upward mobility has been dashed by recent events.

They know they are being held down so that the elite in the G20 can thrive (Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States). The political outcomes of these Arab upheavals has been to overthrow dictatorships that were "friendly" to the G20 interests (read stability in our oil fields).

The U.S. position of sitting on the fence to see which way the wind was blowing before taking sides has eroded our reputation and effectiveness in the region. We are too addicted to the crack-cocaine of industrialization - OIL - to see straight and act sensibly. As American influence and power wanes we will see more of the Middle East unravel in the next few months.

It is my opinion that Bahrain is the canary in the coalmine. It is a small oil producing Arab kingdom of 1.2 million people connected to Saudi Arabia by a vehicular causeway named King Fahd. The kingdom is run by Arab Sunnis that dominate a 70% Shiite minority. I believe that as Bahrain goes, so goes the 800 pound gorilla of the Middle East - Saudi Arabia, a G20 nation. A turnover of power there would redefine the world's industrial economy.

It is likely the U.S. dollar would no longer be the currency of oil trade and that the founding G6 nations (France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States) will suffer greatly. As the fever of "democracy" fans across the Middle East it may bring egalitarian changes but it won't solve the problems of food, water or population.  

Mid West
The takeover by Republicans of key midwestern states (Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania) was driven by self deluded dissatisfaction of the "Tea Party" and the hopeless. The new governors of those states have an agenda of breaking public employee unions as a means of avoiding bankruptcy (and insuring their own reelections).

The unions and their supporters have rallied against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's meathanded approach and are at the focus of the storm. Justice, fairness and equality are virtuous demands of the protesters, but the sad fact is that the middle class in the United States is witnessing, and are the victims of, the death of "The American Dream".

The upwardly mobile, better-off-than-your-parents expectations of the past are history. A new order is on the way. One that has a fraction of the energy and disposable income of the past. The resulting impoverishment will take us to a place not unlike Egypt or Tunisia.

Video above: A Tour of Detroit's Ghetto". From (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T6WKMNmFsxM).

Our birthright as lords of the universe is just about up. The good part is that once the dust has settled the world will be a more balanced and sustainable place than the overburdened madhouse we occupy now. We are all brothers.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Rebel army forming to face Gadaffi 2/27/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Class War in Wisconsin 2/27/11 .

Dr Strangelove & Global Warming

SUBHEAD: NASA research question - Could A Small Nuclear War Reverse Global Warming? WTF! [Editor's note: The depths of depravity and self delusion are plumbed in any suggestion that the cure for climate change rests in the detonation of a 100 or so Hiroshima size nuclear devices. For the greatest effectiveness the location for these explosions should be the top 100 greenhouse gas producing population centers starting with the capital cities of the G20?]

 By Dean Praetorius on 26 February 2011 for Huffington Post - 

Image above: Buck Turgidson (George C. Scott) in the War Room in "Dr. Strangelove" subtitled - "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb". From (http://thisdistractedglobe.com/2007/01/20/dr-strangelove-or-how-i-learned-to-stop-worrying-and-love-the-bomb-1964/).
Nuclear war is a bad thing. Right?

Scientists from NASA and a number of other institutions have recently been modeling the effects of a war involving a hundred Hiroshima-level bombs, or 0.03 percent of the world's current nuclear arsenal, according to National Geographic. The research suggests five million metric tons of black carbon would be swept up into the lowest portion of the atmosphere.

The result, according to NASA climate models, could actually be global cooling.
From National Geographic:
In NASA climate models, this carbon then absorbed solar heat and, like a hot-air balloon, quickly lofted even higher, where the soot would take much longer to clear from the sky.
While the global cooling caused by superpower-on-superpower war could be catastrophic (hence the term "nuclear winter") a small scale war could have an impact on the world climate, says National Geographic. Models suggest that though the world is currently in a warming trend, small-scale war could lower global temperatures 2.25 degrees F for two-to-three years following war.
In more tropical areas temperatures could fall 5.4 to 7.2 degrees F.

But the likelihood of disaster over reversing global warming is a more imminent concern, according to TIME.
...even a small exchange of nuclear weapons--between 50-100 Hiroshima-sized bombs, which India and Pakistan already have their in arsenal--would produce enough soot and smoke to block out sunlight, cool the planet, and produce climate change unprecedented in recorded human history.
In addition, the extreme weather caused by even a mild nuclear winter would have a tremendous effect on crops and famines, including creating a 10 percent global decrease in precipitation, according to National Geographic. The soot could also cause tremendous harm to the ozone layer, allowing more ultraviolet rays to reach Earth.

The cons seem to outweigh the pros in the event of global cooling caused by even a small nuclear war.

Rebel army forming to face Gaddafi

SUBHEAD: With eastern Libya largely under opposition control, the struggle for the west remains paramount.

By Leila Fadel, Liz Sly and Tony Faiola on 27 February 2011 for WashPo -

Image above: A Libyan defaces image of Gaddafi as protests continue in Algeria, Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia and Yemen. From (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/gallery/2011/02/20/GA2011022002392.html?hpid=artslot#photo=1).

Col. Moammar Gaddafi faced fresh setbacks domestically and internationally early Sunday with opposition forces in eastern Libya preparing to dispatch a rebel force to his stronghold in Tripoli and the United Nation's imposing military and financial sanctions while raising the specter that the isolated leader could face charges for crimes against humanity.

Even as the opposition consolidated its grip on the country's second city, Benghazi, a top anti-Gaddafi leader, Brig. Gen. Ahmed Gatrani, said a small force comprising army defectors and rebels has already reached the outskirts of the capital.

An attempt to oust Gaddafi in Tripoli on Friday was crushed by pro-regime paramilitaries and soldiers firing indiscriminately at protesters on the streets. It happened as the wave of civil revolts of recent weeks continued to convulse the Middle East, with even Tunisia and Egypt, two nations where protesters succeeded in ousting longtime authoritarian rulers, seeing heated protests on Saturday that led to violent military crackdowns.

In Oman on Sunday, two people were killed in protests, Reuters reported, as police fired tear gas and cordoned off protesters demonstrating for a second day in the city of Sohar.

But the focus remained on the upheaval in Libya. "We are trying to organize people who will sacrifice their lives to free Tripoli from the dictator," said Gatrani, who heads the military committee now in charge of the army in Benghazi, 600 miles east of the capital and the first major city to fall under opposition control.

But, he cautioned: "Entering Tripoli is not easy. Anyone trying will be shot." The prospect of a rebel army marching on the capital to confront loyalist members of the same army raised the specter of outright civil war in a country already violently polarized between supporters and opponents of the regime.

In another sign of the deepening division, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the former justice minister who recently defected, announced the formation of an "interim government'' to lead the eastern regions under rebel control.

Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton before departing for Geneva for a meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Council repeated her call for Gaddafi to leave. "We think he must go as soon as possible without further violence and bloodshed," Clinton said. "There will be accountability for the crimes against humanity and war crimes" committed in recent days in a crackdown against protesters.

Delivering a message directly to Gaddafi and his inner circle, Clinton said, "You will be held accountable for actions that have been taken against your people." Clinton praised the vote of the U.N. Security Council on Saturday and said the action will allow the United States and its allies to move more aggressively in several ways, including providing humanitarian relief to Libyans. She called on neighboring countries to help the international community in preventing the movement of mercenaries and other fighters into Libya to prop up the Gaddafi regime.

The U.N. meeting Monday is expected to explore ways to coordinate sanctions against the Libyan government and respond to the growing humanitarian crisis in the region. With eastern Libya largely under opposition control, the struggle for the west remained paramount. Towns near the western border with Tunisia have fallen under opposition control, with Gaddafi loyalists, if not staging a full counterattack, battling to slow the sandwiching of government forces to zones around Tripoli.

In interviews with news agencies, Gaddafi's son, Saif al-Islam, alternately suggested the government was willing to negotiate with protesters while warning that the nation was falling into civil war. "The unrest will break up the country just as in Afghanistan," he told broadcaster Al Arabiya.

 Pro-Gaddafi forces still maintained control of the western border with Tunisia and had set up approximately 20 checkpoints on the road to Tripoli, with western towns taken over by the opposition in recent days in danger of being cut off from food, medical supplies and fuel. In the key cities of Sabratha and Zawiya, west of Tripoli, major tribal families appeared to be controlling the town centers but were still engaged in night battles with government forces on the outskirts of town. "There is no food in the shops, there is no rice, no sugar, no bread, no flour.

All you can find there is canned foods," said Mohammed Siyam, 24, an Egyptian laborer who arrived at the Tunisian border Sunday morning after fleeing Subratha.

At the same time, attempts to ship in aid to opposition-controlled towns near the Tunisian border were being thwarted by Libyan officials. Although aid groups have been in negotiations for several days to send a large shipment of food and supplies, "the Libyan authorities have now stopped communications about crossing over the border with aid," said Zouhair Chakroun, a doctor with the Tunisian Red Crescent.

There is, however, no indication that any rebel groups have reached Tripoli or participated in the fighting in areas where protesters are confronting heavily armed Gaddafi loyalists with sticks and stones. A small group of 22 rebels and soldiers who set out from Benghazi on Friday encountered pro-regime forces near Gaddafi's home town of Sirte and were executed, Gatrani said, in just one illustration of the hazards that any such army would encounter in attempting to traverse 600 miles of territory, pockets of which remain under government control.

 At the same time, regime opponents in Tripoli were grappling with the realization that dislodging Gaddafi and his loyalists from the capital is going to be far tougher than it was in the string of towns and cities in the east overrun by protesters within days of a mass uprising Feb. 17.

Concerns are growing that a protracted standoff could result in a humanitarian crisis, with areas under Gaddafi's control already said to be running out of food and essential supplies. As in other Libyan towns closer to the Tunisian border, Tripoli residents say shops are empty and bread is hard to find. "If you go to the supermarket, 90 percent of the shelves are empty, and I haven't had fresh bread for a week," said a Tripoli accountant contacted by telephone who spoke on condition of anonymity. "If this continues, it's going to be a big problem.''

Dozens are feared to have died in the repression of the protests on Friday. Organizers had billed the rally as a last-ditch effort to topple the regime but instead it ended with a rout of the protesters from city streets by armed soldiers and paramilitaries cruising the streets and opening fire at random from jeeps, sport-utility vehicles and even ambulances.

 "Sadly, that's the truth,'' said the accountant, when asked whether Tripoli would need help. "We can't do it alone." Others contacted by telephone and via the Internet said they had heard rumors that a force from Benghazi would arrive to support them but had seen no evidence of it yet. They all spoke on the condition of anonymity because they fear for their lives.

"We are praying they come," said a high school student who participated in Friday's protests on the eastern outskirts of Tripoli. "At least they have some means, some weapons, and we can stop getting slaughtered and fight back." He said he was among a group of up to 20,000 protesters who set out for Tripoli from the suburb of Tajaura, 10 miles east of the city. After marching for an hour toward the city center, they encountered what he described as a hail of gunfire directed by Gaddafi forces into the crowd.

The student, who helped ferry the wounded, saw six corpses at a nearby clinic and said he had heard of many others who were either taken to hospitals or directly to their homes by their relatives. It was just one of numerous similar incidents reported across the capital in what residents have described as the bloodiest crackdown yet by regime forces. But it was also unclear whether a new rebel army would be able to muster enough men and weapons to mount any kind of credible challenge to Gaddafi's well-armed forces in Tripoli.

At an air base just outside Benghazi, air force officers who defected said they were prepared to defend eastern Libya from attack but not to join in an offensive against pro-regime forces elsewhere.

"We're organizing how to control the east. We have a good force, but we won't use it," said Col. Nasser Busayna, a pilot who was among the first to defect. "We don't want this to turn into a military battle between two sides. We will defend ourselves, but we will not attack." During Gaddafi's 41-year rule, he steadily gutted the military because of concerns that soldiers could stage a coup, as he did in 1969. Gatrani said the military in Benghazi only has out-of-date tanks that barely run.

Their weapons are old, and the government does not supply them with ammunition. Instead, Gaddafi concentrated ammunition and weapons in the hands of loyal special forces known as the Katibat, who were trained to protect the regime and are supplied with the latest and most potent tanks and arms. In yet another blow to Gaddafi's crumbling regime, the head of the special forces announced he was defecting to the opposition.

In a statement broadcast by al-Jazeera, Abdul Saloum Mahmoud al-Hassi urged all members of the special forces to join the opposition, though it was not immediately clear what impact his appeal would have or where he was when he made the statement. On the Tunisian border, meanwhile, thousands of migrant workers from Egypt, Bangladesh, China and other nations were steaming out of Libya to escape the violence.

Though more than 38,000 have come out over the past week, the flood abruptly increased late Saturday, as Libyan guards still loyal to Gaddafi suddenly allowed a mass of workers to stream in at once, leading to a crush and throng that left dozens wounded and many hundreds forced to sleep in the cold rain.

Though Tunisian volunteers and army officials were aiding those coming over the border with food, water and emergency medical attention, the vast majority of migrant workers had been abandoned by their employers and were stranded with few funds to get back to their respective homelands. "They burned my passport and took all my money," said Omar Marzgk, 35, an Egyptian painter, huddled down with thousands of other migrant workers on the border unsure of how they will pay for their passage home.

Though he had one item of value -- a TV -- "I had to give it to the [Libyan] guards to cross the border." At the security base in the center of Benghazi, mothers and fathers brought their children on Sunday to see the burned-out villa where Gaddafi resided when he visited.

Outside, a red graffiti tag read, "The house of the dog." "God is great," yelled Mohammed el-Hedi as he walked in, filming with his camera phone. "I never imagined I could see Gaddafi's house. I was too scared to even walk close by it." He brought his son Jihad, 6, to bear witness to history, he said. "I explained that this man is a dictator and he destroyed Libya." Outside, Qassim Senussi smiled. "God willing, Tripoli will fall soon," he said.


Class War in Wisconsin

SUBHEAD: The elites see the power and money of public-employee unions was the reason they don't control most state governments.  

By the Editorial Staff on 24 February 2011 for Esquire -

Image above: protesters camping out in Wisconsin's State House. From original article.

Usually, unless you happen to be one of the fifty-odd people with whom David Brooks customarily eats dinner, throws back a few, or gobbles the free snacks in Jim Lehrer's greenroom, reading one of his columns from the position of a normal, everyday, wage-earning human being gives you the inescapable feeling of being a bug, looking, upwards and backwards through the magnifying glass, at a giant eyeball.

No columnist is as obviously convinced that everybody on earth is a specimen in his jar. No columnist is as utterly contemptuous of his fellow Americans if they don't stay pinned right there on the card where they belong. His self-importance is that of a two-bit grifter, looking to sponge the loose change somebody might have left as a tip at Applebee's.

We had something of a masterpiece of the form this week when Brooks bestirred himself to write about the current goings-on in Wisconsin, where they elected an undereducated county commissioner named Scott Walker to be governor. Walker promptly attempted to roll back progressive policies to a point half-past Fightin' Bob LaFollette, and then called upon his fellow governors to do the same. A whole lot of Wisconsinites disagreed, and they have encamped themselves several times now on the state house lawn to say so.

State senators ran home to gather their things, and then ran away from home. This has been on television a great deal, and it seems to have chafed Brooks mightily. So much so that he wrote a column about the necessity of shared sacrifice in this time of economic trouble and woe. Somebody put atop it the headline "Make Everybody Hurt," which completed the cosmic comedy nicely.

Exactly how Mr. Brooks is going to "hurt" remains unclear — unless, of course, he ventures out into the crowd in Madison and tries to explain why Edmund Burke would have stood with the half-bright goober from Wauwatosa who's made such a hash of things. Then we might need splints and a tourniquet.

(It should be said in defense of Brooks that George Will, who has had a decade or so more practice than Brooks has had at being a public trollop, chimed in with a column praising the Wisconsin governor that made Brooks sound like Emma Goldman, and that apparently was written onto a moist towel.)

Brooks's column is a perfect illustration of a general phenomenon that has been brought into sharp relief in the past two weeks or so. The elites in this country — economic, social, political, journalistic — have ingrained in themselves the habits of oligarchy.

They have done it so thoroughly that they can conceive of few answers to any problem that do not conform to these habits. Pain, sacrifice, "austerity," but for thee, and not for them, and certainly not for the larger Them — the actual oligarchs on whose behalf their apologists so degrade themselves.

It is not an aristocracy, even though people like the Koch brothers are born into wealth. (And prank-calling, apparently.) It is certainly not a meritocracy; the economic elite that brought us the current rat's nest of problems wasn't necessarily that good at business, and was never inclined to make decisions for the sake of our political commonwealth anyway.

The average American corporate titan has very little use for the political entity called the United States of America. His citizenship exists only to keep the riffraff mollified. Among the rest of our elites, this is seen as as normal a situation as 9-percent unemployment has become.

Consider the debate. A woman named Sue Lowden was laughed out of a senatorial primary in Nevada last fall when she seemed to suggest that we should return to a system of barter in order to pay our medical bills. (Lowden specifically mentioned chickens.) However, any suggestion that we might help ourselves with the dreaded Deficit by, say, raising the top-end tax rate even to where it was under Bill Clinton is treated as no less fanciful than paying your dentist with poultry would be.

When royalist economics meld with political oligarchy, the former always drives the train. The institutions of the latter become impotent dumbshows or, worse, outright shams. In this, you can today see the framework of a new Gilded Age: a spavined pet Congress, and a Supreme Court rendered little more than a soprano chorus.

Only this time there is no manufacturing boom in sight on the horizon within which the counterbalancing forces of organized labor can gestate. There is no occasion for a G.I. Bill that might build a viable middle class. Even the checks and balances of history are lost.

There remains, of course, a president from the party that was once theoretically opposed to all of this. But the evidence is growing that Barack Obama, if he is not entirely comfortable with the habits of oligarchy, at least believes that he can devise a workable truce with those who are. In this, he is sadly mistaken.

Those habits are inimical to the kind of community he so endlessly cites as being at the heart of the American soul. In this, Obama may go down in history as the wrong man at the wrong time. They do not need to be dealt with. They need to be rooted out. Those who have found their place within the habits of oligarchy need to be forced to find new and more gainful employment. Maybe Applebee's is hiring.

Real Political Math in Wisconsin

By Howard Fineman on 25 February 2011 for Huffington Post -  

The real political math in Wisconsin isn't about the state budget or the collective-bargaining rights of public employees there. It is about which party controls governorships and, with them, the balance of power on the ground in the 2012 elections.

For all of the valid concern about reining in state spending -- a concern shared by politicians and voters of all labels -- the underlying strategic Wisconsin story is this: Gov. Scott Walker, a Tea Party-tinged Republican, is the advance guard of a new GOP push to dismantle public-sector unions as an electoral force.

Last fall, GOP operatives hoped and expected to take away as many as 20 governorships from the Democrats. They ended up nabbing 12.

What happened? Well, according to postgame analysis by GOP strategists and Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi -- who chaired the Republican Governors Association in 2010 -- the power and money of public-employee unions was the reason.

"We are never going to win most of these states until we can do something about those unions," one key operative said at a Washington dinner in November. "They have so much incentive to work hard politically because they are, in effect, electing their own bosses -- the Democrats who are going to pay them better and give them more benefits. And the Democrats have the incentive to be generous."
This is how top Republicans see the matter: a vicious cycle of union-to-Democrat-to-union power that they are determined to break.

And there is a lot of money and manpower involved. In the 2010 cycle, the American Federation of State, Country and Municipal Employees spent $87 million, making AFSCME the biggest single source of independent campaign spending last year -- bigger than Karl Rove's American Crossroads.

The manpower is even more important, though, especially that of AFSCME and the National Education Association. The public-employee troops are concentrated, in absolute numbers and by percentage, in 18 states. In California alone, there are 1.4 million government employees represented by unions, according to AFL-CIO numbers. In Illinois, it's more than 400,000; in New York, 1.1 million.

Last fall, Republicans took away governorships in four of these public union-heavy states: Ohio (where 46.2 percent of public employees are represented by unions), Michigan (51.7 percent) , Pennsylvania (53.4 percent) and Wisconsin (49.6 percent).

It was an impressive Rust Belt sweep.

But the GOP had been hoping for much more in other such states. They thought they had good chances in California (with 59.6 percent unionized public employees), Minnesota (59.2 percent), Oregon (56.9 percent), Illinois (52.6 percent), Connecticut (66.4 percent), Massachusetts (64.4 percent), New Hampshire (50.3 percent) and Rhode Island (66.6 percent).
Republicans lost them all, though many quite narrowly.

The GOP strategic aim is simple enough. If they can abolish union collective-bargaining rights, they can undermine the automatic payment of dues to the public-employee union treasuries. Shrinking those treasuries and reducing the union structure and membership will make it harder for Democrats and their allies to communicate directly with workers.

And under the infamous Citizens United Supreme Court decision, unions -- like corporations -- are free to spend as much as they want directly advocating for a candidate. That makes the math even more urgent as the 2012 election season approaches. .

Beyond Affluenza to the New Normal

SUBHEAD: Carolyn Baker Interviews David Wann about transitions to a new way of seeing the world.

By David Wann on 23 February 2011 in Speaking Truth to Power

Image above: This design for a $billion yacht looks a bit like a renovated Hawaii Superferry. From (http://musicrumours.com/here’s-that-billion-dollar-super-yacht-you’ve-been-saving-up-for).
DW: Back when I was a teenager in the 1960s, I felt queasiness lurking in the easy-going euphoria of the American lifestyle. Gandhi once said, “Speed is irrelevant if you’re traveling in the wrong direction,” and it was obvious to me that the accelerating pace of life in the U.S. didn’t have a real direction.

Everything was becoming automatic, comfortable, and “convenient,” yet other than going to the moon, banishing germs from our kitchens, and scrapping with the communists, we seemed to be floating up and away from reality like soap bubbles. We each wanted to expend as little effort as possible but still get paid handsomely for it so we could live the good life, before we… popped.

I began to notice that people whose lifestyles didn’t center on money were often healthier and more interesting.

They seemed more caring and unselfish, and they were passionate about doing active, celebratory things like playing music, dancing, playing chess or bridge, embroidering, fly fishing, cooking delicious meals, studying history, gardening, and staying current with political issues.
TV wasn’t a central part of their lives; they were less distracted by commercial hype and less detoured by all the products. What they earned seemed less important than what they learned.

I was fascinated that in many cases, the ordinary, American Dream-life was much more expensive than the extraordinary lives of these unique, self-creating people who lived their lives rather than trying to buy them. They had the real wealth – things that made them feel glad to be alive.

Since those early years, I’ve worked ten years with the U.S. EPA, written or edited ten books, produced fifteen videos and TV documentaries on various aspects of sustainability, and helped design and govern the neighborhood I’ve lived in for 15 years.

My conviction that our species needs a new way of being in the world has only gotten stronger. The rules and norms we live by – our social “software” – are now obsolete in a world in which temperatures and populations are rising but water tables and human satisfaction are falling.

We urgently need to adopt and implement a simple but proven 4-step strategy to break our addictions to various substances from oil to stuff to prescription drugs.
  1. Admit we have a problem of unprecedented proportions.
  2. Humbly seek support and cooperation from each other, from whatever higher power we acknowledge, and from history.
  3. Create a healthy new cultural identity.
  4. With fresh new goals and priorities, intervene in the broken systems and patterns that are destroying the world with which we evolved.
We should shoot for health and wellness rather than wealth and “hellness,” and agree to move, together, away from a lifestyle of deadlines and dying species and toward lifelines and living wealth.

In The New Normal, I researched and presented 33 leverage points or key places to intervene to quickly shift our economy and culture in a more admirable, affordable, and sustainable direction. The big picture is that production and consumption will no longer be the defining characteristics of the emerging era – cultural richness, efficiency, cooperation, expression, ecological design, and biological restoration will be.

CB: Right now as you and I sit here, the prices of food worldwide are surging daily. Yet you tell us in your book to buy organic food. We can grow some food, but much of it we can’t. And in this time of global economic crisis and skyrocketing food prices, why should we spend the extra money for organic?

Americans are overfed but undernourished. We have the cheapest food as a percentage of income in the “developed” world, but the most expensive health care. In recent years, national spending on health care jumped from 5 percent to 16 percent of national income, largely to treat preventable diseases. Meanwhile spending for food fell from 18 percent of household income to less than 10 percent.

However, judging by the trends, we will spend more of our discretionary income for healthy food in the near future and less for poorly designed gadgets, clothes, and monster-houses. And this change in dietary priorities will deliver solid, satisfying value. We’ll have more energy and be more productive. We’ll spend more time baking and breaking bread with friends and family, and less time at the doctor’s office.

“Let food be your medicine,” Hippocrates counseled long ago, and insurance companies nervously agree. Observes Michael Pollan, every case of Type 2 diabetes they can help prevent with better diet and exercise adds $400,000 to their bottom line.

Suddenly every can of soda or deep-fried chicken nugget in a school cafeteria is seen as a threat to future profits. So the insurance and health care industries are part of a coalition with enlightened farmers, politicians, and citizen activists, that is bring radical change to the food system.

Evolution dictates that we should eat organic. The better food we eat, the less we go to the doctor. Furthermore, organic food gets CO2 out of the air and back into our food. What is more, organic materials hold water, and this is especially relevant here in Colorado with its water issues. We would all do well to shift our budgets so that we can eat organic.
But our backs are against the wall, there’s no doubt about that. The assumptions and goals that guided agriculture in a world of one billion (1800) or two billion people (1930) are way out of date. We need to preserve the source of our food – the farms themselves – or else the global food system will collapse, as it already has throughout history.

Yield and profit are important, but so are preservation of soil and water; restoration of biological diversity; safety and healthiness of food; radical reductions in fossil fuel consumed and greenhouse gases emitted; and co-evolution with an increasingly urban population.

Fortunately, the global food system is one of most easily adapted major systems (though it won’t be a snap) for several key reasons: agriculture has until recently been solar-powered, and can be again, when oil becomes too expensive to prop up the industry.

The supply-and-demand economics of the food system are accessible to consumers, who are becoming more aware of the overall value of food purchases. Because food affects the most important issues of our times – energy, health, security, equality, biological habitat, and climate change, agriculture will come under increasing public and political scrutiny.

The trend toward organic produce and whole foods grown in market gardens and small farms will continue – not just because it can be financially lucrative but also because the work is satisfying to a certain, green-thumbed sector of the population. For example, 2010 was the first year in many that there were more farms in the U.S. rather than fewer.

CB: We live in a state (Colorado) that is going to confront very serious water issues in the near future, especially as climate change worsens. From your perspective, what should we as a state and as local communities be doing about this now?

The issue of water has always been interwoven with keystone resources that lie beneath the bottom line of our abstract economy: oil, grain, minerals, and topsoil. Ask farmers and ranchers who have relied on “fossil water” from aquifers if water shortages are real. Many have now gone out of business. Many of the strategies we need to implement are already underway, but we need to amplify and expedite them.

Our landscapes are far too thirsty, and can benefit greatly from a higher level of water-conservative design, using more appropriate plants, mulches and increases in soil organic matter to hold the water. Innovative farmers drip water right into the root zone, however many of them still ship water thousands of miles in the form of juicy peaches and tomatoes. Long “food miles” to transport watery produce may one day become a taxable offense.

Water is embedded in many other products and practices currently in use. For example, although plumbing fixtures are becoming more efficient, there’s still great potential in products like the dual flush toilet.

Why use a gallon and a half of water to flush urine? Water and wastewater treatment will be much more efficient in the future, and operate at a much smaller, more local scale. For example, “living machines” can treat wastewater right in the neighborhood with cattails, snails, fish, and other organisms in greenhouse tanks, without nuisance odors, providing clean water for irrigation.

Another emerging energy technology, the fuel cell, can also produce clean water for neighborhood use, without any noise or pollution. This is a huge departure from fossil fuel and nuclear plants which require up to 40% of a region’s water for use in cooling towers.

We need to collect rainwater and use gray water in our state, which can only happen when state laws change. Already, Arizona, New Mexico and California laws allow these uses, why nor Colorado?
In the long run, the best way to conserve water is to host fewer people at a time on our small planet. When the fossil water runs out and glaciers dry up, our current “normal” will be revealed for what it is: a very temporary and excessive binge.

CB: In “The New Normal,” you have a section on the new affordable economy which is absolutely amazing. It is a roadmap for where we need to be in order to insure the continuation of our planet and our species. What are some of the characteristics of that economy, and what has to happen for us to get there?

Though we still cling to our current, high-stress lifestyle, it’s become crystal clear to many that the half-millennium-long Industrial Era is running on empty. There’s not enough rich industrial ore, topsoil, or biological habitat left for the same old hyper-consumption game to continue— especially as human population and expectations continue to swell. There’s not enough natural resilience to absorb our wastes and provide immunity; not enough climatic stability, psychological stamina, cheap energy, timber, or potable water, either.

A primary goal in the new era will be maturity rather than growth. In their most mature, climax stages, biological systems have learned how to optimize diversity, resourcefulness, and resilience, weaving partnerships among species to make use of each scrap of resource. As a subset of nature, so should we.

 To create an affordable economy, the Holy Grail should not be unlimited growth but maturity, like a well-practiced, flawless concerto or a basketball team whose plays are perfectly executed. The players don’t need to be bigger to win games, just better.

It seems that a majority of Americans don’t yet understand that there are too many transactions, too much “throughput” for biological systems to remain stable. More consumption isn’t the answer to our economic challenges; it’s where the problems began. Every single day, the global economy extracts the volumetric equivalent of about 112 Empire State Buildings from the earth, disrupting the nests, seedbeds, roots, and hunting grounds of gazillions of living things—our planet’s real wealth, which provides clean air and water, flood control, pest control, pollination, renewable energy, fertile topsoil, and climatic stability. When natural systems degrade, life becomes more expensive.

One of the most powerful points of intervention is social: the definition of “success.” In the new normal, we won’t consider individuals and cultures successful unless daily life is rich in discretionary time, trust, health, social connection, and meaning. Yet, in a recent Gallup survey of 150 countries, the U.S. ranked at the bottom, below 145 other countries in overall stress – just ahead of Iraq and Afghanistan. If the quest for material wealth is bankrupting nature and filling us with anxiety, why don’t we just change the goal? Stepping outside the box into a brand new paradigm may be the most effective lever of all.

Right now, our economy is all about plunder—destroy nature and make money. It must become about preserving nature as a way of making money.

The restoration of nature should be our overall mission for the remainder of this century. We already see remarkable results from approaches like marine reserves, where fishing is temporarily banned. After a New England snapper fishery was protected for a number of years, the local population of snapper increased 40-fold, and as supply went up, prices came down.

Yet old-normal federal subsidies for fishing, farming, and forestry encourage depletion of resources like fish, water, soil, and old growth trees, because they reward yield and neglect to protect the source of that yield.

Instead of subsidizing farmers based on quantity of yield, our money will be better spent rewarding maintenance of soil and diversity of species. Protecting natural resilience avoids environmental and social costs that make life more expensive, such as erosion, pesticide and fertilizer pollution, and loss of rural communities.

If we look at other systems that support our current way of life, we see many opportunities to create a truly affordable economy, in which we could work less and play more. For example, if we avoid energy losses in America’s millions of buildings—with better insulation, windows, appliances and fixtures—energy experts document more than a trillion dollars in savings. We can finance these improvements as much with information as capital, because they provide a continuing stream of avoided costs, or “negawatts.”

The redesign of America’s suburbs can also make life less expensive. By changing zoning laws to permit restaurants and hardware stores, by growing gardens rather than lawns, by establishing neighborhood vanpools, shared power sources, and recycling systems, by creating town centers that supply what local residents need, we avoid the need for relentless economic expansion by meeting needs directly. Dysfunctional systems are not affordable.

The way we make and consume products offers a universe of opportunity, too. High on our hit list are reductions in unnecessary packaging and air travel, excessive meat consumption, glossy green lawns, and food waste (the average household throws away 14% of what they buy). Flagship American industries like cement and steel are only half as efficient as the global state of the art.

In the case of steel making, we miss an opportunity to convert to high-efficiency electric arc furnaces because they use recycled steel, and our recycling rate for steel is a dismal 60%. In the new economy, recycling will become a ritualized, standard practice, embedded in design and policy, so less costly extraction is required.

We can have much greater quality and durability in our products if we stage a cultural revolution of “consumer disobedience.” Maybe our motto can be “fewer things but better.” With fewer things, we’ll be happier in smaller, less expensive houses, and as a society, we can convert much of our expansive housing stock to multi-family dwellings.

We currently spend $900 per capita to be shelled with unsolicited advertising, embedded in the cost of products and services. A culture that is less consumer-driven will tolerate less advertising and less debt. And less debt means less interest on the debt.

Close to half of the diseases Americans suffer are preventable with improvements in diet, exercise, and stress reduction. For example, we spend $150 billion annually to treat diabetes and $120 billion on obesity. Many of these ailments are symptoms of the way we live. For example, one economist suggests that the huge gap between rich and poor in America is creating unprecedented stress. Our unaffordable economy is making us sick. We are a nation on the edge of a nervous breakdown. We consume two-thirds of the world’s anti-depressants as we battle for position in the economy.

Why not just declare a cease-fire with the Joneses we’ve been trying to keep up with? We’ve bought into the notion that if we’re not wealthy, we’re not good enough, which creates horrible stress and anxiety. Why not become citizens again, creating employee-owned businesses and member-owned credit unions that can reduce both killer stress and unnecessary expenses? (Credit unions save $8 billion a year in interest on loans because they are non-profit) Why not invest in community bonds, portfolios and banks and make living returns on our investments?

Savings like these are possible not because we are “cutting back,” but because we’re tuning up our value system, getting rid of waste, creating and adopting more sensible ways of getting things done. Rather than mandating 100,000 hours of work and commuting per lifetime, a more affordable lifestyle enables each citizen to work less and pay closer attention to things that really matter, like the health of our families, communities, and the environment.

Of course we can’t do these things individually. It’s an agreement, and the whole culture needs to say, “Enough! Now we must serve the economy instead of expecting the economy to serve us.”

CB: In “The New Normal,” you have another section that is my personal favorite and that we could spend all day on called “The 12 Paradigm Principles.” As you know, I’ve written a book entitled Sacred Demise: Walking The Spiritual Path of Industrial Civilization’s Collapse, and my new book is Navigating The Coming Chaos: A Handbook For Inner Transition. One of the reasons I wanted to interview you has to do with something you say in the first paradigm principle which is: “The challenges we face are not just technical—they are social, biological, political, and even spiritual challenges.”

So with that in mind, what do you think needs to happen spiritually and emotionally for humankind to embrace these 12 principles? Can you spell that out specifically for our readers and tell us a little bit about what that would look like? Some of it may be pleasant to think about, and some of it may not be pretty.

It’s been said that we humans don’t usually make major changes when we see the light—we also need to feel the heat. That convergence is well underway, but many of the changes we are making are not visible. They are not about flashy new technologies or innovative policies, and they are not about “doing without.” You could say they are more about “doing within.”

Changes of heart and mind have often created social tsunamis – almost-instant transitions to a new way of seeing the world (like a school of fish reversing direction). In turn, this renaissance leads to changes in technology, policy, and behavior. When that happens, we ask ourselves, “Why didn’t we make these changes sooner? They’re far more sensible, comfortable and equitable than we thought they would be. It’s just the way we do it now.”

But this cultural epiphany can’t take place unless we are willing to leave our comfort zones, and unless we recycle some familiar assumptions that are no longer useful. For example, that the environment is inside the economy. That people are only worth what they are paid. That economic growth of any kind is always good. That one country can teach another how not to kill, by killing them.

We have experienced a mini-Golden Era since World War II. Many of our challenges have been solved (or at least apparently solved) with technological innovations that have increased labor and land productivity. However, we now face challenges of a different nature; technology is not the limiting factor of productivity—resources are.

Deeper wells can’t pump water that’s no longer there, and larger boats and nets can’t harvest more fish when fish populations have been wiped out. Since we can’t change certain biological and geological realities, we need to change ourselves instead. As in Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s progression towards the acceptance of death or tragedy, we need to move through denial, anger, bargaining, and depression and accept that the game is different now.

We need to rethink what we are trying to accomplish as a species, and what we truly want to do with our time. Do we really want to let technology guide human evolution ever further into a blind, lifeless alley, or do we want to choose only technologies that enhance our humanity? Now is the time for ecology-based design that lets us participate with our hands and minds, that lets us produce what we need the way bees produce honey: without harming the flower.

New systems of accounting will track productivity in terms of quality, not just quantity. For example, exemplary companies now track tons of cement or sheets of paper produced per unit of energy (not just per dollar invested). Similarly, to evaluate the overall productivity of farming, the new metrics will track the nutritional value of the food and the health of the farms it came from, not simply bushels of grain or pounds of beef.

If we are to save our civilization, all human activity should be based on meeting needs, fully, rather than creating marketable but superfluous wants. A sustainable economy maximizes the productivity of resources in addition to people. When we maximize the productivity of people, we use fewer people, but we have more people than there are jobs. Basically we are using less and less of what we have more of (people) and more and more of what we have less of (resources).

That kind of economy just doesn’t make sense. Why not move toward full employment of a part-time workforce, giving us enough income to thrive in an affordable, secure economy and also have enough time for living? It seems obvious that we could very quickly reduce the high unemployment rate by making workweeks shorter and sharing the work, as Germany has done successfully. To fund public services and infrastructure, why not finesse an American political stalemate by cutting taxes on income and levying taxes on fossil fuels and pollution?

These are some of the paradigm principles that guide the discussion in The New Normal. More than ever before, we need to rely on intuition and instinct to challenge the stranglehold of institutions. Wouldn’t it be fascinating to come back in a few hundred years to see if we stopped the stampede in time?

CB: Thank you David for taking time to answer my questions and thereby give us a powerful and inspiring vision of a new normal.

David Wann is a writer, speaker, and filmmaker on the subject of sustainable design and sustainable lifestyles. He’s now completed a trilogy of books about culture shift: Affluenza, Simple Prosperity, and his most recent book, The New Normal. This interview draws largely from material in The New Normal. He lives in Golden, Colorado in a cohousing neighborhood he helped design. To find out more, visit www.davewann.com.