Preparing for Near Term Extinction

SUBHEAD: Never before in human history has the healing of the mind-body split, been as urgent as now.

By Carolyn Baker on 6 May 2013 in Nature Bats Last -
(http://guymcpherson.com/2013/05/preparing-for-near-term-extinction/)


Image above: Dry fiels before storm in Fort Collins, Colorado.  From (http://www.theloopyewe.com/sheri/2012/06/storms).


[IB Editor's note: This article was in response to the article by Daniel Drumright in Nature Bats Last
(http://guymcpherson.com/2013/04/the-irreconcilable-acceptance-of-near-term-extinction/) that we posted 4/29/13 at Ea O Ka Aina: Pondering Near Term Extinction. This article was also posted at Nature Bat's Last and at Carolyn's website as Speaking Truth to Power (http://carolynbaker.net/2013/05/07/preparing-for-near-term-extinction-by-carolyn-baker/).]


When I began writing this article, a friend of mine had recently entered hospice. While I was finishing the article, my friend died. She was not in the same town as I, but during the past month, we had been able to speak by phone several times a week. Given my friend’s decline and death and its impact on me, I was not taken aback by Daniel Drumright’s essay “The Irreconcilable Acceptance Of Near-Term Extinction,” posted last week on Guy McPherson’s Nature Bats Last blog. The timing of its arrival in my awareness was completely synchronistic with my friend’s death, so rather than shuddering as I finished the essay, I silently said to myself, “Yes, of course.”

Drumright’s thesis is simply that we must accept that “humanity has now crossed numerous irreversible climatic thresholds,” and “that by so doing, we have ushered in intractable near term extinction (NTE) of most of life within the next several decades.” In other words, NTE is a veritable certainty, and our existences on this planet as a human species is about to end. As I write this article, I am going to assume that NTE is valid and certain.

Four years ago I made a conscious decision to spend the rest of my life preparing for the collapse of industrial civilization and assisting others in doing the same, but the conscious preparation in which I have been investing my time and energy was preparation for something dramatically less catastrophic and smaller in scale than the extinction of our species.

Whatever images of collapse we hold in our minds, they tend to include a long, protracted demise alongside a number of “cliff events” followed by a significant die-off of humans with a dramatically reduced population of survivors who sooner or later will cooperate to create fledgling communities and a new way of life profoundly informed by the demise of industrial civilization.

Meanwhile, as the images of collapse in our minds have danced, paraded, shriveled, expanded, and metamorphosed millions of times, an entirely divergent and more terrifying scenario was congealing in the external world which rendered our most valiant collapse-preparation efforts paltry by comparison.

If NTE is real and on-schedule, as it surely appears to be, does it really matter if we have an exquisitely equipped “doom-stead” in which to hunker down or if we wander homeless in the streets? What certainly matters to me is that whatever our fate may be, we face it in the company of trusted others and not in isolation, for in the face of our extinction, we are the only ones who can mutually appreciate and celebrate what it means/meant to be human.

And while the reader may react by exclaiming, “Yeah, what it meant to be human was the hell we have created,” I would argue for the reality that we are both human and more than human, and that our catastrophic undoing issues from the tragedy that we never fully discovered what that actually means.

Yet for anyone reading these words and still breathing air, no matter how foul, it is not too late to embark on the journey of discovery, knowing that often, as with my friend, the treasures of the journey are not discovered until its end. The day before she died, she told me that her passing was precious to her and filled with gifts she could never have imagined.

My friend often spoke of making her “transition” which I find particularly fascinating in the light of Drumright’s article. Since at least 2008 many of us have been using the word “transition” either as the name of a socio-environmental movement or as a synonym for collapse or “the Great Turning.” As we do so, we rarely use it as a synonym for death, but in fact, our “transition” may be precisely the transition which my friend made as I was writing this article. In fact, the wrenching reality of NTE demands, yes demands, that we confront our own death and the meaning of our life.

In his essay, Drumright emphasizes the quality of our final days and also encourages us candidly to arrange for a peaceful death in the face of potential extinction horrors. With this I cannot argue, but I ask you, dear reader, as you read these words, are they enough for your soul? Is some corner of your psyche left empty and wanting more? Some part of me cries out for more, and where I find nuggets of satisfaction is in the words of poetry, ancient stories, and the wisdom of indigenous traditions. My favorite is Mary Oliver’s “When Death Comes.”

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse to buy me, and snaps his purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox;
when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,
I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering;
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?
And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,
and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,
and each name a comfortable music in the mouth
tending as all music does, toward silence,
and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.
When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was a bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened
or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

In the Dagara Tribe of West Africa, the people say that when death comes, it should find you fully alive, fully engaged in what gives you passion and vitality. How many citizens of modernity have a clue what this actually means? Or as Mary Oliver asks in another poem, “are you breathing just a little and calling it a life?”

For me, full aliveness is about being with the tragedy and horror of NTE—weeping, shrieking, raging and at the same time savoring every second of the joy I find in my work, delighting in both serious and silly conversations I have with friends, telling stories with my drum, cooking a delicious meal, playing fetch-ball with my dog, and the ecstasy of a Mozart piano concerto. Derrick Jensen, I always come back to your epiphanic maxim: “We’re fucked, and life is really, really good.”

Beyond Survival
In a recent You Tube video “Why Climate Change Is Not An Environmental Issue,” Ryan Cooper argues that it is instead an existential issue which cannot be conveniently labeled as environmental, economic, biological, or a matter of national security. It is all of these and much more. NTE compels us to ask monumental questions of meaning and purpose that we have been unwilling to ask or have only addressed peripherally.

Throughout my collapse preparation, I have never embraced a survivalist mentality. In fact, I have come to believe that making physical survival one’s top priority in collapse preparation is, in fact, part of the reason we are facing collapse. Charles Eisenstein says it best in his marvelous book The Ascent Of Humanity:
The human gifts that have empowered us to bring the planet to the brink of catastrophe are not intrinsically evil, demonic powers to be spurned, but are, in the end, sacred means to take the creation of beauty to a new level. The problem is that we have not respected them as sacred. We have prostituted our gifts. We have been stuck in the delusion that their purpose is to gain us comfort, security, and pleasure, which follows from the idea that there is no real purpose to life but to survive, which follows from our deeply held Newtonian ontology, which itself is just the culminating articulation of separation.
Frankly, a part of me feels some relief, some validation in Drumright’s essay, confirming for me that the work in front of us is no longer so much about logistical preparation as it is the honing of our emotional and spiritual awareness. NTE solidifies what Eisenstein argues: “Limiting our destructiveness is not a matter of reining in our natural selfish impulses; it is a matter of understanding who we really are.” But what does it mean to understand who we really are?

The project of self-awareness is nothing less than an epic saga–a hero’s or heroine’s journey into our essence. It encompasses the good, the bad, the ugly, and everything in between. It necessitates remorse as we look unflinchingly at the ways in which we have helped contribute to the annihilation of our planet, and it also includes intimate familiarity with the part of us that is inexorably whole and untouched by the madness of industrial civilization.
Living In The Head Keeps You Dead
But one caveat about the journey of which I speak: It cannot be made intellectually.

My work in life coaching and other capacities puts me in constant contact with individuals who confess that they spend most of their waking hours in their heads. Since I have spent most of my adult life in some form of academia and have written numerous books, I cherish the human intellect and its capacity for problem-solving, critical thinking, and personal empowerment. However, we are all descendants of the Newtonian paradigm of separation in which the intellect is deemed superior to the body and emotions and as such, has become a tool of disconnection as opposed to community.

Thus, as we embark on the journey of preparation for the future, only certain parts of us are on board. For most of us, it’s all about “gathering information,” “mastering,” “figuring out,” “learning skills,” and “planning ahead.” Each of these tasks is enormously important, but in our pre-occupation with them, we become estranged from the body and emotions as industrial civilization has so rigorously trained us to do.

On the one hand, living in the head as we prepare often feels safer than actually feeling what we’re feeling about the future. I regularly hear from people preparing for collapse that they feel safest when they are sitting at their computers amassing still more information about collapse or when they are busily engaged in some form of logistical preparation such as building a fortress or re-stocking food or medical supplies. On the other hand, when asked to sit quietly, close their eyes, and breathe deeply, they may have a great deal of difficulty doing so and may begin wondering what this has to do with anything in the external world.

No person reading these words needs to be reminded of the libraries of documentation our species has acquired in the past four decades verifying the inextricable connection between the emotions and the body. Yet in those forty years, it seems as if humans have become even more dis-embodied than at any time in our history, save perhaps, during the so-called Age of Reason in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. And while it is true that we live on a shamefully toxic planet in which our food, water, and air are hideously polluted with carcinogens and other poisons, none of this is ameliorated by inattention to the body and emotions.

Not only does the mind-body disconnect increase our susceptibility to illness, but it robs us of the full aliveness that is required for the quality of life we owe ourselves in the face of NTE. Once again, “Are you breathing just a little and calling it a life?”

Conscious work with the mind-body connection through regularly attending to body sensations and emotions in designated times of quiet contemplation ground us in the midst of stressful and daunting decisions we must make regarding the future. I have provided much more on this in my book Navigating The Coming Chaos.

Admitting Ourselves To Hospice Care
So if Drumright is even close to accuracy in his forecasting of NTE, then the likelihood of our physical death within perhaps the next decade or two is not a preposterous notion. In fact, at the rate climate change is surging, this time frame may be generous. People willingly enter hospice care because they clearly, consciously know, as my friend did, that they are dying. Typically, in hospice care they receive a quality of nurturing rarely found elsewhere. Not only are they bathed in kindness but if they choose, they are actively supported in reflecting on their lives and intentionally and lovingly prepared for their death.

I invite the reader to consider the possibility that we are now entering a period of hospice for ourselves and with each other. Never before in human history or in our own personal history has our full embodiment, the healing of the mind-body split, been as urgent as it is in this moment. Never before have we so desperately needed to reflect upon our lives and find meaning in them as we do now.

Nurses and hospice volunteers seem to be a special breed of human beings who are attuned to the needs of the dying and have the capacity to tread where many others cannot go. Yet as we face NTE, we will surely become hospice nurses for others. Our most important training: the willingness to lie down on our own hospice ground and do the work I have just explained.

My friend has made her transition, and I stand in awe of her courage and clarity, praying that when my time comes, I can make mine with half as much consciousness. My work in this moment is to make sense of her presence in my life and find meaning in her passing.

I invite you to join me with the poet, Daniel Skach-Mills, in savoring a wisdom that tempers the pain and uncertainty of all transitions and all extinctions:

A primordial pool
Of inexhaustible stillness,
From which everything arises
And to which everything returns,
Rests beneath the surface of what
You call your real life
Of noise and busyness,
Desire and fear.
Beneath the continual need for noise
Lies the fear of silence.
Beneath compulsive busyness:
The desire to feel truly alive.
This pool isn’t muddied
By what happens on the surface.
When it wells up from the depths,
Moments that lave you in the Now’s
Quiet clarity naturally appear.
Your mind will dismiss these,
But pay no attention.
Follow these moments,
Back to their Source,
Back to that which is seeking
To know itself through you,
To itself as you.
Realize this stillness to be what you are,
And you’ll be at peace in the midst
Of sorrow and upset,
Level when surrounded
By chaos and imbalance,
Watering the withered lives of beings
You don’t know and will never,
In your lifetime, see.

~Daniel Skach-Mills, The Tao of Now~
 

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KIUC Strategic Plan Update

SUBHEAD: The Kauai Island Utility Cooperative is seeking input for its Strategic Plan Draft.

By Juan Wilson on 7 May 2013 for Island Breath -
(http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2013/05/kiuc-strategic-plan-update.html)

CORRECTION: This from KIUC Jim Kelly, Communications Manager for Kauai Island Utility Cooperative: "KIUC is paying A&B 20 cents for power from the Port Allen array, not 28 cents as originally stated in this article."


Image above: 1964 VW bus parked at sunset at Kee Beach in 1971. Drawn by Juan Wilson on Commodore 64 in 1985. Specs were 320 by 200 pixels with 16 colors (hardly lots of improper edge conditions).

KIUC has always known that any significant adoption of residential and small-business rooftop PV systems hooked to the grid would be a problem. That's why there was a limit set to the amount of private systems hooked to the grid (co-generating).

The problem for KIUC comes from big, quick fluctuations of power generation (and its usage) that occurs on the grid as clouds, weather and time of day play  havoc with keeping the grid steady and reliable. And it has to be that to operate as a grid.

KIUC Risk Aversion
It would not be such a problem if people had not been so quick in putting panels on their homes. But who could blame them. KIUC customers watched as the "co-op" dragged their feet for years on embracing solar PV. KIUC waited for others to take the risk.

Even the recently completed Port Allen large PV-array was an Alexander & Baldwin project. KIUC signed a 20 year contract for a pricey 20¢ per KWH. No risk to KIUC- just guaranteed cost to KIUC members and profit for A&B.

Finally, KIUC is seeing that solar-PV is a major part of their future - but it needs to be centralized.

The KIUC Strategic Plan Update says in part:
Among the unanticipated changes since the strategic plan was last revised in December 2009 is the boom in commercial and residential photovoltaic installations. Once only an option for the wealthy, generous state and federal tax incentivesand plummeting material costs have made PV more affordable.
By the end of 2012, more than 1,200 PV systems had been installed on Kauai, generating nearly 7 megawatts. In 2013, an additional 9 megawatts are expected to come on line.
These PV systems only generate during a few hours of the day, contributing little or nothing to the grid the rest of the time. The management of this intermittent resource requires engineering expertise and a robust grid, the cost of which is substantial.

This rapid expansion of PV is not only eroding KIUC’s ability to recover fixed costs, but has the potential to exceed load demand, forcing KIUC to consider actions including curtailment, essentially shutting off PV-generated electricity before it comes into the grid.
PV KIUC doesn't want
What this tells us is that KIUC perceives distributed self-reliant PV residential systems as a as an unwanted cost to members who don't invest in their own systems. It means that residential PV systems hooked to the grid are actually a threat to KIUC.

And that means that the co-generation plan that many home PV-systems have employed has reached a dead-end, and that the cost of a go-gen hookup in the future would better spent on a home storage (battery) system.

The goal of reaching 50% electric power generation (at today's rate of consumption) from renewable sources by 2023 is unlikely to ever happen. There are too many financial black swans in the air.

Future Scenario
In my opinion, before 2023 we will pass through a series of financial convulsions that will make it to difficult to reach such a goal. Climate change, more expensive fossil fuel extraction, and resource depletion of rare elements will cause us to experience world-wide de-growth and de-industrialization.

The government subsidies and corporate competition that have lowered solar-PV panels to where they are today have reached their peak. Note the Chinese panel maker Suntech declared bankruptcy after fierce competition with rivals. It was the world’s largest solar-panel manufacturer by volume.

I believe that whatever alternative energy sources KIUC has in place in the next 5 years will all it ever has. Moreover, I suspect they will be using significantly less of the diesel fuel that now supplies about 80% of Kauai's power.

That means they may reach providing 50% of their power from renewable sources - BUT they will be providing only a fraction of the power they supply today... and that power will not be 24/7/365.

Much of the world lives like that now - with rolling brown-outs and black-outs - even scheduled neighborhood shutdowns.

Recommendation
The US Federal and Hawaii state tax breaks for solar PV have been generous (about a third off cost). These programs are going to wind down in the next few years. Moreover:
  • Cost of solar systems will likely be rising
  • Another financial crisis in Europe and USA is brewing
  • China is slowing down and relying less on exports
  • Climate change is kicking in to impoverish us
What ever energy alternatives you have installed in the next year or two might be all you ever have. If you cannot afford to begin that process now you may not get a chance. What ever you do get done will make a big difference in your life, no matter how small a project it is. That may be as small as having a reading light and radio at night, or just a way to charge your laptop and phone.

I know. I lived on Kauai in 1971-72 in a VW bus. At night I had only the dim dome light to read by and AM radio to listen to at night. Even that made all the difference in the world.



By Staff on 6 May 2013 for KIUC -
(http://kauai.coopwebbuilder.com/content/strategic-plan)

The board of directors of Kauai Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC) is seeking members' comments and ideas for the cooperative's updated strategic plan for 2013 through 2025.

The board and senior staff of KIUC recently completed a draft of the plan, which updates the document that was adopted by the board at the end of 2009.

Strategic Plan Update link:

(http://kauai.coopwebbuilder.com/sites/kauai.coopwebbuilder.com/files/2013-strategicplanupdatedraft.pdf)

The latest draft reflects KIUC's progress in reaching its goal of using renewable energy to generate 50 percent of electricity by 2023.

The draft also emphasizes the importance of reducing members' costs while increasing their satisfaction.

And it contains new language that describes the challenge of integrating residential photovoltaic systems safely and efficiently into the existing utility grid. The last time the strategic plan was updated, there were fewer than 300 PV systems on Kauai; today, there are more than 1,200.

KIUC board members will hold three simultaneous public briefings on the plan on May 30 at 6:30 p.m. so members can ask questions and offer feedback.

The meetings will be held at:
  • Waimea Theatre,
  • KIUC Office, 4463 Pahee Street, LÄ«hue
  • Princeville Community Center
The draft of the strategic plan is posted at http://kauai.coopwebbuilder.com/content/strategic-plan and will be included in the May issue of Currents, which members should begin receiving this week.

Members can also email comments and suggestions on the strategic plan to currents@kiuc.coop.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Transition from the Grid 5/3/13



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21st Century Untouchables

SUBHEAD: In Europe a caste of Untouchables is being formed made up of unemployed southern young. More will follow.

By Raul Ilargi Meijer on 6 May 2013 for the Automatic Earth -
(http://theautomaticearth.com/Finance/the-untouchables-of-the-21st-century.html)


Image above: There are an estimated 170 million Dalits or ‘Untouchables’ in India, despite the fact that the country’s constitution prohibits the formalised discrimination inherent in India’s traditional caste system.From (http://jonathanfryer.wordpress.com/2011/06/14/being-untouchable/).

Throughout history and throughout the world, there have been classes of untouchables. Best known perhaps (other than Elliott Ness and Wall Street bankers) are the caste that goes by the name in South Asia, a.k.a. the Dalits, but there are/were also for instance the Cagots in France, the Burakumin in Japan, and the Roma and Jewish populations in medieval Europe though the Middle East. In the US, one could include the black and native populations. Wikipedia has this definition:

Untouchability is the social-religious practice of ostracizing a minority group by segregating them from the mainstream by social custom or legal mandate. The excluded group could be one that did not accept the norms of the excluding group and historically included foreigners, house workers, nomadic tribes, law-breakers and criminals and those suffering from a contagious disease. This exclusion was a method of punishing law-breakers and also protected traditional societies against contagion from strangers and the infected.

The origin of the phenomenon may have started simply as a way to exclude criminals and diseased people from a community, but obviously that's not where it led.

Untouchability typically means none to limited access to public resources, schools, churches, temples, and having to live outside of established communities and villages. Often - but not always - there was a connection with certain occupations, especially those seen as impure, such as handling the dead (this could include executioners), and dealing with human and animal waste. In parts of Europe, dealing with money was seen as impure, from a religious point of view, which drove a lot of Jews into the field, since they were banned form most other occupations.

I could write a lot more on the interesting though often cruel and barbaric history of untouchability in a wide definition of the word, but I want to focus on what started to make me think of it, modern unemployment numbers in the western world. That is to say, we are now on the verge of casting a huge group of people, essentially our own neighbors, outside of our communities. They are no longer allowed to participate in what makes our societies tick.

This is true for people of all ages (see: Companies won't even look at resumes of the long-term unemployed), but it's an absolute "disaster that got tired of waiting to happen" among young people.


Youth unemployment in Greece is at about 60%, in Spain at 55.9%. Then Portugal and Italy at 38.3% and 38.4%, Ireland at 30.3%. Add a bunch of eastern European nations and you have the obvious suspects. Among the others, though, some truly stand out.

How about Finland at 19.8%? That's an AAA country, EU core. Same story, only worse, for France: 26.5%. Sweden, supposedly doing so well without the euro: 25.1%. Belgium at 22.3%, the UK 20.7%.

They make the US look sort of OK at 16.2%, or at least they serve to somewhat hide how ugly that number really is. In comparison, the EU "hard core" gets no higher than Holland at 10.5%.

Of course there are people who will argue that some of the youth included are in school, not looking for jobs. But given such notions as A) governments' propensities to present rose-colored numbers and B) the numbers of kids enrolled in schools only to not be counted as jobless, I would be wary of overemphasizing the argument.

The numbers, let's focus on Europe for now, are certain to only get worse. How do we know? Easy as pie. It's a matter of political principle. All those unemployed young people are nobody's priority but their own. They simply don't have the political might yet to swing policy decisions in their favor.

That is still with the generations of their parents and grandparents, who will vote against anyone trying to cut their wages and benefits. Who will even demand, and receive, government help in dealing with the losses on the homes they bought at irresponsibly elevated prices; they'll claim the government should have warned them.

Losses on homes is one thing the young need not worry about: purchasing a house is way out of reach for them, and for most will remain so for the rest of their lives. The lack of - conventional - political might threatens to doom the young to a life of subservient survival. What might they have will have to come from unconventional methods to change matters. For now, the situation is locked, even as it's sinking fast. What happened in Portugal over the past month is a "great" example of how Europe deals with its issues.

You may remember that in early April, Portugal's highest court declared a set of austerity measures included in the government’s 2013 budget illegal, saying they couldn't single out public workers for salary and benefits cuts. Then, before you could think: democracy works!, the EU/ECB/IMF troika paid an an "unscheduled" visit to Lisbon. The result? Portugal fires another 30,000 public workers. That's right, if you can't cut their benefits, you just fire them.

Of course this is merely the latest in a long line of troika induced measures. 50,000 public sector jobs were already lost in the past two years , and 205,000 jobs disappeared overall in 2012 alone, and 500,000 since 2008.

What do these numbers mean? Here's a helpful little exercise: The US is 30 times the size of Portugal. So to put them in an American perspective, it's like 900,000 public workers are fired in one fell swoop, after 1,5 million lost their jobs in the two years prior, in an economy that lost 6.15 million jobs overall in just the last year(!), and 15 million since 2008.

Not that the troika is done just yet:
Still, an I.M.F. report issued in January concluded that "Portugal’s education system remained overstaffed and relatively inefficient by international standards." It suggested "making the education system more flexible and limiting the state’s role as a supplier of education services" by eliminating 50,000 to 60,000 jobs. 15,000 public school teachers lost their jobs in the past two years.

That's right, their words, not mine: making the education system more flexible [..] by eliminating 50,000 to 60,000 jobs. Again, that would compare to firing between 1.5 and 1.8 million American teachers.

Can Portugal afford to lose all these teachers? Maybe not: about 63% of Portugal’s adult population has not completed high school. Plus, recently graduated teachers can forget about ever getting a job. And so 60,000 young and educated Portuguese emigrate every year. I don't know about you, but to me it's starting to feel like a scorched earth policy.

The European Commission, meanwhile, not only has no answer to these problems, it doesn't even have any intention of doing anything about them. Quite the opposite. The EC wants to continue with the "reforms" it has forced upon PIGSIC countries (can I buy a K?), and we all know what that means: jobs must be cut. Which in turn means that unemployment will rise. Even if they don't say it in so many words. In order to create jobs, you need to cut them first.

From the Telegraph:
[Olli Rehn, the EU's economic and monetary affairs commissioner], had no good news for Europe's growing ranks of unemployed and admitted that "mitigating" against unemployment was all that could be done under the present austerity policy that rules out public-led investment to boost jobs.
He also warned that growth across the EU would return too slowly to reduce unemployment in the short term as European economies remain dependent on exports to offset the impact of the recession and lack of investment caused by the financial and sovereign debt crisis.
"We are living through a very difficult process of adjustment and it is having an unfortunate toll on employment," he said.

"We need consistent consolidation of public finances and structural reforms to boost growth. We need to reform labour market policy to fight youth unemployment. We have to use all possible ways and means to turn the trend in the European economy and mitigate effects of current protracted recession."

And from Bloomberg:
"High unemployment points to the need for continuing the course in structural reforms," said Marco Buti, head of the commission’s economics department. "The reduction in fiscal deficits is making headway in a differentiated way."

That last bit is just meaningless weirdspeak, if you ask me. "The reduction in fiscal deficits is making headway in a differentiated way." Maybe he simply means to say that the people may be screwed, but the banks are fine.

What I do understand is that his words again come down to: "High unemployment points to the need for job cuts". And that remains a strange point of view, especially when seen from the eyes of the unemployed.

So is there any good news? Perhaps that depends on your point of view as well. For instance, I read this in the Telegraph:
"Austerity is finished. This is a decisive turn in the history of the EU project since the euro," [French finance minister Pierre Moscovici] told French TV. "We're seeing the end of austerity dogma. It's a victory of the French point of view."
First of all, that "victory" looks about as Pyrrhic as can be. Several EU nations get more time to cut their deficit to the mandated 3% maximum, but that's just because they're even more broke broker brokest than anyone was ready to admit last time around. And the EU did another round of adjusting predictions downward, a move that's devoid of any meaning if you repeat it every single time. There was also another round of "but next year we'll see the return of growth", but really, who listens anymore?

As for the "French point of view", the people hate President Hollande so much after less than a year in office they long back for the good old days of Sarkozy. France is so screwed, but no-one has the guts to say it out loud.

Oh, right, and the EU was proven wrong in Italy. That must have hurt, even if they didn't say so. The return to power of Silvio Berlusconi caused yields on Italian 10 year bonds to plummet. Ergo: they should have left the midget mummy in place, so the markets spoke.

On the whole though, there is just one conclusion left for southern Europe, and I apologize in advance for repeating myself. Countries like Greece and Portugal and Italy need to get out of the Eurozone as quickly as they can. They badly need to regain of their own monetary policy. They must be able to devalue their currencies vis a vis Germany and Holland and the US.

Moreover, if they don't leave, they will be swept up (and under) in the wave of bad data that will come out of the EU core. That will start a much bigger squeeze of the periphery than the one we've seen so far. It'll be like being trapped underneath a badly wounded behemoth, not something you should volunteer for.

The Eurozone (and probably the EU as a whole and as a mechanism) has nothing left to offer its poorer members but a world of pain. But it's up to the people themselves to make sure they get out in time. And all the countries still have europhiles in power. Italy got close, but it's already back to the days of old with the same old president and a new PM from the same old school. And if leaving half your children with the prospects of being condemned into meaningless lives, of being ostracized as modern day untouchables, is not enough to wake you up and say No Mas, you really need to wonder what is.

Brussels is not going to create jobs for Europe's young people, they're instead going to cut more jobs, they say so themselves. What they intend to do is squeeze the politically relevant - older - part of the population, but only so far. They don't want them to revolt. That leaves only the young to be squeezed more.

Brussels incessantly produces positive looking economic growth numbers, and then incessantly adjusts them downward. They do this because it puts people to sleep. It works. People actually believe that things will get better, that their economies will start growing again and it'll all be fine.

People who are in power will do almost anything to hold on to it. That includes politicians, bankers, corporate executives. We can all identify those groups, and we love to rage against them. But political power in our societies is also defined by age. In that the young have very little of it, and the older have a death grip. That can work, and has worked, as long as - economical - trend lines are positive. It no longer does, however, when these lines break.

Then you don't have one society anymore, but several, starting with older haves and younger have nots. And of course everyone's parents have more than they do, but until now there was the prospect of going out and getting as much as or more than, one's parents have (a better life for my children). That prospect is now gone. But people are slow to realize and accept that. They'd rather believe otherwise, and there are scores of politicians and media willing to keep that faith alive. After all, their own livelihoods depend on it.

Unfortunately for our children, our believing it just about literally means we throw them away with the bathwater. And that can of course only spell trouble down the road. Unless we create all those millions of jobs for them.

But we're not even trying: our politicians are busy only keeping us from blowing our gaskets over budget cuts and tax raises; they don't care about our children, because they're not the ones voting them in power. This is not a road to nowhere, it's a road to surefire mayhem. There will inevitable come a point where the younger generation we now leave out to dry gains the voting power and asks: What have you done for me lately? And then, what will be the answer?

But the reality is that in Europe too, "Companies won't even look at resumes of the long-term unemployed". And there are millions of long-term unemployed. Who will never have a real job. Which means that you will arrive at a point where this is no longer a problem solvable within current paradigms. So maybe we need to change those.

Our definition of work has slowly slid from doing something that is useful to yourself, your family and the society you live in, to doing something, a job, that will allow you to buy as big a car and home as possible, and consume as many products as you can whether you need them or not, in order to keep the economy growing.

This change in definition has gone largely unnoticed until now, but in light of the levels of - youth - unemployment we see in ever more places, maybe we should take another look at what it means.

Maybe countries like Italy and Greece and Portugal would do better at this point in time to get out of the rat race posing as a force for the good that is the EU. Maybe they have to get back to basics, to making sure they can independently feed themselves, build shelter, and get clean water to everyone.

Maybe competing with Germany and Holland for a scarce musical chair is not the way to go; looking at those unemployment numbers, one might easily come to entertain that idea.

 And feeding and clothing oneself is not exactly a bad thing to begin with. Our ancestors did, that's why we're here. Maybe it's the best chance they have to engage their young people: in (re)building their societies.

And even if things in the global economy do improve somewhere down the line, what exactly would they risk losing?

Better be quick though: the EU has one of its numerous edicts coming out soon that bans people who grow their own food in their gardens, in small plots and allotments, from using their own seeds. They must instead by law buy their seeds from vendors "ordained" by Brussels (yeah, there's Monsanto again...).

Any one of these countries can tell Brussels to go take a hike, and they'll pay back the debt over 50 years in a currency of their own choosing. But they're not doing it. Not so far. Coincidentally, in the graph above, if you look at Iceland, you'll notice they're doing about the best of the lot, with fast falling jobless numbers. Iceland didn't have to leave a monetary union, granted, but still.

They can either cling to our faith in a recovery that's been promised for years while everything has only gotten progressively worse, or they can do something about it. And that will soon be true for all of us.

We're just still living in a theater of illusion grace to the fact that we have collectively decided to keep our debts hidden under the carpet, which today no longer works in southern Europe, and tomorrow will grind Germany, Japan and the US to a halt.

If we go there in blind faith, the future - however brutal it may be - still belongs to the young, and guess who will become the untouchables?

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What is obvious about this market

SUBHEAD: What is "obvious" to those in the conventional worldview is not the same as to those outside the asylum.

By Charles Hugh Smith on 5 May 2013 for Of Two Minds -
(http://charleshughsmith.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/what-is-obvious-about-this-market.html)


Image above: Jack Nicholson, as R. P. McMurphy, speaking yo asylum inmates in the 1975 film of Ken Kesey's book One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. From (http://www.aeonmagazine.com/world-views/holly-case-thomas-szasz-insanity-plea).

What is "obvious" to those embedded in the conventional, state-manufactured main-stream-media worldview is not the same as what is obvious to those outside the asylum.

Longtime readers know my analytic perspective is based on what psychiatrist/author R.D. Laing called the Politics of Experience.

Survival+ 6: The Politics of Experience (April 2, 2009)
Survival+ 7: Simulacrum and the Politics of Experience (April 3, 2009)

In his prescient 1972 lecture, The Obvious, Laing explained the inherent difficulty of understanding "the obvious" when a systemic madness is taken as "normal":

To a considerable extent what follows is an essay in stating what I take to be obvious. It is obvious that the social world situation is endangering the future of all life on this planet. To state the obvious is to share with you what (in your view) my misconceptions might be. The obvious can be dangerous. The deluded man frequently finds his delusions so obvious that he can hardly credit the good faith of those who do not share them.

We can summarize one aspect of this analysis by asking: what is "obvious" to those inside a system and what is "obvious" to those outside the system? Our experience of what is "obvious" says a lot about our cultural context and assumptions: the manufacture of our "news" and consensus, the mystification of our experience via propaganda and simulacra, what we perceive as "normal" relationships, work, goals, etc.

What is "obvious" to most participants is that the stock rally is fueled by central bank liquidity and quantitative easing, and since there is no limit in sight to these policies, there is also no limit to the stock market running higher.

It is also "obvious" that betting against this trend is an excellent way to lose money, so the number of people shorting the market dwindles with each push higher.

Equally "obvious" is the incentive to borrow money via margin to invest in the rising market: the higher it goes, the more you can borrow, and the more you borrow and plow into the market, the more you make. It is a wonderful self-reinforcing feedback loop.

Thus record-high margin debt is not a warning sign but evidence that the music is still playing, so by all means, keep on dancing:

Near-Record NYSE Margin Debt Leads to Caution (Bloomberg)

That the disconnect between the real economy and the stock market is widening is obvious, but there doesn't seem to be any intrinsic reason why it can't continue widening. As a result, many analysts are calling for a brief retrace and then another leg up to new highs. Others see a serious decline (10%+) this summer and a new high in Q4 2013 or Q1 2014.

In other words, what might be obvious to those outside the system--that all liquidity-driven bubbles end badly, usually when participants are convinced there is nothing to restrain the trend from going higher--is not at all obvious to participants and those cheering them on (the main-stream-media, the Federal government and the Fed).

What I sense is a near-universal resignation of those attempting to call a top in the market, an acceptance that the trend is up for the foreseeable future and that trying to short this market (i.e. profit from a decline) is a fool's game.

The number of those willing to short the market, i.e. take the other side of the trade, has dwindled. Every sharp rally like last Friday's eliminates entire divisions of shorts, leaving the trade even more one-sided.

Yes, the market is manipulated and totally dependent on central bank QE, liquidity and outright buying of stocks and bonds. But the market is not as stable as presumed, and one-sided trades tend to capsize when everyone who feels safe being on one side of the boat least expects it.

Every trader wants to short the market after it becomes obvious the trend has reversed. But since there are so few shorts left, the decline (should one ever be allowed to happen) might not be orderly enough for everyone to pile on board. More likely, the train will leave with few on board and the initial drop will leave everyone who was convinced the uptrend was permanent standing shell-shocked on the platform with margin calls in hand.

When it is obvious the trend has reversed, it will be too late to profit from it.

The conclusion? What is "obvious" to those embedded in the conventional, MSM/state-manufactured worldview is not the same as what is obvious to those outside the asylum.

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Raging Bull Market

SUBHEAD: Welcome to the deep end of the risk pool. These financial metaphysics are apart from conditions on-the-ground.

By James Kunstler on 6 May 2013 for Kunstler.com -
(http://kunstler.com/blog/2013/05/the-deep-end-of-the-risk-pool.html)


Image above: Deep end of the abandoned Angels Gate Pool in San Perdo, California. From (http://www.flickr.com/photos/lifeontheedge/230242895/lightbox/).

Where on earth did Paul Krugman get the idea -- expressed Monday morning -- that ours is "a weak economy?" The Dow Jones Industrial Average is about to scale previously uncharted heights and the Standard & Poors Index is piling onto its molehill, too. If stocks are up the economy can't be weak since stock markets = the economy.

All the efforts of the Gitchi Manitou behind the operations of money, the Federal Reserve, are bent toward inflating the stock markets, including now the novelty of outright strategic stock purchases, so these stock markets must hold the secrets of economic life.

Notice, the Federal Reserve is not inflating the precious metal markets. Rather, they might be inclined in the deep background to militate against them, or even engage in coordinated subversion of them. It would be convenient for the Fed if the public, increasingly befuddled by the absence of yield, the mis-pricing of risk, and the antics of Larry Kudlow, would just let go of its delusion that yellow and white metals had any intrinsic value -- after all, you can't eat them, can you?

The weight of opinion is also against gold and silver. The redoubtable Martin Armstrong is even inveighing against them because, as he put it, these things trade only on the technicals, not fundamentals.

This does raise a sticky question or two, of course, such as, what if the technicals are detached from the fundamentals, which is to say that the numbers and charts don't jibe with reality? That may be possible, after all, when everything from interest rates to asset purchases are rigged and accounting fraud is the order-of-the-day in government and its larger-than-life handmaiden banks.

Consider, for instance, that if our national government under Obama has continued the practical policies of the Bush II regime -- wars, Gitmo, non-regulation and non-enforcement, wealth confiscation (and reassignment) -- than it may have also continued the underlying principle that "we make our own reality." In which case, the fundamentals are whatever you say they are and the technicals are just traffic lights on the freeway of "liquidity."

That perhaps explains why stock markets rise on both good and bad news. If a few more spec houses are being built in Las Vegas and Phoenix (where, I'm sure, they're needed) then the stock markets go up. If a low manufacturers' index comes out, well, then that's fine, too, because the Federal Reserve puts up a smoke signal that it might increase its monthly bond-buying beyond the current $85 billion a month -- meaning more liquidity to juice the stock markets, so up-up-and-away they go up.

The stock markets apparently rocked on last week's news that about 175,000 more car wash attendants were added to the work force, because that's where the money is these days. If I were Warren Buffet or Jamie Dimon, I would consider part-time work in a car wash to plump up the family fortune.

Consider, though, that when everything is mis-priced then nobody knows the value of anything, and when nobody knows anything and everyone is flying blind, then accidents can happen. Welcome to the deep end of the risk pool.

Count Paul Krugman of The New York Times among those who don't know anything and as you do that, consider also that societies get what they deserve, not what they expect. What Paul Krugman doesn't know (because he never mentions it), for example, is that oil prices around $100 a barrel (the average between West Texas Intermediate and Brent Crude) crush industrial economies.

That implacable downdraft is what motivates USGov.com and the Fed to intervene and manipulate the things that represent economic activity: currencies, asset values, interest rates, and markets, which in turn promotes the detachment of the technicals from fundamentals. Anyone actually paying attention to the weak signals coming through all the noise would hear the faint wail of desperation in the background.

These financial metaphysics are apart from conditions on-the-ground all over the foundering empire, namely, an infrastructure for daily life that becomes more onerous and obsolete every day. When historians of the future swap their stories around the campfire, this age will be remembered for little more than all the useless movement of automobiles and the fate of the crumbling surfaces they moved about on. Not even Paul Krugman is capable of noticing how we live, and what it means.

Well, spring has finally arrived in the bony northeast USA and I am preoccupied with cultivating my own garden. In honor of our heritage I planted two American chestnuts. The species was nearly put out of business in the first stirrings of the global economy, when previously unknown plant diseases arrived here with shipments of foreign botanicals. Now that the global economy is imploding, it is a favorable time to get with the older program, in which the technicals reflect the fundamentals.

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Climate Crisis Weather

SUBHEAD: Climate change from global warming will bring drought in temperate areas and flooding in the tropics.

By Staff on 5 May 2013 for CounterCurrents -
(http://www.countercurrents.org/cc050513A.htm)


Image above: Studio set from movie "Smell of Success", 2009. From (http://miltonadamou.com/2009/10/11/smell-of-success/).

Climate crisis may increase the risk of extreme rainfall in the tropics and drought in temperate zones. Citing a new study led by NASA Neela Banerjee reported [1] from Washington:

"These results in many ways are the worst of all possible worlds," said Peter Gleick, a climatologist and water expert who is president of the Pacific Institute, an Oakland research organization. "Wet areas will get wetter and dry areas will get drier."

The regions that could get the heaviest rainfall are along the equator, mainly over the Pacific Ocean and the Asian tropics. Increased aridity and drought could have a greater effect on human life, however, because those conditions are more likely to occur where most of the world's population lives.

In the Northern Hemisphere, drought-prone areas include the southwestern US, Mexico, North Africa, the Middle East, Pakistan and northwestern China. In the Southern Hemisphere, drought could become more likely in South Africa, northwestern Australia, coastal Central America and northeastern Brazil.

"Large changes in moderate rainfall, as well as prolonged no-rain events, can have the most impact on society because they occur in regions where most people live," said William Lau, the study's lead author and a scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "The regions of heavier rainfall, except for the Asian monsoon, may have the smallest societal impact because they usually occur over the ocean," he added.

The study is based on the results of 14 models that show agreement on the possible rainfall trends, Gleick said.

Climate change does not cause forest fires but does contribute to their likelihood, Gleick said, adding: "It's not about causality but influence."

For every 1 degree Fahrenheit increase in global average temperature because of GHG emissions, heavy rainfall will increase globally by 3.9%, the study predicted.

Climate change could lead to heavier rainfall because warmer air holds more moisture.

On the flip side, for every degree Fahrenheit of warming, the length of time a region goes without rain could increase globally by 2.6%.

Scientists have said that the world needs to keep global average temperatures from exceeding 2 degrees Celsius, or about 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, above pre-industrial global temperatures to avert catastrophic changes to nearly all aspects of life. In the last 150 years or so, the Earth's average temperature has already risen about 1 degree Celsius, or 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit.

To prevent the 2 degree Celsius rise and its effects, including extremes in rainfall, the world has to keep emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide below a ratio of 400 parts per million.

According to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, there have been isolated measurements of 400 parts per million in the Arctic, and scientists expect readings in Hawaii to exceed 400 parts per million this month.

Another report [2] added:

The study, to be published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, demonstrates for the first time how rising carbon dioxide concentrations could affect the entire range of rainfall types on Earth.

“In response to carbon dioxide-induced warming, the global water cycle undergoes a gigantic competition for moisture resulting in a global pattern of increased heavy rain, decreased moderate rain, and prolonged droughts in certain regions,” said William Lau.

Light rain will also increase by one percent, across the globe. Because moderate rainfall is projected to decrease by 1.4 percent, total global rainfall is not expected to change much.

Scientists define heavy rainfall as months that receive an average of more than about 0.35 of an inch per day, and light rainfall as months that receive an average of less than 0.01 of an inch per day. The definition of moderate rainfall is months that receive an average of between about 0.04 to 0.09 of an inch per day.

According to the study, some regions outside the tropics may have no rainfall at all.

The researchers calculated statistics on the rainfall responses for a 27-year control period, starting at the beginning of the simulation. They also calculated statistics for 27-year periods around the time of doubling and tripling concentrations.

Predictions for how much rainfall will occur at any one location as the climate warms are not very reliable, the team found.

“But if we look at the entire spectrum of rainfall types we see all the models agree in a very fundamental way — projecting more heavy rain, less moderate rain events, and prolonged droughts,” Lau said.

Source:
[1] Los Angeles Times, May 4, 2013,
Climate change may bring drought to temperate areas, study says,
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-nasa-climate-20130504,0,2772152.story

[2] Red Orbit, May 4, 2013, “Rain And Drought Will Increase Due To Warming: NASA”,
http://www.redorbit.com/news/science/1112838172/nasa-projects-global-warming-will-drive-global-rainfall-changes-050413/
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The Universe Is An Undifferentiated Whole

SUBHEAD: Once we see the world as a living system, our attempt to know it through analysis of the parts is always an incomplete project.

By Robert Jenson on 5 May 2013 for CounterCurrents  -
(http://www.countercurrents.org/jensen050513.htm)


Image above: Painting of living things by Max D. Stanley From (http://www.maxdstandley.com/fl_ss/artwork_gallery.html).

[The following is adapted from the new book Arguing for Our Lives: A User's Guide to Constructive Dialogue from City Lights Books.]

“The universe is an undifferentiated whole. About that we can say nothing more.”

This catchy aphorism from political philosopher Bruce Wright http://www.facebook.com/brucee.wright may seem nonsensical at first glance, but is worth exploring in the service of deepening our intellectual humility. Facing multiple, cascading ecological crises, we humans need science more than ever—and more than ever we need to understand the limits of science.

Like many, Wright—a professor emeritus of political science from California State University, Fullerton http://wrightb.wordpress.com/ —is concerned about the unintended consequences of science and technology. When we started burning fossil fuels, for example, no one could have predicted global warming. If we try to “solve” the problem of global warming only through faith in increasingly complex technology, we should be prepared for new problems that typically come with such solutions.

The lesson is pretty clear: The knowledge we humans can acquire—while impressive in what it allows us to build—is not adequate to manage the complexity of the world. No matter how smart we are, our ignorance will always outstrip our knowledge, and so we routinely fail to anticipate or control the consequences of our science and technology.

Wright's aphorism reinforces that point and takes it a step further: It's not just that scientific analysis can't tell us everything, but that the analytical process destroys the unity of what we are trying to study. When we analyze, the subject becomes an object, as we break it apart to allow us to poke and probe in the pursuit of that analysis.

To “differentiate,” in this context, means the act of perceiving and assigning distinctions within a system. Thinking of the universe as an undifferentiated whole recognizes its unity, providing a corrective to the method of modern science that breaks things down to manageable components that can be studied. That “reductionism” in science assumes that the behavior of a system can be understood most effectively by observing the behavior of its parts. At first glance that may seem not only obvious but unavoidable. How else would we ever know anything? We can't look out at the universe and somehow magically understand how things work—we have to break it down into smaller parts.

Imagine a pond in the woods. That ecosystem includes the air, water, and land—the various inanimate objects such as rocks; the plants we see and their root structures underground; the animals and fish that are big enough for us to see and the many other micro-life forms we can't observe with our eyes; and the weather. No one person could walk into the scene and offer a detailed account of all that is happening in that ecosystem, let alone explain how it operates. Even a cursory description of the ecosystem requires knowledge of meteorology, botany, zoology, geology, chemistry, physics. To make sense of the complex relationships and interactions among all the players in that one small ecosystem, experts in those disciplines would observe, experiment, and explain their part of it. Putting all that knowledge together, we can say some important things about the system, but we can't claim to know how it really works. Not only is there is a unity to the ecosystem that we can't understand, but our analytic approach destroys the unity we seek to understand.

Does that sound crazy? Consider two obvious limitations of our knowledge claims in science.

First, if we claim to understand the system through its component parts, we have to be able to identify all the relevant parts. How much do we know about the microscopic organisms and their role in that ecosystem? We know the things we have identified, using the tools we have at our disposal. But is that all there is to be identified, that which we can observe? For all that scientists and farmers know about soil, for example, most of what happens in the soil is at the microscopic level and unknown to us. Second, while that pond ecosystem can be broken down into its component parts and studied, that study cannot include the dynamic interactions between all the parts, which are too complex to track. It's not a failure of the method, but simply an unavoidable limitation.

In short, the whole is more than the sum of its parts, and considerably more than the sum of the parts we can observe. The process of scientific analysis—of studying the parts to try to understand the whole—is powerful but limited. When we take what we've learned about the parts and construct a picture of the whole, we will miss the complex interactions between all those parts, which are crucial in creating the whole.

There's nothing wrong with using methods that are limited—any method we employ will be limited. Scientists struggling with these problems understand the vexing nature of “complex adaptive systems,” a term that recognizes we are dealing not with static parts but with dynamic networks of interactions and that the behavior of the entities will change based on experience. But problems arise when people make claims to definitive knowledge and then intervene in the world based on those claims, often with unpleasant results. Unintended consequences do damage that often is beyond repair.

Wright's aphorism suggests we should not only see a specific ecosystem as a whole, but regard the universe as a whole, as one big system of complex and dynamic interactions. While seemingly fanciful at that level, this idea has been widely discussed at the scale of the planet. To say that Earth is an undifferentiated whole is to suggest that everything in our world—organic and inorganic—can be understood to form a single self-regulating complex adaptive system. This is the Gaia hypothesis formulated by the environmentalist James Lovelock: The Earth itself is a living thing. Whether or not one goes that far, it focuses our attention on the dynamic, complex, adaptive nature of our world.

Wright's provocative claim—“About this we can say nothing more”—doesn't mean that we can say nothing at all about the component parts, only that we can't pretend to say more than we can really know about the whole. To describe a system as an undifferentiated whole is to mark its integrity as a whole, that must be understood on those terms. Once we see the world as a living system, our attempt to know it through analysis of the parts is, by definition, always an incomplete project. We can't really know the whole world; it exceeds our capacity.

That's not an argument against science, but an argument for humility.

• Robert Jensen is a professor in the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin and board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center in Austin. His latest books are Arguing for Our Lives: A User's Guide to Constructive Dialogue , http://www.amazon.com/Arguing-Our-Lives-Constructive-Dialog/dp/0872865738/ref=sr_1_10?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1361912779&sr=1-10 , and We Are All Apocalyptic Now: On the Responsibilities of Teaching, Preaching, Reporting, Writing, and Speaking Out , in print at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/148195847X/ref=ox_sc_act_title
_1?ie=UTF8&psc=1&smid=ATVPDKIKX0DER
and on Kindle at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00BAWQO84 .


Jensen is also the author of All My Bones Shake: Seeking a Progressive Path to the Prophetic Voice, (Soft Skull Press, 2009); Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity (South End Press, 2007); The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism and White Privilege (City Lights, 2005); Citizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our Humanity (City Lights, 2004); and Writing Dissent: Taking Radical Ideas from the Margins to the Mainstream (Peter Lang, 2002). Jensen is also co-producer of the documentary film “Abe Osheroff: One Foot in the Grave, the Other Still Dancing” (Media Education Foundation, 2009), which chronicles the life and philosophy of the longtime radical activist. An extended interview Jensen conducted with Osheroff is online at http://uts.cc.utexas.edu/~rjensen/freelance/abeosheroffinterview.htm .

Jensen can be reached at rjensen@austin.utexas.edu and his articles can be found online at http://uts.cc.utexas.edu/~rjensen/index.html . To join an email list to receive articles by Jensen, go to http://www.thirdcoastactivist.org/jensenupdates-info.html . Twitter: @jensenrobertw.
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Transition from the Grid

SUBHEAD: We need less energy use from distributed small scale sources as soon as possible.

By Juan Wilson on 3 May 2013 for Island Breath -
(http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2013/05/transition-from-grid.html)


Image above: Fire at the Starfish Hill Wind Farm, near Cape Jervis, Australia. From (http://www.ozpolitic.com/forum/YaBB.pl?num=1325573228).

Whether it is past, present or future energy sources doesn't really matter that much, Any 24x7x365 power grid that's up and running to provide all the energy each of us wants is a form of suicide.

Past Energy
The fossil fuel source of our current global industrial civilization is nearing its terminal phase. Most informed people now recognize that It is inviting disaster to continue burning oil at the rate we do.

The planet is in a fever and will shake us off like fleas if we continue destroying the living atmosphere we all depend on. See "The Downwinders" (http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2013/05/the-downwinders.html). 

We are already seeking fossil fuel is that is too poisonous  to acquire - from shale and tar. Even burning the remainder of the conventional fuel is dangerous to do.

See "Unburnable Cabon Bubble" (http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2013/04/unburnable-carbon-bubbles.html)

 Present Energy
The current alternative electric energy sources are primarily wind and solar. Bother are intermittent and variable.
  • Both require consuming vast amounts of fossil fuels to put in place,
  • Both require high levels of industrialization, transportation and technical skills to maintain.
  • Both require expensive power storage capability,
Currently the large scale windmills used to support the Grid economically require towers that are hundreds of feet tall. When one gets into trouble it is difficult to to do much about it. Who wants to climb a three hundred foot ladder to face a raging fire? 

For "steady-state" power of the kind we're accustomed to there are significant problems with either wind or solar as the "solution". See "Solar Dreams - Spanish Reality" (http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2013/05/solar-dreams-spanish-realities.html).

Chernobyl and Fukushima should have made it obvious that nuclear power is not a viable alternative energy. It will not save us, despite its embrace by James Lovelock. Lovelock, you may remember was the discoverer of the hypothesis of Gaia - that the Earth's environmental systems are interlocked in a living self-supporting and self-reinforcing network of relationships.

Lovelock's well reasoned fear is that without nuclear power we won't be able to keep civilization going. The problem is that we won't really be able to keep the nuclear plants operational. They require too much fossil fuel based technology for maintenance and repair.

The best plan, while we have the fossil fuel, would be to dismantle and shield ourselves from the intensely poisonous nuclear material we have already created. Once any serious collapse happens there will be no possibility of  keeping ourselves and the rest of life on the planet safe.

Future Energy
The seductive idea that scientists will finally find a pollution free and limitless supply of energy from some yet to be mastered technology is comforting to those embedded in the growth and consumption based civilization most humans find themselves in.

Since the detonation first thermonuclear hydrogen bomb in 1953 scientists have been promising safe light-element atomic energy from nuclear fusion. Serious efforts to achieve this became a technological race between the US and USSR that ran parallel to the space race. The US got to the moon. Nobody built a fusion reactor.

The same laboratory that was created to build the first hydrogen bomb - the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is still trying to achieve sustained nuclear fusion. See "Nuclear Fusion Update" (http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2013/05/nuclear-fusion-update.html).

We commented there that the last thing we need to do is give humanity unlimited amounts of power to run global industrial civilization. Fusion power would only increase world resource extraction and consumption - more iron, more copper, more aluminum, more titanium, more plastic.

And so...
The conclusion that keeps emerging from many directions is that large scale centralized electric power generation is simply too destructive to life on Earth. We need to make the adjustment to less energy use from distributed small scale sources as smooth as possible and wind down the Grid.

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The Downwinders

SUBHEAD: With today's fossil fuel sources harder to find it means big energy producing bigger pollution.

By Ellen Contarow on 2 May 2013 for TomDispatch -
(http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175695/tomgram%3A_ellen_cantarow%2C_big_energy_means_big_pollution/)


Image above: Hey Earth! You've been fracked! From (http://www.ragingchickenpress.org/2013/04/22/happy-earth-day-pennsylvania-you-are-fracked/).

More than 70 years ago, a chemical attack was launched against Washington State and Nevada. It poisoned people, animals, everything that grew, breathed air, and drank water. The Marshall Islands were also struck. This formerly pristine Pacific atoll was branded “the most contaminated place in the world.” As their cancers developed, the victims of atomic testing and nuclear weapons development got a name: downwinders. What marked their tragedy was the darkness in which they were kept about what was being done to them. Proof of harm fell to them, not to the U.S. government agencies responsible.

Now, a new generation of downwinders is getting sick as an emerging industry pushes the next wonder technology -- in this case, high-volume hydraulic fracturing. Whether they live in Texas, Colorado, or Pennsylvania, their symptoms are the same: rashes, nosebleeds, severe headaches, difficulty breathing, joint pain, intestinal illnesses, memory loss, and more. “In my opinion,” says Yuri Gorby of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, “what we see unfolding is a serious health crisis, one that is just beginning.”

The process of “fracking” starts by drilling a mile or more vertically, then outward laterally into 500-million-year-old shale formations, the remains of oceans that once flowed over parts of North America. Millions of gallons of chemical and sand-laced water are then propelled into the ground at high pressures, fracturing the shale and forcing the methane it contains out. With the release of that gas come thousands of gallons of contaminated water. This “flowback” fluid contains the original fracking chemicals, plus heavy metals and radioactive material that also lay safely buried in the shale.

The industry that uses this technology calls its product “natural gas,” but there’s nothing natural about up-ending half a billion years of safe storage of methane and everything that surrounds it. It is, in fact, an act of ecological violence around which alien infrastructures -- compressor stations that compact the gas for pipeline transport, ponds of contaminated flowback, flare stacks that burn off gas impurities, diesel trucks in quantity, thousands of miles of pipelines, and more -- have metastasized across rural America, pumping carcinogens and toxins into water, air, and soil.

Sixty percent of Pennsylvania lies over a huge shale sprawl called the Marcellus, and that has been in the fracking industry’s sights since 2008. The corporations that are exploiting the shale come to the state with lavish federal entitlements: exemptions from the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Clean Drinking Water Acts, as well as the Superfund Act, which requires cleanup of hazardous substances. The industry doesn’t have to call its trillions of gallons of annual waste “hazardous.” Instead, it uses euphemisms like “residual waste.” In addition, fracking companies are allowed to keep secret many of the chemicals they use.

Pennsylvania, in turn, adds its own privileges. A revolving door shuttles former legislators, governors, and officials from the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) into gas industry positions. The DEP itself is now the object of a lawsuit that charges the agency with producing deceptive lab reports, and then using them to dismiss homeowners’ complaints that shale gas corporations have contaminated their water, making them sick. The people I interviewed have their own nickname for the DEP: “Don’t Expect Protection.”

The Downwinders
Randy Moyer is a pleasant-faced, bearded 49-year-old whose drawl reminds you that Portage, his hardscrabble hometown in southwestern Pennsylvania, is part of Appalachia. He worked 18 years -- until gasoline prices got too steep -- driving his own rigs to haul waste in New York and New Jersey. Then what looked like a great opportunity presented itself: $25 an hour working for a hydraulic-fracturing subcontractor in northeastern Pennsylvania.

In addition to hauling fracking liquid, water, and waste, Randy also did what’s called, with no irony, “environmental.” He climbed into large vats to squeegee out the remains of fracking fluid. He also cleaned the huge mats laid down around the wells to even the ground out for truck traffic. Those mats get saturated with “drilling mud,” a viscous, chemical-laden fluid that eases the passage of the drills into the shale. What his employer never told him was that the drilling mud, as well as the wastewater from fracking, is not only highly toxic, but radioactive.

In the wee hours of a very cold day in November 2011, he stood in a huge basin at a well site, washing 1,000 mats with high-pressure hoses, taking breaks every so often to warm his feet in his truck. “I took off my shoes and my feet were as red as a tomato,” he told me. When the air from the heater hit them, he “nearly went through the roof.”

Once at home, he scrubbed his feet, but the excruciating pain didn’t abate. A “rash” that covered his feet soon spread up to his torso. A year and a half later, the skin inflammation still recurs. His upper lip repeatedly swells. A couple of times his tongue swelled so large that he had press it down with a spoon to be able to breathe. “I’ve been fried for over 13 months with this stuff,” he told me in late January. “I can just imagine what hell is like. It feels like I’m absolutely on fire.”

Family and friends have taken Moyer to emergency rooms at least four times. He has consulted more than 40 doctors. No one can say what caused the rashes, or his headaches, migraines, chest pain, and irregular heartbeat, or the shooting pains down his back and legs, his blurred vision, vertigo, memory loss, the constant white noise in his ears, and the breathing troubles that require him to stash inhalers throughout his small apartment.

In an earlier era, workers’ illnesses fell into the realm of “industrial medicine.” But these days, when it comes to the U.S. fracking industry, the canaries aren’t restricted to the coalmines. People like Randy seem to be the harbingers of what happens when a toxic environment is no longer buried miles beneath the earth. The gas fields that evidently poisoned him are located near thriving communities. “For just about every other industry I can imagine,” says Anthony Ingraffea of Cornell University, coauthor of a landmark study that established fracking’s colossal greenhouse-gas footprint, “from making paint, building a toaster, building an automobile, those traditional kinds of industry occur in a zoned industrial area, inside of buildings, separated from home and farm, separated from schools.” By contrast, natural gas corporations, he says, “are imposing on us the requirement to locate our homes, hospitals and schools inside their industrial space.”

The Death and Life of Little Rose
Little Rose was Angel Smith’s favorite horse. When the vet shod her, Angel told me proudly, she obligingly lifted the next hoof as soon as the previous one was done. “Wanna eat, Rosie?” Angel would ask, and Rosie would nod her head. “Are you sure?” Angel would tease, and Rosie would raise one foreleg, clicking her teeth together. In Clearville, just south of Portage, Angel rode Little Rose in parades, carrying the family’s American flag.

In 2002, a “landman” knocked on the door and asked Angel and her husband Wayne to lease the gas rights of their 115-acre farm to the San Francisco-based energy corporation PG&E (Pacific Gas & Electric.) At first, he was polite, but then he started bullying. “All your neighbors have signed. If you don’t, we’ll just suck the gas from under your land.” Perhaps from weariness and a lack of information (almost no one outside the industry then knew anything about high-volume hydraulic fracturing), they agreed. Drilling began in 2002 on neighbors’ land and in 2005 on the Smith’s.

On January 30, 2007, Little Rose staggered, fell, and couldn’t get up. Her legs moved spasmodically. When Wayne and Angel dragged her to a sitting position, she’d just collapse again. “I called every vet in the phone book,” says Angel. “They all said, ‘Shoot her.’” The couple couldn’t bear to do it. After two days, a neighbor shot her. “It was our choice,” says Angel, her voice breaking. “She was my best friend.”

Soon, the Smiths’ cows began showing similar symptoms. Those that didn’t die began aborting or giving birth to dead calves. All the chickens died, too. So did the barn cats. And so did three beloved dogs, none of them old, all previously healthy. A 2012 study by Michelle Bamberger and Cornell University pharmacology professor Robert Oswald indicates that, in the gas fields, these are typical symptoms in animals and often serve as early warning signs for their owners’ subsequent illnesses.

The Smiths asked the DEP to test their water. The agency told them that it was safe to drink, but Angel Smith says that subsequent testing by Pennsylvania State University investigators revealed high levels of arsenic.

Meanwhile, the couple began suffering from headaches, nosebleeds, fatigue, throat and eye irritation, and shortness of breath. Wayne’s belly began swelling oddly, even though, says Angel, he isn’t heavy. X-rays of his lungs showed scarring and calcium deposits. A blood analysis revealed cirrhosis of the liver. “Get him to stop drinking,” said the doctor who drew Angel aside after the results came in. “Wayne doesn’t drink,” she replied. Neither does Angel, who at 42 now has liver disease.

By the time the animals began dying, five high-volume wells had been drilled on neighbors’ land. Soon, water started bubbling up under their barn floor and an oily sheen and foam appeared on their pond. In 2008, a compressor station was built half a mile away. These facilities, which compress natural gas for pipeline transport, emit known carcinogens and toxins like benzene and toluene.

The Smiths say people they know elsewhere in Clearville have had similar health problems, as have their animals. For a while they thought their own animals’ troubles were over, but just this past February several cows aborted. The couple would like to move away, but can’t. No one will buy their land.

The Museum of Fracking
Unlike the Smiths, David and Linda Headley didn’t lease their land. In 2005, when they bought their farm in Smithfield, they opted not to pay for the gas rights under their land. The shallow gas drilling their parents had known seemed part of a bygone era and the expense hardly seemed worth the bother.

With its hills and valleys, the creek running through their land, and a spring that supplied them with water, the land seemed perfect for hiking, swimming, and raising their son Grant. Adam was born after all the trouble started.

Just as the couple had completed the purchase, the bulldozers moved in. The previous owner had leased the gas rights without telling them. And so they found themselves, as they would later put it, mere “caretakers” on a corporate estate.

Today, the Headleys’ property is a kind of museum of fracking. There are five wells, all with attendant tanks that separate liquids from the gas, and a brine tank where flowback is stored. Four of the wells are low-volume vertical ones, which use a fracking technology that predates today’s high-volume method. A couple minutes’ walk from the Headleys’ front door stands a high-volume well. A pipeline was drilled under their creek.

“Accidents” have been a constant. When the well closest to the house was fracked, their spring, which had abounded in vegetation, crawfish, and insects, went bad. The DEP told the Headleys, as it did the Smiths, that the water was still safe to drink. But, says David, “everything in the spring died and turned white.” Adam had just been born. “No way was I exposing my kids to that.” For two years he hauled water to the house from the homes of family and friends and then he had it connected to a city water line.

All the brine tanks have leaked toxic waste onto the Headley’s land. Contaminated soil from around the high-volume tank has been alternately stored in dumpsters and in an open pit next to the well. The Headleys begged the DEP to have it removed. David says an agency representative told them the waste would have to be tested for radioactivity first. Eventually, some of it was hauled away; the rest was buried under the Headleys’ land. The test for radioactivity is still pending, though David has his own Geiger counter which has measured high levels at the site of the well.

An independent environmental organization, Earthworks, included the Headleys among 55 households it surveyed in a recent study of health problems near gas facilities. Testing showed high levels of contaminants in the Headleys’ air, including chloromethane, a neurotoxin, and trichloroethene, a known carcinogen.

Perhaps more telling is the simple fact that everyone in the family is sick. Seventeen-year-old Grant has rashes that, like Randy Moyer’s, periodically appear on different parts of his body. Four-year-old Adam suffers from stomach cramps that make him scream. David says he and Linda have both had “terrible joint pain. It’s weird stuff, your left elbow, your right hip, then you’ll feel good for three days, and it’ll be your back.” At 42, with no previous family history of either arthritis or asthma, Linda has been diagnosed with both. Everyone has had nosebleeds -- including the horses.

Five years into the Marcellus gas rush in this part of Pennsylvania, symptoms like Randy Moyer’s, the Smiths', and the Headleys' are increasingly common. Children are experiencing problems the young almost never have, like joint pain and forgetfulness. Animal disorders and deaths are widespread. The Earthworks study suggests that living closer to gas-field infrastructure increases the severity of 25 common symptoms, including skin rashes, difficulty breathing, and nausea.

Don’t Expect Protection
DEP whistleblowers have disclosed that the agency purposely restricts its chemical testing so as to reduce evidence of harm to landowners. A resident in southwestern Pennsylvania’s Washington County is suing the agency for failing fully to investigate the drilling-related air and water contamination that she says has made her sick. In connection with the lawsuit, Democratic state representative Jesse White has demanded that state and federal agencies investigate the DEP for “alleged misconduct and fraud.”

In the absence of any genuine state protection, independent scientists have been left to fill the gap. But as the industry careens forward, matching symptoms with potential causes is a constant catch-up effort. A 2011 study by Theo Colborn, founder of the Endocrine Disruption Exchange and recipient of the National Council for Science and Environment’s Lifetime Achievement Award, identified 353 industry chemicals that could damage the skin, the brain, the respiratory, gastrointestinal, immune, cardiovascular, and endocrine (hormone production) systems. Twenty-five percent of the chemicals found by the study could cause cancers.

David Brown is a veteran toxicologist and consultant for an independent environmental health organization, the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project. According to him, there are four routes of exposure to gas-field chemicals: water, air, soil, and food. In other words, virtually everything that surrounds us.

Exposure to water comes from drinking, but showering and bathing makes possible water exposure through the skin and inhaling water vapor. “Air exposure is even more complicated,” says Brown. The impacts of contaminated air, for example, are greater during heavy activity. “Children running around,” he says, “are more apt to be exposed than older people.” What further complicates the emerging toxicology is that chemicals act not as single agents but synergistically. “The presence of one agent,” says Brown, “can increase the toxicity of another by several-fold.”

Brown deplores the government’s failures to heed citizens’ cries for help. “No one is asking, ‘What happened to you? Are there other people who have been affected in your area?’ I teach ethics. There’s a level of moral responsibility that we should have nationally. We seem to have decided that we need energy so badly... that we have in almost a passive sense identified individuals and areas to sacrifice.”

Circles of Trust
No one I interviewed in communities impacted by fracking in southwestern Pennsylvania drinks their water anymore. In fact, I came to think of a case of Poland Spring as a better house gift than any wine (and I wasn’t alone in that). Breathing the air is in a different universe of risk. You can’t bottle clean air, but you can donate air purifiers, as one interviewee, who prefers to be unnamed, has been doing.

Think of her as a creator of what a new Pennsylvania friend of mine calls “circles of trust.” The energy industry splits communities and families into warring factions. Such hostilities are easy to find, but in the midst of catastrophe I also found mutual assistance and a resurgence of the human drive for connection.

Ron Gulla, a John Deere heavy equipment salesman, is driven by fury at the corporation that ruined his soil -- his was the second farm in Pennsylvania to be fracked -- but also by deep feeling for the land: “A farm is just like raising a child. You take care of it, you nurture it, and you know when there are problems.”

Gulla credits Barbara Arindell, founder of the country’s first anti-fracking organization, Pennsylvania’s Damascus Citizens for Sustainability, with teaching him about the dangers of the industry’s efforts. Now, he is a central figure in an ever-widening network of people who are becoming their own documentarians. Everyone I interviewed brought out files of evidence to show me: photographs, videos, news reports, and their own written records of events.

Moreover, in the midst of ongoing stress, many have become activists. Linda Headley and Ron Gulla, for instance, traveled with other Pennsylvanians to Albany this past February to warn New York State officials not to endorse fracking. “A lot of people have said, ‘Why don’t you just walk away from this?’” says Gulla. “[But] I was raised to think that if there was something wrong, you would bring it to people’s attention.’”

“You have to believe things happen for a reason,” says David Headley. “It’s drawn so many people together we didn’t know before. You have these meetings, and you’re fighting [for] a common cause and you feel so close to the people you’re working with. Including you guys, the reporters. It’s made us like a big family. Really. You think you’re all alone, and somebody pops up. God always sends angels.”

Still, make no mistake: this is an alarming and growing public health emergency. “Short of relocating entire communities or banning fracking, ending airborne exposures cannot be done,” David Brown said in a recent address in New York State. “Our only option in Washington County... has been to try to find ways for residents to reduce their exposures and warn them when the air is especially dangerous to breathe.”

In the vacuum left by the state’s failure to offer protection to those living in fracking zones, volunteers, experts like Brown, and fledgling organizations like the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project have become the new protectors of citizens’ health. Growing numbers of fracking victims, including Angel and Wayne Smith, are also suing gas corporations. “If I could go back to 2000, I’d show them the end of the road and say, ‘Don’t come back,’” Angel told me. “But we’re in the situation now. Fight and go forward.”

• Ellen Cantarow first wrote from Israel and the West Bank in 1979. A TomDispatch regular, her writing has been published in the Village Voice, Grand Street, Mother Jones, Alternet, Counterpunch, and ZNet, and anthologized by the South End Press. She is also lead author and general editor of an oral history trilogy, Moving the Mountain: Women Working for Social Change.

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