End of the lie

SUBHEAD: I am the child of a culture driven by a tendency toward destruction, as is everyone I know and love.

 By Aleigha on 15 July 2011 for Nature Bats Last -  

Image above: Teen anime character lies under a tree. From (http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/295/suzumiyaharuhinoyuutsues8.jpg).
“… and I can’t take it anymore, Aleigha. That’s why I’m leaving. I’m taking what I can carry on my back and my wife and I’m leaving.”
I think this is the first time he’s addressed me by name. There’s a sense of urgency in his voice that I’ve never heard there before; the weariness and loneliness of a big dreamer. My name suddenly sounds important — heroic even. Full of potential. The name of a hero in an epic novel or history book. Important. Powerful.


This is one of those moments isn’t it? The kind that will define you. That shows you how your life could look, if you would dare grow the ovaries to chase something else. One of the moments you can’t back down from.

Mike goes on. He’s really serious. He’s leaving his teaching career to become an organic gardener. He talks about peak oil, WWOOFing, his wife, couch surfing, anthropocentrism and freedom. This is one of those moments. And even though he only talks about how these things have impacted his life, I know that soon, I’ll be as crazy as he is. This is my first lesson in what is said best in a book called Endgame: “You can have the greatest excuse in the world, or you can have the world.” The man in front of me has chosen the former. And me? I’m getting awfully tired of excuses.

This is the first time in my life where a lifestyle in union with the earth seems like a realistic possibility. It is not, however, the first time I’ve considered such a life.

I’ve been a little strange my entire life. To use my father’s words, (and what better way to describe oneself than with the words of thine own creator?) I’ve always a bit of a “hippie.” Not that I was out protesting against big oil at the age of three, but there are dozens of tiny memories of me, hinting at the far left ideologist I would become. Watching Captain Planet, a show about Gaia the environmental super hero and eco-terrorists fighting against companies polluting the planet. Day dreaming of being an anthropologist — although I didn’t know the word yet — taken in by the tribe she was studying.

My first crush and I discussing the horrors of animal abuse during free time in our second grade classroom. My third-grade teacher telling our class that oil was a fossil fuel, explaining that it means that it will eventually run out. Being hopelessly confused about my church being on the side against gay marriage when I was no older than eight or nine. I didn’t talk about these little moments, nor did I bother to explore them too deeply. They were just thoughts, a small part of me no more significant than my love for Disney shows.

And then came high school. Second semester of freshmen year, I would meet Mr. Lance Huffman. He was teaching my Advanced Freshman English class, had an excellent speaking voice and loved to use it. I thought he was the smartest person in the world. He talked about social justice, white privilege, Columbine, the Holocaust, the singularity, and he even occasionally talked about English. Above all things, he taught me to question everything. I never spoke in his class, honestly I found his wisdom a bit intimidating, but he changed me for the better. Put the passing thoughts of my childhood on a more direct course.

Sophomore year I joined our campus’s unity program. My thoughts on the first meeting were literally “I hope they talk about the stuff Huffman used to rant about.” They did. I was still quiet, observing, but I loved every moment.

The club I was in was responsible for a camp called Unitown. It was literally indescribable. I was forced to confront the world as what it was: Terrible and wonderful and complicated. I allowed the movement of social justice to swallow me whole. I met some of the most amazing people I ever have during those few days.

One was a speaker named Calvin Terrell, the camp director who would touch my heart in a way no one else has ever come close to. Sabre, a person who would force me to get over the few bits of remaining Homophobia. But the two that are most relevant to this essay are Mike (we called the teachers by their first names at camp) and Yordano.

So we find ourselves again in our hook. I am a fifteen-year-old questioning my belief in a Christian god — or at least pretending to question my belief in a Christian god. I go to the one adult I know who is an atheist and ask his opinion on the matter –or rather look to him to tell me that it is okay to use my mind in matters of faith. We talk, and somehow reach the topic of Mike’s future. Mike’s got to go home for the day: exit Sliwa.

Enter Yordano. I share with him Mike’s plans, and we relish in the glorious dream of freedom. Over the past year and some months, this young man has become one of the most important in my life. My anam cara, a soul friend capable of awakening the fullness and wonder within me. Mike may have handed me the map to the Rabbit Hole, but Yordano holds me up in Wonderland. Helping me explore this new world as vicariously as a child. Keeping me from imploding on the days where I find my core to be a vacuum, sucking in all of the world pain and certain doom until it begins to suck at my own edges.

The summer between sophomore and junior year and into junior year, I begin to read more than I ever have in my life. Quinn mostly. Ishmael, My Ishmael, The Story of B. Some less radical books on religion, and my first love, social justice. Eventually, after months of pestering from Mike and resistance from me I make my way up to Derrick Jensen. The Culture of Make Believe and Endgame, Volume I.

I find myself in a bit of a slump. The world is a dark and scary place. Our culture is toxic. My family is uninterested in what I have to say on the matter and the only person who’s on my level is two hundred miles away. I’m back in Huffman’s class — I talk now — and I have Mike to combat the feeling of isolation. It helps but it’s not enough.

If I do not find direction soon, I will self destruct. So I look harder than I ever have before and stumble upon something wonderful: Bali’s Green School. I cry at the beauty of the idea, and decide that this is the path I want to take. Until then, college, WWOOFing and a normal teaching career, until I can get away joining the staff in Bali, or somewhere else, at a school for children raised to live in communion with the earth.

It’s a wonderful dream.

But still, I struggle. I am the child of a culture driven by a tendency toward destruction, as is everyone I know and love. I try hating it. I try loving it. I try escaping it. Nothing works. For now, I am stuck here. Here, in this paradox of soft new cloths on a baby, and the enslavement of young women for the sake of affordability. Here in the place between promise of the open road, and the threat of a world inhabitable for my children. Here between the gas tank and the gun.


I love my life. I hate the way I’m living it.

I lay beneath a tree. I do not know its name, so I cannot share it with you. I can tell you though that it is magnificent. I listen as the wind rustles through the leaves. A very beautiful man once told me that this means the tree was whispering.

“Do not deny me, Cousin” I can almost hear. Cousin, if you go back far enough we share a great grandparent somewhere, a simpler plant that would later evolve in one direction toward treedom and animal life in another. “Use me as needed, shelter, paper, company, but do not deny me. Do not deny my right to live upon this earth beside you, Cousin.”

I feel a crawling on my feet. Apparently I am close to some ants. I see this as my cue to stop bothering them. I flick the few that have begun to crawl on me off, remove my sandals and run. Barefoot. Feeling the earth beneath me and wishing it were an accidental clearing rather than a golf course. For now though, it’ll have to do.

I love my life. It’s time to start living better.

Aleigha is a high-school student by day and radical dreamer by night.

Congress saves electric dinosaur

SUBHEAD: US House passes amendment banning implementation of 2007 Light Bulb Efficiency Improvement law. [Editor's note: Madness reigns in Washington as Republicans (and Fox News) successfully push to retain the use of energy wasting incandescent light bulbs.] By Brian Merchant on 15 July 2011 for TreeHugger - (http://www.treehugger.com/files/2011/07/light-bulb-ban-amendment-house-reps.php) Image above: Anold fashioned incandescent light bulb. From original article. Sigh. After rejecting a measure that would have fast-tracked the repeal of a law signed by George W. Bush to tighten up efficiency requirements for light bulbs, the House of Reps passed an amendment that would prohibit spending to enforce those standards. TP Green has all the gory details ...

And if you were wondering why the hell Republicans are making so much fuss over a measure that will save Americans loads of money and improve energy efficiency, you're not alone. But know that it's really quite simple: It's a political opportunity for the GOP to play to its Tea Party base on a relatively low-stakes platform. They conjure up the specter of Big Government taking away your freedom to pick a light bulb, spout ideological nonsense, rinse, and repeat.

There's quite simply no reason -- other than politics -- that requiring companies to improve efficiency technology could be seen as a bad idea. Saving energy, saving money, reducing pollution, curbing carbon emissions, creating jobs -- there's little downside. Even the industry itself has already largely accepted the standards.

So allow me to reiterate: This has nothing to do with common sense, and everything to do with ideological manipulation.

More on Light Bulbs Light Bulb Ban Would Save Consumers $12.5 Billion by 2020, Eliminate 33 Power Plants .

Theatrics of U.S. swindle

SUBHEAD: The political theater of US debt diverts attention while Americans' wealth is stolen. By Dennis Kucinich on 16 july 2011 for Huffington Post - (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rep-dennis-kucinich/debt-political-theater-di_b_898308.html) Image above: Bank customers are used as hostages. Still from "Public Enemy", 2009. From (http://downloadfreemp4movies.blogspot.com/2010/03/public-enemies.html).

The rancorous debate over the debt belies a fundamental truth of our economy -- that it is run for the few at the expense of the many, that our entire government has been turned into a machine which takes the wealth of a mass of Americans and accelerates it into the hands of the few. Let me give you some examples.

Take war. War takes the money from the American people and puts it into the hands of arms manufacturers, war profiteers, and private armies. The war in Iraq, based on lies: $3 trillion will be the cost of that war. The war in Afghanistan; based on a misreading of history; half a trillion dollars in expenses already. The war against Libya will be $1 billion by September.

Fifty percent of our discretionary spending goes for the Pentagon. A massive transfer of wealth into the hands of a few while the American people lack sufficient jobs, health care, housing, retirement security.

Our energy policies take the wealth from the American people and put it into the hands of the oil companies. We could be looking at $150 a barrel for oil in the near future.

Our environmental policy takes the wealth of the people -- clean air, clean water -- and puts it in the hands of the polluters. It's a transfer of wealth, not only from the present but from future generations as our environment is ruined.

Insurance companies, what do they do? They take the wealth from the American people in terms of what they charge people for health insurance and they put it into the hands of the few.

We have to realize what this country's economy has become. Our monetary policy, through the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, privatized the money supply, gathers the wealth, puts it in the hands of the few while the Federal Reserve can create money out of nothing, give it to banks to park at the Fed while our small businesses are starving for capital.

Mark my words -- Wall Street cashes in whether we have a default or not. And the same type of thinking that created billions in bailouts for Wall Street and more than $1 trillion in giveaways by the Federal Reserve today leaves 26 million Americans either underemployed or unemployed. And nine out of ten Americans over the age of 65 are facing cuts in their Social Security in order to pay for a debt which grew from tax cuts for the rich and for endless wars.

There is a massive transfer of wealth from the American people to the hands of a few and it's going on right now as America's eyes are misdirected to the political theater of these histrionic debt negotiations, threats to shut down the government, and willingness to make the most Americans pay dearly for debts they did not create.

These are symptoms of a government which has lost its way, and they are a challenge to the legitimacy of the two-party system. .

L.A. Carpocalypse

SUBHEAD: This will be the weekend the busy 405 freeway in Los Angeles will stand still still. By Reza Gostar & Shawna Burreson on 9 July 2011 in Brentwood Patch - (http://brentwood.patch.com/articles/carpocalypse-the-weekend-the-405-freeway-will-stand-still) Image above: Illustration of traffic jam. From (

It has been called “Carmageddon,” "the nightmare on the 405" and "the mother of all traffic jams." Considering the psyche of drivers in Los Angeles, these sensationalized nicknames for the massive shutdown of the 405 freeway on July 15-18 might not be too far off the mark. We are Angelenos, after all, and if there is one thing we have the right to do, it’s to get behind the wheel of our eco-friendly-sporty-SUV-Lexus-BMW-Toyota-hybrids and drive. Preferably while sipping on a latte, talking on our “hands-free” device and listening to Randy Newman’s “I Love L.A.” For many of us, getting behind the wheel is a form of meditation. It’s time to blow off some steam, think about work or wonder what that personalized license plate on the car ahead is supposed to mean. The freeway, whether good or bad, has become a venue of release for pent-up rage, stress and frustration. However, I fear that our psyches might not be able to withstand a traffic jam of this magnitude.

Imagine the fictitious river of gooey supernatural liquid flowing below New York City, which was fed by people's rage and hatred in the movie Ghostbusters II. The 405 is very similar. Now picture a dam blocking that flow of rage and frustration, which is essentially what will happen when the 53-hour construction project commences.

In spite of the freedom the 405 provides, it’s also a cesspool of negative emotions so heavy it sucks the light from the casual passer-by, transforming even schoolteachers into homicidal maniacs. If you have never watched the movie Falling Down, I suggest you rent a copy, stock up on supplies and stay home that July weekend. Perhaps California should declare a holiday or a state of emergency not only to commemorate the weekend that the most congested freeway in the world was completely shut off from the city’s traffic flow, but also as a way to offer busy and beleaguered commuters a few days off of work and a few days of freedom from the stress of struggling against Hummers, SUVs and semitrucks to make it on time. But if the powers that be neglect to take advantage of this momentous opportunity for a holiday, at least it’s a good excuse for making it into work late, or not at all.

Officials are expecting traffic conditions on local streets and freeways within L.A. County and beyond to be severe, with multi-hour delays.

Here is some information from officials about alternates routes, closure times and advice about how to get from point A to point B without losing your mind.

The specific freeway closure boundaries are:

• Northbound I-405: 10-mile closure between I-10 and U.S. 101 • Southbound I-405: 4-mile closure between U.S. 101 and Getty Center Drive ramps

Alternate Routes:

Officials are advising motorists who must travel through L.A. to use alternate freeways within the region, including the 5, 15, 23, 55, 57, 101, 118, 126, 210, 605 and 710, to bypass the impacted area.

In addition, officials are urging the use of public transportation such as the Metro Rail service within L.A. County and Metrolink servicing the five county Southern California region.

Additional alternate route information will be made available on the project website at www.metro.net/405.

Closure times:

On Friday, July 15, ramps will begin to be shut down as early as 7 p.m., and closure of freeway lanes will begin at 10 p.m. to ensure full freeway closure by midnight. The closure will continue until 5 a.m. Monday morning, July 18. Ramps and connectors will be reopened by 6 a.m.


Sepulveda Boulevard is intended as an alternate route for local resident access only. Sepulveda will not have the capacity to accommodate both local and diverted freeway traffic. Those using Sepulveda should expect extreme congestion and lengthy delays. Motorists should instead use alternate regional freeway routes to completely bypass the Sepulveda Pass, officials said in a statement.


Akaka-like bill in place

SUBHEAD: Hawaii experienced greatest loss from colonization of Pacific islands. [Editor's note: We hope this legislation leads to something good for people living in Hawaii - namely national sovereignty. When this bill was proposed we noted "I'd like to know how the illegal entity that is the "State of Hawaii" can register "native Hawaiians" in their future government. The article below goes on to say this process will lead to a "political body overseeing their affairs". What kind of "sovereignty" is this? The article assumes that the Hawaiians have been left out of the great deal North American native people got when they were 'recognized'. I'm hoping to hear a response from the Hawaiian sovereignty movement on this." See Ea O Ka Aina: Recognition of Native Hawaians 4/29/11] By Alia Wong on 13 July 2011 for Civil Beat - (http://www.civilbeat.com/fact_checks/2011/07/13/12058-fact-check-hee-hawaii-experienced-greatest-loss-from-colonization/) Image above: Governor Abercrombie signing bill. From article below.

At a recent bill-signing ceremony, state Sen. Clayton was among several Native Hawaiian lawmakers applauding a new law recognizing Hawaiians as the state's indigenous people.

Act 195 also establishes a roll commission to count qualified Hawaiians as a first step toward government self-determination.

Hee, a Democrat, told the audience gathered July 6 at Washington Place that he feels a direct connection to the 1893 overthrow and the 1898 annexation of the Hawaiian Kingdom, as his grandparents were born around that time.

The senator continued: "Because no Pacific Island experienced colonization at a greater loss than Hawaii. The loss of the language was the loss of the identity. The loss of the identity was the loss of our dignity."

Is it true? Civil Beat is on it.


OK, here's what we found out.

Terence Wesley-Smith, director of the Center for Pacific Island Studies at UH Manoa, says Hee is "probably correct in a general sense, although obviously it depends on how you understand the process of colonization and how you evaluate its impacts."

Wesley-Smith, who answered Civil Beat's inquiry Wednesday via email, continued:

"Specifically, what does he mean when he talks about loss? I think Hawaii is a strong candidate because:

1) unlike most other Pacific Island places, it was a settler colony and Hawaiians were quickly outnumbered by others;

2) population decline in the first century after colonial contact was extreme by any standards;

3) unlike most other Pacific Islanders, Hawaiians lost control of their land (and therefore their autonomy) early on;

4) Hawaiians remain economically, politically, and culturally marginalized in their own land;

5) unlike most other Pacific Island territories, Hawai`i became incorporated into the colonial power, rather than achieving independence from it."

When asked about other Pacific Islanders who suffered tremendous losses because of colonization, such as the Marshallese, Wesley-Smith said "there may be other island places where some aspects of loss were as extreme or even more so."

"For example, the people of Bikini effectively lost their homeland to nuclear testing, Banabans were relocated to Fiji by the British to make way for phosphate mining, a high proportion of the people of Rapa Nui were captured and forced to work in the mines of Peru, etc.," he said.

"But the scale, intensity, and longevity of the colonial experience in Hawaii tends to set it a part as a special case. Other comparable candidates might be New Caledonia, Guam, and Aotearoa, but in the latter case Maori have managed to retain more of their land and culture, are better represented in the political system, and have some access to redress for historical grievances through the Waitangi Tribunal."

Senate Bill 1520
By Chad Blair on 6 July 2011 for Civil Beat - (http://www.civilbeat.com/articles/2011/07/06/12000-first-step-to-a-native-hawaiian-governing-entity)

In one session, the 2011 Hawaii Legislature was able to do what the U.S. Congress has not been able to do in a decade's time: recognize Native Hawaiians as the indigenous people of Hawaii.

Quite possibly, it has also given re-birth to a movement toward self-governance that has been generations in the making and often seemed stymied.

Senate Bill 1520, which Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed into law Wednesday at Washington Place, will not of itself create a governing entity. That requires federal approval, and the Akaka bill still awaits a vote in the U.S. Senate.

But local leaders gathered in the historic home of Hawaii's last monarch, Liliuokalani, agreed that SB 1520 is landmark legislation that may mark a critical turning point.

As the kia aina (the governor) himself put it, SB 1520 — now Act 195 — is the "first step" to a Native Hawaiian governing entity.

Counting Hawaiians

Abercrombie now has 180 days to appoint a five-member Native Hawaiian roll commission to begin a process of counting qualified Hawaiians (as defined by the act) who will form a new government. Four of the members will represent the island counties, while a fifth will be appointed at large.

While there are many unanswered questions about exactly how the governing entity would work — or whether it will work at all — its core mission will be to protect cultural rights, ceded lands and other entitlements. U.S. Sens. Daniel K. Inouye and Daniel Akaka welcomed Act 195, saying it could help persuade some of their Senate colleagues to finally vote on the federal bill named for Akaka.

But SB 1520's passage through the Senate almost collapsed because of lack of funding for the commission. At the last minute, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs agreed to help with funding. While OHA remains focused on the federal legislation, the semi-autonomous state agency also came to recognize the value of the Hawaii bill.

Chairwoman Colette Machado stressed at the bill signing that OHA would only have an administrative role in Act 195's implementation, but also that it would fund the roll commission's executive director position and help facilitate statewide meetings on the process.

It won't be easy.

With a nod to the (sometimes) loud presence of about two dozen protesters outside the gates of Washington Place, Machado said, "We want to be able to do this in my lifetime, in our lifetime. This is major work, and there are indications from those individuals outside that some are never satisfied. But we must aloha them, because we are all part of the koko."

One of the protesters, Leon Siu of a group calling itself Hawaiian Nationals, handed out fliers that objected to the state's efforts to "jump-start" the Akaka bill.

"The Akaka scheme is a diabolical plan to help the United States avoid the lawful return (to) Hawaii of the Hawaiian Kingdom," the flier stated.

"Hell, no, we won't enroll," read a sign. "Neither would the Queen."

Role of the Hawaiian Caucus

Inside Washington Place, the sentiment was of unity of purpose.

The VIPS included top legislators, former Gov. John Waihee, the Royal Order of Kamehameha I, the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, Hawaiian legal and business groups and many others. Separate press releases and a compact disc were issued by the administration, the state Senate and OHA, and an event program featured the sad visage of Liliuokalani.

While Abercrombie was the ranking official, Big Island state Sen. Malama Solomon was the emcee. Solomon, who was chiefly responsible for pushing SB 1520 through the Senate, was also one of the featured speakers along with three other Hawaiian lawmakers (like Solomon and Abercrombie, all Democrats): state Sen. Clayton Hee, Senate Majority Leader Brickwood Galuteria and state Rep. Faye Hanohano.

In fact, it was the Native Hawaiian Senate caucus that fought most for the bill. Galuteria, who explained that the caucus met weekly in his second-floor office overlooking Iolani Palace, said, "It would have been easy to go our separate ways and fortify the notion that Hawaiians can't work together. We wanted to create the new model."

At one point, Akaka himself visited the caucus, and Galuteria said his colleagues had the odd experience of being thanked by the senior senator for their work toward self-determination.

"There wasn't a dry eye in the room," he said.

Abercrombie, in his remarks, choked up several times as he recalled a visit with his late mother to Waianae, where he was accepted into the family of Aunty Aggie Cope, who sat in the front row of the VIPs.

But the governor largely turned the occasion over to others, and the message was obvious: It was a day for Hawaiians. A pule, oli, hula and music marked the program, and many speakers pointed out that in that very room there were people who are living links to ancestors who lived at the time of the 1893 overthrow and 1898 annexation.

"This brings to a conclusion the long journey that began with Queen Liliuokalani in this home," said Abercrombie.

A conclusion, but also the start of a new, and possible transformative, chapter.


Not Just Disillusionment

SUBHEAD: Our next leader will likely continue not telling the people the truth about energy and resource reality.

 By George Mobus on 7 July 2011 for Question Everything -  

Image above: Illustration by Victor Juhasz for Rolling Stone Magazine. Found at (http://www.infiniteunknown.net/2009/12/12/obamas-big-sellout-rolling-stone-magazine/).
This goes beyond just being disappointed in Obama's choices and performance. I don't think I ever had any illusions that he would somehow ‘fix’ things. I have written plenty about how we are faced with unfixable situations. But, when he was elected I had a weak hope that he would at least tell the American people the truth about our economic situation. When he appointed Steven Chu, a real physicist (Nobellist no less), to Energy Secretary my hopes raised a little higher still.

But then he appointed his ‘Chicago School’ contingent as economic advisors and I realized all was lost for even the prospect of reality entering the political discourse of this nation. Even Chu has turned on reality as he continues to voice the politically-expedient party line about clean coal and green energy. I know the man knows the laws of thermodynamics. I know he has some concept of conversion efficiencies. I know he understands the physical limitations of real-time solar energy availability. He's a physicist damn it. He has to know these things.

On top of that he has to have a pretty good idea of the limits of scaling what works in the lab to what works in the field. Surely he comprehends the rates at which large-scale conversion projects are going to be slow given the rate of conventional energy depletion and the limitations on our financial resources. He has to have a pretty good idea about the physical limits of resources needed to build out alternative energy infrastructure. I know, from personal communication with someone who talks to the man, that he definitely knows about peak oil and energy return on energy invested, at least conceptually. So what is going on in Washington that we can't see?

The question that keeps haunting me is this. If Chu knows these things, why doesn't Obama, the president he advises? And more insidious, if Obama has been briefed why does he continue to fail to tell the American people and the world what the real situation is with respect to why the economy is so bad?

I suspect, in my darker thoughts, that he does know. But maybe he also knows how futile all the green talk really is. Maybe he understands the situation far better than I gave him credit for. Maybe the reason he hasn't turned toward some kind of jobs creation program rather than focusing on and giving credence to the Republican myopic focus on debt reduction, is that he knows it is futile. But then I have to wonder. If he does know, why on earth would he want to get re-elected? Does he really want to go down in history (should any history be preserved through the future turmoil) as the president who oversaw the collapse of the American culture/society?
My deepest problem with Obama is that if he knows he should tell the story and help get the people in this country and others around the world ready for the coming collapse. There are things that people can do to ready themselves. It won't be pretty, but it will be gawdawful ugly if people are caught by surprise. People don't react well to losing their beliefs overnight.
Of course, if he doesn't know then perhaps we can be a little lenient in our assessments. But that doesn't help the situation at all. Either way he is proving not to be the leader we need at this juncture of human history.

The Republican Side????

This is a joke, right? Are the Republicans serious? These are the candidates they offer?
Honestly I have become mildly convinced that we have been witnessing a case of sympatric speciation as three major ‘races’ of Homo sapiens differentiate. The races? Conservative (with a sub-species called libertarian), liberals (sub-species progressive), and independent (or also known as unable-to-compete). Sympatric speciation takes place without a physical barrier to separate races subsequently allowing them to then diverge independently (allopatric speciation — the form most people know about).

Usually there is some behavioral differentiation, perhaps accompanied by a weak morphological marking, within a single population that causes a rift, followed by strengthening of that rift by a form of sexual selection (assortative mating), and an eventual strong separation between breeding populations even in the same range (for humans that is the whole Earth). The new species, even in incipient form, occupy different econiches. In most cases this has to do with food types that select for differentiation in feeding behaviors. But in humans this appears to be mental attitudes and behaviors such as degree of altruism inherent.

Homo conservatist incipient is certainly a lot less altruistic and seems to build its behaviors around the concept of maximizing personal profit. Right at a time in mankind's history when a maximum of cooperation and sharing might be needed to minimize the damage to the genus, this doesn't seem like a winning strategy. Perhaps in a world that really could provide ever expanding sources of ever higher powered energy that strategy would prove positively selective and that eventual species would rule the world.

It is no wonder that their mantra is “Drill-baby-drill” They need a continually growing supply of energy to further expand the economy, turning nature into human wealth that they can accumulate personally. This regardless of what damage it does to the environment that is the ultimate source of their sustenance!

This is the platform of the political right. The transformation from merely being a political ideology to becoming an embedded way of thinking is nearly complete. We can only wonder in horror at the damage Homo conservatist incipient would do to the world if given any kind of power. Crap! We don't have to imagine it. Look at what is happening in the Congress right now. Look at the Tea Party.

This incipient species depends on instincts more than actual evidence-based reasoning, even as they fool themselves into thinking they are using logic based on not-to-be-questioned axioms. They have a herd mentality approach to survival coupled with a ‘What's mine is mine - go get your own’ mentality. Very dangerous, I think.

The Independents/Third Party Side???

As the human mental ecosystem breaks into pieces there are several miscellaneous sub-species that are feeding at the margins but not finding particularly fruitful grounds. Independents are sometimes characterized as unable to make up their minds (undecideds) or look for a middle-of-the-road, or centrist, position (the averagests). Then there are a very small few who base their decisions on the details of the situation or proposition, recognizing that sometimes a problem needs a conservative approach, at other times different problems require a liberal approach, while at yet other times still different problems require a middle approach.

In other words, they like to figure out what needs to be done based on the facts in the case and not some ideological belief that guides all decisions. These latter are, in number, like the tiny insignificant mammals that scurried about at the feet of the dinosaurs sixty-five million years ago, just before the comet hit the Yucatan peninsula. Many of this sub-species are correctly altruistic under general circumstances. That is, even if a problem demands a conservative approach the point is that the maximum number of people will benefit from the solution (e.g. as in conserving our park lands — the original meaning of conservative!)

The problem for all in this category is that there isn't enough mental food for them to feed on. These mental econiches are simply not big enough to gain any advantages. So most of these variants are bound to go the way of the Dodo.

This, of course, translates into the fact that no one in this group could hope to gain enough votes in the political battle to get elected (selected for!) And even if that happened, say by a miracle, the electorate is not likely to follow the lead or listen to the story.

The Democrat Side????

Homo liberalis incipient is just as fraught with problems in terms of their overall strategy for survival. They are literally too altruistic without actually having the requisite understanding of how to translate their urges into effective actions. They will literally give away the wealth, especially the accumulated wealth of others, without a clue as to where that wealth actually comes from. In fact, their instincts misinform them in that they believe that wealth will always grow greater so that everyone can grow in benefits.

They have a vague notion that some forms of wealth creation, if not properly regulated, are causing damage to the environment and want to stop that. But they honestly believe that wealth growth is inherent in the system and as long as we don't let bad greediness lead to excesses, we should all achieve Nirvana.

So this sub-species is similarly bound to the notion of growth of energy even if they don't understand that that is what they need. They assume that either growth doesn't depend on energy per se, or that all of these so-called green technologies will provide what we need. They suffer from delusional thinking.

Which may bring us back to Mr. Obama, a supposed liberal who may, as it turns out very much be the archetype for this sub-species. I had hoped that Mr. Obama was in that little sub-species that behaved either conservatively or liberally only when appropriate to the nature of the problem. I do think he has basic altruistic motivations. But his approach to governing suggests he may be in the averagist sub-species. Or maybe he really can't make up his own mind and is just taking directions from those who influence him the most (he did come from Chicago after all).


Are there any alternatives? If my only half-serious hypothesis about sympatric evolution having proceeded to the incipient species stage (where separation of mental econiches in nearly complete) then sadly there are not. The left will be represented by Obama seeking a second term. In all likelihood, if he wins, he will continue to fail at truth telling (or even truth knowing). If he loses it will be to a conservative, possibly of the Tea Party ilk. No independent looks even feasible at this point. So it is likely that the leader will not, or cannot tell the people the truth about energy and resource reality.

In all likelihood the entrenched, moneyed interests in this world would snuff any leader that broke the news to the public. The rich, who are members of the Homo conservativist incipient sub-species, are accumulating all the gold they can carry thinking that will save them if worse comes to worst. I believe we are witnessing their hoarding strategy that is motivated by an instinctive sense that what is happening in the world now is prelude to the end. The people who hold the 80% of the virtual wealth (money) in this world are not totally dumb, just terribly unwise. They actually do sense that the end is near and they are turning to the only source of comfort they have ever understood in their lives - more money.

I suspect they imagine they will buy safety in gated communities or hideaways in Honduras. They will be able to buy security in a world gone haywire. So, of course, they contribute disproportionately to making it go even more haywire, or hastening the coming of the end. Wait until they find out just what security money will be able to buy when the poor hoards realize they've been had.
So, here we are. A new grand leader election cycle is upon us. And these are the candidate choices we have to consider. To be very honest, I suspect I will sit this one out. At this stage my only thoughts about joining the electorate would be to vote for a Homo conservativist incipient under the theory that we should just get it over with and such a president would help accelerate that process. Sad thought, huh?


Republicans dig in for the rich

SUBHEAD: Obama's call for more tax revenue would end Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest at the end of 2012.  

By Alan Silverleib & Tom Cohen on 14 July 2011 for CNN -  

Image above: Most expensive US home for sale is in Beverly Hills. From (http://blog.frontdoor.com/blog/2009/04/07/unreal-estate-the-most-expensive-home-for-sale-in-the-us).

A fifth session of talks in five days is set for Thursday to head off a possible government default.

Wednesday's session ended on a tense note with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and President Barack Obama squaring off over the Republican's call for a short-term extension of the federal debt ceiling.

At one point, Obama said the political wrangling confirmed what the public considers to be the worst of Washington, according to Democratic sources familiar with the talks who spoke on condition of not being identified.

Multiple sources, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said Obama told the gathering that "this could bring my presidency down," referring to his pledge to veto any short-term extension of the debt ceiling. Sources say he vowed, "I will not yield on this."

Obama to Cantor: Don't call my bluff

The seriousness of the situation was reinforced when a major rating agency said Wednesday it would put the sterling bond rating of the United States on review for possible downgrade.

Moody's Investors Services said it had initiated the review because of "the rising possibility" that Congress will fail to raise the debt ceiling in time -- something that could lead to a U.S. default on its debt.

Cantor, R-Virginia, told reporters after Wednesday's meeting that he proposed a short-term agreement to raise the federal debt ceiling, a position Obama has previously rejected.

"That's when he got very agitated and said I've sat here long enough -- that no other president -- Ronald Reagan -- would sit here like this -- and that he's reached the point that something's gotta give," Cantor said, adding that Obama called for Republicans to compromise on either their insistence that a debt-ceiling hike must be matched dollar-for-dollar by spending cuts or on their opposition to any kind of tax increase.

"And he said to me, 'Eric, don't call my bluff.' He said 'I'm going to the American people with this,'" Cantor quoted Obama as saying.

"I was somewhat taken aback," Cantor said. When he continued to press the issue, Cantor said, Obama "shoved back from the table, said 'I'll see you tomorrow' and walked out."

The Democratic sources provided a different take on the exchange, saying Obama cut off Cantor at the end after the Virginia Republican changed from a previously held position against a short-term extension of the debt ceiling.

Obama responded that he'd veto such a temporary measure, according to the sources, then went on to say that what was happening in the negotiations confirmed the worst of what the American people think about Washington.

According to the sources, Obama expressed frustration with the unwillingness of congressional Republicans to compromise and called on them to stop posturing and catering to their bases. He then ended the meeting, the Democratic sources said.

Obama has insisted on one deal that will raise the amount of money the government can borrow to sufficient levels to last through 2012 -- after his campaign for re-election. Cantor's call for a short-term agreement also could win the support of House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, an aide to Boehner said.

Boehner: Debt talks 'like dealing with Jell-O'

Democrats and Republicans remain at sharp odds over how to proceed. Obama has indicated a preference for a "grand bargain" that would save up to $4 trillion over the next decade through a combination of spending cuts, raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans and reforming politically popular entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

GOP leaders remain adamantly opposed to any tax hikes, arguing that increasing the burden on "job creators" now would derail what has already proven to be, at best, a shaky economic recovery.

On Tuesday, Obama said he cannot guarantee that older Americans will receive their Social Security checks next month if a deal is not reached.

"There may simply not be the money in the coffers to do it," the president told CBS News.

Testifying Wednesday on Capitol Hill, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke warned that failure to raise the ceiling would create a "major crisis" and be potentially "catastrophic" for the global economy.

Bernanke: U.S. default would cause 'major crisis'

Republicans accused the White House of fear-mongering and failing to negotiate in good faith. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said Wednesday morning that the administration is pushing for tax hikes now in exchange for illusory spending cuts later.

Specifically, McConnell claimed an administration official had only been able to identify $2 billion in spending reductions when asked what cuts the White House would agree to next year -- a tiny fraction of roughly $4 trillion in deficit reduction savings Obama has claimed he's interested in generating over the next decade.

"Republicans refuse to be drawn into this legislative trap," McConnell said, adding that the White House is "not serious about cutting spending or debt."

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney dismissed McConnell's complaint, calling it inaccurate and asserting that the president is willing to make deep spending cuts.

On Tuesday, McConnell unveiled what he characterized as a last-ditch plan to avert a default if negotiators can't reach an agreement. The Republican leader proposed three short-term increases in the amount the government can borrow while at the same time registering the disapproval of Congress for such a move.

McConnell's proposal would give Obama power to raise the debt ceiling by a total of $2.5 trillion, but also would require three congressional votes on the issue before the 2012 general election. The president would be required to identify spending cuts equivalent to each debt ceiling increase, though there would be no guarantee Congress would adopt the proposed cuts.

While some congressional Democrats promised to consider the plan, Obama has made clear his opposition to any short-term extension of the debt ceiling.

However, Cantor's statement Wednesday that no viable proposals have emerged was intended to show the McConnell plan had no chance of winning approval from the House, Republican congressional sources said.

Some conservatives are accusing McConnell of capitulating to the Democrats. The website redstate.com posted a story Tuesday with the headline: "Mitch McConnell Just Proposed the 'Pontius Pilate Pass the Buck Act of 2011.' "

In an interview Wednesday with Mandy Connell of WHAS radio, McConnell said his proposal was necessary because an acceptable deficit reduction deal was proving unattainable and the United States must avoid a default that would be "bad for Republicans."

"Given a choice between a bad deal and avoiding default, I choose to avoid default," McConnell said, adding that "if we were to go into default ... the practical effect of that will be to allow the president to make us co-owners of a bad economy."

He also said defaulting is "completely and totally unacceptable, and it's not going to happen."

After Wednesday's meeting, Cantor told reporters that "no one wants to rattle the markets."

Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minnesota, unveiled an alternative fallback plan Wednesday, introducing legislation designed to ensure members of the military and holders of U.S. debt are paid in the event the debt ceiling isn't raised. Bachmann, a conservative tea party favorite and 2012 presidential contender, accused Obama of "holding the full faith and credit of the United States hostage so that he can continue his spending spree."

In response, Carney told reporters that Bachmann's proposal amounts to accepting a U.S. default on its obligations, rather than offering a serious effort to prevent it from happening.

"That's not a Plan B. That's not a solution," Carney said.

For now, it remains unclear at best whether the two sides will be able to reach any agreement.

Cantor said that during Tuesday's negotiating session at the White House, Obama presented more details of his proposed cuts to entitlement programs. Republicans, according to Cantor, supported much of what they heard.

On Wednesday, Cantor reiterated GOP opposition to higher taxes and called on Obama to make public the details of what he is proposing in the negotiations "so that both Republicans and Democrats can make well-informed decisions about something of this magnitude."

Asked about going public with details of entitlement reforms being discussed, Carney told reporters that would run counter to the negotiating process and the principle that "nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to."

At the heart of Obama's call for more tax revenue would be allowing tax cuts from the Bush presidency to expire at the end of 2012 for families making more than $250,000. His plan would keep the lower tax rates for Americans who earn less.

Obama noted earlier this week he is not looking to raise any taxes until 2013 or later. He claimed he has "bent over backward to work with the Republicans" and not force them to vote on any revenue hikes in the short term -- a politically toxic move for the GOP's conservative base.

In exchange, Obama said, he wants to ensure that the current progressive nature of the tax code is maintained, with higher-income Americans assessed higher tax rates.

For his part, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner warned that time is running out. The secretary said he wants to see a deal to raise the debt limit and cut projected spending by the end of this week -- or next week at the latest -- so that Congress will have enough time to turn the deal into law. .

Salvaging Quality

SUBHEAD: A handsaw manufactured two generations ago has better steel than the one in Home Depot today.

 By John Michael Greer on 13 July 2011 for ArchDruid Report - (http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2011/07/salvaging-quality.html)

Image above: An old handsaw kept in good shape. From (http://www.woodworkforums.com/f152/identify-old-hand-saw-117740/).

It’s been a busy week for those of us who keep watch over the industrial world’s deepening tailspin, as politicians in the United States and Europe play a game of chicken using sovereign debt in the role traditionally filled by fast cars.

The issue in the United States is simple enough: the most that either side is able to offer, given its political commitments, is less than the least either side can afford to accept, and the occasional turns toward demagoguery on both sides haven’t exactly helped. It’s still possible that some last minute compromise may be hammered out, but the odds against that are starting to lengthen, and if that doesn’t happen, the financial end of the federal government will start seizing up in about three weeks.

It should be an interesting spectacle. Europe is a more complex situation. Greece, the current poster child for sovereign debt dysfunction, did what poor countries so often do, borrowed in foreign markets far beyond its ability to repay, and now can’t meet its bills. Unfortunately the normal way to resolve such problems – defaulting on the debt – would bankrupt quite a few large banks in other EU nations, and these latter have put pressure on their national governments to stave off a Greek default.

The problem here is that Greece is going to have to default sooner or later; the question is purely a matter of when The Greek government is in hock far beyond its ability to repay, and the austerity measures pushed on it by the cluelessly doctrinaire economists at the IMF have worsened the matter considerably by putting the Greek economy into a tailspin.

So it’s simply a matter of waiting for the inevitable to happen, and the credit markets to go into spasm accordingly. Mind you, the horrified utterances currently being splashed around the global media, claiming that default is unthinkable and unprecedented, are nonsense of the most blatant sort. Nations default on their debts all the time.

Russia did it in 1998, Argentina did it in 2002, and both nations survived; most European nations, for that matter, have defaulted on their debts more than once over the course of their history, and bankrupted plenty of banks in the process – that’s where we get the word bankrupt, you know. Defaults have always been one of the inescapable risks of lending to governments. EU governments could get realistic about this, let Greece do what countries with too much debt normally do, and spend their time more usefully writing letters of condolence to the bank executives who will be out of a job shortly thereafter.

 Come to think of it, it’s just possible that this is what EU governments are actually doing. The current flurry of handwaving and emergency meetings may be no more than a source of plausible deniability – we’re sorry, we did all we could, it was the fault of (fill in the blank to conform to local prejudices) that Greece crashed and took half Europe’s banks with it, blah blah blah.

For that matter, it’s not completely beyond the bounds of possibility that politicians on this side of the Atlantic are playing a similar game. The US is up to its eyeballs in unpayable debts, loaded down with entitlements and international commitments that it can’t afford but that no elected official dares to touch, and lurching toward a default as inevitable as Greece’s but on an almost unimaginably vaster scale. Nearly the only way to get out of the resulting trap with some chance of national survival would be to trigger a run on Treasury bills, now, that will force a default on the national debt in the near future, when both sides can conveniently blame it on the intransigence of the other party and the perfidiousness of foreign lenders.

It does seem unlikely that this level of public-spiritedness is at work in Congress and the White House, but I’d like to believe that it’s possible. These latest consternations, in turn, provide all the more relevance to the theme I’ve been discussing in the last couple of posts here, the possibility of shifting over here and now to the salvage economy that’s already beginning to emerge outside the narrowing circle of scarcity industrialism. This week I’d like to bring up another dimension of that shift, and talk about one of the unspoken and unspeakable realities of life in a declining industrial society: the pervasive phenomenon of stealth inflation.

By this I don’t mean inflation in the sense in which economists use the word, the decrease in the value of money driven by the expansion of the money supply relative to the supply of goods and services. That kind of inflation deserves much better press than it gets; though it’s denounced by all right-thinking people these days, it’s one of the safety valves by which a capitalist economy’s tendency to produce excess paper wealth gets brought back into step with the actual wealth in circulation, the nonfiscal goods and nonfinancial services that meet actual human needs. It thus serves exactly the same role, in a much more subtle and flexible way, as the negative-interest currencies being proposed by would-be financial reformers these days.

Stealth inflation is a good deal less laudable. It’s the process by which the price of goods and services remains the same, while the value of what’s provided for that price diminishes.

It’s sometimes done by decreasing quantities – most Americans over forty, for example, will remember the days when cans of soup and candy bars were a good deal larger than they are now – but far more often done by cutting quality. Sometimes this is a minor, even a subtle, factor; in other cases, it’s neither, and can quite easily become lethal in its effects. A good example of the first kind came my way a while back when a friend, knowing I like to cook with cast iron pans, found an elderly example in a secondhand store for some absurdly small price and gave it to me.

Because my wife has celiac disease – a severe enough case that relatively small traces of gluten can have unwelcome effects – I had to strip off the natural coating that cast iron cookwear gets when it’s well treated, and reseason the pan again, just as though it had been bought new. Even with this rough treatment, though, the old pan proved to be a much better piece of cookwear than any of the more recently manufactured cast iron pans I’d been using for a decade or so previously. Its inner surface has a much smoother finish, its metal conducts heat more evenly; this evening’s fried zucchini (fresh from the garden) was cooked in it, because no other pan I have does as good a job.

 This isn’t simply a matter of chance or a personal quirk. Ask any cast iron aficionado and dollars will get you doughnuts – perhaps these days I should say “credit swaps will get you crullers” or something like that – you’ll hear a similar story; the cast iron cookware you can buy in your local hardware store simply isn’t as good as the same products made a quarter century ago, and the difference is no small thing. I’ve heard the same thing in the very different context of craftspeople who work with old tools; the quality of the metal, they say, as well as the workmanship tends to be dramatically better in tools that are at least a quarter century old. In some cases the differences are enough to kill.

One of the nasty little secrets behind the rising toll from food poisoning in the United States and elsewhere is that a great deal of it could easily have been prevented by common sense sanitary procedures that used to be standard, but have been cut for the sake of lower per unit costs and higher quarterly profits. What makes this all the more embarrassing is that this is America’s second encounter with what happens to the safety and quality of processed food in a capitalist system under economic stress; Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle probably ought to be required reading for the pundits, and there are many of them just now, who fatuously insist that government regulation is always and everywhere a bad idea.

 The same purblind mania for gutting sensible regulation that freed the banking industry from the Glass-Steagall Act and its equivalents in other industrial nations, and at a stroke brought back the devastating bubble-and-bust economics that dominated the industrial world before the Glass-Steagall Act was originally passed, has had equivalent effects in many other sectors of economic life.

An acceleration in stealth inflation through declining quality is among the results. Still, there’s a deeper force pressing in the same direction, and it comes from the relentless mathematics of fossil fuel depletion and its impact on an economy founded on the expectation of constant growth. There has been a great deal of talk recently on the leftward side of the economic spectrum about the need to “decouple” economic growth from increases in the supply of energy. Still, as Zen masters are wont to say, talk does not cook the rice; insisting that economic growth can continue while energy supplies are stuck in a bumpy plateau does not make it so.

 The production of real, nonfiscal goods and services requires inputs of energy, as well as raw materials (which must be extracted by using energy) and labor (which in America, at least, usually uses a fair amount of energy, too). The only goods and services that can grow unchecked as energy supplies flatline are financial goods and services – that is, “goods” that consist of the essentially arbitrary tokens our society uses to allocate real wealth, on the one hand, and “services” that consist of shuffling and exchanging these tokens in more or less intricate ways, on the other.

As the cheap abundant energy that provided the basis for three centuries of industrial civilization stops being cheap and abundant, then, one of the consequences is a widening disconnection between the production of nonfiscal goods and services and the production of money in all its various forms.

Left to itself, the natural result would be a rising spiral of inflation in which the value of money declined steadily, to stay more or less in step with the amount of real goods and services available to buy. This natural result, though, is utterly unacceptable to the political classes – the people who take an active role in the political process – anywhere in the industrial world.

This has imposed any number of distortions on the global economy, but one of them is a constant push to keep the nominal rate of inflation as low as possible, thus sparing politicians the hard task of explaining to their constituents a reality that neither the politicians nor the constituents have yet begun to understand.

That push drives the widespread juggling of economic statistics across the industrial world, but I’ve come to believe that it also provides an important motive force behind stealth inflation. Large corporations have plenty of interfaces with governments, and governments have plenty of levers by which to influence corporate behavior for political ends; if the politicians in Washington DC, let’s say, decided that it would be really helpful if businesses increased their profit margins relative to their costs by some means other than raising prices, it doesn’t seem at all unlikely that this preference would be heard in corporate boardrooms, and play at least some role in shaping their decisions.

What this means for the individual green wizard, in turn, is that there’s every reason to think that a good many of the goods and services sold to consumers are going to continue to decrease in quality in the years ahead. That in turn implies at least two things. The first is that the strategy of salvaging energy discussed in last week’s post has an additional advantage, because what’s being salvaged in a good many cases is not simply an equivalent of what’s on the market today, but a better product, one that tolerably often will work better and last longer than a new product of the same type.

As we approach an age in which many goods may stop being available at all for extended periods, this is not an opportunity to ignore. The second implication is that those who learn the skills needed to take older products that are no longer working, or no longer working well, and recondition them so that they can return to usefulness, may find themselves with a job skill of no small importance in the emerging salvage economy. It’s not too hard, for example, to find old handsaws for sale very cheaply at flea markets and estate sales. Fairly often, after being handed down through a couple of generations, these have rusted blades, teeth that are dull and bent out of their proper set, cracked and damaged handles, and the like.

The steel of the blade, however, is very often of much higher quality than the equivalent new product in a hardware store today, and it doesn’t actually take that much in the way of skills and tools to remove the rust, polish the blade, reset and file the teeth, make a new handle out of hardwood and attach it to the old blade, and so on. The result is a saw that can be handed down for several more generations, and do a great deal of useful work in the meantime; it’s also a product that can be sold or bartered to craftspeople at a premium price. In at least a few cases, it’s also possible to go one step further and figure out how to manufacture products on a small scale to old specifications.

 I don’t have anything like the metallurgical knowledge to figure our what makes the difference between my old cast iron pan and my newer pans, but the information’s surely out there, and could be tracked down by someone with the necessary background. Whether or not there would be enough of a market to make this a paying proposition anytime soon is another matter; there are odd little niche markets that might at least pay the bills.

Myself, having more facility with words than with metals, I’m contemplating tracking down a basic letterpress and exploring the honorable profession of Benjamin Franklin. The printing press with movable type was invented in the Middle Ages, after all, and very likely can remain a viable technology no matter how far down the slope of decline we end up sliding. Under current conditions, it can help pay its own bills via handprinted wedding invitations and the like; as conditions change and the complex supply chains that keep computer printers and copiers functioning become more problematic, a printing press powered by human muscle and capable of running on supplies no more complex than paper and homebrewed ink may turn into a serious asset.

 Your mileage will unquestionably vary, and a second income refurbishing old items or using some outdated but sustainable technology will be the right choice for some people and the wrong choice for others.

I mention it here partly because a good many readers of these posts have asked about potential businesses and income sources in a deindustrializing world, and partly because a fair number of people out there in the peak oil blogosphere don’t yet seem to have thought through the fact that they’ll need to earn a living in one way or another during the long slow unraveling of the industrial economy.

That unraveling may have its sudden jolts, to be sure. If the politicians in Washington DC and an assortment of European capitals fumble the current situation spectacularly enough, this autumn could see an economic crisis on the grand scale, with markets seizing up, banks shutting down, and governments facing abrupt replacement by legal means or otherwise.

 Still, we’ll come out the other side of it, no doubt poorer but still faced with the ordinary challenges of the human condition; if learning how to recondition old tools allows someone to barter for necessities during the years ahead, that’s a positive step, and such positive steps on the individual scale are the raw materials from which the deindustrial future will gradually emerge.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Salvaging Energy 7/6/11
Island Breath: Salvage Societies 10/28/07 .

Blow Me!

SUBHEAD: The sense that people in Honolulu are "owed" this project may, by itself, be the biggest impediment to the Big Wind .

 By Andy Parx on 13 July 2011 for Parx News Daily -  

Image above: From (http://www.arttoyz.com/Traditional%20Media%20Landscape.html).

There's a big difference between an angry young man and an angry old man. While the former may be credited with social movements that change the world, the latter is usually associated with sending back soup in a deli. We never had a big problem with what many have contended is our own need for anger management, especially given the need for ginning up a good infuriated rant when the powerful take a dump on the little guy. But after some recent personal turmoil we've found that we just can't seem to find the requisite ire anymore, cold soup notwithstanding. Until, that is, we started to pay attention to what's being called "The Big Wind" project. For the uninformed the billion-dollar-idea is to build a slew of windmills in order to fulfill the wasteful gluttonous Honolulu population's bloated energy needs, not on O`ahu but on Lanai and Molokai, and connected by an underwater cable.

 And, in a SuperFerry redux, it seems that the state and the electric company HECO are going to ram it down the throats of the people who live there whether they like it or not. And like it they don't. On the PBS program Island Insights last week local Molokai activist Walter Ritte explained that on a recent trip to Honolulu he had to go shi-shi and walked up to the bathroom where on his approach the door opened up automatically. The the toilet flushed itself when he was done. Next the faucet rained down water without him touching it and when he finished washing his hands the self-activating paper towel dispenser automatic rolled out a sheet to dry his hands.

And, to paraphrase Walter, these people want to screw up half of Molokai rather than give up their robotic bathrooms. But the thing that spurs anger among Lanai and Molokai denizens is the same sense of entitlement by the Honolulu settlers and their local enablers who have taken the attitude that they are somehow owed the project.

And, the people who live there be damned, they're going to get it. Just like with the SuperFerry, O`ahu denizens just don't get it. They just can't figure out why we wouldn't welcome them to come in an take whatever we've got- which ain't much- since "we're all in the same canoe," forgetting that we've built our canoe to accommodate about a tenth as many people.

And if you want to see an example of exactly the attitude that irked Kaua`i and Maui then, and Molokai and Lanai today, you need look no further than a commentary in today's Honolulu Star-Advertiser by columnist and business lawyer Jay Fidell. He starts off demeaning the residents for even questioning the project calling objections "a litany of charges" and saying "(w)e all know that these endless demands for information and meetings aren't for a good reason, but only to perpetuate the potshots."

But it only gets worse. Fidell then launches into a rant of entitlement claiming that Honolulu's need is justification for turning Molokai into their personal power plant. He starts off by saying:
 Claims of ownership in the wind don't work in the 21st century, especially in a state that must shift to renewables, and quickly, to survive. The wind, like the air, is a public resource. No group, even an indigenous one, can "own" and deny it to others. These claims are not and cannot be in the public interest; they distract and obstruct implementation of the state's clean-energy mandate. 
And how exactly are you planning on harvesting that wind? From up in the sky? No, on the land- the land that serves first and foremost those who live there not people who think their wants justify the theft, as is the American custom. Then comes the big one - the extortionate threat we heard from many in Honolulu during the SuperFerry debacle.  
The rhetoric suggested that one island can tell another island to take a hike, but that's not sustainable when one island is dependent on taxes paid by the other. Aren't we all one state; don't these resources belong to all of us? Two islands, not even political subdivisions, openly turning their backs on state policy can only lead to constitutional crisis. Didn't we work this out in 1865? Grrrrrrrr. Why not cite 1893 Jay? Then comes the last refuge of a scoundrel in Hawai`i- the use of the tourism bureau sense of "aloha." Ritte has his own windmill and wants to return to subsistence living, which is his right. But he wants the many to support the few, and in return the few to withhold from the many. That ignores local values of kindness and sharing. 
Kindness and sharing? The real "local value" of aloha is respect. You don't come in with a sense of entitlement and take advantage of the good nature of the people to steal them blind- you ask and abide by the answer. It's reminiscent of the old story about how when westerners got here they had the bible and the people had the land. And in a few short years they had the land and all the people had was the bible. It's been said that the billion dollars could put photovoltaic system on every roof in Honolulu generating as much or more juice then the Big Wind project.

But then of course HECO couldn't really execute their business model of "we sell you electricity." Insanely enough, at one point Fidell argues against this suggestion by claiming that photovoltaic is "intermittent" in that it only generates electricity during the day. Of course he fails to mention that the same is true of wind which doesn't give juice when the wind stops blowing. Finally he says "the best thing (Ritte) can do for the people of Molokai is to negotiate a good benefits package. This would be a matter of fairness." Fairness?

What, your gonna give them $24 in beads and trinkets? Or another Mahele where this time you give them the land and they give you a community center and a highway right through the middle of the pristine area currently used by the majority of Molokai citizens for subsistence, according to Ritte. It should be noted that the offer of free electricity for the people of Molokai and Lanai has never been on the table.

The sense that people in Honolulu are "owed" this project may, by itself, be the biggest impediment to the Big Wind. But they didn't see the handwriting on the side of the SuperFerry and, it seems, they won't be noticing which way the wind is blowing now.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Lanai Challenges Bi g Wind 4/27/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Big Wind Storm 4/15/11


Humpback Whale Rescued

SUBHEAD: A young whale is trapped by fishing net in Sea of Cortez and is rescued by consrvationists.  

By Michael Graham Richard on 12 July 2011 for Treehugger - 

Image above: Young humpback whale freed from fishing net. Still from video below.

 Michael Fishbach, co-founder of the Great Whale Conservancy, and his family and friends definitely deserve the honor of being named honorary TreeHugger heroes!

On Valentine's Day of this year, 2/14/11, they found a giant Humpback whale that was entangled into a nylon fishing net, preventing it from moving freely and, most importantly, from coming back to the surface to breathe. Putting themselves at risk, Michael and his family carefully cut the net to free the whale... After much hard labor, they succeeded, and they were rewarded with quite a show!

 Video above: Rescue of humpback whale Valentina. From (http://youtu.be/EBYPlcSD490).

Michael Fishbach narrates his encounter with a humpback whale entangled in a fishing net. Gershon Cohen and he have founded The Great Whale Conservancy to help and protect whales. Visit their website www.eii.org/gwc/, facebook page, and join them in helping to save these magnificent beings. .

2nd Green Revolution - GMOs

SUBHEAD: Monsanto & Gates Foundation pushing GMO agriculture on African farmers.  

By Mike Ludwig on 12 July 2011 for Truthout -  

Image above: Gates Foundation gallery photo of African children and GMO corn. From (http://www.gatesfoundation.org/agriculturaldevelopment/Pages/ghana-profile-of-progress-photo-gallery.aspx#image=5).

Skimming the Agricultural Development section of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation web site is a feel-good experience: African farmers smile in a bright slide show of images amid descriptions of the foundation's fight against poverty and hunger. But biosafety activists in South Africa are calling a program funded by the Gates Foundation a "Trojan horse" to open the door for private agribusiness and genetically engineered (GE) seeds, including a drought-resistant corn that Monsanto hopes to have approved in the United States and abroad.

The Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) program was launched in 2008 with a $47 million grant from mega-rich philanthropists Warrant Buffet and Bill Gates. The program is supposed to help farmers in several African countries increase their yields with drought- and heat-tolerant corn varieties, but a report released last month by the African Centre for Biosafety claims WEMA is threatening Africa's food sovereignty and opening new markets for agribusiness giants like Monsanto.

The Gates Foundation claims that biotechnology, GE crops and Western agricultural methods are needed to feed the world's growing population and programs like WEMA will help end poverty and hunger in the developing world. Critics say the foundation is using its billions to shape the global food agenda and the motivations behind WEMA were recently called into question when activists discovered the Gates foundation had spent $27.6 million on 500,000 shares of Monsanto stock between April and June 2010.

Water shortages in parts of Africa and beyond have created a market for "climate ready" crops worth an estimated $2.7 billion. Leading biotech companies like Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer and Dow are currently racing to develop crops that will grow in drought conditions caused by climate change, and by participating in the WEMA program, Monsanto is gaining a leg up by establishing new markets and regulatory approvals for its patented transgenes in five Sub-Saharan African countries, according to the Centre's report.

Monsanto teamed up with BASF, another industrial giant, to donate technology and transgenes to WEMA and its partner organizations. Seed companies and researchers will receive the GE seed for free and small-scale farmers can plant the corn without making the royalty payments that Monsanto usually demands from farmers each season.

Monsanto is donating the seeds for now, but the company has a reputation for aggressively defending its patents. In the past, Monsanto has sued farmers for growing crops that cross-pollinated with Monsanto crops and became contaminated with the company's patented genetic codes.

In 2009, Monsanto and BASF discovered a gene in a bacterium that is believed to help plants like corn survive on less water and soon the companies developed a corn seed know as MON 87460. It remains unclear if MON 87460 will out-compete conventional drought-tolerant hybrids, but the United States Department of Agriculture could approve the corn for commercial use in the US as soon as July 11. Monsanto plans to make the seed available to American farmers by next year.

GE crops like MON 87460 can only be tested and sold in countries that, like the US, are friendly toward biotech agriculture. WEMA's target areas could add five countries to that list: South Africa, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and Mozambique. The Biosafety Centre reports that WEMA's massive funding opportunities pressure politicians to pass weak biosafety laws and welcome GE crops and the agrichemical drenched growing systems that come with them. Field trials of MON 87460 and other drought-tolerant varieties are already underway in South Africa, where Monsanto already has considerable political influence. Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda are expected to begin field trials of WEMA corn varieties in 2011.

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The agency that is implementing WEMA is the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), a pro-biotechnology group funded completely by the US government's USAID program, the United Kingdom and the Buffet and Gates foundations. The AATF is a nonprofit charity that lobbies African governments and promotes partnerships between public groups and private companies to make agricultural technology available in Africa. The Biosafety Centre accuses the AATF of essentially being a front group for the US government, allowing USAID to "meddle" in African politics by promoting weak biosafety regulation that makes it easier for American corporations to export biotechnology to African countries.

WEMA and AATF swim in a myriad alphabet soup of NGOs and nonprofits propped up by Western nations and wealthy philanthropists that promote everything from fertilizer to food crops with enhanced nutritional content as solutions to world hunger. Together, these groups are promoting a Second Green Revolution and sparking a worldwide debate over the future of food production. The Gates Foundation alone has committed $1.7 billion to the effort to date.

There was nothing "green" about the first Green Revolution of the 1950s and 1960s. As population skyrocketed during the last century, multinationals pushed Western agriculture's fertilizers, irrigation, oil-thirsty machinery and pesticides on farmers in the developing world. Historians often point out that promoting industrial agriculture to keep developing countries well fed was crucial to the US effort to stop the spread of Soviet Communism.

The Second Green Revolution, which is focused on Africa, seeks to solve hunger problems with education, biotechnology, high-tech breeding, and other industrial agricultural methods popular in countries like the US, Brazil and Mexico.

Africa has landed in the center of a global food debate over a central question: with the world's growing population expected to reach nine billion by 2045, how will farmers feed everyone, especially those in developing countries? The lines of the debate are drawn. The Second Green Revolutionaries are now facing off with activists and researchers who doubt the West's petroleum and technology-based agricultural systems can sustainably feed the world.

The African Centre for Biosafety and its allies often point to a report recently released by IAASTD, a research group supported by the United Nations (UN), the World Health Organization, and others. IAASTD found that industrial agriculture has been successful in its goal of increasing crop yields worldwide, but has caused environmental degradation and deforestation that disproportionately affects small farmers and poorer nations. Widespread use of pesticides and fertilizer, for instance, cause dead zones in coastal areas. Massive irrigation projects now account for 70 percent of water withdrawal globally and approximately 1.6 billion people live in water-scarce basins.

Increasing crop yields is the bottom line for groups like the Gates Foundation, but the IAASTD recommends that sustainability should be the goal. The report does not rule out biotechnology, but suggests high-tech agriculture is just one tool in the toolbox. The report promotes "agroecology," which seeks to replace the chemical and biochemical inputs of industrial agriculture with resources found in the natural environment.

In March, a UN expert released a report showing that small-scale farmers could double their food production in a decade with the simple agroecological methods. The report flies in the face of the Second Green Revolutionaries.

"Today's scientific evidence demonstrates that agroecological methods outperform the use of chemical fertilizers in boosting food production where the hungry live - especially in unfavorable environments," said Olivier De Schutter, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food and author of the report. "Malawi, a country that launched a massive chemical fertilizer subsidy program a few years ago, is now implementing agroecology, benefiting more than 1.3 million of the poorest people, with maize yields increasing from 1 ton per hectare to 2 to 3 tons per hectare."

De Schutter said private companies like Monsanto will not invest in agroecology because it does not open new markets for agrichemicals or GE seeds, so it's up to governments and the public to support the switch to more sustainable agriculture. But with more than a billion dollars already spent, the Second Green Revolutionaries are determined to have a say in how the world grows its food, and agroecology is not on their agenda. To them, sustainability means bringing private innovation to the developing world. The Gates Foundation can donate billions to the fight against hunger, but when private companies like Monsanto stand to benefit, it makes feeding the world look like a for-profit scheme.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Haiti protests Monsanto GMOs 1/21/11

Kauai Radiation in Perspective

SUBHEAD: Comparison of high background radiation on Kauai with readings while traveling by jet.

By Victor Cloutier on 12 July 2011 for Hawaiian Environmental Awareness -

Image above: From (http://knowledge.allianz.com/?1458/radiation-threat-nuclear-fallout-harmful).

I'm back on Kauai after three weeks of planes, trains, and automobiles... with a geiger meter in hand. Plane results... at 32,000 feet about 200 CPM average; 35,000 feet 440 CPM average; 38,000 feet over 500 CPM; and finally on one flight HNL-Vancouver our nice pilot brought us to 44,000 feet, 700 CPM average with some periods at over 800 CPM. This radiation is not from isotopes, but from being so high in the atmosphere that the ozone doesn't protect us.

Now, times about 20 hours in the air, I think I maxed out my yearly maximum. Anyone have the calculation chart for yearly maximum "safe" exposure? I wonder, though, why aren't pilots and air stewards getting cancer more often. In towns and cities where I traveled, some had levels of about 6-8 CPM, some about 10 CPM, many at about 11-13 CPM (typical level on my counter here on Kauai).

So looks like there are some lower zones than Kauai. In all, except for plane rides, nothing alarming popped up. I'm gonna look at hooking up to radiationnetwork,com website.

[IB Editor's note: Prolonged exposure to low level radiation can be a greater health hazard than short bursts of high doses.]

See also:
Ea O KA Aina: Kauai Radiation Levels 5/27/11 .