Power from the People

SUBHEAD: You trap a monkey by taking a jar, with a large piece of fruit in it, and staking it to the ground.  

By Juan Wilson on 3 March 2012 for Island Breath - 

Image above: A trapped monkey thinks he sees a better "jar" to stick his hand in. From (http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/energy-futurist/the-monkey-trap/255).

Yesterday we received a comment from a person named Valencia on our post of Gail Tverberg's excellent article on "True Sustainability Solutions" (http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2012/04/true-susatainability-solutions.html).

In her article Gail highlighted six points to achieving a low human population by living a lifestyle that would be sustainable on planet Earth. In brief the the points she made were;

  1. We should eat foods that are capable of growing like wild plants;
  2. We should not eat megafauna - cattle, pigs, tuna;
  3. Our shelter should be small with little heat and no AC cooling;
  4. Walking should be our primary transport;
  5. Medical treatment should be limited and low tech;
  6. We need to live in small groups of less than 150 people.
Her point was that these steps could bring us down to a population that might work for a robust population of large primates, like gorillas. Such a population could sustain itself for millennia without turning the planet into a Martian landscape.  

A Planet full of Love
All this seemed quite reasonable to me. I guess this makes me a doomster. At least that's the sense I had if Valencia's comment is taken seriously. You may not have seen the comment because it was entered mistakenly on the "KCC Beekeeping Courses" post that followed Gail's piece. The comment went like this:
The article written by Gail Tverberg is sadly so depressing. I cannot agree and my spirit cannot subscribe to such negative views and solutions. This is fact to me: We already have EVERYTHING we need to have a loving and sustainable planet. We have technology even now that can cure every cancer and heal every need - including transportation needs and feeding every human on earth. "All we need is love" is an apt song for all time. Through love we are even now tipping the scales that have too long been weighed down by greed and immature, self-centeredness. I do NOT subscribe to the premise that humanity is BAD. We are un-evolved and deceived by the mass hallucination of evil behavior justified by scarcity propaganda. That is changing. I am a part of that change. I will continue to cultivate a LOVE vibration and act in accordance with LOVE and KNOW that this behavior is contagious.
We put in bold what we think are particularly delusional points. We do not have the technology to feed, transport and cure the illness of all seven billion human beings alive today. In fact it is our technology (particularly related to petrochemicals) that have pushed that very human population to the point of bankrupting the Earth's resources.  

The Monkey Trap
 As the conversation stretches on about sustainability, self-reliance, alternative energy, food security, green technology, et al; it gets clearer and clearer. We humans are not willing to let go of anything in our grasp that provides comfort and entertainment, even if it means the destruction of the planet and therefore - ourselves. We find ourselves as the victims in the Parable of The Monkey Trap:

You trap a monkey by taking a jar and staking it to the ground. Then you take a piece of fruit that barely passes through the mouth and put it into the jar. When a monkey reaches in, the combination of the fruit and the monkey's paw is too big to be pulled out.

As long as the monkey hangs onto the fruit, it is trapped. When the hunter approaches, the monkey usually refuses to release the prized fruit until it is too late.
I would add that when Valencia says "I will continue to cultivate a LOVE vibration and act in accordance with LOVE." she might better get her hands dirty and cultivate food.  

Smart Meters with a Benefits
This brings us to how the Monkey trap plays out in our use of energy. Recently we received a Kauai Island Utility Cooperative press release that "sweetens the pot" for those that decide to join the Smart Meter Club. It said in part:
KIUC is seeking member volunteers to sign up for the new In-Home Displays (IHDs) pilot program. KIUC is one of 27 cooperatives in 11 states who are participating in this nationwide pilot program to install 3,859 IHDs.

The IHD pilot project is a component of the Smart Grid project that KIUC is set to deploy in May with the installation of Smart Meters. IHDs communicate energy consumption in a way that members can easily understand, it allows customers to easily track and compare their usage, make smart decisions about their consumption, and lessen their environmental impact through educated consumption.

In addition to showing energy usage and rate information, the display provides visual alerts for instant awareness of excessive demand in the home, via a red LED backlight. Some key benefits of the IHD:

  • Calculates and displays the cost of energy consumption
  • Actionable demand alert via LED lights
  • Environmental impact displayed with carbon emissions rate
  • Rates are always up-to-date (no need for members to input rate information)
In response to this program Michael Diamant, of Kalaheo, wrote a letter to the editor of The Garden Island News. It said;
Most of us lucky folks who live in paradise have just experienced the second island-wide power outage in less than 10 days. This latest outage lasted almost two hours in Kalaheo and longer in the Princeville area. KIUC said a transformer failure at Port Allen was the culprit.
Here’s a novel suggestion from a customer/owner of KIUC. Instead of spending tens of millions of dollars or more for smart meters, let’s spend that money to purchase a new, modern grid for our island.
After all, one would never think of commissioning a hand-made, jeweled leather saddle for a horse slated for the glue factory, now would one?
And to those spending big bucks on those full page ads trying to make a case against smart meters, re-direct your energy and money.
There is something more basic that is badly needed in paradise — electricity you can count on.
I have to grant Michael he's right about not spending exorbitant amounts of money on a horse headed for the glue factory - but that's exactly what he is proposing when he suggests we replace our current grid with a modern grid. But we cannot even afford the debt load on the one we are paying off now. This is a case of The Monkey Trap - wanting that banana in the chained down jar more than your own freedom. Andy Parx fell into this trap with his article, for Parx Daily News, responding to Michael's letter. Andy argues that:
Those who want to see Kauai participate or even lead the way in alternative, non-carbon, non-fossil fuel energy had better just give it up if the smart grid - and so smart meters - is not part of our energy future. People can forget about lower electric bills too because we will always be dependent on expensive fossil (and other carbon-generating) fuels for energy generation without the smart grid. Let's see if we can make this as simple as possible. Anyone who spends more than thirty seconds thinking about alternative sources of energy will realize that the most abundant and least environmentally disruptive sources here in the islands- solar and wind- are what they call "intermittent." The sun doesn't shine at night and is severely diminished when there are clouds or even rain storms. And the wind doesn't always blow. They cannot be counted on unless we want to be without electricity at different times. And few will disagree that they want enough electricity to make sure it's there when they flip the switch.
It is likely true that without the Smart Meters we cannot support a centralized electric grid whether it runs on fossil fuel or alternatives. Certainly, in the future we won't be able to afford (or have available) the 30 million gallons of diesel fuel KIUC burns a year. And as for the alternatives... If there is one thing sure, here in Paradise, it is that electricity from a centralized grid is something you will not be able to count on 24/7/365 on the most isolated land mass in the world. Moreover, it is not something that is basic or badly needed.

The Smart Meters and In-Home Displays are part of an effort to modernize a dinosaur after the K-T Boundary comet has already hit. The central grid is doomed. It is not scheduled to be less than half dependent of fossil fuels for over a decade (2023). It is our opinion that by 2023 we will be using almost exclusively alternative sources, and therefore the grid will provide only half the energy we use today. And that's the best case scenario based on a successful roll-out of solar, wind and hydro generation. Our guess is that we won't get halfway there before the financial world ceases up again and money won't be available to KIUC. If that's the case our grid will act much like grids in the rest of the world - sporadically. Power not available regularly with rolling blackouts the norm. Perhaps overnight scheduled shutdowns.

 Power from the People
The only alternative will be for you to make your own electricity - and over the long haul that won't be with a 3,000 watt Honda power generator from Kauai Marine & Mower. If you live in a residential neighborhood that will most likely be with solar panels. Wind generators are fine - in an open field on a large lot, in the right location. Wind towers needs to be above the tree line. A falling tower cannot land in a neighbor's yard. So if you live in Hanapepe Heights or Kapahi, it's not likely you'll have a chance at a 40' tall wind tower.

Besides, the generators and blades make noise, and with all those moving parts wind generators need a lot more attention than solar panels. Solar panels are historically cheap right now. Get some. Even with cheap panels, generating your own power takes time, some expertise and some real money. We recently added a stand alone solar panel system (24 volt, 900 watt) with battery storage (720 amp/hours) that will just handle our refrigerator and a small freezer chest. The cost was about $6,000 for just material and shipping - no labor cost. If we're careful the system might last until 2023. Then we'll adjust to the new future.


American Empire

SUBHEAD: The dawn of American Empire had impacts reaching well beyond the grabbing of Puerto Rico and Hawaii.  

By John Michael Greer on 29 March 2012 for Archdruid Report - (http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2012/03/america-two-empires.html)

Image above: USS Brooklyn, leads the American fleet in an all-out assault on Spanish cruiser squadron off Santiago, Cuba, July 3, 1898. From (http://www.cityofart.net/bship/frameset4.htm).

 It’s a curious feature of American history that some of its major turning points are best summed up by books. In the years just before the American Revolution, Thomas Paine’s Common Sense was the book; it had a huge role in focusing colonial grievances to the point that they were ready to burst into flame. In the years before the Civil War, it was Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin; that’s the book that made the North redefine a troubled national dialogue over a range of regional differences as a moral debate over slavery, pure and simple, and so pushed both halves of the country into positions from which they couldn’t back down short of war.

Both of those books stayed famous long after the issues they influenced were settled, and back when American children actually learned about American history in school, at least, most people knew the titles—though you won’t find many people of any recent generation who read either one. The book that played a similar role in launching America on its career as a global empire didn’t get the same kind of treatment. Unless you know a fair amount about military history, you’ve probably never heard of it.

Its title is The Influence of Sea Power upon History, and its author was Alfred Thayer Mahan. Mahan was an officer in the US Navy; he’d seen combat duty in the Civil War, and remained in the service during the postwar decades when the country’s naval forces were basically tied up at the dock and allowed to rot. In the 1880s, while serving at the Naval War College, he became a leading figure among the intellectuals—a small minority at that point—who hoped to shake the United States out of its focus on internal concerns and transform it into an imperial power.

He was among the most original of American military strategists as well as a capable writer, and he had an ace in the hole that neither he nor anybody else knew about when his book saw print in 1890: his good friend and fellow lecturer at the Naval War College, a New York politician and passionate imperialist named Theodore Roosevelt, would become president of the United States just over a decade later by way of an assassin’s bullet. Mahan’s theory of naval power was influential enough, then and now, that it’s going to be necessary to sketch out the central themes of his book.

He argued, first of all, for the importance of maritime trade to a national economy, partly because shipping was (and is) cheaper than land transport, and partly because most international trade had to go by sea; second, for the necessity of a strong navy to protect shipping routes and project force to defend national economic interests overseas; and third, for the need to establish permanent naval bases at a distance from the nation’s own shores, along important trade routes, so that naval forces could be refueled and supported, and so that a naval blockade could be effectively countered.

Mahan here was thinking about his own experiences with the Union blockade of the Confederacy during the Civil War, a crucial element in the North’s victory. He backed up all these points with detailed case studies from history, but his aim wasn’t limited to understanding the past; he was proposing a plan of action for the United States for the near future. In 1890, the United States had spent a quarter century following exactly the opposite advice.

The Union victory in the Civil War, as discussed in the last two posts, handed control of the nation’s economic policy to industrial and agrarian interests that wanted high tariffs and trade barriers to protect domestic industry. As those took effect, other nations followed suit by raising tariffs and barriers against goods from the United States, and America distanced itself from the global economy of the late 19th century.

Straight through the Long Depression of 1873-1896, economic self-sufficiency was one of the core elements of national policy; the idea was that American farms and factories should produce the goods and services Americans needed and wanted, so that the United States could avoid the state of permanent dependency British-supported policies of free trade, backed by the superlative size and power of the British Navy, was imposing on so many other countries at that time.

 As we saw in last week’s post (http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2012/03/america-crossing-line.html), though, Mahan’s advocacy of naval expansion came at a crucial time, when the wealth pump of America’s industrial system was struggling to keep from consuming itself, and a growing number of Americans were beginning to look enviously at Europe’s global empires.

The huge success of The Influence of Sea Power upon History—it was an international bestseller, was translated into more than a dozen languages, and became required reading for politicians and naval officers around the world—had a massive role in reformulating the debate around imperialism. Armed with Mahan’s logic, the proponents of an American empire could redefine the pursuit of global power in terms of the nation’s safety and prosperity.

 By the mid-1890s, the obsolete Civil War-era ships that made up what there was of the Navy a decade earlier were rapidly being replaced by a new fleet on the cutting edge of naval technology. All that was left was an opportunity to put the new fleet to use and begin carving out an American empire. That last step came in 1898, with the Spanish-American war.

Those of my readers who think that the neoconservatives marked any kind of radical departure from America’s previous behavior in the world should take the time read a book or two on this now-forgotten conflict. Spain at that time was the weakest of the European colonial powers, with only a handful of possessions remaining from her once-vast empire—a few islands in the Caribbean, notably Cuba and Puerto Rico, and the Philippines were among the most important.

The project of seizing Cuba from Spain had been a popular subject of discussion in the South in the years before the Civil War, when finding new acreage for the plantation system had been a central theme of regional politics; Mahan’s book argued forcefully that the United States needed at least one large naval base somewhere in the islands to the south of the US mainland, and the hope that new territorial possessions might become captive markets for American industry gave new incentive to the old plan.

The Phillippines were another matter. In the pre-trade barrier era before the Civil War, the United States had begun to establish a presence along the western shores of the Pacific, sending a fleet to wring trade concessions from Japan in 1853 and making substantial inroads into the lucrative markets in China.

The Civil War and the years of relative isolation that followed put paid to that, but regaining a place along the shores of east Asia was a high priority for the pro-empire party. The possibility of a US naval base in the Philippines was a tempting one, and added to the incentives for a war with Spain. All that was needed was a provocation.

That was provided, first, by propaganda campaigns in the American mass media accusing the Spanish government in Cuba of atrocities against the Cuban population, and second, by a boiler explosion aboard the USS Maine, one of the Navy’s new battleships, which was making a port call in Havana.

The explosion was instantly blamed on a Spanish mine; public opinion in the United States, fanned by the media, favored war; Congress, which in those days still fulfilled its constitutional role by setting policies that presidents were expected to carry out, duly declared war; US naval forces were already in position, and sailed at once.

 Ten weeks later Cuba and Puerto Rico were conquered, two Spanish fleets had been crushed in separate battles nearly half the world apart, and the United States had its overseas naval bases and its empire.

The American president at that time, William McKinley, was not among the cheering majority. He was no opponent of American expansion—it was during his presidency that the United States annexed Hawaii and what is now American Samoa—but service in the Union infantry in the Civil War gave him a more realistic attitude toward war, and he did what he could, with the limited power presidents had in those days, to stop the rush to war with Spain. He won reelection easily in 1900, but the next year he was killed by a lone gunman.

His vice president was none other than Theodore Roosevelt, who proceeded to turn Mahan’s strategic principles into national policy. It’s an interesting commentary on the difference between the two eras that nobody, as far as I know, has ever proposed a conspiracy theory to account for McKinley’s death.

The dawn of American empire had impacts reaching well beyond the handful of territories the United States seized and held in McKinley’s day. The same Congress that declared war against Spain had passed a resolution forbidding the annexation of Cuba—this was partly to win support for the war from the anti-empire faction in Congress, partly a bit of pork-barrel protectionism for the American sugar and tobacco industries—and that limit forced the proponents of empire to take a hard look at other options. The system that resulted was one that remains standard throughout the American empire to this day.

Cuba got a new constitution and an officially independent government, but the United States reserved the right to interfere in Cuban affairs at will, got a permanent lease on a naval base at Guantánamo Bay, and turned the Cuban economy into a wholly owned subsidiary of American commercial interests.

The result fed the wealth pump of empire, but cost the United States much less than an ordinary colonial government would have done. It also proved easy to export. In 1903, using a stage-managed revolution backed by US ships and Marines, the United States manufactured the new nation of Panama out of a chunk of northern Colombia, and established a Cuba-style government there under tight American control to provide a suitable context for a canal uniting the Pacific Ocean with the Caribbean Sea.

 Other Latin American countries fell under United States control in the years that followed, and had their resources fed into the increasingly busy wealth pump of American empire. Standards of living across Latin America duly began their long downward slide, while the United States boomed. Meanwhile, as one of the last major acts of his presidency, Roosevelt launched what would be the definitive announcement that America had arrived on the world stage: the voyage of the “Great White Fleet.”

In December 1907, sixteen battleships and their support vessels—their hulls painted stark white, the Navy’s peacetime paint scheme just then—sailed out of East Coast harbors to begin a voyage around the world, stopping at ports on the way. By the time they returned to Hampton Roads in February 1909, governments around the world had been forced to deal with the fact that a new power had entered the global political order.

All of this—Mahan’s theories, the Spanish-American war and its aftermath, the growth of a US empire in Latin America, and the military implications of America’s huge naval buildup and sudden attainment of global reach—was discussed at great length in books and periodicals at the time.

What very few people noticed, because the intellectual tools needed to make sense of it hadn’t been developed yet, was that the United States was developing what amounted to a second empire, parallel to the one just described, during these same years.

Where the imperial expansion we’ve just examined established an empire across space, this second empire was an empire across time. Like the move to global empire, this empire of time built on an earlier but more limited method of feeding the wealth pump, and turned a large but otherwise ordinary nation into a world power.

This “empire of time,” of course, consisted of the American fossil fuel industries. Where an empire extracts wealth from other countries for the benefit of an imperial nation, fossil fuel exploitation extracts wealth in the form of very cheap thermal energy from the distant past for the benefit of one or more nations in the present.

The parallels are remarkably precise. An empire is profitable for an imperial nation because that nation’s citizens don’t have to produce the wealth that comes from foreign colonies and subject nations; they simply have to take it, either by force or by unbalanced systems of exchange backed by the threat of force. In the same way, fossil fuel extraction is so profitable because nobody nowadays has to invest their own labor and resources to grow and harvest prehistoric trees or extinct sea life, or to concentrate the resulting biomass into coal, oil, and natural gas.

Equally, as we’ve seen already, empires go under when the wealth pump drives colonies and subject nations into poverty, just as fossil fuels become problematic when sustained extraction depletes them. In both cases, it’s a matter of drawing down a nonrenewable resource, and that leads to trouble. Nobody seems to know for sure when coal was first mined by European settlers in the New World, but the anthracite coal fields of eastern Pennsylvania were already being developed by the time of the Revolution, and the coming of the industrial revolution made coal an important commodity.

Like the real estate that fueled America’s westward expansion, coal was abundant, widely distributed, and of even more widely varying value; it was more than adequate to fuel the growth of a national economy, but not enough by itself to open the door to world power. It took the second empire of time—the one embodied in petroleum—to do that, just as the concentrated wealth that could be had from overseas empire made it possible for the United States to transform itself into a global force.

There’s another fascinating parallel between America’s overseas empire of space and its second empire of time. That latter began in 1859, with the drilling of America’s first oil well in western Pennsylvania, right about the time that the United States was making its first tentative movements toward intervention in Asia. For decades thereafter, though, petroleum was used mostly as a source of lamp oil.

It took a flurry of inventions in the 1880s and 1890s—right around the time the push for overseas empire was taking shape in the United States—to turn petroleum from a useful commodity to a source of nearly limitless mechanical power. It was in the wake of that transformation that the two empires fused, and the United States vaulted into global power. We’ll talk about that next week.


Cocos Island & US Drones

SOURCE: Koohan Paik (kosherkimchee@yahoo.com)
SUBHEAD: Besides rising seas, will American drones be just another hazard for Cocos islanders.  

By Paige Taylor on 2 April 2012 for the Australian - 

Image above: Signe Knight stands on Coco island's runway. From original island  

Signa Knight - a descendant of the original Malay slaves of the Cocos Islands - was one of the majority on the remote Indian Ocean outpost who voted in a UN referendum in 1984 to integrate with Australia.

That day was a proud moment for the lifelong islander.

But the 63-year-old now fears that the government he looked to for protection and a good future for his children has struck a deal with the US to turn his quiet island home, 2750km northwest of Perth, into a busy military base.
"I am worried about Americans coming. They go to war a lot. I think if they come here, they will do what they like."

Mr Knight, who was born and bred on Cocos's Home Island, believes his people will eventually be told about plans to increase the US military presence on the isolated chain of atolls but never asked.

The Gillard government confirmed last week that it was working towards a deeper military alliance with the US, which moves a significant step forward this week when the first company of 250 marines to be based in the Top End arrive in Darwin.

The expanded US military presence in Australia is likely to include giant unmanned patrol planes that would use Cocos (Keeling) Islands as well as aircraft carriers and nuclear-powered attack submarines based in Perth as part of efforts to refocus American defence resources in the region.

Defence Minister Stephen Smith said the Cocos Islands' airfield would require a $75 million to $100m upgrade before the territory could be used as a base for US Global Hawk drones and that the plans were a long way off.

A $28m upgrade of the Cocos airstrip is already under way, although it has nothing to do with drones and is more about much-needed repair work.

But what the US and Australian planners may not have taken into consideration so far is the present use of the land around the current airstrip as part of the island's golf course.

For 50 years, Cocos golfers have been allowed to play through the airstrip which forms part of the second hole. Space is at a premium on Cocos and, with three passenger flights and a freighter each week, the golfers can easily avoid planes. They know things would change if the tarmac became a busy military stopover.

Cocos golf club president Ashley James, who wears many hats on the island as a plant operator, tourist guide, airport security worker and marriage celebrant, led his members over the tarmac on Friday afternoon with clubs and Eskys full of beers. "We think of the tarmac as a water hazard," he said before teeing off.

The Cocos Islands became part of the British Commonwealth when in 1857 Captain Stephen Fremantle planted the Union Jack there in 1857 believing he was in the Andaman Islands.

Mr Knight was five years old when Britain handed sovereignty of Cocos to Australia in the mid-1950s. Since then he has seen the end of the island's copra industry and the end of the Clunies-Ross dynasty, which employed him as a labourer from the age of 14. In 1984, the islands voted for full integration into Australia. Today the roughly 600 residents are Australian citizens subject to Australia's laws and policy decisions.

Cocos promotes itself to tourists as "Australia's unspoilt paradise" and the laid-back lifestyle is highly valued by the workers who gravitate there from the mainland. The island's gross state product is just $15 million a year but its location is increasingly valuable.

One resident told The Australian locals sometimes felt like they were still not really wanted although obviously strategically significant. "We are like an unsinkable aircraft carrier and for some people in Canberra that is our worth," the resident said.

An Australian defense white paper says the Cocos Islands fall inside Australia's primary operational environment. "The sea-air gap to our north is at the strategic centre of our primary operational environment," the government policy paper says. "It affords us an opportunity to detect and respond to potentially hostile military incursions at sufficiently long ranges to enable an effective response before an adversary could reach Australian mainland territory and, in particular, key population centers and major infrastructure."

But in a warning for US and Australian military planners, residents have been told by a parliamentary inquiry that the potential effects of climate change will affect economic development.

On Home Island, where 80 per cent of the island's population about 400 Cocos Malays live, sandbags keep the beach in shape and the ocean at bay.

A 2009 federal report into "climate change risks to Australia's coast" singles out the Cocos Islands' 27 low-lying coral atolls as vulnerable. it noted:
"Sea-level rise will be particularly challenging for the Cocos Islands since the island elevations range from only 1m to 4m above existing sea level. Any change in mean sea level combined with storm surge would have significant consequences for settlements and human activity."
One end of the Cocos airstrip is about 100m from the sea. "Transport infrastructure including two ports, roads, the airport, buildings and water resources are all at 'definite' risk of damage due to climate change," the report found.

Mr Knight said any developments on the island should ultimately bring senior jobs for Cocos Malays. He is proud to claim that his two children were the first born-and-bred Cocos Malays to graduate from university but is disappointed that the island's most senior jobs are held by workers from the mainland.

"Twenty eight years ago next month we voted with the UN that was for the children, their education," he said. "Things are better than before but we still have no Cocos Malay chief executive officers, not even an acting CEO."

The Cocos Malay residents became owners of a co-operative that owns some of the islands' main businesses.

"I told my children 'study, don't be lazy' or they will be like me and have to work hard from 14 years old," he said. "I used to earn three rupee a week, the same as one Australian dollar."

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Despoiling Jeju Island 3/7/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Korean Island of Peace 2/26/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Hawaii - Start of American Empire 2/26/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Pacific resistance to U.S. Military 5/24/10
Ea O Ka Aina: Decolonizing the Pacific 5/20/10
Ea O Ka Aina: Living at the tip of the spear 4/15/10
Ea O Ka Aina: Diego Garcia - Another stolen island 11/6/09



SUBHEAD: The ultimate destination of "energy independence" will be a nation with no cars and trucks to run. By James Kunstler on 2 April 2012 for Kunstler.com - (http://kunstler.com/blog/2012/04/unthinkable.html) Image above: illustration of flying cars over Manhatten. From (http://futek-rna.blogspot.com/2010/05/flying-car-personal-wing.html). In the drunken, drug-crazed twilight of its run as Leader of the Free World, America's collective imagination swerves from one breakdown lane to the other while the highway patrol throws a donuts-and-porn party down at headquarters and the news media searches the gutter on hands-and-knees looking for the spot where it dropped its brains.
The other day, Larry Kudlow, the king popinjay at CNBC, told viewers that the US has over a trillion barrels of oil waiting to be drill-drill-drilled on our way to "energy independence." This is the kind of malarkey that America thrives on these days, the way yeasts thrive on sugary mash. It's a complete falsehood, of course, but the working dead over at The New York Times said substantially the same thing in a front-page story the week before. The Timespersons have only one source for their stories: Daniel Yergin, chief public relations pimp for the oil industry, because he makes it so easy for them by providing all the information they will ever need. The oil and gas companies would like to direct the fire-hose of loose and easy money out there into their stock prices - building to the magic moment when, Mozillo-like, the executives can dump shares, cut, and run for the far hills where no SEC officer or DOJ attorney will ever think to look. This is just another racket in an all-rackets society.
The fantasy of energy independence therefore takes shape as a "settled matter" as we lurch toward elections. The arch-moron Mitt Romney will inveigh against Obama for holding the oil dogs back while Obama pretends to spank the oil companies for gouging the public on that alleged Niagara flow of new oil. None of them understands the true situation, which is that the USA is enjoying one last gulp of a very expensive oil cocktail with the last few dollars it can prestidigitate out of the central bank's magic box, and then there is no more even notional surplus wealth to blow on more drinks.
And it isn't even much of a gulp. US production of "all liquids" - which includes methane gas drippings, ethanol, etc - went from 7.2 million barrels a day in 2004 to about 7.7 in 2011. We use about 19 million barrels a day, down about a million from peak US consumption before the financial crash of 2008. The reason it's down: Americans are going broke, one household and one small business at a time. Shale oil production is approaching half a million barrels a day. That's about 45 minutes of daily go-power. It might go up to an hour-and-a-half before production of shale oil permanently crashes on the combination of fast-depleting wells and a lack of capital to keep drilling new ones at $8 million per well.
The story for shale gas is similar, except that initial production was so exorbitant that it drove the price down to nearly nothing (the $2 range), and the bust from that Ponzi will be even more spectacular than the shale oil. Everyone from Mr. Obama to the chiselers who run Citigroup maintain that there is a one hundred year supply of gas in the USA. They are going to be very disappointed. The public, on the other hand, will not even remember what they said as they burn down the cornfields in anguish.
I met a guy at the pumps last week who was filling up a pickup truck at least twice the size of mine a few yards away. I asked him how things were going fuel-wise with that monster Ram-Charger he was feeding. At more than $100 a fill-up, it was killing him he said. His line-of-work required him to drive all over the county incessantly. His reality was a bit different from the oil company execs promising limitless horizons of oil to CNBC-watching retirees desperate for some "yield" on investment in the face of ZIRP bond rates. The price of oil (and gasoline) may well crash again, but when it does, there will be fewer business reasons for anyone to drive around the county all the live-long day, and that guy's Ram-Charger could fall into the hands of the re-po goon squad. He may never be able to get another one, either. No more money for truck loans. Capital shortage. Sorry.
This oil and gas thing cuts so many ways that the public will feel like it is gargling Gillette blue blades. Just add up the total tonnage of steel necessary to keep this Ponzi going and you would reach a discouraging conclusion: this thing has nowhere to go but swift and implacable contraction. The ultimate destination of "energy independence" will be a nation with no cars and trucks to run. We'll get there, you'll see. But that is speaking the unthinkable.

Goodbye Hawaii Environmental Law

SOURCE: Shannon Rudolph (shannonkona@gmail.com)
SUBHEAD: The proposed bill SB 755 will exempt state construction projects from following environmental regulation.  

By Gary Hooser on 1 April 2012 for Environmental Quality Control -  

Image above: Morning rush hour along H-1 in Honolulu on Oahu. From (http://apeclive.blogs.civilbeat.com/post/12605413843/8-51-a-m-morning-traffic-jam).
Going to be a long day tomorrow. At 5pm the House Finance Committee hearing will begin. That usually means a late evening. SB755HD2 that purports to exempt State construction activity from various public interest and environmental protections is being heard.
Part 1 |The purpose of this Act is to promote economic development by temporarily removing regulatory restrictions to the expeditious construction of certain state and county projects. The legislature finds that the economic recovery has not been robust. One strategy to promote economic revitalization is by way of capital expenditures on public infrastructure projects. This strategy will generate jobs and infuse dollars into the local economy. Additionally, the public infrastructure constructed will benefit the general public.
Part II Temporarily (until 2015) exempts airport structures and improvements from the special management area permit and shoreline setback variance requirements when the structures and improvements are necessary to comply with FAA regulations.
Part III Temporarily (until 2015) authorizes the department of land and natural resources and department of transportation, with the approval of the governor, to exempt department projects from the special management area permit and shoreline setback variance requirements.
Part IV Exempts all work involving submerged lands used for state commercial harbor purposes from any permit and site plan review requirements for lands in the conservation district.
Part V Temporarily (until 2015) authorizes a more streamlined process for exempting state and county projects from the environmental review process of chapter 343, HRS, and reduces the deadline for challenging the lack of an environmental assessment for a state or county project.
As the Director of Environmental Quality Control I will be offering testimony in strong opposition as this is not an environmentally friendly measure and has the potential of setting very bad precedents for Chapter 343 (Environmental Impact Statement law).

Read the Bill here http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/session2012/bills/SB755_HD2_.pdf and make up your own mind. In any case...get involved please. Read the Bill, make up your own mind and then submit testimony in your own words. And SHARE with your facebook friends. This is important. Read the history of the measure, the votes and other peoples testimony here on the "status sheet"...but IGNORE materials prior to January 2012 as the Bill was changed since that time into what it is today. (http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=SB&billnumber=755)

Measure Status:
(http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=SB&billnumber=755) See also: Ea O Ka Aina: Gutting Environmental Protection 1/23/12

What is Neal Abercrombie?

SUBHEAD: A measured look at the Hawaii Governor. Who have we got here?

 By Reed Flickinger on 1 April 2012 for Hawaii Today -  
When Gov. Neil Abercrombie shows up, the first question asked is “which Abercrombie is here today?”

Abercrombie is a polished and consummate politician. By his own accounting, he has matriculated through 40 or more election cycles. This old campaigner knows all the tricks, from public persuasion to private positioning.

When the governor came before the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce on Thursday in what has become something of an annual appearance, he was playing to the audience. Those in attendance got a new Neil.

Abercrombie Thursday was a different animal from the man who campaigned here several years ago, as he sought the Democratic gubernatorial nomination from voters. That Abercrombie was sensitive to labor, currying favor and support for his candidacy. He was essence of liberal policies, keen to protect the environment, aware of cultural concerns and ready to please those Democratic Party voters who saw his opponent, Mufi Hannemann, as the candidate who pledged to take a no-nonsense business approach to the Capitol.

How times change.
Or is it audiences?

Thursday the Neil Abercrombie who played in Kona was a tough-talking, union-challenging, pro-business, anti-activism, red tape-cutting kind of guy. Or at least that was the persona he put forward for the eager crowd he played to at the Keauhou Beach Resort.

Remember, this is the same governor who last year publicly spoke against raising the state’s general excise tax, but who, according to several legislators, privately told them: Raise it.
Which is it? Which Neil? Which direction?

To the Kona business community, Abercrombie first took the traditional political approach: Outline the fiscal mess you inherited, then show how you have turned everything around. Abercrombie’s mess, he said, was a $200 million to $250 million deficit “and one year later we had a $126 million balance.”

He said he “held off” on CIP projects for the first 20 months of his term, holding the fiscal line. And he refinanced $500 million of existing debt at a 2.2 percent rate. Then, because of the state’s improved fiscal standing, had $4.3 billion offers for a $1.3 billion bond and he sought a premium and got $100 million in savings to “pay bills from the Hurricane Relief fund and the rainy day fund so those could be returned,” though that has actually yet to occur.

Abercrombie rattled off fiscal responsibility, some of it his doing, some an improving visitor industry. He talked about Hawaii’s debt and its relatively small population, yet he didn’t mention our more than 6 million annual visitors who come here and pay general excise taxes, rental car and transient accommodations taxes and many more fees. State revenues and revenue projections overall have improved and are improving.

China, Abercrombie said, was a market of 300 million potential visitors to Hawaii, a destination he said should be pitched as the Hawaiian Islands, and subject not only to direct flights but also visa waivers. He then touted his time in Washington and its correlated connections to the State Department, Armed Services Committee, Leon Panetta and finally Barack Obama as an entry way to achieve a visa waiver “demonstration project in Hawaii.”

On a roll, Abercrombie then said the Thirty Meter Telescope project atop Mauna Kea “will move forward. There will be no more obstruction from someone who found their cultural roots six minutes ago.”

The governor also said there should be “hookup between the Thirty Meter Telescope and the university campus at Palamanui,” which, while sounding wonderful and practical, is absurd, since the Palamanui institution will be a community college, not a university, and is separate from the University of Hawaii. Not to mention the political forces at UH-Hilo would not relinquish any aspect or prospective addition to its astronomy quiver. Abercrombie’s comments did, however, go a long way toward continuing the community misconceptions and false expectations regarding the campus in Kona.

He also revisited the past, which he experienced, as he renewed the late 1960s and 1970s call for as much as 1,000 megawatts of geothermal production on the Big Island, as well as the interisland cable. “Geothermal is just fabulous and the whole key to renewable energy is the Big Island, but we cannot think of it without the cable.”

Geothermal opponents from the past, he said, “have examined geothermal and have seen the light.”
Abercrombie then leaned further to the right and addressed environmental laws, sounding particularly and uncharacteristically conservative. Moving projects forward, in light of environmental laws, is important, but he said he “helped write some of those laws” and “they are not meant to stop things.” “Historic preservation (laws) never meant ‘I don’t like it so I’m going to stop it.’”

He spoke of his quest for authority to move past “pseudo-environmental” and cultural issues to fast-track things, adding “if you don’t approve, throw me out of office; I am accountable.” He then took a strong right jab at due process and a long stride from constitutional balance of powers and said he’d like to throw some of the environmental and cultural opponents of projects “out of court.”

Abercrombie, citing proudly his former union organizing and work with the AFL-CIO, then took issue with the Hawaii State Teachers Association’s leadership and the floundering contract negotiations between the teachers and the state, claiming their key issue is over his constitutional authority.

This was a different Neil Abercrombie, a Democrat sounding particularly conservative and Republican in tone. But he was aware of the group he was addressing. His message might change next week, were he to be speaking to the Sierra Club or membership of the Hawaii Government Employees Association. It makes for interesting times, wondering what he will come up with next, and which Neil Abercrombie we will be hearing from.

After the election, many former union supporters were heard openly asking, “Who is this guy? It isn’t the guy we heard campaigning.”

It’s the new Neil, remade at every turn — and with every audience.
The bigger question, however, is not who he is, rather what we ultimately will see as an end product?

KCC Beekeeping Courses

SUBHEAD: Apiary Courses offered in April and May at Kauai Community College. By Jimmy Trujillo on 24 March 2012 in Island Breath - (jtrujill@hawaii.edu) Image above: Bee hive that took over an outdoor 10" speaker enclosure, at the editor's home in Hanapepe Valley, and was rescued by Jimmy Trujillo and friends. In all over 1500 healthy bees and several young queens-to-be were saved from acid rock. Photo by Juan Wilson. WHAT and WHEN: Beginner: Intro to Beekeeping: Seven hour course, over two Saturdays: April 14, 9am to 12pm, and April 21, 9am to 1pm The cost is $45.00 [Editor's Note: I took this course last fall, and highly recommend it. It presents the basics of beekeeping in an interesting way, and gives supervised hands on experience in a bee suit with the KCC hives.] Intermediate: Apiary Development -- Building up your apiary Swarm Traps, Swarm Collection & Removal, Hive Splits Twelve hour course, over 3 Saturdays, April 21, 2pm to 6pm; April 28, 1pm to 5pm; May 5, 1pm to 5pm. The cost is $75.00 Intermediate: Apiary Management: Products from the Hive Honey Harvest and Wax Melting Process Ten hour course over two Saturdays: May 12, 12pm to 6pm, May 19 1pm to 5pm The cost is $65.00 WHERE: All courses will be offered at the Bee Lab and TECH room 114, Kauai Community College Information: To register call the Office of Continuing Education (OCET) at 245-8318. For more information contact Jimmy Trujillo at 346-7725. See also: Ea O Ka Aina: Kauai Beekeepers Association 3/12/09 .

True Sustainability Solutions

SOURCE: Ken Taylor (taylork021@hawaii.rr.com)
SUBHEAD: We just look at slightly greener approaches which are almost as unsustainable as ones they replace.  

By Gail Tverberg on 31 March 2012 for Our Finite World - 

Image above: A neolithic human setllement painted in 1957 by Zdenek Burian. See many more of his paintings of early humans at (http://neat-stuff-blog.blogspot.com/2011/06/prehistoric-man.html).

We live in a world with very limited solutions to our sustainability problems. I often hear the view, “If we would just get off fossil fuels, then our society would be sustainable.” Or, “If the price of oil would just go high enough, then renewables would become economic, and our economy would be sustainable.”

Unfortunately, our problems with sustainability began a long time before fossil fuels came around, and the views above represent an incomplete understanding of our predicament. When fossil fuels became available, they were a solution to other sustainability problems–rapid deforestation and difficulty feeding the population at that time. Getting rid of fossil fuels would likely lead to very rapid deforestation and many people dying of lack of water or food. If getting rid of fossil fuels is a solution to our predicament, it is one with very bad side effects.

A couple of different events this week reminded me about how deeply embedded our sustainability problems are. For one, I had the opportunity to read a draft of a soon-to-be published paper by James H. Brown and a group of others from the University of New Mexico and the Sante Fe Institute called, “The Macroecology of Sustainability.” This paper points out that sustainability science has developed largely independently from and with little reference to key ecological principles that govern life on earth. Instead, sustainability science is often more of a social science, looking at slightly greener approaches which are almost as unsustainable as the approaches they replace.

A second thing that reminded me of our long-term problems with sustainability was a pair of articles in this week’s issue of Science. There is a research article called, The Aftermath of Megafaunal Extinction: Ecosystem Transformation in Pleistocene Australia by S. Rule et al, and an accompanying perspective article called The Hunters Did It by M. McGlone. The perspective article explains that there had been a controversy as to why marked changes in habitat took place shortly after humans settled Australia. Some thought that the loss of forest and animal extinctions were the result of climate change. New research shows that the changes almost certainly came from hunting and the use of fire by humans. This is further evidence that humans did not live sustainably, even when they were still hunters and gathers. (See my earlier posts, European Debt Crisis and Sustainability and Human population overshoot–what went wrong?)

Below the fold, I will offer some ideas about truly sustainable solutions.

Truly Sustainable Solutions
Humans at this point do not fit in at all well with the natural ecology–the natural systems of plants and animals. In fact, we have disturbed these systems greatly, making natural systems “fit” into the little niches we have reserved for them. In order for humans to fit back into natural systems, it almost seems as though humans would have to evolve to become more like monkeys or gorillas. We would need to stop living in houses, wearing clothes, and cooking our food. It would be helpful to be able to live in trees, to stay away from predators. Somehow, this doesn’t sound at all appealing, or likely.
But if we think about the situation, it yields a few ideas regarding where we need to be, if we are to live in an ecologically sustainable way:
  1. In terms of local foods, we need to focus on foods that truly grow wild, or with very little support, in our area. We may need to discard some foods that can be grown today, but which require soil amendments which must be hauled from a distance, sprays for insects, irrigating, or much tilling.
  2. To limit our ecological impact, we should be eating plants and perhaps small animals (including birds, fish, and insects) that reproduce in large numbers. We certainly should not be eating cows and pigs grown on industrial farms. The food we eat should be minimally processed–not packaged or finely ground. If we could eat food raw, that would be ideal, from the point of not disturbing other systems. The human digestive system has evolved to work better with cooked food, however, so cooking will probably be necessary, perhaps using solar cookers.
  3. Our housing should be simple. We certainly shouldn’t be building more huge houses and buildings. We shouldn’t expect buildings to be heated very much, and probably not be cooled at all.
  4. Walking should be our primary means of transportation. Perhaps dug out canoes or rafts would also be suitable for fitting in with the ecosystems.
  5. Medical treatment should largely disappear, because it interferes with normal evolutionary processes and because it tends to leave a large dependent elderly population. It also tends to lead to far too high a population in total.
  6. We probably need to live in smallish groups (150 people) and have an economy based on a gift economy. With such an economy, people gain status by what they give away, rather than what they accumulate. Land would probably be shared in common. No one would be wealthy.
If Truly Sustainable Solutions are Impossible
If truly sustainable solutions are virtually impossible, then what do we do? There are 7 billion humans on earth. If human populations were similar to those of monkeys or gorillas, there would probably not be more than more than 1 million (with an “m”) humans in the world, mostly living in warm places. Our basic problem now is that there are far too many of us.

Some choices that might slightly reduce our impact:

1. Reduce our incomes. The amount of resources a person uses is mostly determined by a person’s income. If a person cuts back on his income, he will use less. Trying to cut back within the same income is less effective, because the money a person doesn’t spend one place is likely to be spent somewhere else. (This is one reason that many attempts at being “green” don’ t really work out.)

2. Plant at least some food crops. This too, disturbs the natural ecology, but it is about as good as we can do. If perennial plants are planted, it is possible that others will benefit as well. Animals, birds, and insects may also get some benefit from the crops.

3. Share what petroleum is available more equitably. If I use less oil, by driving a smaller car, or by driving fewer miles, it doesn’t mean that petroleum will be left in the ground. What it does mean is that the gasoline or diesel that I didn’t buy will be available for someone else to buy. This rather strange result happens because total oil supply is pretty much “maxed out”–total world oil supply doesn’t increase by very much, even with more demand. Instead, all that happens is that price rises. If I use less, price may drop a bit, but the same amount of oil in total will be consumed. So by using less petroleum, someone else, somewhere can use more. The result is better sharing of what oil is available.

4. Have smaller families. One child, or even no-child, families are to be encouraged.

How about all of the “green” things that we hear about?
I have a hard time believing that most of the “green” solutions presented to us today are more than marginally beneficial from an ecological point of view. Even substitutes like wind turbines and solar PV have their difficulties. Most of the time wind and solar PV are used as parts of large electrical grids, and the grids themselves are not sustainable. In addition, we have to disturb natural ecological systems to make and use these systems. The intermittent electricity they produce is not a reasonable substitute for petroleum, which is the fuel we are having most difficulty with.

The problem our economy is facing now is recessionary impacts associated with high-priced oil. High priced substitutes are even worse, in my view. If low-priced substitutes for oil are available, they may make sense. For example, if natural gas could substitute for oil that would be a small step in the right direction, but even natural gas has its difficulties–it too produces CO2 when burned and it is out of synch with the natural ecology.

If there are “green” solutions that are helpful and not too ecologically disturbing, I expect that most of them will be smaller and simpler–for example, small windmills made with local materials, or small water wheels. Recycled materials may be used for some of these–perhaps parts of old autos or recycled building materials.


Techno Optimistic Claptrap

SUBHEAD: The worst kind of pretentious insincere nonsense that apologizes for industrial consumerism. By Juan Wilson on 31 March 2012 for Island Breath - (http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2012/03/techno-optimistic-claptrap.html) Image above: A plastic rabbit out of a 3D printing tophat called Thing-O-Matic. From (http://www.digitaltrends.com/computing/what-is-3d-printing-a-beginners-guide-to-the-desktop-factory/). This piece below by Jeremy Rifkin struck me as an exercise in delusional thinking used for mass deception. When Rifkin mentions that "mobile phones, auto and aircraft parts, medical implants, and batteries are being 'printed out' with 3D printers he is talking about industrial design components created by professionals as prototypes - not finished manufactured items. With the introduction of 3D Systems' first commercial 3D printers, about 20 years ago, the industrial design of mass produced products has been revolutionized - especially complex 3D entities like auto taillight assemblies. But once the design is settled the actual production is still done using plastic injection molding technology. The idea that your average Joe will design and "print-out" something even as simple as a usable/durable ratchet-set or Vise-grip made out of plastic from a consumer 3D printer hooked up to a laptop is ridiculous. The stresses on these "printed" plastic products would be too great for practical application, moreover temperature, oxygen and sunlight would quickly degrade the "printed" tool into the plastic dust it came from. The level of engineering and computer skills necessary to 3D model and 3D print a complicated object are comparable to the skills needed to chisel a near likeness of a loved one out of marble. Forget about home economically manufacturing needed items with a home computer for your community with a 3D printer. Even the idea of for publishing a 500 copies of a 16 page newsletter with a home 2D inkjet printer is not economical or realistic. I agree with Rifkin that "millions of people will create their own energy" but their consumption of energy will be a mere fraction of today's. Home lighting will be doable, but the average home will likely not have enough power for a refrigerator and freezer running 24/7/365. Moreover, I think the Third Industrial Revolution will take us back to an economy, that existed when I was a child in the mid 20th century, where most things will be made of wood, metal, glass, paper and/or fiber... not a complicated cocktail of petro-chemicals with traces of rare earth elements. Well so much for a critique on techno-optimism and onto Rifkin's article and take on future industrialism. See also: Ea O Ka Aina: The Hero's Way 1/13/12 by Juan Wilson
The Third Industrial Revolution

By Jeremy Rifkin on 28 March 2012 for Huffington Post - (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeremy-rifkin/the-third-industrial-revo_1_b_1386430.html)

The great economic revolutions in history occur when new communication technologies converge with new energy systems. New energy revolutions make possible more expansive and integrated trade. Accompanying communication revolutions manage the new complex commercial activities made possible by the new energy flows.

Today, Internet technology and renewable energies are beginning to merge to create a new infrastructure for a Third Industrial Revolution (TIR) that will change the way power is distributed in the 21st century. In the coming era, hundreds of millions of people will produce their own renewable energy in their homes, offices, and factories and share green electricity with each other in an "Energy Internet" just like we now generate and share information online. The creation of a renewable energy regime, loaded by buildings, partially stored in the form of hydrogen, distributed via a green electricity Internet, and connected to plug-in, zero-emission transport, opens the door to a Third Industrial Revolution.

While the TIR economy allows millions of people to produce their own virtual information and energy, a new digital manufacturing revolution now opens up the possibility of following suit in the production of durable goods. In the new era, everyone can potentially be their own manufacturer as well as their own internet site and power company. The process is called 3-D printing; and although it sounds like science fiction, it is already coming online, and promises to change the entire way we think of industrial production.

Think about pushing the print button on your computer and sending a digital file to an inkjet printer, except, with 3-D printing, the machine runs off a three-dimensional product. Using computer aided design, software directs the 3-D printer to build successive layers of the product using powder, molten plastic, or metals to create the material scaffolding. The 3-D printer can produce multiple copies just like a photocopy machine. All sorts of goods, from jewelry to mobile phones, auto and aircraft parts, medical implants, and batteries are being "printed out" in what is being termed "additive manufacturing," distinguishing it from the "subtractive manufacturing," which involves cutting down and pairing off materials and then attaching them together.

3-D entrepreneurs are particularly bullish about additive manufacturing, because the process requires as little as 10 percent of the raw material expended in traditional manufacturing and uses less energy than conventional factory production, thus greatly reducing the cost.

In the same way that the Internet radically reduced entry costs in generating and disseminating information, giving rise to new businesses like Google and Facebook, additive manufacturing has the potential to greatly reduce the cost of producing hard goods, making entry costs sufficiently lower to encourage hundreds of thousands of mini manufacturers -- small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) -- to challenge and potentially outcompete the giant manufacturing companies that were at the center of the First and Second Industrial Revolution economies.

Already, a spate of new start-up companies are entering the 3-D printing market with names like Within Technologies, Digital Forming, Shape Ways, Rapid Quality Manufacturing, Stratasys, Bespoke Innovations, 3D Systems, MakerBot Industries, Freedom of Creation, LGM, and Contour Crafting and are determined to reinvent the very idea of manufacturing in the Third Industrial era.

The energy saved at every step of the digital manufacturing process, from reduction in materials used, to less energy expended in making the product, if applied across the global economy, adds up to a qualitative increase in energy efficiency beyond anything imaginable in the First and Second Industrial Revolutions. When the energy used to power the production process is renewable and also generated on site, the full impact of a lateral Third Industrial Revolution becomes strikingly apparent. Since approximately 84 percent of the productivity gains in the manufacturing and service industries are attributable to increases in thermodynamic efficiencies -- only 14 percent of productivity gains are the result of capital invested per worker -- we begin to grasp the significance of the enormous surge in productivity that will accompany the Third Industrial Revolution and what it will mean for society.

The democratization of manufacturing is being accompanied by the tumbling costs of marketing. The internet has transformed marketing from a significant expense to a negligible cost, allowing startups and small and medium size enterprises to market their goods and services on internet sites, like Etsy, that stretch over virtual space, enabling them to compete and even out compete many of the giant business enterprises of the 21st Century.

As the new 3-D technology becomes more widespread, on site, just in time customized manufacturing of products will also reduce logistics costs with the possibility of huge energy savings. The cost of transporting products will plummet in the coming decades because an increasing array of goods will be produced locally in thousands of micro-manufacturing plants and transported regionally by trucks powered by green electricity and hydrogen generated on site.

The lateral scaling of the Third Industrial Revolution allows small and medium size enterprises to flourish. Still, global companies will not disappear. Rather, they will increasingly metamorphose from primary producers and distributors to aggregators. In the new economic era, their role will be to coordinate and manage the multiple networks that move commerce and trade across the value chain.

The rapid decline in transaction costs brought on by The Third Industrial Revolution are leading to the democratization of information, energy, manufacturing, marketing, and logistics, and the ushering in of a new era of distributed capitalism that is likely to change the very way we think of commercial life in the 21st Century.


The Cost of Affluence

SUBHEAD: What does the future hold? First, a warning: Abandon hope all ye who enter here. By Guy McPherson on 30 March 2012 for Nature Bats Last - (http://guymcpherson.com/2012/03/the-cost-of-affluence/) Image above: Polar bear's fate. From several sites including (http://greatgreenbe.wordpress.com/2011/12/09/frozen-planet/). In a letter to Ernest de Chabrol dated 9 June 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote: “As one digs deeper into the national character of the Americans, one sees that they have sought the value of everything in this world only in the answer to this single question: how much money will it bring it?”

Nearly two hundred years later, de Tocqueville has been vindicated not only as a superb social critic but also as a forecaster. Knowing nothing about de Tocqueville, the ten-year-old son of a friend put his own spin on recent history: “Mom, I think people value Father Time more than they value Mother Earth.” His words sting me like freezing rain, squeezing tears from the corners of my eyes. There’s nothing new there for me, except the perspective of youth: I often weep when I think about the hellishly overheated world we’re leaving him and his young friends. We’re destroying this world in large part because we care more about chasing fiat currency than we care about the living planet and its occupants.

Although it seems unlikely they met, de Tocqueville was writing during the time of the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. As if he, too, could see the future, Kierkegaard was plagued with anxiety. However, Kierkegaard didn’t call anxiety a plague: As he pointed out, anxiety is fundamental to our sense of humanity. Although I’m tempted to discard Kierkegaard’s every thought based simply on his ludicrous leap of faith, I can’t convince myself to disagree with him about anxiety. His writings about anxiety resonate with me as strongly as anything I’ve read by Lao Tzu, Schopenhauer, or Leopold.

It’s small wonder I’ve slept so poorly since August of 1979, when I reached a vague, subconscious understanding of the dire straits in which humanity is immersed. More than three decades after that summer of my nineteenth year, “my distress is enormous, boundless,” and growing by the day. I envy those who know about ongoing climate change and yet can remain comfortable with that knowledge. If you’re among them, perhaps this essay will drag you with me, into the abyss of despair. If so, I encourage you to abide the prescient words of Edward Abbey: “Action is the antidote to despair.”

According to NASA, anthropogenic climate change is primarily due to human actions. The ongoing crisis is intensifying, and much of North America is experiencing summer in March. Ninety degrees in winter is not normal, climate-change deniers notwithstanding. Ditto for this year’s Silent Spring.

If you’re under the age of 35, you’ve never experienced “normal” temperatures despite a weakening sun. In fact, February 1985 was the last time global mean monthly average was below the twentieth-century average. Already, climate has shifted to a new state. That state can only be described as dire. And yet because Earth’s climate system behaves in a nonlinear manner, future changes could occur very rapidly, making it seem as if more than three decades without a below-normal temperature reading were the good ol’ days.

What does the future hold? First, a warning: Abandon hope all ye who enter here.

A global average rise in temperature of 2 C is now optimistic, according to French scientists. Climatologist Matthew Huber agrees. But even that seemingly modest increase in temperature raises sea level 40 to 70 feet. Meanwhile, the OECD concludes we’re headed for an average temperature increase of 3-6 degrees Celsius by 2050 (full original report is here). Supporting documentation is far more abundant than revealed by these recent headlines:

Video above: A history of CO2 from recent detailed data (since 1979) and the geological record. From (http://youtu.be/bbgUE04Y-Xg). See also: Ea O Ka Aina: May 5 - Climate Impact Day 3/28/12 .

Hanapepe Salt Pond Testimony

SOURCE: Jonathan Jay (jjkauai@gmail.com)
SUBHEAD: The time has come for concerted effort to protect and maintain the integrity of the Hanapepe Salt Ponds.  

By Jose Bulatao on 29 March 2012 in Island Breath -  

Image above: Ben Kali, of Hanapepe Valley, prepares salt pans with his family in 2009 at the Salt Ponds. Photo by Juan Wilson.

Nowhere else on the face of planet Earth is salt produced exactly in the manner and style attributed to the Hanapepe Salt Ponds. Here, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and on the island of Kaua’i, the quality and the abundance of sea salt produced has been an entrusted and designated familial responsibility handed down from generation to generation for those who have held the practices in good faith and stewardship to honor and uphold the cultural traditions that have been dutifully maintained.

The product is a prized product used for cultural practices and rituals and sought after as well by gourmet chefs along with the locals who are familiar with the special quality of a natural product to enhance the flavor of food that is being prepared. There was a time when different priorities and considerations brought alternative uses to the areas adjacent to Puolo Point in Hanapepe.

Over the years, an airstrip appeared. A picnic area for island residents and visitors was established with required amenities. Nearby, an animal shelter was built. Swimming and shoreline fishing prevailed.

A roadway was placed cutting through the salt-pond area. Later, at the airstrip, fuel tanks were built to support helicopter services. A nearby residential area flourished. Additional amenities enhanced the Salt Pond Pavilion area. The animal shelter was moved and a proposal to convert the premises to a drug-rehabilitation center stimulated pros and cons on the wisdom of the site selection.
Image above: Salt pans prepared and filled with briny water, waiting for the sun to do its magic. Photo by Juan Wilson.

Consequently, the community of Hanapepe is in turmoil. Likewise, island residents, cultural advocates, and entrepreneurial entities have all added their agendas and concerns regarding Puolo Point and it’s surroundings. In sifting out the priorities of what may be “in the highest and best interests” of the Salt Ponds of Hanapepe, what are some of the bottom-line perspectives? To these questions and concerns, I offer these salient viewpoints:
1. The preservation and the restoration of the salt ponds must take precedence over all else. 2. The Hanapepe Salt Ponds is of such profound cultural significance which requires us to safeguard this “living treasure” for generations-yet-to-come. 3. Everything that is within the area that may adversely affect the Hanapepe Salt Ponds must be removed to allow the salt ponds to be repaired and/or restored to the fullest extent possible.
I see this as an opportunity for the private and public sectors to seek the ways and means by which collaborative efforts may be incorporated with clear-cut processes and procedures in place.

I see this as an opportunity to bring to the table those individuals, groups and entities who are direct stakeholders in the preservation o fthe Hanapepe Salt Ponds to BEGIN with that premise: that the Hanapepe Salt Ponds must be PRESERVED, and not merely maintained!

I take this as an opportunity to reach out to the community-at-large to become more than observers of the struggles between conflicting priorities that surround the Hanapepe Salt Ponds. I take this opportunity to appeal to those who have stood on the sidelines to step away from their comfort zones and become involved in the effort to save the Hanapepe Salt Ponds.

As a matter of record, it can be documented to show the extent to which countless meetings have been held....appeals have been made... proposals have been brought to the table... complaints and concerns have been registered... eloquent testimony has been delivered... for years, for decades, and for generations. The time has come for concerted effort to make the decision to clearly protect and maintain the integrity of the Hanapepe Salt Ponds.

For me, the opportunity I have had to present my statements before the County Council of Kauai is as an indication that our public officials are willing to listen to us and to take the necessary steps to move forward. But,also, it is essential to go beyond being “listening posts” to this dilemma. Positive action must take place with all components from the public and private sectors involved in the endeavor. This, then, is a collaborative effort between those in “positions of authority” and the grassroots constituency.

This, then, is OUR kuleana to “malama aina.” Let us remember, as stewards of the land, we must follow with action after we have spoken these words: “If we take care of the land, the land will take care of us.” Let us not falter. Let us not fail. Together, we owe this to ourselves in honor of what has been bestowed upon us as a legacy to keep intact. Together, we owe it those who will follow in our footsteps.

See also:
 Ea O Ka Aina: Kauai Parks and Recreation Master Plan 11/10/04
Ea O Ka Aina: Open Space Commission: Puolo Point Plan 12/10/04
Ea O Ka Aina: Keep Puolo Point natural 4/22/06
Ea O Ka Aina: One voice: Leave Puolo Point Alone 4/26/06