Retrotopia - Far Side of Progress

SUBHEAD: Progress as the enemy of prosperity, I thought, shaking my head. What a bizarre idea.

By John Michael Greer on 1 June 2016 for Archdruid Report -
(http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2016/06/retrotopia-far-side-of-progress.html)


Image above: The breakup over Texas of the space shuttle Columbia in 2003. From (http://www.dallasnews.com/news/local-news/20130130-10-years-after-shuttle-columbia-tragedy-crew-s-kids-spouses-still-struggle-to-move-forward.ece).

I got lunch at the little cafĂ© across the street from the Capitol, and then went to talk to Melanie Berger and a dozen other people from Meeker’s staff. We had a lot of ground to cover and I’d lost two and a half days to the flu, so we buckled down to work and kept at it until we were all good and tired. It was eight o’clock, I think, before we finally broke for dinner and headed for a steak place, and after that I went back to my hotel and slept hard for ten hours straight.

The next morning we were back at it again. Ellen Montrose wanted a draft trade agreement, a draft memorandum on border security, and at least a rough draft of a treaty allowing inland-waterway transport from our territory down the Ohio River to the Mississippi and points south, and she wanted them before her inauguration, so she could hit the ground running once her term began.

I figured she also meant to announce them in her inauguration speech and throw the Dem-Reps onto the defensive immediately, so they’d be too busy trying to block her agenda to come up with an agenda of their own.

The Lakelanders knew about the proposals—they’d been briefed while my trip was still in the planning stage—and they were willing to meet her halfway, but they had a shopping list of their own.

The trade agreement in particular required a lot of finagling, so the Restos wouldn’t shoot it down when it came up for ratification by the legislature, and I had to weigh everything against what Montrose’s people and the legislature in Philadelphia would be willing to tolerate.

Fortunately the Lakelanders were just as clear on the political realities as I was; everybody approached the negotiations with “how do we make this work?” as the first priority, and we got a lot done.

By lunchtime we’d gotten the framework of the trade agreement settled—there would be plenty of fiddling once the formal negotiations got started, but the basic arrangements looked good—and the memorandum on border security was a piece of cake, the way it usually is when neither side is looking for an excuse to start a fight. The inland-waterway treaty was another matter.

We wanted access to the Mississippi, with an eye toward markets in the Missouri Republic, the Gulf, and points further south; they wanted to be able to ship goods to the Atlantic via the Erie Canal, to keep Quebec from getting expansive ideas about transit fees on the St. Lawrence Seaway. In principle, those were both workable, but the details were tenanted with more than the usual quota of devils.

So we got lunch in the dining room downstairs in the Capitol, sat over in a corner, and kept on hashing out details between bites of sandwich and spoonfuls of bean soup. Once lunch was over, we trooped back up to the conference room downstairs from Meeker’s office and kept going.

The one big question we still had to tackle by that point was how to handle the difference in technology—our tugs and barges rely on high-tech gear that the Lakeland waterways aren’t set up for, and theirs don’t have the equipment our regulations require—and we talked through I don’t know how many different ways to handle that, before finally agreeing that each side’s tugs would stay on their own side of the border,  their barges would rent portable computer rigs when they were on our side, and our barges would hire extra crew to do the same work on theirs.

Once that was out of the way, the rest of it came together quickly enough, but by then the sun was down and we were all pretty tired. It was a Friday night, so the only people left in the Capitol besides us by then were janitors and security guards, and most of the others had someplace or other to go and somebody to meet. In the end, it was just me and Melanie Berger who walked two blocks north to the Indian place we’d been earlier that week.

We got settled in a little booth, ordered drinks and dinner, sat there for a few minutes without saying much. She looked as tired as I felt. Drinks and a basket of onion naan put in an appearance, though, and took the edge off two very long days.

“Well, that was a marathon,” Berger said, sipping at something that was supposed to be a martini—I’d never heard of one that just had gin, vermouth, and an olive in it, but I figured it was a local habit. “Still, no regrets.” With a sudden smile: “I bet Fred Vanich that we could get the three agreements roughed out before you left for Philadelphia, and this time I get to collect.”

I laughed. “Glad to oblige.”

We busied ourselves with the naan for a bit. “You’re leaving Wednesday, right?” she said then. When I nodded:  “I admit I’m wondering what you think about—” Her gesture took in the restaurant, the other patrons in their old-fahioned clothing, the streetcar rolling purposefully past on the street outside, the unfinished dome of the Capitol rising above the buildings on the other side of the street.

“You’ve been here long enough to get over the initial shock, and I’d be interested in hearing what all this looks like from an outsider’s perspective.”

Looking back on it all, it probably would have been more professional to fob her off with a few trivial comments, but I didn’t do that. Partly I was tired enough that I wasn’t thinking clearly, partly I’d been wishing for days that I could talk to someone intelligent about the insight I’d had on the way back from Defiance County, and it probably didn’t help that there was some chemistry between me and Melanie Berger, which seemed to be mutual. So I got stupid and said, “My reaction’s kind of complex.”

She motioned for me to go on, but just then the waiter came back with our entrees, noted our empty glasses, and returned promptly from the bar with another round of drinks. I waited until he’d gone sailing smoothly over to another table before continuing.

“On the one hand,” I said, “you’ve played a weak hand astonishingly well. No, it’s more than that—you’ve taken what I’d have considered crushing disadvantages and turned them into advantages. I’d be willing to bet that the World Bank and the IMF figured that after a couple of years shut out of global credit markets and foreign trade, you’d crawl on your knees over broken glass to be let back in.”

Berger nodded. “I’ve heard that they told President Moffit something like that to his face.”

“But you took every lemon they threw at you and made lemonade out of it. No foreign trade? You used that as an opportunity to build up an industrial plant aimed at local markets. No access to credit?

You made banking a public utility and launched what looks like a thriving stock market. No technology imports? You rebuilt your economy to use human labor and local resources instead—and it hasn’t escaped my attention how enthusiastic your population is about all three of those moves.”

“You can hardly blame them,” she said. “Plenty of jobs at decent pay, and banks that pay a decent rate of interest and don’t go belly up—what’s not to like?”

“I’m not arguing. And here’s the thing—so far, it’s insulated you from a lot of trouble. This satellite business is a good example.” I gestured with my fork. “The last three days have been a complete mess in the rest of the world. Stock markets are down hard, and everybody from military planners to weather forecasters are trying to figure out what the hell they’re going to do without satellite data. Here? I know exactly how much time Tom Pappas is going to spend worrying about getting by without satellites—”

She burst into laughter. “Just under zero seconds.”

“If that,” I said, laughing with her. “And the Toledo stock market had three decent days. I don’t even want to think about how my other investments are doing, but here I made two dollars and fifty cents.”

That got me a surprised look. “I didn’t know you had money invested here.”

“One share of Mikkelson Industries. It was a good way to see the market in action.”

She laughed again. “I’ll have to tell Janice that the next time I see her. She’ll be tickled.”  Then:  “But there’s another side to your reaction.”

“Yes, there is.” All of a sudden I wished I didn’t have to go on, but I’d backed myself into a corner good and proper.

“The downside is that it can’t last. You’re going one way but the rest of the world is going the other, and all it’s going to take is one round too many of technological innovation out there and you’ll be left twisting in the wind.

Right now, what you’ve got looks pretty good compared to what’s on the other side of the borders, but when the global economy finally gets straightened out and the next big wave of innovation and growth hits, what then? Regime change using technologies you can’t counter, maybe, or maybe just the sort of slow collapse that happens to a country that’s tried to stay stuck in the past a little too long.”

She was smiling when I finished. “I was wondering if you’d bring that up.”

That stopped me cold.  I used a forkful of tandoori chicken as a distraction, then said, “I take it you’ve heard someone else mention it.”

“Fairly often. When someone from outside gets past the initial shock, and actually thinks about what we’ve done here—and of course quite a few of them never get around to that—that’s usually the next point they bring up.”

I considered that. “And I suppose you have an answer for it.”

“Well, yes.” She jabbed at the palak paneer. “When the global economy finally gets straightened out, when the next big wave of innovation and growth hits. Are you sure those are going to happen?”

I put down my fork and stared at her. “It’s got to happen sooner or later.”

“Why?”

I tried to think of something to say, and couldn’t.

“The Second Civil War ended thirty-two years ago,” she pointed out.  “The Sino-Japanese war was over twenty-seven years ago. Ever since then, economists everywhere outside our borders have been insisting that things would turn up any day now, and they haven’t.

You know as well as I do that real global GDP has been flat to negative twenty-six of the last thirty years, and the last decade’s shown zero improvement—quite the contrary. That’s not going to change, either, because every other country in the world is chasing a policy goal that’s actively making things worse.”

“And that is?”

“Progress,” she said.

Once again, I was left speechless.

“Here are some examples.”

She held up one finger.
“The consumer sector of your economy has been in the tank ever since Partition. Why? Because you’ve got really bad maldistribution of income.”

“There’s more to it than that,” I protested.

“Yes, but that’s the core of it—if consumers don’t have money to spend, they’re not going to be able to buy consumer goods, and your consumer sector is going to suffer accordingly. Why don’t they have money to spend?

Because you’ve automated most working class jobs out of existence, and if you want to tell me that technology creates more jobs than it eliminates, you’re going to have to argue with some very hard figures. You’ve got appalling rates of permanent unemployment and underemployment, and yet everybody on your side of the border seems to think that a problem that was caused by automation is going to be solved by even more automation.”

She raised a second finger. 
“That’s one example. Here’s another. As technology gets more complex and interconnected, you’re guaranteed to see more situations where a problem in one system loads costs on other systems.  Look at the satellite situation—it’s because so many economic sectors rely on satellite technology that that’s going to be such an economic headache. That’s an obvious example, but there are plenty of others; our estimate is that cascading problems driven by excess technological interaction knocked a good eight per cent off global GDP last year, and it’s getting worse, because everybody outside seems to believe that the problems of complexity can only be fixed by adding more complexity.

“A third.” 
Another finger went up. “Resource costs. The more complex your technology gets, the more it costs to build it, maintain it, power it, and so on. Any time an analysis says otherwise, some of the costs are being pushed under the rug—and that rug’s getting very lumpy nowadays. Direct and indirect resource costs of technology are like a tax on all other economic activity, and since most of what you do with complex tech used to be done in less resource-intensive ways already, the economic return on tech doesn’t make up for the resource costs. Try telling that to a World Bank economist sometime, though—it’s quite entertaining to watch.

“And here’s a fourth.” 
She raised another finger. “Systemic malinvestment. Since each generation of tech costs more on a whole system basis than the one before, tech eats up more and more of your GDP each year, and everything else gets to fight over the scraps. After the Second Civil War, your country and mine were pretty much equally leveled. We put our investment into basic infrastructure; you put yours into high technology. We got rebuilt cities and towns, canals, railways, schools, libraries, and the rest of it. You got a domestic infrastructure so far in decay I’m amazed you put up with it, because the money that could have fixed your roads and bridges and housing stock went down a collection of high tech ratholes instead. Sure, you’ve got the metanet; does that make up for everything you do without?

“I could go on. There was a time when progress meant prosperity, but we passed that point in the late twentieth century, and since then, every further increment of progress has cost more than it’s worth—and yet the ideology stays stuck in place.

Until that changes, the global economy isn’t going to straighten out and the next big boom is going to turn into one more bust; it’s not going to change until someone else notices that progress has become the enemy of prosperity.”

I was shaking my head by the time she was finished. “With all due respect,” I said, “that’s crazy.”

It was a clumsy thing to say and I regretted saying it the moment the words were out. “That attitude,” she snapped back, “is why we don’t have to worry about technological innovation and the rest of it. One more round of innovation, one more economic boom and bust, and the rest of the world is going to progress itself straight into the ground.”

I opened my mouth to reply, and then shut it again. One more word, and we would have had a quarrel right there in the restaurant, but I wasn’t going to let that happen, and neither was she. So we finished dinner in silence, didn’t get another round of drinks, paid up and went to the door.

She flagged down a taxi. “I’ll have someone contact you Monday,” she said, looking away from me. “Good night.”

I wished her a good night, stood there while the clop-clop of the horse faded into the other street noises, and then started walking back to my hotel. The things she’d said chased each other around and around in my mind.

None of it made any sort of sense—except that it did, in a bizarre sort of way, and when I tried to tease out the holes in her logic I had a hard time finding any. I figured that I was just too tired, and—let’s be honest—too upset.

Progress as the enemy of prosperity, I thought, shaking my head. What a bizarre idea.

Something very bright streaked across the sky above me, and I looked up. A little uneven shape of brilliant light with a long streaming tail behind it went tumbling across the stars, faster than a jet.

As I watched, it broke in two, and then the two pieces disintegrated one after another into sprays of tiny glowing points that flared and went dark. I tried to tell myself that it was just a meteor, but I knew better.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Retrotopia - A Distant Scent of Blood 5/18/16

Below are the first seven of fifteen previous Retrotopia articles reproduced on Island Breath:
Ea O Ka Aina: Retrotopia - Dawn train from Pittsburgh 8/27/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Retrotopia - View from a Moving Window 9/2/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Retrotopia - A Cab Ride in Toledo 9/10/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Retrotopia - Public Utilities, Private Goods 9/24/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Retrotopia - A Change of Habit 10/1/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Retrotopia - Scent of Ink on Paper 10/15/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Retrotopia - A Question of Subsidies 10/22/15

The other pieces can be found at the Archdruid Report website.

.

The End Game begins?

SUBHEAD: Either you position yourself before the skies darken or you are left groping in the dark.

By Cognitive Dissonance on 30 May 2016 for Two Ice Floes -
(http://twoicefloes.com/where-will-you-be-when-the-end-game-begins/)


Image above: Chess strategies of the End Game. From (http://www.thylacine3.com/419536821).

Sometime after oh-dark-thirty it will begin, the previously cocked trigger suddenly released to wreck havoc throughout the world’s financial system. Like an intricate and interwoven design made entirely of standing dominoes, all it takes is a slight disturbance to knock one off its base and start the cascade of toppled consequences running down the line.

With the benefit of hindsight it will be seen that the trigger itself was not the killer. Instead, sometime later, a specific projectile will be (most likely falsely) identified as the blunt instrument which tore economic flesh asunder and quickly bled the system of ‘liquidity’ faster than a slash to the femoral artery. Too late to make a difference, tourniquets will be applied to stem the red tide.

Sadly, all it will accomplish is to extend economic life long enough to enable a final frenzy of looting before the bloody end.

And the totalitarian end game will have only just begun.

End Game
Where will you physically be when the end game begins? If you are not there when it begins, you will most likely never get there.

A socioeconomic system, if healthy and vibrant, can usually withstand extremely rough handling and even intentionally directed assault. A severed lifeline, while certainly a devastating shock to the organism, can and will be survived simply because adequate resources and flexibility remain within the structure which can be quickly marshaled while emergency repairs are made.

But a compromised entity already deathly ill, continuously pumped with toxic drugs and stimulants, stressed beyond compare by various Rube Goldberg financial devices, constantly monitored and regulated to assure compliance to artificial standards no natural system would ever adhere to, is always one disturbance away from disaster.

Thus the stage is set for the dark thirty triggering event.   

While several likely scenarios can be put forward regarding the sequence of events that might follow the triggering (as well as the trigger itself) the precise chain of events is ultimately of little importance since a million and one fingers are resting on the trigger and several trillion dominoes await their inevitable fall.

The socioeconomic weapon will be fired, of this there is little doubt. The more penetrating, and ultimately personal, question is of what intensity and duration are the intended consequences.

I sincerely fear a long term mass casualty event of such strength and scope as to be inconceivable, therefore impossible, for the average cloistered mind to comprehend. Even those of us presently reading this article believe we have a heightened, some might say enlightened, perspective and understanding of the coming trials and tribulations.

We do not. And quite frankly, we cannot.

I say this with great conviction by way of my interaction with, and study of, living examples...those who lived through and carried the lifelong scars of the Great Depression of the 1930’s.

While just about any American over the age of 60 has talked to, or heard stories of, older family members who survived that decade plus of sustained hardship and deprivation, as a financial planner and broker I worked directly with many who suffered the most in the area of greatest damage, their personal financial affairs.

The best way to describe this class of people, an entire generation in fact, is that of walking wounded who are deeply scared by post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

More than ‘just’ suffering from the effects of a horribly maiming bomb blast, these survivors carried the burden of having been completely demoralized and abandoned by every institution they ever came to believe in.

Seventy plus years after the fact, the remaining few still hold little trust in anything they cannot hold in their hands or create with their own sweat and blood.

Talk about a lost generation.
Thankfully for the powers-that-be who presently guide us into dark territory, that generation, along with its vivid memories and stark warnings, is rapidly dying off. There is nothing more annoying than attempting to run the train off the tracks while those in the back seats are rabble rousing with dire warnings of impending doom, death and destruction. Into the valley of death rode the 6 billion.

As they say in poker, this nearly extinguished generation is a ‘tell’, a sign, a marker unmistakably warning in no uncertain terms where we are headed is not where we want to be.

This alone should be sufficient for any critical thinker to settle his or her affairs and remove themselves from the clearly marked ground zero, your local (sub) urban center where any semblance of independence and self sufficiency is a pipe dream of the self deluded mind.

It is well past time to move to where we have a chance of regaining some (even limited) control over our food, water and (safer) space.

Time is running out
Time is not on your side. When exactly do you posittion yourself for the next phase of Empire's collapse?

This is not to say we should bunker in, both physically and mentally. In fact I speak of just the opposite. As I have expressed time and time again, while bunkering might tide us over nicely for a short duration event of a few months or even a year, at some point we must come up for air and interact with the local population.

If at that point we have not integrated ourselves into the community, an extremely unlikely event if we were actually bunkering, it will be exponentially more difficult to do so after the fact. At best, if we are seen as a threat they will shun us and leave us to our own devices.

At worst we will be treated as a dangerous nuisance animal that must be eliminated or neutralized for the community’s greater good.

If the community, already dealing with great stress and turmoil, finds ‘us’ of less value than our ‘stuff’, they will take our stuff and leave our rotting carcass behind. We will be outsiders and must prove our worth to the others.

In a devolving socioeconomic situation a cohesive community must work together as equals while providing similar and equal value to the whole in order to survive. Those alien to the area will be quickly cast off if they do not measure up.

But there is more, so much more, to the unfolding totalitarian equation. One must be willingly deaf, dumb and blind not to hear the propaganda on the boob tube, understand the game theory being played out and see the bleak writing on the wall.

Any oppressive and controlling regime, whether it is defined as the elite, the one percent, shadow government, deep state, corpocracy, fascism or whatever label we use to mindlessly identify, compartmentalize and thereby cognitively diminish, will use any and all means at its disposal to defend itself when it perceives itself under attack.

And the term ‘attack’ is loosely defined to encompass any perceived danger real, imaginary or falsely concocted.

To view the increasingly hostile police state which America is rapidly becoming as anything other than an oppressive and controlling entity readying itself for war upon its population is to expose the reader’s appalling denial of the glaringly obvious. This is nothing short of an emotional and intellectual defect that is severely debilitating and potentially terminal.

The danger is clear and present and growing on a daily basis. If this cannot be seen for what it is, the observer remains hopelessly mired in the bargaining phase of their denial.

Then again never underestimate the time, energy and effort seemingly intelligent and worldly people will invest in constructing an alternative reality they wish to believe in. As a corollary, never underestimate the time, energy and effort an oppressive and controlling regime will invest in promoting an alternative reality the population wishes to believe in.

A self deluded populace is more easily controlled and directed than one whose sticks and stones, when used in anger, may break the elite’s bones. If the population wants to believe in fairy tales, give them fairy tales they can love, honor, cherish and defend. If they don’t, convince them they should believe by any means possible.

The genius of those who are constructing the underlying superstructure of the police state is their cunning ability to do so under the unflinching glare of the midday sun. Problem, reaction, solution is their trade craft, the government bureaucracy their blunt instrument, a corrupted legislature the enabler and creator of the unconstitutional and immoral laws, a co-opted and controlled press their sympathetic choir and the judiciary the final fraudulent arbiter of the chains that bind.

Make no mistake about it, every ‘government’ at war with its people makes certain its actions are ‘just and lawful’, particularly when they are patently not.

When viewed from the point of view of the disinterested and detached, the inevitable is obvious. The only purpose for power is to use the power…or have it used against its own creator. Therein lays its absolute ability to corrupt absolutely.

Clearly the rapidly increasing capacity of the powers-that-be to surveil, subvert, suppress, subdue, subsume and slaughter is self evident to all but those who are desperate not to see. Or, in what is more likely the case, are either paid not to see or wish to continue to be paid if blindness is feigned and cooperation assured. 

See No Evil
The Empire demands compliance. Why would you possibly think your 'End Game' options will still exist when the End Game begins?

This is why, at least at this moment, we would not be able to strike directly at the heart of the diseased beast, for it will be our fathers, family and friends who will defend ‘it’ from us. The Empire is exquisitely designed and constructed to be empowered when physical force is used against it.

Both the physical structure of its ramparts and the perverted psychology of its defenders are strengthened and emboldened when physical force is applied. Active resistance, when directed towards the Empire, is our own worst enemy.

The only way physical force has any chance of working against the Empire is when applied in overwhelming numbers against all vulnerable borders on a continuous basis. Since this requires great sacrifice by the population at large, Jane and Joe will only turn to these devices as a last resort, when all hope is lost and abject desperation sets in.

Even then, the controlling elite are expert at employing propaganda and psychological operations to turn Jane against Joe, thereby minimizing the effectiveness of the opposing force. One must be competently conditioned to kill on command in great numbers with ruthless efficiency to be considered an effective fighting force.

Quite frankly an angry mob is the exact opposite, making it very easy to turn each upon the other since the only driving force of the mob is blind emotional outburst easily subverted and misdirected.

Below are some sobering thoughts to ponder regarding human psychology and armed resistance to the Empire.  

Organized revolution requires both the will and a way. And by ‘way’ I mean money. Any money procured by, or offered to, a resistance always comes with strings attached. Often the money comes directly from the controlling elite itself via back channels designed to subvert, misdirect or implode the resistance.

Or it might come from an enemy of the Empire, thereby making you a proxy and not an independent force. Someone’s bitch, plain and simple.

Essentially, when outnumbered and outgunned guerrilla tactics are usually employed. Basically you are fighting fire with even more devastating fire. If you have any moral qualms with using the methods of Empire against the Empire, this fight isn’t for you. To convince yourself otherwise will only destroy you from within.

If you aren’t ready to declare war on your community, don’t even consider this path. Ninety percent of the population is hopelessly compromised, whether spiritually, morally, medically or pharmaceutically, psychologically, financially or ideologically. To believe otherwise is to engage in self deception. The vast majority will never oppose the Empire in any consistent or meaningful way.

Even worse, in the words of Morpheus, “You have to understand. Most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so helplessly dependent on the system that they will fight to protect it.”

This is so much more than a quote from some silly Hollywood movie. This is a universal psychological truth used to the significant advantage of the Empire. While the puppeteers are a relative few, they leverage the minds of millions far more effectively than if the bodies were simply cannon fodder.

Any serious degradation or collapse of the system will not weaken, but rather strengthen, the Empire, if only because it is accelerating the endgame towards the present day. Those compromised by the system will beg the corrupt system to save them from the collapsing system, a fool’s errand vigorously pursued by unprepared and panicked fools along with the ever present groveling sycophants.

Desperate men do desperate things. Our mistake is assuming that when the downward spiral accelerates the core elite will be among the desperate. Those pursuing a plan of divide and conquer while reaping the spoils will not panic when it’s playing out as expected. Socioeconomic chaos is their friend, not yours or mine.

While the endgame may be accelerating, it will not conclude quickly. These long period cycles of madness require many years, even decades, to complete its rotation only to begin the cycle once again.

Since the insanity of a decaying and corrupt Empire is constantly renewed and invigorated by new blood from below, its lifespan is far longer than yours and mine. The name of the game is survival, not gloriously wasted death or indefinite incarceration.

The greatest danger to us and our loved ones is not (just) the violent thrashing of the expiring Empire, but our refusal to deal frankly and honestly with our own personal shortcomings and denial. Our unwillingness to soberly assess ourselves and our surroundings circumvent any proactive response by us to a worsening situation.

To think one can shelter in place within the confines of the corral is shear lunacy. To believe one can effectively time their escape to greener pastures just ahead of the initial imposition of the financial lockdown is not dealing with reality, other than one produced by the self deceived.

The reason most of us remain frozen in place like jack-lighted deer is our reluctance to recognize the severity of our situation and the capacity for further degradation. Quite frankly, this reduces us to little more than rationalization and justification to explain our near total inaction, other than possibly stockpiling.

Ultimately our ‘plan’ is to cheer on a systemic collapse in the hope those in power will be deposed and a new regime arises from the ashes to rebuild the Empire from the tattered remains of its glorious capitalist past.

At best this is wishful thinking, at worst suicidal. There is madness afoot, a debilitating energy that permeates all that lives, not just the ‘bad’ guys and gals. In the vast majority it expresses as obsessive compulsive behavior, in some it manifests in the form of a sociopath or psychopath, with others various combinations of the seven deadly sins (greed and pride/ego especially) rise to the surface, in still others fear and cowardice prevails.

Great personal and collective courage is required to overcome the disaffected ‘self’. And during times of mass delusion and hysteria, courage is in chronic short supply.

Courage
Do we wait for the water to boil or make our move now? Our biggest enemy is not our surroundings, but our 'self'.

I am fully aware all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. I do not propose nothing be done. But the choices are not limited to either charging directly into withering rifle fire or remaining huddled behind phantom cover in the hope we survive. There are many equally viable alternatives, including (at least partial) withdrawal to begin the process of starving the beast.

Make no mistake about the following. The power of the Empire has not yet waned to the point where it will be toppled by its own arrogance, hubris or blind greed. It has miles to go, and lives to destroy, before it sleeps. Any weakness displayed by the Empire will be compensated for by even greater transgressions against the population.

The lie we tell ourselves is we are not participating in strengthening the Empire by simply going about our daily business while drafting, and possibly even implementing, contingency plans A, B and C.

The Empire cares little about the plans of individual mice and men. So in this respect the illusion of safety within the anonymous pack emboldens inaction. But to believe we are not contributing to the Empire because of our status as an individual snowflake flatly denies our involvement in the avalanche.

Empire does not require willing participation, just involvement plain and simple. The more our contribution is reduced, the less dependent we become, the less contributory we are.

The ugly, and self evident, truth is the vast majority of us wish to partake of the spoils of Empire while denying Empire and the means by which it acquires the spoils. We know any significant change to our living arrangement involves dislocation, deprivation and uncertainty.

We pontificate about high moral aspirations while decrying the despicable greed and self interest of the elite and powerful. Yet our perceived ‘enlightened’ self interest dictates our own (in) action even if it ultimately undermines us as well as our family and friends.

Who are we kidding if not our ‘self’?

As stated previously, Mrs. Cog and I do not have the answers, let alone a firm understanding of all the questions. What we believe we know is extremely personal in nature, but can be universally applied.

Either we declare powerless victimhood by doing little to nothing while awaiting the ‘sign’ to engage Plan B, or we execute a living breathing plan of action here and now by changing nearly everything about our lives and begin the process of reclaiming our personal sovereignty one step at a time.

To change the world I must first change myself. To approach this in any other manner is to adopt the techniques and mindset we decry as dishonest, disingenuous and corrupt. I have come to realize the approaching trials are about so much more than just survival.

This is about personal growth and spiritual transformation, of reaching for and achieving a higher plain of existence greater than the lowest common denominator, the heart of the fraud the Empire promotes and which “We the People” are addicted to and dependent upon.

And this, I suspect, is what truly holds so many people back.

For to break from the herd and look squarely in the mirror requires a fearless self examination and assessment, precisely what we are conditioned to avoid at all costs in our mindless pursuit of self absorbed consumerism.

The promoted myth is simple enough; when we exit the education indoctrination system the only remaining items left to pursue are specific skills required to further our ‘career’, which in turn provides the money to pay the debts that support the self destructive consumer lifestyle.

Turning our back on this meme and consciously choosing a life of more focused labor and dedication to self sufficiency and independence is not aligned with the bargain we struck with the system back when we entered grade school all those years ago. I made a deal with the devil in return for a life of leisure when I hit age 65.

To question this fundamental ‘truth’ requires us to question everything, something very few of us are willing to do.

Are you?
Either you position yourself before the skies darken or you are left groping in the dark.

.

There's a 100% chance of weather

SUBHEAD: Surprise! We didn't know nine-banded armadillos had reached East Tennessee.

By Brian Miller on 29 May 2016 for Winged Elm Farm -
(http://www.wingedelmfarm.com/blog/2016/05/29/theres-a-100-percent-chance-of-weather/)


Image above: A Nine-Banded Armadillo on its hindlegs. To the surprise of some they have reached East Tennessee. From (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nine-banded_armadillo).

It is 4:45am in the morning and a neighbor maybe a half-mile away is shooting a rifle.

Sounds like a .22, so he is probably potting raccoons or rats raiding his cattle feed. Or perhaps he is a man who likes to annoy the world. Regardless, I roll out of bed and make a pot of coffee.

We promise you rain, tomorrow:
For a man who gets up so early, it is amazing how late I am in getting to haying this year. It is the perennial struggle to find just the right week between cooperative weather and work schedule. Driving back from Sweetwater yesterday, I observed that almost all the fields were either cut, raked, baled, or a combination.

I have been holding off for one more good rain, but apparently all the moisture continues to dump on Texas. Meanwhile, our Roane County forecast is an ever-shifting horizon, the moisture always promised in another three days.

Beware the nine-banded armadillo:
On yesterday’s drive back from town, just past the big hog roast in progress at the Luttrell community center, I spotted the distinctive and familiar remains of an animal ­on the road. The sighting was commonplace to me on the backroads of Louisiana growing up. Later that night at dinner with friends, we discussed what I’d seen.

Our friend remarked that, coincidentally, she could’ve sworn she’d seen the same kind of animal a few days before, but she decided against it, since the critters are not known to live in these parts. But, sure enough, a quick bit of research and we found that the nine-banded armadillo has arrived in East Tennessee.

Busy little bees:
In the immortal words of Margot Channing, “You are in a beehive, pal. Didn’t you know? We are all busy little bees, full of stings, making honey day and night. Aren’t we, honey?” Frantically painting more supers and putting together more frames, Cindy has struggled to keep pace with this spring’s exponential colony growth.

The number of our hives has doubled to four, and the girls (all worker bees are female) seem unusually productive. Cindy keeps slapping on supers, and they keep filling them up. We look for a bountiful honey harvest come end of summer: I see horns of mead aplenty and a rereading of Beowulf in my future.

Let’s not go there:
I fixed some chicken sausage gumbo last night. “Cindy, when you go out to feed, grab me an onion from the garden. There are three rows of weeds before you get to Petunia. Buried in the last row are the onions.”

Typically, the dry years like this are the years the garden looks the best. So I really have no excuse … except the fencing. That massive project of closing in the ravine for the pigs was a time-suck this spring. Sigh.

Who cares why you crossed the road. Where are my damn eggs?
After raising speckled Sussex almost exclusively for 16 years, we are going to make a change. We ordered 20 brown leghorn chicks, which arrived this week. They are the foundation bird for the modern leghorns and an egg-laying machine, purportedly.

Our dual-purpose meat-and-eggs Sussex are too irregular in the latter department. So, unless the governor calls (and why would he?), the flock will go in the pot. We look forward to endless bowls of coq au vin, chicken paprikash, and gumbo.

Well, with coffee and the blog now done and the eastern sky alight with the approaching dawn, it is time for me to go dig holes and plant grapevines. One must take advantage of the coolness of the morning and reserve the afternoon for a siesta.

.

Great Lake Rust Belt environment

SUBHEAD: Gary, Indiana is facing either the greatest crisis in its 110-year history, or the greatest opportunity.

By Winifred Bird on 31 May 2016 for Yale e360 -
(http://e360.yale.edu/feature/greening_rust_belt_cities_detroit_gary_indiana/2999/)

http://www.islandbreath.org/2016Year/06/160604garylandbig.jpg
Image above: A Pre-settlement ecosystems map of the Indiana Coastal Region where plant biodiversity rivaled Yellowstone National Park. Click to embiggen. From (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Habitats_of_the_Indiana_Dunes).

Depending on how you look at it, Gary, Indiana is facing either the greatest crisis in its 110-year history, or the greatest opportunity. The once-prosperous center of steel production has lost more than half its residents in the past 50 years.

Just blocks from city hall, streets are so full of crumbling, burned-out houses and lush weeds that they more closely resemble the nuclear ghost town of Pripyat, near Chernobyl, than Chicago’s glitzy downtown an hour to the northwest. Air, water, and soil pollution are severe.

Yet in the midst of this, Gary has quantities of open space that more prosperous cities can only dream of, and sits on a stretch of lakeshore where plant biodiversity rivals Yellowstone National Park.

Now, the big question for Gary, and for dozens of other shrinking cities across the United States’ Rust Belt — which collectively have lost more than a third of their population since the middle of the 20th century — is how to turn this situation to their advantage.

The answer that is beginning to emerge in Gary and other cities of the Rust Belt — which stretches across the upper Northeast through to the Great Lakes and industrial Midwest — is urban greening on a large scale. The idea is to turn scrubby, trash-strewn vacant lots into vegetable gardens, tree farms, stormwater management parks, and pocket prairies that make neighborhoods both more livable and more sustainable.

These types of initiatives have been evolving at the grassroots level for decades in places like Detroit and Buffalo; now, they are starting to attract significant funding from private investors, non-profits, and government agencies, says Eve Pytel, who is director of strategic priorities at the Delta Institute, a Chicago environmental organization active in Gary and several other Rust Belt cities.

“There's a tremendous interest because some of these things are lower cost than traditional development, but at the same time their implementation will actually make the other land more developable," she said.

Or, as Joseph van Dyk, Gary’s director of planning and redevelopment, put it, “If you lived next to a vacant house and now all of a sudden you live next to a forest, you're in better shape.”

Van Dyk noted that city planning in the U.S. had long been predicated on growth. But, he added, “That’s been turned on its head since the Seventies — Detroit, Cleveland, Youngstown, Flint, Gary have this relatively new problem of, how do you adjust for disinvestment? How do you reallocate your resources and re-plan your cities?”


Image above: Brother Nature Produce Farm, a  community effort in Detroit, which has been a leader in green urban renewal. From original article.

Detroit, which has at least 20 square miles of abandoned land, has been a leader in envisioning alternative uses for sites that once would have been targeted for conventional redevelopment.

The city has 1,400 or more urban farms and community gardens, a tree-planting plan so ambitious the local press says it “could serve as a model for postindustrial cities worldwide,” and $8.9 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to implement green infrastructure projects and install solar panels on other vacant lots.

But while demolition itself has added an estimated $209 million to the equity of remaining homes in Detroit, Danielle Lewinski, vice president and director of Michigan Initiatives for the Flint-based Center for Community Progress, said hard data on the value of greening projects is more difficult to come by.

“There's opportunity in Detroit to see an impact in surrounding property values, and therefore people's interest in that area,” said Lewinski, who has been involved in land-use planning there. “The key, though, is that it needs to be done in a way that is strategic and links to other attributes that would attract a person to move into a neighborhood. My concern is that green reuse, absent a connection to a broader vision, may not be nearly as successful from an economic value standpoint.”

In Gary, the broader vision is to concentrate economic development in a number of “nodes,” each of which would be surrounded by leafy corridors of “re-greened” land. The corridors would separate the nodes, helping to give each neighborhood a more distinct identity, as well as bring residents the benefits of open space and serve as pathways for wildlife moving between existing natural areas.

A land-use plan for preserving Gary's core green space is already in place, and officials are currently revising the city’s Byzantine zoning regulations to make redevelopment of the nodes easier.

Projects in Gary are at an even earlier stage than in Detroit, however, and walking the city’s cracked sidewalks, it can be hard to envision a turnaround. Decades of layoffs at the steel mills, compounded by white flight, have left behind a population that is 28 percent poor, 19 percent unemployed, and 85 percent black, living in a landscape where more than a fifth of the buildings are, more than a third are blighted, and almost half of the lots are empty.


But van Dyk and many of his colleagues, including Gary’s dynamic mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, have high hopes for a green renaissance. Standing in his office on the second floor of a re-purposed bank, van Dyk unfurled a map of the city to illustrate what the future might hold.

Around 12,500 tiny blue rectangles dotted the map, representing orphaned parcels whose property taxes haven’t been paid in more than a decade.

“There’s a lot of flooding over here,” he said, pointing a pink highlighter at the Midtown district. “The infrastructure’s decrepit. There’s really low population, and really high ecological value.”


Image above: Site of an abandoned house in Gary, Indiana that can be "mined" for materials and returned to the natural environment. From original article.

Wielding the highlighter like a miniature bulldozer, he traced a winding path over solid blocks of blue, knocking down houses so that strands of wilderness interlaced the neighborhood and neglected parks returned to wetland.

That green network, he said, could help alleviate many of the city’s problems. “Vacant property affects everything from quality of life, public safety, and property values to economic development and stormwater management,” said van Dyk.

Van Dyk currently has $6.6 million from the federal government to tear down about a tenth of the city’s abandoned homes.

To make sure it’s used in a way that benefits both the environment and the remaining residents, he is working with Pytel’s organization, Detroit’s Dynamo Metrics, and staff in Gary’s parks and stormwater management departments to develop a comprehensive demolition strategy.

One part of that strategy entails “deconstructing” rather than simply demolishing buildings, so that contractors can comb them for valuable old-growth timber, vintage fixtures, and other reusable elements.

This spring, the Delta Institute received a $385,000 grant from the Knight Foundation to build a reclamation and reuse facility in Gary similar to one it launched in Chicago in 2009, which has since diverted around 9,700 tons of building materials from landfills. Jennifer White, a former Chicago architect who now lives in Gary, has launched a similar project to salvage building materials and use the money from reselling them to remodel or demolish homes in her neighborhood.

The second part of the strategy involves finding conservation-oriented uses for lots opened up by demolition.

One idea already being piloted is to turn them into tree farms. Fresh Coast Capital, a real-estate investment firm based in Chicago, is planting poplar trees on 60 acres of abandoned land in Gary and six other Rust Belt cities; the fast-growing trees suck up heavy metals and other industrial pollutants with their deep roots, and will potentially sequester 14,000 tons of carbon dioxide over 15 years.

They will then be harvested as timber and the revitalized land returned to municipal governments. By then, city leaders hope, they will have the resources to redevelop it.

Another idea is to use vacant lots to augment or link the rich wilderness areas that already exist in Gary.

The city hugs the southern curve of Lake Michigan, sitting on top of a globally rare ecosystem called dune-and-swale, where cacti, orchids, black oaks, and more than 1,400 other plant species grow in alternating strips of wetland and sand dunes.

Although the U.S. Steel Corporation destroyed much of this ecosystem when it founded Gary — and the steel mill at its heart — in 1906, roughly 500 acres survive in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and several other preserves that abut the mill. The mill continues to operate with a fraction of its former workforce.

City officials have approached the managers of these preserves about expanding their holdings by rehabilitating vacant lots. But Kristopher Krouse, the executive director of the Shirley Heinz Land Trust, which manages about 50 acres of intact dune-and-swale habitat in Gary, said that could be difficult.

While he enthusiastically supports the city’s efforts, and believes some of the properties targeted for demolition might work as buffers around existing preserves, Krouse questioned whether taking on scattered properties degraded by crushed foundations or former industrial use would be meaningful from a conservation perspective.

A third, and so far more promising reuse strategy, is to link demolition with stormwater management. Brenda Scott-Henry, director of green urbanism for Gary, said that whenever crews take down a property they create a three- to four-inch depression on the site and plant grass so that rain soaks into the water table rather than running off into sewage pipes.

In areas with severe flooding, her department is starting to install more extensive green infrastructure, such as infiltration beds made up of buried gravel that act like an underground sponge to slow down the flow of water.

These measures are crucial because Gary, like many older cities, has a combined sewage system that carries rainwater, sewage, and industrial wastewater to the treatment plant in the same pipes.

During heavy storms — which are becoming more common due to climate change —rainwater overwhelms the system, forcing the sanitary district to discharge huge amounts of raw sewage into rivers that lead to Lake Michigan, the region’s largest source of drinking water.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has ordered Gary to fix the problem, but doing so with traditional infrastructure would cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

“If we have to spend that money, why not use it to address some of the other issues we have here, like high unemployment [and the need for] buffers to reduce flooding in severe weather events?” Scott-Henry said.

She plans to meet the EPA’s demands through a combination of gray and green infrastructure, as many Rust Belt cities are doing. Workers trained through a city jobs program for ex-offenders will maintain the plantings over the long term.

Rain gardens bring more direct benefits to neighborhoods, as well . In Philadelphia, several studies have linked a city-wide initiative to landscape more than 16 million square feet of vacant land — part of a stormwater-reduction effort — to reductions in violent crime and stress.

Those are urgent problems in Gary, where murder rates are high (though declining) and police have found the bodies of at least 7 victims inside abandoned homes.

Even more than safety, though, community organizer Jessie Renslow said she values the hope that greening projects bring.

“It’s easy to be cynical, because Gary has been planned to death, and people have had their hearts broken before,” she said. “The people who have decided to stay are ready for a positive reincarnation.” 



.

Collaspe 2016 - 21019

SUBHEAD: Change of course will crash the system, but maintaining the current course will also crash the system.

By Charles Hugh Smith on 2 June 2016 for Of Two Minds -
(http://charleshughsmith.blogspot.co.uk/2016/06/the-structure-of-collapse-2016-2019.html)


Image above: When you read this global financial collapse headline it will be too late to do anything about it. From (http://www.collapse.news/2015-09-22-entire-global-financial-system-can-go-crashing-down-with-one-small-glitch.html).

The end-state of unsustainable systems is collapse. Though collapse may appear to be sudden and chaotic, we can discern key structures that guide the processes of collapse.
Though the subject is complex enough to justify an entire shelf of books, these six dynamics are sufficient to illuminate the inevitable collapse of the status quo.
  1. Doing more of what has failed spectacularly. The leaders of the status quo inevitably keep doing more of what worked in the past, even when it no longer works. Indeed, the failure only increases the leadership’s push to new extremes of what has failed spectacularly. At some point, this single-minded pursuit of failed policies speeds the system’s collapse.

  2. Emergency measures become permanent policies. The status quo’s leaders expect the system to right itself once emergency measures stabilize a crisis. But broken systems cannot right themselves, and so the leadership is forced to make temporary emergency measures (such as lowering interest rates to zero) permanent policy. This increases the fragility of the system, as any attempt to end the emergency measures triggers a system-threatening crisis.

  3. Diminishing returns on status quo solutions. Back when the economic tree was loaded with low-hanging fruit, solutions such as lowering interest rates had a large multiplier effect. But as the tree is stripped of fruit, the returns on these solutions diminish to zero.

  4. Declining social mobility. As the economic pie shrinks, the privileged maintain or increase their share, and the slice left to the disenfranchised shrinks. As the privileged take care of their own class, there are fewer slots open for talented outsiders. The status quo is slowly starved of talent and the ranks of those opposed to the status quo swell with those denied access to the top rungs of the social mobility ladder.

  5. The social order loses cohesion and shared purpose as the social-economic classes pull apart. The top of the wealth/power pyramid no longer serves in the armed forces, and withdraws from contact with the lower classes. Lacking a unifying social purpose, each class pursues its self-interests to the detriment of the nation and society as a whole.

  6. Strapped for cash as tax revenues decline, the state borrows more money and devalues its currency as a means of maintaining the illusion that it can fulfill all its promises. As the purchasing power of the currency declines, people lose faith in the state’s currency. Once faith is lost, the value of the currency declines rapidly and the state’s insolvency is revealed.
Each of these dynamics is easily visible in the global status quo.

As an example of doing more of what has failed spectacularly, consider how financialization inevitably inflates speculative bubbles, which eventually crash with devastating consequences.

But since the status quo is dependent on financialization for its income, the only possible response is to increase debt and speculation—the causes of the bubble and its collapse—to inflate another bubble. In other words, do more of what failed spectacularly.

This process of doing more of what failed spectacularly appears sustainable for a time, but this superficial success masks the underlying dynamic of diminishing returns: each reflation of the failed system requires greater commitments of capital and debt.

Financialization is pushed to new unprecedented extremes, as nothing less will generate the desired bubble.

Rising costs narrow the maneuvering room left to system managers. The central bank’s suppression of interest rates is an example. As the economy falters, central banks lower interest rates and increase the credit available to the financial system.

This stimulus works well in the first downturn, but less well in the second and not at all in the third, for the simple reason that interest rates have been dropped to zero and credit has been increased to near-infinite.

The last desperate push to do more of what failed spectacularly is for central banks to lower interest rates to below-zero: it costs depositors money to leave their cash in the bank. This last-ditch policy is now firmly entrenched in Europe, and many expect it to spread around the world as central banks have exhausted less extreme policies.

The status quo’s primary imperative is self-preservation, and this imperative drives the falsification of data to sell the public on the idea that prosperity is still rising and the elites are doing an excellent job of managing the economy.

Since real reform would threaten those at the top of the wealth/power pyramid, fake reforms and fake economic data become the order of the day.

Leaders face a no-win dilemma: any change of course will crash the system, but maintaining the current course will also crash the system.

Welcome to 2016-2019.

This essay was drawn from Charles Hugh Smith's new book Why Our Status Quo Failed and Is Beyond Reform.


.

Out to Pasture

SUBHEAD: Kauai needs a few dairies of modest size with pasture fed cows. We do not need a commercial dairy farm.

By Megan Perry on 27 May 2016 for Sustainable Food Trust -
(http://sustainablefoodtrust.org/articles/out-to-pasture-a-better-way-to-produce-milk/)


Image above: Dairy cows grazing on grass. From original article.

Mat Boley’s dairy farm in Somerset seems to be achieving the impossible. Despite the crisis currently facing the dairy industry, with unprecedented low prices forcing many farmers out of business, Batch End Farm’s organic pasture-fed, low-input system is not only coping, but doing remarkably well. 

A farm walk organised by the Pasture-Fed Livestock Association (PFLA) gave us an insight into Mat’s success.

Unsurprisingly, many people, from farmers to conservationists, journalists and would-be smallholders, are interested in how Mat has managed to milk his 340 Jersey crossbred cows purely on pasture for the past 17 years. At a time when most dairy farms are trying to maximise production, why has he chosen to milk only once a day?

Prioritising the welfare and longer life expectancy of his cows rather than focusing entirely on maximum yield, has resulted in numerous benefits for both him and his animals. Once-a-day milking has significantly lowered his cow replacement rate from 23% to 15%. 

The number of empty cows (cows that do not become pregnant) has also dropped from 12% to 5%. Interestingly, the ‘powerhouses’ of his once a day milking are the slightly older cows – six or so years old – which offers a greater incentive to keep them healthy and happy for longer. Many of Mat’s cows live from 14–16 years, compared to intensive systems where the standard cull age is around six years old.

With the average UK dairy cow producing 7,870 litres per year, Batch End’s average of 2,941 litres is significantly lower. 

But the farm still produces 1 million litres of milk per annum, with a 3.7% protein content, slightly higher than the average 3.5%. Studies also show that pasture-fed meat and dairy contains higher levels of important vitamins and beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. 

Arguably, this lower production level is what the dairy industry should be striving for as a way of counteracting the problem of overproduction and low prices.

In terms of viability, labour and input costs are relatively low in this system. Mat doesn’t need to buy in feed, nor does he have a regular use for large, diesel-guzzling machinery. Veterinary visits are infrequent, keeping costs to a minimum. 

 An interesting discussion about tuberculosis took place during the walk and it was suggested that a reason for the rarity of badgers entering his sheds and fields could be accredited to the absence of the concentrate feed which often entices them.

Milking only once a day provides additional benefits for Mat, his family and farm workers, by relieving the pressure and opening up more time to work on other aspects of the farm business. 

The low intensity of this way of working means that problems are spotted and dealt with more swiftly, and that the animals get more individual attention.

It’s not all easy, and Mat admits he’s still learning all the time. 

An apparent lack of species diversity and an abundance of docks in his grassland prompted suggestions from those on the walk that he could improve rotation by planting more nitrogen-fixing crops and introducing sheep to help reduce the impact of selective grazing.

Low-input dairying goes against industry advice and incentives, where increasing production is promoted as the path to prosperity. 

And the problem with experimenting is that farmers can’t afford to get it wrong. Taking a different approach may be what’s necessary to instigate systemic change, but it also takes hard work, time and willingness to learn new things along with an inevitable increase in risk.

There remain some fundamental problems in dairying that reflect the wider agricultural crisis.  One example is dairy bull calves – always a contentious issue – as low beef prices and the development of high yielding milk cows offers little incentive to rear them for meat. 

Mat’s solution is to give away his bull calves to a nearby farmer who successfully rears them for late stores. It might seem madness to give away calves for free, but based on the current livestock industry it is not economically viable for most farmers to keep them, and the alternative is to slaughter at birth.

This is one example highlighting why our skewed economic system urgently needs addressing, with a move towards rewarding those who farm sustainably rather than allowing them to be driven out by cheap imports and supermarket pricing. 

If farmers received a price that reflected the true cost that both they and society pay they would have more options, making it possible to prioritise sustainability and higher welfare in their production methods.

The current system still favours intensive approaches, focused on maximising profit.  But Mat has shown there are many things farmers can do to add value and lower costs in a way that is good for the animals, the environment, the farmer and the consumer. 

By rearing animals on pasture, farmers automatically reduce the environmental impact of producing concentrate feed. The pasture itself sequesters and stores carbon and provides a habitat for wildlife. In the space of just half an hour we saw deer, swans and a multitude of bird life on Mat’s farm.

To help farmers opting for the pasture-fed approach, the PFLA has extended its certification standards to include milk as well as meat so that consumers can differentiate between grain-fed and pasture-fed dairy products. 

With the Pasture for Life meat label successfully launched, the PFLA is now running a pilot project with eight dairy farmers to test the pasture-fed standards when applied to milk production as well as establishing markets and identifying the potential for adding value to the milk.

Aside from the environmental benefits of not feeding grain, the wholly pasture-fed approach is seen as a more resilient system with lower and more predictable input costs. It is a more holistic method, with the feed coming entirely from home-produced pasture, avoiding purchased cereals, soya and fishmeal – whose costs fluctuate on the world market and with much of it being imported at significant carbon cost.

While the PFLA does encourage the adoption of the organic approach as far as possible, it does not require its certified farmers to be formally certified organic. 

When cattle are raised on pasture produced from within the farm, there is a natural symbioses between the consumption of food and the manure that is returned to the land to feed the soil. In turn, this avoids the issue of slurry – a problematic waste product of intensively farmed cows – as well as the need for artificial fertilisers.

Finally, animals are less stressed, eating a natural diet, spending most of their time outdoors and following their natural instinct to graze.

While currently a niche product, pasture-fed meat and dairy is growing in popularity. 

And as environmental, human health and animal welfare issues become more prominent it makes sense to look towards a nature-first way of farming – a method that pioneering farmers like Mat, are proving can work.

The PFLA is happy to share the findings of the pilot scheme and welcomes anyone who would like to join them. Contact the PFLA here to find out more.
.

Participation in RIMPAC 2016

SUBHEAD: The countries participating in largest naval war exercise reach record number and include NATO.

By Juan Wilson  1 June 2016 for Island Breath  -
(http://www.stripes.com/news/pacific/27-nations-set-to-join-rimpac-exercise-in-hawaii-california-1.412494)

http://www.islandbreath.org/2016Year/06/160601pacrimbig.jpg
Image above: Teaser poster for "Pacific Rim II" film being produced now and ready for 2018. Mashup by Juan Wilson. Click to embiggen.

Note below the two recent articles  (5/31 and 6/1) in Stars and Stripes and Naval Today respectively that are puff pieces more than actual news stories. They both concern RIMPAC 2016 - the international naval war exercises that will begin toward the end of this month.

Both of these articles seem to have been "crafted" from the same US Navy public relations announcement. They cover the same points with about the same amount of detail in the same order.

The gist of the pieces are:
One: To congratulate the US Navy for convincing four new non-Pacific nations (Brazil, Denmark, Germany and Italy) for joining the Rim of the Pacific nations involved with Pacific Naval warfare. Three out of four of them are allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Two: To dampen criticism, from the likes of Sen John McCain, that the Chinese Navy should be disenvited from participating as observers in RIMPAC 2016 as they were in 2014. Obviously, the US wants China to see what they would face in and conflict in the South China Sea if they continue to build up they Naval presence in the Western Pacific.

Three: The public relations effort  invokes “The Great Green Fleet” using conservation efforts and alternative fuels; and focusing on rescue and disaster relief operations is a screen for deadlier activities that even in "practice" mode are lethal to the life in the ocean..
As to my opinion of these gists:
One:  The US Navy Pacific fleet in including three NATO navies from the Atlantic Ocean under its wing in the Pacific. Always remember that attacking any NATO nation is an attack on all. In my opinion the US Navy wants to make sure that if there is trouble in the Western Pacific that it will be the US Navy and not NATO doing the coordination.
Two: The US Navy wants the Chinese Navy to observe how mighty and dominant it is in command and control on the Pacific Ocean. They also want the Chinese available for public relations purposes. Also The relationship of a panoramic flotilla of 45 RIMPAC ships from 27nations in proportion to a couple of ships from the Chinese Navy in passive obervation makes a great photo opportunity.
Three: No amount of "Green Fleet" bullshit can obscure the deadly impact of high energy sonar, radar, amphibious operations and live ammo exercises on the Pacific Ocean and its denizens - live reefs, fish, birds, ocean mammals and to the the ecosystems that support them.
It should be noted that buried in the second story below is the detail that Japan Maritime Self Defense Force Rear Adm. Koji Manabe was named the vice commander of the RIMPAC 2016 Combined Task Force. This is interesting because his role was only enabled by an adjustment to Japanese law that disallows any military activity other than that needed for self defense - the old rules would not have allowed a leading role in such an activity as RIMPAC.

As the United States pushes militarily forward in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, it expands its already dominant role throughout the Pacific region. To me it looks like we are pushing for World War Three.  And that's a bad idea. As I have said before - the central role of our navy should not be to threaten live throughout the world, but to protect the oceans and those who live in it.



Twenty 27 countries in RIMPAC 2016

By Wyatt Olsen  31 May 2016 for Stars & Stripes  -
(http://www.stripes.com/news/pacific/27-nations-set-to-join-rimpac-exercise-in-hawaii-california-1.412494)


Image above: Reporters and other visitors gather to inspect the bow of the Haikou, China's flagship destroyer, during the 2014 Rim of the Pacific exercise in Hawaii. From original article.

Four nations will join this summer’s Rim of the Pacific drills in Hawaii, increasing the number of countries participating in the world’s largest international maritime exercise to 27.

Brazil, Denmark, Germany and Italy will take part for the first time in the biennial RIMPAC, which is slated to begin June 30 and end Aug. 4, the Navy said Tuesday. China, which joined the exercise in 2014, will also participate.

This year’s U.S. Pacific Fleet-hosted drills – which will focus on disaster relief, maritime security, sea control and complex warfighting – will include 45 ships, five submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel.

Participating nations include Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, South Korea, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Tonga and the United Kingdom.

Drills will include amphibious operations, gunnery, counter-piracy, mine clearance, explosive ordnance disposal and diving and salvage operations. Defensive training against missiles, submarines and aircraft will also take place.

While most of the exercise is held in Hawaii, amphibious operations will take place in Southern California, featuring a harpoon missile shoot from a Navy littoral combat ship. A submarine rescue is new for this year, the Navy said.

Playing a major role in this year’s RIMPAC is the Navy’s “Great Green Fleet,” a yearlong initiative that uses energy conservation measures and alternative fuels to demonstrate how cutting energy costs can contribute to overall military readiness.

Almost all the vessels participating will use an approved alternate-fuel blend, the Navy said.

Some in Congress have called for China to be disinvited to RIMPAC, citing the country’s expansionist actions in the South China Sea, where it has enlarged small atolls through sand dredging.

The country has built facilities and runways on some, construction the U.S. characterizes as militarization.

Last month, U.S. Rep. Mark Takai, of Hawaii, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, asked Secretary of Defense Ash Carter to reconsider China’s invitation in light of its naval actions over the past two years.

“I guess my question is why then should we reward China for this aggressive behavior by including them in an event meant for allies and partners?” Takai said to Carter during a March hearing. He described China’s behavior as “the polar opposite of U.S. objectives in the region.”

In late April, China told the U.S. it would deny a Hong Kong port visit by the USS John C. Stennis aircraft carrier strike group planned for May 3-8. The denial likely came in response to the strike group’s recent presence near the disputed Spratly Islands close to the Philippines.

U.S. Pacific Fleet commander Adm. Scott Swift has said on numerous occasions he believes the path forward with China is to deepen relationships with military-to-military contact.

In 2014, China sent four ships to RIMPAC, including the destroyer Haikou and hospital ship Peace Ark. It also sent a spy ship, which remained in international waters off Hawaii.



Record participation in RIMPAC 2016

By Staff 1 June 2016 for Naval Today -
(https://navaltoday.com/2016/06/01/record-number-of-countries-to-take-part-in-rimpac-2016/)

With four new participants, the number of countries taking part in RIMPAC, the world’s largest international maritime exercise, rose to 27.

45 ships, five submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel will participate in the biennial Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise scheduled June 30 to August 4, in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California.

This is the first time that Brazil, Denmark, Germany, and Italy are participating in RIMPAC 2016. Additional firsts will involve flexing the command and control structure for various at sea events and incorporating a submarine rescue exercise.

Other participants will be forces from:

Australia, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, People’s Republic of China, Peru, the Republic of Korea, the Republic of the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Tonga, the United Kingdom and the United States.

This year will see amphibious operations in the Southern California operating area, feature a harpoon missile shoot from a U.S. Navy littoral combat ship and highlight fleet innovation during the Trident Warrior experimentation series.

RIMPAC 2016 is the 25th exercise in the series that began in 1971. Hosted by U.S. Pacific Fleet.
It will be led by U.S. Vice Adm. Nora Tyson, commander of the U.S. 3rd Fleet (C3F), who will serve as the Combined Task Force (CTF) Commander.

Royal Canadian Navy Rear Adm. Scott Bishop will serve as deputy commander of the CTF, and Japan Maritime Self Defense Force Rear Adm. Koji Manabe as the vice commander.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Judgement Against RIMPAC 2016 5/29/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Prepare for RIMPAC War in Hawaii 5/22/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Navy to "take" millions of mammals 5/17/16
Ea O Ka Aina: US court RIMPAC Impact decision 4/3/15
Ea O Ka Aina: RIMPAC 2014 Impact Postmortem 10/22/1
Ea O Ka Aina: RIMPAC 2014 in Full March 7/16/14
Ea O Ka Aina: 21st Century Energy Wars 7/10/14
Ea O Ka Aina: RIMPAC War on the Ocean 7/3/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Voila - World War Three 7/1/14
Ea O Ka Aina: The Pacific Pivot 6/28/14
Ea O Ka Aina: RIMPAC IMPACT 6/8/14
Ea O Ka Aina: RIMPAC Then and Now 5/16/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Earthday TPP Fukushima RIMPAC 4/22/14
Ea O Ka Aina: The Asian Pivot - An ugly dance 12/5/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Help save Mariana Islands 11/13/13
Ea O Ka Aina: End RimPac destruction of Pacific 11/1/13 
Ea O Ka Aina: Moana Nui Confereence 11/1/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Navy to conquer Marianas again  9/3/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Pagan Island beauty threatened 10/26/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Navy license to kill 10/27/12 
Ea O Ka Aina: Sleepwalking through destruction 7/16/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Okinawa breathes easier 4/27/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Navy Next-War-Itis 4/13/12
Ea O Ka Aina: America bullies Koreans 4/13/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Despoiling Jeju island coast begins 3/7/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Jeju Islanders protests Navy Base 2/29/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Hawaii - Start of American Empire 2/26/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Korean Island of Peace 2/26/12   
Ea O Ka Aina: Military schmoozes Guam & Hawaii 3/17/11
Ea O Ka Aina: In Search of Real Security - One 8/31/10
Ea O Ka Aina: Peace for the Blue Continent 8/10/10
Ea O Ka Aina: Shift in Pacific Power Balance 8/5/10
Ea O Ka Aina: RimPac to expand activities 6/29/10
Ea O Ka Aina: RIMPAC War Games here in July 6/20/10
Ea O Ka Aina: Pacific Resistance to U.S. Military 5/24/10
Ea O Ka Aina: Guam Land Grab 11/30/09
Ea O Ka Aina: Guam as a modern Bikini Atoll 12/25/09
Ea O Ka Aina: GUAM - Another Strategic Island 11/8/09
Ea O Ka Aina: Diego Garcia - Another stolen island 11/6/09
Ea O Ka Aina: DARPA & Super-Cavitation on Kauai 3/24/09
Island Breath: RIMPAC 2008 - Navy fired up in Hawaii 7/2/08
Island Breath: RIMPAC 2008 uses destructive sonar 4/22/08
Island Breath: Navy Plans for the Pacific 9/3/07
Island Breath: Judge restricts sonar off California 08/07/07
Island Breath: RIMPAC 2006 sonar compromise 7/9/06
Island Breath: RIMPAC 2006 - Impact on Ocean 5/23/06
Island Breath: RIMPAC 2004 - Whale strandings on Kauai 9/2/04
Island Breath: PMRF Land Grab 3/15/04

.