Fracking Hawaii

SUBHEAD: Drilling for geothermal may leak toxins into our aquifers.

By Henry Curtis on 30 January 2013 for Disappeared News -

Image above: There are people thinking about fracking Hawaii. From (

Across the country there are community uproars about fossil fuel companies using pressurized water and toxic chemicals to rip apart underground rock formations to extract oil and gas. The companies believe that the chemicals used should be protected as trade secrets. They are using political muscle to exempt themselves from disclosure and liability. They assert that the resultant earthquakes, aquifer contamination and health impacts are, like climate change itself, a figment of imagination of a few misguided alarmists.

Hawai`i State Senator Ruderman wrote Senate Bill 375 that would ban the use of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in Hawaii.

State Senator Solomon heard the bill and then tried to kill it without voting to kill it. Other Senators pointed out that when there is disagreement in a Committee there must be a public vote that is recorded. Senator Solomon said she wants to review the Senate Rules and has put off the committee vote until next week.

Don Thomas, a geochemist and director of the University of Hawaii’s Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes, and a long-time paid consultant with Puna Geothermal Ventures, sees no need to strengthen environmental protections, although he notes that “it is conceivable that we will find thermal areas in Hawaii where permeability is extremely low and where hydrofracking could potentially make something economically viable."

On January 25, 2013 HELCO filed with the Public Utilities Commission a 270 megabyte Proposed Geothermal Request For Proposal. Consultants with a company that will bid for the right to build the largest geothermal power plant in the State has called Ruderman’s bill "embarrassing."

Susan Petty, president of Seattle-based AltraRock Energy points out that geothermal hydro shearing is different from oil and gas fracking, In reality, the definitions are almost identical. Hydraulic Fracturing uses pressurized fluids to create fractures in rock layers. Hydro Shearing uses pressurized fluids to create fractures in fractured rocks. Susan Petty added that "the big issues are with getting the natural gas into aquifers. In geothermal, there is no natural gas.” Obviously there are different impacts.

Drilling for oil or gas may leak oil or gas into aquifers. Drilling for geothermal may leak geothermal fluid into aquifers. The potential for Puna geothermal wells to contaminate water aquifers was noted decades ago in a Hawai`i geothermal EIS.


Food, Water, Energy & Shelter

SUBHEAD: As things seem to be degrading or coming apart you will have to step in to provide for yourself.

By Juan Wilson on 31 January 2013 for Island Breath -

Image above: From (

A Scary Future
Many of us feel anxiety over a number of current world-wide trends;
  • Uncontrolled Industrialization
  • Global Warming
  • Peak Everything
  • Economic Collapse
  • Environmental Degradation
  • Resource Depletion
  • Food Security
  • Mass Extinctions
All these dire issues point to a single source - Human Overpopulation. How we deal with the pressure our overpopulation places on the living systems of the Earth is crucial. The trend of our efforts to date do not bode well for the current complexity of life on this planet. Our collective foot is still firmly pressing the pedal to the metal on global industrialization and population growth.

What will we face? 
Our lack of action on the causes of global warming is quickly leading to a runaway situation out of our control. Wildly different results are still possible if we act decisively with haste. However, a few things are baked into the cake already.  Any future we likely face will include some combination of the elements listed above on a drier, more chaotic Eaarth with lost coastlines void of healthy reefs and hinterlands with dying forests.

Much of human action is directed irrationally from emotion. We often use our rational intelligence to justify and "clarify" before and/or after those actions. That's okay - it's a problem when we don't realize that tendency. Humans love magic, excitement and drama. And there is certainly drama in the air. As a result we have created some remarkable constructs to explain our predicament we are in and create scenarios about what, if anything, we should do about it.

Scenario 1:
Some people are "preppers" betting on a future like "The Road"; "Soylent Green"; "On the Beach"; "Escape From New York"; or "Mad Max".They are stockpiling freeze dried food and ammo to get them through the tough times.

Scenario 2:
There are also those techno-optimists who see scientists as the white knights of technical innovation who with save us from the abyss - with desktop fusion; throrium reactors; GMO food; and HAARP climate modification. Their solution - invest more in technology.

Scenario 3:
Still others foresee spiritual transformations of some kind - like
the Rapture; or alien interventions; or the coming of the Aquarian Age. These folks are preparing by accepting the changes about us as merely the prelude to a newly transformed world. Their solution -prepare your soul to accept a new world.

Scenario 4:
Others are looking to cosmic cataclysms like collisions with Planet X; an Earth magnetic pole reversal; Massive earthquakes and other such act of God disasters. These folks take some solace in the fact there is nothing they can do about the oncoming apocalypse.

Scenario 5:
And finally, don't forget those whose adaptation to Eaarth's transformation is total denial. They cling to the "positive" message of the mass media encouraging us to be fascinated with celebrity; care about professional sports; be entertained with mindless violence and emotionless sex with the underlying message that we must "Consume!"

All these scenarios are ways of people coping through a basic denial of our situation. None of these paths lead us away from the darkness we face

Mundane Industrial Collapse
The likely result of our denial is a continuation along the slowly degrading path we have been walking already - until we hit a barrier; an interruption; a collapse that we cannot find a way around.

The form that takes is probably going to be an interruption of goods and services that stretches out and becomes a "new normal". We are likely to see a breakdown of large scale services that now provide of food, fuel,
healthcare, distribution, and communications we have come to take as an entitlement. Needless to say, our very lives today depend on some of those systems.

Timing, Extent, Response
First of all, a realistic strategy does not include planning for titanic events over which we have no control. It does take making decisions on how much time we have in which to put in place local redundant sources for the things we must have.
Q: Will it happen in a generation or this spring?
A: It's happening now. Some solutions are already out of reach. Begin now on the most critical items you will need to take care of.

Q: Will it be a short interruption of services or a protracted disaster?
A: Increasingly longer and more frequent outages leading to permanent loss of many things we take for granted - like online shopping and delivery everywhere.

Q: Will there be an effective response by the international community, our national government, state agencies, community services, neighbors and friends or will you be on your own?
A: In the end it will be up to local communities, neighborhoods and yourself to provide the bulk of all services you receive.

    What to focus on
    Global warming is one lens to look through tot the problem. Stresses are already being placed on human systems by climate change that will result in breakdown of food delivery, available water and adequate shelter for many.

    My advice, if you have not started already, begin now to secure a personal source of food, water, energy and shelter.

    If, like most people, your budget is limited, you will have to make modest investments. Some things can quickly be productive for a $1,000 budget. You can source some of these things locally but they are also available by shopping at our ubiquitous national franchises and the internet links to national distribution systems - at least for now.

    For Food -
    A vegetable garden of greens and beans is easy and fast. A planted papaya seed can bear fruit inside a year. Besides your labor in preparing the grounds and a visit to a free seed exchange and some compost from your kitchen you'll need some dried chicken manure, a few bags of organic fertilizer from K-Mart.  This approach does not include fencing, pots or raised beds, if you need them. Cost about $100.

    For Water -
    Put together a simple rain catchment system with some metal roofing, gutter and a closed opaque safe container. Three  pieces of metal roofing (12'x2.5')  cut in half and screwed to a 2"x4" frame with a gutter leading to a 2 - 60 gallon rain water tanks from Home Depot with a stand alone countertop potable water filter. Cost about $500.

    For Energy -
    In order to charge your laptop, phone and a provide a reading light for night use you could use 60watts of solar panel, a cheap controller and inverter from Amazon with a couple of deep-cycle batteries from Walmart. Cost as low as about $400.

    For Shelter -
    Here on tropical Kauai shelter is not as big an issue as in the arid southwest or chilly northeast of America. However, it is important that at, or very near your place of shelter, you have access to land that can be modified to achieve goals related to food, water and energy.

    Your current shelter (some rental units, a condo) might not let you achieve even modest goals. You will have to find nearby alternatives places to live or work, so you can provide ever more important do-it-yourself solutions.

    If you are just starting this journey, be aware that some efforts will take precious years to bear results. Like most long term investments they don't bear mature fruit immediately. Just remember an avocado tree will take zeveral years to bear its first fruit.

    Even four years after building our first chicken coop and raising three generations of free range egglayers we just now feel we can keep the the chickens healthy, reproducing and the eggs coming.

    Planning for the future should based on a expecting a protracted degradation of the larger distant organizations that effect our lives. This will mean turning to services provided by smaller local organizations.


    Israeli Settlements Are Illegal

    SUBHEAD: United Nations' report calls for Israel to immediately stop further illegal settlement construction.

    By John Heilprin on 31 January 2013 for Huffington Post -

    Image above: Israeli settlements, such as this West Bank Jewish settlement of Beitar Ilit is precluding possibility of two state solution. From (

    The United Nations' first report on Israel's overall settlement policy describes it as a "creeping annexation" of territory that clearly violates the human rights of Palestinians, and calls for Israel to immediately stop further such construction.

    The report's conclusions, revealed Thursday, are not legally binding, but they further inflame tensions between the U.N. Human Rights Council and Israel, and between Israel and the Palestinians. Israeli officials immediately denounced the report, while Palestinians pointed to it as "proof of Israel's policy of ethnic cleansing" and its desire to undermine the possibility of a Palestinian state.

    The Palestinians also hinted that they could use the report as a basis for legal action toward a war crimes prosecution.

    In its report to the 47-nation council, a panel of investigators said Israel is violating international humanitarian law under the Fourth Geneva Convention, one of the treaties that establish the ground rules for what is considered humane during wartime.

    This was the first thematic report on Israel's settlements with an historical look at the government's policy since 1967, U.N. officials said. Previous U.N. reports have taken a look at Israeli settlement policy only through the lens of a specific event, such as the 2009 war in the Gaza Strip, when Israel launched an offensive in response to months of rocket fire by the ruling Hamas militant group.

    The Israeli government persists in building settlements in occupied territories claimed by Palestinians for a future state, including east Jerusalem and the West Bank, "despite all the pertinent United Nations resolutions declaring that the existence of the settlements is illegal and calling for their cessation," the report said.

    The settlements are "a mesh of construction and infrastructure leading to a creeping annexation that prevents the establishment of a contiguous and viable Palestinian State and undermines the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination," the report concludes.

    More than 500,000 Israelis already live in settlements that dot the West Bank and ring east Jerusalem, the Palestinians' hoped-for capital. Israel annexed east Jerusalem, with its Palestinian population, immediately after capturing the territory from Jordan in 1967 and has built housing developments for Jews there, but the annexation has not been recognized internationally.

    The Israeli Foreign Ministry accused the council of taking a systematically one-sided and biased approach towards Israel, with the report being merely "another unfortunate reminder" of that bias.

    "The only way to resolve all pending issues between Israel and the Palestinians, including the settlements issue, is through direct negotiations without pre-conditions," the ministry said. "Counterproductive measures – such as the report before us – will only hamper efforts to find a sustainable solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict."

    French judge Christine Chanet, who led the panel, said Israel never cooperated with the probe, which the council ordered last March.

    Because it was not authorized to investigate within Israel, Chanet said, the panel had to travel to Jordan to interview more than 50 people who spoke of the impact of the settlements, such as violence by Jewish settlers, confiscation of land and damage to olive trees that help support Palestinian families. The report also references legal opinions, other reports and a number of articles in the Israeli press.

    Another panel member, Pakistani lawyer Asma Jahangir, said the settlements "seriously impinge on the self-determination of the Palestinian people," an offense under international humanitarian law.

    At a news conference, Chanet called the report "a kind of weapon for the Palestinians" if they want to take their grievances before The Hague-based International Criminal Court.

    The Palestine Liberation Organization appeared to suggest it might seek such action, in a statement that called the report's legal framework a clear indictment of Israeli policy and practice.

    "All the Israeli settlement activities are illegal and considered to be war crimes according to the International Criminal Court's Rome Statute as well as the Fourth Geneva Convention. This means that Israel is liable to prosecution," said PLO executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi. The settlements, she added, are "clearly a form of forced transfer and a proof of Israel's policy of ethnic cleansing."

    In November, the U.N. General Assembly recognized a state of Palestine in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem in a vote that was largely symbolic but infuriated Israel. In December, the Palestinians accused Israel of planning more "war crimes" by expanding settlements.

    The Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council was set up in 2006 to replace a 60-year-old commission that was widely discredited as a forum dominated by nations with poor rights records. The United States finally joined the council in 2009, and U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said earlier this month that while all countries should appear for their review "we also consistently registered our opposition to the council's consistent anti-Israel bias."

    Earlier this week, Israel became the first nation to skip a review of its human rights record by the council without giving a reason. Diplomats agreed to postpone their review until later this year based on Israel's request for a deferral.

    The council, which could have proceeded with the review or canceled it, said its agreement to defer would set precedent for how to deal with any future cases of "non-cooperation."

    All 193 U.N.-member nations are required to submit to such a review every four years, and council diplomats said they worried that if a nation were let off the hook that could undermine the process.

    Leading by bad example

    SUBHEAD: Why is Kauai County hellbent on this expensive, destructive and foolhardy course? And what will it take to stop this madness.

    By Joan Conrow on 28 January 2013 for Kauai Eclectic -

    Image above: Wailua Beach in 1981 looking south, when the beach was much wider. From original article.

    The county is proceeding with construction of the concrete Path at Wailua Beach even though its special management area (SMA) permit for the project has expired.

    The SMA permit for the section of the path between Lydgate and Lihi parks was approved in 2007, with the condition that “Applicant shall commence construction of the proposed project within 2 years from the date of Planning Commission approval of this Special Management Area permit, and complete construction within 4 years.”

    Now an ordinary person would read that as construction should have begun by 2009 and be pau by 2011, which it wasn't. The county, however, is saying no, that language means 2 + 4, or six years to complete. So what? Is the county now going to give every other developer similar latitude?

    Further, the permit was approved when the plan was for a boardwalk on the beach. The design has been changed substantially to a concrete path alongside the highway, which should have triggered another review by the Planning Commission. But the last thing the county wants is to reopen the public process.

    Instead, it's setting a terrible example by building public infrastructure too close to the ocean through use of a shoreline setback variance. It's also armoring the coastline through its use of concrete — please don't tell me a concrete foot path attached to a 3.5-foot thick wall isn't a seawall — and intensive vegetation.

    At least, it sure sounds like intensive vegetation, when you consider they're spending $4,000 on beach heliotrope and another $4,000 on hala, all in 25-gallon pots. No quantity is specified, which would make it awfully hard to determine whether the supplier actually fulfilled the contract. Another $10,000 is allocated for 1-gallon pots of naupaka, again with no quantity specified.

    Then there's $15,000 for grass seed that is apparently mixed with gold dust at that price in addition to $6,000 for hydromulch seeding. Though why we would want to put a chemical concoction that close to the ocean is beyond me.

    Take a gander through the rest of the budget. (Scroll to the end of the document.) Some $584,000 is being spent on concrete, and $145,000 for reinforcing steel. That's to make sure if you hit that wall with your car, it's guaranteed to be a big smashup. Another $230,000 is budgeted for rock facing on the concrete wall. Additionally, $42,500 is earmarked for cops and other traffic controls, with $25,000 allocated for archaeological monitoring. The pavement markers are $8,000, though it's hard to know exactly what we're paying for, as again, no specific quantities are listed.

    Some $13,000 is budgeted for signs alone – gee, who would've thought a mile marker sign cost $1,500?

    Which makes me wonder how much the sign cost that was put up right in the middle of Kuhio Highway — and run over within a day — advising motorists of the new crosswalk that's been installed between Kawaihau and Hauaala roads, one of the most congested sections in Kapaa. The crosswalk was painted so people could get from the Kawaihau spur, which is not yet pau, to the coastal Path.

    Yet for some reason the county says, no, we can't possibly have the Path crossing the highway at either Safeway or Kuamoo Road, both of which have crosswalks and traffic signals. What's up with that? Like so much of the Path "planning," it's all rather ad hoc and opaque.

    Meanwhile, a reader sent a photo showing how broad Wailua Beach was in 1981. The county keeps claiming it's accreting — a fancy word for growing — but we all know it hasn't been this wide for decades.

    Two questions remain: why are Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr., Lenny Rapozo, Doug Haigh and Thomas Noyes hellbent on this expensive, destructive and foolhardy course? And what will it take to stop this madness before it's too late for what's left of Wailua Beach?


    PLDC Legislation Confusion

    SUBHEAD: Can't believe there are 23 tomatoes in that itty bitty can of Hawaiian legislation.

    By Andy Parx on 29 January 2013 for Parx News Daily -

    Image above: Contadina bragged their itty bitty 6 oz can had 8 tomatoes - so here are 24. From (

    It's not without reason that many have become obsessed with repealing the Public Lands Development Corporation (PLDC) after being made aware of it last fall. We assume our readers know the chapter and verse liturgy of exemptions, lies, deceit and greed behind the attempted giveaway of state controlled land.

    So it makes sense that along with the opening of the 2013 Hawai`i State Legislature comes one of those "just when you think you've seen it all" moments... as in "you ain't seen nothin' yet."

    Those outraged over the tactics and content surrounding Act 55 (enshrined as HRS 171C) mobilized for the legislature's opening day with a massive rally to support the introduction of a bill- something promised by many representatives and senators, to repeal PLDC.

    And, in a "be careful what you ask for, you just might get it" moment, they got their "bill"... in spades.

    Because instead of one bill in the house and one bill in the senate to simply repeal the measure that created the monster there are by some counts between 20 and 23 bills dealing with the repeal of the PLDC.

    According to a commentary in Civil Beat by Simon Russell, also an excellent primer on the subject:

    On opening day, two bills to repeal HRS 171C were introduced (SB1 and HB110). As of Jan. 24, 23 bills have been introduced calling for repeal of all or parts HRS 171C (15 from the Senate and 8 from the House). The big question is which repeal version will pass, and what will the actual result be.

    Yes apparently many the self-same legislators who voted for the measure back in 2011 are playing "crabs in a bucket" crawling over each other so that they can emerge as the one being credited with slaying the beast, even if it means no one in the public can figure out which bill or bills to support.

    Some even have their names on more than one bill increasing their chances of being cited as the knight who slew the dragon.

    But to assume that's all that's in play here would be to ignore the more sinister motives of those introducing what may seem to be repeal bills but actually are "transformer" measures that leave the monster dead in name only, morphing the PLDC into other string-of-letters entities, losing the name but keeping many of the more repugnant details.

    The more ambitious activists have waded though each bills' legalese only to throw up their hands in fury trying to find a "clean" repeal bill. Some attempted to create comparative lists, other spread sheets trying to determine which bill(s) to support and which one(s) to reject. Some of them have even turned to email and social media to see if they could get all repeal proponents to unify behind one bill.

    The only problem is that many are new to the incredibly frustrating hurry-up-and-wait, be-ready-to-get-slapped-in-the-face, Hawai`i State Legislature and actually thought the public has any say whatsoever over which bills survive, which get heard and ultimately, which are passed.

    The fact is that all "we the people" get to do is provide cover for those who really control the process. It's actually said that for certain controversial bills, you know the ones where the testimony generally ends with the phrase "and I vote", legislators get their staff to print out the emails, make piles of pro and con and then literally weight them. Last year because of that one activist we heard from suggested people make sure their testimony was at least two pages long.

    Each bill introduced needs to be assigned to one committee or more and then each committee will schedule hearings and decision-making on one or more of the bills creating a seemingly infinite number of permutation for those dedicated to taking part in the legislative process.

    Gee, you don't think they planned it that way do ya? Well, how do you think the PLDC got created in the first place?

    Even if one wanted to pick that one bill to support it's not like they get to pick it, the way it goes is that the leadership, Speaker Joe Souki in the House and President Donna Mercado Kim in the Senate along with the appropriate committee chairs, will decide which bills become the "vehicle" as it's called.

    You can also forget about playing "who do you trust" and trying to determine which bill to support by looking at who introduced it. That's never a wise proposition with some of the more weaselly legislators, especially with many of them having tried to "cover the table" by introducing more than one of the bills.

    While there may be a time for more specific testimony presently, those champing at the bit can do something right now other than setting their hair on fire and running laps around the fourth floor of the capitol.

    For now it seem the only thing the public can do is to write an email to the and addresses (which goes to all "reps" and "sens") and tell them you want them to vote to fully repeal the PLDC without morphing it into anything else. You might even tell them why.

    Confused? Clear as mud? Good, that's exactly what you're supposed to feel. This is after all the state legislature where the only rules are that there really aren't any and if you wait long enough you will see new and inventive ways to connive and control... the operative prefix being "con".

    Just in case you feel like banging your head against the wall for a few hours here's about the best list of PLDC-related bills we could find.

    House Bills

    HB 9 - Introduced by C. Thielen

    HB 82 - Introduced by Carroll

    HB 110 - Introduced by Hanohano, Lowen, Evans

    HB 226 - Introduced by Souki

    HB 317 - Introduced by Johanson, Cheape, Fale, Fukumoto, Mcdermott, Thielen, Ward

    HB 454 - Introduced by Souki (b/r) (by request)

    HB 589 - Introduced by Kawakami, Ito, Say, Takayama, Tsuji, Choy, Cullen

    HB 1133 - Introduced by Evans, Awana, Brower, Cheape, Coffman, Fale, Fukumoto, Hanohano, Hashem, Ing, Johanson, C. Lee, Mcdermott, Mckelvey, Mizuno, Morikawa, Saiki, Takumi, Thielen, Aquino, Cachola, Nishimoto

    Repeal PLDC (Act 55) and Act 282
    (Act 282 passed in 2011 transfers Honokohau and Ala Wai harbors to the PLDC, establishes the Aloha Stadium special fund and defines public land as - Lands which are set aside by the governor to the public land development corporation; lands leased to the public land development corporation by any department or agency of the State; or lands to which the public land development corporation holds title in its corporate capacity.)


    We Don't Live in Neverland

    SUBHEAD: The more territory has to be governed the more resources will be absorbed in the process of governing.
    By John Michael Greer on 30 January 2013 for Archdruid Report -

    Image above: Michael Jackson's unbuilt Neverland theme park. From (

    The return to an older American concept of government as the guarantor of the national commons, the theme of last week’s post here on The Archdruid Report, is to my mind one of the crucial steps that might just succeed in making a viable future for the post-imperial United States.

    A viable future, mind you, does not mean one in which any significant number of Americans retain any significant fraction of the material abundance we currently get from the “wealth pump” of our global empire.

    The delusion that we can still live like citizens of an imperial power when the empire has gone away will be enormously popular, not least among those who currently insist they want nothing to do with the imperial system that guarantees their prosperity, but it’s still a delusion.

    The end of American empire, it deserves repeating, means the end of a system in which the five per cent of humanity that live in the United States get to dispose of a quarter of the planet’s energy and a third of its raw materials and industrial product.

    Even if the fossil fuels that undergird the industrial product weren’t depleting out of existence—and of course they are—the rebalancing of global wealth driven by the decline of one empire and the rise of another will involve massive and often traumatic impacts, especially for those who have been living high on the hog under the current system and will have to get used to a much smaller portion of the world’s wealth in the years immediately ahead.

    Yes, dear reader, if you live in the United States or its inner circle of allies—Canada, Britain, Australia, Japan, and a few others—this means you.

    I want to stress this point, because habits of thought already discussed in this sequence of posts make it remarkably difficult for most Americans to think about a future that isn’t either all warm fuzzy or all cold prickly. If an imagined future is supposed to be better than the one we’ve got, according to these habits of thought, it has to be better in every imaginable way, and if it’s worse, it has to be worse just as uniformly.

    Suggest that the United States might go hurtling down the far side of its imperial trajectory and come out of the process as a Third World nation, as I’ve done here, and you can count on blank incomprehension or self-righteous anger if you go on to suggest that the nation that comes out the other side of this project might still be able to provide a range of basic social goods to its citizens, and might even recover some of the values it lost a century ago in the course of its headlong rush to empire.

    Now in fact I’m going to suggest this, and indeed I’ve already sketched out some of the steps that individual Americans might choose to take to lay the foundations for that project. Still, it’s also worth noting that the same illogic shapes the other end of the spectrum of possible futures.

    These days, if you pick up a book offering a vision of a better future or a strategy to get there, it’s usually a safe bet that you can read the thing from cover to cover no reference whatsoever to any downsides, drawbacks, or tradeoffs that might be involved in pursuing the vision or enacting the strategy.

    Since every action in the real world has downsides, drawbacks, and tradeoffs, this is not exactly a minor omission, nor does the blithe insistence on ignoring such little details offer any reason to feel confident that the visions and strategies will actually work as advertised.

    One example in particular comes to mind here, because it has immediate relevance to the project of this series of posts.

     Those of my readers who have been following the peak oil scene for any length of time will have encountered any number of enthusiastic discussions of relocalization: the process, that is, of disconnecting from the vast and extravagant global networks of production, consumption, and control that define so much of industrial society, in order to restore or reinvent local systems that will be more resilient in the face of energy shortages and other disruptions, and provide more security and more autonomy to those who embrace them.

    A very good case can be made for this strategy. On the one hand, the extreme centralization of the global economy has become a source of massive vulnerabilities straight across the spectrum from the most abstract realms of high finance right down to the sprawling corporate structures that put food on your table.

    Shortfalls of every kind, from grain and fuel to financial capital, are becoming a daily reality for many people around the world as soaring energy costs put a galaxy of direct and indirect pressures on brittle and overextended systems. That’s only going to become worse as petroleum reserves and other vital resources continue to deplete.

    As this process continues, ways of getting access to necessities that are deliberately disconnected from the global economic system, and thus less subject to its vulnerabilities, are going to be well worth having in place.

    At the same time, participation in the global economy brings with it vulnerabilities of another kind. For anyone who has to depend for their daily survival on the functioning of a vast industrial structure which is not answerable to the average citizen, talk about personal autonomy is little more than a bad joke, and the ability of communities to make their own choices and seek their own futures in such a context is simply another form of wishful thinking.

    Many people involved in efforts to relocalize have grasped this, and believe that deliberately standing aside from systems controlled by national governments and multinational corporations offers one of the few options for regaining personal and community autonomy in the face of an increasingly troubled future.

    There are more points that can be made in favor of relocalization schemes, and you can find them rehashed endlessly on pro-relocalization websites all over the internet. For our present purposes, though, this fast tour of the upside will do, because each of these arguments comes with its own downside, which by and large you won’t find mentioned anywhere on those same websites.

    The downside to the first argument? When you step out of the global economy, you cut yourself off from the imperial wealth pump that provides people in America with the kind of abundance they take for granted, and the lifestyles that are available in the absence of that wealth pump are far more restricted, and far more impoverished, than most would-be relocalizers like to think.

    Peasant cultures around the world are by and large cultures of poverty, and there’s a good reason for that: by the time you, your family, and the other people of your village have provided food on the table, thatch on the roof, a few necessary possessions, and enough of the local equivalent of cash to cover payments to the powers that be, whether those happen to be feudal magnates or the local property tax collector, you’ve just accounted for every minute of labor you can squeeze out of a day.

    That’s the rock on which the back-to-the-land movement of the Sixties broke; the life of a full-time peasant farmer scratching a living out of the soil is viable, and it may even be rewarding, but it’s not the kind of life that the pampered youth of the Baby Boom era was willing to put up with for more than a fairly brief interval.

    It may well be that economic relocalization is still the best available option for dealing with the ongoing unraveling of the industrial economy—in fact, I’d agree that this is the case—but I wonder how many of its proponents have grappled with the fact that what they’re proposing may amount to no more than a way to starve with dignity while many others are starving without it.

    The downside to the second argument is subtler, but in some ways even more revealing. The best way to grasp it is to imagine two relocalization projects, one in Massachusetts and the other in South Carolina.

    The people in both groups are enthusiastic about the prospect of regaining their personal autonomy from the faceless institutions of a centralized society, and just as eager to to bring back home to their own communities the power to make choices and pursue a better future.

    Now ask yourself this: what will these two groups do if they get that power? And what will the people in Massachusetts think about what the people in South Carolina will do once they get that power?

    I’ve conducted a modest experiment of sorts along these lines, by reminding relocalization fans in blue states what people in red states are likely to do with the renewed local autonomy the people in the blue states want for themselves, and vice versa. Every so often, to be sure, I run across someone—more often on the red side of the line than on the blue one—whose response amounts to “let ‘em do what they want, so long as they let us do what we want.”

     Far more often, though, people on either side are horrified to realize that their opposite numbers on the other side of America’s widening cultural divide would use relocalization to enact their own ideals in their own communities.

    More than once, in fact, the response has amounted to a flurry of proposals to hedge relocalization about with restrictions so that it can only be used to support the speaker’s own political and social agendas, with federal bureaucracies hovering over every relocalizing community, ready to pounce on any sign that a community might try to do something that would offend sensibilities in Boston or San Francisco, on the one hand, or the Bible Belt on the other.

    You might think, dear reader, that it would be obvious that this would be relocalization in name only; you might also think that it would be just as obvious that those same bureaucracies would fall promptly into the hands of the same economic and political interests that have made the current system as much of a mess as it is.

    Permit me to assure you that in my experience, among a certain segment of the people who like to talk about relocalization, these things are apparently not obvious at all.

    By this point in the discussion, I suspect most of my readers have come to believe that I’m opposed to relocalization schemes. Quite the contrary, I think they’re among the best options we have, and the fact that they have significant downsides, drawbacks, and tradeoffs does not nullify that.

    Every possible strategy, again, has downsides, drawbacks, and tradeoffs; whatever we choose to do to face the onset of the Long Descent, as individuals, as communities, or as a nation, problems are going to ensue and people are going to get hurt.

    Trying to find an option that has no downsides simply guarantees that we will do nothing at all; and in that case, equally, problems are going to ensue and people are going to get hurt. That’s how things work in the real world—and it may be worth reminding my readers that we don’t live in Neverland.

    Thus I’d like to suggest that a movement toward relocalization is another crucial ingredient of a viable post-imperial America. In point of fact, we’ve got the structures in place to do the thing already; the only thing that’s lacking is a willingness to push back, hard, against certain dubious habits in the US political system that have rendered those structures inoperative.

    Back in 1787, when the US constitution was written, the cultural differences between Massachusetts and South Carolina were very nearly as sweeping as they are today.

    That’s one of the reasons why the constitution as written left most internal matters in the hands of the individual states, and assigned to the federal government only those functions that concerned the national commons as a whole: war, foreign policy, minting money, interstate trade, postal services, and a few other things.

    The list was expanded in a modest way before the rush to empire, so that public health and civil rights, for example, were brought under federal supervision over the course of the 19th century.

    Under the theory of government I described last week, these were reasonable extensions, since they permitted the federal government to exercise its function of securing the national commons.

    Everything else remained in the hands of the states and the people. In fact, the tenth amendment to the US constitution specifically requires that any power not granted to the federal government in so many words be left to the states and the people—a principle which, perhaps not surprisingly, has been roundly ignored by everyone in Washington DC for most of a century now.

    Under the constitution and its first nineteen amendments, in fact, the states were very nearly separate countries who happened to have an army, navy, foreign policy, and postal system in common.

    Did that system have problems? You bet. What rights you had and what benefits you could expect as a citizen depended to a huge extent on where you lived—not just which state, but very often which county and which township or city as well. Whole classes of citizens might be deprived of their rights or the protection of the laws by local politicians or the majorities that backed them, and abuses of power were pervasive.

    All of that sounds pretty dreadful, until you remember that the centralization of power that came with America’s pursuit of empire didn’t abolish any of those things; it simply moved them to a national level.

    Nowadays, serving the interests of the rich and influential at the expense of the public good is the job of the federal government, rather than the local sheriff, and the denial of civil rights and due process that used to be restricted to specific ethnic and economic subgroups within American society now gets applied much more broadly.

    Furthermore, one of the things that’s rendered the US government all but incapable of taking any positive action at all in the face of a widening spiral of crises is precisely the insistence, by people in Massachusetts, South Carolina, and the other forty-eight states as well, that their local views and values ought to be the basis of national policy.

    The rhetoric that results, in tones variously angry and plaintive, amounts to “Why can’t everyone else be reasonable and do it my way?”—which is not a good basis for the spirit of compromise necessary to the functioning of democracy, though it makes life easy for advocacy groups who want to shake down the citizenry for another round of donations to pay for the never-ending fight.

    One of the few things that might succeed in unsticking the gridlock, so that the federal government could get back to doing the job it’s supposed to do, would be to let the people in Massachusetts, South Carolina, and the other forty-eight states pursue the social policies they prefer on a state by state basis.

    Yes, that would mean that people in South Carolina would do things that outraged the people in Massachusetts, and people in Massachusetts would return the favor. Yes, it would also mean that abuses and injustices would take place.

    Of course abuses and injustices take place now, in both states and all the others as well, but the ones that would take place in the wake of a transfer of power over social issues back to the states would no doubt be at least a little different from the current ones.

    Again, the point of relocalization schemes is not that they will solve every problem. They won’t, and in fact they will certainly cause new problems we don’t have yet. The point of relocalization schemes is that, all things considered, if they’re pursued intelligently, the problems that they will probably solve are arguably at least a little worse than the problems that they will probably cause. Does that sound like faint praise?

    It’s not; it’s as much as can be expected for any policy this side of Neverland, in the real world, where every solution brings new problems of its own.

    Now in fact relocalization has at least two other benefits that tip the balance well into positive territory. One of them is an effect I haven’t discussed in this series of posts, and I haven’t seen covered anywhere else in the peak oil blogosphere yet; it will need a post of its own, and that will have to wait a week. The other, though, is a simple matter of resilience.

    The more territory has to be governed from a single political center, all things considered, the more energy and resources will be absorbed in the process of governing. This is why, before the coming of the industrial age, nations on the scale of the present United States of America rarely existed, and when they did come into being, they generally didn’t last for more than a short time.

     In an age of declining energy availability and depleting resources, the maintenance costs of today’s sprawling, centralized United States government won’t be affordable for long.

    Devolving all nonessential functions of the central government to the individual states, as the US constitution mandates, might just cut costs to the point that some semblance of civil peace and democratic governance can hang on for the long term.


    There is No Alternative

    SOURCE: David Ward (
    SUBHEAD: Oh yes there is. But we must reclaim or own imaginations to find a new common sense.

    By Andrea Brower on 25 January 2013 for Common Dreams -

    Image above: Demonstrators hold sign "Capitalism isn't Working. Another World is Possible". From (

    We live in a time of heavy fog. A time when, though many of us dissent and resist, humanity seems committed to a course of collective suicide in the name of preserving an economic system that generates scarcity no matter how much is actually produced. To demand that all have enough to eat on a planet that grows enough food, that absurd numbers of people do not die from preventable disease, that utter human deprivation amongst plenty is not tolerated, or that we put the natural laws of the biosphere above socially constructed economic “laws” — is presented as unrealistic, as the fantasy of idealists or those who are naive to the “complexity” of the world’s problems.

    If we create and recreate the world everyday, then how has it become so supposedly absurd to believe we might actually create a world that is honestly making the possibilities of egalitarianism, justice and democracy?

    Capitalism — the logic of subordinating every aspect of life to the accumulation of profit (i.e. the “rules of the market”) — has become today’s “common sense.” It has become almost unthinkable to imagine coherent alternatives to this logic, even when considering the most basic of human needs — food, water, healthcare, education. Though many have an understanding of capitalism’s failings, there is a resignation towards its inevitability. Margaret Thatcher’s famous words, “There Is No Alternative,” no longer need to be spoken, they are simply accepted as normal, non-ideological, neutral.

    What sustains the tragic myth that There Is No Alternative? Those committed to building a more just future must begin re-thinking and revealing the taken-for-granted assumptions that make capitalism “common sense,” and bring these into the realm of mainstream public debate in order to widen horizons of possibility. We can’t leave this task to the pages of peer-reviewed journals and classrooms of social theory — these conversations must enter also into the family dining rooms and TV screens. Here are some thoughts on conversation starters:

    Alternatives could never work.
    Does capitalism “work”? Even by its own indicators, as we’ve become more capitalist (i.e. neoliberalism), economic growth and productivity has actually declined.

    Today’s globalized world is too complex to organize things any differently.
    Of course the world is complex — each of us is a bundle of contradictions and we need look no further than the dynamics of a single relationship to make a case for social complexity. But things are also quite simple — we live in a world where one billion people go hungry while we literally dump half of all food produced. Can we not come up with a productive socio-economic system that also meets people’s most basic needs? The gift of today is that we have the ability to reflect and draw-upon many forms, past and present, of non-capitalist social organization, and to creatively experiment with blending the best of these possibilities. The fact that we are more connected than ever before and have advanced so far technologically gives us more possibilities, not less.

    Because of our “human nature,” we can only create economic systems based on competition, greed and self-interest.
    This is not only utterly pessimistic, but plain wrong. Again, we can start by remembering all sorts of societies that have existed through history. Then just look around and ask the question, what motivates you and the people you know? Fields as diverse as neuroscience and anthropology have mounted evidence showing humans’ incredible capacity for cooperation and sensitivity to fairness. We are actually all quite capable of anything; but it is up to us to decide how to use our capabilities, and of course that will be dictated by what our social systems encourage and teach us to value. If there is one thing that can be said about “human nature,” it is that we construct ourselves from within our societies and we are incredibly malleable.

    Freedom is only realizable through a free-market. 
     Attaching our values of freedom to the market is not only de-humanizing, but it also fails to recognize how one person’s “freedom” to economic choice is another’s imprisonment in a life of exploitation and deprivation. There is no possibility for freedom and emancipation until we are all free, and this will only come through a much richer and deeper conception of human freedom than one that is premised upon going to a grocery store and “choosing” between 5,000 variations of processed corn.

    Capitalism is the only system that encourages innovation and progress.
     Progress towards what? And how does enclosing common knowledge through intellectual property rights, or excluding most of the world from quality education, or depriving half of humanity from the basic life-sustaining goods needed to function healthily, lead to greater innovation? Just begin to imagine the innovative possibilities of a world where all people had access to everything they needed to live, to think, and to contribute to the common good.

    Things could be worse.
    Of course they could, but they could also be better. Does the fact that we’ve lived through bloody dictatorships mean that we should settle for a representative democracy where the main thing being represented is money?

    Things are getting better.
    Can we really say that things are getting better as we head towards the annihilation of our own species? Sure, we may have our first black president and be making small gains in LGBT rights or in women’s representation in the workforce; but let’s not neglect the fact that capital is more concentrated and centralized than it has ever been and that its logic now penetrates into the most basic building blocks of life. I think we should give ourselves more credit than to settle for this “better.”

    Change is slow.
    Slow is not in the vocabulary of the corporations who are stealing our common genetic heritage, or their buddies who are getting rich playing virtual money games that legally rob us all. The enclosure of our commons and the concentration of capital is not happening slowly. Whether we acknowledge it or not, change is happening — what is up for grabs is the direction of that change.

    The best we can hope for is “green” and “ethical” capitalism.
    The logic of this belief is fundamentally flawed because it assumes that within capitalism, businesses can prioritize anything above the bottom-line. In actuality, businesses that commit themselves first and foremost to being truly and fully ethical and green will find it very difficult to stay in business. Of course there are great models of ethical business — worker-owned organic farms, for instance — but these cannot thrive and become the dominant norm when they are functioning within an economic structure that concentrates wealth and power in the hands of Monsanto. And while we should support these alternatives that exist within capitalism, we need to recognize that it’s way too little, way too late — structural change must (and will) happen, one way or another.

    Getting rid of capitalism means abandoning markets as a tool of social organization.
    This is not necessarily true, although perhaps we would do best without markets anyways. Societies have existed that have used markets but restrained oligopoly capitalism, and many brilliant thinkers have envisioned a transition to a society structured by norms of equality and sharing where markets do play a role. I’m not advocating for or against any specific proposals here, but the point is that this assumption is historically inaccurate and we have barely begun to give serious thought to other possibilities.

    People don’t care.
    People may be distracted by consumerism, may only have enough energy to struggle to pay their bills, may be fearful, may lack access to good information... but none of these things mean that they don’t care. Show anybody an image of a starving child who works in the cacao fields but can’t afford to eat (much less taste chocolate), and they will feel disgust. The charity industry is thriving precisely because so many people do feel implicated in the revolting manifestations of capitalism. But people’s sense of outrage has been channeled away from collective political action and towards ethical buying and holiday-time charitable donations. Without an honest and sophisticated society-wide conversation about the structural issues we are facing, people’s care is reduced to individual guilt and disempowerment.

    People won’t stop consuming, plus all the poor people want what the rich people have.
    Of course they do! Doing away with capitalism doesn’t mean resorting to primitivism, or abandoning all of our washing machines, or leaving the poor destitute. While of course there are limits to the earth’s resources (fossil-fuels in particular), this doesn’t mean that we can’t organize a productive, equitable and sustainable social order that includes many of the comforts of modern life and excitements of technology. We need not abandon desire with capitalism. In fact, getting rid of capitalism gives us the best chance of having time to organize a sustainable system of consumption before it is too late — staying hooked into capitalism may actually be the quickest route to primitivism.

    Capital’s enclosure of our commons — our common resources, genes and even intellect — has been accompanied by an enclosure of our imaginations. We need to re-claim and re-orient what it is to be “realistic” from the falsehoods of There Is No Alternative. This is not a call for pure imaginations of some future utopia. It is not a fantastic plea for a sudden and complete dissolving of all the social structures that currently pattern our lives.

    Instead, it is a call to take what is already going on all around us, all the time — cooperation, sharing, empathy — and let these aspects of our humanity that we most cherish guide our future. To begin to re-direct and re-structure our social systems towards the things we most desire and value — caring for and cooperating with one another, true participation and democracy, human freedom and free time, peace and co-existence — and in doing so, to watch these things begin to flourish.

    If it is naive to believe that we can structure society to reward goodness instead of greed and prioritize people instead of profit, then I’m fighting until the bitter end to maintain my naiveté! Things become possible when we believe they are possible; so let’s start believing.

    Andrea Brower is a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Auckland. She has been very active in alternative food and global social justice movements, and spent several years co-directing the non-profit Malama Kauai in Hawaii, where she is originally from.


    Three Lists

    SUBHEAD: What has been lost, what has been given, and what has been saved.

    By David Allen on 28 January 2013 for Resilience  -

    Image above: Noah's Ark exhibition below the Tshing Ma Bridge in Hong Kong. From (


    There is a list.

    A terrible and shameful list.

    A list that will break your damn heart in half if you have the courage to look at it.

    A list that will sap your strength.

    It is a list so numbingly large

    That nobody knows more than a tiny fraction of it.

    A list that just keeps on growing.

    Faster and faster and faster and faster.

    So fast that nobody could ever keep up.

    - It is a list of things that have been lost.

    Of things that have been broken, burnt, wasted, ruined, disappeared.

    Of things abused, eroded, corrupted, forgotten, sacrificed, discarded.

    Of things disfigured, suffocated, poisoned, fucked up, shattered, and killed.

    Things lost,

    Lost by a culture that would not acknowledge limits,

    That would not acknowledge debts, dependencies, or connections.

    A thankless culture.

    A culture that arrogantly and violently refused to see, hear, feel, touch, or taste

    The world that gave birth to it just yesterday.

    - It is a list that will sap your strength.

    - It is a list that will break your damn heart.


    But there is also a second list.

    A breathtakingly beautiful list.

    A list that will heal your heart if you have the sense to look at it.

    It is a list that has been getting smaller, smaller, smaller every year.

    But a list still so gloriously large

    That nobody knows more than a tiny fraction of it.

    - It is a list of things that have been given.

    Of things that grow, run, swim, eat, blow, wiggle, rustle, clack, flow, slide, and laugh.

    Of things that fly, cuddle, fight, howl, slither, hunt, hide, drift, ooze, sleep, and love.

    Of things that are strong, deep, soft, tiny, smooth, hot, playful, slow, and hungry.

    Of things that are green, brown, blue, thorny, large, dry, cold, fragile, wet, and fast.

    Things given,

    Given now to us, free

    By a world that only asks us to see, hear, feel, touch, and taste them.

    By a world that only asks us to take membership among that list.

    A world that gave birth to us all, before time began.

    -- It is a list that will heal your heart.


    And there is a third list.

    A much smaller list,

    But a list that will give you strength if you have the wisdom

    To look for it, to find it, to learn it, to live it.

    It is a list dangerously small

    Because so much has been forgotten.

    And because nobody anymore knows more than a tiny fraction of it.

    And it is a list that is still shrinking.

    Faster and faster and faster.

    Until it is almost gone.

    But it is not gone.

    - It is a list of things that have been saved.

    Of things that have been mended, nurtured, passed down, remembered

    Of things taken care of, tended, loved, watched over

    Of ways of talking, ways of knowing, ways of seeing, ways of feeling, and ways of loving

    Of customs, rituals, practices, seeds, breeds, tools, skills, and prayers.

    Things saved.

    It is a list that teaches us how to belong to this world.

    A list that teaches us how to live in this world without destroying it.

    A list that teaches us how to live with each other without destroying ourselves.

    Passed down from cultures that celebrated limits, that worshipped them.

    Thankful cultures.

    Cultures that awoke each morning to see, hear, feel, touch, or taste

    The world that gave birth to them.

    A world that is now slipping away from us.

    A world that will slip away from us if we don’t hold onto it

    With all the strength we can summon

    In our hearts, in our minds, and in our bodies.

    It is a list that will give you this strength.


    So in this time of catastrophe,

    Perhaps we should turn to these lists.

    And teach our children from them.

    So that we may live.


    Growing mushrooms on straw

    SUBHEAD: You can grow delicious oyster mushrooms from a plastic bag of straw safely.

    By Samuel Alexander on 27 January 2013 for Simplicity Collective -

    Image above: Oyster mushrooms growing through a hole in a plastic bag. From original article.

    I’ve been experimenting recently with growing my own oyster mushrooms, and as you can see from the photos, I’ve met with some success. I was motivated to explore mushroom cultivation partly because I’m a vegetarian and want to produce my own high-protein alternatives to meat; but I was also interested in using so-called ‘dead space’ to grow food (either inside or down the shady side of the house). Oyster mushrooms tick both these boxes, and they are also ridiculously tasty.

    Not only that, oyster mushrooms are extremely expensive when purchased from a supermarket, so it makes sense to grow them yourself. Currently in Melbourne they are going for $34 per kilo.

    I’m no mushroom-growing expert, so do your own research, but below I’ve outlined how I’ve successfully grown my own oyster mushrooms on straw. It’s surprisingly easy, although you do need to take appropriate precautions to make sure you are growing the right mushrooms and in a hygienically safe way. Apparently white oyster mushrooms are the easiest variety to grow, which is why I started with them.

    What you need:
    • Straw (I used pea-straw successfully but I’m told wheat straw is better)
    • Robust plastic bags, medium or large size (which can be reused)
    • Oyster mushroom spawn (which I got from CERES in Melbourne and are also available here). You may need to find your local supplier.
    • Spray bottle and water

    My 10-Step Method:

    (1) Before you begin, wash your hands and clean all your surfaces well. It’s very important to be hygienic when cultivating mushrooms, as you do not want to grow the wrong types of fungi! Good mushrooms are really good; bad mushrooms are really bad. Fortunately, oysters mushrooms are very distinctive.

    (2) Once you’ve got all the materials, the first thing you need to do is pasteurise the straw. From my research online, I discovered that this essentially means heating the straw in water to around 70-75 degrees (Celsius) and holding it at that temperature for around 45-60 minutes. I used a large Fowlers cooking pot. Pasteurisation kills the bad bacteria but leaves the good bacteria. Before you put the straw in the pot, most websites recommend that the straw is cut it up into small pieces around 1 to 3 inches in length. (To be honest, I didn’t cut up my straw, and I still grew mushrooms, but perhaps if I had cut it up my production might have been greater – further experimenting required.)

    (3) Once you’ve pasteurised the straw, take it out of the heating pot with tongs and let it sit in a clean tub while it cools down. Be careful as you’re dealing with a lot of hot water and the pot will be heavy. It’s important you don’t put the mushroom spawn into the straw until the straw is at room temperature otherwise you will kill the spawn.

    (4) When the straw has cooled down, pack your robust plastic bags with straw quite tightly, and then distribute some of the mushroom spawn throughout the straw. I put about three or four pieces of spawn-covered dowel in each bag, but perhaps one would have been fine (further experimenting required). The straw should not be dripping wet, but it should still be damp from the pasteurisation.

    (5) At this stage, sterilise a skewer or a nail (by pouring boiling water over it) and jab holes in the bags every 3 inches or so. This let’s some air in, but not too much.

    (6) You now have to find a home for you mushrooms. Keep them out of direct sunlight. They like some indirect light and I am told they like it best at around 15-20 degrees Celsius. (It’s been considerably warmer than that in Melbourne over the last two months, and mine have grown very well, but again perhaps the yields would have been greater had the temperature been cooler). More experimenting required. I kept my bags inside to minimise the risk of contamination.

    (7) Now you wait while the mushrooms spawn develops into mycelium and beginning taking over the entire bag. Mycelium looks a bit like white furry cobwebs, and you should start seeing it develop in the first couple of weeks. It’s important that your bags of straw stay moist, but not dripping wet. I found that the water from the pasteurisation was sufficient to keep the straw suitably moist without needing to spray with water.

    (8) After a number of weeks (depending on the size of your bags) the mycelium should have spread across the entire bag of straw. It is at this stage (which for me was about 5 weeks later) your mushrooms should start forming. I cut some slightly larger holes in the bag, although I’m not sure this was necessary. The mushrooms will decide that they want to grow out of one or more of the holes you’ve created, and they’ll usually grow in one or two clusters.

    (9) Now comes the fun part. The mushrooms essentially double in size every day, so within a week or so you should have good-sized oyster mushrooms. Mist them with water two or three times a day over this period – again, not so they are dripping, just so they are moist. The mushrooms should be harvested while their rims are still curled over a little and pointing downwards. If their rims seem to be turning upward, it’s probably time to harvest.

    (10) Harvest and eat. To harvest the mushrooms give them a twist at the base. This ensures that you leave the very bottom of the mushroom still in bag. You want to leave that part in the bag as it is needed for the subsequent flushes of mushrooms. If you keep the mushrooms moist and in suitable conditions, you should get three or four flushes of mushrooms, although I’m told the first and second flushes are the most productive. I’m currently harvesting my second flush. When your bags stop producing, the straw can be used as mulch for the garden. (Alternatively, my understanding is that you can distribute some of your straw into new bags of fresh straw and the growing process begins again).
    If there are any mushroom experts out there, do let me know if you have any advice, and if any of you decide to begin cultivating your own mushrooms, do let me know  how you get on. I’m going to keep experimenting in the hope of developing the easiest and most productive methods.
    That’s all for now. I’ve got to go cook me some shrooms.

    Too Valuable to Burn

    SUBHEAD: Burning fossil fuels wastes resources which the world urgently needs to conserve for other purposes.

    By Paul Brown on 26 January 2013 for Climate news Network -

    Image above: It's almost like burning a piano to keep warm. From (

    Burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas adds significantly to global warming and will in time exhaust finite reserves. It also wastes resources which the world urgently needs to conserve for other purposes, according to a study released exclusively to the Climate News Network.

    Burning fossil fuels for energy is a disastrous waste of natural resources preventing their use for the manufacture of fertilizer, medicines, clothing and other vital goods, according to a German think tank.

    A study by the World Future Council, based in Hamburg, has attempted for the first time to put an economic price on the consumption of oil, gas and hard coal to produce energy when they could be used instead for making useful things.

    While it is well known that fossil fuels are used to make all sorts of everyday objects like plastics, carbon fibre, soap, aspirins, solvents and dyes, it is a new idea to consider how this might affect future generations when the fuels run out.

    A report - The Monetary Cost of the Non-Use of Renewable Energies - by Dr. Matthias Kroll, released today to the Climate News Network, claims the cost of these important natural resources runs into trillions of dollars a year, but does not appear in economic calculations of the costs of generating energy.

    Counting the gains
    It should, he argues, be factored into cost comparisons between renewables and fossil fuels, otherwise people will have a false impression of their relative appeal.

    He argues that, because the use of renewable energy to replace fossil fuels saves natural resources for future generations, this gain should be added to the reckoning in assessing the benefits of switching to wind energy and solar technologies.

    Dr Kroll says it is often claimed that renewables are still too costly and not yet competitive with conventional energy. Yet the cost of depriving, say, the petro-chemical industry of an irreplaceable resource for making plastics when fossil fuels are burnt is not considered.

    So large is the use of fossil fuels in other industries, and so important to the world economy, that Dr Kroll’s calculation of the annual losses to industry as a result of simply burning this natural resource is vast – between US$3.2 and 3.4 trillion.
    “Not just the current cost of various renewable energies, but also the costs of not using them, need to be taken into account.”
    He says the costs of fossil fuel electricity generation must reflect the value of the oil, coal and gas burnt and of the machinery needed to harness the energy, whereas “the sun and the wind are free.” The cost of renewable electricity is simply the equipment needed to generate it.

    “The difference between renewables and fossil fuels is not only the zero cost of renewables but also that the ‘fuel’ they use will never be exhausted.”

    Dr Kroll argues that since renewables can be substituted for fossil fuels, every tonne of fossil raw material that can be replaced by renewables retains its value as a raw material to be used in future for making necessary items and therefore should be counted as a financial gain.

    The study uses Germany as an example because a large number of sophisticated industries in the country use fossil fuels as their raw material, particularly the chemical manufacturers.

    Surprisingly, 13.5% of the crude oil in the country is not burned for energy but is used to manufacture other products – for natural gas the figure is 4.1% and for hard coal 0.7%. Even that small percentage still totals 10,318 tonnes.

    Although Dr. Kroll concedes that Germany, because it is an advanced country, uses a higher proportion of fossil fuels in manufacturing than most, he argues that developing countries will need these resources later for their own industries.

    He therefore concludes: “Protecting the use of increasingly valuable fossil raw materials for the future is possible by substituting these materials with renewables. Every day this is delayed and fossil raw materials are consumed as one-time energy. a future usage loss is created of between US$8.8 and 9.3 billion.

    “Not just the current cost of various renewable energies, but also the costs of not using them, need to be taken into account.”


    The Master Meme

    SUBHEAD: We have to make the scale of human activities smaller, finer, simpler, and more rooted to the local particulars of place.

    By James Kunstler on 28 January 2013 for 

    Image above: As we were at the peak of the "American Dream"circa 1960. From (

    The gentlemen and ladies of the meme-o-sphere, where collective notions are birthed like sleet from clouds, have decided lately that the USA has entered a full-on broad-based bull market - a condition of general happiness and prosperity as far advanced beyond mere "recovery" as a wedge of triple-cream Saint-Andre cheese is advanced over a Cheez Doodle.

    It has become the master fantasy of the moment, following the birth of some junior memes such as... we have a hundred years of shale gas and the "housing sector" (i.e. the suburban sprawl-building industry) is "bouncing back." What a sad-sack nation of credulous twits we have become.

    You can be sure that when a nation is led by the reality-deficient, unhappy outcomes are a sure thing. They will systematically destroy trust in the way things actually work and beat a fast path to either tyranny (where reality doesn't matter) or anarchy (where reality cannot be managed at all). This is what happens when nations go mad.

    Even when they are led by people later-determined to be "evil" (Hitler, Lenin) this sad process is allowed to happen because it just seems like a good idea at the time - which is the central political tragedy of human history. To the beaten-down Russians, Bolshevism seemed like a good-idea at the time. To the bankrupt, hopeless Germans, Naziism seemed like a good idea.

    I'm not even sure what to call the current disposition of unreality in the USA, though it is clearly tinged with different colors of grandiosity ranging from the plain dopey idea of "American exceptionalism" to the wishful claim that we're about to become "energy independent," to the lame assertion so popular in presidential addresses that "together we can do anything."

    Speaking of the inaugural, in all the Second-Coming-of-Lincoln-Meets-MLK hoopla of the grand day, with the national mall lined by gigantic flat screen TVs (an Orwellian nightmare), and the heartwarming displays of ethnic diversity, and the stridently inoffensive songs and poem, there was the genial Mr. Obama at the epicenter of the huge ceremony delivering a bouquet of platitudes so stale and trite that it could have been composed in a first-year Harvard Law School ethics skull session at a back table of Wagamama.

    Despite all the blather about his graying hair, and the wisdom of age, and the supposed music of his rhetoric, I couldn't detect a single idea in Mr. Obama's inaugural address that wasn't either self-evident, or devised to flatter some "identity" bloc, or an imitation of old tropes out of the "Great Speeches" book.

    What's obvious to me is what I have been fearing about this country for some time now: that all the disorders of our time would prompt a campaign to defend the status quo at all costs and to sustain the unsustainable. That is really the master wish behind all the political hijinks of the day, especially the pervasive accounting fraud in all high-order money matters.

    We see the comforts and conveniences of modernity slipping away and we'll do anything to try to hang onto them, including lying to ourselves to such an immersive degree about what is really happening that we suppose we can manufacture a happy counter-reality. That's at the heart of zero interest rate policies, and Federal Reserve manipulation of markets, and statistical misreporting from all the national agencies charged with adding things up.

    So, the Fed pumps its $90 billion-a-month and the Standard & Poor's index inflates like an old tire while ten thousand more families get added to the food stamp rolls, and the banks sit on enough foreclosed property to fill the state of Indiana, and another 25-year-old college loan debt serf ODs on vodka and Xanax because he finally understands that even bankruptcy will not save him from perpetual penury.

    Apparently, there are moments in history when nations just get lost. I maintain that things would go a whole lot better for us if we acknowledge what is actually going on, namely: a major shift of direction into economic contraction after 200-plus thrilling years of expanding energy resources and easy-to-get material riches. It's in the nature of this world that things cycle and pulse, and we have entered a certain phase of the cycle that demands certain responses.

    We have to make the scale of human activities smaller, finer, simpler, and more rooted to the local particulars of place. We have to let go of WalMart and globalism and driving cars incessantly and attempting to manage the affairs of people half a world a way... and we just can't imagine engaging with this endeavor. That is true poverty of imagination.


    Revenge for Aaron Swartz

    SUBHEAD: Anonymous strikes at at US Justice Department for hounding Aaron Schwartz to death.

    By Alexander Reed on 26 January 2013 for -

    Image above: Aaron Swartz poses in a Borderland Books in San Francisco on February 4, 2008. He died at 26 this January. From (

    Members of Anonymous, a collection of digital pranksters working for democracy in the dark places of the Web, said Saturday that they had hijacked the site of the U.S. Sentencing Commission as well as a trove of sensitive documents to take revenge for the death of Internet freedom advocate Aaron Swartz.

    Swartz has become a martyr for hackers and activists fighting for a free and open Internet since he killed himself just over two weeks ago in the face of a threatened prison sentence many have said would have been disproportionate to his crime. Shortly after his death, Anonymous hacked MIT for its role in enabling a U.S. prosecutor to push for a brutal punishment for Swartz.

    “The website of the commission, an independent agency of the judicial branch involved in sentencing, was replaced with a message warning that when Swartz killed himself two weeks ago ‘a line was crossed,’ ” The Guardian reported.
    “In a message posted on the website and in an accompanying YouTube video, the hackers said they had infiltrated several government computer systems and copied secret information they threatened to make public.”

    The group likened the captured information to a nuclear weapon, saying it had “enough fissile material for multiple warheads” that it could launch against the Justice Department and its associated organizations if its demands to reverse the policies that led to Swartz’s death were not met.

    “By late Saturday morning, the USSC website was offline, but cached versions could be found where the message appeared,” The Guardian wrote.

    A pulse-pounding propaganda film describing the broad civil liberties context surrounding Anonymous’ hack and promising to do more appears below.

    Video above: "Anonymous Operation Last Resort". From (

    See also: Death & Freedom of Information 1/17/13


    Silversword Decline

    SUBHEAD: Saved from marauding goats in the 1900's, Maui's silverswords are now succumbing to climate change.

    By Jan TenBruggencate on 26 January 2013 for Raising Islands -

    Image above: In Haleakala National Park the silversword plant lives about 50 years and blooms but only once before it dies. From (

    The impacts for Hawai`i of climate change are numerous and troubling.

    They range from coral death due to warm waters, to coastal inundation from sea level rise, to changes in ecosystems due to weather pattern changes, to dramatic reductions of rainfall.

    Those are macro kinds of changes. At a micro level, looking at a single iconic plant, the issues come into focus.

    The Haleakala silversword, that unearthly spiked globe that dots the high volcanic desert on Maui, is likely to be a victim of the changing environment. Indeed, it is already a victim, its numbers declining now for nearly a generation. Previous studies have shown that high-elevation Hawaiian rainfall has been reduced significantly in recent decades.

    Not the first time the silversword has been threatened (goats were killing them off in the early to mid 1900s), but after a significant rescue effort, they now face a new problems that fences won’t solve.

    “Despite the successful efforts of the National Park Service to protect this very special plant from local disturbance from humans and introduced species, we now fear that these actions alone may be insufficient to secure this plant's future,” said Marcia McNutt, director of the U.S. Geological Survey.

    Researchers are finding that since the 1990s, they have once more begun to decline, due to more frequent drought conditions on the Maui mountaintop where they live. Silverswords are adapted to high elevation, and extreme solar radiation, and well-drained cinder. But heat and extreme dry periods are increasing the threats faster than they can adapt further.

    They are dying from moisture stress, and that’s a caution for many other plants that might not be so well studied, and thus whose response to changing conditions haven’t been identified.

    “The silversword example foreshadows trouble for diversity in other biological hotspots,” said University of Hawaii biologist Paul Krushelnycky, of the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources.

    “Even well-protected and relatively abundant species may succumb to climate-induced stresses,” he said.

    A scientific paper on the research into climate impacts on the silversword is entitled “Climate-associated population declines reverse recovery and threaten future of an iconic high-elevation plant.” It is published in the scientific journal Global Change Biology. The authors are Krushelnycky, Lloyd Loope, Thomas Giambelluca, Forest Starr, Kim Starr, Donald Drake, Andrew Taylor and Robert Robichaux.

    The continuing work is funded by the new U.S. Department of the Interior Pacific Islands Climate Science Center, one of eight such centers throughout the country.

    See also:
    The paper abstract is here.
    The USGS news release is here.