Extreme Oil

SUBHEAD: Welcome to the new "Golden Age of Oil" -- that wasn't more than corporate hype and green smoke. 

By Michael Klare on 4 October 2012 for Tom Dispatch -

Image above: The "Extreme Oil" cover of ICIS's sister publication, New Scientist, made it onto a national poll that celebrates the UK's best magazine covers. From (http://www.icis.com/blogs/icis-chemicals-confidential/files/2010/05/extreme-oil---vote-for-best-ma.html).

Last winter, fossil-fuel enthusiasts began trumpeting the dawn of a new “golden age of oil” that would kick-start the American economy, generate millions of new jobs, and free this country from its dependence on imported petroleum. Ed Morse, head commodities analyst at Citibank, was typical. In the Wall Street Journal he crowed, “The United States has become the fastest-growing oil and gas producer in the world, and is likely to remain so for the rest of this decade and into the 2020s.”

Once this surge in U.S. energy production was linked to a predicted boom in energy from Canada’s tar sands reserves, the results seemed obvious and uncontestable. “North America,” he announced, “is becoming the new Middle East.” Many other analysts have elaborated similarly on this rosy scenario, which now provides the foundation for Mitt Romney’s plan to achieve “energy independence” by 2020.

By employing impressive new technologies -- notably deepwater drilling and hydraulic fracturing (or hydro-fracking) -- energy companies were said to be on the verge of unlocking vast new stores of oil in Alaska, the Gulf of Mexico, and shale formations across the United States.  “A ‘Great Revival’ in U.S. oil production is taking shape -- a major break from the near 40-year trend of falling output,” James Burkhard of IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) told the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in January 2012.

Increased output was also predicted elsewhere in the Western Hemisphere, especially Canada and Brazil.  “The outline of a new world oil map is emerging, and it is centered not on the Middle East but on the Western Hemisphere,” Daniel Yergin, chairman of CERA, wrote in the Washington Post.  “The new energy axis runs from Alberta, Canada, down through North Dakota and South Texas... to huge offshore oil deposits found near Brazil.”

Extreme Oil
It turns out, however, that the future may prove far more recalcitrant than these prophets of an American energy cornucopia imagine.  To reach their ambitious targets, energy firms will have to overcome severe geological and environmental barriers -- and recent developments suggest that they are going to have a tough time doing so.

Consider this: while many analysts and pundits joined in the premature celebration of the new “golden age,” few emphasized that it would rest almost entirely on the exploitation of “unconventional” petroleum resources -- shale oil, oil shale, Arctic oil, deep offshore oil, and tar sands (bitumen).  As for conventional oil (petroleum substances that emerge from the ground in liquid form and can be extracted using familiar, standardized technology), no one doubts that it will continue its historic decline in North America.

The “unconventional” oil that is to liberate the U.S. and its neighbors from the unreliable producers of the Middle East involves substances too hard or viscous to be extracted using standard technology or embedded in forbidding locations that require highly specialized equipment for extraction.  Think of it as “tough oil.”

Shale oil, for instance, is oil trapped in shale rock.  It can only be liberated through the application of concentrated force in a process known as hydraulic fracturing that requires millions of gallons of chemically laced water per “frack,” plus the subsequent disposal of vast quantities of toxic wastewater once the fracking has been completed. Oil shale, or kerogen, is a primitive form of petroleum that must be melted to be useful, a process that itself consumes vast amounts of energy. Tar sands (or “oil sands,” as the industry prefers to call them) must be gouged from the earth using open-pit mining technology or pumped up after first being melted in place by underground steam jets, then treated with various chemicals.

Only then can the material be transported to refineries via, for example, the highly controversial Keystone XL pipeline.  Similarly, deepwater and Arctic drilling requires the deployment of specialized multimillion-dollar rigs along with enormously costly backup safety systems under the most dangerous of conditions.

All these processes have at least one thing in common: each pushes the envelope of what is technically possible in extracting oil (or natural gas) from geologically and geographically forbidding environments.  They are all, that is, versions of “extreme energy.”  To produce them, energy companies will have to drill in extreme temperatures or extreme weather, or use extreme pressures, or operate under extreme danger -- or some combination of all of these.  In each, accidents, mishaps, and setbacks are guaranteed to be more frequent and their consequences more serious than in conventional drilling operations.

The apocalyptic poster child for these processes already played out in 2010 with BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, and this summer we saw intimations of how it will happen again as a range of major unconventional drilling initiatives -- all promising that “golden age” -- ran into serious trouble.

Perhaps the most notable example of this was Shell Oil’s costly failure to commence test drilling in the Alaskan Arctic.  After investing $4.5 billion and years of preparation, Shell was poised to drill five test wells this summer in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas off Alaska’s northern and northwestern coasts.  However, on September 17th, a series of accidents and mishaps forced the company to announce that it would suspend operations until next summer -- the only time when those waters are largely free of pack ice and so it is safer to drill.

Shell’s problems began early and picked up pace as the summer wore on.  On September 10th, its Noble Discoverer drill ship was forced to abandon operations at the Burger Prospect, about 70 miles offshore in the Chukchi Sea, when floating sea ice threatened the safety of the ship.  A more serious setback occurred later in the month when a containment dome designed to cover any leak that developed at an undersea well malfunctioned during tests in Puget Sound in Washington State.

As Clifford Krauss noted in the New York Times, “Shell’s inability to control its containment equipment in calm waters under predictable test conditions suggested that the company would not be able to effectively stop a sudden leak in treacherous Arctic waters, where powerful ice floes and gusty winds would complicate any spill response.”

Shell’s effort was also impeded by persistent opposition from environmentalists and native groups.  They have repeatedly brought suit to block its operations on the grounds that Arctic drilling will threaten the survival of marine life essential to native livelihoods and culture.  Only after promising to take immensely costly protective measures and winning the support of the Obama administration -- fearful of appearing to block “job creation” or “energy independence” during a presidential campaign -- did the company obtain the necessary permits to proceed.  But some lawsuits remain in play and, with this latest delay, Shell’s opponents will have added time and ammunition.

Officials from Shell insist that the company will overcome all these hurdles and be ready to drill next summer.  But many observers view its experience as a deterrent to future drilling in the Arctic.  “As long as Shell has not been able to show that they can get the permits and start to drill, we’re a bit skeptical about moving forward,” said Tim Dodson of Norway’s Statoil.  That company also owns licenses for drilling in the Chukchi Sea, but has now decided to postpone operations until 2015 at the earliest.

Extreme Water
Another unexpected impediment to the arrival of energy’s next “golden age” in North America emerged even more unexpectedly from this summer’s record-breaking drought, which still has 80% of U.S. agricultural land in its grip.  The energy angle on all this was, however, a surprise.

Any increase in U.S. hydrocarbon output will require greater extraction of oil and gas from shale rock, which can only be accomplished via hydro-fracking.  More fracking, in turn, means more water consumption.  With the planet warming thanks to climate change, such intensive droughts are expected to intensify in many regions, which means rising agricultural demand for less water, including potentially in prime fracking locations like the Bakken formation of North Dakota, the Eagle Ford area of West Texas, and the Marcellus formation in Pennsylvania.

The drought’s impact on hydro-fracking became strikingly evident when, in June and July, wells and streams started drying up in many drought-stricken areas and drillers suddenly found themselves competing with hard-pressed food-producers for whatever water was available.  “The amount of water needed for drilling is a double whammy,” Chris Faulkner, the president and chief executive officer of Breitling Oil & Gas, told Oil & Gas Journal in July.  “We’re getting pushback from farmers, and my fear is that it’s going to get worse.”  In July, in fact, the situation became so dire in Pennsylvania that the Susquehanna River Basin Commission suspended permits for water withdrawals from the Susquehanna River and its tributaries, forcing some drillers to suspend operations.

If this year’s “endless summer” of unrelenting drought were just a fluke, and we could expect abundant water in the future, the golden age scenario might still be viable.  But most climate scientists suggest that severe drought is likely to become the “new normal” in many parts of the United States, putting the fracking boom very much into question.  “Bakken and Eagle Ford are our big keys to energy independence,” Faulkner noted.  “Without water, drilling shale gas and oil wells is not possible.  A continuing drought could cause our domestic production to decline and derail our road to energy independence in a hurry.”

And then there are those Canadian tar sands.  Turning them into “oil” also requires vast amounts of water, and climate-change-related shortages of that vital commodity are also likely in Alberta, Canada, their heartland.  In addition, tar sands production releases far more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional oil production, which has sparked its own fiercely determined opposition in Canada, the United States, and Europe.

In the U.S., opposition to tar sands has until now largely focused on the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, a $7 billion, 2,000-mile conduit that would carry diluted tar sands oil from Hardisty, Alberta, to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast, thousands of miles away.  Parts of the Keystone system are already in place.  If completed, the pipeline is designed to carry 1.1 million barrels a day of unrefined liquid across the United States.

Keystone XL opponents charge that the project will contribute to the acceleration of climate change.  It also exposes crucial underground water supplies in the Midwest to severe risk of contamination by the highly corrosive tar-sands fluid (and pipeline leaks are commonplace).  Citing the closeness of its proposed route to the critical Ogallala Aquifer, President Obama denied permission for its construction last January.  (Because it will cross an international boundary, the president gets to make the call.)  He is, however, expected to grant post-election approval to a new, less aquifer-threatening route; Mitt Romney has vowed to give it his approval on his first day in office.

Even if Keystone XL were in place, the golden age of Canada’s tar sands won’t be in sight -- not without yet more pipelines as the bitumen producers face mounting opposition to their extreme operations.  As a result of fierce resistance to Keystone XL, led in large part by TomDispatch contributor Bill McKibben, -- the public has become far more aware of the perils of tar sands production.  Resistance to it, for example, could stymie plans to deliver tar sands oil to Portland, Maine (for transshipment by ship to refineries elsewhere), via an existing pipeline that runs from Montreal through Vermont and New Hampshire to the Maine coast.  Environmentalists in New England are already gearing up to oppose the plan.

If the U.S. proves too tough a nut to crack, Alberta has a backup plan: construction of the Northern Gateway, a proposed pipeline through British Columbia for the export of tar sands oil to Asia.  However, it, too, is running into trouble.  Environmentalists and native communities in that province are implacably opposed and have threatened civil disobedience to prevent its construction (with major protests already set for October 22nd outside the Parliament Building in Victoria).

Sending tar sands oil across the Atlantic is likely to have its own set of problems.  The European Union is considering adopting rules that would label it a dirtier form of energy, subjecting it to various penalties when imported into the European Union.  All of this is, in turn, has forced Albertan authorities to consider tough new environmental regulations that would make it more difficult and costly to extract bitumen, potentially dampening the enthusiasm of investors and so diminishing the future output of tar sands.

Extreme Planet
In a sense, while the dreams of the boosters of these new forms of energy may thrill journalists and pundits, their reality could be expressed this way: extreme energy = extreme methods = extreme disasters = extreme opposition.

There are already many indications that the new “golden age” of North American oil is unlikely to materialize as publicized, including an unusually rapid decline in oil output at existing shale oil drilling operations in Montana.  (Although Montana is not a major producer, the decline there is significant because it is occurring in part of the Bakken field, widely considered a major source of new oil.)  As for the rest of the Western Hemisphere, there is little room for optimism there either when it comes to the “promise” of extreme energy.

Typically, for instance, a Brazilian court has ordered Chevron to cease production at its multibillion-dollar Frade field in the Campos basin of Brazil’s deep and dangerous Atlantic waters because of repeated oil leaks. Doubts have meanwhile arisen over the ability of Petrobras, Brazil’s state-controlled oil company, to develop the immensely challenging Atlantic “pre-salt” fields on its own.

While output from unconventional oil operations in the U.S. and Canada is likely to show some growth in the years ahead, there is no “golden age” on the horizon, only various kinds of potentially disastrous scenarios.

Those like Mitt Romney who claim that the United States can achieve energy “independence” by 2020 or any other near-term date are only fooling themselves, and perhaps some elements of the American public.  They may indeed employ such claims to gain support for the rollback of what environmental protections exist against the exploitation of extreme energy, but the United States will remain dependent on Middle Eastern and African oil for the foreseeable future.

Of course, were such a publicized golden age to come about, we would be burning vast quantities of the dirtiest energy on the planet with truly disastrous consequences.  The truth is this: there is just one possible golden age for U.S. (or any other kind of) energy and it would be based on a major push to produce breakthroughs in climate-friendly renewables, especially wind, solar, geothermal, wave, and tidal power.

Otherwise the only “golden” sight around is likely to be the sun on an ever hotter, ever dirtier, ever more extreme planet.

• Michael T. Klare is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College, a TomDispatch regular, and the author, most recently, of The Race for What’s Left.  A movie based on one of his earlier books, Blood and Oil, can be ordered at http://www.bloodandoilmovie.com.  Klare’s other books and articles are described at his website


World Bank Land Grab

SOURCE: Elaine Dunbar (inunyabus@gmail.com)
SUBHEAD: World Bank involved with massive predatory land deals in developing world, particularly Africa.

By Carey L. Biron on 7 October 2012 for Nation of Change -  

Image above: African women on a small farm serving local markets. From original article.

[Source's note: Note the push worldwide land speculation by First World on local indigenous Third World peoples. I think this is the big picture. PLDC is one of the small specks. And Agenda 21 is another one of the specks] 

Over the past year, aid agencies, local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and development watchdogs have warned that international investors are increasingly engaging in massive and sometimes predatory land deals in the developing world, particularly in Africa.

The World Bank has rejected a call to suspend its involvement in large scale agricultural land acquisition following the release of a major report by the international aid agency Oxfam on the negative impact of international land speculation in developing countries.

“We share the concerns Oxfam raised in their report,” the bank stated in an unusually lengthy public rebuttal to the Oxfam Report. “However, we disagree with Oxfam’s call for a moratorium on World Bank Group…investments in land intensive large-scale agricultural enterprises, especially during a time of rapidly rising global food prices.”

“A moratorium focused on the Bank Group targets precisely those stakeholders doing the most to improve practices – progressive governments, investors, and us. Taking such a step would do nothing to help reduce the instances of abusive practices and would likely deter responsible investors willing to apply our high standards,” the rebuttal said.

Over the past year, aid agencies, local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and development watchdogs have warned that international investors are increasingly engaging in massive and sometimes predatory land deals in the developing world, particularly in Africa. These acquisitions are partly to blame for rising food insecurity.

Food prices are once again nearing record highs. In late August, the World Bank warned that due to adverse weather in parts of Europe and the United States, the global cost of certain staple crops was approaching levels last seen in 2008.

Ironically, multinational companies interested in growing food crops to address this need have been doing much of the recent investing. According to Oxfam, however, two-thirds of the investments made between 2000 and 2010 were exclusively for export-oriented crops, while other lands are being used to meet the increasing international demand for biofuels.

“Already an area of land the size of London is being sold to foreign investors every six days in poor countries,” Oxfam stated, noting that in Liberia, land deals have “swallowed up” 30 percent of the country over the past five years.
The report did not reject what good can potentially result from private investment but warned that food-price spikes from 2008 to 2009 led to the tripling of land deals, as “land was increasingly viewed as a profitable investment” even though it largely failed to benefit local communities.

Slow the speculation
“The world is facing an unbridled land rush that is exposing poor people to hunger, violence and the threat of a lifetime in poverty. The World Bank is in a unique position to stop this,” Jeremy Hobbs, Oxfam’s executive director, said Thursday, noting that the bank both invests in land and advises developing countries.

Oxfam is calling on the World Bank to temporarily halt its investments in agricultural land to give it time to review the advice it offers developing countries, and to put in place stronger policies to slow or stop the speculation and “land-grabbing” projects in which it is said to be involved.

World Bank investment in agriculture has reportedly tripled in the past decade. Since 2008, however, local communities have also brought 21 formal complaints against bank-funded projects that they say have violated their rights.

In a way, the bank’s response to the call for a moratorium demonstrated outright denial: “The Bank Group does not support speculative land investments or acquisitions which take advantage of weak institutions in developing countries or which disregard principles of responsible agricultural investment.”

The bank also noted that 90 percent of its agricultural investment is focused on smallholders, and that the agricultural work of its private-sector arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), has provided 37,000 jobs. By 2050, it warned, the global population is set to grow by two billion people, requiring a 70 percent increase in global food production.

Still, the bank recognized that its massive systems are imperfect and highlighted an upcoming overhaul of related guidelines that would “review and update its environmental and social safeguards policies”.

“We agree that instances of abuse do exist, particularly in countries where governance is weak, and we share Oxfam’s belief that in many cases, practices need to ensure more transparent and inclusive participation in cases of land transfers,” the rebuttal stated.

Impetus from below
The degree to which these safeguards are followed nevertheless remains voluntary, said Anuradha Mittal, the executive director of the Oakland Institute, a U.S.-based think tank that has been at the forefront of recent civil society warnings about the effects of land speculation in the developing world.

“Back in 2009 and 2010, we were clearly identifying the role that the World Bank Group has been playing in promoting and facilitating these large-scale investments, completely ignoring the social and economic impact,” she told IPS, referring to two reports (available here and here) that the new Oxfam work builds upon.

“Oxfam is reiterating that this kind of investment is misinvestment in communities, in agriculture, and unfortunately the bank is choosing to ignore the clear evidence that has been brought forward.” Bank officials did not respond to requests for additional comment.

Mittal said that the development discussion needs to focus less on prescriptions handed down from multilaterals and more on the national implementation of internationally agreed rights including the rights to food and to free and prior informed consent.

“We’re not interested in voluntary guidelines coming from Washington or Geneva, but rather in strengthening local and national capacities that help communities work best themselves,” she said. “Each country in Africa, for instance, is in a unique situation. So what we need are real consultations at the local level to see what kind of development actually works for the local populations.”

While Oxfam had called on the World Bank to move to halt its involvement in land deals before the annual meetings between the bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), in Tokyo next week, the bank’s new president is now suggesting that he will use the meetings to begin pushing substantial reforms aimed at holding the bank’s anti-poverty approaches more to account.

“If we are going to be really serious about ending poverty earlier than currently projected…there are going to have to be some changes in the way we run the institution,” World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, preparing to attend his first annual meetings, told journalists on Thursday.

Kim said he would be pushing for a model “where our board and our governors focus much more on holding us accountable for results on the ground in countries, rather than focusing so much on approval of large loans”.


Vigil Against Violence

SUBHEAD: YWCA event, Wednesday, October 17th at St Michael & All Angels Church in Lihue.

By Amy Kurtz on 6 October 2012 in Island Breath

Image above: Rosalie Baker holds a candle during a candlelight vigil held at the YWCA in support of the victims of domestic violence in Yakima, Washington. From (http://www.yakima-herald.com/galleries/3352/photos/1).

Please Join the YWCA of Kaua’i as we honor victims and survivors of domestic violence, sex assault and 
teen dating violence at our annual Candlelight Vigil.  This year's theme is: “Love that Hurts, 
Love that Heals”

Wednesday, October 17, 2012 beginning at 6:00pm

St. Michael and All Angels Church
4364 Hardy Street
Lihue, Kauai, Hawaii 96766

Please Join the YWCA of Kaua’i as we honor victims and survivors of domestic violence, sex assault and 
teen dating violence at our annual Candlelight Vigil.  This year's theme is: “Love that Hurts, 
Love that Heals”, with an emphasis on nurturing self-love.  Please join us to support awareness of the effects of and the efforts to end violence against women and their children. Program suitable for ages 14 and up. Childcare will be provided from 5:45 - 7:00 p.m. 

5 - 6:00pm Music and refreshments
6 - 7:00pm Program / Candle lighting

Sponsored by the YWCA.  For more info call Diane at (808) 245-8404 or


Climate Change Emergency

SUBHEAD: The latest evidence on climate change demands a radical reappraisal of our approach.

By Ian Dunlop on 2 October 2012 for the Club of Rome - (http://www.clubofrome.org/?p=5183)

Image above: Jorgen Randers presenting 2052 at Club of Rome meeting in Bucharest on  "The Power of the Mind". The report he made in 1972 was frightning in its accuracy. From (https://gabrielaionita.wordpress.com/2012/10/02/the-conference-the-power-of-the-mind-club-of-rome-celebrates-40-years-since-the-first-report-on-the-state-and-future-of-the-world/). See also (http://transitionculture.org/2012/08/17/an-interview-with-jorgen-randers-its-the-story-of-humanity-not-rising-to-the-occasion/).

The Arctic has been warming 2-3 times faster than the rest of the world. In the last few weeks melting of the Arctic sea ice has accelerated dramatically, reducing the area and volume to levels never previously experienced.  Some 80% of the summer sea-ice has been lost since 1979; on current trends the Arctic will be ice-free in summer by 2015, and ice-free all year by 2030, events which were not expected to occur for another 100 years. More concerning, the Greenland ice sheet this year has seen unprecedented melting and glacial ice calving, adding to a trend which will substantially increase sea level rise.

Beyond the Arctic, the world is in the fifth year of a severe food crisis, largely climate change driven, which is about to become far worse as the full impact of recent extreme drought in the US food bowl works its way through the global food chain, leading to substantial price rises.  Drought around the Mediterranean contributed to this food crisis, and has played a large part in triggering the Arab Spring, and the Syrian conflicts. Globally, the escalation of extreme weather continues.

Science is clearly linking these events to climate change, with human carbon emissions as the prime cause.

Does any of this matter? Yes – It is the most urgent issue now confronting the world, for the evidence indicates that climate change has moved into a new and highly dangerous phase. The polar icecaps are one of the vital regulators of global climate; if the ice disappears, the absorption of far more solar radiation accelerates ocean warming, with increasing risk of large-scale release of carbon dioxide and methane from melting permafrost. This in turn may initiate irreversible runaway warming. Energy, food and water security are also poised on a knife-edge in both the developed and developing worlds

These changes are occurring at the 0.8oC temperature increase, relative to pre-industrial conditions, already experienced, let alone the additional 1.2oC which will probably result from our historic emissions. The “official” target, of limiting temperature increase to no more than 2oC, is way too high.  Current policies, proposed by governments around the world, are far worse and would result in a 4oC plus temperature increase. Official panaceas, such as carbon capture and storage, are not working.

Political and business leaders glibly talk about adapting to a 4oC world with little idea of what it means – which is a world of 1 billion people rather than the current 7 billion.  Not much fun for the 6 billion departing.

To paraphrase Churchill:
“— the era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to a close. We are now in an age of consequences”. 
We know how to establish genuine low-carbon economies, which would stave off the worst impacts of climate change, but we have left it too late for gradual implementation. They have to be set up at emergency speed, akin to the mobilization of economies on a war-footing pre-WW2.

Yet we hear nothing of this from the political, business or NGO institutions who should be leading our response. Why?

Financial incentives are the main culprit, in particular the bonus culture which has spread through the Anglo-Saxon world since the early 1990s.  Recently there has been some recognition that this might be a problem. The Chairman of Rio Tinto acknowledged that “the spiral in executive remuneration over the last two decades, simply cannot continue”, and chief executives are graciously deciding to forgo their annual bonuses in the light of adverse corporate performance.  Very worthy, but the damage caused by this culture is far more insidious than a debate about quantum. It threatens the very foundations of democratic society.

The bonus mentality inevitably led to short-termism – few directors or executives are prepared to give serious attention to long-term issues such as climate change when their rewards are based almost entirely on short-term performance. As Upton Sinclair put it: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something if his salary depends on him not understanding it”.

Many privately agree that climate change needs far more urgent action that we are seeing, but few are prepared to speak out for fear of derailing “business-as-usual”. This is a fundamental failure of governance – directors have a fiduciary responsibility to objectively assess the critical risks to which their companies are exposed, and take action to ensure these risks are adequately managed.

But if they acknowledge climate change as a serious risk, they are bound to act, which requires a radical redirection of business away from our addiction to high-carbon fossil-fuels, powerful vested interests losing out in the process.  Better then to stick to absolute denial, irrespective of the consequences.

This flows through to politicians, NGOs and bureaucracies, who are subjected to immense pressure from the corporate sector not to rock the  “business-as-usual” boat, the result being politically expedient and contradictory climate policies.

Ethically and morally indefensible it may be, but that is what a deregulated market has delivered, and why it is so dangerous for the health of democracy.

Adversarial politics and corporate myopia are incapable of addressing life-threatening issues such as climate change.  It is time for communities to go around these barriers and demand leadership prepared to take emergency action, before the poisoned chalice we are passing to our grandchildren becomes even more toxic.

• Ian Dunlop is an independent commentator, Fellow of the Centre for Policy Development, Director of Australia21, and a Member of the Club of Rome.  He chaired the Australian Coal Association 1987-88, the Australian Greenhouse Office Experts Group on Emissions Trading 1998-2000 and was CEO of the Australian Institute of Company Directors 1997-2001.


Growing up Dystechnic

SUBHEAD: Reflections on the decline in practical manual skills and abilities in our education.

By Simon Fairlie on 5 October2012 in The energy Bulletin - (http://www.energybulletin.net/stories/2012-10-05/growing-dystechnic)

Image above: Isabelle Thompson, 7, works on a clay sculpture of turtle at the K-12 Gallery in Dayton, Ohio. From (http://www.springfieldnewssun.com/news/news/local/decline-in-manual-skills-raises-concerns-for-fut-1/nMxCw/).

I came out of school at the age of 17 highly literate but almost completely dystechnic. Since there is no word for the manual equivalent of illiterate I have had to coin one, and ‘dystechnic’ is the best I can do. The ‘technic’ bit comes from the Greek, meaning to ‘shape’ or ‘fabricate’. The ‘dys’ is Greek, for ‘ill’ ‘diseased’; ‘bad’ — or more colloquially, ‘fucked up’.

‘Dysfunctional’ means one is incapable of doing anything properly – but I wasn’t dysfunctional: just incapable of executing anything but the most elementary manual activity with any dexterity. ‘Cack-handed’ is arguably a more accurate description – and ‘Growing Up Cack-handed’ would probably be a better title for this essay – but cack-handed implies an innate inability to use tools, whereas my problem was that no one had ever taught me.

Actually that’s not entirely true, I was luckier than some. I did have a half hour of carpentry a week for a few years, making toast racks and bookends — and the boy scouts taught me how to light a fire and tie a bowline. But these were extra-curricular activities in a regime that was focused on an exclusively academic and athletic curriculum. The result was that I emerged from the system able to scan iambic pentameters, recite chunks of Racine, write thousands of words on the military exploits of the Merovingian emperors and bowl a leg break, but unable to use a shovel properly, milk a cow, or recognize a carburetor.

The academic specialisation I was subjected to was, and still is, the hallmark of a middle class education. There was, I suppose, an argument that it made sense for middle class kids to devote all their working life to study of the liberal arts, since there were plenty of kids going to secondary moderns who would become experts in lathework and technical drawing, while Irish labourers were wizard at shovelry. There are of course advantages in being brought up middle class (though being wealthy is not necessarily one of them) and I am not one to deny the benefits of studying Latin scansion or medieval history.

But there is also a sense in which we posh kids occasionally felt deprived. Working class kids had dads who built them soapbox carts out of old prams, while we (if we were lucky) were given Triang pedal cars that puttered around at a quarter of the speed. At the seaside you could tell the working class families because they had massive inflated tractor inner tubes, while we had to make do with poxy little plastic rubber rings.

Throughout my childhood I lived under the uneasy suspicion that in order to maintain the English class system, I was being deprived of contact with the more robust aspects of the material world, and on leaving school I realized that my suspicions were entirely correct. I was uttterly ill-equipped to do anything except write academic essays and bowl leg-breaks; the only thing I was qualified to do was to sink back into the academic system from which I had only just emerged.

Fortunately, in 1968, the climate was pretty good for anyone who wanted to deviate from the path that society had mapped out for them. There was plenty of casual work around and Tim Leary was advising us to ‘turn on, tune in and drop out’, which was what anyone with any gumption duly did. I was therefore lucky enough not to waste another three years studying Beowulf and the metaphysical poets, and instead got myself a job as a labourer on a large building site.

The foreman set me to work chiselling out the half-bricks on the jambs of a doorway that was scheduled to be bricked in. It should have taken about three hours; it took me three days, because nobody had ever thought to place a cold chisel in my hands before, let alone encouraged me to find the correct angle to hold it in order to splinter brick. The foreman was a model of patience, but at the end of my eight weeks stint on the site he advised me that I would do best to go back to college.

However, my conclusion from this initiation into the wonderful world of work was that it was going to take about ten years to learn the manual skills which I could have acquired in three, had I been taught them from the age of twelve – and so I made a conscious decision to devote ten years to acquiring them. Eventually a bunch of us acquired, for the equivalent of twenty weeks work on Colchester dust carts, five acres of land with a stream and couple of ruins in the South of France. In Spring 1973 we set off in a Ford Trader van crammed with wheelbarrows, generators and all manner of tat to build our New Jerusalem, with a tattered copy of the Whole Earth Catalogue serving as our bible.

I still blush at the memory of some of our early attempts. The first roof I built was all that you would expect from someone who had read the hippy DIY building manuals but hadn’t yet grasped that water runs downhill. My fencing sagged like washing lines, and my walls were as plumb as a pregnant woman, a failing I rationalised through the notion that ‘wiggly is good’.

On one occasion I had to completely redo a month-long outside job I had taken on that was well beyond my capabilities. Not that any of this mattered greatly – it is amazing how comfortably you can live even when you are utterly incompetent, provided you have control over your own surroundings and an ample source of red wine.

Nonetheless I did learn through bitter experience, and at the end of ten years, aged over 30, I had acquired most of the practical skills that you might reasonably expect of a 17 year old who had been taught by his dad. Once I had acquired the ability to build plumb and straight I discarded the principle that wiggly is good, having discovered that wiggly is difficult to build onto or fit things to and attracts dust, moisture and vermin. By the end of the 1980s, I was competent enough to pass myself off as professional stonemason in one of the few sectors of the building industry that wasn’t affected by the economic downturn.

Yet I have never entirely dispelled the feeling that I am an impostor in the world of manual work – that the basic skills and understanding of materials are not as ingrained in me as they would be if I had picked them up younger, in the same way that anyone who learns a new language later in life inevitably speaks with an accent.

The fact that millions of British middle class kids in the 1960s were growing up dystechnic didn’t really matter, in the greater scheme of things, because millions of working class kids (and the luckier middle class ones who had practically minded mums or dad) weren’t.

But now, fifty years later, economic trends are conspiring to make dystechnia so prevalent that it is becoming dominant. The outsourcing of manufacturing, the replacement of hand tools by machines, the decline in the number of farmworkers, the proliferation of disposable and solid state machinery – all these, amongst other developments, have marginalised manual labour and made it economically obsolete.

It is an exaggeration to claim that ‘we are all middle class now’, but increasingly those who are not middle class, or aspiring to be so, are depicted as a disaffected lumpen proletariat – ‘chavs’ – rather than a skilled workforce. Soapbox carts and tractor tyres have been replaced by mobile phones and Xboxes. School education has given us a 99 per cent literacy rate, but at the price that in every successive generation there are an increasing proportion of people who have never been taught how to use their hands.

Happily, while dystechnia is promulgated in the mainstream, there is resistance at the margins, resistance that can be seen in the rising amateur interest in allotments, smallholdings, woodland management, forest schools, wwoofing, green gyms, conservation volunteering and so on. Unfortunately the enthusiasm for these activities is not always matched by a parallel level of competence.

By no means all, but a worrying proportion of, volunteers I meet in the course of my work are at the same level of manual competence as I when I left school — they have never been taught how to wield a hammer, how to dig a trench, how to sharpen a knife, how to use a file or how to tie a knot.

But then that is often why they are volunteering: they too, whether early or late in their adult life, have come to the realization that they have grown up dystechnic, and want to do something about it.

• This article was first published (on real, actual, paper) in The Land magazine.


Hawaii rallies against PLDC

SUBHEAD: Hawaii-wide day of action - October 8th - planned to show opposition to the state's Public Land Development Corporation.

By Felicia Alongi Cowden on 5 October 2012 in Island Breath -

Image above: detail of poster for Repeal Act 55 rally against the PLDC. Click for hi-rez full image to reproduce and distribute. From Felicia Cowden.

Please join us on Monday, October 8th and stand in unity with our brothers, sisters, aunties and uncles across the islands who rise up in opposition to this irresponsible law.
A demonstration against the creation and continuation of the Public Land Development Corporation.


Monday October 8th from 2:oopm-4:00pm


On the lawn in front of the Historic County Building on Rice Street, in Lihue, Kauai.


Music by John Cruz and more


Felicia Alongi Cowden (akamaimom@gmail.com)

Kauai will join the other Hawaiian islands on Monday, October 8th, 2-4 p.m. in a citizen protest against the Public land Development Corporation in front of the Kauai County Historic Building.

Image above: detail of poster for Repeal the PLDC promoting rally on westside of Big Island. From Shannon Rudolph.

Other locations in he state include:

Hawaii Island West -
Highway by Mormon Temple and proposed - Honokohua Harbor

Hawaii Island East
Hilo at DLNR Building

Hawaii Island North -
Kapa'au at 3-4:30pm - at the Sr. Centerby Kamehameha Statue

Maui -
County Building, 200 S. High Street, Wailuku

Molokai -
To be announced

Lanai -
To be announced

Oahu -
Capitol Building, Downtown Honolulu]
Citizens throughout the islands will be uniting in a day of action and solidarity to show opposition to the State of Hawaii's Public Land Development Corporation (the PLDC). The PLDC was created by the State legislature last year when Act 55 was signed into law, creating a new public-private partnership financial arm for the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), yielding control over an estimated two million acres to this five person board of business people.

A coalition of speakers will be succinctly explaining the variety of concerns as to why this is a dangerous piece of legislation for Hawaii, and how it has the potential to grow over time to reshape the face of Hawaii. Actions taken on this statewide citizen protest will allow our voices to be heard and will demonstrate to our State elected officials and to the PLDC Board of Directors that there is broad, deep, and diverse opposition to the PLDC.

The public's opposition is on so many levels including
  • the PLDC's exempting itself from regulatory, planning, preservation, civil service, and competitive bidding requirements
  • a shift in the DLNR's balance from a preservation and conservation role to one of development for money
  • the incompatibility of contemplated development with low or inverse market demand
  • the burdens this development places on local infrastructure
  • the shutting out of our local communities by holding public meetings about proposed development only on Oahu
  • excluding our City / County governments from any requirements to involve them in the evaluation, planning, and regulatory processes; and to
  • how the PLDC and its exemptions shows disregard and contempt toward our host culture (Kanaka Maoli and Kanaka Hawai'i) for the stewardship and public trust responsibility of Crown / Ceded Lands. 
We are being asked to abrogate our responsibilities to future generations of Hawaiians who must rely on us to properly steward these precious and fragile resources for them in the name of increased revenue.

Recently, public meetings were held in every county for constituent input into the draft Administrative Rules for the PLDC. Hundreds of people turned out in each location to testify and share their mana'o, the vast majority of which was in disapproval of both the rules and of PLDC as an agency. It appears that the numbers of people are being under-reported to the PLDC Board of Directors, as well as testimony content being filtered.

The creation of the PLDC, its proposed rules, and public opposition are now being given a public relations spin in the wake of this widespread disapproval. Governor Abercrombie called the public rejection of the PLDC, a “conspiratorial hysteria” (Honolulu Star Advertiser, September 13, 2012, A1), one day after that, Mililani Trask wrote that the uproar is the result of fears that are needlessly “hysterical.” (HSA, September 12, 2012).

On September 14, Senator Malama Solomon (one of the sponsors of legislation creating the PLDC) informed the public that the Governor and the PLDC would be developing a strategic plan which clarifies the mission of the PLDC (Hawaii 24/7 http://www.hawaii247.com/2012/09/14/solomon-concerns-on-pldc-must-be-addressed/ ).

The problem with all of these efforts is that public objection is primarily to the law known as Act 55 which created the PLDC. Remediation actions such as tweaking the administrative rules, creating a nice mission statement, or publishing an engaging strategic plan are seen as cosmetic bandages applied to fatally flawed legislation. These attempts at fixing what is wrong can easily be changed at any point in the future through non-legislative administrative processes, and still leave intact the underlying bad law.

To show our disapproval of Act 55 and the PLDC, events will be happening on this day throughout the islands. Communities on Maui, Hawaii and Oahu are also planning actions, and a facebook event page with a complete list of all actions and events can be found here https://www.facebook.com/events/530991313581731/. A story in Honolulu Weekly about the statewide day of action can be found here http://honoluluweekly.com/diary/2012/10/pldc-day/

We will also take this opportunity to honor the Kauai County Council for unanimously passing a resolution to repeal Act 55. Mahalo to John Cruz who will be playing our opening music at Kauai's event.

Internet resources: 

Our community petition on www.change.org to ask Governor Abercrombie and the legislature to repeal Act 55 and abolish the PLDC:http://preview.tinyurl.com/927n8vl Please sign and share with your email list.

Our public group on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/AbolishPLDCinHawaii/

Some video of the public testimony about draft administrative rules here: http://preview.tinyurl.com/9hnunvw There is much more video testimony on Youtube and on public access television stations / websites around the islands

An example of why the public is so angry with Governor Abercrombie's attitude about "public", "crown" or "ceded" lands given to the PLDC. http://youtu.be/1gs-pKQHP7I

What could go right?

SUBHEAD: A number of macro-issues could "go the right way" in the coming months. It's a long shot, but we can always hope. Without truth, there is truly no hope. 

By Charles Hugh Smith om 5 October 2012 for Of Two Minds - 

Image above: The "Three Amigos win maryland lottery worth a record  $219 million this April. From (http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-04-11/three-amigos-claim-record-lotto-win/3943790).

Correspondent David N. gently suggested I devote some effort to what could go right in the months ahead, and I think this is an excellent suggestion.
I notice that you are relentlessly negative in your outlook, and a wise sage once told me that this is a trap that many erudite people fall into--namely, being too negative about the future. Occasionally you have to force yourself to study the other side, the bullish "yin" to the bearish "yang". I think you and your readers would be well-served if you would devote some of your ruminations to what can possibly "go right."
Thank you, David, for presenting me with a positive challenge. I think David is right about the trap, though I suspect it is less a trap of negativity and more one of being pressed into stripping away the artifice and propaganda that obfuscates the real situation, depriving us of the first step toward solutions: accepting reality and setting aside fantasies.

This was the point of yesterday's entry, The Positive Power of Crisis (October 4, 2012).

Some of you may think I am being jocularly dismissive in my list, but I am quite serious. Nothing good can possibly come from artifice, propaganda, misdirection and simulacra "fixes." Something must break through the facade for good things to happen. OK, let's get started:

1. The global contraction could pick up momentum, crushing demand for oil. 

Recall that the price of oil is set on the margins, so modest fluctuations in supply and demand have outsized effects on price. Price drops when demand falls faster than supply, meaning that global exports of oil could decline but as long as demand declines even more sharply than supply, the price of oil could plummet.

The price of oil falling in half would be a great boon for consumers around the world, and as we will see below, it even has a silver lining for citizens of oil exporting nations. Using 2008 as a recent model, we can expect oil to fall to $35/barrel once demand craters. Below around $50/barrel, oil-dependent regimes such as Iran and Venezuela cannot fund their militaries, welfare states and bureaucracies. As a result they will implode.

2. Mideast tensions decline as the Syrian dictatorship collapses and an attack on Iran is shelved by the U.S.

There are too many long-standing tensions and conflicts in the Mideast to hope for anything but relative calm, but relative calm would be conducive to a slow normalization of relations and modest but steady improvements in the lives of residents.

The collapse of the Baathist dictatorship in Syria would be a major positive, as the Syrian grip on Lebanon would loosen, Iran would lose its key regional ally, and the Syrian people would have a chance (not a guarantee, but an opportunity nonetheless) to establish a government that was less oppressive and more responsive to their aspirations.

Notice what happens when you combine 1) and 2): the Iranian dictatorship also falls. 

The Iranian people have long suffered under a repressive dictatorship, and its collapse would give them a chance (not a guarantee, but an opportunity nonetheless) to establish a government that was less oppressive and more responsive to their aspirations. (Ditto Venezuela.)

Iran is already suffering from hyper-inflation, more from gross mismanagement of the economy than from Western sanctions, though the sanctions provide an easy target for the failed regime. Street protests are spontaneously arising as people's already-limited wealth is completely and utterly destroyed by the regime's cronyism and incompetence.

Following the SOP (standard operating procedure) of all dictatorships, the Iranian regime is responding to the impoverishment of its citizens with police suppression. The collapse of oil prices will provide the last straw.

Although you won't read this in the mainstream media (MSM), the U.S. does not want Iran destroyed or crippled, as Shi'ite Iran provides an essential counterbalance to Sunni extremism. Those predicting an Israeli strike on Iran will be proven wrong, as the U.S. has nixed that as counterproductive to the Great Game.

Once traders finally "get it" that the Israeli war drums were largely domestic politics in action and the U.S. has ixnayed military action against Iran, the "war premium" currently priced into oil will dissipate.

As I have long suggested, a massive, sustained decline in oil is a "head-fake" in the bigger scheme of things, but in the near-term it will provide a catalyst for all sorts of incompetent, oppressive oil-dependent dictatorships to exit stage left, clearing the stage for more responsive and competent governments.

3. One nation exits the euro and the sun rises the following day on a healing Europe.

It might be Greece, it might be Germany, it might be Spain, it might be Italy: all that matters is that somebody steps up and exits the euro and renounces all its debts, or in the case of Germany, renounces its promises to cover all the impaired private-bank debt that is crushing Europe.

Once people wake up and find the sun is shining despite the "disaster," they will realize the real disaster was trying to pay unpayable debts and promises and staying in the euro. Life will quickly get better once one brave and resolute set of leaders renounces unpayable debts and exits the euro. Other nations will quickly follow and the owners of bad debt will finally be handed the losses that are well and truly theirs to absorb.

Renounce and restructure: there is no other way forward.
What could go right is one nation declares the truth, renounces unpayable debt and exits the euro and the iron stranglehold of the European Central Bank (ECB)/Troika.

Why the Eurozone and the Euro Are Both Doomed (June 23, 2011)
Yet Another Reason Why the Euro Is Doomed (October 17, 2011)
Why the Euro Might Devolve into Euro1 and Euro2 (March 2, 2010)
What's Lost With the Demise of the Euro? Only What Was Unsustainable (November 22, 2011)
Why Isn't Anyone Talking About Writing Off 3 Trillion Euros of Bad Debt? (November 15, 2011)
It's Your Choice, Europe: Rebel Against the Banks or Accept Debt-Serfdom (December 5, 2011)
A Crazy Idea That Might Just Work: Greece's New Currency, the U.S. Dollar (May 14, 2012)

4. The U.S. dollar continues strengthening, making imports cheaper for U.S. households. 

No nation ever became powerful with a weakening currency. Non-U.S. holders of capital are moving their capital into the U.S. at a rate of about $75 billion a month, roughly equivalent to the Fed's entire QE3 program. This is good news for households and the U.S. economy, despite the naysayers who claim the U.S. dollar's rise is some sort of catastrophe for America.

Yes, exports may be pressured, but they're going to be pressured by global recession anyway. A stronger dollar helps reprice money, debt and risk, all of which desperately need repricing.

What's Hated Most May Be a Contrarian Buy (U.S. Dollar) (April 19, 2011)
Some Heretical Thoughts on the U.S. Dollar (November 21, 2011)
Why the U.S. Dollar Is Not Going to Zero Anytime Soon (July 23, 2012)
5. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke takes one too many hits of Ibogaine and suffers an unprecedented bout of inexplicable honesty, declaring on national TV that the Fed is a ponzi scheme, he has no control over employment and the Fed exists to preserve the banks' wealth and power.

The normally sedate Chairman apologizes to the American people for lying about the Fed's real agenda and its illusory power to fix a dysfunctional, corrupt, fraud-based neofeudal economy.

OK, I realize this is unlikely, but history is replete with unexpected eruptions of truth and honesty by an insider who finally sickens of all the lies, prevarications, half-truths, secret bailouts, pay-offs, bribes and cronyism that is the Status Quo in America's machinery of finance and governance. It won't be Ben, but perhaps someone in the Power Elite will finally value his/her integrity above cash and status and deliver the truth to the public.

It's a long shot, but we can always hope. Without truth, there is truly no hope.


Only Love Remains

SUBHEAD: Most of us will know peace only when we are lying helpless in the broken arms of our doomed Earth.

By Guy McPherson on 4 October 2012 for Nature Bats Last  - (http://guymcpherson.com/2012/10/only-love-remains/)

Image above: Detail of painting "The Lament of Icarus" by Herbert James Draper, 1898. From (http://www.artgalleryartist.com/Herbert-Draper/index.html).

Most people would say I’m not religious. I’m not spiritually religious, although I exhibit some behaviors in a religious manner. I refer to myself as a free-thinker, a skeptic, and occasionally an indifferent agnostic or a militant atheist. So the apparently spiritual title of this essay would seem out of character for those who know me.

I’ll not wander down the road of knowing me. Even after five decades of study, much of it characterized by the serious introspection allowed those who pursue the life of the mind in the halls of academia, I barely know myself. And I know too little about love. But I’m pretty certain it’s all we have.

I’ve tried turning my back on my own emotions, and those of others. I’ve been a rationalist most of my life, and my entire career was spent as a scientist and teacher. My laser-like focus on reason precluded the expression of feelings, an attitude reinforced by the culture in which I came of age, a culture in which the only thing worse than having feelings was expressing them. For most of my life I’ve been mystified by public displays of affection and people who mourned the loss of individual lives.

After all, as I’ve known for a long time, birth is lethal. Nobody gets out alive, a notion that applies to cultures and species as well as individuals. My perceived lack of empathy led some to conclude I was a sociopath. Or a psychopath. My two-sizes-too-small brain can’t customarily distinguish the two.

Long familiar with his talent as a guitarist, I didn’t think the words of Jimi Hendrix applied to my world: “When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace.” Recently I’ve begun to question my earlier sentiments.

Heartbroken, again and again
I keep believing I’ve worked through each of the five Kubler-Ross stages of grief. And then, just when my rational side seems to get the upper hand, I’m overwhelmed again and thrust back to the lobby of my own personal Heartbreak Hotel.

A decade ago, as I was editing a book on climate change, I realized we had triggered events likely to cause human extinction by 2030.

Notwithstanding neoconservative talking points (aka lies) to the contrary, burning fossil fuels that accumulated over millions of years within the span of a couple centuries is having expectedly horrific impacts on the environment we share with millions of other species.

Recognizing the horrors we’ve triggered, I mourned for months, to the bewilderment of the three people who noticed. Shortly thereafter, I was elated to learn about a hail-Mary pass that just might allow our persistence for a few more generations: Peak oil and its economic consequences might bring the industrial economy to an overdue close, just in time to allow our species to persist beyond another generation.

It’s been a rollercoaster ride since then. Oil priced at $147.27 back in 2008 nearly sent the world’s industrial economy into the abattoir. Close, but no life-ring. Even as increasingly dire data, models, and climate-change assessments roll in, politicians and central bankers have kept the wheels of industry churning. Although we’ve been in the midst of an economic depression for several years, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels keep rising to record-setting levels each year.

Finally, I surrender. We’re done. Homo colossus has tripped several positive-feedback triggers, any one of which leads to near-term human extinction. The combination is truly lethal.

Now what?
I abandoned the luxury-filled, high-pay, low-work position I loved as a tenured full professor to go back to the land. I led by example.

Vanishingly few followed. I’m reminded of the prescient words attributed to As American existential psychologist Rollo May: “The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice, it is conformity.”

My new path presented tremendous challenges for a life-long academic who could barely distinguish between a screwdriver and a zucchini. I learned new skills, including rough carpentry, plumbing, masonry, gardening, and animal husbandry. Learning by doing, my naivety produced injuries to my body and my psyche. Even before I broke my ribs and suffered numerous minor scrapes and bruises, most of my colleagues concluded I’d gone insane. This conclusion was shared by many of my friends and family.

I no longer communicate with most of those colleagues, friends, and family. It’s too difficult to justify the occasional conversation.

As an academic conservation biologist, I’ve long recognized that the living planet sustains our species. I was pointing out the dark underbelly of industrial civilization even as we were driving some 200 species to extinction every day. But I was ensconced in the underbelly, too. Living at the apex of empire, a large city in the southwestern United States, meant compartmentalizing my life.

Even as I was teaching the horrors of how we live, I kept living in that horrifying manner.

Through years of intrapersonal conflict, love rarely crossed my mind.

The tide rises
I miss teaching, of course. I miss the honors students and inmates with whom I regularly worked. We sought meaningful lives of excellence, and I committed my life to service, primarily to people too-often underserved by an irredeemably corrupt system. Along the way, I learned empathy and love from my students. I suspect some of them learned, too.

But I could not continue to enjoy the city life and face the mirror each day. Such are the hazards of knowledge. Ignorance is bliss but, contrary to the daily choices of the typical American consumer, bliss is overrated.

Eventually, I began to remove the cultural shackles that bound me. Living and working in a sparsely populated rural area these last four years has provided ample time to think, and think deeply, as I have developed new skills and a new perspective. Surrounded by Earth’s bounty and beauty, transformation befell me. Four years after I moved out of Tucson, Arizona, only a few hours in any city induces depression.

Now my wife and I share a small property at the edge of empire with another couple and their young son. We raise chickens and ducks for eggs, and goats provide our milk and cheese. A large orchard complements several large gardens near the off-grid, straw-bale duplex we inhabit. We are committed to working with other members of our human community as we muddle through a future characterized by collapse on all fronts, economic, environmental, and climatic included.

This is not an easy existence, especially relative to my life in the hallowed halls of academia. But it has its own rewards, foremost among them immersion into the real, natural world and an appreciative, loving human community.

The high tide of love
Finally, more than a half-century into a largely unexamined life, I have come to love humanity and the living planet. The wisdom of Jimi Hendrix, long hidden beneath the cultural programming one would expect in the backwoods, redneck logging town of my youth, nags at me.

The living planet and a decent human community sustain each of us, whether we realize it or not. Our years on this most wondrous of planets, regardless how numerous they are, are to be celebrated.

After all, we get to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. It means we get to live.

Our knowledge of DNA informs us that the odds against any one of us being here are greater than the odds against being a particular grain of sand on all the world’s beaches. Indeed, the odds are much greater than that: they exceed the odds of being a single atom plucked from the entire universe. As evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins says, “In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I that are privileged to be here, privileged with eyes to see where we are and brains to wonder why.”

The privilege to be here, on this life-giving planet at this astonishing time in human history, is sufficient to inspire awe in the most uncaring of individuals. At this late juncture in the age of industry, at the dawn of our day on Earth, we still have love: love for each other, love for our children and grandchildren, love for nature. One could argue it is all we have left.

Those who pull the levers in this life-destroying culture care about power to a far greater extent than they care about love. This culture will not know peace. It is much too late for love to extend our run as a culture or a species — too late to employ the wisdom of Jimi Hendrix — but love surely offers redemption to individual humans.

Will we, as individuals, know peace? That’s up to us. I suggest most of us will know peace only when we find ourselves lying helpless in the broken arms of our doomed Earth.

[Author's note: I submitted this essay, upon request, to David Icke’s website. After a few weeks and several inquiries about the status of the essay, I was informed it was not relevant to Icke’s website. I was advised a relevant essay would address “the topic Conspiracy theories controversial news and would include the keyword: Illuminati” (bold in original). I declined the $40 offer and am posting the essay here. Return readers will note redundancy with prior essays in this space.]


PLDC new Rules

SOURCE: Lyn McNutt (zensea1@gmail.com)
SUBHEAD: Because of the significant changes, the PLDC plans to take the rules out for a second round of public hearings.

By Staff on 4 October 2012 for Civil Beat -


Image above: PLDC staff members Lloyd Haraguchi, Randal Ikeda and William Aila hear testimony from public in September on rules. From (http://www.civilbeat.com/articles/2012/08/31/16984-off-the-beat-why-are-pldc-board-members-nowhere-to-be-found/).

Staff of the Public Land Development Corporation have significantly changed the proposed rules for governing the agency, which acts as a development arm of the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Because of the significant changes, the PLDC plans to take the rules out for a second round of public hearings.

The PLDC board will vote on the proposed revisions as well as the request for hearings at its next meeting on October 11. The board will also consider the adoption of a strategic plan to govern the organization.

The agenda as well as proposed rule changes can be found (www.islandbreath.org/2012Year/10/121004pldcagenda121011.pdf) and  (hawaii.gov/dlnr/pldc/meetings/agenda/PLDC-agenda-121011.pdf).

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Actions to overturn PLDC 9/26/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Kauai Council to vote PLDC 9/22/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Abercrombie Booed 9/20/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Abercrombie on Kauai for PLDC 9/13/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Repeal the PLDC Act 55 8/31/12
Ea O Ka Aina: PLDC Ceded Land Finale 8/29/12 
Ea O Ka Aina: PLDC Rejected by Public 8/22/12 
Ea O Ka Aina: Cold Water in the Face 8/20/12  
Ea O Ka Aina: Public Land Development Corporation 8/18/12 
Ea O Ka Aina: Hawaii Legislative Subterfuge 5/1/12  
Ea O Ka Aina: From the Inside Out 9/23/11  
Ea O Ka Aina: Abercrombie Land Grab 9/13/11  
Ea O Ka Aina: Privitizing Public Land 6/2/11


How It Could Happen - Hubris

SUBHEAD: Across the political spectrum of the nation, the patience of the American people was visibly running short.

By John Michael Greer on 3 October 2012 for Archdruid Report - (http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2012/10/how-it-could-happen-part-one-hubris.html)

Image above: Containers stacked on a Chinese merchant ship being unloaded. What's in them? From (http://f-bom.blogspot.com/2011/03/when-i-was-in-seattle-last-summer.html).

[ Author's note: This is Part 1 of a 5 part series. Over the course of this year, my posts here on The Archdruid Report have tried to outline the trajectory of America’s global empire and explore the reasons why that trajectory will likely come to a sudden stop in the near future. 

To bring the issue down out of the realm of abstraction and put them in the context of history as lived, I’ve returned to the toolkit of narrative fiction, and this and the next four posts will sketch out a scenario of American imperial defeat and collapse. 

The narrative takes place at some unspecified point in the next two decades; it’s probably necessary to say outright that is not how I think the end of America’s empire will happen, simply one way that it could happen—and thus a model that may help expose some of the vulnerabilities of the self-proclaimed hyperpower currently tottering toward history’s compost bin.]

The news of the latest Tanzanian deepwater oil discovery broke on an otherwise sleepy Saturday in March. Thirty years before, a find of the same size might have gotten two column inches somewhere in the back pages of a few newspapers of record, but this was not thirty years ago. In a world starved for oil, what might once have been considered a modest find earned banner headlines.

It certainly loomed large in the East Wing of the White House, where the president and his advisers held a hastily called meeting that evening. “The Chinese already have it wrapped up,” said the Secretary of Energy. “Tanzania’s in their pocket, and there are CNOOC people—” CNOOC was the Chinese National Overseas Oil Corporation, the state-owned firm that spearheaded China’s quest for foreign oil. “—all over the place on site and in Dar es Salaam.”

“Is it close enough to Kenyan waters—”

“Not a chance, Mr. President. It’s 200 nautical miles away from the disputed zone, and that last clash with the Tanzanians isn’t something Nairobi wants to repeat.”

“Dammit, we need that oil.” The president turned and walked over to the window.

He was right, of course, and “we” didn’t just refer to the United States. Jameson Weed won the White House the previous November with a campaign focused with laser intensity on getting the US out of its long and worsening economic slump.

Winning the country a bigger share of imported oil was the key to making good on that promise, but that was easier said than done; behind what was left of the polite fiction of a free market in petroleum, most oil that crossed national borders did so according to political deals between producer countries and those consuming countries strong and wealthy enough to compete. These days, more often than not, the US lost out—and the impact of that reality on Weed’s upcoming reelection campaign was very much on the minds of everyone in the room.

“There’s one option,” said the president’s national security adviser. “Regime change.”

President Weed turned back from the window to face the others. The Secretary of Defense cleared his throat. “Sooner or later,” he said, “the Chinese are going to stand and fight.”

The national security adviser gave him a contemptuous look. “They don’t dare,” she said. “They know who’s boss, and it’s too far from their borders for their force projection capacity, anyway. They’ll back down the way they did in Gabon.”

The president glanced from one to the other. “It’s an option,” he said. “I want a detailed plan on my desk in two weeks.”

Regime change wasn’t as simple as it used to be. That was the sum of scores of conversations in meeting rooms in the Pentagon and the CIA headquarters in Langley as the plan came together. Gone were the easy days of the “color revolutions,” when a few billion dollars funneled through Company-owned NGOs could buy a mass uprising and panic an unprepared government into collapse.

The second generation strategies that worked so well in Libya and half a dozen other places—backing the manufactured uprising with mercenaries, special forces, and a no-fly zone—stopped working in turn once target governments figured out how to fight it effectively. Now it usually took ground troops backed up by air power to finish the job of replacing an unfriendly government with a compliant one.

Still, it was a familiar job by this point, and the officials in charge got the plan put together in well under the two weeks the president had given them. A few days later, when it came back signed and approved, the wheels started turning.

Money flowed to CIA front organizations all over East Africa; Company assets in Tanzania began recruiting the ambitious, the dissatisfied, and the idealistic to staff the cadres that would organize and lead the uprising; elsewhere, mercenaries were hired and the usual propaganda mills went into action.

 The government of Kenya, the nearest American client state, was browbeaten into accepting American troops on its border with Tanzania, and a third carrier strike group was mobilized and sent on its way to join the two already within range.

It took only a few weeks for the government of Tanzania to figure out that its recent good luck had put it in the crosshairs of American power. One afternoon in early May, after a detailed briefing from his intelligence chief, the president of Tanzania summoned the Chinese ambassador to a secret meeting, and told him bluntly, “If you abandon us now we are lost.” The ambassador promised only to relay the message to Beijing, but he did so within minutes of returning to the Chinese embassy, and included a detailed and urgent commentary of his own.

Three days later, a dozen men sat down around a table in a conference room in Beijing. A staff member poured tea and disappeared. After an hour’s discussion, one of the men at the meeting said, “What is it that the Americans say? ‘Draw a line in the sand?’ I propose that this is the time and place to do that.”

A quiet murmur of agreement went around the table. In the days that followed, a different set of officials drew up a very different set of plans.

The port at Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s capital and biggest city, was a busy place, thronged with oil tankers carrying black gold to China and its allies, and container ships bringing goods of every description, mostly from China, for the booming Tanzanian economy.

In the bustle, no one paid much attention to the arrival of a series of plain shipping containers from Chinese ports, which were offloaded from an assortment of ordinary container ships and trucked to half a dozen inconspicuous warehouse districts along the coast between Dar es Salaam and the northern port city of Tanga. CIA agents watching for signs of a Chinese response missed them completely.

More generally, the number of container shipments to Tanzania and half a dozen other Chinese client states in Africa ticked up slightly—not enough to rouse suspicions, but then nobody in the US learned how many African companies found themselves facing unexpected delays in getting the Chinese merchandise they had ordered, so that other cargoes took the space that would have been theirs.

 Nor did anyone in the US worry much about the increased number of young Chinese men who flew to Africa during the four months before the war began. US intelligence did notice them, and their arrival sparked a brief debate at Langley—military observers, one faction among US intelligence advisors insisted, there to snoop on American military technology; military advisors, another faction claimed, there to assist the Tanzanian army against the American forces that were already gathering in Kenya.

Both factions were wrong. Most of the tight-lipped young men went to ground near those same warehouse districts between Dar es Salaam and Tanga, where the contents of those shipping containers were assembled, tested, and readied. Meanwhile, thousands of miles away, the Peoples Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) shifted six fighter wings, equipped with some of China’s most advanced aircraft, to Central Asian bases.

The Chinese government had announced that it would be holding joint military exercises that August with Russia, and so the satellite photos of Chengdu J-20 fighters parked in the deserts of Turkestan got an incurious glance or two in Langley, and went into filing cabinets.

After years of budget battles on Capitol Hill, the US military was not quite so powerful or so swift to deploy as it had been in the last years of the twentieth century. Only two of the remaining eight carrier strike groups—CSGs, in naval jargon—were on station at any time, one in the western Pacific and one shuttling back and forth between the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean; transport was a growing challenge by sea or air, and borrowing airliners from the civilian air fleet, a mainstay of late twentieth century Pentagon planning, was less simple to arrange now that air travel was only for the rich again.

Still, the units assigned to the first phase of the Tanzanian operation—the 101st Airborne, the 6th Air Cavalry, and the 1st and 2nd Marine Divisions—were used to rounding up transport in a hurry and heading off on no notice to the far corners of the globe.

The first units of the 101st Airborne landed at Nairobi in the middle of May, when the heavy rains were over and the first riots were breaking out in Dar es Salaam. By the time President Weed gave his famous speech in Kansas City on June 20, denouncing atrocities he claimed had been committed by the Tanzanian government and proclaiming in ringing terms America’s unstinting readiness to support the quest for freedom around the world, all four divisions were settling into newly constructed bases in the upland country south of Kajiado, not far from the Tanzanian border.

Alongside them, logistics staff and civilian contractors swarmed, getting ready for the two armored divisions, on their way from Germany by ship, who would fill out the land assault force, and the bulk of the supplies for the assault, which were on their way by sea from Diego Garcia.

Meanwhile three CSGs, headed by the nuclear carriers USS Ronald Reagan, USS John F. Kennedy, and USS George Washington, headed at cruising speed toward a rendezvous point in the western Indian Ocean, where they would meet the ships carrying the armored divisions from Germany and a dozen big supply ships from the Maritime Prepositioning Squadron based on Diego Garcia.

Two Air Force fighter wings had already been assigned to the operation, and would arrive just before the carriers reached operational range; they and carrier-based planes would then take out the Tanzanian air force and flatten military targets across the country during the two weeks the armored divisions would need to land, join the rest of the force, and begin the ground assault. It was a standard plan for the quick elimination of the modest military forces of a midsized Third World country; its only weakness was that the US force was no longer facing a midsized Third World country.

In times of peace, August and September are the peak tourist season in East Africa; inland from the always humid coast, the climate is cool and dry, and the wide plains of the interior are easy to travel. Since plains in cool dry weather are among the best places on earth for an assault by tanks and attack helicopters, these were also the months the Pentagon’s planners assigned for Operation Blazing Torch, the liberation of Tanzania.

Briefing papers handed to President Weed in late July sketched out the final details, and he nodded and signed off on the final orders for the invasion. The Secretary of Defense looked on from the other side of the room with a silent frown. He had tried several times to bring up the small but real chance that the Chinese might retaliate, and had his advice dismissed by Weed and mocked to his face by the president’s national security adviser and Vice President Gurney. As soon as this thing was over, he told himself for the fifteenth time, he would hand in his resignation.

Outside the White House windows, barely visible in the distance, a small band of protesters kept up a desultory vigil in the free-speech zone set aside for them. Pedestrians hurried past, ignoring the chanted slogans and the protest signs. It was another brutally hot summer day in Washington DC, part of the “new normal” that the media talked about when they couldn’t avoid mentioning the shifting climate altogether.

Out beyond the Beltway, half the country was gripped by yet another savage drought; the states of Iowa and Georgia had just suspended payment on their debts, roiling the financial markets; eyes across the southeast turned nervously toward a tropical storm, poised off the Windwards, that showed every sign of turning into the season’s first big hurricane.

What many perceptive observers recalled afterward was the sullen mood that gripped the country that summer. Only the media and the most shameless of national politicians tried to pretend that the approaching war with Tanzania was about anything but oil; the president’s approval rating drifted well below 25%, which was still three times that of Congress and well above that of any credible candidate the other party had to offer; the usual clich├ęs spewed from the usual pundits, but the only people who were listening were the pundits themselves.

Across the nation and across the political spectrum, the patience of the American people was visibly running short.

Those who were dissatisfied had plenty of reasons. The intractable economic slump that had gripped the country since 2008 showed no sign of lifting, despite repeated bailouts of the financial industry that were each proclaimed as the key to returning prosperity, and repeated elections in which each candidate claimed to have fresh new ideas and then pursued the same failed policies once in office.

The fracking boom of the early twenty-teens was practically ancient history; energy prices were high, and straggling higher; gasoline bumped against $7 a gallon that summer before slumping most of the way back to $6.50. None of these things were new, but they seemed to infect the national mood more powerfully than before. Shortly they would help spark an explosion—but there would be other explosions first.

At the end of July, the invasion task force assembled in the Indian Ocean almost two thousand miles east of the Kenyan coast. Fleet Admiral Julius T. Deckmann, commanding the task force, made sure everything was in order before giving the orders to sail west. A career officer with half a dozen combat assignments behind him, Deckmann had learned to trust his intuition, and his intuition told him that something was not right.

From the bridge of the USS George Washington, his flagship, he considered the assembled fleet, shook his head, and ordered reconnaissance drones sent up. Real-time images from US spy satellites showed nothing out of the ordinary; data from the AWACS plane circling high overhead confirmed that, and so did the drones, once data started coming in from them. Deckmann’s unease remained as days passed uneventfully and the task force neared East Africa.

The fleet reached its assigned position off the Kenyan coast on schedule. Final news came via secure satellite link from Washington: the Air Force fighter wings had arrived and were ready for action; the Tanzanian Freedom Council, the puppet government-in-exile manufactured by the State Department, had called “the nations of the world” to liberate their country, a plea that everyone knew was directed at one nation alone; the CIA-led mercenaries who spearheaded the second, violent phase of the uprising had withdrawn from Dar es Salaam, leaving the local cadres to their fate, and were moving toward the Kenyan border to open the way for the invasion. Deckmann made sure every ship in his fleet was ready as the sun set in red haze over the distant African coast.

Very few of those involved in the war got much sleep, that last night before the shooting began. On the three carriers, and at two newly constructed airfields in southern Kenya, aircrews worked through the dark hours to get their planes ready for battle, unaware that other aircrews were doing the same thing thousands of miles away in Central Asia.

Soldiers of the two armored divisions that had been brought down from Germany prepared for a landing in Mombasa most of them would not live to see. In Dar es Salaam and Nairobi, presidents met with their cabinets and then headed for heavily guarded bunkers; elsewhere in the world, heads of state read intelligence briefings and braced themselves for crisis.

Two hours before the East African dawn, the waiting ended. Two people ended it. One was Admiral Deckmann, barking out the orders that sent the first fighter-bombers roaring off the deck of the George Washington and the first Tomahawk cruise missiles blazing skywards. The other was an officer in a Chinese command center deep in central Asia, who watched the planes take off and the missiles launch, courtesy of a high-altitude observation drone—one of three that had been following the George Washington since it went through the Suez Canal, and were now stationed high above the fleet.

As infrared images showed planes and missiles hurtling toward Tanzania, the officer typed rapidly on a keyboard and then hit enter twice. With the second click of the enter key, the Chinese response began.

... to be continued.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Specter of Military Defeat 8/15/12
Ea O Ka Aina: How it Could Happen - Part 2 Nemisis 10/10/12 
Ea O Ka Aina: How it Could Happen - Part 3 The Brink 10/17/12
Ea O Ka Aina: How it Could Happen - Part 4 Crossing the Line 10/24/12
Ea O Ka Aina: How it Could Happen - Part 5 Dissolution 10/31/12