End Agland CPR now!

SOURCE: Ken Taylor (taylork021@hawaii.rr.com)
SUBHEAD: The primary crop found on Kaua‘i’s CPR ag lands are single family dwellings.

By Lonnie Syloa on 6 January 2013 in the Garden Island -

Image above: This agland was converted to Kealia Kai - luxury estates. This house was auctioned in 2010 for $3.2million with bidders from the US, England and Dubai. From (http://content.uniquehomes.com/2010/06/unique-properties-4/).

The end of gentleman’s CPR estates near Kealia Beach is a welcome development. Kaua‘i is the only county in Hawai‘i in which the mayors, councils, and county attorneys historically supported and still support the concept of avoiding state and county ag lands and sub-division controls through the use of CPR.

The state and the other counties historically do not support ag CPR regimes, and in fact view them as inappropriate for ag lands. There is no issue with ag CPR in the other counties because their land use and permitting policies eliminate the benefits Kauai’s politicians afford for ag CPR land division and development.

CPR can not legally be used for raw land, thus Kaua‘i allows minuscule “farm tool sheds” or perhaps a farm dog house to qualify for the building improvements required to create a condo regime. This county also facilitates creating CPRs by historically failing to ensure CPR owners actually have the functioning legal association required and actually perform their legal obligations as a condominium. CPRs increase ag land values and population density, without contributing to the social costs incurred in the same manner that sub-division would require.

The primary crop found on Kaua‘i’s CPR ag lands are single family dwellings. The largest crop harvested is the future value of a rural estate. The increase in property value is a much greater profit incentive than selling ag products. One questions how a commercial activity — the CPR — can be held as an appropriate ag activity.

One also questions what public advantage is gained by sub-dividing ag lands by CPR, rather than by the sub-division regulations currently in place.

Imua Kaua‘i — end ag CPRs now. All it takes is the political will.


Promised Land

SUBHEAD: The natural gas industry hates the movie 'Promised Land' so much that it is boosting its popularity.

By Kurt Cobb on 6 January 2013 for Resource Insights -

Image above: Matt Damon promising riches in "Promised Land". From (http://resourceinsights.blogspot.com/2013/01/why-natural-gas-industry-hates-movie.html).

Matt Damon's new fictional movie about natural gas development in a rural township was being lambasted by the natural gas industry even before it premiered. And yet, the film shows no tanker trucks laden with toxic fracking fluid. It depicts no roughnecks descending on a small town unprepared for the influx of new workers. It features no ghastly wastewater ponds and not even one drilling pad or derrick. In fact, drilling has yet to begin in the fictional township of McKinley.

As a result there are no wheezing people made sick from fumes associated with the drilling. There are no flaming water taps--first seen by many in the documentary Gasland, a film which displays devastation which it attributes to hydraulic fracturing and other processes associated with natural gas drilling in America's deep shale deposits. In Promised Land there is not even one dead farm animal unless you count the ones pictured on a yard sign distributed by an environmental activist who opposes the drilling.

So why is the natural gas industry having such a hissy fit over the film? I think the answer lies in its premise: That the people of this small community ought to have a public discussion about whether they want the drilling--one informed by all the facts, not just the ones the natural gas drillers want them to hear--and that the community should then take a vote. God knows that in corporate America, democratic governance should never, ever take precedence over corporate imperatives. Could things be any more infuriating than that?

Well, yes they can. We are treated to acts of perfidy on the part of Steve Butler (played by Damon) who believes that everyone has a price, one that his company is only too willing to pay. Butler is a landman for a large drilling company though he is never referred to using this industry term. His job is to lease the mineral rights from landowners in the township quickly and cheaply. But a well-informed high school teacher (played by Hal Holbrook) challenges Butler at a meeting of townsfolk that was designed to close the deal. After that things get complicated. Butler and his partner, Sue Thomason (played by Frances McDormand), must abandon the playbook that has worked so well for them in the past and improvise.

As resistance grows, Butler and Thomason hurry to close as many deals as they can. Increasingly, people turn them down. Here is where Butler's frustration leaks out as he loses his cool in front of people he ought to be trying to gently persuade. Whether such flashes of temper accurately portray the behavior of landmen, I have my doubts. But these fits are illustrative of the arrogant attitude of the industry in general. How dare anyone question what the industry is doing to make America energy independent! How dare people who have so little money and so little prospect of getting any turn down the chance to become wealthy! How dare these little people from rural nowhere resist a big, powerful company that is only trying to help them, their communities, and the country at the same time!

Butler is likeable, even sweet when we first meet him. But later he seems to pout on behalf of the entire natural gas industry when he runs into inconvenient questions about his story and his motives. It's possible that people in the industry who watch the film will mistake his arrogance for righteous indignation, a pose which industry leaders have spent time perfecting so as to portray themselves as victims.

In his initial townhall-style meeting with community members, Butler challenges the townspeople saying that if they are against natural gas, then they are for more oil and coal consumption, both dirtier alternatives. He adds that the only other option is to reduce our energy use, and, of course, nobody wants to consider that. This is the one positively revolutionary thought slipped into the film. For it would be utterly revolutionary to proceed on the premise that we could remake our society into one that ultimately does not depend on fossil fuels for energy. The first crucial step would be to reduce our energy consumption dramatically. And, we actually know how to do this, both by adjusting our behavior and through existing technology. Optimists love to tout technology when talking about increasing the energy supply. They seem to forget that that same technological prowess can and should be focused on reducing our energy consumption. But then no oil and gas company can make a profit on that.

Will you be entertained by Promised Land? I was and I think an open-minded moviegoer will have much to enjoy in this film. The acting is excellent, the characters are well-developed, and the plot has enough twists to keep the audience interested. The script is a little heavy-handed in places. But keep in mind that this film is as much about an issue as it is about the characters. If the characters never talked about or defined the issue as carefully as they do, then Promised Land might still be a good film. But it would not be an issue-oriented film which is part of its appeal.

The reaction from the natural gas industry has been as predictable as it has been puzzling. By launching an all-out smear campaign, they are only helping to make Promised Land a must-see movie for 2013. Everyone will want to know what all the fuss is about, even those who have no strong feelings one way or another about fracking and natural gas. Those who do see the movie will certainly have more questions about the motives and veracity of the industry than before.

But the natural gas industry continues to be extraordinarily foolish in its handling of the media and completely idiotic in its reaction to environmental and health concerns. Instead of ignoring critics in the media, the industry has vilified them, thereby making them even more visible to the public. Instead of vowing to address environmental and health concerns with some kind of credible industry-wide standards, the industry has dismissed those concerns as imaginary, making the public all the more distrustful.

With that kind of track record, the producers of Promised Land should be thanking the natural gas industry for all the free publicity and for elevating what might otherwise have been an obscure, low-budget film into a contender for socially conscious movie-of-the-year--one that will now be labeled mandatory viewing for all right-minded people.

• Kurt Cobb is an author, speaker, and columnist focusing on energy and the environment. He is a regular contributor to the Energy Voices section of The Christian Science Monitor and author of the peak-oil-themed novel Prelude. In addition, he writes columns for the Paris-based science news site Scitizen, and his work has been featured on Energy Bulletin, The Oil Drum, OilPrice.com, Econ Matters, Peak Oil Review, 321energy, Common Dreams, Le Monde Diplomatique and many other sites. He maintains a blog called Resource Insights and can be contacted at kurtcobb2001@yahoo.com.


Some Sunny Days

SUBHEAD: The euphoria that greeted the end of the fiscal cliff ritual has settled back into the feckless collective state-of-mind that we call "bullish."

By James Kunstler on 6 January 2013 for Kunstler.com -

Image above: Bullish on America. From (http://www.cliffkule.com/2011_04_03_archive.html).

The story behind the "fiscal cliff" melodrama and the much-memed handwringing about the "good-for-nothing congress" is probably not quite what it appears -- a set of problems that will eventually be overcome by "better leadership" armed with "solutions." The story is really about the permanent disabling of government at this scale and at this level of complexity.

In other words, the federal government will never solve its obvious problems of mismanagement and bankruptcy and is now only in business to pretend that it can discharge its obligations (while employees enjoy the perqs). It's just another form of show business.

The same can be said of most of the state governments, too, of course, except that they have a lower capacity to pretend they can take care of anything. They can and will go bankrupt, and then they'll go begging to the federal government to bail them out, which the federal government will pretend to do with pretend money.

By then, though, the practical arrangements of daily life would probably be so askew that politics would take a new, darker, and more extreme turn --among other things, in the direction of secession and breakup.

The wonder of it all is that there hasn't been civil disorder yet. When I go into the supermarket, I marvel at the price of things: a single onion for a dollar, four bucks for a jar of jam, five bucks for a box of Cheerios, four bucks for a wedge of cheese. Is everybody except Jamie Dimon, Lloyd Blankfein, and Mark Zuckerberg living on store-brand macaroni and ketchup? It's hard to measure the desperation of households in this culture of rugged individualism.

At social gatherings friends rarely tell you that they are two months behind in their mortgage payment and maxed out on their credit cards. And that's the supposed middle class, at least the remnants of it. I can't tell you what the tattoo-and-falling-down-pants crowd talks about in the parking lot outside the 7-Eleven store. Perhaps they swap meth recipes.

Civil disorder would at least mean something, a consensus of dissatisfaction about how life is lived. Instead, we only get mad outbursts of tragic meaninglessness: the slaughter of innocent children in school, or movie theater patrons mowed down by a lone maniac during the coming attractions. Life imitates art, as Oscar Wilde said, and these days television is our art. Hence the United States is now equal parts Jersey Shore, Buck Wild, the Kardashians, and Honey Boo Boo. That's not really a lot to work with in terms of social capital, especially where radical politics might be called for.

Does anybody now breathing even remember radical politics? Whether you liked them or not -- and I was not crazy about the whole "revolution" of the late 1960s, which I lived through -- it at least represented a level of seriousness that is now absolutely and starkly absent today, especially in young people.

Who, in the West, besides Julian Assange (and Bradley Manning), has stuck his neck out in the past ten years? And please don't tell me Ron Paul, who had ample opportunity in congressional hearings over the years to really call out the banksters and their government wankster errand boys, and all he ever did was nip around their trouser legs.

So I stick to the point I made in The Long Emergency and again in Too Much Magic: expect America's national and state governments to only become more ineffectual and impotent. They will never recover from the insults inflicted on themselves. Events are in the drivers seat, including things unseen, and the people pretending to be in charge have arranged things into such a state of fragility that accidents are sure to happen, especially involving the basic structures of money. In case you don't know it yet, you're on your own now. Put whatever energy you can muster into finding a community to be a part of.

Meanwhile, reality stands by with mandates of its own. Do people like Barack Obama and John Boehner think we're going to re-start another round of suburban expansion (a.k.a. the housing market)? That's largely what the old economy was based on, and what Wall Street fed off of parasitically the past twenty years. That is so over. Do they believe that when absolutely every task in America is computerized there will be any gainful work outside of a sort of janitorial IT to tend all the computers.

We've already seen what happens with the telephone system: after 30 years of techno-innovation in "communications," it's now impossible to get a live human being on the phone and robots call you incessantly during the dinner hour. Anyway, we don't really have the energy resources to supply the electricity for all this crap indefinitely, or probably even another twenty years.

All the tendencies and trends in contemporary life are reaching their limits at the same time, and as they do things will crack up and fall apart, whether it involves the despotic reach of a government, or a tyrannical corporation, or a hedge fund server farm stuffed with algo-crunching computers sucking the life out of every honest market transaction until the markets are zombies.

The euphoria that greeted the end of the fiscal cliff ritual has settled back into the feckless collective state-of-mind that we call "bullish." It's all noise and the madness of crowds now. And black swans shitting on your head some sunny day.


Place Capital

SUBHEAD: Creating wealth by reconnecting the economy with the community through location.

By Staff on 28 October 2012 for Project for Public Spaces -

Image above: At Cleveland’s Market Square Park, local residents, businesses, and leaders have invested heavily in Place Capital.From original article.

“We’ve been wrong for the last 67 years,” Mark Gorton, founder of OpenPlans, announced in his closing address at last month’s Pro Walk/Pro Bike: Pro Place (PWPB) conference. “Ok. Time to admit it, and move on! We have completely screwed up transportation in this country. We can never expect to see the legislative or policy change until people understand the fundamental underlying problem. Asking for 20% more bike lanes is not enough.”

The following week, at the 8th International Public Markets Conference in Cleveland, the same attitude was present. In her opening remarks to the gathering of market managers and advocates assembled at the Renaissance Hotel, USDA Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan stated that “We’re all here because we recognize that markets can be far more than places just to buy food. We’re looking at markets as venues for revitalizing their communities.”

These statements capture a sentiment that permeated the discussion at both of the conferences that PPS organized this fall: that reform—of transportation, food systems, and so many aspects of the way we live—is no longer about adding bike lanes or buying veggies from a local farmer; the time has come to re-focus on large-scale culture change.

Advocates from different movements are reaching across aisles to form broader coalitions. While we all fight for different causes that stir our individual passions, many change agents are recognizing that it is the common ground we share—both physically and philosophically—that brings us together, reinforces the basic truths of our human rights, and engenders the sense of belonging and community that leads to true solidarity.

Even when we disagree with our neighbors, we still share at least one thing with them: place. Our public spaces—from our parks to our markets to our streets—are where we learn about each other, and take part in the interactions, exchanges, and rituals that together comprise local culture. Speaking at PWPB, Copenhagenize.com founder Mikael Colville-Andersen made this point more poetically when he said that “The Little Mermaid statue isn’t Copenhagen’s best monument. I think the greatest monument that we’ve ever erected is our bicycle infrastructure: a human-powered monument.”

Our public spaces reflect the community that we live in, and are thus the best places for us to begin modeling a new way of thinking and living. We can all play a more active role in the cultural change that is starting to occur by making sure that our actions match our values—specifically those actions that we take in public places.

At PWPB, April Economides offered a simple suggestion for softening business owners’ resistance to bicycle-friendly business districts: tell the proprietors of businesses that you frequent that you arrived on a bike. At another PWPB session on social media, Alissa Walker advocated for users of popular geo-locative social media platforms like FourSquare to start “treating buses and sidewalks as destinations,” and ‘checking in’ to let friends know that they’re out traveling the city by foot, and on transit.

And of course, when trying to change your behavior, you often need to change your frame of mind. At the Markets Conference, Cleveland City Councilman Joe Cimperman recalled the efforts that were required to change the way that vendors at the West Side Market thought about their role within the local community when the market decided to remain open for more days each week. While many vendors didn’t need to be open extra days, Cimperman helped to re-frame things: “[I asked people to consider:] Who are we here for? We’re not here for ourselves. We’re here for the citizens of Cleveland.”

Individual action is invaluable, but when working to spark large-scale culture change, it is even more critical to develop an overarching strategy. Putting forth a constructive vision, along with clearly-stated goals that people can relate to, provides the framework that helps to guide the individual decisions that people within a movement make as they work to change the culture on the ground.

To put public space at the heart of public discourse where it belongs, we should focus on changing the way that folks talk about the issue that’s already on everyone’s mind: the economy. Bikenomics blogger Elly Blue was succinct in her explanation of why tying culture change to economics is a particularly fruitful path in today’s adversarial political climate: “We can shift the paradigm of how we build our cities; thinking about economics is a great way to do that because it cuts through the political divide.”

Across the political spectrum most of us, after years of economic hardship (and decades of wayward leadership), have learned to react to things like “growth” and “job creation” with an automatic thumbs-up. We too rarely ask questions like “What are we growing into?” and “What kind of jobs are we creating?” This brings us to the concept of Place Capital, which posits that the economic value of a robust, dynamic place is much more than the sum of its parts.

Great places are created through many “investments” in Place Capital–everything from individual actions that together build a welcoming sense of place, all the way up to major physical changes that make a space usable and accessible. Strong networks of streets and destinations are better at fostering human interaction, leading to social networks that connect people with opportunities, and cities where economies match the skills and interests of the people who live there.

Public spaces that are rich in Place Capital are where we see ourselves as co-creators of the most tangible elements of our shared social wealth, connecting us more directly with the decisions that shape our economic system.

At its core, Place Capital is about re-connecting economy and community. Today’s economy is largely driven by products: the stuff we make, the ideas we trademark, the things that we buy (whether we need them or not). It’s a system that supports the status quo by funneling more and more money into fewer and fewer hands.

Leadership in this system is exclusively top-down; even small business owners today must respond to shifts in global markets that serve only to grow financial capital for investors, without any connection to the communities where their customers actually live. (For evidence of this, consider the fact that food in the average American home travels an average of 1,500 to 2,500 miles from farm to table, turning local droughts and floods into worldwide price fluctuations).

Through our own Placemaking work, we’ve found that public space projects and the governance structures that produce them tend to fall into one of four types of development, along a spectrum. On one end there are spaces that come out of project-driven processes; top-down, bureaucratic leadership is often behind these projects, which value on-time, under-budget delivery above all else. Project-driven processes generally lead to places that follow a general protocol without any consideration for local needs or desires.

Next, there are spaces created through a design-led process. These spaces are of higher quality and value, and are more photogenic, but their reliance on the singular vision of professional designers and other siloed disciplines can often make for spaces that are lovely as objects, but not terribly functional as public gathering places.

More and more, we’re seeing people taking the third kind of approach: that which is place-sensitive. Here, designers and architects are still leading the process, but there is concerted effort to gather community input and ensure that the final design responds to the community that lives, works, and plays around the space.

Finally, there are spaces that are created through a place-led approach, which relies not on community input, but on a unified focus on place outcomes built on community engagement. The people who participate in a place-led development process feel invested in the resulting public space, and are more likely to serve as stewards. They make sure that the sidewalks are clean, the gardens tended, and their neighbors in good spirits. They are involved meaningfully throughout the process—the key word here being “they,” plural.

Place-led processes turn proximity into purpose, using the planning and management of shared public spaces into a group activity that builds social capital and reinforces local societal and cultural values.

After participating in the discussions at PWPB and the Markets Conference this fall, we believe that the concept of Place Capital is ideally-suited to guide the cooperation of so many individual movements that are looking for ways to work together to change the world for the better.

Place Capital employs the Placemaking process to help us outline clear economic goals that re-frame the way that people think not only about public space but, by extension, about the public good in general. If we re-build our communities around places that put us face-to-face with our neighbors more often, we are more likely to know each other, and to want to help each other to thrive.

“It’s because our public spaces got so bad that we have led the world in developing ways to make them great,” argued Eastern Market director Dan Carmody at the Markets Conference, explaining the surge of interest in Placemaking in the United States over the past few decades. We have momentum on our side; if we focus on creating Place Capital, we can continue to build on that forward motion, and bring together many different voices into a chorus.

Like capital attracts capital, people attract people. As Placemakers, we all need to be out in our communities modeling the kind of values that we want to re-build local culture around. Our actions in public space—everything from saying hello to our neighbors on the street to organizing large groups to advocate for major social changes—are investments in Place Capital.

Great places and strong economies can only exist when people choose to participate in creating them; they are human-powered monuments. So let’s get to work.

Stroke of Insight

SUBHEAD: Does our planet need a stroke of insight? Overall, I am encouraged by where we are, and the direction we are heading.

By Jill Bolte Taylor on 4 January 2013 for Huffington Post -

Image above: Jill Bolte Taylor demonstrating the natural division in the human brain from video below.

Before 2008, everything I did had something to do with mental health. I'm a neuroscientist, and I was all about understanding how we create our perception of reality, and understanding what's going on in the brains of people who experience hallucination and delusion.

But then I gave a TEDTalk about my own experience with stroke. Within weeks of delivering that talk in 2008, my life changed and the repercussions still resonate loudly in my world. My book, My Stroke of Insight, has been translated into 30 languages. Time and Oprah's Soul Series came calling. I've traveled to Europe, Asia, South America, Canada; I've criss-crossed the states. And in February 2012, I took a trip to Antarctica with Vice President Al Gore, 20 scientists, and 125 global leaders who care deeply about climate.

While I was traveling the globe, I still thought my core issue was mental health. But, perhaps spurred by that trip to Antarctica, I've come to understand that the two issues of mental health and global health are closely linked -- if not one and the same. Similar processes we use to improve our mental health can help us make better, more responsible decisions as a society -- by focusing on the compassion and integrity of our right brain, rather than the judgment, punishment and deception of our left brain.

To use a powerful metaphor, we have two magnificent information-processing machines inside our heads. Our right mind focuses on our similarities, the present moment, inflection of voice, and the bigger picture of how we are all connected. Because it focuses on our similarities, in my mind she is compassionate, expansive, open, and supportive of others.

Juxtaposed to that, our left brain thinks linearly, creates and understands language, defines the boundaries of where we begin and where we end, judges what is right and wrong and is a master of details, details and more details about those details.

Because it focuses on our differences and specializes in critical judgment of those unlike ourselves, our left brain character tends to be our source of bigotry, prejudice, and fear or hate of the unfamiliar.

What this means is that the mean little voice inside my head, the one that is critical of self or others and judges everyone and everything in a negative way, is a part of my neurocircuitry. The question is, what say do I have in who and how I want to be in the world. Do I have the power to choose being kind over being judgmental?

Do we have the power to be open rather than based in our fear? Of course we do, and the better we understand the choices we have been making, either consciously or unconsciously, the more say we will have in the world we create. Neurocircuitry may be neurocircuitry, but we don't have to run on automatic.

We are an amazing species living in an amazing time. We know more about the human brain and how it works than we ever have before, and for the first time in the history of mankind, we have the ability to consciously direct our own evolution. We know we have the ability to not only experience our biological circuitry, but to observe it, nurture it, and change it.

We have the ability to consciously choose who and how we want to be in the world, and we are teaching our children skills about mindfulness, reflection, the value of introversion, vulnerability, and how to respect the environment.

At the same time our world has become extremely polarized, not only in our politics, but hate crimes abound; war is ongoing between those who look different, those who believe differently or even those who are different genders. By better understanding what's going on in our brains, we can better understand all of this behavior and what choices we want to make.

I trust we can create an age where we stop relating to the world skewed through our left-brain values as individuals focused on profit, personal gain, power, prestige, authority, advantage, and the material goods money can buy. Instead, it's time to shift our approach to the planet and our relationship to it, as we explore the most important question of our time: How do we each, as individuals of a collective whole called humanity, bring our gifts to the table to be a part of the solution?

The reality of global warming is no longer an issue for debate. The real conversation now revolves around this question: How are we going to manage the repercussions of our actions , and do it quickly enough to sustain life as we have known it? Needless to say, this is not the way our society works now, and as a result, the health and well-being of our planet has not only been threatened but compromised.

I am a true believer that the next step in our human evolution is upon us, and we are becoming more balanced in not only how we live inside our own heads but in how we treat our planet. When we live our lives through the intention of our right minds, and use the skill sets of both minds to achieve our goals, we become a whole-brained and more balanced society.

Change is never easy, and there will always be those who fall behind. But overall, I am encouraged by where we are, and the direction we are heading.

Video above: TED talk by Jill Bolte Taylor. From (http://www.ted.com/talks/jill_bolte_taylor_s_powerful_stroke_of_insight.html).


Trike Home & Turf

SUBHEAD: If you want to know why the Chinese experiment in industrial consumerism is bound to fail, take a look at this project.

By Kimberly Mok on 4 January 2013 for TreeHugger -

Image above: It's likely the security folks guarding this corporate office plaza will be moving these folks along by sunset.  From original article.

Private land ownership is something that most of us might take for granted, but it's not the case in communist China, where all land is either state-owned or run by collective economic organizations (CEOs).

Image above: Note how this "generous" storage system has to be folded-down or placed somewhere else when functions like eating or sleeping are involved. From original article.

But with China's rapidly developing economy, skyrocketing real estate prices, unscrupulous "land grabs" and recent legislation towards a civil code protecting private ownership, the issue of owning land is in a tumultuous transition, prompting designers like People’s Architecture Office (PAO) and the People’s Industrial Design Office (PIDO) to explore different possibilities.

Image above: They don't really show where the cooking and cleaning is done in this kitchen/dining mode - could it be out on the curb? From original article.

Their joint effort is the Tricycle House and Tricycle Garden, a paired mobile home and garden plot mounted on modified three-wheelers. Made with CNC-scored, translucent polypropylene plastic, the house is an accordion-shaped, expandable temporary shelter. Say the designers:
Through this design, single family homes can be affordable and sustainable, parking lots are not wasted at night, and traffic jams are acceptable. The Tricycle House is man-powered allowing off-the-grid living.

Image above: Does the dirty bath water get drained though the floor and onto the plaza stonework, or what... where's the toilet? From original article.

Created as part of Beijing's Get It Louder 2012 exhibition, Tricycle House was shown alongside other temporary urban shelters, like this one made out of spray foam insulation. Of course, this house's hidden amenities gives it a more comfortable edge, allowing it to be a multipurpose living space in small quarters:
Facilities in the [Tricycle] house include a sink and stove, a bathtub, a water tank, and furniture that can transform from a bed to a dining table and bench to a bench and counter top. The sink, stove, and bathtub can collapse into the front wall of the house.

Image above: Ah sweet dreams sleeping on your dining room table over your folded storage unit. From original article.

The mobile garden is a clever addition, showing that living small and on the move doesn't mean a landless existence. More images over at ArchDaily, People’s Architecture Office and the People’s Industrial Design Office.

Image above: An romantic encampment on the plaza before sunset, as other like minded bike oriented vagabonds gather after work to get through the night. From original article.

[IB Editor's note: How long will the houseplant or the uncovered raised gardens boxes live? Any longer than it takes to get rid of the dirty bathwater? 

This effort by could be a joke or possibly a promo stunt by the cargo bike industry. It could be attempt by the People’s Architecture Office and the  People’s Industrial Design Office  to misdirect the West into a race to the bottom of industrial design concepts of housing and transportation.

The tin-roofed shacks in America's urban Hoovervilles of the 1930's were better urban housing solutions than these cargo bikes. Today's makeshift slums around (or in) the junkyards major third-world cities are the natural home for these polypropylene hovels.]

Dr. Vandana Shiva on Kauai

SUBHEAD: Food justice advocates to speak in Lihue on 1/17/13, featuring Vandana Shiva, Walter Ritte & Andrew Kimbell.

By Steve Benjamin on 5 January 2013 for Island Breath -

Image above: Detail of poster for Kauai event. Click to enlarge to print and put up announcement. From (http://www.islandbreath.org/2013Year/01/130105poster.jpg).

 Raise Awareness, Inspire Change - a free educational event on food, GMO's and food security with Vandana Shiva, Andrew Kimbrell & Walter Ritte.

Thursday, 17 January 2013 
4:00 pm Westsiders(Kekaha & Waimea)  eat and meet with Vandana Shiva before event 

5:00 pm Doors open to public; for Giveaway of Local Seeds adapted to Kauai, by Kauai Community Seedbank and Library.
6:00 pm Makana will perform some songs. 
6:30 pm Presentations byWalter Ritte, Andrew Kimbrell & Vandana Shiva
 Peace & Freedom Convention Hall
 4191 Hardy Street,  Lihue, Kauai, Hawaii

Dr Vandana Shiva, World renowned Physicist, Philosopher, Author and Sustainability Consultant, with special guests Walter Ritte, Local Sovereignty and Environmental Activist and Educator, and Andrew Kimbrell, Public Interest Attorney and Author, present:

"Raise Awareness, Inspire Change"
Makana is going to do some songs at the event, before the speaker presentations-- should be fun!

You are all, as west siders, invited to a special early dinner (free) for Kekaha and Waimea residents before the event, to talk with Dr, Vandana Shiva.  She really wants to hear what we have to say, what we are experiencing as a community, and why sustainable ag must be the new way forward.  4 pm, Convention Center (same venue as event)

There will also be some of the top "GMO-Free" advocacy leaders coming to listen to you, and share what they learn on Kauai with the rest of the world.  

Join us for a discussion on ecological agriculture, protecting biodiversity, and our responsibility to honor the precious gifts of nature.  The theme of Dr. Shiva’s presentation—“Seed Freedom is Food Freedom”—refers to the importance of preserving biological diversity and intellectual democracy in agricultural policy. Her work has been informed by the experience of traditional farmers in India who have lost their livelihoods due to industrial agriculture and biotechnology.

“Dr. Shiva is coming to Hawai‘i because our islands are currently the world’s most significant center of biotechnology seed experiments,” says Jeri DiPietro, president of Hawai‘i SEED and one of the tour’s organizers. “A significant portion of our state’s agricultural lands are currently used by seed companies to produce an inedible product that is shipped off island, rather than contributing to a local farming economy.”

Di Pietro adds that Dr. Shiva will visit Kaua‘i because it is the island with the largest acreage of genetically engineered agriculture in the state (approximately 13,000 acres). “Dr. Shiva will speak with the island’s West Side residents, many of whom are impacted by chemicals and agricultural dust drift. Currently there is not enough oversight and very little understanding about field experiments and the chemical pesticides and herbicides being used. People living close to the fields are suffering chronic exposure and poor health; many children on the West Side have asthma and many adults are experiencing adult onset asthma. We are also seeing a very high and unexplained rate of cancer in the areas near fields used for seed testing.”

About the Speakers:
Dr. Vandana Shiva is an Indian philosopher, environmental activist, author and eco-feminist who is one of the leaders of the International Forum on Globalization. She has argued for the wisdom of many traditional practices and fought for changes in the practice and paradigms of agriculture and food. Intellectual property rights, biodiversity, biotechnology, bioethics, genetic engineering are among the fields where Shiva has contributed intellectually and through activist campaigns. She has assisted grassroots organizations of the Green movement in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Ireland, Switzerland, and Austria with campaigns against genetic engineering.

Dr. Shiva was awarded the Right Livelihood Award (also known as the “Alternative Nobel Prize”) in 1993. Other awards she has received include the Global 500 Award of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) in 1993, and the Earth Day International Award of the United Nations (UN) for her commitment to the preservation of the planet. She has been featured in a number of acclaimed documentaries on agriculture and food such as “One Water,” “Deconstructing Supper: Is Your Food Safe?,” “The Corporation,” “Thrive,” “Dirt! The Movie” among others.

 Dr. Shiva will be accompanied by Walter Ritte.  For nearly 40 years, Walter Ritte has been a grassroots hero of integrity and action. Along the way, he has won many battles to protect Hawaii’s lands, natural resources and the  rights of the Hawaiian people, while honoring his kupuna (elders) and remaining steadfast to his values.  Walter also led a successful statewide effort to convince the University of Hawaii to give up its U.S. patents on three hybridized varieties of Hawaiian taro. As founder of "Label It Hawaii", and a board member of Hawaii Seeds, Ritte is now a leader of the statewide movement to require the labeling of GMO foods.

Another featured speaker is Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the International Center for Technology Assessment (ICTA) and also executive director of the Center for Food Safety. He is one of the country’s leading environmental attorneys, and an author of numerous articles and books on environment, technology and society, and food issues.

Mr. Kimbrell's current work emphasizes policy and grassroots work on food issues including defending organic alfalfa and beet farmers from seed contamination and opposing destructive practices such as genetic engineering, factory farming, irradiation and the patenting of seeds and other life forms. He has been featured in many documentaries including the seminal film "The Future of Food" and has testified before numerous congressional and regulatory hearings. In 1994, the Utne Reader named Kimbrell as one of the world's leading 100 visionaries.

Event is sponsored by Hawaii Seed and GMO Free Kauai.  This special evening was made possible by a special grant from The Ceres Trust & Hawaii Seed.

For more information, go to www.hawaiiseed.org or call 808-651-9603.  For information on the speakers, go to: www.vandanashiva.org, www.navdanya.org, www.andrewkimbrell.org 

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Vandana Shiva on GMO's 7/21/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Seed Savers Exchange Market 10/22/09
Ea O Ka Aina: India turning away from Biotech 8/9/12


Buffet green on solar

SUBHEAD: Warren Buffet buys world's largest solar power project from SunPower as a long term investment.

By Michael Richard on 3 January 2013 for TreeHugger -

Image above: Installation of the first of its thin-film cadmium telluride (CdTe) modules at the 230-megawatt Antelope Valley Solar Ranch One in June 2012. From (http://www.solarfeeds.com/antelope-valley-solar-ranch-one-module-installation-underway/).

Warren Buffett's MidAmerican utility, which is part of his holding company Berkshire Hathaway, has just announced that it's buying SunPower's Antelope Valley Solar Projects, located in California. The tag price is between 2 and 2.5 billion dollars! At a total of 579 megawatts, the Antelope Valley projects are the world's largest photovoltaic solar development, and SunPower will retain the 3-year contract to build it.

That, in itself, is interesting. It's a huuuuge renewable energy deal - not Buffett's first, see the links on the left - and possibly a sign of things to come. But what I find even more interesting is to try to reverse-engineer Buffett's thinking based on his track record and investment philosophy.The first thing to know is that Buffett tries to never overpay for anything. He only buys when he's sure that an asset is undervalued and is likely to have bottomed in market price. So this could be a sign that after all the softening prices and bankruptcies, that the solar industry is on its way to better days (or at least, it won't get much worse). Or at least that at today's prices, you get more value than what you pay for when you invest in solar.

Another thing about Buffett is that he thinks long-term. He's not looking to flip assets, he wants to own them forever if possible. So that makes his very conservative about going into unpredictable industries (that's why he almost never invests in technology companies, he can't predict what the field will be like in 10-20 years). This tells us that Buffett feels that the long-term future of solar looks rosy, and that even though natural gas prices have been low recently, that in the long-term, solar is one of the the places to be. Of course, any TreeHugger ready could have told you that, but it's always nice to be on the same side as the greatest living investor (and one of the top philanthropists, along with Bill Gates, it must be noted).

P.S. For those who will say that this is MidAmerican's deal and not Buffett's, know that as CEO of Berkshire, Buffett is in charge of all large capital allocation decisions, even at subsidiaries. When MidAmerican makes a small investment it doesn't have to let Buffett know, but 2+ billion is definitely something that Buffett has personally approved, from what I know of the workings of Berkshire. If Buffett didn't think he could get a very good long-term return out of investing those billions in solar, he would have invested them somewhere else (capital is mostly fungible between Berkshire's subsidiaries).

Hawaiian Oopu climb waterfalls

SUBHEAD: Native Hawaiian gobies use mouth sucker to climb waterfalls to get to upper stream habitats.

By Jan TenBruggencate on 4 January 2013 for Raising Islands -

Image above: A male oopu nopili in a Hawaiian stream. From (http://fishhabitat.org/partnership/hawaii-fish-habitat-partnership).

Young Hawaiian goby fish are able to climb waterfalls using a remarkable adaptation related to their feeding mechanism.

A new study on the `o`opu nōpili, one of Hawai`i’s five freshwater gobies, reviews the adaptation under the impenetrable title, “Evolutionary Novelty versus Exaptation: Oral Kinematics in Feeding versus Climbing in the Waterfall-Climbing Hawaiian Goby Sicyopterus stimpsoni.”

The authors are Heiko Schoenfuss of Saint Cloud State University in Minnesota and Joshua Cullen, Takashe Maie and Richard Blob of Clemson University in South Carolina.

They note that species that live in extreme habitats—like the steep, rugged, rocky Hawaiian streams with their tendency to flash flooding—often develop specialized traits to handle those conditions.

In the case of the nōpili, also called the rockclimbing goby, they adapted existing physical features to new uses. An oral sucker used to scrape algae off rocks for food, in the nopili’s case, is also used to help them “inch” up waterfalls.

Like other gobies, fused ventral fins provide them with a belly-side sucker that helps them cling to rocks. But the nōpili has something more. Instead of having a mouth that faces forward like many fish, the nōpili mouth faces down, and when traveling, it uses that mouth to hold on to the surface.

Is it a feeding mechanism adapted for climbing waterfalls, or a waterfall climbing feature that also happens to help the animal feed? That’s not clear, but it is clear that the downward-facing, sucking mouth gives the nōpili a nice advantage. And it is different from the other Hawaiian gobies.

While the others tend to suck their food off the rocks, the nōpili’s unique mouth allows it to scrape the algae. That means it eats a somewhat different diet from the others—that it has its own ecological niche.

It also lets it get to unique places:

“The oral sucker facilitates use of a novel mechanism for accessing upstream habitats above waterfalls. This form of locomotion has been termed ‘inching’ and requires alternate attachment of oral and pelvic discs to the rocky substrate, providing a slow, but steady, method of climbing that, in the Hawaiian species S. stimpsoni, allows individual fish to scale waterfalls up to 100 m tall,” the authors write.

For more on the `o`opu nōpili, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources has a page on the anatomy of the nōpili here.

Here is a University of Hawai`i website with some images of the Hawaiian gobies.


Evolution Becomes Conscious

SUBHEAD: It has been said that we are going to be the first species that is able to scientifically monitor our own extinction.

By Molly Scott Cato on 5 January 2013 for Gaian Economics-

Image above: Print of illustration by Ernst Haekel (1867) titled "The Modern Theory of the Descent of Man" From (http://www.etsy.com/listing/86407125/the-modern-theory-of-the-descent-of-man).

I’m going to start by saying something about science. On Monday I listened to Evan Davies interviewing fisheries minister Richard Benyon about his decision to oppose the latest EU fisheries proposal which Benyon claimed he was doing ‘on scientific grounds’. Davies brought in the top fisheries scientist from Defra, who argued for the EU proposal. Evan Davies seemed genuinely perplexed by the inability of the scientists to agree. He was seeking a ‘right’ answer, that was scientifically proved and unassailable.

Years ago I put together a report called ‘I Don’t Know Much About Science But I Know What I Like’. It’s Martin Amis’s joke but I’ve always enjoyed it. The reason I enjoy it is that it achieves with wit and brevity the task of challenging the right of science, usually in this context meaning statistical evidence, to trump other forms of thought.

Caroline Lucas has said that we are going to be the first species that is able to scientifically monitor our own extinction. Consecutive reports from the IPCC suggest that she is right about this, but I am a bit more optimistic. My optimism organises itself under my latest personal mantra: ‘Join the Evolution’ and it works like this.

We are unique in being a self-conscious animal. When other animals receive indications that they are reaching the limits of their evolutionary niche they respond to these by finding a new niche, or by failing to reproduce, or otherwise by ensuring that their numbers decline. As humans we are too clever for that. We can use our clever minds and our technology to keep pushing the boundary outwards, ignoring and filtering out the clear evidence that the ecological safety-limits have been exceeded.

So as a self-conscious animal we need to evolve self-consciously. We need to find a way to get a collective grip on ourselves, to stop believing our own fantasies, to get back down to earth. This is what I mean by ‘joining the evolution’, and I would argue that it is a desire to do something like this that has brought you here today.

So I have nothing against science, and I think being able to prove that resources are not limitless and have some idea of the scope of the problem we are facing is vitally important in convincing those trapped in the scientistic mind-set. But it is not going to save us. We need much more human solutions to do that.

[IB Editor's note: I recently read a chapter 3, "Darwin's Dilemma: The Odyssey of Evolution", in Stephen Jay Gould's book "Ever Since Darwin" (1973)  - In it he discusses how the word "evolution" came to describe Darwin's theory of the natural change and differentiation among living species and how it has been mistakenly interpreted by many since.-
 "Ironically, however, the father of evolutionary theory stood almost alone in insisting that organic change led only to increasing adaptation between organisms and their own environment and not to an abstract ideal of progress defined by structural complexity or increasing heterogeneity-never say higher or lower. Had we heeded Darwin's warning, we would have been spared much of the confusion and misund­erstanding that exists between scientists and laymen today. For Darwin's view has triumphed among scientists who long ago abandoned the concept of necessary links between evo­lution and progress as the worst kind of anthropocentric bias. Yet most laymen still equate evolution with progress and define human evolution not simply as change, but as increas­ing intelligence, increasing height, or some other measure of assumed improvement."]

Wailua Bike Path Rolls Out

SUBHEAD: Construction crew preparing the beach for removable concrete slab multi-use path.

By -

Image above: Construction workers started laying down the first portion of the multi-use path by Wailua Beach Wednesday night before public meeting on issue. From original article.

[IB Editor's Note: It seems they began this construction even before the public meeting to determine its future. What a surprise!]

After years of controversy, construction of the Wailua Beach portion of the Ke Ala Hele Makalae, or “the path that goes along the coast,” began Wednesday night. The current work will lay the ground for the actual path construction, which starts next week.

“I want to acknowledge everyone that met with us over the years and expressed their feelings and concerns about the path alignment along Wailua Beach,” Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. said. “We took what was said and weighed it heavily into our decision-making as we have always considered the preservation and protection of the Hawaiian host culture of utmost importance.”

Construction workers will be doing temporary restriping of the highway and placing safety barriers until Jan. 11, when installation of the path is scheduled to begin, according to county officials. Construction is supposed to be finished by March 29. Then, from April 1 to 5, workers will re-stripe Kuhio Highway by Wailua Beach permanently.

As of right now, a night crew is doing the work, but this could change next week, according to county spokeswoman Beth Tokioka.

Carvalho said the administration has made numerous adjustments because of the “important conversations with the community,” in line with the county’s promise to deal with the emotional side of the issue or project first.

“After all of the study and all of the community dialogue, we believe it is time to move forward to link the Lydgate portion of the path through the Wailua Beach corridor in a way that is environmentally sound and culturally sensitive,” he said.

For the last few weeks, the administration has been running an ad in different local print media, warning that for the next three months there may be periodic closures between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. of the makai lane of Kuhio Highway by Wailua Beach.

On Dec. 29, the administration sent a press release, stating that a recently released report by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers indicates that the coastal path between Kuamo‘o and Papaloa roads will not significantly alter shoreline erosion in the area.

“The report noted that the Wailua shoreline has an annual accretion rate of approximately 3.5 inches,” the release states.

The Army Corps’ Civil Works Branch concluded that the makai edge of the path is at a sufficient distance from the shoreline, according to the release. Additionally, the report states that the proposed concrete slabs do not present the same impacts to coastal erosion in the same way as typical protection structures do.

“The latest report from the Corps of Engineers reinforces our belief that we have planned appropriately for the short- and long-term shoreline trends in Wailua,” Carvalho said in the release.

In the press release, Carvalho praised the county Public Works Department, the state Department of Transportation and the County Attorney’s Office for their “extensive due diligence” that has ensures that the path will be “environmentally sound” built and in a “culturally sensitive manner.”

‘Removable’ slabs
The latest plans for the path at Wailua are for “removable” concrete slabs, each weighing approximately 15,000 pounds, the average weight of an adult male African elephant. County officials said they decided on “removable” sections for the path after a recent periodic erosion in Wailua, which took most of the beach sand and placed it elsewhere. In the last few months, the sand has been slowly returning to Wailua Beach.

County officials said that prior to coming up with final plans, the administration had many discussions with Native Hawaiian leaders, representatives of state and federal agencies, experts in coastal land use and cultural archaeology, as well as a broad cross-section of the community.

Carvalho requested additional archaeological testing in the summer of 2011, even thought this was not required, to ensure minimal disruption of cultural resources in the area. No traditional Hawaiian or historic artifacts, cultural deposits or cultural resources were found during the investigation, according to the administration.

Kaua‘i County Council Chair Jay Furfaro has requested for today’s council meeting, starting at 8:30 a.m., the presence of County Engineer Larry Dill, Parks and Recreation Director Lenny Rapozo and Planning Department Director Michael Dahilig.

The meeting’s agenda includes discussion on the actual scope of work for construction, review of approved federal, state and county permits and a memorandum from Ruby Pap, Coastal Land Use Extension Agent at the University of Hawai‘i.

At around 12:30 p.m., the council is scheduled to break for lunch. An hour later, the council is scheduled to reconvene and hear from Dill a report on the construction delays of the path at Papaloa Road, immediately north of Wailua Beach. Construction there was delayed for months, apparently due to a mistake on the concrete level. This discussion is supposed to be followed by a consultation with the county attorney behind closed doors on the circumstances that caused the delay, corrective measures and associated costs.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Wailua Beach & Bike Path 1/2/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Wailua Beach Elephant Path  12/22/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Wailua Bike Path Consideration 12/10/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Bike path still on Wailua Beach 1/25/10
Ea O Ka Aina: Bike Path should be here 12/6/09
Ea O Ka Aina: No Path on Wailua Beach 9/17/09

United States of Delusion

SUBHEAD: Not facing the necessity of deep cuts in borrow-and-squander budgets will lead to the involuntary reset of the entire system.

By Charles Hugh Smith on 4 January 2012 for Of Two Minds -

Image above: The "Best and Biggest" - America's self delusion. From (http://www.thetruthseeker.co.uk/?p=57655).

The irony is that clinging to delusion rather than face the necessity of deep cuts in borrow-and-squander budgets will lead to the involuntary reset of the entire system, depriving every vested interest of their share of the swag.

We are living in the United States of Delusion. The delusion has four key sources:

1. We can borrow-print-and-spend our way to prosperity when debt and fiscal/monetary stimulus are yielding ever more marginal returns.

The Dangerous Blindspots of Clueless Keynesians (January 2, 2013) The Keynesian model is a Cargo Cult, mired in a distant, romanticized past where Central Planning, intervention and manipulation were solutions rather than the root of the economy's fatal disease.

2. The risks of this fatal fiscal delusion are masked by a complicit Mainstream Media and a perception-management, manipulation-dependent Central State and Federal Reserve.

Spoiled Teenager Syndrome (January 3, 2013) Masking risk, cost and consequence creates an illusory world that eventually crashes on the unforgiving rocks of reality.
Is masking risk, cost and consequence a strategy that leads to success? No; it is a pathway to repeated catastrophic failure. What is the Central Planning strategy being pursued by our Central State and the Federal Reserve? Masking risk, cost and consequence.
3. The true costs of the Neoliberal Cartel State are cloaked, massaged and distorted by bogus budgets and wildly unrealistic projections.

Sickcare Will Bankrupt the Nation--And Soon (March 21, 2011)
Sickcare is fundamentally a system of interlinked politically powerful cartels.

Insiders who refuse to speak on the record for fear of antagonizing the powers that be, exorbitant price increases, confidential agreements and a tug-of-war between warring tribes. Is this the Mafia we're talking about?

From the point of view of investigative journalism, it could also describe America's health care industry. Stated truthfully, the industry is a highly profitable and politically powerful group of companies which operate in cartel-like fashion: that is, they use their clout to limit competition and establish highly profitable pricing.

Western Pennsylvania has about 140 MRI machines, while the 32 million residents of Canada share 151 MRI machines. And the U.S. machines are getting a lot of use: the number of CT and MRI scans (scans other than old-fashioned X rays) tripled from 85 to 234 per thousand insured people since 1999.
While proponents are quick to note that scans are cheaper than the alternative diagnostic procedures, one firm's research found that a doctor who owns his own machine is four times as likely to order a scan as a doctor who doesn't.

As if that wasn't enough to highlight the self-serving nature of "fee for service" cartels, MRI scanner manufacturer General Electric waged a two-year lobbying campaign to roll back cuts in Medicare reimbursements for scans. While the effort proved unsuccessful due to the intense political pressure to reduce soaring Medicare costs, critics observed that providers simply made up the reduced reimbursements by increasing the number of tests administered.

The only solution that actually addresses the systemic problem is to get rid of the entire fee-for-service structure and break up the cartels. Healthcare must be reconnected to diet, nutrition, fitness, lifestyle and community, and to education and emotional well-being.
If You Want Solutions, First Pin Down Where the Money Is Going (May 23, 2011)

If you really want a solution, then start by pinning down exactly who's getting all the money. Then find out if they're accountable for how it's spent. Nobody wants to admit the reality: our nation is dominated by cartels and fiefdoms serving entrenched constituencies whose budgets are simply not sustainable.

Please consider this chart of the University of California system's employment of professors and administration. If we extrapolate the lines, then soon there will be more highly-compensated seat-warmers in administration than there will be professors teaching in the classrooms.

It seems that some members of the Education Cartel and Fiefdom came to do good but stayed to do well--as in triple the national median earnings of full-time workers:

(Source: www.championnews.net/ftf_teacher.php?tid=78195&year=2010)

Salary: $172,163
Position: High School Teacher
Full/Part Time: Fulltime
Percent Time Employed: 100%
Assignment: Physics (Grades 9-12 Only)
Years Teaching: 30.5
Degree: Master's

Salary: $163,526
Position: High School Teacher
Full/Part Time: Fulltime
Percent Time Employed: 100%
Assignment: Driver Education
Years Teaching: 32
Degree: Master's
And how about those pension and retirement costs? We have an answer for New York City, and it is sobering. NYC budget - pension costs skyrocketing:

Over the past decade, New York City hasn’t really grown its population but has increased expenses from $28.8 billion to $49.7 billion. The vast majority of that $20.9 billion increase has been in the form of more dollars to fewer employees. Pension costs are killing us most: this has grown from $1.3 billion in 2002 to $8.3 billion in 2012.

That's a 638% increase in pension costs in one decade, while the city budget leaped 72% despite a stable population. The share of the budget devoted to pensions jumped from 4.5% in 2002 to 16.7% in 2012.
I have addressed these issues many times, for example in The Devolution of the Consumer Economy, Part II: Rising Costs, Declining Wages (April 8, 2011) and Complexity: Bureaucratic (Death Spiral) and Self-Organizing (Sustainable) (February 17, 2011).

I have highlighted the Education and Sickcare Cartels, but there are many others with exploding costs and zero alignment with accountability or performance. The Department of Defense, famous for routinely losing track of hundreds of billions of dollars (and does anyone lose their job over that gross mismanagement? No, everyone gets a promotion and raise for doing such a swell job), manages to triple the cost of every weapons system, regardless of the actual performance benefits (increasingly marginal, perhaps?)

The new F-35 fighter aircraft cost $150 million each, once we add in the overruns, replacing the Super Hornet F-18 E/F that cost $57 million each. (Once lifetime costs are included, the F-35 will cost upwards of $300 million each.) Is the F-35 really three times better than the F-18? Which would a commander facing 100 bogeys rather have, 30 F-35s or 90 F-18s? (I suspect they'd take the 90 F-18s, as long as they were loaded with the latest Sidewinder and long-range air-to-air missiles. As has been famously pointed out, at some point quantity becomes a winning quality.)

Will 100 F-35s prevail over 1,000 dirt-cheap drones? How about 10,000 drones? If the future of warfare is increasingly powerful unmanned networked drones (and it clearly is), why are we spending $1 trillion+ on hyper-costly aircraft that are essentially designed for a previous era?

4. The consequence of substituting delusion for reality is ignored or hidden from view, with the complicity of all the self-serving, entrenched vested-interests.

Is there any evidence that continuing to borrow and squander money on diminishing returns will magically cause a sudden return to productive investment? Of course there isn't; the magical belief that doing more of what has failed will eventually evade causality is delusional.

Does anyone seriously think that counterproductive "investments" in diminishing returns will "grow our way out of debt"? Of course not; everyone with a vested interest in the crumbling Status Quo is terrified that their share of the borrowed/printed swag will be cut. So the only alternative is to cling to a delusional state where belief in the impossible replaces a realistic assessment of risk, cost and consequence.

The irony is that this strategy of clinging to delusion rather than face the necessity of deep cuts in borrow-and-squander budgets will lead to the involuntary reset of the entire system, depriving every vested interest of their share of the swag. Is delusion a sustainable state? No. Thus we can confidently predict that causality, factuality and karma will eventually sweep aside delusion and all those who cling to it.


Cobbled Up Fencing

SUBHEAD: All sorts of things are used to plug holes in fences or to serve as gates to the entrances of fields or barn pens.

By Gene Logsdon on 2 January 2013 for The Contrary Farmer -

Image above: The world's largest surfboard fence is in Peahi, Haiku Maui, Hawaii.  From (http://iwanttomakethis.com/2012/01/20-unconventional-fences-beautiful-or.html).

The older (and lazier) I get, the more creative I become at putting up temporary fencing that ends up being permanent. Not so long ago I plugged a gap in a deteriorating pasture fence with a section of ancient spike-toothed harrow (an array of tilling blades on a frame dragged behind a tractor). The harrow is so old I call it Adam. Heaven knows how many acres Adam had leveled after the plow before he was retired to our tree grove. He thought his useful days were over, I’m sure.

But desperate for a way to fix the fence in a hurry, I spied the rusty old soul leaning disconsolately against a hickory tree and knew he was just what the situation required. Now Adam has a whole new second career ahead of him and looks quite jaunty in his new role. In fact so well does his left section hold off the sheep that now his right section has become a fixture in another hole in the fence. Some enterprising soul might want to give this idea serious thought.

There must be thousands of Adams rusting away in farm machinery graveyards far and wide. Start marketing what could be called Forever Fence.

Over the years, I have used all sorts of things to plug holes in fences or to serve as gates to the entrances of fields or barn pens. Wooden shipping pallets make passable “temporary” fences and pens and if you know how to beg pathetically, you can often get pickup loads of them at factories. Out in the weather they last about five years which is forever enough for an old man.

Four of them wired together in a square make very handy impromptu lambing pens. Three of them will do the same against a barn wall. If you have a lot of old baling wire (lengths of which I have also used to thread through rusted out sections of woven wire fence), you can wire a bunch of pallets to each other and set them up in a zigzag fashion to make a fence that doesn’t need posts.

In Wendell Berry’s latest lovely book, A Place In Time, he tells about his fictional character’s old cobbled up pasture fence, “the wire stapled to trees that had grown up in the line, spliced and respliced, weak spots here and there reinforced by cut thorn bushes and even an old set of bedsprings.”

I feel certain that description is not fictional. Lillian Beckwith in her The Hills is Lonely (another book I love) describes crofts in Scotland where thrifty owners used bedsprings for gates in their stonewalled yards or “parks.”

My ugliest fence repair so far is a rolled up length of old woven wire fence about the size and shape of a 55 gallon barrel. I jammed it into a washout on a hillside under a wire fence that was sagging precariously between posts.

Ugly yes, but it not only kept the sheep from squeezing under at that point, but anchored the fence and almost stopped the gully from getting any deeper. And that gives me another idea. I have several old leaky barrels that would work quite well plugging other developing holes in my fences. They would “last as long as they need to,” as we practitioners of the cobbling art like to say.

But I offer as the grand champion cobbled up fence of all time one that I saw along a backcountry road in the next county south of our place. I think I wrote about it before: a sort of feedlot arrangement surrounded almost entirely by junked school buses.

The buses had hay in them and the cows could stick their heads through where the windows used to be and eat.


Into an Unknown Country

SUBHEAD: Any meaningful response to the crisis of our time has to begin on the individual level, with changes in our own lives.

By John Michael Greer on 2 January 2013 for Archdruid Report -

Image above: Heading into new territory and new weather. From (http://www.socwall.com/desktop-wallpaper/36179/native-american-art-by-martin-grelle/).

Was it just my imagination, or was the New Year’s celebration just past even more halfhearted than those of the last few years? My wife and I welcomed 2013 with a toast, and breakfasted the next morning on the traditional good-luck foods—rice and beans, corn bread, greens and bacon—that I learned to enjoy back when I was studying old-fashioned Southern folk magic.

Outside our little house, though, the midnight air seemed remarkably quiet; the whoops, horns, and firecrackers of New Years past were notable mostly by their absence, and the next day’s hush seemed less a matter of hangovers than a not unreasonable dread of what 2013 might have in store for us all.

No doubt some of that was a function of the media panic about the so-called Fiscal Cliff. The New Yorker scored a palpable hit by headlining a piece on the subject "Washington Celebrates Solving Totally Unnecessary Crisis They Created," but there’s more to it than that.

What, after all, was this "fiscal cliff"? A measure that would have repealed some of the tax breaks and hikes in Federal spending put in place since 2000, and thus reduced the annual Federal deficit by a modest amount.

All that yelling, in other words, was provoked by the possibility that the US government might have to take a few steps in the direction of living within its means. If the frantic struggle to avert that outcome is any measure of the kind of statesmanship we can expect from the White House and Congress in the year to come, it’s no wonder that hiding under the mattress has so much evident appeal just now.

There’s more involved in the evident lack of enthusiasm for the new year, though, than the latest clown acts playing in the three-ring circus that is today’s Washington DC. A great many of the comforting rationalizations that have played so large a role in justifying a continued reliance on the unsustainable are wearing very thin.

Consider the claims, retailed by the media at ever-increasing volume these days, that recent upturns in the rate of domestic petroleum production in the US offer a conclusive disproof to the idea of peak oil, and herald the arrival of a new age of cheap abundant fuel. Courtesy of Jim Kunstler’s latest blog post, I’d like to offer a chart of US petroleum production, from 1920 to now, that puts those claims in perspective.

See the tiny little uptick in production over there on the far right? That’s the allegedly immense rise in petroleum production that drives all the rhetoric. If that blip doesn’t look like a worldchanging event to you, dear reader, you’re getting the message. It isn’t a worldchanging event; it’s the predictable and, by the way, repeatedly predicted result of the rise in oil prices from around $30 a barrel to between three and four times that, following the 2008 spike and crash.

Triple or quadruple the price of any other commodity, and sources of that commodity that weren’t economically feasible to produce at the lower price will suddenly become paying propositions, too. (Yes, that’s spelled "Bakken shale" in the present tense.)

If the price of oil were to triple or quadruple again over the next few years, we’ll probably see another increase on the same very modest scale, too. That increase still won’t be a worldchanging event, though the economic impact of another round of price increases on that scale might be.

More generally, we’ve got a real shortage of worldchanging events just now. There are good reasons for that, just as there are equally—well, equally strong, if not equally good—reasons why so many people are pinning all their hopes on a worldchanging event of one kind or another.

 Therapists like to point out that if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten, and of late it’s become a truism (though it’s also a truth) that doing the same thing and expecting to get different results is a good working definition of insanity.

The attempt to find some way around that harsh but inescapable logic is the force that drove the prophetic hysteria about 2012, and drives end-of-the-world delusions more generally: if the prospect of changing the way you live terrifies you, but the thought of facing the consequences of the way you live terrifies you just as much, daydreaming that some outside force will come along and change everything for you can be a convenient way to avoid having to think about the future you’re making for yourself.

With that in mind, and with an eye toward the year ahead of us, I’d like to attend to three New Year customs that haven’t gotten as much attention here on The Archdruid Report as they probably should.

First, I’d like to go over my predictions for the year just finished, and see how well they did; second, I’d like to offer up some predictions for the year to come; and third, I’d like to make some suggestions for what my readers might consider doing about it all.

My 2012 predictions appeared in the first January post here last year. Here they are:
"I’d like to suggest that when we take a backwards look in the early days of 2013, we will most likely see that that’s what happened in 2012, too: a slow worsening across a wide range of trends, punctuated by localized crises and regional disasters. 

I’d like to predict, in fact, that when we take that backward look, the US dollar and the Euro will both still exist and be accepted as legal tender, though the Eurozone may have shed a couple of countries who probably shouldn’t have joined it in the first place; that stock markets around the world will have had another volatile year, but will still be trading.

 Here in the US, whoever is unlucky enough to win the 2012 presidential election will be in the middle of an ordinary transition to a new term of office; the new Congress will be gearing up for another two years of partisan gridlock; gas stations will still have gas for sale and grocery stores will be stocked with groceries; and most Americans will be making the annual transition between coping with their New Year’s hangovers and failing to live up to their New Year’s resolutions, just as though it was any other year.

"Official US statistics will no doubt insist that the unemployment rate has gone down...but the number of people out of work in the United States will likely set another all-time record; the number of people in severe economic trouble will have gone up another good-sized notch, and public health clinics will probably be seeing the first wave of malnutrition-caused illness in children. 

If you happen to have spent the year in one of the areas unfortunate enough to get hit by the hard edge of the increasingly unstable weather, you may have had to spend a week or two in an emergency shelter while the flood waters receded or the wreckage got hauled away, and you might even notice that less and less gets rebuilt every year.

"Unless that happens, though, or unless you happen to pay close attention to the things that don’t usually make the evening news, you may well look back in the first days of 2013 and think that business as usual is still ongoing. You’d be right, too, so long as you recognize that there’s been a stealthy change in what business as usual now means. 

Until the peak of world conventional petroleum production arrived in 2005, by and large, business as usual meant the continuation of economic growth. Since then, by and large, it has meant the continuation of economic decline."
No countries left the Eurozone in 2012, and if malnutrition-caused illness in children has had a notable uptick in America, I haven’t yet heard of it. Other than that, I think it’s fair to say that I called it. I’d like to put on my sorcerer’s cap, furthermore, and gaze a little deeper into the mists of futurity; I thus predict that just as 2012 looked like a remake of 2011 a little further down the curve of decline, 2013 will look a good deal like 2012, but with further worsening along the same broad array of trends and yet another round of local crises and regional disasters.

The number of billion-dollar weather disasters will tick up further, as will the number of Americans who have no job—though, to be sure, the official unemployment rate and other economic statistics will be gimmicked then as now.

The US dollar, the Euro, and the world’s stock markets will still be in business at year’s end, and there will still be gas for sale in gas stations, groceries for sale in grocery stores, and more people interested in the Super Bowl than in global warming or peak oil, as 2013 gives way to 2014.

As the year unfolds, I’d encourage my readers to watch the fracking bubble. Yes, it’s a speculative bubble of the classic sort, one that has soaked up a vast amount of investment money over the last few years, and the glorious future of American energy independence being touted by the media has the same function, and the same relationship to reality, as the glorious future of endlessly rising house prices that got waved around with equal abandon in 2006 and 2007.

I don’t expect the bubble to pop this year—my best guess at this point is that that’ll happen in 2014—but it’s already losing air as the ferocious decline rates experienced by fracked oil and gas wells gnaw the bottom out of the fantasy.

Expect the new year to bring more strident claims of the imminent arrival of a shiny new future of energy abundance, coupled with a steady drumbeat of bad financial news suggesting, in essence, that the major players in that end of the oil and gas industry are well and truly fracked.

I’d also encourage my readers to watch the climate. The tendency to focus on predicted apocalypses to come while ignoring the reality of ongoing collapse in the present is as evident here as in every other corner of contemporary culture; whether or not the planet gets fried to a crackly crunch by some more or less distant future date, it’s irrefutable that the cost of weather-related disasters across the world has been climbing year over year for decades, and this is placing an increasingly harsh burden on local and regional economies here in the US and elsewhere.

It’s indicative that many coastal towns in Louisiana and Mississippi that were devastated by Hurricane Katrina have never been rebuilt, and it’s probably a safe bet that a similar fate waits for a fair number of the towns and poorer neighborhoods hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy.

As global warming pumps more heat into the heat engine we call Earth’s climate, the inevitable result is more extreme weather—drier droughts, fiercer storms, more serious floods, and so on down a litany that’s become uncomfortably familiar in recent years.

Most of the infrastructure of industrial society was built during the period of abnormally good weather we call the twentieth century. A fair amount of it, as New York subway riders have had reason to learn, is poorly designed to handle extreme weather, and if those extremes become normal, the economics of maintaining such complex systems as the New York subways in the teeth of repeated flooding start to look very dubious indeed.

 I don’t expect to see significant movements out of vulnerable coastal areas quite yet, but if 2011’s Hurricane Irene and 2012’s Hurricane Sandy turn out to have a bouncing baby sibling who decides to pay a visit to the Big Apple in 2013, 2014 might see the first businesses relocating further inland, perhaps to the old mill towns of the southern Hudson valley and the eastern end of Pennsylvania, perhaps further still.

That’s speculative. What isn’t speculative is that all the trends that have been driving the industrial world down the arc of the Long Descent are still in play, and so are all the parallel trends that are pushing America’s global empire along its own trajectory toward history’s dustbin

Those things haven’t changed; even if anything could be done about them, which is far from certain, nothing is being done about them; indeed, outside of a handful of us on the fringes of contemporary culture, nobody is even talking about the possibility that something might need to be done about them. That being the case, it’s a safe bet that the trends I’ve sketched out will continue unhindered, and give us another year of the ordinary phenomena of slowly accelerating decline and fall.

That, in turn, leads to the question of what my readers might do about it all.

My advice hasn’t changed. It’s a source of some amusement to me, though, that no matter how clearly I try to communicate that advice, a fair number of people will hear what they want to hear, or perhaps what they expect to hear, rather than what I’m saying. Over the course of this last week, for example, several people commenting on this post on one of the many other forums where it appears insisted with some heat that I claimed that activism was worthless, while one of the commenters here on The Archdruid Report took me to task for what he thought was a rejection of community in favor of an unworkable go-it-alone approach.

Not so. What I’m saying is that any meaningful response to the crisis of our time has to begin on the individual level, with changes in our own lives. To say that it should begin there doesn’t mean that it should end there; what it does mean is that without the foundation of personal change, neither activism nor community building nor anything else is going to do much.

We’ve already seen what happens when climate activists go around insisting that other people ought to decrease their carbon footprint, while refusing to do so themselves, and the results have not exactly been good. Equally, if none of the members of a community are willing to make the changes necessary to decrease their own dependence on a failing industrial system, just what good is the community as a whole supposed to do?

A great many people like to insist that changing your own life isn’t enough, and then act as though that means that changing your own life isn’t necessary. Again, not so. If industrial society as a whole has to stop dumping excess carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, dear reader, that means among many other things that you, personally, have to stop contributing your share of that excess.

Equally, if industrial society as a whole is running short of fossil fuels, that means among many other things that you, personally, are going to have to get used to living without them. That being the case, why not start with the part of the problem about which you can actually do something—your own consumption of fossil fuels and your own production of carbon dioxide—and then go from there?

Political activism, community building, and a great many other proposed responses to the crisis of our time are entirely valid and workable approaches if those who pursue them start by making the changes in their own lives they expect other people to make in turn.

Lacking that foundation, they go nowhere. It’s not even worth arguing any more about what happens when people try to get other people to do the things they won’t do themselves; we’ve had decades of that, it hasn’t helped, and it’s high time that the obvious lessons get drawn from that fact. Once again, if you always do what you’ve always done...

That being said, here are some suggested New Year’s resolutions for those of my readers who are interested in being part of the solution:

1. Caulk, weatherstrip, and insulate the place where you live. 
Most Americans can cut between 5% and 25% of their total annual energy use by weatherizing their homes. None of the work is rocket science; your local hardware store can sell you everything you need for a very modest amount of money, and there are plenty of sources in print and online that can teach you everything you need to know.  The sooner you get to work, the sooner you start saving money, and the sooner a good chunk of your share of excess carbon dioxide stops messing with the atmosphere.

2. Make at least trip a week on foot, by bicycle, or by public transit.  
A great many Americans don’t actually need cars at all.  A good many of those who do, due to a half century of idiotic land use planning, need them a great deal less often than they think.  The best way to learn this is to experience what it’s like to travel by some other means.  

 It’s long past time to ditch the "yuppie logic" that suggests that it’s a good idea to drive a mile to the health club to get on a treadmill and get the exercise you didn’t get by walking to the health club.  It’s also long past time to ditch the equally false logic that insists that getting there faster is the only thing that matters.

3. If you take a vacation, take the train.  
 Traveling by train uses a small fraction of the fuel per mile that a plane needs, and the trip is part of the vacation rather than an ordeal to endure between one place and the next. Give it a try.  If you live in the US, you might also consider supporting the National Association of Railroad Passengers, which lobbies for expanded passenger rail service and offers a discount on fares for members.

4. Buy it used.
This applies to everything from cars, should you actually need one, to the cheapest of trinkets.  By buying a used product rather than a new one, you save the energy cost of manufacturing the new product, and you also keep things out of the waste stream.  Used computers are particularly worth your while; if you live in a tolerably large urban area in the US, you can often get more computers than you need by letting your circle of friends know that you’ll take used but working devices off their hands for free.  

 You won’t be able to play the latest computer games on them, sure, but if you’re obsessed with playing the latest computer games, you don’t need a computer; you need a life. Speaking of getting a life...

5. Turn off the boob tube. 
Better still, if you can talk the people you live with into it, get rid of the thing altogether.  Commercial television exists to fill your brain with emotionally manipulative imagery that lures you into buying products you wouldn’t otherwise need or want.  Public television?  Replace "products" with "opinions" and you’re not too far off. (Huge rapacious corporations spend millions of dollars to fund public TV programs; I hope none of my readers are naive enough to think that these corporations do this out of some vague sense of moral obligation.)  You don’t need any of that stuff cluttering up your brain.  While you’re at it...

6.  Take up an art, craft, or hobby. 
Once you turn off the TV, you’re going to have the one luxury that nobody in a modern consumer society is ever supposed to have:  actual, unstructured free time.  It’s worth luxuriating in that for a bit, but pretty soon you’ll find that you want to do something with that time, and one of the best options is to learn how to do something interesting with your hands.  

 Three quarters of a century ago, most people had at least one activity that gave them something creative to do in their off hours, and a good many of those activities also produced useful and valuable things.  Unless you’re at least seventy years old or come from a very unusual family, you have no idea how many arts, crafts and hobbies Americans used to pursue, or how little money it takes to get started with most of them.  By the way, if you think you’re too old to take up playing the guitar or doing some other seemingly complicated skill, you’re not.

7. Do without something this year. 
This is the scary one for most people in today’s consumer society.  To be able to have something, and choose not to have it, challenges some of the deepest of modern taboos.  Give it a try.  The point isn’t to strike an assumed pose of ecological virtue, by the way, so don’t tell anybody what you’re doing without, or even that you’re doing without something. 

Nor is this about "being good" in some socially approved manner, so don’t choose something that you’re supposed to want to do without. Just quietly neglect to make something part of your life, and pay attention to your own emotional reactions.  If you’re like most people in today’s America, you’ll be in for a wild ride, but the destination is worth reaching.

So there you are. As we head deeper into the unknown country of 2013, have a happy and sustainable new year!