The Climate Trifecta

SUBHEAD: New government report warns of 'Cascading System Failures' caused by climate change.Duh?

By Kate Sheppard on 6 March 2014 for Huffington Post -
(http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/06/climate-change-effects_n_4914116.html)


Image above: The statue of liberty and Hurricane Sandy. The National Hurricane Center has warned nearly half a dozen states including New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania to prepare for what many are calling a "Frankenstorm." From (http://www.booksnreview.com/articles/1551/20121029/hurricane-sandy-tracking-live-stream-storm-path-video.htm).

From roads and bridges to power plants and gas pipelines, American infrastructure is vulnerable to the effects of climate change, according to a pair of government reports released Thursday.

The reports are technical documents supporting the National Climate Assessment, a major review compiled by 13 government agencies that the U.S. Global Change Research Program is expected to release in April. Scientists at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory put together the reports, which warn that climate-fueled storms, flooding and droughts could cause "cascading system failures" unless there are changes made to minimize those effects. Island Press has published the full-length version of the reports, which focus on energy and infrastructure more broadly.

Thomas Wilbanks, a research fellow at Oak Ridge and the lead author and editor of the reports, said this is the first attempt to look at the climate implications across all sectors and regions. Rather than isolating specific types of infrastructure, Wilbanks said, the report looks at how "one impact can have impacts on the others."

Previous extreme weather events, which scientists warn may be exacerbated by climate change, offer insight to the types of failures they're talking about. For example, during Hurricane Katrina, the loss of electricity in the region meant that several major oil pipelines could not ship oil and gas for several days, and some refineries could not operate. Gas prices rose around the country.


Image above: Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy included this destroyed roller coaster on the New Jersey shore. From (http://www.wirelesstraveler.com/blog/post/Wireless-Traveler-Phone-Life-Saver-in-Hurricane-Sandy.aspx).

Other scenarios include a major storm wiping out communications lines, a blackout that cuts power to sewage treatment or wastewater systems, and a weather event that damages a bridge or major highway. In the latter case, the damage would not only cost money to repair, but could cause traffic backups or delays in the shipment of goods, which could in turn have wider economic implications. As the report describes it:
A central theme of the report is that vulnerabilities and impacts are issues beyond physical infrastructures themselves. The concern is with the value of services provided by infrastructures, where the true consequences of impacts and disruptions involve not only the costs associated with the cleanup, repair, and/or replacement of affected infrastructures but also economic, social, and environmental effects as supply chains are disrupted, economic activities are suspended, and/or social well-being is threatened.
While many reports on climate change focus on the long-term impacts, looking ahead 50 or 100 years, the effects described in Thursday's reports are the kind that cities, states and the federal government can expect to see in the next few decades, Wilbanks said.

"There's this crunch between vulnerability of infrastructure because it's aging or stressed because they are so heavily used, and they're being exposed to new threats like more frequent, extreme weather events," says Wilbanks. All this comes at a time, Wilbanks said, where governments at every level are facing "great difficulty in coming up with public sector financing to replace or revitalize them."

The energy report also exposes vulnerabilities in the system. It points to recent cases where heat waves caused massive spikes in energy use for cooling buildings, putting strain on the power grid. It also highlights instances where power plants were at risk of flooding, or had to shut down or scale back operations due to high temperatures and droughts.

"One-quarter of existing power generation facilities are in counties associated with some type of water sustainability concern,” said David Schmalzer, co-author of the energy-focused report. "Warmer air and water are expected to reduce the efficiency of thermal power, while hydropower and biofuels will also face increased uncertainty. Even electricity sources not dependent on water supplies, such as wind and solar power, also face increased variability, as a changing climate will potentially impact the variability of their resources."

"Fixing infrastructure resilience problems [requires] a partnership between different levels of government, industry, nongovernmental organizations and community groups. No one party is the best to do it all," said Wilbanks. "What we really need is some innovative thinking about financing."
.

The Uranium Card

SUBHEAD: Introducing the ultimate wallet-sized status symbol - the unlimited Uranium Card.

By Charles Hugh Smith on 7 March 2014 for Of Two Minds -
(http://www.oftwominds.com/blogmar14/uranium-card3-14.html)


Image above: A sample of the Uranium Card. From original article.

Forget the American Express Black Card; that's for chumps and lightweight wannabes. The truly exclusive card is the Uranium Card (tm).

You've probably heard of the ultra-exclusive American Express Black Card, a.k.a. the Centurion Card. The card is anodized titanium, and is famously invitation-only. There's a one-time $7,500 initiation fee and an annual $2,500 fee.

The card offers a variety of benefits such as concierge services, access to first-class airport lounges, and other exclusive travel services. There is no limit on the card's purchasing power, and holders make $100,000 or even $1 million purchases with the card. They also receive an exclusive magazine (Black Ink) that is only distributed to card holders.

The average Centurion cardholder has $16.3 million in assets and an annual household income of $1.3 million. Rumor has it that invitations are only offered to those American Express Platinum card holders who have charged $250,000 or more annually on their Amex card, though that stringent requirement may have been watered down in recent years.

Other credit card companies have tried to ride the coattails of Amex by issuing their own black cards, but these appear to be blatant attempts to cash in on the cache of the "real" black card. How do I know this is true? Because a poor, dumb writer (me) received a black card invitation. That means these bogus black cards are probably being offered to everyone above the level of unemployed people with defaulted student loans.

Forget the Black Card; that's for chumps and lightweight wannabes. The truly exclusive card is the Uranium Card (tm), which you've never heard about for good reason: there's only a few in circulation. It's kind of like bitcoin in that there are only a limited number added to those in circulation every year.

The card is made of various metals and a bit of depleted uranium for weight. (Recall that uranium in metal form is silvery in appearance.) It is slightly radioactive but that's part of its cache: only risk-takers receive invitations.

All those benefits like concierge services and access to first-class airport lounges you get with a Black Card? The Uranium Card offers none of that low-end rubbish. The Uranium Card has no services, because if you qualify, you fly on private aircraft and your people meet you in Paris, London, Shanghai or New York.

You have no need for any of those low-rent services in airports, hotels or rent-a-car agencies: you're kidding me, right, that a Uranium Card holder is going to rent a car or stay in a hotel? He or she owns a flat in Paris, London, NYC, etc. for goodness sake; they have zero need for plebian concierge services.

There's a car in the garage awaiting their arrival. Nothing fancy, just comfortable transport; attention is the last thing Uranium Card holders want or need.

You'll notice there's no bank or credit card number on the card. That's because the Uranium Card is not issued by a bank. In fact, the Uranium Card exists entirely outside the banking system. That chip holds the necessary account information to pay with bitcoin or gold, or other non-bank payment services.

Why would a Uranium Card holder trust a bank to secure data? The payment trail doesn't run through the banking system; if a payment has to be made through the banking system, any credit card will do.

For reasons I cannot divulge, I am in a position to recommend a few people for a Uranium Card. My fee is $10,000. The card costs $100,000 upfront, a one-time fee. Though credit lines can be arranged on a peer-to-peer basis, it's basically a non-bank payment card for those who prefer to avoid Imperial entanglements.

Please understand that my fee doesn't guarantee you'll actually be offered a Uranium Card; all I can do is get you in the queue.

• Charles Hugh Smith is an independent writer. He receives no funding from any university, trust fund, think-tank, shadowy C.I.A. front or government agency.


.

The Steampunk Future Revisited

SUBHEAD: This society wouldn’t be in the early stages of a long ragged slide into ecological failure, or political disintegration.

By John Michael Greer on 5 March 2014 for the Arcgdruid Report -
(http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2014/03/the-steampunk-future-revisited.html)


Image above: Copper and stainless steel equipment at the Tuthilltown Spirits distillery in upstate New York. Photo by Juan Wilson, 2012.


One of the things I’ve noticed repeatedly, over the nearly eight years I’ve been writing this blog, is that I’m the last person to ask which of these weekly essays is most likely to find an audience or hit a nerve.

Posts I think will be met with a shrug of the shoulders stir up a storm of protest, while those I expect to be controversial get calm approval instead. Nor do I find it any easier to guess which posts will have readers once the next week rolls around and a new essay goes up.

Deindustrial Science Fiction
My favorite example just now, not least because it’s so close to the far end of the improbability curve, is a post that appeared here back in 2011, discussing Hermann Hesse's novel The Glass Bead Game as a work of deindustrial science fiction.

If ever a post of mine seemed destined for oblivion, that was it; next to nobody reads Hesse nowadays, and even in the days when every other college student had a battered paperback copy of Siddhartha or Steppenwolf on hand, not that many people wrestled with the ironic ambiguities of Hesse's last and longest novel.

More than three years after that post appeared, though, the site stats here at Blogger show me that there are still people reading it most evenings. Has it gotten onto the recommended-reading list of the League of Journeyers to the East, the mysterious fellowship that features in several Hesse stories? If so, nobody's yet given me the secret handshake.

There are other posts of mine that have gone on to have that sort of persistent afterlife.
What interests me just now, though, is that one of my recent posts appears to be doing the same: the essay I posted just a month ago proposing the steampunk subculture as a potential model for future technology on the far side of the Long Descent. While steampunk isn't anything like as obscure as The Glass Bead Game, it's not exactly a massive cultural presence, either, and it interests me that a month after the post appeared, it's still getting read and discussed.
Courtesy of one of my regular readers, it's also appeared in an Australian newsletter for fans of penny farthing bicycles. Those of my readers who don't speak bicyclese may want to know that those are the old-fashioned cycles with a big wheel in front and a small one in back; the old British penny was about the size of a US quarter, the farthing about the size of a US dime, and if you put the two coins side by side you have a pretty fair image of the bicycle in question.

I wasn't aware that anyone had revived the penny farthing cycle, and I was glad to hear it: they're much simpler than today's bicycles, requiring neither gears nor chains, and many penny farthing riders these days simply build their own cycles—a capacity well worth learning and preserving.
Mind you, there were plenty of people who took issue with the post, and I want to talk about some of those objections here, because they cast a useful light on the blind spots of the imagination I've been exploring in recent posts.
Steam driven FMRI
My favorite example is the commenter who insisted with some heat that an advanced technology couldn't be based on the mechanical and pneumatic systems of the Victorian era. As an example, he pointed out that without electronics, there was no way to build a FMRI machine—that's "functional magnetic resonance imaging" for those of my readers who don't speak medicalese, one of the latest pieces of high-priced medical hardware currently bankrupting patients and their families across America.


He's quite correct, of course, but his choice of an example says much more about the limitations of his thinking than it does about anything else.

Of course a steampunk-style technology wouldn't produce FMRI machines, or for that matter most of the electronic gimmickry that fills contemporary life in the industrial world, from video games to weather radar. It would take advantage of the very different possibilities inherent in mechanical and pneumatic technology to do different things.

It's only from within the tunnel vision of contemporary culture that the only conceivable kind of advanced technology is the kind that happens to produce FMRI machines, video games and weather radars.

An inhabitant of some alternate world where the petroleum and electronics revolutions never got around to happening, and something like steampunk technology became standard, could insist with equal force that a technology couldn't possibly be called advanced unless it featured funicular-morphoteny machines and photodyne nebulometers.

The same sort of thinking expressed in a slightly different way drove the claim, which appeared repeatedly in the comments page here as well as elsewhere, that a neo-Victorian technology by definition meant Victorian customs such as child labor.

A very large number of people in the contemporary industrial world, that is, can't imagine a future that isn't either just like the present or just like some corner of the past. It should be obvious that a technology using mechanical, hydraulic and pneumatic power transfer can be applied to the needs of many different cultural forms, not merely those that were common in one corner of the late 19th century world. That this is far from obvious shows just how rigidly limited our imagination of the future has become.

That would be a serious difficulty even if we weren't picking up speed down the bumpy slope that leads toward the deindustrial dark ages of the not so distant future.

Given that that's where we are just now, it could very well turn into a fruitful source of disasters. The economic arrangements that make it possible to build, maintain, and use FMRI machines in American hospitals are already coming apart around us; so are the equivalent arrangements that prop up most other advanced technological systems in today's industrial world.

In the absence of those arrangements, a good many simpler technological systems could be put in their places and used to take up some of the slack. If enough of us are convinced that without FMRI machines we might as well just bring on the blood-sucking leeches, though, those steps will not be taken.

Bicyclists and macadam
With this in mind, I want to circle back around to the neo-Victorian technology imagined by steampunk aficionados, and look at it from another angle.

It's not often remembered that paved roads of the modern type were not originally put there for automobiles.

In America, and I believe in other countries as well, the first generation of what were called "Macadamized" roads—the kind with a smooth surface rather than bare bricks or cobblestones—were built in response to lobbying by bicyclists. Here in the United States, the lobbying organization was the League of American Wheelmen.

There were plenty of wheelwomen as well, but the masculine gender still had collective force in the English of that time. Their advocacy had a recreational side, but there was more to it than that.

A few people—among them the redoubtable Sir James Jeavons—were already pointing out in the 19th century that exponential growth in coal consumption could not be maintained forever; a great many more had begun to work out the practical implications of the soaring population of big cities in America and elsewhere, in terms of such homely but real problems as the disposal of horse manure, and these concerns fed into the emergence of the bicycle as the hot new personal transport technology of the age.

Similar concerns guided the career of a figure who has appeared in these essays more than once already, the brilliant French inventor Augustin Mouchot.
Solar steam engines
Noting that his native country had very limited coal reserves, and colonial possessions in North Africa with vast amounts of sunlight on offer, Mouchot devoted two decades of pioneering work to harnessing solar energy. His initial efforts focused on solar cookers, stills and water pumps, and his success at these challenges encouraged him to tackle a challenge no previous inventor had managed: a working solar steam engine.

His first successful model was tested in 1866, and the Paris Exhibition of 1878 featured his masterpiece, a huge engine with a sun-tracking conical reflector focusing sunlight on tubes of blackened copper; the solar engine pumped water, cooked food, distilled first-rate brandy, and ran a refrigerator. A similar model exhibited in Paris in 1880 ran a steam-driven printing press, which obligingly turned out 500 copies of Le Journal Solaire.

Two other technologies I've discussed repeatedly in these essays came out of the same era. The first commercial solar water heater hit the market in 1891 and very quickly became a common sight over much of the United States; the colder regions used them in the summertime, the Sun Belt year round, in either case with very substantial savings in energy costs.

The fireless cooker or haybox was another successful and widely adopted technology of the age: a box full of insulation with a well in the center for a cooking pot, it was the slow cooker of its time, but without the electrical cord. Bring food to a boil on the stove and then pop the pot into the fireless cooker, and it finishes cooking by residual heat, again with substantial energy savings.

Turn of the century doubts
Such projects were on many minds in the last decades of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th. There was good reason for that; the technology and prosperity of the Victorian era were alike utterly dependent on the extraction and consumption of nonrenewable resources, and for those who had eyes to see, the limits to growth were coming into sight.

That’s the thinking that lay behind sociologist Max Weber’s eerie 1905 prediction of the future of the industrial economy:
 “This order is now bound to the technical and economic conditions of machine production which today determine the lives of all the individuals who are born into this mechanism, not only those directly concerned with economic acquisiton, with irresistible force.  Perhaps it will so determine them until the last ton of fossilized coal is burnt.”
It so happened that a temporary event pushed those limits back out of sight for three quarters of a century. The invention of the internal combustion engine, which turned gasoline from a waste product of lamp fuel refining to one of the most eagerly sought products of the age, allowed the industrial societies of that time to put off the day of reckoning for a while.

It wasn't just that petroleum replaced coal in many applications, though of course this happened; coal production was also propped up by an energy subsidy from petroleum—the machines that mined coal and the trains that shipped it were converted to petroleum, so that energy-rich petroleum could subsidize the extraction of low-grade coal reserves.

If the petroleum revolution had not been an option, the 20th century would have witnessed the sort of scenes we're seeing now: rising energy costs and economic contraction leading to decreasing energy use per capita in leading industrial nations, as an earlier and more gradual Long Descent got under way.

Those of my readers who have been following this blog for a while may be feeling a bit of deja vu at this point, and they're not wrong to do so. We’ve talked here many times about the appropriate-tech movement of the 1970s, which made so many promising first steps toward sustainability before it was crushed by the Reagan-Thatcher counterrevolution and the reckless drawdown of the North Slope and North Sea oil fields.

What I'd like to suggest, though, is that the conservation and ecology movement of the 1970s wasn’t the first attempt to face the limits of growth in modern times; it was the second.

The first such attempt was in the late 19th century, and Augustin Mouchot, as well as the dozens of other solar and wind pioneers of that time—not to mention bicylists on penny farthing cycles!—were the original green wizards, the first wave of sustainability pioneers, whose work deserves to be revived as much as that of the 1970s does.

Their work was made temporarily obsolete by the torrent of cheap petroleum energy that arrived around the beginning of the 20th century. One interesting consequence of taking their existence into account is that it’s easy to watch the law of diminishing returns at work in the can-kicking exercises made possible by petroleum.

The first wave of petroleum energy pushed back the limits to growth for just over seventy years, from 1900 or so to 1972.

The second did the same trick for around twenty-five years, from 1980 to 2005.

The third—well, we're still in it, but it started in 2010 or so and isn’t holding up very well just now. A few more cycles of the same kind, and the latest loudly ballyhooed new petroleum bonanza that disproves peak oil might keep the media distracted for a week.

A Thought Experiment
As a thought experiment, though, I encourage my readers to imagine what might have followed if that first great distraction never happened—if, let's say, due to some chance mutation among plankton back in the Cambrian period, carbon compounds stashed away in deepwater sediments turned into a waxy, chemically inert goo rather than into petroleum.

The internal combustion engine would still have been invented, but without some immensely abundant source of liquid fuel to burn, it would have become, like the Stirling engine, an elegant curiosity useful only for a few specialized purposes.

As coal reserves depleted, governments, industrial firms, and serious men of affairs doubtless would have become ever more fixated on seizing control of untapped coal mines wherever they could be found, and the twentieth century in this alternate world would likely have been ravaged by wars as destructive as the ones in our world.

At the same time, the pioneering work of Mouchot and his many peers would have become increasingly hard to ignore.

Solar power was unquestionably less economical than coal, while there was coal, but as coal reserves dwindled—remember, there would be no huge diesel machines burning oceans of cheap petroleum, so no mountaintop removal mining, nor any of the other extreme coal-extraction methods so common today—pointing a conical mirror toward the Sun would rapidly become the better bet.

As wars and power shifts deprived entire nations of access to what was left of the world's dwindling coal production, the same principle would have applied with even more force. Solar cookers and stills, solar pumps and engines, wind turbines and other renewable-energy technologies would have been the only viable options.

This alternate world would have had advantages that ours doesn't share. To begin with, energy use per capita in 1900 was a small fraction of current levels even in the most heavily industrialized nations, and whole categories of work currently done directly or indirectly by fossil fuels were still being done by human beings.

Agriculture hadn't been mechanized, so the food supply wouldn't have been at risk; square-rigged sailing vessels were still hauling cargoes on the seas, so as the price of coal soared and steamboats stopped being economical, maritime trade and travel could readily downshift to familiar sail technology.

As the new renewable-energy technologies became more widely distributed and more efficient, getting by with the energy supplied by sun and wind would have become second nature to everybody.
Imagine this life
Perhaps, dear reader, you can imagine yourself sitting comfortably this afternoon in a café in this alternate world, about to read my weekly essay. No, it isn’t on a glowing screen; it’s in the pages of a weekly newspaper printed, as of course everything is printed these days, by a solar-powered press.

Before you get to my latest piece, you read with some interest that a Brazilian inventor has been awarded the prestigious Mouchot Prize for a solar steam engine that’s far better suited to provide auxiliary power to sailing ships than existing models.

You skim over the latest news from the war between Austria and Italy, in which bicycle-mounted Italian troops have broken the siege of Gemona del Friuli, and a report from Iceland, which is rapidly parlaying its abundant supply of volcanic steam into a place as one of the 21st century’s industrial powerhouses.

It’s a cool, clear, perfectly seasonable day—remember, most of the gigatons of carbon we spent the 20th century dumping into the atmosphere stayed buried in this alternate world—and the proprietor of the café is beaming as he watches sunlight streaming through the windows. He knows that every hour of sunlight falling on the solar collectors on the roof is saving him plenty of money in expensive fuel the kitchen won’t have to burn.

Outside the café, the sun gleams on a row of bicycles, yours among them: they’re the normal personal transport of the 21st century, after all. Solar water heaters gleam on every roof, and great conical collectors track the sun atop the factory down the road.

High overhead, a dirigible soars silently past; we’ll assume, for the sake of today’s steampunk sensibility, that lacking the extravagant fuel supplies needed to make airplanes more than an exotic fad, the bugs got worked out of dirigible technology instead.

Back in the cafe, you begin to read the latest Archdruid Report—and my imagination fails me at this point, because that essay wouldn’t be about the subjects that have filled these posts for most of eight years now.

A society of the kind I’ve very roughly sketched out wouldn’t be in the early stages of a long ragged slide into ecological failure, political disintegration, economic breakdown, and population collapse. It would have made the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy when its energy consumption per capita was an order of magnitude smaller than ours, and thus would have had a much easier time of it.

What may be may be
Of course a more or less stable planetary climate, and an environment littered with far fewer of the ugly end products of human chemical and nuclear tinkering, would be important advantages as well.

It’s far from impossible that our descendants, some centuries from now, could have a society and a technology something like the one I’ve outlined here, though we have a long rough road to travel before that becomes possible. In the alternate world I’ve sketched, though, that would be no concern of mine.

Since ecology would be simple common sense and the unwelcome future waiting for us in this world would have gone wherever might-have-beens spend their time, I’d have many fewer worries about the future, and would probably have to talk about Hermann Hesse’s The Glass Bead Game instead. Maybe then the League of Journeyers to the East would show up to give me the secret handshake!
.fgfgffgfgfgfgfgfgzzz

Hawaii birth defects unmonitored

SUBHEAD: There has been no active Hawaii Birth Defects surveillance since 2005 by the Department of Health.

By Brad Parsons on 6 March 2014 in Island Breath -
(http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2014/03/hawaii-birth-defects-unmonitored.html)


Image above: Atrazine stimulates hemoglobin accumulation in daphnia magna, a small aquatic planktonic crustacean. From (http://toxsci.oxfordjournals.org/content/93/2/443/F1.expansion).

In an open letter, Waimea Dr., Jim Raelson, discusses the remarkable incidence of certain rare birth defects- at a rate 10 times the national average- which he and Waimea Dr. Chatkupt have noted. In the letter he notes the fact that "there has been no active Hawaii Birth Defects surveillance since 2005" by the Department of Health due to a "lapse of the registry.

The letter details the type and incidence of the birth defects concluding that "we don't know for sure if we truly have a problem of true clusters because it has not been adequately studied but as clinicians we are seeing suspicious clusters of disease. We also don't know about cause and effect but if we are seeing a true cluster of a disease that has been linked to low level exposure by good studies done elsewhere then that in itself is grounds for real concern that we are seeing serious health problems."

He and Nurse Practitioner Marghee Maupin of the Ho`ola Lahui Community Health Center in Waimea met with some council members to tell them of this.

.

Monitoring of Fukushima radiation

SUBHEAD: Hawaii has said they are monitoring ocean for radiation but is not sharing results. We’ll have to do it ourselves.

By Larry Geller on 4 March 2014 for Disappeared News -
(http://www.disappearednews.com/2014/03/no-us-government-or-international.html)


Image above: Hawaiian resident testing for radiation from Fukushima Daiichi disiaster in 2012. From (http://hiloliving.blogspot.com/2012/01/monitoring-radiation-in-hawaii.html).
No U.S. government or international agency is monitoring the spread of low levels of radiation from Fukushima along the West Coast of North America and around the Hawaiian Islands.--The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, 1/28/2014
 It’s getting harder for concerned citizens to know what to be concerned about most these days.

Whether it’s BPA (or worse) in our sippy cups or Fukushima radioactivity in our ocean water, it’s frustrating to know that vital information is being withheld from us by corporations and by our governments. You can find out more about chemicals in plastic containers at the link just above, but ocean water radiation reports seem to be more elusive.

A new project seeks to fill the gap by crowdsourcing testing of ocean water. We can gather information that we’re not getting from government sources ourselves.

Arguably, government silence is nothing new. Tobacco is perhaps the best example of the sacrifice of public health for corporate profit, and our own government didn’t hesitate to test or use nuclear weapons. One way or the other, it looks like citizens still need to take the initiative to protect our lives and health whether from harmful chemicals or from radiation.
For almost three years, a question has nagged at people living near the coastline in Alaska, British Columbia, Hawaii and along the U.S. West Coast. Is a plume of radioactive ocean water really inching its way toward us from Japan? By all accounts, yes it is. [care2.com, How You Can Help Scientists Test U.S. Coastal Waters for Fukushima Radiation, 2/6/2014]
Is our federal government protecting us? What about the state? A bill just passed out of the Hawaii Senate to monitor radiation levels in the future (see below) received overwhelming popular and legislative support, moving forward despite state government objections.

Is the Hawaii Department of Health actively protecting us by monitoring ocean water that may contain Fukushima radiation? It’s hard to tell if they are.

The DOH home web page says nothing about radiation monitoring at all. But aha, there is a search box. typing in “radiation” brings up a few hits, mostly about response to radiation emergencies. But there is this:
Current Public Health Concerns Related to Japan
August 14, 2013 - DOH Updates on Current situation at Fukushima Daiichi Power
It’s dated August 14, 2013, but might as well click and take a look. Clicking on the link takes one not to a radiation report, but to a missing report on “south-beach-diet-protein-smoothie-mango.”

[IB Publisher's note: Entering "Fukushima" into Hawaii DOH site search engine returns "Sorry, no results found."]

In a KITV story, the DOH response to a senator’s question on the age and visibility of its reports was “duly noted.” Noted, perhaps, but it’s now a month later and it’s not fixed.

So much for DOH commitment to radiation monitoring.

SB3049 passed third reading and was submitted to the House this morning. The SD1 states, in part:
The department of health shall implement a radiation monitoring pilot project that shall:
     (1)  Measure and monitor radiation levels in items such as food, dairy products, rainwater, aquifers, and drainage ditches that may be susceptible to increased radiation levels due to the March 11, 2011, Fukushima nuclear disaster; and
     (2)  Post periodic reports on the department's website of those radiation levels and their significance to the State.
Interestingly, the Senate bill omits ocean water.

Individual testimony submitted to the committees on this bill was universally in support—with the notable exception of the Department of Health. Some of the testimony called for even more extensive testing, for example, of depleted uranium radiation. People do seem concerned about the lack of monitoring in Hawaii.

The Department of Health submitted late testimony in opposition. In their testimony, they stated that they are on top of things already.
This bill is unnecessary because the Department has already implemented additional radiation monitoring since March 11, 2011.

Fiscal Implications: Implementation of this measure may require additional funding for sampling and laboratory analysis at a cost of approximately $1000.00 per sample

The Department has already established enhanced radiation surveillance around the islands in response to the Fukushima nuclear event. This includes continuous air sampling through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Radnet system located in Honolulu; monthly (or as rain capture permits) precipitation sampling; quarterly milk and drinking water sampling; quarterly shoreline surveillance on the Islands of Hawaii, Kauai, Maui and Oahu; and surveying of Japan Tsunami Marine Debris (JTMD), as needed.

Trace amounts of radioactive material were detected in air, milk and precipitation samples for a few weeks following the Fukushima event, but were far below levels of public health concern. Levels have long since returned to normal values associated with background radiation. Reports of findings and advisories have been periodically posted to the Department’s website since March 14, 2011, along with links for additional resources from various agencies.
So the DOH is monitoring? What tests are they performing, and according to what procedures?
As to links, DOH refers to the federal government’s RadNet data. At least the feds have a web page. Data is for air monitoring. We might be more curious about water around the Hawaiian islands since the Fukushima reactors continue to dump radioactivity into the ocean.

So who will monitor ocean water?
Scientists have said that any radiation will be too dilute to be harmful, but yet there is controversy. If no radiation shows up, great! But who is watching?

We’ll have to do it ourselves.
See the sidebar for information on the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute program that proposes to  crowdsource ocean water monitoring. You can become a monitor. Check it out.

How you can become an ocean water radiation monitor

Take action
You can propose a site, begin fundraising, and ultimately submit samples for testing. Or you can contribute to an existing site so that they can complete testing. Click on the image and get involved.



.













See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Brief radiation spike on Kauai 12/27/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Radiation Danger 7/10/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushia Radiation Report 10/24/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Japan conceals radiation danger 7/27/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima poisons Japanese food 7/25/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Kauai Radiation Count 6/23/11



The Last Stage - Acceptance

SUBHEAD: When the fall is all there is… how you fall matters. Acceptance. Personal meaning in the face of futility.

By Jonathan DeJong on 1 March 2014 for Nature Bats Last -
(http://guymcpherson.com/2014/03/the-last-stage-acceptance/)


Image above: Wood cut style image of the five stages of grief ending in "Acceptance". From (http://coloradoreview.colostate.edu/bookmarks-3/).

I have been a pretty aware collapsitarian most of my life. I’m 51 and can remember watching films about jungles and oceans and all manner of eco-system topics in elementary school wondering why every film we watched had to end with a warning that if we didn’t watch our step humanity was going to destroy too much habitat for these natural beings to survive. It made me sad. Also, at that time, the population had hit 4 billion. Projected on the news and in school was that by the year 2000 we would hit close to 6 billion.

As a child, I always found that mind boggling and never really thought I’d live to see the day. Of course, at the same time, I’m still pissed I didn’t get to live like the Jetsons when we hit the year 2000. We had to fight them terrorists instead, cuz they was cummin’ fer us. Meanwhile we heard nothing about a concept called blowback.

Anyone remember the commercial about pollution where the Native American in a canoe was paddling down the river past factories belching out smoke, the river itself clogged with trash and pollution? In the last scene there was a close up of him with a tear in his eye? That has always stuck with me. I think then it was called Project SOAR (Save Our American Resources).

My dream as a kid was to be a marine biologist. I always had aquariums growing up. I did fresh water, pond water set ups, marine and reef. I loved that like I can’t describe. It sounds funny but as a middle school and high school student I learned about environmental poisoning from those aquariums.

An imbalance, particularly in population, unless the outside god-force (the aquarium keeper) kept the toxins at bay, the system would quickly acidify and crash the tank. I remember thinking that with all of our cars (I grew up in the Detroit area), and all of these people, weren’t we doing the same thing?

After all, for all intents and purposes the earth is a closed system. The toxins are building, and there is no aquarium keeper removing the poison. In fact, the self-appointed, superior being in the aquarium, was going out of its way to create the poisons!

I have always loathed cities. To me they are the keeper of the sheep. As I tend to be kind of a bull in a china shop, I discovered first hand, through an encounter with a girlfriend’s father, just how vociferously citiots will defend the purity and sanctity of cities.

On a ride he gave me back from their house one evening just before going off to college, I made one comment too many about how cities don’t feed people and that they were responsible for most of our ills (I was 17). Completely clueless as to what that meant he went off on me like a mad patriarch.

Good thing I was raised by one, so I didn’t hesitate to stand my ground. He was red in the face pissed just like a Tea Partier screaming “don’t you love your country? What you do you mean cities don’t feed people!? Why don’t you just SHUT UP!”

I’ve lived on and worked by, the Great Lakes, lived on the high plains, the desert and in the high back country of the Rocky Mountains, and I have watched all of it over the course of my life, decline. Global Climate change came as no surprise to me. I have since given up trying to preach about the issue. No one who doesn’t want to hear will hear. Some may wake up, but watch the brouhaha that will happen when the mass of urban humanity wakes up violently when it is even more too late than today.

I have this image of myself in my dreams, sitting up high on a mesa on the western slope of Colorado filming the mass migration coming from California after the last denier uses the last drop of fresh water to irrigate his or her front lawn; Millions of people leaving their dead “paradise” thinking that anyone else could possibly want them in their backyard.

Because of growing up in abuse, I’ve learned to simply walk away if the voice inside of me says, “Get the hell away.” I listen to the voice that says, “Danger, danger, Will Robinson”. People entrenched in their deluded mentally constructed worlds are very dangerous.

I became involved in the homesteading movement when I learned more about our food system. Having roots in Iowa, and “vacationing” there growing up, I watched our farms that had kitchen gardens, pigs, chickens, cows, and usually several different kinds of grains, turn into fields of mono-crops.

Again, the aquarium hobby related. Spraying and pumping out diesel exhaust producing more and more toxins, farmers going broke and being kicked off the land, no family farms, nothing but fields of feed corn.

I received a Master’s Degree in a seminary during the peak of the farm crisis. I also worked with ranchers in the high country at the same time. That changed me. I went from being involved in the “what” of the issues, to the suffering being caused “by” the issues. I watched, like many of you, as thousands of farmers were forced off the land by the green revolution.

I presided over a funeral where the deceased, having lost precious ranch land due to a bankruptcy, and who lost his wife at the same time through a divorce, drove down a canyon, tried to persuade her to come back, when rejected stopped at a liquor store and on the way home, unloaded a shotgun into his face. This was during a time when Colorado was seeing huge increases in the development of feedlots and plummeting beef prices.

Our capitalist system of greed has completely run over and destroyed the humanity of being human. Industrial civilization has put in place the proper infrastructure — essentially since WWII — necessary to keep us in our places, to commodify everything, including the people whom the system is supposed to serve, and built the most horrific monolithic consumption machine our Patriarchal masters could envision.

The colossus has taken a life of its own. It is too big to control, and any glitch in the machine will mean its catastrophic collapse and with it, the demise of us all. Even in the best scenario, even if the system didn’t collapse, we will slowly and painfully die off because our habitat — the aquarium — will be rendered all used up and not fit for life.

I wanted to say at this point that I don’t think that humanity is good at heart. But pondering that more I think that is wrong. I think that un-awakened people are not good at heart. I think that portions of our society (namely the patriarchs that built the industrial civilization colossus and convinced us of its virtues) are seriously, mentally ill.

But because of the power they derived from their sociopathy, we have come to admire and emulate them as it being a virtue. I don’t think life among humans is exceptionally beautiful, however. I think too many put on a face or an act — be it the positive psychology movement, spirituality, fundamentalism and being saved — and try to convince themselves that it is. In my world, that is simply delusional. Nature is beautiful, humanity destroyed it. It’s too late, it’s too far gone.

The time to resist was yesterday. The filters on the aquarium can’t keep up and there is no one to change them out and keep the system clean and inhabitable. After all, the temperature rises and the chaos in the weather patterns we see today, are happening because of emissions put into the atmosphere 40 YEARS AGO!!

Imagine 40 years hence! In practically every human encounter in my life with people in supposed positions of power (parents, employers, religious leaders, etc.), I have always met with abuse coming from a patriarchal mindset seeking to control others so the ego can retain its existence. That is the poison that eats us as a species daily. That is why this will not and cannot change.

As a result of all of this, the fish are swimming upside down, and quite literally, the sea stars are melting. Now it is the time to simply live, or not live. Death is death no matter when or how. Can you not justify suicide today? Why would ethics today forbid it? Why would we even care? There is no purpose on this planet save to have lived. Our insanity destroyed the playground. 51 years of hell. Kurt Cobain sang to the effect: “All we are is all alone” …. He wasn’t wrong.

Abuse of me, abuse of the poor, abuse of women, genocide, the abuse of the land base, abuse of diversity… A total culture and societal structure based on fear and abuse has led us to the brink. “What a long strange trip it’s been.” This is not the mark of a sane and intelligent species. It is more akin to a bacterium in a petri dish on the verge of catastrophic collapse.

Blindly consuming its food source (or in our case, energy source), with no thought to its ultimate consequence it will unconsciously run right off a cliff. One big difference though, is that we created religion and a manifest destiny to help lock us into this death spiral in the name of our vast delusional superiority.

The last stage of grief is acceptance. I lived through all of the different stages of the grief process from about the age of 10. In fact, so much of my life could simply be a long drawn out sense of realizing that, as the song from YES goes, “This life’s not for living, it’s for fighting and for wars.

No matter what the truth is, hold on to what is yours…” When one tries to live a life of altruism and compassion, and the whole of your species spits back into your face, you stand on the outside looking in, seeing the ridiculousness for what it is.

Eventually, you become a different person. The rage (which I have been full of most of my life) subsides, you detach, and you become quiet. You see it all as a mirage. As it has become worse and the futility realized… I have become… quiet.

I got into the homestead movement, because I still thought that living as an example would help to save the world. I worked brutal hours; first turning a suburban home into a Dervaes style urban farm, and then building our JAZ Farm.

I was hoping, like Dr. McPherson, that if I really showed the world how one could live with comfort, dignity, and harmony with nature, that everyone would enthusiastically follow me down the yellow brick road, dancing to the tune of the Pied Piper (to mix my story lines a tad).

Most of the response has been incredulous. Of course, my friends and family think it is great, but for acquaintances that are not as close, most of it was, like the sound-bites in the media, a flash in the pan. “Oh that is so cool, I really wish I could do something like that”, they’d say, and then it would fade. Invitations to come and help are met with excuses.

Now I hope it is simply my hobby farm with my few enthusiastic friends who do get it. Seeing it for the life line it can be for us, if we simply do the work.

So while I have never really had to get to the point of acceptance over the finitude of the human dilemma (we are all going to die it’s simply a matter of when and how), I had to grieve over the futility of my efforts to really make a difference.

Somehow, like I am sure with Guy, and my permaculture friends, and my doomer friends, and those who simply want to scream from the rooftops, we wanted to do something to make a difference.

Chris Hedges commented about his activism that he wasn’t necessarily protesting against and calling out fascists thinking he was going to defeat them, but simply because they are fascists.

A greater description of acceptance is hard to find. As Richard the Lionheart said to his brother Jeffery in The Lion in Winter, “When the fall is all there is… how you fall matters.” Acceptance. Personal meaning in the face of futility. “All alone, is all we are.”

The grief came from having to accept the fact that my dream of bringing the world around is dead. When you come from a helping profession, awakening to the fact that you can’t do anything of substance to turn the Titanic and knowing it is going to sink no matter what you do, is the experiencing of a death.

It is the death of a purpose. It is the death of who you thought you were. It is the acceptance of knowing you were right all along and not being able to take egoic pride in being so prescient. It is a loss of life; YOUR life. All that you ascribed meaning to, like a soap bubble…. Pop! Gone.

I went through this sense of futility and grief at the same time that I was building out the farm’s infrastructure. I found my sense of enthusiasm beginning to wane mostly out of a sense of futility. Physically, I am a pretty strong male (think big ass defensive lineman).

I also was able to summon up a tremendous amount of drive, mentally, to get me past the physical pain involved in getting things done. My self-imposed timelines were met and we are now on the verge of planting out over half an acre of organic vegetables. JAZ Farm lives.

Here is what happened to me during the acceptance phase. I lost the drive. I lost the mental toughness that drove me to work to exhaustion. Every time I told myself that I had to get my ass in gear to get this or that done, a little voice in the back of my head said, “Why?” “None of what you are doing matters.” “Who cares if the pig pen doesn’t get built?”

That little voice rendered me — to what I would have considered in my life about others — a sniveling, weak minded, wimp. I spent days staring at my navel, not caring what happened. I spent weeks in depression thinking that I so eagerly went about this quest and it now being for nothing.

My inner voice said, “The world is ending, humanity is mentally ill, and you my friend, just broke your body and turned your hips to dust, because you thought you were going to be the climate change messiah who led everyone to the promise land.” Grief: that person died. I have been holding vigil for him during the Polar Vortex winter of our discontent.

So from this depression came my previous two essays on NBL: Life is Different and What Is Your Calligraphy? Not because I wanted to continue my pontification, but like The President of the Galaxy in “A Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy” when looking for the answer to the great question and didn’t get it, said, “I think I did kind of a lot to get here…now I’m going to have to go figure out something else for my whole life to be about”.

My life lost its meaning. I had to figure it out. I think maybe I have. Short answer: There doesn’t have to be any meaning. In fact, searching for meaning may be synonymous with pain.

Ponder on this statement: “Nothing really matters, and then again, so what if it did?”

What really matters? If you sit down right now and ask yourself that, you may come up with something that your whole life can be about after you have come to see that what you thought you were going to be has died. Resurrect yourself like the Phoenix. How does one answer the question, “Who Am I?”

I found that the answer to that question was quite simple: No one. The world is too big and the damage so deep that I realized that I am no one. I am not the climate change, pure living, watch me and emulate me and change the world with me messiah. Maybe I am still Morpheus, getting people to take the red pill and then not getting invited to parties anymore. Fine.

But if not…. fine! You are not your life. You are the eyes that the earth sprouted to look around with for awhile. The end. As I once heard a fellow astronomer say, “If you just leave Hydrogen and a little Lithium alone for long enough, it will eventually sing opera.”

The farm is still mine and the love of growing and harmony with nature is still in my blood and bones. It simply doesn’t have to be the bright light shining on a hill any longer. In fact, given the impending mass migration from the desert southwest, perhaps some anonymity isn’t a bad thing.

A wonderful friend uses the phrase: Ima grow food ‘til I can’t. To which I morphed that into “I’m going to plant ‘til I can’t”. It is a theme that awaits you on the other side of grief: That all there is in life, really, is just you being conscious. The only thing you can say about this existence is “I am”. That’s it. There is nothing else.

So what do you do?

I can say that for me, it is going through a conscious walking away from my species. While I share the same physical shape and needs, I don’t identify with the un-awakened creatures that have infested this place, largely only using their lizard brain. It is a mental evolution, a passing through the thin membrane between living in industrial civilization and trying to shake that sticky filth off.

It is the final scene in a movie when the main character looks back on his home, his city, his country — in this case — his species, then rights himself in the saddle and slowly rides into the gray mist, never looking back, knowing that leaving is a death, and continuing to ride away, is rebirth.

In the past year, I mentally sat myself into the saddle. I am riding into the mist. I have left a life behind that says, “You need to be an activist. You MUST be involved! If you aren’t part of the solution you are part of the problem, and all that tripe.” I have watched that part of me die. I have grieved that I couldn’t have helped more. But it is dead. I am not looking back over my shoulder thinking that maybe I could just go back. Go do a little bit more.

Others may take that path because of course, fascists are fascist, and maybe some find them a fun prey to hunt. Whatever works for them. Acceptance is an understanding and internalizing of the futility of it all; that you are only really doing it … for yourself. “I’m going to plant ‘til I can’t” If people want to be involved, ok. If not, ok too. My species is beyond help because of the power elite.

All I can do is do something I love; that feels spiritual and meaningful – even if it isn’t. For me, it means loving the metamorphosis of seeds and the peace of farm animals. It won’t save the world, but it will keep me from committing suicide. The illness of humanity is too great for me to do anything about. It is simply too big.

Others will say, “That if we all work together then….”, “There is a great awakening coming and we’ll all ascend together” and of course, “People like you are the problem,” “Oh you’ve just given up so I guess the oppressors win,” etc, etc,etc. The mysterious rider slowly rides into the sunset. He fades into the Nexus, awakens from the Matrix and goes on to do….?

Nothing in particular. I’ll probably just keep chopping wood and carrying water, collecting eggs, and Plant ‘til I Can’t.

.

Sneak attack on Hawaii GMO ban

SOURCE: Shannon Rudolph (shannonkona@gmail.com)
SUBHEAD: An anonymous suit against Hawaii County Bill 113. Hearing for injunction on FRIDAY in Hilo.

By Staff on 4 March 2014 for GMO Free Hawaii Island -
(http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2014/03/sneak-attack-on-hawaii-gmo-ban.html)


Image above: Poster for demonstration supporting Bill 113 on Big Island banning most GMO crops. From GMO Free Hawaii Island.

WHAT:
An anonymous suit has been filed against Hawaii County for GMO ban Bill 113. There will be a hearing for injunction to stop GMO ban FRIDAY in Hilo.

WHEN:
10:30am This Friday on March 7th 2014

WHERE:
Judge Nakamura
Hilo Circuit Court
Hale Kaulike
777 Kilauea Avenue
Hilo, Hawaii 96720-4212

BE THERE! All hands on deck Hawaii island!

John Doe, am anonymous papaya farmer, files injunction against GMO ban Bill 113 regarding registration requirement. Peaceful Hawaii defenders of the island, imua!

One of the attorneys requesting an injunction against Bill 113 also represented a chemical company in the lawsuit on Kauai! Margery Bronster, former Hawaii Attorney General, represents Pioneer/DuPont andDow Agrigenetics in the suit against Kauai Bill 2491 so the chemical companies can keep spraying poison next to schools and homes!

At the January 2013 national seminar on Hawaii agriculture about "GMO v. Organic," (which was a totally pro-GMO "seminar") Bronster was a keynote speaker.

She announced she had prior victory over "oppressive" GMO registration law in the continental US and announced she had been approached by two chemical GMO companies to look into the GMO registration requirement in Hawaii island Bill 113, recently passed to prohibit new GMOs and require GMO registration. Interesting, now she files for "Anonymous."

"GMO ban" Bill 113 was recently passed to stop any more outdoor GMO crops from entering Hawaii island and register the GMO papaya and one dairy growing GMO corn under a grandfather clause. It is not over.

ALOHA AINA! STAND UP!

WE NEED THE PUBLIC TO SHOW PEACEFUL SUPPORT FOR BILL!



GMO Legislative Update

By Brad Parsons on 3 March 2014 in Island Breath -

GMO Labeling - HB174 Still Alive
As many of you probably know, Senators Baker and Nishihara have been successful in stopping all new GMO Labeling bills in the Legislature so far this year. Senator Baker did not allow SB 2521 to be heard last week. BUT, there is 1 GMO Labeling bill still alive in the Hawaii Legislature, HB174. There are some good ideas for amending HB174 that might enable it to move to Conference Committee. We'll come back to that in our next update, as there is time to work with that.


Pre-emption of County Authority - SB2777
The other bill we have been focusing on recently is SB2777, and it is up for a final vote as early as tomorrow (March 4) on the Senate floor to potentially cross over to the House. There is no question that SB2777 is a Pre-emption Bill of County Authority, the only question is how much Pre-emption of County authority might SB2777 allow. Here is an updated description of it:
Measure Title: RELATING TO AGRICULTURE.
Report Title: Zoning; Agricultural Districts; County Zoning; Agricultural-based Commercial Operations Description: Prohibits the land use commission and counties from restricting agricultural-based commercial operations that are authorized under sections 205-2(d)(15) and 205-4.5(a)(9), Hawaii Revised Statutes, in agricultural districts. Effective July 1, 2050. (SD1) Introducer(s): DELA CRUZ, KIDANI, SOLOMON, Nishihara

QUICK ACTION ITEM

Testisfy on Bill 2777 here (http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=SB&billnumber=2777&year=2014)

Also email all Senators ASAP to sens@capitol.hawaii.gov:


SAMPLE STATEMENT

Senators:

RESPECT HOME RULE, TRANSPARENCY AND THE RULE OF LAW:

We OPPOSE SB 2777 which "Prohibits the land use commission and counties from restricting agricultural-based commercial operations that are authorized under sections 205-2(d)(15) and 205-4.5(a)(9), Hawaii Revised Statutes, in agricultural districts."

Your Name,

Your Address



It would help to also send a copy of that to the House Agriculture Committee Chair Rep. Jessica Wooley (repwooley@capitol.hawaii.gov) as we do not want her to hear this bill should it pass the Senate. Also ask her not to take the OEQC job offered by the Administration until after this Session is over. (They are trying to get her out of her Chair position because she demonstrates support for GMO labeling and other related legislation.)


Mahalo nui,
the team at GMO Free Hawaii Island

.

Global Riot Epidemic

SUBHEAD: The unrest throughout the world is related to demise of cheap oil and rise in food prices.

By Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed on 3 March 2014 for the Guardian -
(http://www.theguardian.com/environment/earth-insight/2014/feb/28/global-riots-protests-end-cheap-fossil-fuels-ukraine-venezuela)


Image above: A protester in Kiev, Ukraine, swings a chainj from behind a shield while fire engulfs street. From original article.

If anyone had hoped that the Arab Spring and Occupy protests a few years back were one-off episodes that would soon give way to more stability, they have another thing coming. The hope was that ongoing economic recovery would return to pre-crash levels of growth, alleviating the grievances fueling the fires of civil unrest, stoked by years of recession.

But this hasn't happened. And it won't.

Instead the post-2008 crash era, including 2013 and early 2014, has seen a persistence and proliferation of civil unrest on a scale that has never been seen before in human history. This month alone has seen riots kick-off in Venezuela, Bosnia, Ukraine, Iceland, and Thailand.

This is not a coincidence. The riots are of course rooted in common, regressive economic forces playing out across every continent of the planet - but those forces themselves are symptomatic of a deeper, protracted process of global system failure as we transition from the old industrial era of dirty fossil fuels, towards something else.

Even before the Arab Spring erupted in Tunisia in December 2010, analysts at the New England Complex Systems Institute warned of the danger of civil unrest due to escalating food prices. If the Food & Agricultural Organisation (FAO) food price index rises above 210, they warned, it could trigger riots across large areas of the world.

Hunger games
The pattern is clear. Food price spikes in 2008 coincided with the eruption of social unrest in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Somalia, Cameroon, Mozambique, Sudan, Haiti, and India, among others.

In 2011, the price spikes preceded social unrest across the Middle East and North Africa - Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Libya, Uganda, Mauritania, Algeria, and so on.

Last year saw food prices reach their third highest year on record, corresponding to the latest outbreaks of street violence and protests in Argentina, Brazil, Bangladesh, China, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey and elsewhere.

Since about a decade ago, the FAO food price index has more than doubled from 91.1 in 2000 to an average of 209.8 in 2013. As Prof Yaneer Bar-Yam, founding president of the Complex Systems Institute, told Vice magazine last week:

"Our analysis says that 210 on the FAO index is the boiling point and we have been hovering there for the past 18 months... In some of the cases the link is more explicit, in others, given that we are at the boiling point, anything will trigger unrest."

But Bar-Yam's analysis of the causes of the global food crisis don't go deep enough - he focuses on the impact of farmland being used for biofuels, and excessive financial speculation on food commodities. But these factors barely scratch the surface.

It's a gas
The recent cases illustrate not just an explicit link between civil unrest and an increasingly volatile global food system, but also the root of this problem in the increasing unsustainability of our chronic civilisational addiction to fossil fuels.

In Ukraine, previous food price shocks have impacted negatively on the country's grain exports, contributing to intensifying urban poverty in particular. Accelerating levels of domestic inflation are underestimated in official statistics - Ukrainians spend on average as much as 75% on household bills, and more than half their incomes on necessities such as food and non-alcoholic drinks, and as75% on household bills.

Similarly, for most of last year, Venezuela suffered from ongoing food shortages driven by policy mismanagement along with 17 year record-high inflation due mostly to rising food prices.

While dependence on increasingly expensive food imports plays a role here, at the heart of both countries is a deepening energy crisis. Ukraine is a net energy importer, having peaked in oil and gas production way back in 1976. Despite excitement about domestic shale potential, Ukraine's oil production has declined by over 60% over the last twenty years driven by both geological challenges and dearth of investment.

Currently, about 80% of Ukraine's oil, and 80% of its gas, is imported from Russia. But over half of Ukraine's energy consumption is sustained by gas. Russian natural gas prices have nearly quadrupled since 2004. The rocketing energy prices underpin the inflation that is driving excruciating poverty rates for average Ukranians, exacerbating social, ethnic, political and class divisions.

The Ukrainian government's recent decision to dramatically slash Russian gas imports will likely worsen this as alternative cheaper energy sources are in short supply. Hopes that domestic energy sources might save the day are slim - apart from the fact that shale cannot solve the prospect of expensive liquid fuels, nuclear will not help either.

A leaked European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) report reveals that proposals to loan 300 million Euros to renovate Ukraine's ageing infrastructure of 15 state-owned nuclear reactors will gradually double already debilitating electricity prices by 2020.

"Socialism" or Soc-oil-ism?
In Venezuela, the story is familiar. Previously, the Oil and Gas Journal reported the country's oil reserves were 99.4 billion barrels. As of 2011, this was revised upwards to a mammoth 211 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, and more recently by the US Geological Survey to a whopping 513 billion barrels. The massive boost came from the discovery of reserves of extra heavy oil in the Orinoco belt.

The huge associated costs of production and refining this heavy oil compared to cheaper conventional oil, however, mean the new finds have contributed little to Venezuela's escalating energy and economic challenges. Venezuela's oil production peaked around 1999, and has declined by a quarter since then. Its gas production peaked around 2001, and has declined by about a third.

Simultaneously, as domestic oil consumption has steadily increased - in fact almost doubling since 1990 - this has eaten further into declining production, resulting in net oil exports plummeting by nearly half since 1996. As oil represents 95% of export earnings and about half of budget revenues, this decline has massively reduced the scope to sustain government social programmes, including critical subsidies.

Looming pandemic?
These local conditions are being exacerbated by global structural realities. Record high global food prices impinge on these local conditions and push them over the edge. But the food price hikes, in turn, are symptomatic of a range of overlapping problems. Global agriculture's excessive dependence on fossil fuel inputs means food prices are invariably linked to oil price spikes. Naturally, biofuels and food commodity speculation pushes prices up even further - elite financiers alone benefit from this while working people from middle to lower classes bear the brunt.

Of course, the elephant in the room is climate change. According to Japanese media, a leaked draft of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) second major report warned that while demand for food will rise by 14%, global crop production will drop by 2% per decade due to current levels of global warming, and wreak $1.45 trillion of economic damage by the end of the century. The scenario is based on a projected rise of 2.5 degrees Celsius.

This is likely to be a very conservative estimate. Considering that the current trajectory of industrial agriculture is already seeing yield plateaus in major food basket regions, the interaction of environmental, energy, and economic crises suggests that business-as-usual won't work.

The epidemic of global riots is symptomatic of global system failure - a civilisational form that has outlasted its usefulness. We need a new paradigm.

Unfortunately, simply taking to the streets isn't the answer. What is needed is a meaningful vision for civilisational transition - backed up with people power and ethical consistence.

It's time that governments, corporations and the public alike woke up to the fact that we are fast entering a new post-carbon era, and that the quicker we adapt to it, the far better our chances of successfully redefining a new form of civilisation - a new form of prosperity - that is capable of living in harmony with the Earth system.

But if we continue to make like ostriches, we'll only have ourselves to blame when the epidemic becomes a pandemic at our doorsteps.

.

Ukraine Hubris Circus

SUBHEAD: You don’t win a war with a Haircut In Search Of A Brain, not even a PR war. Those days are gone.

By Raul Illargi Meijer on 5 March 2014 for the Automatic Earth -
(http://www.theautomaticearth.com/debt-rattle-mar-4-2014-the-hubris-circus/)


Image above: Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nulandm (L) Secretary of State John Kerry (the “Haircut In Search Of A Brain”). From (http://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2013/jul/30/israeli-palestinian-peace-deal-nine-months-video).

Arguably, the US lost its first PR war over Vietnam. When its young and hopeful started dying on live TV, it was over. Never again, swore spin doctors on all sides of Capitol Hill. Over the past 40-odd years, PR and spin techniques have been substantially refined, and the media – both written and TV -, hard as it may have seemed at the time, have moved much closer to the government’s PR interests. So much so that one can figuratively speaking expect to be burned at the stake for suggesting Edward Snowden is anything like today’s Woodward and Bernstein.

As I was watching John Kerry land in Kiev today, and walk with his insane security detail to places where protesters were shot, only very recently, the lost PR war of 4 decades ago came to mind. God knows they’re still trying with all their might, just watch CNN, and read the Washington Post, but it looks very much like a lost cause.

The Washington Post runs a long piece entitled Behind the West’s Miscalculations in Ukraine; the basic tenet is that the US left it to Europe to deal with Ukraine and Yanukovych, and the EU screwed up, so now John Kerry has to step in and they will never leave this kind of important project up the Europeans again.

And granted, the EU probably didn’t do a great job either, but A) who would believe Washington would leave a project of the geopolitical magnitude of Ukraine up to others, and B) the article doesn’t name Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland even once. While it’s very clear from recordings that she was pivotal in bringing “Yats” to power – she about hand-picked him – and keeping “Klitsch” out.

If you’re the Washington Post, and you run a long story on the “West’s Miscalculations in Ukraine”, but you neglect to mention the number one – public – US operative, then what does that say about Woodward and Bernstein’s legacy? For Peep’s sake, Nuland is walking in Kiev with Kerry on live TV as we speak, but you just ignore her in your article?

The “Haircut In Search Of A Brain” Kerry (as Jim Kunstler adequately christened the Secretary of State) came traveling with the promise of a $1 billion loan to the self-appointed new Kiev government. He better make sure the documents are iron clad, in case “Yats” is outta there in a few weeks time and the next government refuses to pay up.

That $1 billion number was what Yanukovych turned his back on in negotiations with Europe last fall, presumably when the absolutely full of themselves EU crew started attaching ever more IMF and World Bank conditions to it, and Putin had offered him $15 billion.

Apparently, that took everyone by surprise, including the US as represented by Nuland and ambassador Pyatt. And now Kerry comes a-carrying the same $1 billion again, undoubtedly with more strings attached than a spinning wheel. The entire western circus is just drowning in its own hubris.

NATO holds a special meeting today. So do the EU foreign ministers. And they’re all of them on the phone with the White House all the time. They’re extremely busy looking at bans and sanctions. And what do we have so far? The US has halted military cooperation with Russia.

Yeah, that’ll hurt … A secret document in Britain that the Guardian got hold of calls for any sanctions to leave rich Russians’ investments in London real estate alone. That’s got to have made Putin chuckle.

Economic sanctions? I bet you you can’t find anyone who can assure you those would hurt Russia more than it does the west. So count them out. Like what, we’re not going to buy your oil and gas anymore, Vlad?

I see estimates of high (60 days) EU gas reserves after a very mild winter across the continent, but so what? Are Germany et al going to risk first banning Russian gas, and then start buying again, in the hope that Putin will have learned his lesson?

For all they know, he’ll just double the price. Apart from all that, don’t forget that contracts have been signed, and you can’t just break those. Moscow sells $180 billion worth of mostly oil and gas to Europe, and Europe sells Moscow $120 billion in machines and various other items.

And whatever you may think of Putin, he’s consistent in his message: Russia reserves the right to protect the Russians and ethnic Russians who live in Ukraine.

And despite all sorts of denials in western media that these people are under threat, why should they, or we for that matter, feel sure about that? We’ve seen the anti-Russian sentiments. And If you don’t know what that looks like, try 12 Videos Showing Why Ukraine Fears And Stands Up To Radical Nationalists.

Putin also said today that Yanukovych in his view has no political future, something he indicated last week when he refused to meet with the ousted president. However, Putin maintains that Yanukovych is the only legitimate president of Ukraine, even if he fled to save his life. Which was in serious danger, little reason to doubt that.

Russia simply doesn’t recognize the “Yats”-led self named new government in Kiev. And that probably means “Yats” won’t be in power long. Kerry and his EU counterparts better prepare for that, and support a next PM, certainly before the May elections, if those take place.

No matter what you think, if you pay attention, it seems undeniable that Putin is winning the PR war on this one. No matter that Angela Merkel and Madeleine Munster Albright (who dug her up?) say he’s delusional and lives in another world, or Obama states he’s on the wrong side of history.

Riddle me this: if you want to have a constructive discussion with someone, to what extent does it help to say such things? And what is the person you’re saying it about supposed to make of it? Anyone notice that Putin doesn’t stoop to such levels? It seems that only the losers do.

The best assessment I saw today came from Russian/American journalist Vladimir Pozner on CNN, who said that whatever Putin does, he is always demonized by western media.

Pozner also remarked that there’s no such thing as one Ukraine, there are many different peoples gathered together under one flag. They of course have the same right to self-determination that all peoples are guaranteed under UN law.

And if the millions of Russians living in Ukraine feel threatened, and ask Putin for protection, should he deny that request? What would the US do if it had that kind of number of Americans under threat, and requesting aid, somewhere in the world, let alone on its own borders, like Mexico or Canada? I think we know the answer to that one.

Washington and Brussels would love to get a hold of the pipelines under Ukraine soil. And that they haven’t yet is certainly not for lack of trying. But they’re choking on their own hubris circus, and besides they should understand that Russia will never allow them control over those pipelines, because they keep the Russian economy alive.

It looks like a very real possibility that Ukraine will not survive in its present shape and form for much longer. And even though it would first of all be silly to blame that on Russia, even if Ukraine would split according to the wishes of its separate population segments, the pro west western part of the country should never get it into its head to as much as touch the pipelines.

Because that would carry with it a serious risk of warfare. It’s time for the western world to wake up from its hubris induced dreams of what once was. You don’t win a war with a Haircut In Search Of A Brain, not even a PR war. Those days are gone.

.

For Ukraine - Follow the Energy

SUBHEAD: Scrape away the media sensationalism and geopolitical posturing and it boils down to a simple dynamic... energy.

By Charles Hugh Smith on 3 March 2014 for Of Two Minds -
(http://charleshughsmith.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/ukraine-follow-energy.html)


Image above: Map of Russian gas pipelines crossing the Ukraine and delivering to Europe. From (http://en.ria.ru/infographics/20090609/155206402.html).

Though many seem to believe that internal politics and geopolitical posturing in Ukraine are definitive dynamics, I tend to think the one that really counts is energy: not only who has it and who needs it, but where the consumers can get it from.

Let's cut to the chase and declare a partition along long-standing linguistic and loyalty lines a done deal. Let's also dispense with any notions that either side can impose a military solution in the other's territory.

Media reports on the weakness of Ukrainian military forces abound (for example, Ukraine Finds Its Forces Are Ill Equipped to Take Crimea Back From Russia), but Russia's ability to project power and hold territory isn't so hot, either.

A knowledgeable correspondent submitted these observations:

RE: Russian Army. Effective draft evasion is running 80%. Morale is low, training is very poor and poorly funded. The Russian army has also gone through 22 years of near continuous contraction.  
And this standing army has heavy commitments in the Caucasus and Far East Siberia. 
Moreover, at least half of these Russian ground troops are short term 12 month conscripts. I don't think these kids will produce many usable and motivated troops. The low morale recently seen in the Ukrainian Berkut and other police will be multiplied by at least 10x.  
Russian speaking Ukrainian bands are rumored to already be crossing the borders into Russia territory. They're to be ready to sabotage bridges and infrastructure and generally retaliate. Fluent Russian speakers with many years experience of living in Russia. 
Who can say for sure if this has already happened or is just being threatened? We can say this is a very real danger. These people look just like "Russians."  
And we can also say this threat will seriously complicate Russian rear area security and logistics. And speaking of logistics, the distances in south Ossetia and Abkhazia were very short and the populations were entirely friendly. Neither condition prevails in the Ukraine outside the Crimea.  
Supplying moving armored units over hundreds of miles of occupied country is very difficult logistically. The logistics for air assault helicopter units are just as bad. These helo units look mobile but they're a lot like a yoyo being twirled around your head on the string. They only go fast within a fixed radius anchored by logistics that are about as heavy to move as an armored division's supply columns. 
That is years in the 101st Airborne Division talking. The fuel consumption rates are immense. Stuff starts breaking down fast.Conclusion: a de facto partition is already baked in because neither side can force a re-unification. Various jockeying and posturing will undoubtedly continue for some time, but the basic end-game is already visible: de facto partition.

Let's move on to correspondent A.C.'s observations about energy.

This map rounds out the European energy Rosetta Stone. When they hear that Italian fighter jets are over Tripoli, or that the French Foreign Legion has returned to the deep Sahara Desert, they can can better understand the reasons and real objectives of such operations.  

Image above: Map of gas pipelines across Mediterranean Sea and Sahara Desert. From (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gas_pipelines_across_Mediterranee_and_Sahara_map-en.svg).

Many have noted that the Russia economy is critically dependent on oil and gas exports to the EU. It should be noted that the converse is less true every day about EU dependence on Russian oil and gas. 
The Wall Street Journal even had a line about an EU proposal to push natural gas EAST to the Ukraine. It's hard to understand that passage or where the natural gas could come from unless one understands the North Africa to southern Europe gas pipelines.  
The factors bringing the conflict in Ukraine to a head are:  
  1. The natural gas discoveries in eastern Poland and western Ukraine played the largest role.
  2. The reduced importance of the gas pipeline running through the Ukraine to Europe as compared to 2009. Since that time the Nordstream lines have been finished and Gazprom acquired commercial control of the Belarus pipeline. The South Stream lines are well along in development.
  3. Fast developing liquid natural gas (LNG) seaport terminal infrastructure.
Events in Libya, Mali and Algeria are not hermetically isolated from this. They are part of a comprehensive energy policy problem being dealt with by the same leaderships. It increasingly looks like a series of peripheral Energy Wars that are being fought out for control of Europe.  
LNG exports are going to become a weapon in the struggle for geopolitical influence and control.  
This highlights another problem for Russia/Gazprom. Its present natural gas advantage in Europe now rests mainly on its pipeline infrastructure. This advantage is fading due to the current and proposed pipeline projects running through Turkey to Europe, plus LPG terminal & ship developments, plus the five trans-Mediterranean pipelines from Libya, Algeria and Morocco to southern Europe, plus local shale gas plays...  
The Ukraine is not the only country becoming less systemically important to Europe for natural gas supply. So is Russia. Current events will only accelerate everyone's efforts to diversify away from such an unstable and apparently dangerous supplier.  
I think the long-term fallout from the Ukrainian Crisis will be similar to China's attempt to exploit its temporary low price monopoly position in rare earth metals a few years ago. The result is rare earth metals are becoming less rare by the day as alternate mines outside China are opened and reopened.
Thank you, A.C. Scrape away the media sensationalism and geopolitical posturing and it boils down to a simple dynamic: follow the energy.
.