Pesticide and Beehive Collapse

SOURCE: Ken Taylor (
SUBHEAD: Harvard adds another study showing nicotine based pesticide's big impact on bees colonies.  

By Alan Harmon 5 April 2012 in Ezezine -  

Image above: Ad from a website connecting international buyers with Imidacloprid insecticide manufacturers in China. From (  

Imidacloprid, one of the most widely used insecticide, has been named as the likely culprit in the sharp worldwide decline in honey bee colonies since 2006. It took only low levels of imidacloprid to cause hive collapse, less than what is typically used in crops or in areas where bees forage.

Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health say their new research provides “convincing evidence” of the link between imidacloprid and colony collapse disorder.

“It apparently doesn't take much of the pesticide to affect the bees,” says Alex Lu, associate professor of environmental exposure biology at Harvard’s Department of Environmental Health,
"Our experiment included pesticide amounts below what is normally present in the environment.”

The research results will appear in the June issue of the Bulletin of Insectology. Lu and his research team hypothesized that the uptick in CCD resulted from the presence of imidacloprid, a neonicotinoid introduced in the early 1990s. Bees can be exposed in two ways – through nectar from plants or through high-fructose corn syrup beekeepers use to feed their bees.

As most U.S.-grown corn has been treated with imidacloprid, it's also found in corn syrup. In the summer of 2010, the researchers conducted an in situ study in Worcester County, Mass. aimed at replicating how imidacloprid may have caused the CCD outbreak. Over a 23-week period, they monitored bees in four different bee yards; each yard had four hives treated with different levels of imidacloprid and one control hive.

After 12 weeks of imidacloprid dosing, all the bees were alive. But after 23 weeks, 15 out of 16 of the imidacloprid-treated hives – 94% – had died. Those exposed to the highest levels of the pesticide died first. Lu says the characteristics of the dead hives were consistent with CCD – the hives were empty except for food stores, some pollen, and young bees, with few dead bees nearby.

When other conditions cause hive collapse—such as disease or pests—many dead bees are typically found inside and outside the affected hives. Strikingly, said Lu, it took only low levels of imidacloprid to cause hive collapse, less than what is typically used in crops or in areas where bees forage.

UK Officials Turn Blind Eye To Problem
Meantime, the UK Crop Protection Association has rejected calls for a ban on certain insecticidal seed treatments, instead moving to highlight the regulatory controls and stewardship advice in place to protect the health and welfare of bees. “Science-based statutory controls on pesticide approval at EU and UK level include a specific assessment of any potential risks to bee health, and ensure that when approved products are used as directed there should be no adverse effects on bee populations,” association chief executive Dominic Dyer says.
“The crop protection sector recognizes the critical importance of bees as a pollinator for agriculture and food production, and the industry has committed a significant level of resource and expertise to support ongoing research and stewardship programs aimed at protecting bee health.”
Dyer says that over the last 18 months, the association has distributed more than 100,000 of its “'Bee Safe, Bee Careful” advisory booklets aimed at farmers, spray operators and beekeepers. “We have spoken directly to hundreds of beekeepers up and down the country about the vital importance of crop protection and our industry's commitment to protecting bees,” he says.
“This is a key part of our wider commitment to ensure the safe and responsible use of pesticides.”
The association says it recently issued a new pesticides and bees garden booklet, supported by the British Bee Keepers Association and the Royal Horticultural Association, that will be widely available to the public at garden centres around the country. “Most experts agree that the decline in bee populations is down to the Varroa mite and other parasitic diseases, combined with the problems associated with habitat loss, colony stress and climate change,” Dyer claims.
“We must that ensure that research effort and resource are not deflected away from these pest and environmental issues which together present the major underlying challenges to bee health.”
Dyer warned that the removal of certain insecticidal seed treatments could result in unnecessary crop losses without any benefits for bee health. “Where temporary restrictions have been imposed on these products in France and Germany, there has been no improvement in bee health and the regulatory authorities have now re-approved their use,” he says.
“These products are also widely used in Australia, which has one of the healthiest bee populations in the world. A ban on the use of these seed treatment products will not improve bee health, but would result in the loss of a very sustainable and environmentally friendly form of crop protection technology that is vital for food production in the UK and around the world.”
See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: KCC Beekeeping Class 4/24/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Nicotine Pesticides and Bees 12/13/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Neoicotinoid pesticides kill bees 1/24/11


Greek Tragedy

SUBHEAD: Man commits suicide on front Greek Parliament after pension was looted by the banksters. By Ashvan Pandurangi on 5 April 2012 for the Automatic Earth - ( Image above: An Greek Orthodox priest holds a religious ceremony at the spot where a man committed suicide in Athens Wednesday. From (

As most people are already aware, a 77-year old man in Greece blew his brains out in front of the Greek Parliament yesterday in protest of the government's current euro-centric policies. In terms of social unrest, this event was neither surprising nor very exceptional, compared to what has already happened and what will happen in the near future. I have never understood why people take their own lives to get across a sociopolitical message, and I imagine I never will. But that's exactly what Dimitris Christoulas did, and his message was heard loud and clear.

The Tsolakoglou (WWII Nazi quisling style) government has annihilated all traces for my survival, which was based on a very dignified pension that I alone paid for 35 years with no help from the state. And since my advanced age does not allow me a way of dynamically reacting (although if a fellow Greek were to grab a Kalashnikov, I would be right behind him), I see no other solution than this dignified end to my life, so I don’t find myself fishing through garbage cans for my sustenance. I believe that young people with no future, will one day take up arms and hang the traitors of this country at Syntagma Square, just like the Italians did to Mussolini in 1945″- translation of Dimitris Christoulas suicide note. (

Sometimes, a prevalent reaction to an event like this is to make it into a bigger deal than it really should be, and to idolize the person at the center of it. Other times, we become very skeptical of both the man and his message simply because we feel it is necessary to counteract the media fanfare. We want to pretend that we are taking a cold, hard, objective look at something that is inherently emotional in nature. What struck me today when reading Ambrose Evans-Pritchard's reaction was the following passage:

Europe's poignant wake-up call

His suicide note refers to the Quisling regime of George Tsolakoglou under Axis occupation in World War Two.

Needless to say, it is loose talk to compare the Greek technocrat premier Lucas Papademos in any way to Nazi puppets. He is an honourable man, broadly supported by the Greek people, appointed by the Greek president under legitimate – though dubious – constitutional procedure, doing the best as he sees it for his country.

It is equally loose talk to compare the democratic, well-intentioned Germany of 2012 with the rabble of gangsters who hijacked the Weimar state in 1933. Germany's Angela Merkel too is doing what she thinks to be the best for both her country and for Europe (and which I think is deeply misguided, especially for Germany itself)

Is that really what was contained in this man's last message to his fellow Greeks - a bunch of "loose talk"? Can we really say, at this point in time, that people like Papademos are not puppets of a supranational banking elite that is just as malicious and destructive as the Third Reich? I think not. In fact, I think that most of the evidence points towards the accuracy of Christoulas' comparison. And, as someone who was actually alive during the Nazi occupation of Greece, I don't believe that he would ever make such comparisons "loosely".

Analysts such as Pritchard (though he is certainly not alone) would like to draw a fine line between the atrocities of WWII and those that are occurring now. They back away from any and all implications that there is any malicious intent on the part of Euro-centric governments, politicians and officials. But, the results of these peoples' policies are so obviously destructive to the populations of Europe and beneficial to a small minority of corporate banking elites, that it becomes almost ridiculous to think that they don't know exactly whose bread they are buttering with their policy agendas.

That's not to say that they don't believe those policies are what's best for their countries or for Europe as a whole. But who really cares what the Eurocrats believe in their own manipulated minds? They are wrong. Hitler also believed that his fascist policies were best for his country, Europe and humanity as a whole, but he too was dead wrong. So getting back to Christoulas - we shouldn't dwell too much on the fact that he blew his brains out, but rather the message that he left behind him. It was not "loose talk" or irrational comparison - it was the unadulterated and uncomfortable truth of Europe's existence circa 2012.


The Truth in Truthiness

SUBHEAD: Steven Colbert's invented word is revealing scientific truths about the human mind.  

By Chris Mooney on 4 April 2012 for Huffington Post -  

Image above: An illustration of Steven Colbert by Lockwood. From (
In my last post here, I explored what I called the science of "truthiness": How we can come to understand the denial of science, on issues like global warming, by examining the underlying psychology of political conservatism itself.

But I must confess that in that item, I was relying on a fairly clichéd understanding of the word "truthiness." Since it was first coined by Stephen Colbert in 2005, the term has taken on a massive life of its own -- coming to mean, in its broadest sense, the problem of people making up their own reality, one just "truthy" enough that they actually believe it.

Frankly, though, most of us only have a "truthy" sense of what "truthiness" actually meant in its original formulation.

That's why, when I went back and re-watched the original Colbert truthiness segment, I was so stunned. After a year spent researching the psychology of the right for my book The Republican Brain, Colbert's words took on dramatic new meaning for me. Frankly, it now seems to me that in some ways, Colbert was ahead of the science on this matter -- anticipating much of what we are only now coming to know.

Truthiness, as defined by Colbert in the segment, is the quality of knowing something in your gut or your heart, as opposed to in your head. "I don't trust books. They're all facts, no heart," as Colbert put it. He added: "We are divided between those who think with their head, and those who know with their heart." Later, Colbert made fun of George W. Bush's disastrous nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, a move Bush defended by saying, "I know her heart."

In other words, in its original definition, "truthiness" was really about the power of emotion in guiding reasoning and our beliefs -- and trumping calmer, more rational reflection. Later, Colbert elaborated:
Truthiness is, 'What I say is right, and [nothing] anyone else says could possibly be true.' It's not only that I feel it to be true, but that I feel it to be true. There's not only an emotional quality, but there's a selfish quality.
The Truth in "Truthy"
With such words, Colbert didn't just diagnose a deep malady in American political discourse. He also, knowingly or otherwise, used phrases ("it's not only that I feel it to be true, but that I feel it to be true") that not only reflected but in some cases anticipated research results in psychology and neuroscience -- results on biased reasoning, and especially on the differences between liberals and conservatives.

What that means is that we can now go a long way towards restating Colbert's lament about "truthiness" in scientific terms.

First, take the role of emotions in reasoning. In this respect, Princeton psychologist Daniel Kahnemann's bestseller Thinking, Fast and Slow resonates strongly with Colbert's truthiness segment. Kahnemann explains how the brain processes information using two systems -- the rapid and emotional System 1, and the slower, more reflective System 2. What's important about this is that System 1 often guides and even trumps system 2. These are the cases in which we think with our guts, or our hearts, rather than our heads, so to speak.

In fact, the emerging science of motivated reasoning takes this realization as its core premise in explaining the causes of human bias. The idea is that before we're even consciously aware of it (and some of us never are), System 1 has emotionally tagged and guided our responses to the world, driving us to interpret reality in a selfish or self serving manner. Even when we later proceed to "reason" -- to make arguments to support what we think, drawing on System 2 -- it's really in service of this emotional master.

In other words, reason is indeed slave to the passions. In a lecture I recently gave at the Harvard Law School, I explain how this leads us to commit all kinds of errors and reasoning fallacies -- and also, more importantly, to be able to detect them in others far better than in ourselves.
The Right and the Gut
But let's face it: Colbert wasn't being entirely bipartisan in his original description of "truthiness." And frankly, neither is the growing body of science on the matter. When it comes to going on your gut responses -- or perhaps privileging quick, economical thinking -- there is recent research suggesting that this is more strongly associated with political conservatism than with liberalism. This is the area where, most of all, Colbert seems to have prescient.

Consider, for instance, the just published drunkenness and politics study, in which bar patrons who were more drunk gave more conservative answers on a political questionnaire, whether or not they claimed to be liberal or conservative. Now, I know this study is mainly the kind of thing that people crack jokes about (some good ones, too). And I know it's only one study. Still, it is less crazy than you may think. There is a body of research, discussed here, suggesting that conservatism tends to be more associated with quick, instinctive reactions to reality, whereas liberalism is more about making things complex and nuanced; shades of gray rather than black and white.

That's why altering your cognitive state to favor quick and economical thinking -- whether through drunkenness, stress, time pressure, or something called cognitive load -- may privilege conservatism over liberalism, on average. Liberal patterns of thinking appear to involve making matters complicated -- not always a good thing, incidentally, especially in situations where it is important to make up your mind and take prompt action. So no wonder that several studies show that you can make liberals more conservative if you block their ability to, essentially, complexify and nuance things -- for instance, by putting them under time or cognitive pressures.

In terms of gut thinking, there's also another sense in which Colbert foresaw the emerging science of politics. Much recent research associates political conservatism with a stronger sensitivity to the emotion of disgust. In one telling 2011 experiment, for instance, subjects who were asked to use a hand wipe before answering questions, or answer them near a hand sanitizer, gave more politically conservative answers.

It is easy to see a role for disgust sensitivity in conservative views on issues like gay marriage and contraception. But even beyond that -- and as moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt explained to me recently -- conservatives may literally find liberals disgusting, revolting. They may be repelled by us in their guts long before they consider us in their heads.

The Gut in the Brain
In the original truthiness segment, Colbert joked that there are "more nerve endings in your stomach than in your head." In reality, of course, all of these processes are governed by the brain -- but they may be principally governed by different parts of it. And since he originally launched the word "truthiness" into the world, new cognitive neuroscience research also gives credence to Colbert's assertion.

In one study, for instance, liberals showed more activity than conservatives in the anterior cingulate cortex, a part of the brain involved in error detecting and changing habitual patterns of responding -- in other words, overriding the gut, or the instincts, and switching to more measured, System 2 behaviors. As Kahnemann puts it in Thinking, Fast and Slow: "A brain region known to be associated with conflict and self-control (the anterior cingulate) was more active when subjects did not do what comes naturally... Resisting the inclination of System 1 apparently involves conflict."

Conservatives, meanwhile, were shown in one study to have more gray matter, on average, in the right amygdala, a part of the emotional brain involved in detecting fear and threat and driving automatic, life preserving patterns of responding. Kahnemann again: "The amygdala is accessed very rapidly by emotional stimuli -- and it is a likely suspect for involvement in System 1."

The actual brain scans of liberals and conservatives are the newest and most cutting edge wave of the science, and a long string of caveats accompany them. They should be taken cautiously, not as gospel truth (not with the gut). However, they're not inconsistent with other research on the different patterns of thinking between the average liberal, and the average conservative.
Truthiness Triumphant
What does this mean? Simply put, Colbert may have been much more right than he knew in 2005. Or perhaps, as an acute observer of the political scene, he could simply pick up things that, in the lab, later wound up being substantiated.

In any event, what all this suggests is that even among the very few cultural memes that go on to enjoy a kind of immortality, Colbert's "truthiness" holds a unique place. Not only does it make you laugh; it anticipates much of what we are only now coming to know -- scientifically..

Large Feathered Dinosaur Found

SUBHEAD: Yutyrannus Huali, a T-Rex relative, is the largest feathered dinosaur yet found in China.  

By Jennifer Welsh on 4 April 2012 for Huffington Post -  

Image above: Artist Brian Choo's illustration of a group of Yutyrannus hunting in the snow. From (
A newly discovered titanic tyrannosaur is the biggest feathered dinosaur yet, reaching up to 30 feet (9 meters) long and weighing more than 3,000 pounds.

While smaller than Tyrannosaurus rex, the new species, named Yutyrannus huali — meaning "beautiful feathered tyrant" — is still 40 times the weight of the largest feathered dinosaur known previously, Beipiaosaurus, which was described in 1999.

"Yutyrannus dramatically increases the size range of dinosaurs for which we have definite evidence of feathers," study researcher Xing Xu of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing said in a statement. "It’s possible that feathers were much more widespread, at least among the meat-eating dinosaurs, than most scientists would have guessed even a few years ago."

The researchers found three well-preserved fossils of the species in a dig in Liaoning Province, in northeastern China, the same place Xu and his colleagues discovered Beipiaosaurus. he groups of dinosaurs known as the Tyrannosauroidea, which gave rise to the majestic Tyrannosaurus rex, lived for more than 100 million years through the middle Jurassic (about 180 million years ago) until the K-T extinction event at the end of the Cretaceous about 65 million years ago.

From known fossils, researchers think this group started out as small, feathered dinosaurs and grew into large, scaly tyrant lizards only later in the Cretaceous. Yutyrannus huali is the first example of this type of large, T. rex-type dinosaur in the early Cretaceous.

The find indicates that tyrannosaurus-type dinosaurs played a major role as large predators earlier than thought.

Feathered fury
The researchers discovered fossils of the dinosaur's feathers and were able to clearly make out that the large dinosaur was one shaggy predator.

"The feathers of Yutyrannus were simple filaments," Xu said. "They were more like the fuzzy down of a modern baby chick than the stiff plumes of an adult bird." The hairlike feather filaments were about 6 inches (15 centimeters) long and probably covered the majority of the animal's body.

The feathers weren't used for flight, but to keep the giant lizard warm, an interesting adaption in dinosaurs, a group typically thought of as "cold-blooded," Xu said.

"The idea that primitive feathers could have been for insulation rather than flight has been around for a long time," study researcher Corwin Sullivan, a paleontologist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said in a statement. "However, large-bodied animals typically can retain heat quite easily, and actually have more of a potential problem with overheating. That makes Yutyrannus, which is large and downright shaggy, a bit of a surprise."

The explanation may be climate-related, the researchers say. While the Cretaceous Period was generally very warm, Yutyrannus lived during the middle part of the Early Cretaceous, when temperatures are thought to have been somewhat cooler than the Late Cretaceous, when T. rex lived.
The study was published today (April 4) in the journal Nature.


A Modest Proposal on Speed

SUBHEAD: There would be several benefits to reducing the speed limit throughout Kauai to 35 mph. By Juan Wilson on 4 April 2012 for Island Breath - ( Image above: GEM specialized utility vehicles for municipal police and commercial use. From (
"Hey, slowdown! You ain't on the mainland!" bumper sticker often seen on Kauai
While driving to Kapaa from Hanapepe to visit the Plant and Seed exchange at Children of the Land this last Sunday, something occurred to me. Wasn't it funny that that the speed limit on the Kuhio Highway, including the area between the Hilton and Aston resorts (passing the Wailua Golf Course), was reduced from 50 mph to 40 mph rather than to 35 mph? Needless to say, this area, nicknamed "Blood Alley", was a deathtrap. People sped along this section at 70 mph to make up for all the time lost in jams coming from either in Kapaa or Lihue. Many fatal accidents occurred, and even fender-benders could tie up traffic for hours between Hanalei and Lihue. The speed limit needed to be reduced. But why 35 mph? One result is that it excludes alternative vehicles from the roadway such as street legal electric golf carts, mopeds and other vehicles that are limited to 35 mph. I called the State DOT office on Kauai and spoke with the chief engineer, Ray McKormick. He had calculated that racing the few miles of Blood Alley at 65 mph saved only a few minutes on a trip between Lihue and Kapaa. He told me that he used a standardized test the Kuhio Highway along "Blood Alley" and found it was not safe at 50 mph. The speed had to be reduced or the highway re-engineered and rebuilt. He then pushed for a 35 mph zone there, but our mayor and others wouldn't have it (politically impossible). That's why it's 40 mph now. Ray added that he would support 35 mph throughout Kauai because it would increase safety. Safety would be achieved not only because "slower is safer", but because uniform speed is safer. Changing the speed up and down on our highway, as we pass through every residential neighborhood, adds to likelihood of accidents. It also adds to the likelihood of congestion. Uniform speed (even at a lower speed) actually reduces congestion (stop and go traffic) and can reduce the duration of trips. My proposal is that the maximum speed on the island of Kauai be set to 35 mph. This would let street legal Electric Vehicles (EVs), like the GEM 4-wheel enclosed carts or the Capri electric scooters, roam all of Kauai. Currently, short segments of greater than 35 mph highway strands vehicles we need on this island that no use fossil fuel and have zero CO2 emissions. Unfortunately, as it is now, one cannot legally drive between Waimea and Hanapepe, or even Hanapepe and Kalaheo in one of these vehicles. Throughout Kauai, due to sections of the Kaumualii/Kuhio Highway that pass through 35 mph residential or commercial areas, we can forget about using a street legal cart get to the mall, the airport or a movie from anywhere but in the Lihue/Puhi area. Image above: GEM electric personal vehicles -Two and four-seater. From ( By reducing the speed limit and allowing these street legal EVs there are some real advantages:
  • We would reduce fossil fuel consumption (even if EVs were not widely adopted at first).
  • We would reduce the cost of owning a new vehicle. Small EVs are less expensive than larger conventional vehicles.
  • It would motivate people to join a smaller fleet of cars already using the road.
  • We would have a segue into the future of transportation.
The disadvantages are few. The argument that time would be lost in travel is weaker than most people imagine. If we ignore delays for red lights, left turns (as well as ignoring 25 mph in a few instances), and assume constant speeds, we can compare the time needed to complete a trip using three different situations
1) a trip at a constant 35 mph 2) a trip at a constant 50 mph 3) a trip of mixed 35 and 50 mph
For example, the distance from Hanapepe, where I live, to the Home Depot in Puhi is about 16 miles along the Kaumualii Highway. Because of all the communities along the route, only about half of that trip has a 50 mph speed limit. If the speed limit along the whole trip were reduced to 35 mph, the trip would take 27 minutes. If the speed limit along the entire route were raised to 50 mph. the same trip would take 19 minutes. A savings of 8 minutes. Today's current mixture of speeds makes the trip 23 minutes. That's only 4 minutes less than at 50mph! So what's the big deal? Our sense of time and speed is entirely psychological. We feel like we are going fast when we are accelerating. It feels good. But when we're accelerating it is because we've just recently been stopped or going slowly - in "stop and go" and that feels bad. Moreover, the larger the vehicle the less sense there is that you are speeding along (even when your going faster and burning more fuel). These tendencies combine to make us feel better when we are speeding or accelerating away from a traffic jam - even though that behavior is a contributing factor in creating the "stop and go" traffic we all despise. Getting used to a slower and smaller scale of traffic on Kauai will actually enhance our appreciation of the island - and contribute to a healthier, safer environment. Image above: The Capri Electric Motor Scooter offers zero emissions, low cost per mile operation, and a fully street legal design that meets or exceeds US DOT standards. . From ( See also: Ea O Ka Aina: Solar Powered Cars 11/25/11 Ea O Ka Aina: Hawaii charges towards EVs 2/9/10 Island Breath: Three Wheel Wonders get 200mpg 6/27/08 Island Breath: KPD and Patrolling 6/7/08 Island Breath: KPD - Protect & Serve - Let's roll! 4/4/8 Island Breath: Things a driver can do 11/25/05 .

Drill Drill Drill! Quake Quake Quake!

SUBHEAD: An "Unprecedented" rise in earthquakes are directly linked to oil and gas drilling. By Sami Grover on 4 April 2012 for TreeHugger - ( Image above: GoogleEath image of quake locations around Lincoln, Oklahoma. From (

When kelleymcd (an anti-fracking activist) uploaded the above image to Flickr in November 2011, he/she noted that it showed:

"earthquakes in Central Oklahoma over the past 36 hours. Another 3.3 happened while I was making this image. This patch is 10 miles x 14 miles in size. Then 5 more aftershocks in the 3.0 range since that."

Kelleymcd clearly attributed the large amount of earthquakes to recent drilling activity—and not without reason. The US Geological Survey (USGS)had already linked 50 Oklahoma earthquakes to fracking, and a British fracking operation had recently fessed up to causing earthquakes in England.

Not long after, an earthquake linked to fracking in Ohio was so strong that its effects were felt in Toronto.

No wonder people are getting nervous.

Now a new report from the USGS to be presented next month at the annual meeting of the Seismological Society of America in San Diego directly links an "unprecedented" increase in frequency and magnitude of earthquakes to drilling for oil and gas:

In Oklahoma, the rate of M greater than 3 events abruptly increased in 2009 from 1.2/year in the previous half-century to over 25/year. This rate increase is exclusive of the November 2011 M 5.6 earthquake and its aftershocks. A naturally-occurring rate change of this magnitude is unprecedented outside of volcanic settings or in the absence of a main shock, of which there were neither in this region.

While the report's authors are unequivocal in linking the earthquakes to human activity, they say we are not yet able to determine whether the earthquakes are directly linked to the increased rate of drilling, or whether it is the specific techniques—such as hydraulic fracking—that are to blame.

Either way, it seems like one more reason to apply the precautionary principle. Those worried about fracking in their region can read up on our guide to fracking for communities and landowners, and we can all use it as a reminder that before we go dashing after the next cheap energy source—whatever it may be—we'd be well advised to take energy efficiency and conservation seriously as the safest, greenest and most cost efficient energy source of them all.


Ann Wright on Kauai

SUBHEAD: Retired Army colonel and peace activist to speak on America's relations with Iran and Israel. By Ray Catania on 4 April 2012 in Island ( Image above: Ann Wright speaking on activist cruise to Gaza. From (
What: Presentation by retired Army Colonel and prominent peace activist Ann Wright. Q&A to follow presentation. When: Monday April 9, 6:30- 9:00pm Where: Kapaa Library conference room. Sponsor: The Kauai Peace Alliance Cost: Free event, but donations to defray Ann's airfare from Oahu accepted. Contact: Ray Catania email: phone: (808) 822-7646 After her retirement from the Army Ann Wright went on to a diplomatic career with the State Department, serving in embassies around the world. She received an award for heroism in 1997, after helping to evacuate several thousand people during the civil war in Sierra Leone. On the eve of the shock and awe bombing and subsequent occupation of Iraq in 2003, she resigned her post. The resignation letter, criticizing the Bush war policies, was published on the internet the next day. Since then she has become a prominent advocate for peace and social justice causes. She helped Cindy Sheehan organize Camp Casey fronting George W. Bush's Crawford, Texas ranch. She has been escorted from Senate and House committee hearings for proactively advocating peace, and arrested numerous times for her advocacy. Her ship was boarded attempting to run the Israeli naval blockade while trying to deliver humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip. Ann Wright recently traveled to Jeju Island in South Korea to aid villagers struggling to prevent destruction of their farms, homes and pristine coral reef to make way for a navy base. Ann Wright delivers lectures and attends conferences across the country. She spoke on Kauai in April 2009. It is a special privilege to welcome her back. .

Some Coral Like it Hot

SUBHEAD: Mostly it has been terrible news, but heat stress may help some coral reefs survive climate change.  

By Staff on 30 March 2012 for the University of British Columbia - 

Image above: In 2009 Stanford researcher Tom Oliver transplanted small pieces of coral from a lagoon in American Samoa into one of two water tanks. The control tank was kept at the same temperature as the lagoon, and the experimental tank was warmed by 2 degrees Celsius in order to see how coral reefs respond to temperature change. "The most exciting thing was discovering live, healthy corals on reefs already as hot as the ocean is likely to get 100 years from now," said Palumbi, director of Stanford's Hopkins Marine Station. "How do they do that?" From (

A team of international scientists working in the central Pacific have discovered that coral which has survived heat stress in the past is more likely to survive it in the future.

The study, published today in the journal PLoS ONE, paves the way towards an important road map on the impacts of ocean warming, and will help scientists identify the habitats and locations where coral reefs are more likely to adapt to climate change.

“We’re starting to identify the types of reef environments where corals are more likely to persist in the future,” says study co-author Simon Donner, an assistant professor in UBC’s Department of Geography and organizer of the field expedition. “The new data is critical for predicting the future for coral reefs, and for planning how society will cope in that future.”

When water temperatures get too hot, the tiny algae that provides coral with its colour and major food source is expelled. This phenomenon, called coral bleaching, can lead to the death of corals.

With sea temperatures in the tropics forecast to rise by 1-3 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, the researchers say coral reefs may be better able to withstand the expected rise in temperature in locations where heat stress is naturally more common. This will benefit the millions of people worldwide who rely on coral reefs for sustenance and livelihoods, they say.

“Until recently, it was widely assumed that coral would bleach and die off worldwide as the oceans warm due to climate change,” says lead author Jessica Carilli, a post-doctoral fellow in Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation’s (ANSTO) Institute for Environmental Research. “This would have very serious consequences, as loss of live coral – already observed in parts of the world – directly reduces fish habitats and the shoreline protection reefs provide from storms.”

Caralli and Donner conducted the study in May 2010 in the Pacific island nation of Kiribati, near the equator. Kiribati’s climate is useful for testing theories about past climate experience because its corals are pounded by El Niño-driven heat waves, while corals on the islands farther from the equator are less affected.

The researchers analyzed coral skeletal growth rates and tissue fat stores to compare how corals from different regions responded to two recent coral bleaching events in 2004 and 2009.

Donner has conducted field research in Kiribati since 2005 and will return this year to conduct follow-up research with the local government. He says the findings suggest that Marine Protected Areas – conservation areas designed to protect marine life from stressors like fishing – may be more effective in areas with naturally variable water temperatures.

The research delivers mixed news for Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, because the reef stretches over such massive distances; some areas have stable temperatures and some do not. The findings support previous laboratory and observational studies from other regions, suggesting they can be widely applied.

Planning is now underway for potential future studies of coral in areas of the world that have not experienced significant historical changes in water temperatures.

“Even through the warming of our oceans is already occurring, these findings give hope that coral that has previously withstood anomalously warm water events may do so again,” says Carilli. “While more research is needed, this appears to be good news for the future of coral reefs in a warming climate.”

FedEx Reacting

SUBHEAD: Rising oil prices spurring FedEx to adopt electric vehicles, hybrids, and even pedalpower. By Brian Merchant on 2 April 2012 for TreeHugger - ( Image above: FedEx Battery electric Navistar eStar truck at Oakland International Airport . From (

Different governments and businesses react differently to the changing landscape of the world. For instance, when it becomes clear that gas prices are rising, and will likely continue to rise for the foreseeable future, some decide to make a big show of yelling at the president and stamping their feet.

Others, the smarter ones, recognize that it may be time to adapt. NPR has a story about how FedEx is responding to a world of scarcer and more expensive oil by upgrading its fleet:

For delivery vans, says Smith, FedEx is betting on electric or hybrid vehicles.

"An all-electric pickup and delivery van will operate at a 75 percent less per-mile cost than an internal combustion engine variant," he says. "Now, I didn't say 7 1/2 percent — [I said] 75 percent. These are big numbers." Smith says he believes that six years from now, electric vehicles will be in wide commercial use, transporting everything from FedEx packages to plumbers and pizza.

The company is also investing in biofuels, especially algal blends, to replace the petroleum-heavy jet fuel blend it (and just about every other member of the aviation industry) uses today.

And, unsurprisingly, FedEx will be taking advantage of ever-cheaper natural gas as a fuel for trucks.

The only other institution I can think of off the top of my head that has unveiled such a radical plan to lessen its dependence on oil is perhaps the U.S. military. Indeed—this kind of vision is going to be increasingly important as oil prices continue to tick upwards.\

Image above: FedEx is testing these Urban Cab delivery trikes in Paris. They are pedal-powered but assisted by an electric motor. From (


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 (

Yesterday we received a comment from a person named Valencia on our post of Gail Tverberg's excellent article on "True Sustainability Solutions" (

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 - (

Image above: USS Brooklyn, leads the American fleet in an all-out assault on Spanish cruiser squadron off Santiago, Cuba, July 3, 1898. From (

 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 (, 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 (
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 - ( Image above: illustration of flying cars over Manhatten. From ( 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.