Indian Power Grid Fails

SUBHEAD: Chaos as massive blackout in India leaves 670 million without power. By Staff on 31 July 2012 for National Post - (http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/07/31/pictures-of-chaos-as-massive-india-blackout-leaves-670-million-without-power) Image above: Indian commuters wait for a bus on a street illuminated with street vendor's kiosks following a power outage in Kolkata, India. From original article).

Roads are gridlocked, coal miners are trapped underground, hospitals have been plunged into darkness and millions of train travellers are stranded after grids supplying electricity to half of India’s 1.2 billion people collapsed on Tuesday in the second major blackout in as many days.

Stretching from Assam, near China, to the Himalayas and the northwestern deserts of Rajasthan, the outage was the worst to hit India in more than a decade and embarrassed the government, which has failed to build up enough power capacity to meet soaring demand.

“Even before we could figure out the reason for yesterday’s failure, we had more grid failures today,” said R. N. Nayak, chairman of the state-run Power Grid Corporation.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has vowed to fast-track stalled power and infrastructure projects as well as introduce free market reforms aimed at reviving India’s flagging economy. But he has drawn fire for dragging his feet.

By the afternoon rush-hour, only about 40 percent of power was back up and streets were clogged with commuters trying to get home. By nightfall, power was back up in the humid capital, New Delhi and much of the north, but a senior official said only a third was restored in the rural state of Uttar Pradesh, itself home to more people than Brazil.

“It’s certainly shameful. Power is a very basic amenity and situations like these should not occur,” said Unnayan Amitabh, 19, an intern with HSBC bank in New Delhi, as he was giving up on the underground train system and flagging down an auto-rickshaw to get home.

“They talk about big ticket reforms but can’t get something as essential as power supply right.”

Power Minister Sushilkumar Shinde blamed the system collapse on some states drawing more than their share of electricity from the over-burdened grid.

Asia’s third-largest economy suffers a peak-hour power deficit of about 10 percent, dragging on economic growth.

“This is the second day that something like this has happened. I’ve given instructions that whoever overdraws power will be punished,” said Shinde, hours before he was promoted to interior minister in a cabinet reshuffle.

More than a dozen states with a population of 670 million people were without power.

Two hundred miners were stranded in three deep coal shafts in the state of West Bengal when their electric elevators stopped working. Eastern Coalfields Limited official Niladri Roy said workers at the mines, one of which is 700 metres (3,000 feet) deep, were not in danger and were being taken out.

Train stations in Kolkata were swamped and traffic jammed the streets after government offices closed early in the dilapidated coastal city of 5 million people.

The power failed in some major city hospitals and office buildings had to fire up diesel generators.

By mid-evening, services had been restored on the New Delhi metro system.

Image above: One reason for massive grid failure is chaotic and unregulated hookups to antiquated equipment in New Delhi. From original article.

On Monday, India was forced to buy extra power from the tiny neighbouring kingdom of Bhutan to help it recover from a blackout that hit more than 300,000 million people.

Indians took to social networking sites to ridicule the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, in part for promoting Shinde despite the power cuts.

Narendra Modi, an opposition leader and chief minister in Gujarat, a state that enjoys a surplus of power, was scornful.

“With poor economic management UPA has emptied pockets of common man; kept stomachs hungry with inflation & today pushed them into darkness!,” he said on his Twitter account.

The country’s southern and western grids were supplying power to help restore services, officials said.

The problem has been made worse by a weak monsoon in agricultural states such as wheat-belt Punjab and Uttar Pradesh in the Ganges plain, which has a larger population than Brazil.

With less rain to irrigate crops, more farmers resort to electric pumps to draw water from wells.

India’s electricity distribution and transmission is mostly state run, with private companies operating in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata. Less than a quarter of generation is private nationwide.

More than half the country’s electricity is generated by coal, with hydro power and nuclear also contributing.

Power shortages and a creaky road and rail network have weighed heavily on the country’s efforts to industrialize. Grappling with the slowest economic growth in nine years, the government recently scaled back a target to pump $1 trillion into infrastructure over the next five years.

Major industries have their own power plants or diesel generators and are shielded from outages. But the inconsistent supply hits investment and disrupts small businesses.

High consumption of heavily subsidized diesel by farmers and businesses has fuelled a gaping fiscal deficit that the government has vowed to tackle to restore confidence in the economy.

But the poor monsoon means a subsidy cut is politically difficult.

On Tuesday, the central bank cut its economic growth outlook for the fiscal year that ends in March to 6.5 percent, from the 7.3 percent assumption made in April, putting its outlook closer to that of many private economists.

“This is going to have a substantial adverse impact on the overall economic activity. Power failure for two consecutive days hits sentiment very badly,” said N. Bhanumurthy, a senior economist at National Institute of Public Finance and Policy.

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It is up to us

SUBHEAD: If America is to cease climate destruction, it is Americans, not corporations or regulations, that must change.  

By Katie Gelfling on 30 July 2012 for Island Breath - 
  (http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2012/07/it-is-up-to-us.html)
   
Image above: Outside America an American couple have saved some rainforest and built a community in Costa Rica. From (http://www.businessinsider.com/finca-bellavista-2012-7?op=1).

The bulk of the American public benefit greatly from the nature-abusing practices of our corporations. Cheap non-local food is imported at great distances to grocery stores, minerals are mined in the cheapest way are used to make cheap electronics- almost all products Americans buy have in some way outsourced much of the cost of the environmental impact, including the materials used to build our homes and roads.

 In addition, Americans structure their lives so that they work farther than a walk away from their homes- daily commute is the norm for most Americans. Even the Americans who are aware of the advantage that eco-destruction gives them in their daily lives tend to buy organic or local occasionally, carpool sometimes, or recycle the parts of their disposable products which are recyclable in their areas.

Those things are great, but they are a drop in the bucket and may work to camouflage the depth of what needs to be done. It would be possible for each person who is radicalized by their knowledge of climate change to adjust their personal lives so that they could walk to some kind of work (likely this would mean moving or getting a different, less-good job) buy only local food (this would mean greatly reducing the variety of their diet, especially in locations with winter) buying only local clothes/linens (this would greatly reduce style options) use re-usable and repairable products only, (which would generally mean giving up most consumer electronics such as cell phones, tvs, and laptops, and increase the required elbow-grease of many cleaning tasks.)

Better insulation, solar lighting, sleeping while the sun is down, and doing things by hand can greatly reduce energy use in the home. Now the above is not impossible, is completely revolutionary, and does not require the consent of any corporation or government. It can be done right now all across America, for anybody who is serious about giving up their unearned advantages won them through climate destruction. if enough people went along that road more choices in local food, textiles and reusable products would emerge for that market, making the road a little easier for everybody.

Of course, I do not expect Americans to give up their luxuries any more than i expect corporations to give up their profits. However, i do wish that the subject of the benefits not just to corporations, but to every-day americans were discussed more fully.

 Occasional recycling and buying local alone simply do not make enough of an impact on Americas portion of climate change. I do not mean to discount the impact that businesses have on the environment.

However as you said, businesses are mindlessly seeking profit. With the government in the pocket of money from the businesses, the only way left to steer the businesses (and the government) is to ensure that businesses can only see a profit when they have earth-friendly practices. (And i'm not talking earth-destroying biofuels or the like.) If we want America to cease it's climate destruction, it is Americans, not corporations or regulations, that must change.

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How sudden the change?

SUBHEAD: At some point what is now still a gradual process will lead to a sudden, irreversible, catastrophic disruption of daily life.  

By Dmitry Orlov on 31 July 2012 for ClubOrlov -
(http://cluborlov.blogspot.com/2012/07/the-joy-of-national-default.html)

Image above: Photo of 757 hitting south tower of World Trade Center on 9/11/01 while north tower burns. Catastrophic structural failure follows soon. From (http://www.911conspiracy.tv/images/2nd-hit/2nd-hit_HINY_1769_full-cropped.jpg).

At 78 pages of scholarly, somewhat jargon-laden prose, Trade-Off: Financial System Supply-Chain Cross-Contagion by David Korowicz is not quick reading, nor is it light reading, but it is important reading. It puts a lot of definition to the concept of cascaded failure, in which financial collapse inexorably leads to political and economic collapse with no possibilities for arresting this process or even altering its course.

This may seem like a terribly pessimistic message, and, indeed, it is hard to imagine that it would provoke a cheerful reaction in any sane person. But for those who feel that it is important to understand what is unfolding, Korowicz offers a large dose of realism. Still, a fair warning is called for: “Abandon all optimism all ye who enter here!”

Most of us face a number of mental roadblocks when we think about such matters.

First, our experience is one of gradualism: an action produces an equal and opposite reaction; after a disturbance, equilibrium is eventually restored; human institutions have permanence and evolve slowly.

Second, our experience is compartmentalized. If the subject is sovereign defaults, then experts in finance are there for us to consult; if it is the failure of global trade, then we turn to experts in business. Sociologists will tell us about the negative effects all of this has on society, while psychologists will talk about individual patients but cannot address the societal causes of their problems.

But systemic collapse is an interdisciplinary problem that defies all attempts at compartmentalization. It promises to sweep away such highly specialized domains of knowledge by driving down social complexity.

Third, there is the question of motivation: what, beyond intellectual curiosity, would compel people to invest time and effort in a detailed study of a depressing subject which has no practical application?

The topic tends to attract people who have plenty of free time and a morbid imagination. Still, I feel that there is great value in being able to foresee how events will unfold: a foreseen nasty development is still much better than a nasty surprise.

Read all of article » .

Presentation in New Zealand

SUBHEAD: Recent video of Guy McPherson presentation and Q&A in Peptone, New Zealand.  

By Guy McPherson on 30 July 2012 for Nature Bats Last -  
(http://guymcpherson.com/2012/07/presentation-in-petone/)

 
Image above: Guy McPherson at microphone. Detail of still frame from second video below.

The video clips embedded below represent a typical recent presentation. Lately, I’m reminded of these words from philosopher Søren Kierkegaard when I deliver a presentation: “A fire broke out backstage in a theatre. The clown came out to warn the public; they thought it was a joke and applauded. He repeated it; the acclaim was even greater. I think that’s just how the world will come to an end: to general applause from those who believe it’s just a joke.”

The first video clip embedded below was delivered in Petone, New Zealand, a suburb of the capital city of Wellington, on 6 July 2012. The second video is the Q&A portion of the show. I apologize for my head cold and the resultant coughing and other obnoxious sounds emanating from me.

 
Video above: Presentation at the Petone Community Library on Friday, 6 July 2012 on transitioning in the light of climate change and Peak Oil. From (http://youtu.be/fbdfmUt2G9w).

   
Video above: Questions & Answers after presentation at the Petone Community Library on Friday, 6 July 2012. From (http://youtu.be/aaiRZjEDYbU).  

• Professor Guy McPherson is is an emeritus professor at the University of Arizona School of Natural Resources, but he gave up his university post on ethical grounds to devote himself to building a Lifeboat and lecturing/educating on the collapse that faces us and is one of the key people in the Peak Oil and the Transition/Lifeboat movement.

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Capitalism & Quantum Mechanics

SUBHEAD: Quantum mechanics shows us just how narrow, constrictive and destructive capitalism actually is.  

By Michael Ortiz on 28 July 2012 for TruthOut -  
(http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/10446-examining-capitalism-through-quantum-mechanics)

 
Image above: Is it a CGI fractal illustration for a photo of an sea urchin? From ( http://theweirdnessthatbindus.blogspot.com/2012/07/por-la-risa-por-la-ilusion.html).
 


As human beings, we don't just construct social realities and social systems, but we literally help construct the physical universe of which we are a part. Therefore, understanding the relationship between human beings and the quantum reality of the universe becomes paramount if we seek to truly understand and transform the social and structural systems of inequality that we have created for ourselves.

According to quantum mechanics, the subatomic level of reality exists in an undifferentiated state of dynamic flux until a conscious observer measures it (or looks at it), thus, giving that matter a particular form. In other words, an atom is spread out all over the place as a wave of potential until a conscious observer localizes it as an actual particle through that very act of observation.

The famous double-slit experiment actually captured this protean nature of the quantum world. The double-slit experiment essentially launched particles through a single slit, whereby each particle left a residual mark on the back wall where it landed (creating a single band pattern). However, when particles were launched through two slits, they left a residual interference pattern on the back wall (which can only be created by waves that interfere with each other). Even when particles were launched through the two slits one at a time, they still created an interference pattern. (This occurrence is impossible according to classical quantum physics.) So, in order to figure out how this interference pattern was occurring, physicists placed a measuring device by the slits to observe the particles after they were launched.

Astonishingly, when the particles were launched with the measuring device in place, they actually created a residual mark of a double band pattern (which was expected in the first place). What physicists determined was that, prior to being observed, each single particle actually existed as a wave of potentials that simultaneously went through both slits at the same time; thus interfering with itself and leaving a residual interference pattern. So in essence, conscious observation then collapses the quantum wave function of particles and thus localizes them at a fixed point.

Moreover, quantum superposition "holds that a physical system - such as an electron - exists partly in all its particular, theoretically possible states (or, configuration of its properties) simultaneously; but, when measured, it gives a result corresponding to only one of the possible configurations (as described in interpretation of quantum mechanics)." The more we look at elementary particles, the more we realize that there is actually no such thing as one electron or one photon on its own. A particle exists only in relationship to the state that it finds itself in, with no generic or concrete form. So, the more we examine "solid matter" in great detail, the less solid it actually becomes.

Now, contradictory to contemporary quantum mechanics is the traditional conception of solid matter as the "substance" of the universe. Why is this important? Because "belief that the substance of the universe is matter (or physical material) sets the precedent for people to accumulate as many material possessions and riches as possible [especially under the system of capitalism]," says UK author David Icke.

Most of us in contemporary Western culture have been socialized to view the world through a consumerist lens (among a plethora of other social lenses) which implies that a solid, material realm objectively exists. Furthermore, the system of capitalism creates the conditions necessary for more and more people to actively participate in practices that perpetuate the misconception that a solid, material world inexorably dictates our perceptions and belief systems. Maximized material conquest and material gain becomes the modus operandi of a capitalistic system.

Further illuminating the nature of capitalism, Chris Hedges states:
"The quest by a bankrupt elite in the final days of empire to accumulate greater and greater wealth is modern society's version of primitive fetishism ... When the most basic elements that sustain life are reduced to a cash product, life has no intrinsic value. The extinguishing of 'primitive' societies, those that were defined by animism and mysticism, those that celebrated ambiguity and mystery, those that respected the centrality of the human imagination, removed the only ideological counterweight to a self-devouring capitalist ideology."


Here we see some of the characteristics of neoliberal capitalism which subscribe to the notion that the world be defined in "material" terms. The ruling ideology of capitalism has sought out to extinguish any alternative thought or knowledge that understands the world in immaterial terms and replace it with the narrow ideology of materialism, consumerism, commodification.

The more people who are complicit in capitalist ideology (among other forms of dominant ideologies), the stronger the possibilities become to fetishize and develop the concept of "the material." all while the expropriation of vast forms of land, wealth, resources and capital become normalized and accepted. Furthermore, once all "material" resources have become accessed (or more importantly not accessed by the majority of people), exploited and exhausted, then the majority of people become even more subjected to the harsh and misleading conditions that capitalism inflicts upon them.

So, as far as quantum mechanics is concerned, capitalism is based on the (false) assumption that an absolute "material" world actually exists "out there." Traditional criticisms of capitalism typically focus on the exploitation of labor and human bodies, as well as massive class inequalities and social injustice; however, they leave out one crucial aspect in it all: that capitalist ideology and capitalist operation mislead us about the nature of the universe (which includes the nature of ourselves since we are part of the universe, as well). With that said, we can actually use our knowledge of quantum mechanics to transform our perceptions about the world around us, thus alleviating some of the conditions that capitalism creates for us. Even Einstein alluded to the idea that we can utilize science to "potentially change the world itself" by using "rational thinking and technology to improve the conditions in which we live."(1) As Peter Dreier states:
"Einstein criticized capitalism's 'economic anarchy' and the 'oligarchy of private capital, the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by democratically organized political society.'"
If Einstein could apply his knowledge of science and the quantum reality to social injustice and systemic inequality, then there is no reason that we cannot do the same here and now.

Given the fact that the underlying premise of capitalism acts in opposition to the principles of quantum mechanics and, therefore, the nature of the universe itself (as understood through quantum mechanics), then we should not be confounded in the least when we experience the destructive consequences of a system that is based on prodigious wealth and material accumulation. This systemic discord or imbalance is bound to perpetuate the likes of environmental devastation and vast human suffering. Furthermore, one of the unspoken consequences of capitalistic operation is the alienation from one's humanity and from nature.

Not only are we inundated by a social and economic matrix of domination every single day, but that very matrix detaches us from the universe (or nature) in a sense. So, we should not just look to eradicate the deleterious conditions of capitalism, but rather, we should look to understand and work in accordance with the universe, so that destructive systemic conditions do not even come into existence in the first place.

Consequently, when we look at the world through the lens of quantum mechanics, we see that the economic systems of capitalism, socialism and communism actually have more in common with each other since they all are based on material acquisition and distribution and on the assumption that our world is a fundamentally material realm. However, we can use quantum mechanics to create an entirely new way of viewing and operating inside of the world, which would require a drastic philosophical and ideological change of epic proportion. Epic change, perhaps, is a concept that we may need to start entertaining.

Lastly, as if world hunger, poverty, class inequality, sickness and disease, permanent war and ecological ruination weren't enough to present a critical case against capitalism, then consider the following. In relative terms to the rest of the entire universe, quantum mechanics shows us just how narrow, constrictive and destructive the system of capitalism actually is.

References: (1) Dreier, Peter. 2012. "Albert Einstein: Radical Citizen and Scientist." Truthout, June 25.
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The Drought of 2012

SUBHEAD: When the next mega drought (or flood) occurs in say 5 years, will we be ready?

 By Chad Hellwinckel on 17 July 2012 for Knoxville Permaculture Guild - (http://knoxvillepermacultureguild.ning.com/profiles/blogs/the-drought-of-12)

 
Image above: Corn plants struggle to survive on the drought-stricken farm field in Oakland City, Indiana, July 24, 2012. From (http://www.newsdaily.com/stories/bre86n1m1-us-usa-drought/).
 
As I'm laying here recovering from a back injury, I've had time to look into how our nation's crops are doing this year. Wow! 3/4 of the corn crop is under severe drought. Corn prices are up over 50% in the last month, soybeans are up almost 30%, and the USDA says they are still assessing the damage. No rain in sight yet and we're probably looking at another record spike in prices. Here's an article on it : Drought of 2012.

What happens to the crops in the Midwest impacts the world. All grain prices will be up. Meat, milk and egg prices will rise too, because of the animals dependence on these feed commodities. This year grain producing areas of the US have been hit hard. Last year it was the Mexican vegetables and southern US livestock. Since 2007, climate model predictions of increased weather variability are playing out in the real world. We can expect bumper harvests in between the crop failure years.

Farmers also have the extra burden of shouldering the other of the Twin Trends ~ input price increases. As fossil energy production has leveled out since 2005, prices have increased, affecting the prices paid for fertilizers, chemicals, machinery, and seeds (which take energy to make). Along side the Twin Trends of increasing weather variability and increasing energy costs, we will have the Twin Crises of 1) increasing food prices and 2) farmers going broke. Experts on climate and energy see no let-up in these trends. People are asking,

~ How can we keep food affordable (especially healthy food), and keep the business of farming profitable? 
 
The cost of food is bound to increase from historic low costs, but 'healthy' food will increase less than 'unhealthy' food if we allow market forces to work. By 'healthy food' I mean food grown with a low use of fossil energy and grown close to market -- which will have the leg up on its 'unhealthy' industrial competition. Since 2005, and the sudden escalation of the Twin Trends, the local food movement has been growing steadily. New young farmers are locating in and around our cities, direct marketing to customers through CSAs, farmer's markets, and restaurants.

These new farmers are struggling, and there are still many logistical problems to solve as the local market grows. Fortunately, local food economies have lots of inefficiency in them. Yes, I'm saying that's a good thing. It's good because as energy prices go up, we can make local food more efficient as it grows in market size. For example, local slaughterhouses and crop aggregators are big unfilled niches that can make local healthy food competitive with ever increasing industrial food prices. The industrial system has no such slack in its production efficiency after 80 years of making strides to reduce costs. This study shows that even with the record high prices starting in 2008, higher input costs were shrinking conventional agriculture's net profit.

There are market forces at play pushing food production to be more decentralized, less fossil fuel intensive, closer to market, and, yes, healthier. BUT there is a countering force resisting movement away from centralized high-input monocultures. We must make sure that the countering forces do not harm the natural course of adaptation that is already emerging.

Smart policy would do three things:

1)Prioritize the growth of local agriculture, which grows vegetables, fruits, nuts, and raises chickens, eggs, beef cattle, goats, and milk cows on land surrounding our urban cores. Smart policy would educate perspective farmers on the efficiencies of permaculture design, subsidize land purchases, make land available for lease, incentivize slaughterhouses, develop food aggregating HUBS, alter city and county codes to make areas more farm and garden friendly, make soil building materials available at the neighborhood level for home-production. All these will help keep food more available and affordable than if we rely strictly on the conventional industrial supply lines. The growth in local low-input agriculture also has the side effect of being healthy.

2) Do not subsidize conventional agriculture unconditionally. Income crises will occur. Instead of giving conventional agriculture a blank check, any subsidization should be tied to conversion of land to practices that make the farm more resilient given the Twin Trends. Subsidies should be tied to practices such as cover crop usage, intercropping, crop/animal integration, conversion to pastures, and increases in soil organic carbon. Research shows that these practices can out-yield conventional practices. Current subsidized crop insurance programs place no conditions on practices. Our current policies are guaranteeing a net return on outdated and inefficient practices.

Local 'urban perimeter' agriculture will not likely supply a complete diet to all, and the vast hinterlands of the midwest will have a role. In 100 years, grains and some meat will still be produced far from markets and transported. But if we want such farms to operate without large subsidies, we must transition these farms to operate under lower input use and more resilient to extreme weather variability. A large portion of the land will likely be in pastures instead of grains, producing meat with less inputs. Grains will likely be grown in cover crops and in rotation with pastures.

3) Establish a national grain reserve to assure food in times of extreme emergency. A properly designed grain reserve would not operate as a subsidy, but rather as a market stabilizer by buying grain when its cheap and selling it when its expensive. Farmers of all types and sizes will benefit from relatively stable prices.

These three steps will help assure that our food is more resilient to the Twin Trends. Food will cost more regardless, but these policies will keep the price rises to less than if we continue along the conventional lines.

If conventional practices are kept afloat unaltered, then food prices will be artificially cheap in many years, and very expensive (or unavailable) in years where the system fails. With artificially cheap market prices, the more resilient, more input-efficient, local, urban perimeter agriculture will not scale up as quickly. This will leave our nation vulnerable to periodic food scarcity. And, as a nation as a whole, paying more for our food.

It looks like this year, the majority of people will be paying more for their food in the coming year. Our family will not be. We've been buying more local food for a few years. We pay more, but with this drought, our monthly food bill will not be increasing. The narrowing price spread between industrial and local food is propelling more people with every price spike to switch to local.

When the next mega drought (or flood) occurs in say 5 years, will we be ready? Will we have our cities ringed in farms, running off urban waste streams, growing their diverse crops upon an ever increasing sponge of soil organic matter. The deep soils and foliage canopies shielding crops and pastures from the worst impacts of drought and flood alike. Will our meat, eggs, and milk be produced upon pastures, resilient to feed grain price spikes? Will we have a grain reserve in place, assuring people a basic level of calories in extreme emergencies? To push forward, policymakers must keep the long-term trends and a vision in mind, and not fall into the narrow sighted tweaking of farm bill programs.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: All Texas a Disaster Area 6/29/11

USDA info on the impacts of the drought Federally Subsidized Crop Insurance More on Crop Insurance Prices Up, Farm income Down Organic methods more productive than large monocultures Small Farms are High Yielding Commodity Prices

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We built for a different Earth

SUBHEAD: Our agriculture, power-grid and infrastructure were built for another planet we no longer live on.  

By Curt Kobb on 29 July 2012 for Resource Insights - 
(http://resourceinsights.blogspot.com/2012/07/our-current-infrastructure-was-built.html)

 
Image above: Fantasy illustration from 2005 of effort to terraform Mars into having a "earth-like" atmosphere - as if we can even maintain one on our own planet! From (http://www.redcolony.com/newsarchive.php?month=08&year=05).
 
It's easy to forget that every piece of our current infrastructure--roads, rails, runways, bridges, industrial plants, housing--was built with a certain temperature range in mind. Our agricultural system and much of our electrical generating system (including dams, nuclear power stations and conventional thermal electric plants which burn coal and natural gas) were created not only with a certain temperature range in mind, but also a certain range of rainfall.
 
 Rainfall, whether it is excessive or absent, can become a problem if it creates 1) floods that damage and sweep away buildings and crops or 2) if there isn't enough water to quench crops and supply industrial and utility operating needs. This summer has shown just what can happen when those built-in tolerances for heat, moisture (or lack of it) and wind are exceeded. The New York Times did an excellent short piece providing examples of some of those effects:
  1. A jet stuck on the tarmac as its wheels sank into asphalt softened by 100-degree heat.
  2. A subway train derailed by a kink in the track due to excessive heat.
  3. A power plant that had to be shut down due to lack of cooling water when the water level dropped below the intake pipe.
  4. A "derecho", a severe weather pattern of thunderstorms and very high straight-line winds, that deprived 4.3 million people of power in the eastern part of the United States, some for eight days.
  5. Drainage culverts destroyed by excessive rains.
Past attempts to forecast the possible costs of climate change have been largely inadequate. They failed because of unanticipated effects on and complex interconnections among various parts of critical infrastructure. Back in 2007 Yale economist William Nordhaus wrote in a paper that "[e]conomic studies suggest that those parts of the economy that are insulated from climate, such as air-conditioned houses or most manufacturing operations, will be little affected directly by climatic change over the next century or so." Having air-conditioning does not do you much good, however, if the electricity is out. And, manufacturing operations depend on reliable electric service. Many manufacturing operations are also water-intensive and so will be affected by water shortages. In addition, damage to transportation systems (as detailed above) could hamper the delivery of manufactured products. Where Nordhaus does acknowledge considerable effects, he seems to underestimate the impact:
However, those human and natural systems that are “unmanaged,” such as rain-fed agriculture, seasonal snow packs and river runoffs, and most natural ecosystems, may be significantly affected. While economic studies in this area are subject to large uncertainties, the best guess in this study is that economic damages from climate change with no interventions will be in the order of 2½ percent of world output per year by the end of the 21st century.
I have commented on this assessment in a previous piece. Nordhaus imagines that because agriculture, forestry, and fisheries make up only about 1.0 percent of the U.S. economy, negative effects on these from climate change would do minimal damage.

We cannot, however, look only within the border of the United States for effects, though those have been bad enough. Extreme drought in the grain-growing areas of the world's major exporter of grain has already sent soybean and corn prices to record highs.

 This has the potential to affect political stability in countries where food costs are a much larger share of income. If high prices persist, then it's possible we'll see food riots similar to those in 2007-2008 that were a precursor to the Arab Spring which destabilized so many regimes in a short period of time.

This kind of disruption to an economy and society is far beyond anything Nordhaus anticipates. Naturally, the oil industry agrees that the problem of adaptation will be fairly minor. Rex Tillerson, current CEO of Exxon Mobil Corp., the world's largest international oil company, recently told the Council on Foreign Relations the following:
We have spent our entire existence adapting, OK? So we will adapt to this. Changes to weather patterns that move crop production areas around--we'll adapt to that. It's an engineering problem, and it has engineering solutions.
Not surprisingly, Tillerson doesn't understand that costly existing agricultural infrastructure won't be easily moved or replaced. He also doesn't seem to understand that soil quality is not uniform from place to place.

Does he think that as temperatures warm and devastate the American grain belt with recurrent drought, we can simply transfer the growing of much of the world's export grain crop north to the Canadian Shield which has soil so thin it has never supported agriculture?

Writer Bill McKibben, who sounded one of the first warnings about climate change in his 1989 book The End of Nature, has explained in his recent book Eaarth that we now live on a new planet, one created by irrevocable and increasingly rapid climate change. One of our biggest problems is that our current infrastructure was built for the old planet Earth.

Neither Rex Tillerson, who leads an organization that has consistently put out disinformation about climate change, nor William Nordhaus, who has long acknowledged that climate change is a problem, seem to understand the scope and scale of our infrastructure predicament.

Kurt Cobb is the author of the peak-oil-themed thriller, Prelude, and a columnist for the Paris-based science news site Scitizen. His work has also been featured on Energy Bulletin, The Oil Drum, 321energy, Common Dreams, Le Monde Diplomatique, EV World, and many other sites. He maintains a blog called Resource Insights.
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Micro Solar for Billions

SUBHEAD: Micro solar solutions will have a greater effect on quality of life than mega-projects to sustain the unsustainable.  

By Nancy Wimmer on 23 July 2012 for Sierra Club Compass -  
(http://sierraclub.typepad.com/compass/2012/07/grameen-solar-success.html)

 
Image above: Mr. Majid needed: a 25W solar system to light his grocery cart and power his cassette player to have nighttime operations. From original article.
 
In one of the poorest countries on the planet a renewable energy service company is installing one thousand solar home systems - a day. Not in its capital or busy urban centers, but where 80 percent of the population lives - in rural Bangladesh. The company, Grameen Shakti, literally translates as rural energy.

By the end of the year it will have installed a total of one million solar systems and now has expansion plans to install five million systems by 2015. Shakti is succeeding where business as usual has failed, and in the year of Sustainable Energy for All, it's a success story we should all know by heart. As in other developing countries, the rural market is incredibly tough to serve and villagers are very poor. So how is Grameen Shakti selling them 'expensive solar'?

Shakti solved part of the problem by tailoring a solar system to exactly what people like the traveling food vendor, Mr. Majid needed: a 25W solar system to light his grocery cart and power his cassette player. They then coupled tailored solutions with finance providing him with a loan he could afford to repay because he doubled his monthly income by working after dusk and attracting more customers with popular Bangla music.
But the problems don't stop here.

Rural customers are hard to reach. In the Bangladesh delta of the mighty Brahmaputra, Ganges and Meghna Rivers it's even tougher. Its villages can become islands in the rainy season, when almost half the country is flooded. Other regions where the land lies lower than the plains turn into huge lakes, forcing villagers to travel by boat seven months of the year. Serving village customers on the delta means traveling bumpy mud paths and crossing rivers - on foot, by bike, boat and by rickshaw.
 
It can take hours during the rainy season to reach a few customers. Shakti meets this challenge by creating rural supply chains and after sales service. Its engineers and technicians live, work and are trained on the job in the villages. They become part of the community, keep in close contact with their customers and make sure the solar systems are running. If there is a problem, Shakti is onsite to solve it - even in times of disaster. In the aftermath of Cyclone Sidr, Shakti branch staff members were out doing repairs within hours in areas it took days and weeks for emergency teams to reach.

 For Shakti, all business is rural. Its field managers run 1,500 branch offices in every district in Bangladesh. They guarantee complete service - from installation, maintenance, repair and financing to customer care and training. This focus on rural service began when Grameen was founded back in 1996. It sent bright, young engineers into the hinterland to set up its first branches. They won the trust of the villagers, trained local technicians, managed all financing, solar installations and maintenance. This laid the groundwork for Shakti's quality service and steady growth, but it took years to develop.

Shakti has now set up 45 technology centers to produce and repair solar accessories. In this way production moves from the capital to the villages and solves problems of cost, logistics and rapid growth in a highly decentralized company. The centers are managed by women engineers, who - like their male colleagues - live, work and train in rural communities. Of importance here is how these technology centers function as incubators for a further innovation: the village energy entrepreneur.

  
Image above: A self-employed woman trained to repair solar accessories. From original article.

Kohinur, for example was trained at a technology center to become an energy entrepreneur. She earns an income producing and repairing solar accessories, is self-employed and receives ongoing support from the technology centers for her business. Neighbors now bring Kohinur solar lamps for minor repairs instead of contacting the Shakti branch. The technology center engineers supervise Kohinur's work and do quality control.

 Kohinur dropped out of school in the 8th grade, had no vocational training and no source of income, but is now able to contribute on average Taka 5,000 per month to her family's income. This is as much as her father earns delivering fresh fish to the shipping port in Khulna and a substantial increase in monthly income for a poor family.

Kohinur's story can be the story of the 1.3 billion people around the world without electricity access. But what we hear over and over again is that renewable energy technologies like solar are expensive and the rural poor are either too poor or too difficult to serve. The Grameen Shakti story explained in the book, Green Energy for a Billion Poor clearly shows how outdated and out of touch this line of thinking is.

With over five million villagers enjoying solar electricity and Shakti technicians installing one thousand solar systems a day it's time our development institutions put their scarce development dollars behind initiatives such as these. No one can work miracles in a traditional rural society, but entrepreneurial companies like Shakti are proving we can do far, far better than business as usual.

Nancy Wimmer is Director of microSOLAR and author of "Green Energy for a Billion Poor- How Grameen Shakti Created a Winning Model for Social Business".

Vacuuming the Atmosphere

SUBHEAD: If the reserves of fossil fuels are burned by 2100 we better be scrubbing the atmosphere of CO2.  

By Albert Bates on 27 July 2012 for Peak Surfer - 
(http://peaksurfer.blogspot.mx/2012/07/vacuuming-atmosphere_27.html)

 
Image above: Artificial trees absorb CO2 out of atmosphere near wind farm on a lanscape that looks like the planet Mars. Note CO2 emissions from jet contrail and interstate highway. From (http://thisbigcity.net/are-artificial-trees-the-answer-for-carbon-capture/).
My beef with the whole “solutions” thing comes from my travels around the country, talking on college campuses and such; there is this whole clamor for “solutions.” The idea is, if you’re not optimistic enough, you should shut up. But there are subtexts to all these things. And the subtext to that particular meme is, “Give us the solutions that will allow us to keep running our stuff the same way we’re running it now, except by other means.” They don’t really want to hear about other arrangements. They want to keep on running all the cars, only differently. You know, like hybrid electric cars, or electric cars, or cars that run on algae secretions. But they don’t get that we’re done with that way of life. The mandates of reality are telling us something very different. They are telling us we have to inhabit the landscape and move around in it very differently in the future.
— James Howard Kunstler, in Rolling Stone, July 12, 2012



Scientists grasping at geoengineering straws to maintain a quasihuman technotopia into the post-Anthropocene have proposed a lot of bad ideas but occasionally something pops up that could conceivably work. Those in the latter category need to be put to the proof. We will have a closer look at one of those, but first a quick bit of background. 
 
In 1989, when we were proofreading publishers’ galleys and drawing illustrations to go with our planned January 1990 release of Climate in Crisis: The Greenhouse Effect and What You Can Do, two new books came across our desk that seemed to confirm the importance of what we were writing. The two were Bill McKibben’s End of Nature and Steven Schneider’s Global Warming. The first we dismissed out of hand because it seemed overly prosaic and we did not agree with the premise — nature was not going away, although we humans well might. 
 
The second gave us greater concern because, like Climate in Crisis, it put the science out there for the average person to read in terms that were easy to comprehend, and it told a story by scientific discoveries, in a sequence not unlike our own, from ice cores to better light bulbs. With the hindsight of 31 years, we’d have to say we owe Mr. McKibben an apology — he was right and nature really is dying. Much of it is already dead. 
 
Our approach, like Schneider’s, was too cautious, too conservative, and too timid. We proposed that the “Peace Dividend” from the end of the Cold War be used to remake a clean, green, economic engine of sustainable development — a solar-powered future. Looking at that now it seems laughable: a technofetishist utopia. 
 
Back in 1989 we couldn’t really face the worst —the Venus scenario — it was too horrible. We described it, but then we went right back to light bulbs and Energy Star appliances.

In his recent Rolling Stone piece, McKibben shredded many environmental groups’ strategic choices of the late 20th century, albeit acknowledging that the efforts had to be made if only to show them wrong:
This record of failure means we know a lot about what strategies don't work. Green groups, for instance, have spent a lot of time trying to change individual lifestyles: the iconic twisty light bulb has been installed by the millions, but so have a new generation of energy-sucking flatscreen TVs. Most of us are fundamentally ambivalent about going green: We like cheap flights to warm places, and we're certainly not going to give them up if everyone else is still taking them. Since all of us are in some way the beneficiaries of cheap fossil fuel, tackling climate change has been like trying to build a movement against yourself – it's as if the gay-rights movement had to be constructed entirely from evangelical preachers, or the abolition movement from slaveholders.
By now, we are in complete agreement with him on this point. Technofixes have to be seen for what they are — nostalgic longing for an extinct, Disneyesque futurism. Torus energy, biofueled airliners, Virgin Galaxy trips to the moon and desert cities encased in air-conditioned biodomes are all forlorn grasps at a tiny twig of what-might-have-been, as we plummet off the cliff face into a hellish post-Anthropocene.

Our most recent book, The Biochar Solution: Carbon Farming and Climate Change, proposed a realistic and still feasible end run around the politicians and bankers by going straight for the farmers and homesteaders working to hold back the deserts. The Biochar Solution is geoengineering disguised as organic gardening. It takes two fundamental human needs — food and energy — and provides the former much more reliably in the changing landscape of the 21st century by extracting the latter in an ancient, alchemical way. Nothing is needed by way of exotic metals, crystals or fractional reserve banking, and we know it works because Christopher Columbus and Genghis Khan both used it to reshape our atmosphere and climate once before. By reforesting entire continents (albeit unintentionally, as a side-product of genocide and mass-enslavement) they each interrupted “natural” warming cycles and brought about major cooling cycles — even minor ice ages — virtually overnight.

Less proven and more in the realm of exotic metals, crystals and fractional reserve banking is a strategy being proposed by a team of academics turned entrepreneurs led by Columbia University’s (no relation to the Italian navigator) Peter Eisenberger and Graciela Chicilnisky. They propose low-cost, high efficiency, air extraction (carbon scrubbers). They want to use artificial trees to vacuum the atmosphere, take out the CO2, and stick it somewhere useful, such as in lagoons, where it can grow algae for $0.40/gallon biodiesel, or in hothouses, where it can boost hydroponic pot yields.

If you remember Apollo 13 (The Movie), you might recall that the crisis Tom Hanks character faced was less the loss of oxygen than the oversaturation of CO2, which presented a life-threatening problem. Engineers on the ground improvised a way to join the cube-shaped Command Module canisters to the Landing Module's cylindrical canister-sockets by cannibalizing a space suit.

Later space shuttles had a carbon dioxide removal system that regenerated its sorbent, leaving no wastes. The metal-oxide sorbent was cleansed by pumping air heated to around 200°C (400°F) at 7.5 scfm through its canister for 10 hours. Activated carbon, made from pyrolyzed biomass, can also be used as a low-cost carbon dioxide sorbant. Once the activated carbon is saturated the CO2 can be removed by blowing air through the bed, but that would create dirty exhaust, so a better method is to immerse the activated charcoal in a reactant like soda lime, sodium hydroxide, potassium hydroxide, or lithium hydroxide that are able to chemically react and entrain the CO2. This is similar to the process we use when mixing sawdust or chopped straw fiber with lime putty in making lime renders and plasters for natural buildings. Over time, the carbon is incorporated into the hydrated lime, leaving a hard surface, just like limestone.

The scrubbers Eisenberger and Chicilnisky propose are ceramic honeycomb filters coated with immobilized amine sorbants (aminopropyl or aziridine-based sprays). Air is forced through the filters and the amines adsorb appreciable amounts of CO2 at ambient temperatures, and subsequently desorb the CO2 when temperatures are raised to 75-120°C (170-250°F). The energy to power the fans and heat the desorption process can be fossil-fueled, solar thermal, geothermal, or biomass (including Combined Heat and Biochar —CHAB— units). Using fossil fuels seems to defeat the purpose, but filters can even be installed on a coal or diesel power station and used to render the air from the smokestack cleaner than the air coming into the furnace from the sky.

The specific reactant agents are a trade secret, and the group has been ramping up its business under the name “Global Thermostat LLC” of New York. At the UN event in Rio, Eisenberger and Chicilnisky disclosed that their process would extract CO2 at the rate of 2 kg/kWh-e consumed. “Aggressive operational deployment is assumed to begin in 2015, a date believed achievable given the state of the technology,” they said. They projected that by 2040, with half of all new power plants in the world adopting the technology, they could be extracting 34 gigatons of carbon dioxide per year (GtCO2/y) for the remainder of the century. Worldwide land requirement at that extraction level is put at <300 km2, about the size of Malta. Their spitball estimate of net sequestration by 2100, if all goes according to plan, is 2400 GtCO2.

The “Terrifying New Math” as Bill McKibben titled his Rolling Stone piece, now takes on relevance to this discussion. McKibben says, “Scientists estimate that humans can pour roughly 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by midcentury and still have some reasonable hope of staying below two degrees. (“Reasonable,” in this case, means four chances in five, or somewhat worse odds than playing Russian roulette with a six-shooter.)” He then points out that proven coal and oil and gas reserves of the fossil-fuel companies, and the countries that act like fossil-fuel companies, is a much larger number — 2795 Gt.

If all of the proven reserves of coal, oil and gas were to be burned by 2100 (2795 Gt), and at the same time the air extraction experiment of Global Thermostat were to be scaled up as Eisenberger and Chicilnisky project (withdrawing 2400 Gt), then Earth’s atmospheric parking lot would still have space for 170 more Gt before it hits the Kyoto limit of 2 degrees of warming (2795-2400 = 395; 565-395 = 170).

But, there are several reasons why this math is still fuzzy. First, there is no right answer, yet. The normal interglacial CO2 concentration is 280 ppmv, not 350 — McKibben’s target — or 390 and rising, which we have now. Methane should be at 650 ppb but instead is at 1765 ppb, 2.5 times higher than it has been for millions of years. Aiming for 350, or even just staying where we are, is probably not good enough.

No one has actually seen Global Thermostat’s scrubbers in action, and likely won’t, until there is some kind of emissions cap or price attached to carbon that forces coal plants to install them. Obama’s torpedoing of the Kyoto treaty at Copenhagen and again in Cancun and Durban assures that no such cap is waiting in the wings. Neither Mitt Romney nor Obama’s nominal successor, Hillary Clinton, seem likely to go down that road as long as their financial backers remain climate deniers.

Without financial incentives, neither the buyers nor the sellers have a market for carbon scrubbers. Indeed, this was the central thrust of Chicilnisky’s presentation in Rio. She wanted Hillary’s “Green Climate Fund” (more recently called the “Green Energy Fund”) to be tasked almost exclusively to air extraction technology (aka “clean coal”). $300 billion is a suitably large stimulus with which to launch her small New York LLC.

We don’t really know what the Global Thermostat ceramic tree technology would cost, because we don’t know what is required to make Dr. Magic’s Patented Immobilized Amine Elixir, or how much Dr. Magic wants as a royalty for use of his patent.

However, Dr. Magic’s snake oil dispensary carriage is being overtaken by the central villain in McKibben’s piece, Father Time. McKibben concluded his essay with these words:
This month, scientists issued a new study concluding that global warming has dramatically increased the likelihood of severe heat and drought – days after a heat wave across the Plains and Midwest broke records that had stood since the Dust Bowl, threatening this year's harvest. You want a big number? In the course of this month, a quadrillion kernels of corn need to pollinate across the grain belt, something they can't do if temperatures remain off the charts. Just like us, our crops are adapted to the Holocene, the 11,000-year period of climatic stability we're now leaving... in the dust.
The problem with trying to stop large scale climate change is that it may no longer be possible. We missed 150 years of warnings by Fourier, Tyndall, Arrhenius, Keeling, Broecker, Gore, the IPCC and many others. The warnings whizzed past like orange traffic cones, telling us the bridge was out, just ahead. Now we are sailing through space. We don’t know at what point we may have already triggered the shift to a new stable state, or what scientists call an attractor, that may be 5 degrees warmer than the Holocene.

If we are lucky, we can land at something resembling the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum which our (reptilian) ancestors experienced 55 million years ago, lasting 200,000 years, but for that to happen, the curve of acceleration for climate forcing positive feedbacks will have to reverse, and fairly soon, and given the current state of methane clathrate bubblings, off-gassing permafrost, summer ice loss, Atlantic Conveyor retardation, and more, even that discomforting Eocene 5-degree scenario seems implausibly Pollyannaish.

As we told our readers 32 years ago, there is a 25- to 50-year lag time between when we reach zero emissions and the planet stops getting warmer. Put another way, the droughts, wildfires, extreme storms, and all the other manifestations of climate change we are experiencing now, in 2012, are the direct result of the muscle car and hot rod culture of 1962. In 1962 there were 50 million automobiles and commercial air travel was in its infancy. Putting a man on the moon was a Kennedy campaign slogan. In contrast, what kind of footprint do we have today, and what kind of mark is that making on the world of our grandchildren? Rather than either embrace or reject the Global Thermostat process, we cautiously welcome air extraction as one more possibly helpful, hopefully harmless technology that could shave a few degrees off our sentence. Air extraction by no means provides a license to keep the party going, as some at the UN event may have hoped, or to burn all those proven reserves. McKibben is dead right about this — those carbon reservoirs must remain in the ground if we are to stand any chance.

Air extraction, if and as it ramps up to Malta-size filtration farms by 2040, could also start pulling off radionuclides, which would be a good thing, taking us back pre-Fukushima, even to the pre-Trinity era c. 1943, when fallout referred to hair-loss. But, since no legislator has ever found a way to appropriate enough money to take nuclear waste from leaking tanks in repositories, overfilled swimming pools at reactors built on coastlines or earthquake faults, or any number of other death traps set to ensnare future generations, it is difficult to imagine spending taxpayer money on extractive radionuclide removal (never mind carbon dioxide). Will private business shoulder that burden? Show us the money.

We should remember that biochar and other carbon farming techniques don’t need CO2 emissions markets or a Green Climate Fund. They improve farm yields and drought resistance independent of the speculative price of carbon. They can be entirely market driven without stimulus, right now.

Our more practical strategy, as we outlined in 2006 in The Post-Petroleum Survival Guide, remains to increase climate and economic adaptability and resilience — personal, neighborhood, community and regional — while working to facilitate a transition to a saner social arrangement that promotes planetary healing. That could and should involve air extraction, and not just for carbon. We just use trees. Real ones.

We need to let Gaia do what she does best. If we can just stop wounding her further, she might yet recover. She has the will to do it, although, at the moment, that happens to involve a serious and most unpleasant fever. It took us, the two-leggeds, hundreds of thousands of years of compassionate living, in the aggregate, for a stable Holocene period to emerge from the chaotic climate regimes of all preceding times.

We pushed the edges of that stability with our cities, redirected rivers, man-made deserts and agriculture, but we also helped her recover, bypassing and even protecting huge expanses of rainforest and sacred, untouched mountains.

The balance our predecessors struck with our mother was a delicate one, and in a mere 150 years we destroyed it, but that equipoise may not be yet beyond redemption. We just have to put the forests back and stop soiling our nest.

.

Bernanke & Draghi are dangerous

SUBHEAD: The ECB inspired rally comes at an unbearable cost that will have to be paid some day soon.  

By Charles Hugh Smith on 26 July 2012 for Of Two Minds -  
(http://charleshughsmith.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/bernanke-and-draghi-are-dangerous.html)

 
Image above: The vampire squid rides the stock market bull. From (http://blueinthebluegrass.blogspot.com/2011/11/octopi-they-are-97-percent.html).

"The world's most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money”
- Matt Taibbi, profiling on investment bank Goldman Sachs for Rolling Stone
What is being sacrificed to maintain the euro and the E.U./U.S. banking cartel? Everything of value: liberty, democracy and sovereignty.

Today we present the culmination of the previous entries ( Global Crisis: the Convergence of Marx, Orwell and Kafka and Are You Loving Your Servitude Yet?): A brief commentary by longtime correspondent Harun I. on Mario Draghi's market-moving statement:

“Within our mandate, the ECB is ready to do whatever it takes to preserve the euro. And believe me, it will be enough."

Nice, Mr. Draghi, but at what cost? And who will ultimately bear this cost? It is already far beyond the measure of mere money; democracy, truth and sovereignty have all been destroyed to prop up the central bankers' Status Quo. We can presume Mr. Bernanke and the Federal Reserve are in on the propaganda campaign, and so we need to examine the words and promises of these two central bankers, as well as what they have not said. Is talking about printing money as good as actually printing money? It would seem so. Is promising to "do whatever it takes" as good as actually doing whatever it takes? Once again, it seems so; global markets leaped at the "news" that the financial Status Quo was going to be "saved" yet again. What if it is beyond saving? What if the cost in treasure, blood, liberty, sovereignty and truth is not worth the 'saving" of a broken, unsustainable, corrupted, parasitic, predatory system? Do we get to choose, or are we just passengers on the train as the central bankers accelerate toward the chasm ahead?

Here is Harun's commentary:
Words have meaning and people should choose them carefully. Nigel Farage commented that what he saw in the faces of EU officials was "madness". We should not underestimate his assessment. At some point these individuals have to be viewed as dangerous. If we peer beyond terms such as QE, printing money out of thin air, stimulate, etc, and understand their effect, they begin to appear not so benign.

What if central bank officials came out and said, "We are going to raise your taxes", or "we are going to reduce your purchasing power", or, down to its essential point, "we are going to take money out of your pocket"? We know that there would be an uproar.
So, what did Draghi just say? He said he is willing to destroy the purchasing power of the Euro in order to save it. But let's go deeper than that. These people are willing to see countries rip themselves apart, property destroyed, and most importantly, people dying, to preserve some frivolous ideology called the Euro. If on the other hand this is about maintaining the power of the elite, it is much worse, because if this were the case then we are seeing an attempt at totalitarian rule by what you call the "stateless state".

But of course, the markets cheered. At least that is how it is interpreted. I interpret it as people reacting to prevent the confiscation of their purchasing power by someone they cannot un-elect.

Who elected Draghi and endowed him the authority to tell Europeans that they will suffer and die before the Euro? How much violence is ready to be endured and how many lives is the EU body willing to sacrifice upon the alter of the Euro or any monetary system?
Not one official has declared that they will "do whatever needed" to preserve liberty, democracy and sovereignty. Does this imply the Euro has a higher priority? Does the end of the Euro or the present monetary system mean the sun will stop spinning and all of its planets will be sent hurtling through the cosmos? The callousness and detachment from reality in an effort to save a nonessential thing makes them dangerous. The more desperate they become the more dangerous they become.

If just one of them would publicly muse aloud that perhaps a mistake has been made, and perhaps a rethink of the structure of the EU is appropriate, I would feel better. But they are willing to confiscate your labor through monetary chicanery, deny liberty, destroy democracy, ignore sovereignty, and even witness violence and death, not just in Europe but in the US as well, to maintain a system that is horribly and irrevocably broken.

Lastly, much is being made over whether the German Constitutional Court will ratify the ESM. The German High Court is wasting its time or willfully participating in a charade. A fund that will be used to bailout the very people who must provide funds to the fund is as ridiculous as this sentence sounds. Mind you that the countries that are suppose to provide funding to the ESM must borrow to do so and then must turn around and borrow from the ESM, effectively borrowing the same non-money twice -- at interest.

(If the money is "borrowed" from the ECB, which has no "money" and then "borrowed" from the ESM, the ESM will not owe a debt to the ECB. Therefore, the sovereign will owe a debt to the ESM and the ECB.)
All that has really been accomplished over the past hundred years is the establishment of elaborate transfer mechanisms, each destroying wealth one order of a magnitude faster than the previous.

I never thought I would witness such collective madness. But the worst part is that it is anything but benign, and, it is only just beginning


Climate Change & American Revolution

SUBHEAD: Deeper solutions will emerge that challenge the whole economic structure that is deaf to the needs of humans.

 By Shamus Cooke on 26 July 2012 for Znet -  
(http://www.zcommunications.org/climate-change-and-the-next-u-s-revolution-by-shamus-cooke)

 
Image above: Painting of "Washington Crossing the Delaware" by Emanuel Leutze, 1851. Updated with the latest climate forecast by Juan Wilson. From (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Washington_Crossing_the_Delaware_by_Emanuel_Leutze,_MMA-NYC,_1851.jpg).
 
The U.S. heat wave is slowly shaking the foundations of American politics. It may take years for the deep rumble to evolve into an above ground, institution-shattering earthquake, but U.S. society has changed for good.

The heat wave has helped convince tens of millions of Americans that climate change is real, overpowering the fake science and right-wing media - funded by corporate cash - to convince Americans otherwise.

Republicans and Democrats alike also erect roadblocks to understanding climate change. By the politicians’ complete lack of action towards addressing the issue, the "climate change is fake" movement was strengthened, since Americans presumed that any sane government would be actively trying to address an issue that had the potential to destroy civilization.

But working people have finally made up their mind. A recent poll showed that 70 percent of Americans now believe that climate change is real, up from 52 percent in 2010. And a growing number of people are recognizing that the warming of the planet is caused by human activity.
Business Week explains: "A record heat wave, drought and catastrophic wildfires are accomplishing what climate scientists could not: convincing a wide swath of Americans that global temperatures are rising."

This means that working class families throughout the Midwest and southern states simply don't believe what their media and politicians are telling them.

It also implies that these millions of Americans are being further politicized in a deeper sense.
Believing that climate change exists implies that you are somewhat aware about the massive consequences to humanity if the global economy doesn't drastically change, and fast.
This awareness has revolutionary implications. As millions of Americans watch the environment destroyed - for their grandchildren or themselves - while politicians do absolutely nothing in response, or make tiny token gestures - a growing number of Americans will demand political alternatives, and fight to see them created. The American political system as it exists today cannot cope with this inevitable happening.

The New York Times explains why: "...the American political system is not ready to agree to a [climate] treaty that would force the United States, over time, to accept profound changes in its energy [coal, oil], transport [trucking and airline industry] and manufacturing [corporate] sectors.”
In short, the U.S. government will not force corporations to make less profit by behaving more eco-friendly. This is the essence of the problem.

In order for humanity to survive climate change, the economy must be radically transformed; massive investments must be made in renewable energy, public transportation, and recycling, while dirty energy sources must be quickly swept into the dustbin of history.

But the economy is currently owned by giant, privately run corporations, that will continue destroying the earth if it earns them huge profits, and they make massive "contributions" to political parties to ensure this remains so. It's becoming increasingly obvious that government inaction on climate change is directly linked to the "special interests" of corporations that dominate these governments.

This fact of U.S. politics is present in every other capitalist country as well, which means that international agreements on reducing greenhouse gasses will remain impossible, as each country's corporations vie for market domination, reducing pollution simply puts them at a competitive disadvantage.

This dynamic has already caused massive delays in the UN's already inadequate efforts at addressing climate change. The Kyoto climate agreement was the by-product of years of cooperation and planning between many nations that included legally binding agreements to reduce greenhouse gasses. The Bush and Obama administrations helped destroy these efforts.

For example, Instead of building upon the foundation of the Kyoto Protocol, the Obama administration demanded a whole new structure, something that would take years to achieve. The Kyoto framework (itself insufficient) was abandoned because it included legally binding agreements, and was based on multilateral, agreed-upon reductions of greenhouse gasses.

In an article by the Guardian entitled “US Planning to Weaken Copenhagen Climate Deal,” the Obama administration's UN position is exposed, as he dismisses the Kyoto Protocol by proposing that “…each country set its own rules and to decide unilaterally how to meet its target.”

Obama's proposal came straight from the mouth of U.S. corporations, who wanted to ensure that there was zero accountability, zero oversight, zero climate progress, and therefore no dent to their profits. Instead of using its massive international leverage for climate justice, the U.S. has used it to promote divisiveness and inaction, to the potential detriment of billions of people globally.

The stakes are too high to hold out any hope that governments will act boldly. The Business Week article below explains the profound changes happening to the climate:
"The average temperature for the U.S. during June was 71.2 degrees Fahrenheit (21.7 Celsius), which is 2 degrees higher than the average for the 20th century, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The June temperatures made the preceding 12 months the warmest since record-keeping began in 1895, the government agency said."
Activists who are radicalized by this global problem face a crisis of what to do about it. It is difficult to put forth a positive climate change demand, since the problem is global. Demanding that governments "act boldly" to address climate change hasn't worked, and lesser demands seem inadequate.

The environmental rights movement continues to go through a variety of phases: individual and small group eco-"terrorism," causing property damage to environmentally damaging companies; corporate campaigns that target especially bad polluters with high-profile direct action; and massive education programs that have been highly successful, but fall short when it comes to winning change.

Ultimately, climate activists must come face to face with political and corporate power.

Corporate-owned governments are the ones with the power to adequately address the climate change issue, and they will not be swayed by good science, common sense, basic decency, or even a torched planet.

Those in power only respond to power, and the only power capable of displacing corporate power is when people unite and act collectively, as was done in Egypt, Tunisia, and is still developing throughout Europe.

Climate groups cannot view their issue as separate from other groups that are organizing against corporate power. The social movements that have emerged to battle austerity measures are natural allies, as are anti-war and labor activists. The climate solution will inevitably require revolutionary measures, which first requires that alliances and demands are put forward that unite Labor, working people in general, community, and student groups towards collective action.

One possible immediate demand is for environmental activists to unite with Labor groups over a federal jobs program, paid for by taxing the rich, that makes massive investments in jobs that are climate related, such as solar panel production, transportation, building recycling centers, home retro-fitting, etc.

Another demand could be to insist that the government convene the most knowledgeable scientists in the area of clean energy. These scientists should be given all the resources they need in order to collectively create alternative sources of clean energy that would allow for a realistic alternative to the current polluting and toxic sources of energy.

However, any type of immediate demand will meet giant corporate resistance from both political parties. Fighting for a uniting demand will thus strengthen the movement, and for this reason it is important to link climate solutions to the creation of jobs, which are the number one concern of most Americans. This unity will in turn lead allies toward a deeper understanding of the problem, and therefore deeper solutions will emerge that challenge the whole economic structure that is deaf to the needs of humans and the climate and sacrifices everything to the private profit of a few.

• Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org). He can be reached at shamuscooke@gmail.com .
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Post Growth Project

SUBHEAD: Green House think tank has launched an examination of advantages of no-growth economy.  

By Molly Scott Cato on 26 July 2012 for Gaian Economics -  
(http://gaianeconomics.blogspot.com/2012/07/green-house-launches-post-growth-project.html)

 
Image above: Typical site at American interstate offramp - franchise joints to fill the gut and the tank. From (http://witsendnj.blogspot.com/2012/07/no-measurable-impact.html).

The growth figures released yesterday were shocking. They demonstrate clearly that Osborne is mistaken in his view of how an economy works, a point I have been repeating in somewhat tedious fashion over the past couple of years. The clear pattern of economic growth following the election and the massive cuts in capital expenditure make it clear to anybody who is not an utter ideologue that there is plain choice between a Keynesian or Hayekian response to this latest, and biggest, capitalist crisis. The Hayekian response smashes up the public sector and enhances the power of capital; the Keynesian response, if skilfully executed, might return us to over-stimulated growth.

Of course amongst green economists there is a totally different way of looking at this. Economic growth has ended: fact. Attempts to restimulate it via pressure on consumers, monetary injections, and so on will be chaotic and unpredictable, but more importantly will only add to the ecological pressure caused by an economy growing out of control. The alternative? Accept that the growth has needed, even welcome it, and begin to plan for a stabilised, post-growth economy. To explore the implications of such a worldview the Green House thinktank has launched its Post-Growth Project.

The aim of the  Green House Post-Growth Project (http://www.greenhousethinktank.org/page.php?pageid=postgrowth) is to challenge the common sense that assumes that it is ‘bad news’ when the economy doesn’t grow and to anatomise what it is about the structure of our economic system that means growth must always be prioritised. Green House plans to set out an attractive, attainable vision of what one country would look like, once we deliberately gave up growth-mania – and of how to get there.

And we intend to find ways of communicating this to people that make sense, and that motivate change. Over the next year Green House will be publishing a series of reports addressing various aspects of the transition to a post-growth economy. What will this mean for our politics, and how can we ensure that a post-growth society is characterized by social justice and democratic decision-making? What would the macroeconomics of post-growth look like, and how can we pay for excellent public services in such a scenario?

How can we ensure that, this time around, we don't just return to the mistaken idea that we must stimulate further aggregate demand, whatever the planetary cost?

Please join this debate: read the Green House papers (http://www.greenhousethinktank.org/page.php?pageid=forthcomingreports), feel free to offer ideas of your own, and join they set up events and activities to spread the message. Together we can build a better world: the end of economic growth is an opportunity, not a tragedy.

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Brazil's Indigenous Uprising

SUBHEAD: In the Amazon tribes are challenging construction of the world's 3rd largest dam, by dismantling it.  

By John Perkins on 23 July 2012 for Yes! Magazine -  
(http://www.yesmagazine.org/peace-justice/occupy-the-dam-brazils-indigenous-uprising)

 
Image above: Tribal men of the Amazon raise spears at distant helicopter. From original article.
 


Last month, hundreds of indigenous demonstrators began dismantling a dam in the heart of Brazil’s rainforest to protest the destruction it will bring to lands they have loved and honored for centuries. The Brazilian government is determined to promote construction of the massive, $14 billion Belo Monte Dam, which will be the world’s third largest when it is completed in 2019. It is being developed by Norte Energia, a consortium of ten of the world’s largest construction, engineering, and mining firms set up specifically for the project.


Hydroelectric energy is anything but “clean” when measured in terms of the excruciating pain it causes individuals, social institutions, and local ecology.

The Belo Monte Dam is the most controversial of dozens of dams planned in the Amazon region and threatens the lives and livelihoods of thousands of Amazonian people, plants, and animals. Situated on the Xingu River, the dam is set to flood roughly 150 square miles of already-stressed rainforest and deprive an estimated 20,000 people of their homes, their incomes, and—for those who succumb to malaria, bilharzia, and other diseases carried by insects and snails that are predicted to breed in the new reservoir—their lives. Moreover, the influx of immigrants will bring massive disruption to the socioeconomic balance of the region. People whose livelihoods have primarily depended on hunting and gathering or farming may suddenly find themselves forced to take jobs as manual laborers, servants, and prostitutes.

History has shown again and again that dams in general wreak havoc in areas where they are built, despite promises to the contrary by developers and governments. Hydroelectric energy is anything but “clean” when measured in terms of the excruciating pain it causes individuals, social institutions, and local ecology. The costs—often hidden—include those associated with the privatization of water; the extinction of plants that might provide cures for cancer, HIV, and other diseases; the silting up of rivers and lakes; and the disruption of migratory patterns for many species of birds.

The indigenous cultures threatened by the Belo Monte Dam, including those of the Xikrin, Juruna, Arara, Parakanã, Kuruaya and Kayapó tribes, are tied to the land: generations have hunted and gathered and cultivated the same areas for centuries. They—as well as local flora and fauna—have suffered disproportionately from the effects of other hydroelectric dams, while rarely gaining any of the potential benefits. Now they are fighting back.

Indigenous leaders from these groups have asked the Brazilian government to immediately withdraw the installation license for Belo Monte. They demand a halt to work until the government puts into place "effective programs and measures to address the impacts of the dam on local people." They point out that a promised monetary program to compensate for the negative impacts of the mega-dam has not yet been presented in local villages; also, that a system to ensure small boat navigation in the vicinity of the cofferdams, temporary enclosures built to facilitate the construction process, has not been implemented.

Without such a system, many will be isolated from markets, health care facilities, and other services. The cofferdams have already rendered much of the region’s water undrinkable and unsuitable for bathing. Wells promised by the government and Norte Energia have not yet been drilled. The list of grievances goes on and on and is only the latest in a very old story of exploitation of nature and people in the name of “progress.” Far too often, this has meant benefiting only the wealthiest in society and business.

Yet here in the backcountry of Brazil, there is a difference: the makings of a new story. The indigenous people’s occupation of the dam garnered international attention, connecting their situation to other events across the globe—the Arab Spring, democratic revolutions in Latin America, the Occupy Movement, and austerity strikes in Spain and other European nations. Brazil’s indigenous protesters have essentially joined protesters on every continent who are demanding that rights be restored to the people.

 
Image above: Brazilian soldiers face indigenous women of the Amazon. Photo by Lou Dematties for Yes! 

Stories take time to evolve. This one—the story of people awakening on a global level to the need to oppose and replace exploitative dreams—is still in its beginning phase. And the first chapter has been powerful, elegant, and bold.

A few years ago I was invited, with a group, to Ladakh, a protectorate of India, to meet with the Dalai Lama. Among a great deal of sage advice he offered was the following: “It is important to pray and meditate for peace, for a more compassionate and better world. But if that is all you do, it is a waste of time. You also must take actions to make that happen. Every single day.”

It is time for each and every one us to follow that advice.

Opposing the Belo Monte Dam project provides an opportunity for you and me to honor those words, and those leading resistance to it can help us understand the importance of looking around—in our neighborhoods as well as globally—to determine what else we can do to change the story.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Major Dam Projects halted 9/29/11
Inhabitat: Belo Monte Dam gets Go-Ahead 6/1/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Giant Brazil Dam Blocked 3/1/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Brazil Approves Giant Dam 1/30/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Kauai fight against KIUC/FFP Dams 

 
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