CO2 800,000 year high

SUBHEAD: This was the first April in 800,000 years when air levels of CO2 averaged above 400 parts per million.

By Raul Ilargi Meijer on 7 April 2014 for The Automatic Earth -
(http://www.theautomaticearth.com/first-time-in-800000-years-april-co2-levels-above-400-ppm/)


Image above: Detail of photo of snow in New York City 2/12/1933. View from Central Park looking south east to Savoy and Plaza Hotel. From original article.

This just in from, of all sources, CBS. It’s quite a milestone we’ve passed here. Time for some contemplation perhaps.

Time to wonder if enough people will care enough soon enough. Doesn’t look like it.

Looks like we’re too busy drilling in the ever scarcer remaining pristine locations we haven’t yet exploited, and too busy preparing to go to war over access to the very resources that lifted us all the way up over 400ppm in what’s really no more than the blink of an eye in the 800,000 year timeframe.

We’ll all just get into our cars again this morning and tell ourselves we’re looking out for number really is.

First time in 800,000 years: April’s CO2 levels above 400 ppm (CBS)
Less than a year after scientists first warned that the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could rise above 400 parts per million and stay there, it has finally happened. For the first time in recorded history, the average level of CO2 has topped 400 ppm for an entire month.

The high levels of carbon dioxide is largely considered by scientists a key factor in global warming, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Earth System Research Lab. The Scripps Institution of Oceanography, a part of the University of California, San Diego, reported that April’s average amount of CO2 was 401.33 ppm, with each day reading above 400 ppm.

Scientists, using the Keeling Curve, show the increase of CO2 levels over the course of 800,000 years. Scripps Institution Of Oceanography


According to the Institute, CO2 levels have not surpassed 300 ppm in 800,000 years. It is estimated that during Earth’s ice ages, the C02 levels were around 200 ppm, with warmer periods — as well as prior to the Industrial Revolution — having carbon dioxide levels of 280 ppm. Past levels of CO2 are found in old air samples preserved as bubbles in the Atlantic ice sheet, according to Scripps.

Throughout the year, there are changes in CO2 levels that occur naturally from the growth of plants and trees. Carbon dioxide levels often peak in the spring due to plant growth, and decrease in the fall when plants die, according to NOAA. However, human CO2 production has exacerbated the effects, causing global warming and climate change.

Scientists have been measuring the levels of carbon dioxide over the past fifty years. Since 1958, the Keeling Curve – named after developer Charles Keeling – has been used to monitor the levels of greenhouse gasses atop Hawaii’s Mauna Loa.

When Keeling first started monitoring CO2 levels, the amount of carbon dioxide present in the atmosphere was 313 ppm. After Keeling’s death in 2005, his son Ralph, a professor of geochemistry and director of the Scripps CO2 Program, continued the measurements. In a statement last year, he warned that CO2 levels would “hit 450-ppm within a few decades.”




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Charter Amendment Rally

SUBHEAD: Free rally to end agro-chemical hazards on Kauai with concert featuring Makana on Saturday, May 10.

By Linda Pascatore for Island Breath on 4 May 2014
(http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2014/05/charter-amendment-rally.html)

http://www.islandbreath.org/2014Year/05/140505nextstepbig.jpg
Image above: Poster for the Next Step Concert Rally. Click to embiggen. From (http://kauairising.org/events/event/kauai-charter-amendment-concert-and-rally-with-makana/).

WHAT:
 Kauai Next Step Concert Rally, supporting the Charter Amendment to end Agro Chemical Hazards.  Let the People Decide!

WHERE:
 Peace and Freedom Convention Center, Lihue, Kauai

WHEN:
 Saturday, May 10th, 6:30 pm

MORE:
Makana will be Master of Cermonies as well as Master Musician for this Kauai Charter Amendment Concert and rally.  He will be joined by Sashamon, Lkio Martin, and the Sacred Earth Choir as well as speakers from Kauai and beyond in support of all of our efforts on behalf of the health and well being of Kauai and it's people.

Please add your support as well by signing a petition to get the Charter Amendment on the ballot for November 4, 2014.  Visit "how you can help" for ways to sign or gather petitions.  Gathering signatures are our primary focus for the next three weeks.  Let's Let the People Decide!

SPONSORS:
Friends of Navdanya (Vandana Shiva Organization), Kauai Rising, Shaka Movement, Wai Koa Plantation, Kauai Fresh Farms, Ohana O'Kauai, Kauai Alliance for Peace and Social Justice, Surfrider Foundation, Regenerations International Botanical Gardens, GMO Free Kauai.

MORE INFO:
http://kauairising.org/

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Lying or Just Stupid?

SUBHEAD: There comes a point in the destiny of a failing nation when official lying is no longer distinct from official stupidity.

By James Kunstler on 5 May 2014 for Kunstler.com -
(http://kunstler.com/clusterfuck-nation/lying-or-just-stupid/)


Image above: Still from movie often rated in worst ever category "Dumb & Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd" (2003. From (http://cdn.mos.totalfilm.com/images/d/dumb-dumberer-when-harry-met-lloyd-2003-_139383-fli_1373209992.jpg).

It’s not always easy to define what exactly is wrong with America, but what ever it is, it’s huge. — Roel Ilargi Meijer, The Automatic Earth.com

Nobody knows, from sea to shining sea, why we’re having all this trouble with our Republic. — Tom McGuane, Ninety-Two in the Shade
 Despite its Valley Girl origins, the simple term clueless turns out to be the most accurate descriptor for America’s degenerate zeitgeist. 

Nobody gets it — the “it” being a rather hefty bundle of issues ranging from our energy bind to the official mismanagement of money, the manipulation of markets, the crimes in banking, the blundering foreign misadventures, the revolving door corruption in governance, the abandonment of the rule-of-law, the ominous wind-down of the Happy Motoring fiasco and the related tragedy of obsolete suburbia, the contemptuous disregard for the futures of young people, the immersive Kardashian celebrity twerking sleaze, the downward spiral of the floundering classes into pizza and Pepsi induced obesity, methedrine psychosis, and tattooed savagery, and the thick patina of public relations dishonesty that coats all of it like some toxic bacterial overgrowth. 

The dwindling life of our nation, where anything goes and nothing matters.

It’s not just the individual cluelessness of ordinary people leading lives too frantic for a moment’s reflection about anything, but the appalling institutional cluelessness of enterprises where you’d think combined intellects might tend toward a more faithful view of reality. 

But these days all we get is a low-order of wishful and clownish group-think, such as this item from today’s New York Times discussing a proposed reversal of Gazprom pipelines along the Ukraine / Slovakian frontier as the solution to the Kiev government’s fuel problem:
Nearly all the gas Washington and Brussels would like to get moving into Ukraine from Europe originally came from Russia, which pumps gas westward across Ukraine, into Slovakia and then on to customers in Germany and elsewhere. Once the gas is sold, however, Gazprom ceases to be its owner and loses its power to set the terms of its sale.
 Get that? To avoid depending on Russian gas, they’re going to buy Russian gas from sources other than Russia. What New York Times editor can read this story without spraying her video display with coffee? What genius in John Kerry’s “Haircut-in-Search-of-a-Brain” State Department dreamed up this dodge? 

Who would think that you could improve a Chinese fire drill by tacking on a Polish blanket trick (i.e. trying to make your blanket longer by cutting a foot from the top and sewing it onto the bottom).

The only conclusion the casual observer can come to is, to put it mildly, these institutions have gone completely meshugga. Since I follow the behavior of these organizations, I know that this is not an isolated example. 

For the State Department, the entire gambit in Ukraine has been a chain of obvious bungles and miscalculations, starting with our sponsored overthrow of the original elected Kiev government, and the absurd presumption that Russia had no legitimate interest in that region’s stability to the strategy of shoot-yourself-in-the-foot financial sanctions.  

The New York Times (once America’s “Newspaper of Record”), is now a completely unreliable conduit for un-parsed White House backgrounder propaganda and raw State Department spin, with an overlay of editorial PMS brain fog.

Another humdinger on a somewhat different issue caught my attention the other day in the formerly eminent, now degenerate journal Foreign Affairs (May / June 2014): The United States of Gas, by Robert Hefner III

This idiotic article in the current issue hits on all the usual wishful thinking delusions du jour concerning this country’s energy prospects, namely: due to fracking in shale deposits we’ve entered an energy-and-manufacturing renaissance, we’re soon-to-be the premier energy exporter to the world, and US “consumers” (i.e. citizens) can be assured of driving to WalMart forever — in other words, all economic problems solved. 

These idiots (editors and fact-checkers included) must get all their information straight out of the Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) PR handouts. CERA, of course, is the official public relations shop of the oil and gas industry.

It’s one thing that this article is patently misleading. What’s worse is the complete absence of any understanding of the fundamental dynamic between the high cost of unconventional oil and gas and its effect on capital formation. In other words, the capital investment for continued future drilling will simply not exist. What a surprise that will be to the people who run this land.

There comes a point in the destiny of a failing nation when official lying is no longer distinct from official stupidity. We’ve crossed that boundary in the USA. It pays to remember that societies get what they deserve, not what they expect.

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Ownership of the Anthropocene

SUBHEAD: The global sustainable food movement proves that if we accept the responsibility of a new epoch, we can find hope for the future.

By Sarah Elton on 29 April 2014 for Ensia.com -
(http://ensia.com/voices/time-to-take-ownership-of-the-anthropocene/)


Image above: Anthropocene network of telecommunications in North America visualized at night. From (http://ffffound.com/home/stevijn/found/?offset=400&).

Maybe you, too, know that feeling of despair that comes when learning of some catastrophic impact of climate change — a disappearing coral reef, an extinguished species, a rising coastline’s impact on struggling farmers.

A recent headline in the Guardian about the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report makes it hard to feel anything else: “Climate change a threat to security, food and humankind.

When I investigated the threats posed to our global food system by climate change and the environmental damage caused by industrial agriculture — as well what people are doing to fix these problems — for my book Consumed: Food for a Finite Planet, I became familiar with this feeling of doom.

I interviewed many scientists, such as U.S. Department of Agriculture plant physiologist Lewis Ziska, who has studied what higher levels of CO2 and warmer temperatures will mean for plant growth. (Spoiler alert: It’s the weeds, not crops, that will best thrive.)

Some of these scientists spoke only about their sobering findings, but others spoke openly of their feelings about the future. Many said they are pessimistic. One plant biologist even confessed such a fear of the future that she’d told her adult daughters not to have their own kids.

We may discuss the impact of climate change on the biosphere, but we don’t speak much about how it affects how we feel. I have cried quietly at my desk more than a few times. That is, until I found an antidote to the despair.

You see, there’s a flip side to the Anthropocene. On the one hand, the term speaks to the irreparable damage we have caused the biosphere. But if we embrace the term, rather than let it scare us, and accept that having a geological epoch named after us comes with responsibility, then we can find hope for the future.

Because once we accept that it is our job to steward this Earth that we’ve already shaped so profoundly, we can start taking action toward improving the prognosis.

One example of where this is already happening is with the cultivation of sustainable food systems.

Researching this global social movement, I met people in Yunnan, China, who are working with small rice farmers to stop using chemical pesticides and fertilizers and instead nurture the biodiversity of rice paddies.

In Lebanon, a man named Kamal Mouzawak has ignited an initiative to preserve the food traditions of his country and promote sustainable agriculture.

In Spain there are recently opened shepherd schools where a new generation of people learn how to care for the animals and the landscape, which in turn helps to keep rural regions alive, a vital part of a sustainable food system.

In Quebec, a group of farmers are preserving the biodiversity of livestock in the Charlevoix by bringing the Canadienne cattle breed back from the brink of extinction and making delicious new cheeses in the process. In Italy, officials hand over land confiscated from Mafia bosses to the community to grow vegetables.

In Nairobi, Kenya, young people are starting urban agriculture businesses and producing food to sell to their neighbors.

And all across North America, there are grassroots efforts to create a sustainable alternative to the industrial food system, from rooftop farms to urban gardens to pollinator habitat estoration.

Wherever I looked there were people working to make their corner of the world a better place for food. These are the stories that fill me with hope for the future despite that sinking feeling.

The cynic might say that when a journalist goes looking for stories about the rise of sustainable food systems, it’s not a coincidence that she finds people creating alternatives to industrial food. Sure, I found what I was looking for. However, the ubiquity of this movement — from the highlands of Yunnan to downtown Miami — indicates that there is something big happening.

It has led to the opening of farmers’ market after farmers’ market, urban garden after urban garden, community beehive after community beehive — one project inspiring the next and together equaling social change.

If you take a step back and thread these small efforts together, a larger, more robust picture of change emerges. This global movement has successfully lobbied for new food procurement policies at public institutions like universities and hospitals. It has motivated a new generation to take up sustainable agriculture, and new organizations such as FarmStart are educating them.

The movement has encouraged politicians to plant vegetables at city hall, such as in Kamloops, British Columbia, and inspired citizens to create food-producing parks such as Seattle’s Beacon Food Forest. Grassroots social action has also helped preserve farmland — witness France’s Terre de Liens, which is raising money from concerned citizens to buy land to be farmed sustainability and kept in trust.

It has led to the opening of farmers’ market after farmers’ market, urban garden after urban garden, community beehive after community beehive — one project inspiring the next and together equaling social change.

And this movement has pushed food policy issues into the global zeitgeist. There is a universal desire for good food and a concern for how this food is produced that cuts across culture and nationality. People have stopped waiting for government action on climate change and instead are trying to do something positive for the future.

Another person I met during my travels, a professor in Beijing, had helped a rice-growing village in her country become self-sufficient. After the small farmers, who grew organic rice, were connected with urbanites who wanted to pay for food they knew was safe from pollutants and contamination, villagers no longer needed to go to factories to earn money.

The night I spoke to the professor, she was despondent, feeling like what she had accomplished, in the grand scheme, was “very small. It doesn’t change life fundamentally.”

True, if you see each tiny effort in isolation, it does appear to be small. But taken together, these small efforts equal profound change — a positive response to the Anthropocene.

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Krugman's Growthism

SUBHEAD: Mainstream economists, including Krugman, need to free their thinking from dogmatic GDP growthism.

By Herman Daly on 30 April 2014 for The Daly News -
(http://steadystate.org/krugmans-growthism/)


Image above: Spreading the illth! Sinkhole near Carlsbad, NM, in area where hundreds of oil wells surrounds the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. WIPP was America's only nuclear waste repository that recently experienced a collapsed ceiling that crushed caskets of plutonium that has been escaping from the plant since last Valentine's Day. From (http://www.nckri.org/research/applied_science/sinkhole_formation.htm).

Paul Krugman often writes sensibly and cogently about economic policy. But like many economists, he can become incoherent on the subject of growth. Consider his New York Times piece, published earlier this month:
…let’s talk for a minute about the overall relationship between economic growth and the environment.

Other things equal, more G.D.P. tends to mean more pollution. What transformed China into the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases? Explosive economic growth. But other things don’t have to be equal. There’s no necessary one-to-one relationship between growth and pollution.
People on both the left and the right often fail to understand this point…On the left, you sometimes find environmentalists asserting that to save the planet we must give up on the idea of an ever-growing economy; on the right, you often find assertions that any attempt to limit pollution will have devastating impacts on growth…[Krugman says both are wrong]…But there’s no reason we can’t become richer while reducing our impact on the environment [emphasis mine].

Krugman distances himself from “leftist” environmentalists who say we must give up the idea of an ever-growing economy, and is himself apparently unwilling to give it up. But he thinks the “right-wingers” are wrong to believe that protecting the environment will devastate growth. Krugman then advocates the more sensible goal of “becoming richer,” but fails to ask if growth in GDP is any longer really making us richer. He seems to equate, or at least fails to distinguish, “growing GDP” from “becoming richer.”

Does he assume that because GDP growth did make us richer in yesterday’s empty world it must still do so in today’s full world? The usual but unjustified assumption of many economists is that a growing GDP increases measured wealth by more than it increases unmeasured “illth” (a word coined by John Ruskin to designate the opposite of wealth).

To elaborate, illth is a joint product with wealth. At the current margin, it is likely that the GDP flow component of “bads” adds to the stock of “illth” faster than the GDP flow of goods adds to the stock of wealth. We fail to measure bads and illth because there is no demand for them, consequently no market and no price, so there is no easy measure of negative value.

However, what is unmeasured does not for that reason become unreal. It continues to exist, and even grow. Since we do not measure illth, I cannot prove that growth is currently making us poorer, any more than Krugman can prove that it is making us richer. I am just pointing out that his GDP growthism assumes a proposition that, while true in the past, is very doubtful today in the US.

To see why it is doubtful, just consider a catalog of negative joint products whose value should be measured under the rubric of illth:
  • climate change from excess carbon in the atmosphere
  • radioactive wastes and risks of nuclear power plants
  • biodiversity loss; depleted mines; deforestation; 
  • eroded topsoil
  • dry wells, rivers and aquifers
  • the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico
  • gyres of plastic trash in the oceans
  • the ozone hole
  • exhausting and dangerous labor
And, of course, the un-repayable debt from trying to push growth in the symbolic financial sector beyond what is possible in the real sector (not to mention military expenditures to maintain access to global resources).

These negative joint products of GDP growth go far beyond Krugman’s minimal nondescript category of “pollution.” Not only are these public bads un-subtracted, but the private anti-bads they make necessary are added to GDP!

For example, the bad of eroded topsoil is not subtracted, but the anti-bad of fertilizer is added. The bad of Gulf and Arctic oil spills is not subtracted, but the anti-bad of clean-up is added. The natural capital depletion of mines, wells, forests, and fisheries is falsely accounted as income rather than capital draw-down.

Such asymmetric accounting alone is sufficient to refute growthism, but for good measure note that the growthists also neglect the most basic laws of economics, namely, the diminishing marginal benefit of income and increasing marginal cost of production.

Why do they think these two curves will never intersect?

Is Krugman just advocating temporary growth up to some level of optimality or sufficiency, or an ever-growing economy? If the latter, then either the surface of the Earth must grow at a rate approximating the rate of interest, or real GDP must become “angel GDP” with no physical dimension.

Krugman is correct that that there is no necessary “one-to-one relationship between growth and pollution.” But there certainly is a very strong positive correlation between real GDP growth and resource throughput (the entropic physical flow that begins with depletion and ends with pollution). Since when do economists dismiss significant correlations just because they are not “one-to-one”?

Probably we could indeed become richer (increase net wealth) while reducing our impact on the environment, as Krugman hopes. But it will be by reducing uneconomic growth (in throughput and its close correlate, GDP) rather than by increasing it. I would be glad if this were what Krugman has in mind, but I doubt that it is.

In any case, it would be good if he would specify whether he thinks current growth in real GDP is still economic in the literal sense that its benefits exceed its costs at the margin. What specifically makes him think this is so? In other words, is GDP growth currently making us richer or poorer, and how do we know?

Since GDP is a conflation of both costly and beneficial activity, should we not separate the cost and benefit items into separate accounts and compare them at the margin, instead of adding them together? How do we know that growth in GDP is a sensible goal if we do not know if the associated benefits are growing more or less rapidly than the associated costs?

Mainstream economists, including Krugman, need to free their thinking from dogmatic GDP growthism.

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Kicking the KIUC habit


SUBHEAD: When I asked KIUC to remove their line from my house they asked "Are you going to demolish the house?"

By Juan Wilson on 1 May 2014 for Island Breath -
(http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2014/05/kicking-kiuc-habit.html)

http://www.islandbreath.org/2014Year/05/140501solarroofbig.jpg
Image above: View from our metal roof of solar panels. Four panels in back support refrigeration. The eight panels in the foreground carry the house wiring. The panels at the rear left provide power to the master bedroom and bath lighting. Not seen unless you enlarge image is the solar hot water heater (front left), carport/shop lighting (left center), kitchen and 2nd bath lighting central right and computer & accesseries (far right). Note additional black panels will be relocated to shack in the upper center of enlarged image. Photos by Juan Wilson. Click to embiggen.

It has taken us over six years, but we have finally cut our home off the KIUC grid.  We started in the blind in early 2008 with a search on Amazon for an all-in-one system to buy. We stumbled on a full system provided by Chinese PV manufacturer SunForce. All that was needed in addition to the purchase was a 12 volt battery to charge. The hook was set and I began my internship and then apprenticeship in power production. It is an education like many others - it cost money.

Early Experiments
The system consisted of 4 - watt PV panels; a 7amp charge controller (to hook it to the battery); a 300 watt DC to AC power inverter (to be hooked up to battery. All the parts were there, including a PVC frame for the panels and all the cabling needed to set up the system. Back in the spring of 2008 the system cost about $250. It is still available at Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Sunforce-50048-60W-Solar-Charging/dp/B000CIADLG).

The unit cost about $230. Total for nine $2,000.

One thing that closed the deal was a review I read by Dmitry Orlov. I had been following is doomster blog Club Orlov for some time. I knew he lived on a sailboat and was preparing for an upcoming collapse. He wrote:
The panels themselves are well-made and produce more than the rated amount of juice. They arrived intact, sandwiched in slabs of styrofoam. I am happy with them. The voltage regulator works. The wiring, fan-in dongle, etc., are all reasonable. Everything else that came with the order is non-recyclable toxic waste - do with it what you will...
It almost seems like the panels and the charger are made by competent people, and everything else ("the kit") by a bunch of shit.
I bought this system (nine times over the years) and added better controllers and inverters and additional batteries over the next couple of years.

I found things I could reliably do and other things that did not go well at all - like trying to run my refrigerator with three serially linked portable power units. At Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Xantrex-802-1500-XPower-Portable-Powerpack/dp/B00005RHQQ/) each with 60 amp-hours of battery storage and a 1500watt AC power inverter.

The unit cost about $525 each. Total for three $1,575

The refrigerator ran for about an hour and a half before exhausting the batteries. Howevert I could keep a few lights and a radio running through the night.

I had spent grand total by 2010 about $3,500 .

Useful Power
So I tried all kinds of combinations of task with the equipment. I won't take you through all the experiments and dead ends I traveled trying toto take best advantage of what I bought. But I did put five small systems I built using these components that did useful work:
  1. Night lighting in our bedroom and master-bath.
  2. Lighting for my carport/workshop and laundry area.
  3. Power for our 2nd bathroom and kitchen table and under-counter lights.
  4. Power for a  21in iMac computer.
  5. Power for a living room light and small entertainment system.
There have been a several upgrades along the way. The first four systems are still operational, although only 1, 2 use the original Sunforce PV panels.The unused Sunforce panels will soon move on to lighting our studio shack out back and maybe our chicken house.

Just this week I finally tool the original Xantrex portable power units to the transfer center. I hadn't used them since 2012. Then all of them were used to power system 3. The inverters worked fine. However the sealed AGM 60amp-hour batteries couldn't hold a charge anymore. Someone with a need and the knowledge of bypassing the internal battery with a deep cycle battery of the shelf could still use them. I was moving on.

Amongst the upgrades, first it was for storage batteries and then controllers and inverters. System 3 and 4 now each have Blue Sky 25amp 12v controllers (http://www.amazon.com/Blue-Sky-Energy-2512iX-Controller/dp/B007S1EAY6/) for about $225  (subtotal $450) and new three new 110 watt 12v PV panels for about $100 each (subtotal $600). I added 12 deep cycle marine batteries at $120 each (subtotal $1,440).

Upgrade total cost $2,490
Running total up to 2012  $5,990

There were several useful power tasks getting done off the grid.

Refrigeration
Then in 2012 I decided to tackle the refrigerator and freezer power requirements. I was still pretty much a newbie to the dynamics of solar photo-voltaic technology.

But my estimates were that I should we able to handle my refrigeration needs with four 245watt 24volt PV panels.

Panels like that are available commonly online at Amazon for $400 each (http://www.amazon.com/Polycrystalline-Photovoltaic-Module--Battery-Charging/dp/B005LA0EV4).

The panels cost about $1,600.

Also needed were cables and a combiner box and miscellaneous hardware.

Add another $400. 

Since watts divided by volts equals amps, then 4 units of 245watts/24volts would gnerate about 41amps.

I bought a charge controller that could handle 50amps of current to charge my batteries. It was a Blue Sky Solar Boost SB50L 12/24V 50amp MPPT PV Charge Controller. At Amazon (http://www.gogreensolar.com/products/blue-sky-solar-boost-sb50l-12-24v-50amp-mppt-pv-charge-controller?gclid=CKmJn_fMi74CFQaBfgodDE0AUw).

The controller cost about $500. I think it is out of production but still available.

I decided to shop locally for batteries. I found Walmart sold a variety of deep cycle batteries for running boat accessories. Deep cycle batteries are built for a slow extended draw downs rather than starting cranking power needed for cars. At first I bought four 12 volt 115 amp-hour deep cycle marine batteries (the largest capacity Walmart carried in house). I set them up parallel-serial for 24volts. The system was not comfortable keeping my 18 cubic GE refrigerator and our 7 cubic foot bin freezer 24-7 until we added four more batteries.

The batteries cost about $120 each x 8 = about $1,000. 

The batteries power a Xantrex Prosine 1800watt 120ac power inverter that has two ground-default interrupt outlets (http://www.amazon.com/Xantrex-Statpower-Prosine-1800-GFCI/dp/B00HFBYYMW).

The inverter cost about $1,600.

So the bottom line was that to get refrigerator and freezer of the grid cost me about $5,000 in 2012.

Total for refrigeration $5,000
Running total to 2013 $10,990

Hooking up the Load Center
This is where we get serious. In 2013 I decided to invest in a system that would be big enough to power our current load center (breaker box). Something on the scale of a 100amp system. For some system equipment I had gone to Ron Castle at Sunshine Works (http://sunshineworks.com/). Over the years he has provided me a lot of good information.

I asked him to help me set up a system I could install myself. We worked out a budget and began the final lap in producing the power we (Linda and I) would be using in the future.

We ordered eight 245 watt 24 volt panels ($2,400) with a 50 amp Midnight Solarn combiner box ($200) leading to controller/inverter system by Outback FlexPower One ($3,500) hooked up to eight 405 amp-hour 6 volt deep cycle sealed AGM SunXtender  batteries ($5,600) with miscellaneous hardware, cables, racks, connectors etc. ($1,000).

Outback System Total of $12,700
Running total to 2014 of $23,690

With the help of a friend or two at various times we set up the panels on racks attached to the roof and wired them to the combiner box. We dropped the outgoing cable down through the carport roof to where the Outback system was mounted next to the load center on the wall against the house.

http://www.islandbreath.org/2014Year/05/140501outback.jpg
Image above:The Outback Flex Power One (above the skull) and over the eight battery array. The house load center is the dingy gray box over the light. Left is the dryer and right is the freezer.

Living with Less
The Outback unit has two 110VAC GFI outlets on it. At first once we powered up the system that's all I ran to a load to. I hooked up a strip with the washer and dryer as well as a couple of power tools to see how things would go. The Outback system fed the batteries and the batteries hardly blinked with the load.

We also shutoff the 240v heating coil in our hot water heater. The coil is a backup to the hot water solar panel on the roof. We needed to see if we would have enough hot water for doing dishes at night and taking showers in the morning without the coil.

That's because the Outback inverter only provides 120vac. There wouldn't be anymore 240volts available. It turned out we didn't need the coil.

After a few months running the system (including through last winter) it seemed like we were good to go for replacing KIUC as the power supplying electricity to the load center.

It was clear all we had to do was take one of the "hot" lines and the neutral line off the house side of the main power breaker and hook those two lines to the AC "hot" out and neutral bus on the Outback unit and we'd be free of KIUC. About a week before Earthday, April 22nd we did that.

The Outback system did fine handling the extra load of all the lighting in the house as well as the 24x7 load of our wifi system and wireless phones, as well as battery chargers etc.

The only problem has been some of the old wiring in the house that dates back to 1980. When running our big toaster oven or microwave the Outback detects a ground fault error and shuts down. We will probably have to have the old kitchen outlets replaced with GFI units. I may choose to replace the load center entirely.

Calling KIUC for Disconnect
Before Earthday I called KIUC for a disconnect. It's one of the first options in their call response system. Shantel answered the call and was quite efficient and pleasant getting an assignment arranged to remove the meter. I also asked her to remove the KIUC line from the house. Her response truly surprised me. She asked:

"Are you going to demolish the house?"
="No", I replied. I laughed because I realized that was the only reason she could think of to remove the grid from where you lived. Oa contraire.
When the KIUC truck came to unhook me from the grid and saw the Outback purring away in the carport he smiled and said simply:
"Good idea."

I watch the load on the six systems throughout the day and especially the night. I worry most about the evening lighting and entertainment load on the Outback system and the evening overnight load on the refrigerator system.

I choose to use lighting available from the smaller systems to offset the power needs on the breaker box the load center. I minimize the number of time and length of time the reefer door is open. I check the voltages on each system a couple of times before bed.

Sailing vs Power Boat
My experience so far tells me if your going to run close to the limits of your system it's better to have multiple systems that can substitute and provide power to each other. If you really lean of the reefer/freezer system batteries too much, before damaging them you can plug into a house outlet off the load center.

You can also shutoff the Outback system entirely for a few days and let your batteries get fully charged after three days of winter overcast. You may have to skimp on power but they'll be some lighting and something good in the fridge.

It's like sailing a boat, instead of driving a car. Trim the sails, check the sky, feel the waves. You're closer to the source of power - and responsible for it. Therefore, you have to be more careful with the use of power. It's on you!

I think it's going to work out. We will economize a bit but our life will be not much different. Of course eventually the batteries will need replacing. Then it might be difficult to afford or find replacements for them.

We may then be down to a smaller use of electricity - maybe even in time none - but by then we'll be use to it.

See also:
Island Breath: Dealing With Chaos 10/7/08
The last 6 months bought 3 60watt PV panel arrays that  feed into three small battery/inverter systems. Cost $1,800.
Ea O Ka Aina: Off-Grid Night Lighting 8/14/09
Off-the-shelf solar powered system for bedroom lighting for under $1,000.


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Time of the Seedbearers

SUBHEAD: If some achievements of our age are to be carried forward then the time of the seedbearers has arrived.

By John Michael Greer on 30 April 2014 for the Archdruid Report -
(http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2014/04/the-time-of-seedbearers.html)


Image above: "The Sower" by Vincent Van Gogh, 1888. From (http://www.escuelagabrielarcan.com.ar/?attachment_id=670).


Myths, according to the philosopher Sallust, are things that never happened but always are. With a few modifications, the same rule applies to the enduring narratives of every culture, the stories that find a new audience in every generation as long as their parent cultures last.

Stories of that stature don’t need to chronicle events that actually took place to have something profoundly relevant to say, and the heroic quest I used last week to frame a satire on the embarrassingly unheroic behavior of many of industrial civilization’s more privileged inmates is no exception to that rule.

That’s true of hero tales generally, of course. The thegns and ceorls who sat spellbound in an Anglo-Saxon meadhall while a scop chanted the deeds of Beowulf to the sound of a six-stringed lyre didn’t have to face the prospect of wrestling with cannibalistic ogres or battling fire-breathing dragons, and were doubtless well aware of that fact.

 If they believed that terrible creatures of a kind no longer found once existed in the legendary past, why, so do we—the difference in our case is merely that we call our monsters “dinosaurs,” and insist that our paleontologist-storytellers be prepared to show us the bones.

The audience in the meadhall never wondered whether Beowulf was a historical figure in the same sense as their own great-grandparents. Since history and legend hadn’t yet separated out in the thinking of the time, Beowulf and those great-grandparents occupied exactly the same status, that of people in the past about whom stories were told.

Further than that it was unnecessary to go, since what mattered to them about Beowulf was not whether he lived but how he lived. The tale’s original audience, it’s worth recalling, got up the next morning to face the challenges of life in dark age Britain, in which defending their community against savage violence was a commonplace event; having the example of Beowulf’s courage and loyalty in mind must have made that harsh reality a little easier to face.

The same point can be made about the hero tale I borrowed and rewrote in last week’s post, Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Frodo Baggins was no Beowulf, which was of course exactly the point, since Tolkien was writing for a different audience in a different age.

The experience of being wrenched out of a peaceful community and sent on a long march toward horror and death was one that Tolkien faced as a young man in the First World War, and watched his sons face in the Second. That’s what gave Tolkien’s tale its appeal: his hobbits were ordinary people facing extraordinary challenges, like so many people in the bitter years of the early twentieth century.

The contrast between Beowulf and The Lord of the Rings is precisely that between the beginning and the zenith of a civilization. Beowulf, like his audience, was born into an age of chaos and violence, and there was never any question of what he was supposed to do about it; the only detail that had to be settled was how many of the horrors of his time he would overcome before one of them finally killed him.

Frodo Baggins, like his audience, was born into a world that was mostly at peace, but found itself faced with a resurgence of a nightmare that everyone in his community thought had been laid to rest for good.

In Frodo’s case, the question of what he was going to do about the crisis of his age was what mattered most—and of course that’s why I was able to stand Tolkien’s narrative on its head last week, by tracing out what would have happened if Frodo’s answer had been different.

Give it a few more centuries, and it’s a safe bet that the stories that matter will be back on Beowulf’s side of the equation, as the process of decline and fall now under way leads into an era of dissolution and rebirth that we might as well call by the time-honored label “dark age.” For the time being, though, most of us are still on Frodo’s side of things, trying to come to terms with the appalling realization that the world we know is coming apart and it’s up to us to do something about it.

That said, there’s a crucial difference between the situation faced by Frodo Baggins and his friends in Middle-earth, and the situation faced by those of us who have awakened to the crisis of our time here and now. Tolkien was a profoundly conservative thinker and writer, in the full sense of that word. The plot engine of his works of adult fiction,

The Silmarillion just as much as The Lord of the Rings, was always the struggle to hold onto the last scraps of a glorious past, and his powers of evil want to make Middle-earth modern, efficient and up-to-date by annihilating the past and replacing it with a cutting-edge industrial landscape of slagheaps and smokestacks.

It’s thus no accident that Saruman’s speech to Gandalf in book two, chapter two of The Fellowship of the Ring is a parody of the modern rhetoric of progress, or that The Return of the King ends with a Luddite revolt against Sharkey’s attempted industrialization of the Shire; Tolkien was a keen and acerbic observer of twentieth-century England, and wove much of his own political thought into his stories.

The victory won by Tolkien’s protagonists in The Lord of the Rings, accordingly, amounted to restoring Middle-Earth as far as possible to the condition it was in before the War of the Ring, with the clock turned back a bit further here and there—for example, the reestablishment of the monarchy in Gondor—and a keen sense of loss surrounding those changes that couldn’t be undone.

That was a reasonable goal in Tolkien’s imagined setting, and it’s understandable that so many people want to achieve the same thing here and now: to preserve some semblance of industrial civilization in the teeth of the rising spiral of crises that are already beginning to tear it apart.

I can sympathize with their desire. It’s become fashionable in many circles to ignore the achievements of the industrial age and focus purely on its failures, or to fixate on the places where it fell short of the frankly Utopian hopes that clustered around its rise.

If the Enlightenment turned out to be far more of a mixed blessing than its more enthusiastic prophets liked to imagine, and if so many achievements of science and technology turned into sources of immense misery once they were whored out in the service of greed and political power, the same can be said of most human things.

 “If it has passed from the high and the beautiful to darkness and ruin,” Tolkien commented of a not dissimilar trajectory, “that was of old the fate of Arda marred.”

Still, the window of opportunity through which modern industrial civilization might have been able to escape its unwelcome destiny has long since slammed shut.

That’s one of the things I meant to suggest in last week’s post by sketching out a Middle-earth already ravaged by the Dark Lord, in which most of the heroes of Tolkien’s trilogy were dead and most of the things they fought to save had already been lost. Even with those changes, though, Tolkien’s narrative no longer fits the crisis of our age as well as it did a few decades back.

Our Ring of Power was the fantastic glut of energy we got from fossil fuels; we could have renounced it, as Tolkien’s characters renounced the One Ring, before we’d burnt enough to destabilize the climate and locked ourselves into a set of economic arrangements with no future...but that’s not what happened, of course.

We didn’t make that collective choice when it still could have made a difference: when peak oil was still decades in the future, anthropogenic climate change hadn’t yet begun to destabilize the planet’s ice sheets and weather patterns, and the variables that define the crisis of our age—depletion rates, CO2 concentrations, global population, and the rest of them—were a good deal less overwhelming than they’ve now become.

As The Limits to Growth pointed out more than four decades ago, any effort to extract industrial civilization from the trap it made for itself had to get under way long before the jaws of that trap began to bite, because the rising economic burden inflicted by the ongoing depletion of nonrenewable resources and the impacts of pollution and ecosystem degradation were eating away at the surplus wealth needed to meet the costs of the transition to sustainability.

That prediction has now become our reality. Grandiose visions of vast renewable-energy buildouts and geoengineering projects on a global scale, of the kind being hawked so ebulliently these days by the prophets of eternal business as usual, fit awkwardly with the reality that a great many industrial nations can no longer afford to maintain basic infrastructures or to keep large and growing fractions of their populations from sliding into desperate poverty.

The choice that I discussed in last week’s post, reduced to its hard economic bones, was whether we were going to put what remained of our stock of fossil fuels and other nonrenewable resources into maintaining our current standard of living for a while longer, or whether we were going to put it into building a livable world for our grandchildren.

The great majority of us chose the first option, and insisting at the top of our lungs that of course we could have both did nothing to keep the second from slipping away into the realm of might-have-beens. The political will to make the changes and accept the sacrifices that would be required to do anything else went missing in action in the 1980s and hasn’t been seen since.

That’s the trap that was hidden in the crisis of our age: while the costs of transition were still small enough that we could have met them without major sacrifice, the consequences of inaction were still far enough in the future that most people could pretend they weren’t there; by the time the consequences were hard to ignore, the costs of transition had become too great for most people to accept—and not too long after that, they had become too great to be met at all. .

As a commentary on our current situation, in other words, the story of the heroic quest has passed its pull date. As I noted years ago, insisting that the world must always follow a single narrative is a fertile source of misunderstanding and misery.

Consider the popular insistence that the world can grow its way out of problems caused by growth—as though you could treat the consequences of chronic alcoholism by drinking even more heavily!

What gives that frankly idiotic claim the appeal it has is that it draws on one of the standard stories of our age, the Horatio Alger story of the person who overcame long odds to make a success of himself. That does happen sometimes, which is why it’s a popular story; the lie creeps in when the claim gets made that this is always what happens.

When people insist, as so many of them do, that of course we’ll overcome the limits to growth and every other obstacle to our allegedly preordained destiny out there among the stars, all that means is that they have a single story wedged into their imagination so tightly that mere reality can’t shake it loose.

The same thing’s true of all the other credos I’ve discussed in recent posts, from “they’ll think of something” through “it’s all somebody else’s fault” right on up to “we’re all going to be extinct soon anyway so it doesn’t matter any more.”

Choose any thoughtstopper you like from your randomly generated Peak Oil Denial Bingo card, and behind it lies a single story, repeating itself monotonously over and over in the heads of those who can’t imagine the world unfolding in any other way.

The insistence that it’s not too late, that there must still be time to keep industrial civilization from crashing into ruin if only we all come together to make one great effort, and that there’s any reason to think that we can and will all come together, is another example.

The narrative behind that claim has a profound appeal to people nowadays, which is why stories that feature it—again, Tolkien’s trilogy comes to mind—are as popular as they are.

It’s deeply consoling to be told that there’s still one last chance to escape the harsh future that’s already taking shape around us. It seems almost cruel to point out that whether a belief appeals to our emotions has no bearing on whether or not it’s true.

The suggestion that I’ve been making since this blog first began eight years ago is that we’re long past the point at which modern industrial civilization might still have been rescued from the consequences of its own mistakes.

If that’s the case, it’s no longer useful to put the very limited resources we have left into trying to stop the inevitable, and it’s even less useful to wallow in wishful thinking about how splendid it would be if the few of us who recognize the predicament we’re in were to be joined by enough other people to make a difference.

If anything of value is to get through the harsh decades and centuries ahead of us, if anything worth saving is to be rescued from the wreck of our civilization, there’s plenty of work to do, and daydreaming about mass movements that aren’t happening and grand projects we can no longer afford simply wastes what little time we still have left.

That’s why I’ve tried to suggest in previous posts here that it’s time to set aside some of our more familiar stories and try reframing the crisis of our age in less shopworn ways.

There are plenty of viable options—plenty, that is, of narratives that talk about what happens when the last hope of rescue has gone whistling down the wind and it’s time to figure out what can be saved in the midst of disaster—but the one that keeps coming back to my mind is one I learned and, ironically, dismissed as uninteresting quite a few decades ago, in the early years of my esoteric studies: the old legend of the fall of Atlantis.

It’s probably necessary to note here that whether Atlantis existed as a historical reality is not the point.

While it’s interesting to speculate about whether human societies more advanced than current theory suggests might have flourished in the late Ice Age and then drowned beneath rising seas, those speculations are as irrelevant here as trying to fit Grendel and his mother into the family tree of the Hominidae, say, or discussing how plate tectonics could have produced the improbable mountain ranges of Middle-earth. Whatever else it might or might not have been, Atlantis is a story, one that has a potent presence in our collective imagination.

Like Beowulf or The Lord of the Rings, the Atlantis story is about the confrontation with evil, but where Beowulf comes at the beginning of a civilization and Frodo Baggins marks its zenith, the Atlantis story illuminates its end.

Mind you, the version of the story of Atlantis I learned, in common with most of the versions in circulation in occult schools in those days, had three details that you won’t find in Plato’s account, or in most of the rehashes that have been churned out by the rejected-knowledge industry over the last century or so.

First, according to that version, Atlantis didn’t sink all at once; rather, there were three inundations separated by long intervals. Second, the sinking of Atlantis wasn’t a natural disaster; it was the direct result of the clueless actions of the Atlanteans, who brought destruction on themselves by their misuse of advanced technology.

The third detail, though, is the one that matters here. According to the mimeographed lessons I studied back in the day, as it became clear that Atlantean technology had the potential to bring about terrifying blowback, the Atlanteans divided into two factions: the Children of the Law of One, who took the warnings seriously and tried to get the rest of Atlantean society to do so, and the Servants of the Dark Face, who dismissed the whole issue.

I don’t know for a fact that these latter went around saying “I’m sure the priests of the Sun Temple will think of something,” “orichalcum will always be with us,” “the ice age wasn’t ended by an ice shortage,” and the like, but it seems likely. Those of my readers who haven’t spent the last forty years hiding at the bottom of the sea will know instantly which of these factions spoke for the majority and which was marginalized and derided as a bunch of doomers.

According to the story, when the First Inundation hit and a big chunk of Atlantis ended up permanently beneath the sea, the shock managed to convince a lot of Atlanteans that the Children of the Law of One had a point, and for a while there was an organized effort to stop doing the things that were causing the blowback.

As the immediate memories of the Inundation faded, though, people convinced themselves that the flooding had just been one of those things, and went back to their old habits. When the Second Inundation followed and all of Atlantis sank but the two big islands of Ruta and Daitya, though, the same pattern didn’t repeat itself; the Children of the Law of One were marginalized even further, and the Servants of the Dark Face became even more of a majority, because nobody wanted to admit the role their own actions had had in causing the catastrophe. Again, those of my readers who have been paying attention for the last forty years know this story inside and out.

It’s what happened next, though, that matters most. In the years between the Second Inundation and the Third and last one, so the story goes, Atlantis was for all practical purposes a madhouse with the inmates in charge.

Everybody knew what was going to happen and nobody wanted to deal with the implications of that knowledge, and the strain expressed itself in orgiastic excess, bizarre belief systems, and a rising spiral of political conflict ending in civil war—anything you care to name, as long as it didn’t address the fact that Atlantis was destroying itself and that nearly all the Atlanteans were enthusiastic participants in the activities driving the destruction.

That was when the Children of the Law of One looked at one another and, so to speak, cashed out their accounts at the First National Bank of Atlantis, invested the proceeds in shipping, and sailed off to distant lands to become the seedbearers of the new age of the world.

That’s the story that speaks to me just now—enough so that I’ve more than once considered writing a fantasy novel about the fall of Atlantis as a way of talking about the crisis of our age. Of course that story doesn’t speak to everyone, and the belief systems that insist either that everything is fine or that nothing can be done anyway have no shortage of enthusiasts. If these belief systems turn out to be as delusional as they look, though, what then?

The future that very few people are willing to consider or prepare for is the one that history shows us is the common destiny of every other failed civilization: the long, bitter, ragged road of decline and fall into a dark age, from which future civilizations will eventually be born.

If that’s the future ahead of us, as I believe it is, the necessary preparations need to be made now, if the best achievements of our age are to be carried into the future when the time of the seedbearers arrives.

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