War on America - Jade Helm

SUBHEAD: When the elites wage war on America it will look like like a training program on our soil.

By Brandon Smith on 6 May 2015 for Alt-Market -
(http://www.alt-market.com/articles/2588-when-the-elites-wage-war-on-america-this-is-how-they-will-do-it)


Image above: US military on American street guarding a Subway franchise.  From original article.

The consequences and patterns of war, whether by one nation against another or by a government against the citizenry, rarely change. However, the methods of war have evolved vastly in modern times.

Wars by elites against populations are often so subtle that many people might not even recognize that they are under attack until it is too late. Whenever I examine the conceptions of “potential war” between individuals and oligarchy, invariably some hard-headed person cries out: “What do you mean ‘when?’ We are at war right now!”

In this case, I am not talking about the subtle brand of war. I am not talking about the information war, the propaganda war, the economic war, the psychological war or the biological war. I am talking about outright warfare, and anyone who thinks we have already reached that point has no clue what real war looks like.

The recent exposure of the nationwide Jade Helm 15 exercise has made many people suspicious, and with good reason. Federal crisis exercises have a strange historical tendency to suddenly coincide with very real crisis events. We may know very little about Jade Helm beyond government admissions, claims and misdirections.

But at the very least, we know what “JADE” is an acronym for: Joint Assistance for Deployment and Execution, a program designed to create action and deployment plans using computer models meant to speed up reaction times for military planners during a “crisis scenario.” I

t is linked with another program called ACOA (Adaptive Course of Action), the basis of which is essentially the use of past mission successes and computer models to plan future missions. Both are products of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

As far as I know, no one has presented any hard evidence as to what “HELM” really stands for, but the JADE portion of the exercise explicitly focuses on rapid force deployment planning in crisis situations, according to the government white paper linked above.

This fact alone brings into question statements by the Department of Defense that Jade Helm is nothing more than a training program to prepare military units for “foreign deployment.” This is clearly a lie if Jade Helm revolves around crisis events (which denotes domestic threats), rather than foreign operations.

Of course, if you also consider the reality that special operations forces ALWAYS train like they fight and train in environments similar to where they will fight, the entire notion of Jade Helm as a preparation for foreign theaters sounds absurd. If special operations forces are going to fight in Iraq, Iran or Syria, they go to training grounds in places like Kuwait.

If they are training in places like Fort Lauderdale, Florida (including “infiltration training”), then there is no way around the fact that they are practicing to fight somewhere exactly like Fort Lauderdale with a similar culture and population.

I would further note that Jade Helm exercises are also joint exercises with domestic agencies like the FBI and the DEA.  Again, why include domestic law enforcement agencies in a military exercise merely meant to prepare troops for foreign operations?  I often hear the argument that the military would never go along with such a program, but people who take this rather presumptive position do not understand crisis psychology.

In the event of a national catastrophe many military personnel and government employees may determine that they will do what is "best for them and their families".  And if following orders guarantees the security of their families (food security, shelter, etc), then they may very well follow any order, no matter how dubious.

Also, a large scale crisis could be used as a rationale for martial law; otherwise well meaning military men and women could be convinced that the loss of constitutional freedoms might be for the "greater good of the greater number".  I believe some military will indeed resist such efforts, but of course, Jade Helm may also be a method for vetting such uncooperative people before any live operation occurs.

So if Jade is actually a crisis-planning system for the military and the military is training for domestic operations, what is the crisis it is training to react to? It’s hard to say. I believe it will come down to an economic disaster, but our economic and social structures are so weak that almost any major event could trigger collapse.

Terror attacks, cyberattacks, pandemic, a stiff wind, you name it. The point is the government expects a crisis to occur. And with the advent of this crisis, the ultimate war on the American people will begin.


Video above: Max Boot describes modern use of guerrilla warfare From (https://youtu.be/WxMCcqRc9C0).

Why wait for a crisis situation? With the cover of a crisis event, opposition to power is more easily targeted. For my starting point on the elite war strategy, I would like to use the following presentation on guerrilla warfare by Max Boot, Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow and military adviser, at the elitist World Affairs Council.

I would first point out that Boot claims his work is merely a historical character study of interesting figures from the realm of insurgency and counterinsurgency and is not “polemical.” I’m afraid that I will have call horse hockey on that.

Boot is direct adviser to the Department of Defense. His work and this presentation were obviously a study of guerrilla tactics from the perspective of counterinsurgency and an attempt to explore strategic methods for controlling and eradicating guerrillas and “terrorists.”

Any defense the American people might muster against elitist dismantling of constitutional liberties would inevitably turn to "insurgency". So using CFR member Boot’s views on counterinsurgency as a guideline, here is how the elites will most likely wage open war on those within the American population who have the will to fight back.

Control Public Opinion
Boot stresses the absolute necessity for the control of public opinion in defeating an insurgency. Most of his analysis is actually quite accurate in my view in terms of successes versus failures of guerrilla movements. However, his obsession with public opinion is, in part, ill-conceived.

Boot uses the American Revolution as a supposed prime example of public opinion working against the ruling powers, claiming that it was British public opinion that forced parliament and King George III to pull back from further operations in the colonies.

Now, it is important to recognize that elitists have a recurring tendency to marginalize the success of the American Revolution in particular as being a “fluke” in the historical record. Boot, of course, completely overlooks the fact that the war had progressed far longer than anyone had predicted and that the British leadership suffered under the weight of considerable debts.

He also overlooks the fact that pro-independence colonials were far outnumbered by Tories loyal to the crown up to the very end of the war. The revolution was NEVER in a majority position, and public opinion was not on the revolutionaries’ side.

The very idea of the American Revolution is a bit of a bruise on the collective ego of the elites, and their bias leads them to make inaccurate studies of the event. The reality is that most revolutions, even successful ones, remain in a minority for most, if not all, of their life spans.

The majority of people do not participate in history.  Rather, they have a tendency to float helplessly in the tides, waiting to latch onto whatever minority movement seems to be winning at the time.

Boot suggests that had the Founding Fathers faced the Roman Empire rather than the British Empire, they would have been crucified and the rebellion would have immediately floundered because the Romans had no concern for public opinion. This is where we get into the real mind of the elitist.

For now, the establishment chooses to sway public opinion with carefully crafted disinformation. But what is the best way to deal with public opinion when fighting a modern revolution?

Remove public opinion as a factor entirely so that the power elite are free to act as viciously as they wish. Engineered crisis, and economic crisis in particular, create a wash of other potential threats, including high crime, looting, riots, starvation, international conflict, etc.

In such an environment, public opinion counts for very little, if people even pay attention at all to anything beyond their own desperation. Once this is achieved, the oligarchy has free reign to take morally questionable actions without fear of future blowback.

Control The Public
Another main tenet Boot describes as essential in defeating insurgency is the control of the general population in order to prevent a revolution from recruiting new members and to prevent them from using the crowd as cover. He makes it clear that control of the public does not mean winning the “hearts and minds” in a diplomatic sense, but dominating through tactical and psychological means.

He first presents the example of the French counterinsurgency in Algeria, stating that the French strategy of widespread torture, while “morally reprehensible,” was indeed successful in seeking out and destroying the insurgent leadership.

Where the French went wrong, however, was their inability to keep the torture campaign quiet. Boot once again uses the public opinion argument as the reason for the eventual loss of Algeria by the French.

What Boot seems to be suggesting is that systematic torture is viable, at least as a hypothetical strategy, as long as it remains undetected by the overall public. He also reiterates this indirectly in his final list of articles for insurgency and counterinsurgency when he states that “few counterinsurgencies (governments) have succeeded by inflicting mass terror, at least in foreign lands,” suggesting that mass terror may be an option against a domestic rebellion.

Boot then goes on to describe a more effective scenario, the British success against insurgents in Malaya. He attributes the British win against the rebellion to three factors:
  1. The British separated large portions of the population, entire villages, into concentration camps, surrounded by fences and armed guards. This kept the insurgents from recruiting from the more downtrodden or dissatisfied classes. And it isolated them into areas where they could be more easily engaged.
  2. The British used special operations forces to target specific rebel groups and leadership rather than attempting to maneuver through vast areas in a pointless Vietnam-style surge.
  3. The British made promises that appealed to the general public, including the promise of independence. This made the public more pliable and more willing to cooperate.
Now, I have no expectation whatsoever that the elites would offer the American public “independence” for their cooperation in battling a patriot insurgency, but I do think they would offer something perhaps more enticing: safety.

I believe the British/Malayan example given by Boot would be the main methodology for the elites and the federal government in the event that a rebellion arises in the U.S. against planned shifts away from constitutional republic or martial law instituted in the wake of a national emergency.

Isolate Population Centers
There is a reason why certain American cities are being buried in technologically sophisticated biometric surveillance networks, and I think the Malayan example holds the key. Certain cities (not all) could be turned into massive isolated camps, or “green zones.” They would be tightly controlled, and travel would be highly restricted. Food, shelter and safety would likely be offered, after a period of disaster has already been experienced.

A couple months of famine and lack of medication to the medically dependent would no doubt kill millions of people. Unprepared survivors would flock to these areas in the hopes of receiving aid. Government forces would confiscate vital supplies in rural areas whenever possible in order to force even more people to concentrate into controlled regions.

I have seen the isolation strategy in action in part, during the G20 summit in Pittsburgh. More than 4,000 police and National Guard troops locked down the city center, leaving only one route for travel. The first day, there were almost no protesters; most activists were so frightened by the shock-and-awe show of force that they would not leave their homes. This is the closest example I have personally experienced to a martial law cityscape.

Decapitate Leadership
The liberty movement has always been a leaderless movement, which makes the “night of long knives” approach slightly less effective. I do not see any immediate advantage to the elites in kidnapping or killing prominent members of the movement, though that does not mean they will not try it anyway. Most well-known liberty proponents are teachers, not generals or political firebrands. Teachers leave all their teachings behind, and no one needs generals or politicians. The movement would not necessarily be lost without us.

That said, there is a fear factor involved in such an event. The black-bagging of popular liberty voices could terrorize others into submission or inaction. This is why I constantly argue the need for individual leadership; every person must be able and willing to take individual action without direction in defense of his own freedoms, if the need arises. Groups should remain locally led, and national centralization of leadership should be avoided at all costs.

According to the very promoters of Jade Helm exercises, training will center on quick-reaction teams striking an area with helicopter support, then exfiltrating within 30 minutes or less. Almost every combat veteran I have spoken with concerning this style of training has said that it is used for “snatch and grab” — the capture or killing of high value targets, then exfiltration before the enemy can mount a response.

Fourth-Generation Warfare
The final method for war against the American people is one Boot does not discuss: the use of fourth-generation warfare. Some call this psychological warfare, but it is far more than that. Fourth-generation warfare is a strategy by which one section of a population you wish to control is turned against another section of the population you wish to control. It is warfare without the immediate use of armies.

Rather, the elites turn the enemy population against itself and allow internal war to do most of their work for them. We can see this strategy developing already in the U.S. in the manipulation of race issues and the militarization of police.

The use of provocateurs during unrest in places like Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore suggests that a race war is part of the greater plan. I believe law enforcement officials have also been given a false sense of invincibility. With military toys and federal funding, but poor tactical philosophies and substandard training, LEOs are being set up as cannon fodder when the SHTF.

Their inevitable failure will be used as a rationalization for more domestic military involvement; but in the meantime, Americans will be enticed to fight and kill each other while the elites sit back and watch the show.

4th Gen warfare also relies on fooling the target population into supporting measures that are secretly destructive to the people.

For example, liberty movement support for controlled opposition such as Russia or China, or liberty support for a military coup in which the top brass are elite puppets just like the Obama Administration. Think this sounds far fetched?  It has already happened in our recent history!  Marine Corp Major General Smedley Butler was hired by corporate moguls to lead a paid army in a coup against Franklin D. Roosevelt (also an elitist puppet) in 1933.

Butler luckily exposed the conspiracy before it ever got off the ground.  Both sides were controlled, but the coup if successful could have resulted in popular support for the expedient erosion of the Constitution, rather than a slow erosion which is what took place.  This is the epitome of 4th Gen tactics - make the people think they are winning, when they are actually helping you to defeat them.

Know Thy Enemy
I have outlined the above tactics not because I necessarily think they will prevail, but because it is important that we know exactly what we are dealing with in order to better defend ourselves. Such methods can be countered with community preparedness, the avoidance of central leadership, the application of random actions rather than predictable actions, etc.

Most of all, liberty champions will have to provide a certain level of safety and security for the people around them if they want to disrupt establishment efforts to lure or force the population into controlled regions. Crisis is the best weapon the elites have at their disposal, and exercises like Jade Helm show that they may use that weapon in the near term.

The defense that defeats crisis is preparation — preparation not just for yourself, but for others around you. War is coming, and while we can’t know the exact timing, we can assume the worst and do our best to be ready for it as quickly as possible.



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Failure of the Central Valley

SUBHEAD: California’s drought could upend America’s production of fruits, nuts and vegetables.

By Natasha Geiling on 5 May 2015 for Think Progress  -
(http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2015/05/05/3646965/california-drought-and-agriculture-explainer/)


Image above: Irrigation in the Central Valley. Without it this would be a desert. From original article.

On April 1, California Governor Jerry Brown stood in a field in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, beige grass stretching out across an area that should have been covered with five feet of snow. The Sierra’s snowpack — the frozen well that feeds California’s reservoirs and supplies a third of its water — was just eight percent of its yearly average. That’s a historic low for a state that has become accustomed to breaking drought records.

In the middle of the snowless field, Brown took an unprecedented step, mandating that urban agencies curtail their water use by 25 percent, a move that would save some 500 billion gallons of water by February of 2016 — a seemingly huge amount, until you consider that California’s almond industry, for example, uses more than twice that much water annually. Yet Brown’s mandatory cuts did not touch the state’s agriculture industry.

Agriculture requires water, and large-scale agriculture, like that in California, requires large amounts of water. So when Governor Brown came under fire for exempting farmers from the mandatory cuts — farmers use 80 percent of the state’s available water — he was unmoved.

“They’re not watering their lawn or taking long showers,” he told ABC’s “The Week” the Sunday after he announced the restrictions. “They’re providing most of the fruits and vegetables of America to a significant part of the world.”

Almonds get a lot of the attention when it comes to California’s agriculture and water, but the state is responsible for a dizzying diversity of produce. Eaten a salad recently? Odds are the lettuce, carrots, and celery came from California.

Have a soft spot for stone fruit? California produces 84 percent of the country’s fresh peaches and 94 percent of the country’s fresh plums. It produces 99 percent of the artichokes grown in the United States, and 94 percent of the broccoli. As spring begins to creep in, almost half of asparagus will come from California.
“California is running through its water supply because, for complicated historical and climatological reasons, it has taken on the burden of feeding the rest of the country,” Steven Johnson wrote in Medium, pointing out that California’s water problems are actually a national problem — for better or for worse, the trillions of gallons of water California agriculture uses annually is the price we all pay for supermarket produce aisles stocked with fruits and vegetables.

Up to this point, feats of engineering and underground aquifers have made the drought somewhat bearable for California’s farmers. But if dry conditions become the new normal, how much longer can — and should — California’s fields feed the country? And if they can no longer do so, what should the rest of the country do?

“It’s Not Just A California Drought Problem, It’s A Problem With Our Whole Food System”

In 2014, some 500,000 acres of farmland lay fallow in California, costing the state’s agriculture industry $1.5 billion in revenue and 17,000 seasonal and part time jobs. Experts believe the total acreage of fallowed farmland could double in 2015 — and that news has people across the country thinking about food security.

“When you look at the California drought maps, it’s a scary thing,” Craig Chase, who leads the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture’s Marketing and Food Systems Initiative at Iowa State University, told ThinkProgress. “We’re all wondering where the food that we want to eat is going to come from. Is it going to come from another state inside the U.S.? Is it going to come from abroad? Or are we going to grow it ourselves?

That’s the question that we need to start asking ourselves.”
The California Central Valley, which stretches 450 miles between the Sierra Nevadas and the California Coast Range, might be the single most productive tract of land in the world.

From its soil springs 230 varieties of crops so diverse that their places of botanical origin range from Southeast Asia to Mexico. It produces two thirds of the nation’s produce, and, like Atlas with an almond on his back, 80 percent of the world’s almonds. If you’ve eaten anything made with canned tomatoes, there’s a 94 percent chance that they were planted and picked in the Central Valley.

Some crops will always be grown in California. The Napa Valley, where a history of earthquakes has resulted in 14 different microclimates perfect for wine, is a truly unique place for growing grapes.

The maligned almond is a great crop for California — it needs brief, cold winters and long, dry summers, and produces more value than it uses water, something rare for crops. Realistically, there aren’t many places in the world better suited to growing almonds than California.

But a lot of the things that California produces in such stunning numbers — tomatoes, lettuce, celery, carrots — can be grown elsewhere. Before the 20th century, the majority of produce consumed in the United States came from small farms that grew a relatively diverse number of crops.

Fruit and vegetable production was regional, and varieties were dictated by the climate of those areas.

“There may be reason for the citrus and some of the nuts that are uniquely suited to the Mediterranean climate, but there’s no real reason that you have to produce all the fruits and vegetables. Those were grown other places before California came in,” John Ikerd, professor emeritus of Agricultural & Applied Economics University of Missouri Columbia, told ThinkProgress.

Ikerd, who taught agricultural economics before becoming an advocate for sustainable farming, grew up in rural Missouri, where he estimates that the majority of the food he ate came from within 50 miles of his home. At that time, the Midwest was still covered with small and mid-sized farms growing a diverse portfolio of crops.

Ikerd described a tomato cannery in the town where he grew up, built to process the tomatoes grown in the farms from the surrounding area. Orchards, too, were once plentiful throughout the Midwest, growing apples and fruit for markets both local and national.

But the tomato canneries and the orchards that Ikerd remembers have largely disappeared, replaced by fields upon fields of corn and soybeans, commodity crops that government subsidies help make the quickest, fastest way to profit in the Midwest.

From 1996 until the most recent version of the Farm Bill, farmers that grew commodity crops like corn and soil were actually prohibited from also growing specialty crops like fruits and vegetables on their land. Anyone who grew a specialty crop on land meant for subsidized commodity crops would have to forfeit their subsidy and pay a penalty equal to the market value of whatever specialty crop they grew, a policy that did little to discourage farmers in the Midwest from becoming large producers of one or two commodity crops.

The U.S. government spent almost $84.5 billion dollars subsidizing corn between 1995 and 2012, and a good portion of corn crops does not make it to a plate, instead used as ethanol or feed for livestock.

Of the corn that is intended for consumption, much of it ends up as high fructose corn syrup, which is now so ubiquitous it encourages maximizing the yield of corn at the expense of agricultural diversity. From 2002 to 2012, the amount of land dedicated to growing the nation’s top 25 vegetables fell from 1.9 million acres to 1.8 million. In the same amount of time, corn production grew from 79 million acres to 97 million.

“The deeper people look at it, they’ll see it’s a deeper part of the whole,” Ikerd says. “It’s not just a California drought problem, it’s a problem with our whole food system.”
A map showing where various crops are grown across the U.S.

In 2010, the Leopold Center at Iowa State University ran some numbers to figure out what would happen if a small stretch of Midwestern farmland — just 270,000 acres — was used to grow vegetables instead of corn or soybeans. They found that diversifying even that small amount of land — basically the amount of cropland in an average Iowa county — across six Midwestern states would yield almost enough produce to supply all the residents of Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota for the entire year.

But that conversion is easier said than done, according to Chase. Farming corn requires a completely different infrastructure than farming produce, and he doesn’t see farmers jumping to replace their crops and machinery with California still capable of producing fruits and vegetables. Equipment for corn or soy farming can cost upwards of $100,000, a financial commitment that encourages farmers to grow crops that are easy to plant and harvest with the machinery.

“It’s not a land issue and it’s not a soil quality issue,” Chase said. “A lot of it is an infrastructure issue or a labor issue, particularly with those products that are so extremely labor intensive.”
Matt Kroul, co-owner of Kroul Farms in Mt. Vernon, Iowa, explains that for farmers — stereotypically a stubborn bunch — changing what’s grown can be difficult.

Kroul farms 1,200 acres that have been in his family since the 1800s; for decades, his grandfather and grandmother farmed corn and soy, but the farm crisis of 1980 forced Kroul’s father to diversify their enterprise. Today, the farm produces a mix of commodity crops and seasonal produce, which it sells both directly to consumers via markets and a farmstand, and to local restaurants.

Kroul feels fortunate that the farm was both small enough to be able to adapt to new crops and well-connected enough within the community to find a consumer base, but he acknowledges that in Iowa, this isn’t the case for everyone.

“You’d love to see it change, you’d love to see consumers drive that market to push more local foods,” Kroul said, but he worries that large-scale commodity farmers won’t want to change what they’ve always done. “Farmers are going to continue to grow what they’ve always grown. It’s a slippery slope in their mind to turn some acres over to vegetable and other growth.”

But Ikerd believes that the system can — and must — adapt to changing conditions. He remembers a time when fruit trees dotted the Midwest, and he also remembers watching as they were steadily replaced by large operations growing corn or soy or both. The system we have now, Ikerd says, was all built in the last 50 years. And he thinks a more sustainable system could be put in place just as quickly.

“This System Was A Fantasy”

Why do we grow so much of our produce in one place? And why California?

“There’s plenty of good soil elsewhere,” Richard Walker, professor emeritus of geography at the University of California, Berkeley, told ThinkProgress. “But it’s the ability to put water on [that soil] over a long, dry summer that allows you to get very quick results.”

When it comes to irrigation, California is a powerhouse. Some 9 million acres of farmland are irrigated each year, making California the state with the second-largest amount of irrigated land (behind Nebraska).

But it wasn’t always like that. Back in the early days before California’s modern agriculture — during the mining boom of the mid-1800s — the state’s primary crops were wheat and corn. Farmers grew the grain without irrigation, finding that California’s short, rainy winters, long, hot summers, and nutrient-rich soil created the perfect growing conditions without the need for extra water.

By the 1890s, however, the intense grain industry had depleted the soil, and California’s farmers were forced to find another crop.

With a Mediterranean climate, California has always been particularly well-suited to growing produce.

Toward the turn of the 20th century, fruit and vegetable production in the state exploded in growth, helped along by the transcontinental railroad, which could carry California’s produce — fresh, frozen, or canned — to East Coast markets where it fetched a handsome price. Between the 1880s and the 1930s, the amount of cropland dedicated to fruits and vegetables increased ten times over — and most of that depended on irrigation.

At first, irrigation projects were small, created by organizations of farmers banding together to build small local dams on small local rivers.

By the 1930s, Walker says, all the best, most naturally fertile land had been developed — but demand for dependable year-round produce was only increasing, thanks to the rise of supermarkets and shrewd advertising from California agribusiness. So, farmers turned their eyes to something bigger.

“A water system grew with the rise of the state to economic prominence, from individual projects to irrigation districts and colonies to state-engineered projects,” Steven Stoll, associate professor of history at Fordham University, told ThinkProgress. “Their rising political power ensured that they would get the water they needed — no matter what.”

These big projects — sponsored by both the state and federal government — brought water to unexpected places, like the Westlands, a barren area southwest of Fresno that has historically received around eight inches of rain annually.

By most accounts, the Westlands could be classified as a desert. It was instead transformed into farmland by funneling water in from San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta to meet the demands of industry.

“But here is the point — the water existed. It flowed out of the Sierra up and down the Central Valley. It only needed to be captured, stored, and directed,” Stoll says. The Westlands became farmland at a certain point in the history of California agriculture where massive engineering projects were the solution to any problem.

As long as water continued to flow from the Sierras, human ingenuity — and water from the Sacramento and Colorado Rivers — was all that was needed to bring that water to the fields.

“Human societies for the last 10,000 years have arisen on that same assumption — climatic stability, the continuation of certain trends indefinitely,” Stoll says. “No one could have known, or only few did, that fossil fuels had the capacity of changing those conditions.”

As Walker sees it, California agribusiness, for a long time, has dealt with problems through engineering. But now — after a century of diverting rivers — there’s simply less surface water to work with.

“It turns out that you can’t overcome all the problems with engineering,” Walker says. “You don’t even need climate change to know that this system was a fantasy.”

Alongside surface water, farmers can access groundwater, natural aquifers that have been soaking up water that falls in California — as rain or as snow — for thousands of years. Within the complicated web of water rules in California, groundwater is a complete free-for-all — anyone who taps it can use it.

In an average year, water from underground aquifers supplies California with 30 to 40 percent of the state’s water supply — in drought years, that number jumps to 60 percent. This year, that number could be as high as 75 percent.

But groundwater takes thousands of years to fill up, and California farmers are being forced to drill deeper and deeper — sometimes thousands of feet into the Earth — to find groundwater for their farms. That deep drilling is beginning to mar the California landscape, lowering water tables and causing the ground to sink.

Shallow wells are being sucked dry by those with the resources to drill deeper, and communities are being deprived of their groundwater safety nets. According to the New York Times, the depletion of groundwater has terminally damaged California’s soil, lessening its ability to reabsorb and store water in the future.

Last fall, the California legislature addressed the problem of overpumping groundwater, passing a bill that forces communities to regulate the extraction of water from underground aquifers. It was a big moment, the first time in the state’s history that anyone had dared to place restrictions on groundwater use.

But it was also a bill that, in a lot of ways, fell short of actually fixing the problem: communities are given years, decades even, to formulate their plans for replenishing and conserving groundwater, meaning that many of the effects of the bill won’t be felt until 2040.

“There’s no more water in the system,” Walker says. “That’s what they have to realize. Where’s the water you’re going to pump this year? It’s not there.”

Taking Pressure Off California With A Regionalized Food System

In 2013, the USDA published a report looking at the impact of climate change on the United State’s agriculture — a comprehensive overview of available literature meant to serve as an input to the National Climate Assessment.

Climate change, the report concluded, would fundamentally alter the way that crops and livestock are raised in this country. Crops that depend on irrigation would be especially vulnerable as both increasing temperatures and changing precipitation patterns place stress on water resources.

“Some U.S. agricultural systems, such as those currently operating at their southern marginal limit or those that currently depend on irrigation, will have to undergo more transformative changes to remain productive and profitable,” the report read.

California has a finite amount of water to split between a seemingly infinite number of needs: from drinking water to residential lawns, swimming pools to protected streams, almond trees to alfalfa sprouts. For decades, irrigation and ground water have been enough to transform otherwise unsuitable areas into productive farmland.

The Midwest could specialize in commodity crops because specialty crops could be — and were — grown easier elsewhere.

Climate change is altering that balance. Though evidence connecting the current drought to climate change is the subject of debate, studies show that man-made climate change certainly won’t help the situation. A recent study out of Stanford found that human emissions increase the probability of the low-precipitation, high-temperature conditions that have made this drought so tough.

Another study from NASA also found that if emissions continue to increase, the American Southwest has an 80 percent chance of facing a multi-decade megadrought from 2050 through the end of the century.

Mike Hamm, director of the Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems, hopes that those projections — of more frequent and longer-lasting droughts — don’t come true. He hopes that California can still produce as many fruits and vegetables in 30 years as it does now — but he also thinks that, to safeguard our food system, we need to move toward a more regionalized system of production.

“We need California production as long as and as much as it can be contained, and we need to regionalize production of fruit and vegetables as much as we can, in part to take water pressure off of California and in part to take pressure off of developing countries where we get fruits and vegetables from,” Hamm told ThinkProgress. Michigan, Hamm says, is already fairly well-situated for regional, diverse produce. Places like Iowa, that have seen their land consumed by large commodity farms, would face a more difficult transition.

“They neither have the land that is producing it, nor do they have the human capital,” Hamm says. “On the other hand, historically, in a place like Iowa, they had a very diverse agriculture with a lot of fruits and vegetables, which says that they have the climatic and environmental capacity to do it.”

To switch from a single crop to a diverse portfolio might seem daunting, but it’s change that has already begun to happen elsewhere. Thirty years ago, late spring would have signaled the beginning of the growing season for the most predominant crop in western North Carolina: tobacco, which had been grown in the region since the late 1600s.

Federal quotas instated as part of the New Deal assured farmers a minimum price for their product in exchange for a set yield, a program that gave small farmers a measure of security for growing a high-value but labor-intensive crop. In 2002, the tobacco industry in North Carolina accounted for $800 million — roughly 12 percent of the state’s agricultural revenue.

That all changed in 2004, when quotas were phased out as part of a President George W. Bush’s American Jobs Creation Act.

“It was a big change, like a hurricane coming through,” Charlie Jackson, executive director of the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP), told ThinkProgress, explaining that three decades ago, western North Carolina had some 7,000 tobacco farms — according to the 2012 census, that number is down to 94.

But farming didn’t disappear in western North Carolina — instead, it transitioned, diversifying to produce fruits and vegetables for local markets with the help of ASAP. From 2002 to 2012, the number of farms in the area fell from 12,212 to 10,912, but the number of farms selling produce directly to the local community increased from 740 farms to 1,190.

Instead of sales dropping with the decline of the tobacco industry, sales to consumers actually grew over $5,000 during that time.

According to an ASAP report, by switching from tobacco to produce, farmers in the southern Appalachia’s could provide local communities with almost 40 percent of their yearly fruit and vegetable needs.

If the tobacco quotas had remained in place, Jackson says, the switch to regional produce farming might have been slower. “My guess is that there would still be a lot of farms growing tobacco,” he said.

Western North Carolina, in a way, was already primed for the transition to supplying diverse produce to the region. Because of the area’s mountainous geography, farms were already small, and they occupied different climatic regions, from 1,000 to 5,000 feet in altitude.

Farmers in North Carolina hadn’t invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in specialized farming infrastructure, so they were more free, in a sense, to adapt to the changes ushered in by the end of tobacco quotas.
“It’s really an interesting thing, where something that could have been disastrous ends up being transformative,” Jackson said.

So will the California drought be disastrous, or transformative? Ask John Ikerd what he thinks, and he leans toward transformation.

“I’m not really pessimistic. If we decide we want to change agriculture, I think it’s quite conceivable that we can recreate this whole food system,” he said. “We just need to wake up to the fact that we’ve got a problem and start working on it. Once we do that, the solutions are there.”

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Whisper of the Shutoff Valve

SUBHEAD: Outside that narrowing circle of elites the number of economic nonpersons will grow steadily - one shutoff notice at a time.

By John Michael Greer on 6 May 2015 for Archdruid Report - 
(http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2015/05/the-whisper-of-shutoff-valve.html)


Image above: Detroit home site without water to fight fires. From article claiming it is a human right to be able to access clean water wherever it is available (http://www.forwardprogressives.com/detroit-water-shut-violation-human-rights/).

Last week’s post on the impending decline and fall of the internet fielded a great many responses. That was no surprise, to be sure; nor was I startled in the least to find that many of them rejected the thesis of the post with some heat. Contemporary pop culture’s strident insistence that technological progress is a clock that never runs backwards made such counterclaims inevitable.

Still, it’s always educational to watch the arguments fielded to prop up the increasingly shaky edifice of the modern mythology of progress, and the last week was no exception. A response I found particularly interesting from that standpoint appeared on one of the many online venues where Archdruid Report posts appear.

One of the commenters insisted that my post should be rejected out of hand as mere doom and gloom; after all, he pointed out, it was ridiculous for me to suggest that fifty years from now, a majority of the population of the United States might be without reliable electricity or running water.

I’ve made the same prediction here and elsewhere a good many times. Each time, most of my readers or listeners seem to have taken it as a piece of sheer rhetorical hyperbole. The electrical grid and the assorted systems that send potable water flowing out of faucets are so basic to the rituals of everyday life in today’s America that their continued presence is taken for granted

At most, it’s conceivable that individuals might choose not to connect to them; there’s a certain amount of talk about off-grid living here and there in the alternative media, for example. That people who want these things might not have access to them, though, is pretty much unthinkable.

Meanwhile, in Detroit and Baltimore, tens of thousands of residents are in the process of losing their access to water and electricity.

The situation in both cities is much the same, and there’s every reason to think that identical headlines will shortly appear in reference to other cities around the nation. Not that many decades ago, Detroit and Baltimore were important industrial centers with thriving economies. Along with more than a hundred other cities in America’s Rust Belt, they were thrown under the bus with the first wave of industrial offshoring in the 1970s.

The situation for both cities has only gotten worse since that time, as the United States completed its long transition from a manufacturing economy producing goods and services to a bubble economy that mostly produces unpayable IOUs.

These days, the middle-class families whose tax payments propped up the expansive urban systems of an earlier day have long since moved out of town. Most of the remaining residents are poor, and the ongoing redistribution of wealth in America toward the very rich and away from everyone else has driven down the income of the urban poor to the point that many of them can no longer afford to pay their water and power bills.

City utilities in Detroit and Baltimore have been sufficiently sensitive to political pressures that large-scale utility shutoffs have been delayed, but shifts in the political climate in both cities are bringing the delays to an end; water bills have increased steadily, more and more people have been unable to pay them, and the result is as predictable as it is brutal.

The debate over the Detroit and Baltimore shutoffs has followed the usual pattern, as one side wallows in bash-the-poor rhetoric while the other side insists plaintively that access to utilities is a human right. Neither side seems to be interested in talking about the broader context in which these disputes take shape. There are two aspects to that broader context, and it’s a tossup which is the more threatening.

The first aspect is the failure of the US economy to recover in any meaningful sense from the financial crisis of 2008. Now of course politicians from Obama on down have gone overtime grandstanding about the alleged recovery we’re in. I invite any of my readers who bought into that rhetoric to try the following simple experiment.

Go to your favorite internet search engine and look up how much the fracking industry has added to the US gross domestic product each year from 2009 to 2014. Now subtract that figure from the US gross domestic product for each of those years, and see how much growth there’s actually been in the rest of the economy since the real estate bubble imploded.

What you’ll find, if you take the time to do that, is that the rest of the US economy has been flat on its back gasping for air for the last five years.

What makes this even more problematic, as I’ve noted in several previous posts here, is that the great fracking boom about which we’ve heard so much for the last five years was never actually the game-changing energy revolution its promoters claimed; it was simply another installment in the series of speculative bubbles that has largely replaced constructive economic activity in this country over the last two decades or so.

What’s more, it’s not the only bubble currently being blown, and it may not even be the largest.

We’ve also got a second tech-stock bubble, with money-losing internet corporations racking up absurd valuations in the stock market while they burn through millions of dollars of venture capital.

We’ve got a student loan bubble, in which billions of dollars of loans that will never be paid back have been bundled, packaged, and sold to investors just like all those no-doc mortgages were a decade ago; car loans are getting the same treatment; the real estate market is fizzing again in many urban areas as investors pile into another round of lavishly marketed property investments. Well, I could go on for some time.

It’s entirely possible that if all the bubble activity were to be subtracted from the last five years or so of GDP, the result would show an economy in freefall.

Certainly that’s the impression that emerges if you take the time to check out those economic statistics that aren’t being systematically jiggered by the US government for PR purposes.

The number of long-term unemployed in America is at an all-time high; roads, bridges, and other basic infrastructure is falling to pieces; measurements of US public health—generally considered a good proxy for the real economic condition of the population—are well below those of other industrial countries, heading toward Third World levels

Abandoned shopping malls litter the landscape while major retailers announce more than 6000 store closures. These are not things you see in an era of economic expansion, or even one of relative stability; they’re markers of decline.

The utility shutoffs in Detroit and Baltimore are further symptoms of the same broad process of economic unraveling. It’s true, as pundits in the media have been insisting since the story broke, that utilities get shut off for nonpayment of bills all the time. It’s equally true that shutting off the water supply of 20,000 or 30,000 people all at once is pretty much unprecedented.

Both cities, please note, have had very large populations of poor people for many decades now.

Those who like to blame a “culture of poverty” for the tangled relationship between US governments and the American poor, and of course that trope has been rehashed by some of the pundits just mentioned, haven’t yet gotten around to explaining how the culture of poverty all at once inspired tens of thousands of people who had been paying their utility bills to stop doing so.

There are plenty of good reasons, after all, why poor people who used to pay their bills can’t do so any more. Standard business models in the United States used to take it for granted that the best way to run the staffing dimensions of any company, large or small, was to have as many full-time positions as possible and to use raises and other practical incentives to encourage employees who were good at their jobs to stay with the company.

That approach has been increasingly unfashionable in today’s America, partly due to perverse regulatory incentives that penalize employers for offering full-time positions, partly to the emergence of attitudes in corner offices that treat employees as just another commodity. (I doubt it’s any kind of accident that most corporations nowadays refer to their employment offices as “human resource departments.” What do you do with a resource? You exploit it.)

These days, most of the jobs available to the poor are part-time, pay very little, and include nasty little clawbacks in the form of requirements that employees pay out of pocket for uniforms, equipment, and other things that employers used to provide as a matter of course.

Meanwhile housing prices and rents are rising well above their post-2008 dip, and a great many other necessities are becoming more costly—inflation may be under control, or so the official statistics say, but anyone who’s been shopping at the same grocery store for the last eight years knows perfectly well that prices kept on rising anyway.

So you’ve got falling incomes running up against rising costs for food, rent, and utilities, among other things. In the resulting collision, something’s got to give, and for tens of thousands of poor Detroiters and Baltimoreans, what gave first was the ability to keep current on their water bills. Expect to see the same story playing out across the country as more people on the bottom of the income pyramid find themselves in the same situation.

What you won’t hear in the media, though it’s visible enough if you know where to look and are willing to do so, is that people above the bottom of the income pyramid are also losing ground, being forced down toward economic nonpersonhood. From the middle classes down, everyone’s losing ground.

That process doesn’t continue any further than the middle class, to be sure. It’s been pointed out repeatedly that over the last four decades or so, the distribution of wealth in America has skewed further and further out of balance, with the top 20% of incomes taking a larger and larger share at the expense of everybody else.

That’s an important factor in bringing about the collision just described. Some thinkers on the radical fringes of American society, which is the only place in the US you can talk about such things these days, have argued that the raw greed of the well-to-do is the sole reason why so many people lower down the ladder are being pushed further down still.

Scapegoating rhetoric of that sort is always comforting, because it holds out the promise—theoretically, if not practically—that something can be done about the situation. If only the thieving rich could be lined up against a convenient brick wall and removed from the equation in the time-honored fashion, the logic goes, people in Detroit and Baltimore could afford to pay their water bills!

I suspect we’ll hear such claims increasingly often as the years pass and more and more Americans find their access to familiar comforts and necessities slipping away. Simple answers are always popular in such times, not least when the people being scapegoated go as far out of their way to make themselves good targets for such exercises as the American rich have done in recent decades.

John Kenneth Galbraith’s equation of the current US political and economic elite with the French aristocracy on the eve of revolution rings even more true than it did when he wrote it back in 1992, in the pages of The Culture of Contentment.

The unthinking extravagances, the casual dismissal of the last shreds of noblesse oblige, the obsessive pursuit of personal advantages and private feuds without the least thought of the potential consequences, the bland inability to recognize that the power, privilege, wealth, and sheer survival of the aristocracy depended on the system the aristocrats themselves were destabilizing by their actions—it’s all there, complete with sprawling overpriced mansions that could just about double for Versailles.

The urban mobs that played so large a role back in 1789 are warming up for their performances as I write these words; the only thing left to complete the picture is a few tumbrils and a guillotine, and those will doubtless arrive on cue.

The senility of the current US elite, as noted in a previous post here, is a massive political fact in today’s America. Still, it’s not the only factor in play here. Previous generations of wealthy Americans recognized without too much difficulty that their power, prosperity, and survival depended on the willingness of the rest of the population to put up with their antics.

Several times already in America’s history, elite groups have allied with populist forces to push through reforms that sharply weakened the power of the wealthy elite, because they recognized that the alternative was a social explosion even more destructive to the system on which elite power depends.

I suppose it’s possible that the people currently occupying the upper ranks of the political and economic pyramid in today’s America are just that much more stupid than their equivalents in the Jacksonian, Progressive, and New Deal eras. Still, there’s at least one other explanation to hand, and it’s the second of the two threatening contextual issues mentioned earlier.

Until the nineteenth century, fresh running water piped into homes for everyday use was purely an affectation of the very rich in a few very wealthy and technologically adept societies. Sewer pipes to take dirty water and human wastes out of the house belonged in the same category.

This wasn’t because nobody knew how plumbing works—the Romans had competent plumbers, for example, and water faucets and flush toilets were to be found in Roman mansions of the imperial age. The reason those same things weren’t found in every Roman house was economic, not technical.

Behind that economic issue lay an ecological reality. White’s Law, one of the foundational principles of human ecology, states that economic development is a function of energy per capita.

For a society before the industrial age, the Roman Empire had an impressive amount of energy per capita to expend; control over the agricultural economy of the Mediterranean basin, modest inputs from sunlight, water and wind, and a thriving slave industry fed by the expansion of Roman military power all fed into the capacity of Roman society to develop itself economically and technically.

That’s why rich Romans had running water and iced drinks in summer, while their equivalents in ancient Greece a few centuries earlier had to make do without either one.

Fossil fuels gave industrial civilization a supply of energy many orders of magnitude greater than any previous human civilization has had—a supply vast enough that the difference remains huge even after the vast expansion of population that followed the industrial revolution. There was, however, a catch—or, more precisely, two catches.

To begin with, fossil fuels are finite, nonrenewable resources; no matter how much handwaving is employed in the attempt to obscure this point—and whatever else might be in short supply these days, that sort of handwaving is not—every barrel of oil, ton of coal, or cubic foot of natural gas that’s burnt takes the world one step closer to the point at which there will be no economically extractable reserves of oil, coal, or natural gas at all.

That’s catch #1. Catch #2 is subtler, and considerably more dangerous. Oil, coal, and natural gas don’t leap out of the ground on command. They have to be extracted and processed, and this takes energy.

Companies in the fossil fuel industries have always targeted the deposits that cost less to extract and process, for obvious economic reasons. What this means, though, is that over time, a larger and larger fraction of the energy yield of oil, coal, and natural gas has to be put right back into extracting and processing oil, coal, and natural gas—and this leaves less and less for all other uses.

That’s the vise that’s tightening around the American economy these days. The great fracking boom, to the extent that it wasn’t simply one more speculative gimmick aimed at the pocketbooks of chumps, was an attempt to make up for the ongoing decline of America’s conventional oilfields by going after oil that was far more expensive to extract.

The fact that none of the companies at the heart of the fracking boom ever turned a profit, even when oil brought more than $100 a barrel, gives some sense of just how costly shale oil is to get out of the ground. The financial cost of extraction, though, is a proxy for the energy cost of extraction—the amount of energy, and of the products of energy, that had to be thrown into the task of getting a little extra oil out of marginal source rock.

Energy needed to extract energy, again, can’t be used for any other purpose. It doesn’t contribute to the energy surplus that makes economic development possible. As the energy industry itself takes a bigger bite out of each year’s energy production, every other economic activity loses part of the fuel that makes it run.

That, in turn, is the core reason why the American economy is on the ropes, America’s infrastructure is falling to bits—and Americans in Detroit and Baltimore are facing a transition to Third World conditions, without electricity or running water.

I suspect, for what it’s worth, that the shutoff notices being mailed to tens of thousands of poor families in those two cities are a good working model for the way that industrial civilization itself will wind down. It won’t be sudden; for decades to come, there will still be people who have access to what Americans today consider the ordinary necessities and comforts of everyday life; there will just be fewer of them each year.

Outside that narrowing circle, the number of economic nonpersons will grow steadily, one shutoff notice at a time.

As I’ve pointed out in previous posts, the line of fracture between the senile elite and what Arnold Toynbee called the internal proletariat—the people who live within a failing civilization’s borders but receive essentially none of its benefits—eventually opens into a chasm that swallows what’s left of the civilization.

Sometimes the tectonic processes that pull the chasm open are hard to miss, but there are times when they’re a good deal more difficult to sense in action, and this is one of these latter times. Listen to the whisper of the shutoff valve, and you’ll hear tens of thousands of Americans being cut off from basic services the rest of us, for the time being, still take for granted.

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Organic farming and CO2

SUBHEAD: If regenerative organic farming replaced industrialized mono culture big-ag we could  reverse Global Warming.

By Mark Smallwood on 5 May 2015 for Policy Innovations -
(http://www.policyinnovations.org/ideas/innovations/data/00288)


Image above: Rick, from the Hawaii Organic Farm in Pahoa, Big Island, stands next to an edible hibiscus plant in a food forest.  From (https://hawaiiorganicfarm.wordpress.com/about-us-the-humans-at-popai-eco-homestead-and-organic-sustainable-farm/).

The rhetoric around climate change from global industry, policymakers, and the media has consistently used words like mitigate, reduce, and adapt to describe the best case scenario for actions on climate. As a result, we have resigned ourselves to believing that climate change is insurmountable and the best we can do is to minimize the repercussions.

However, it is rapidly becoming apparent that waiting for industry to stop pumping out greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide just does not work.

Likewise, if we look to industry for technological solutions, we are served up concepts that sound like science fiction and require technology which does not yet exist, such as injecting carbon into deep sea beds or creating a sun-shade by shooting sulfur out of man-made volcanoes.

But slowing down emissions or waiting for fixes is simply not enough. There is another way.  

How Can Regenerative Organic Farming Reverse Climate Change?
 Prior to the Industrial Revolution, we had about 280 parts per million (PPM) of carbon and other GHGs in the atmosphere. We are currently at 400 PPM. Today we have imbalance: a vast excess of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere causing the greenhouse effect, which changes our environment in the form of extreme weather, rising sea levels, and desertification.

Even if we reduce our emissions to zero, this excess amount of carbon will continue to loom in the atmosphere over us, and the greenhouse effect and climate change will continue. It is not enough to reduce, mitigate, adapt—whichever term you choose. The excess carbon in the atmosphere must be sequestered through regenerative agriculture in order to bring GHG levels down to 350 PPM in the near-term, and hopefully even lower with time.

How?
I'll get right to the point. A global shift to regenerative organic agriculture can reverse climate change. In fact, regenerative organic agriculture is the only viable option available to us and is readily achievable.

A bit of fourth grade science can easily illustrate how regenerative organic agriculture can achieve climate change reversal. We are all familiar with the hydrological cycle which moves water through our environment as clouds, precipitation, ground water, and the aquifers. Many people may be less familiar with the carbon cycle, which has some resemblance to the water cycle. A great starting point for understanding the carbon cycle is photosynthesis.

As children, we learn that naturally occurring CO2 in the atmosphere is used by plants during photosynthesis, a process which knocks the oxygen off of the CO2 molecules to provide the fresh air we breathe. But the photosynthesis story doesn't stop at fresh air.

Green plants carry out photosynthesis precisely because they need that carbon. The plant changes the carbon from a gas into a liquid sugar, C6H12O6. These sugars are pushed out of the plant's roots into the soil to feed the billions of microbes that live in healthy soils surrounding the plant's roots.

Because the roots exude these sugars (as well as proteins and water), they are called "root exudates." The root exudates are a rich food source for the billions (yes, billions) of soil microorganisms. When soil microorganisms eat the sugars, they capture the carbon. In return for the rich food source, soil microorganisms provide the plant with the nutrients it needs to thrive. The plant and the soil feed each other in symbiosis.

Regenerative organic farming focuses on life in the soil, building the symbiotic relationship between the life of the plant and the life in the soil. A single teaspoon of biologically healthy soil contains more microorganisms than there are humans on the earth today. And every single one of them is carbon-based. To promote soil carbon sequestration, regenerative organic agriculture uses four central tenets: compost, crop rotations, cover crops, and no till. Read more about the four tenets in this report.

This means that we can put the carbon back to work while making food to nourish our growing population. Although excess carbon in the atmosphere is toxic to life, we are, after all, carbon-based life forms, and returning stable carbon to the soil can help us grow more food faster. There is no downside.

Here are the facts:

Based on the global greenhouse gas (GHG) emission numbers for the year 2012, if all the agricultural lands on earth were managed according to regenerative organic agriculture methods, we would have sequestered 40 percent of those emissions through crop lands and 71 percent of those emissions through pasture and grazing lands. It's very simple math: 40 percent + 71 percent = 111 percent.

 We would have sequestered all—that's 100 percent—of our emissions for the year 2012, and the extra 11 percent would have pushed the greenhouse effect into reverse, beginning to chip away at the vast excesses of carbon and other GHGs in the atmosphere.

 Efforts to reduce emissions are imperative, but that is not enough to ensure human survival—much less a thriving ecosystem boasting robust biodiversity. The greenhouse effect must be reversed by sequestering the excess carbon in the atmosphere. The only way to do that is through soil carbon sequestration.

New Approaches to Policy
The U.S. agricultural system is dominated by large monocultures and factory farms. During World War I, government subsidies for farmers were created to ensure that our land could feed the Allies as well as the United States. In the 1970s, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) secretary Earl Butz famously repeated, "Get big or get out." He was talking to the small farmers of America, and unfortunately, many listened to him. Smaller farms disappeared, swallowed up by larger operations that depended on the crutch of chemicals and super-industrialized methods.

Today, organic farmers are seeing increasing support from the U.S. government in the form of the National Organic Program, which is responsible for developing national standards for organically produced agricultural products. However, we are still light years away from an even playing field.

The World Health Organization recently announced that glyphosate—an herbicide used to kill weeds—is "probably carcinogenic." While glyphosate is widely used and heavily subsidized in the United States, despite its harmful effects, the organic farmer who protects the environment is the one burdened with the extra costs and red tape of certifying that she is not using genetically modified (GMOs).

In short, while we subsidize our own destruction and the destruction of our environment using the people's tax dollars, we present roadblocks and barriers to those who work toward planetary health, including the reversal of climate change.

In the near term, the U.S. government should stop subsidizing chemical agriculture and invest those funds into the widespread deployment of regenerative organic agriculture. We must also change subsidies meant for climate change solutions to include and focus on regenerative organic agriculture.

These near term adjustments would put the United States on a much better course and in a position of leadership among the world's nations. The transition to an Organic Planet will not only grow plants and soil, it will grow our economies by creating new jobs, requiring new tools and spurring innovation through new business models.

The United States must also prioritize encouraging the new generation of young organic farmers and remove the multitude of barriers to entry. For starters, student loan forgiveness for organic farmers could offset some of the financial risks involved in the commitment to a career in organic farming. Another barrier for these new farmers is the difficulty in accessing land near large customer bases, the very same places where their contributions would contribute to the re-localization and reparation of regional food systems.

Outside of the United States, small-holder farmers around the globe actually provide the majority of the world's food, as illustrated by Alnoor Ladha, co-founder of anti-poverty group The Rules:
"Industrial agriculture uses 75 percent of the world's resources to yield only 25 percent of the world's food, versus organic farming which provides 75 percent of the world's food while using only 25 percent of the world's resources."
In the longer term, our policies in the United States and globally must shift to a new paradigm which acknowledges that the reversal of climate change is achievable. We will certainly not achieve a reversal of climate change if we continue to leave reversal out of the global discussion. Leaders in both government and business must set their own courses for an Organic Planet and create their own vehicles to achieve the vision.

At the Rodale Institute, our hope is that you will walk with us toward an Organic Planet. Read our 2014 white paper "Regenerative Organic Agriculture and Climate Change: A Down-to-Earth Solution" to learn more.

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Secrecy damaging TPP chances

SUBHEAD: More and more lawmakers joining opposition to corporate-friendly trade deal over lack of transparency.

By Nadia Prupis on 4 May 2015 for Common Dreams -
(http://www.commondreams.org/news/2015/05/04/secrecy-over-tpp-fuels-growing-opposition-congress)


Image above:Protestors outside the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) meetings in Salt Lake took to the skies with balloons that lifted sign saying "Psst... TPP. What are you hiding?" From (https://www.flickr.com/photos/backbone_campaign/10985421673).

The back-room push for the corporate-friendly Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact may be backfiring on its supporters, as more and more lawmakers in U.S. Congress drop their interest in the deal over its extreme secrecy.

Only members of the House and Senate are currently allowed to view the text of the deal, and even they are forbidden from discussing what it contains. As a new report from Politico published Monday details, "If you’re a member who wants to read the text, you’ve got to go to a room in the basement of the Capitol Visitor Center and be handed it one section at a time, watched over as you read, and forced to hand over any notes you make before leaving."

As for the public, a few unauthorized leaks of the text have previewed a deal that would "dramatically expand the power of corporations to use closed-door tribunals to challenge—and supersede—domestic laws, including environmental, labor, and public health, and other protections."

The lack of transparency over the trade agenda has become a central argument for a growing number of opponents, who see the deal as a corporate power grab and "feel they are being treated with disrespect and condescension," as Politico's Edward-Isaac Dovere explains.

Among those critics is Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), who points out that "the cover sheets of the trade documents in that basement room are marked only 'confidential document' and note they’re able to be transmitted over unsecured email and fax—but for some reason are still restricted to members of Congress."

"We know when we're being suckered," Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Florida) told Politico on Monday. "It's not only condescending, it's misleading."

One of the most vocal opponents of the TPP is Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who, along with Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), wrote a letter (pdf) to President Barack Obama last week demanding the public release of the deal's full text.

"The American people should be allowed to weigh in on the facts of the TPP before Members of Congress are asked to voluntarily reduce our ability to amend, shape, or block any trade deal," Warren and Brown wrote.

In March, Obama said TPP opponents were being "dishonest" in calling the agenda a "secret deal." But, as Huffington Post senior political economy reporter Zach Carter wrote last week, the Warren-Brown letter suggests "that Obama's trade transparency record is worse than that of former President George W. Bush.

They note that Bush published the full negotiation texts of a major free trade deal with Latin America several months before Congress had to vote on giving the deal fast track benefits. The Obama administration has resisted calls to follow suit with TPP."
Warren and Brown conclude their letter:
We understand that people may disagree about the risks and benefits associated with a massive trade deal. We respectfully suggest that characterizing the assessments of labor unions, journalists, Members of Congress, and others who disagree with your approach to transparency on trade issues as "dishonest" is both untrue and unlikely to serve the best interests of the American people.
TPP critics are laying at least part of the blame on U.S. Trade Representative Mike Froman, who is leading classified briefings on the pact with members of Congress. "The access to information is totally at the whim of Ambassador Froman," Doggett told Politico. "The more people hear Ambassador Froman but feel they get less than candid and accurate answers, I think it loses votes for them."

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: TPP vs. Democracy 3/27/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Hawaii protests TPP Summit 3/15/15 
Ea O Ka Aina: TPP meeting on Hawaii 3/9/15
Ea O Ka Aina: TPP/ TTIP trade strategy blowback 4/24/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Hawaii protests TPP Summit 3/16/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Incomprehensible TPP Secrecy 1/6/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Earthday TPP Fukushima RIMPAC 4/22/14

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Standing up to Syngenta

SUBHEAD: From Kauai to Switzerland – Why we went, what we accomplished and what’s next.

By Gary Hooser on 2 May 2015 for Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action -
(http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2015/05/standing-up-to-syngenta.html)


Image above: Gary Hooser projected onto large screen at Syngenta Board of Director's meeting in Basil, Switzerland. From original emailed article.

A few short days ago, on April 28th, in the city of Basel Switzerland, I attended and spoke at the annual shareholders meeting of the transnational corporation and chemical giant, Syngenta,

I spoke from the podium directly to the Syngenta Board of Directors and the nearly 1,000 Shareholders in attendance.

My message was clear and unambiguous.  I asked them to withdraw from their lawsuit against the County of Kauai, to honor and follow our laws, and to give our community the same respect and protections afforded to the people in their home country of Switzerland.

I pointed out that their company Syngenta uses highly toxic Restricted Use Pesticides (RUP’s) in our community, including atrazine, paraquat and 4 others that they are forbidden by law from using in their own country.

Please take 2 minutes and 45 seconds to view the FIRST part of my remarks to the Syngenta shareholders here: http://tinyurl.com/m77votm

As you can see from the video, Fern Rosenstiel, a Kauai resident who traveled to Basel with our small Kauai delegation was filming my presentation when she was approached by Syngenta security and told to put away her camera.  She complied but when they tried to take her camera she refused to give it up and resumed filming as they escorted her from the hall.  Syngenta also prevented the local television news station and a French film crew from taking camera’s into the meeting.

The SECOND part of my remarks filmed as Fern was forcibly removed from the hall can be viewed in this 1 minute and 33 second segment: http://tinyurl.com/muz6p8y

How was I able to speak inside the Syngenta shareholders meeting you might ask?

The Swiss organization that invited the Kauai delegation to Switzerland is MultiWatch http://www.multiwatch.ch/ (Google will translate), and they own one Share of Syngenta stock.  MultiWatch transferred or otherwise assigned that Share to me giving me the legal right to enter and speak. To be clear, Syngenta did not want me there and was working on many levels to prevent me from speaking but legally there was nothing they could do to stop me.

MultiWatch is an incredible Swiss NGO and they are advocates for environmental, labor and social justice interests connected to Swiss Trans National Corporations that are bad actors in other parts of the world.

The delegation from Kauai included Hawaiian cultural educator Mālia Kahaleinia Chun, environmental scientist and co-director of Ohana O Kauaʻi Fern Rosenstiel, as well as myself.

While in Switzerland the Kauai delegation also met with local and national Swiss lawmakers resulting in the Social Democratic Party, the largest political party in Basel, issuing a Statement of Support, asking Syngenta to “honor the democratic process and protect the people of Kauai.”  These meetings also resulted in several articles in Swiss Newspapers, television news and Swiss Public Radio covering Syngenta’s activities in Hawaii and the Kauai residents’ concerns.

Swiss television: http://tinyurl.com/ol5vw3q
News/Finance: http://tinyurl.com/llmdtdn
News Major Paper http://tinyurl.com/p9ehxwd
Warning all news is in German

English/Hawaii news summary here: http://tinyurl.com/pbr37u7

Our small delegation made several presentations to a European alliance of environmental organizations, trade unions and political parties tracking the activities and impacts of Swiss transnational corporations around the world during a conference held April 24th & 25th.

We embarked on our trip to Switzerland at the invitation of MultiWatch who was aware of the Kauai Bill 2491 and the growing movement in Hawaii.  Our primary goal was to educate this international audience on the cultural and historical context of Syngenta’s operations on Kauai, the impacts of the industry’s activities, and the political and social efforts of the community to gain environmental and public health protections (i.e. through Kauai Bill 2491 and state bills such as HB1514).  We also spoke of the similar battles and lawsuits underway on Maui and in Hawaii County.

For those not familiar with the movement here in Hawaii to regulate these large agrochemical companies this 4 minute video might prove interesting:  https://vimeo.com/125756488

The issue on Kauai is simple really.  Syngenta and the other international chemical companies need to drop their law suit and comply with the duly passed laws of our County putting into place modest buffer zones around schools, hospitals and homes and fully disclose all pesticides use – as per Ordinance 960.

We are not going away and we will not tap out.

So long as these companies continue to disrespect and disregard the wishes of our community, we will continue the battle to make them comply.

Syngenta conducts heavy applications of Restricted Use Pesticides on Kauai and sells RUPs containing atrazine and paraquat for use around Hawaii –pesticides which are banned in their home country of Switzerland.  In addition, Syngenta has extensive acreage of open-air genetically-modified test crops on Kauai, while cultivation of GMOs is banned in Switzerland.

The Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA) http://www.hapahi.org supported the trip to Switzerland at the invitation of Swiss non-profit “MultiWatch.”  As the volunteer President of the Board for HAPA, I want to thank all in the community and around the world who helped make this trip possible.

We are presently contemplating partnering with our friends around the world and conducting similar actions in other countries on every continent.

 We are also exploring the possibility of hosting an international conference of our own here on Kauai - at ground zero.

Shining the light on activities of the international agrochemical industry and expanding that global discussion is an important tool that we here in Hawaii need to leverage.  By inviting others from around the world who share our experience, plus bringing in science, medical and agricultural experts to share their knowledge, is a natural path and key role Kauai and all Hawaii could play in this critical international debate.

To host such an international conference will require partnerships with other organizations and funding support.  If you are interested in helping to move this idea forward please contact me soon so we can begin building the team it will take to make this happen.

Aloha,
Gary Hooser

P.S. If you are not familiar with my background or with the background concerning Bill 2491 and Kauai’s battle against the 4 largest chemical companies in the world, you might find this video interesting and informative.  Please skip the first 3 minutes of the introduction if you like: http://tinyurl.com/qff9tlr

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A sense of an Ending

SUBHEAD: A savvy investor sees an end the (overall) bull market that is now 35 years old.

By Bill Gross on 4 May 2015 for Janus Investment -
(https://www.janus.com/bill-gross-investment-outlook)


Image above: William H. Gross in his office at Janus Investment. From original article.

[IB Publisher's note: Bill Gross is turning 70 this year and so am I. Bill was the founder of Pacific Investment Management Corporation (PIMCO) in 1971. In that year a flew to Kauai to live in a VW Bus and hang out at the beach. PIMCO is a fixed income management firm that came to be the largest bond mutual fund in the world with $1.2 trillion in 3rd party assets as the beginning of this year. At the end of last year Bill left PIMCO (before he was pushed out) to  become an investment adviser to Janus Investment. He had stalled growth at Pimpco by betting too long on the performance of the Euro. None the less, when he smells smoke look for a fire.]

Having turned the corner on my 70th year, like prize winning author Julian Barnes, I have a sense of an ending. Death frightens me and causes what Barnes calls great unrest, but for me it is not death but the dying that does so.

After all, we each fade into unconsciousness every night, do we not? Where was “I” between 9 and 5 last night? Nowhere that I can remember, with the exception of my infrequent dreams.

Where was “I” for the 13 billion years following the Big Bang? I can’t remember, but assume it will be the same after I depart – going back to where I came from, unknown, unremembered, and unconscious after billions of future eons. I’ll miss though, not knowing what becomes of “you” and humanity’s torturous path – how it will all turn out in the end. I’ll miss that sense of an ending, but it seems more of an uneasiness, not a great unrest.

What I fear most is the dying – the “Tuesdays with Morrie” that for Morrie became unbearable each and every day in our modern world of medicine and extended living; the suffering that accompanied him and will accompany most of us along that downward sloping glide path filled with cancer, stroke, and associated surgeries which make life less bearable than it was a day, a month, a decade before.

Turning 70 is something that all of us should hope to do but fear at the same time. At 70, parents have died long ago, but now siblings, best friends, even contemporary celebrities and sports heroes pass away, serving as a reminder that any day you could be next.

A 70-year-old reads the obituaries with a self-awareness as opposed to an item of interest. Some point out that this heightened intensity should make the moment all the more precious and therein lies the challenge: make it so; make it precious; savor what you have done – family, career, giving back – the “accumulation” that Julian Barnes speaks to.

Nevertheless, the “responsibility” for a life’s work grows heavier as we age and the “unrest” less restful by the year. All too soon for each of us, there will be “great unrest” and a journey’s ending from which we came and to where we are going.

A “sense of an ending” has been frequently mentioned in recent months when applied to asset markets and the great Bull Run that began in 1981. Then, long term Treasury rates were at 14.50% and the Dow at 900. A “20 banger” followed for stocks as Peter Lynch once described such moves, as well as a similar return for 30 year Treasuries after the extraordinary annual yields are factored into the equation: financial wealth was created as never before.

Fully invested investors wound up with 20 times as much money as when they began. But as Julian Barnes expressed it with individual lives, so too does his metaphor seem to apply to financial markets: “Accumulation, responsibility, unrest…and then great unrest.”

Many prominent investment managers have been sounding similar alarms, some, perhaps a little too soon as with my Investment Outlooks of a few years past titled, “Man in the Mirror”, “Credit Supernova” and others.

But now, successful, neither perma-bearish nor perma-bullish managers have spoken to a “sense of an ending” as well. Stanley Druckenmiller, George Soros, Ray Dalio, Jeremy Grantham, among others warn investors that our 35 year investment supercycle may be exhausted.

They don’t necessarily counsel heading for the hills, or liquidating assets for cash, but they do speak to low future returns and the increasingly fat tail possibilities of a “bang” at some future date.

To them, (and myself) the current bull market is not 35 years old, but twice that in human terms. Surely they and other gurus are looking through their research papers to help predict future financial “obits”, although uncertain of the announcement date.

Savor this Bull market moment, they seem to be saying in unison. It will not come again for any of us; unrest lies ahead and low asset returns. Perhaps great unrest, if there is a bubble popping.

Policymakers and asset market bulls, on the other hand speak to the possibility of normalization – a return to 2% growth and 2% inflation in developed countries which may not initially be bond market friendly, but certainly fortuitous for jobs, profits, and stock markets worldwide.

Their “New Normal” as I reaffirmed most recently at a Grant’s Interest Rate Observer quarterly conference in NYC, depends on the less than commonsensical notion that a global debt crisis can be cured with more and more debt.

At that conference I equated such a notion with a similar real life example of pouring lighter fluid onto a barbeque of warm but not red hot charcoal briquettes in order to cook the spareribs a little bit faster. Disaster in the form of burnt ribs was my historical experience.

It will likely be the same for monetary policy, with its QE’s and now negative interest rates that bubble all asset markets.

But for the global economy, which continues to lever as opposed to delever, the path to normalcy seems blocked. Structural elements – the New Normal and secular stagnation, which are the result of aging demographics, high debt/GDP, and technological displacement of labor, are phenomena which appear to have stunted real growth over the past five years and will continue to do so.

Even the three strongest developed economies – the U.S., Germany, and the U.K. – have experienced real growth of 2% or less since Lehman. If trillions of dollars of monetary lighter fluid have not succeeded there (and in Japan) these past 5 years, why should we expect Draghi, his ECB, and the Eurozone to fare much differently?

Because of this stunted growth, zero based interest rates, and our difficulty in escaping an ongoing debt crisis, the “sense of an ending” could not be much clearer for asset markets. Where can a negative yielding Euroland bond market go once it reaches (–25) basis points? Minus 50?

Perhaps, but then at some point, common sense must acknowledge that savers will no longer be willing to exchange cash Euros for bonds and investment will wither. Funny how bonds were labeled “certificates of confiscation” back in the early 1980’s when yields were 14%. What should we call them now?

Likewise, all other financial asset prices are inextricably linked to global yields which discount future cash flows, resulting in an Everest asset price peak which has been successfully scaled, but allows for little additional climbing. Look at it this way: If 3 trillion dollars of negatively yielding Euroland bonds are used as the basis for discounting future earnings streams, then how much higher can Euroland (Japanese, UK, U.S.) P/E’s go?

Once an investor has discounted all future cash flows at 0% nominal and perhaps (–2%) real, the only way to climb up a yet undiscovered Everest is for earnings growth to accelerate above historical norms. Get down off this peak, that F. Scott Fitzgerald once described as a “Mountain as big as the Ritz.” Maybe not to sea level, but get down. Credit based oxygen is running out.

At the Grant’s Conference, and in prior Investment Outlooks, I addressed the timing of this “ending” with the following description:
“When does our credit based financial system sputter / break down? When investable assets pose too much risk for too little return. Not immediately, but at the margin, credit and stocks begin to be exchanged for figurative and sometimes literal money in a mattress.”
We are approaching that point now as bond yields, credit spreads and stock prices have brought financial wealth forward to the point of exhaustion. A rational investor must indeed have a sense of an ending, not another Lehman crash, but a crush of perpetual bull market enthusiasm.

But what should this rational investor do? Breathe deeply as the noose is tightened at the top of the gallows? Well no, asset prices may be past 70 in “market years”, but savoring the remaining choices in terms of reward / risk remains essential. Yet if yields are too low, credit spreads too tight, and P/E ratios too high, what portfolio or set of ideas can lead to a restful, unconscious evening ‘twixt 9 and 5 AM?

That is where an unconstrained portfolio and an unconstrained mindset comes in handy. 35 years of an asset bull market tends to ingrain a certain way of doing things in almost all asset managers.

Since capital gains have dominated historical returns, investment managers tend to focus on areas where capital gains seem most probable. They fail to consider that mildly levered income as opposed to capital gains will likely be the favored risk / reward alternative. They forget that Sharpe / information ratios which have long served as the report card for an investor’s alpha generating skills were partially just a function of asset bull markets.

Active asset managers as well, conveniently forget that their (my) industry has failed to reduce fees as a percentage of assets which have multiplied by at least a factor of 20 since 1981.

They believe therefore, that they and their industry deserve to be 20 times richer because of their skill or better yet, their introduction of confusing and sometimes destructive quantitative technologies and derivatives that led to Lehman and the Great Recession.

Hogwash. This is all ending.

The successful portfolio manager for the next 35 years will be one that refocuses on the possibility of periodic negative annual returns and miniscule Sharpe ratios and who employs defensive choices that can be mildly levered to exceed cash returns, if only by 300 to 400 basis points.

My recent view of a German Bund short is one such example. At 0%, the cost of carry is just that, and the inevitable return to 1 or 2% yields becomes a high probability, which will lead to a 15% “capital gain” over an uncertain period of time. I wish to still be active in say 2020 to see how this ends.

As it is, in 2015, I merely have a sense of an ending, a secular bull market ending with a whimper, not a bang. But if so, like death, only the timing is in doubt. Because of this sense, however, I have unrest, increasingly a great unrest. You should as well.

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