NoDAPL demo at Enbridge Inc

SUBHEAD: Protesters against the Dakota Access Pipe Line occupy office of company participating in construction. 

By Staff on 29 September 2016 for Unicorn Riot -

Image above: Demonstrators offer "Embridge Lemonade" (actually cups of black oil) to employees of the company backing the Dakota Access Pipe Line at their Edina, Minnesota headquarters. Frame from video below in original article.
"Enbridge, Inc. is an energy delivery company based in Calgary, Canada. It focuses on the transportation, distribution and generation of energy, primarily in North America. As a transporter of energy, Enbridge operates in Canada and the United States, the longest crude oil and liquid hydrocarbons transportation system in the world."
From "Our Company Overview". Retrieved 16 August 2015.
On September 29th, in Edina, Minnesota, community members and water protectors staged an action at Enbridge Gas Company's Edina office in solidarity with resistance efforts against the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL).

Attendees of the action were let into the lobby by an Enbridge Inc employee. Signs and handouts containing a declaration against Enbridge and Dakota Access accompanied an “Enbridge lemonade stand”, from which cups of “oil” were offered to Enbridge employees.

The declaration identified Enbridge, Inc. as the single largest financial contributor to the DAPL project. It also stated the intention of the people of Minnesota to continue to expose Enbridge’s irresponsible and exploitative business ventures, including the proposed Line 3 in Minnesota.

While some attendees chanted “You Can’t Drink Oil” and “Love Water, Not Oil”, others approached every Enbridge employee in the mostly-vacant office. Each employee was given a copy of the Declaration, and asked if they wanted to drink a cup of oil.

Video above: Demonstration against NoDAPL at the Edina Inc, Minnesota headquarters. From (

Enbridge is the largest single financial contributor the Dakota Access Pipeline project, which violates multiple federal laws and precedents, including:
• The Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, by damaging the treaty land of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and posing a devastating risk to their drinking water;

• The Executive Order on Environmental Justice, by disproportionately impacting the tribal community;

• The Pipeline Safety Act and Clean Water Act, by refusing to correctly identify the Missouri River crossing as 'high consequence' or produce an adequate emergency spill plan;

• The National Environmental Policy Act by evading federal review and neglecting to complete a full Environmental Impact Statement;

• The Executive Order on the Protection of Sacred Sites, by knowingly jeopardizing historical ceremony sites and burial grounds in the immediate vicinity of the pipeline route;

• And President Obama's Keystone Climate Test, by blatantly disregarding the associated greenhouse gas emissions and ensuing contribution to the climate crisis.
It is unconscionable that Enbridge continue funding this illegal and dangerous pipeline. Today, we stand with our friends at the Sacred Stone Camp in resisting the Dakota Access Pipeline, and we will continue the fight against the proposed Line 3 here in Minnesota. We proved that Sandpiper was a bad investment, and so is Line 3.

The people of Minnesota will continue to expose Enbridge's exploitative and irresponsible business investments until they cease endangering the our water, lands, and communities.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Militarized Police raid NoDAPL 9/28/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Stop funding of Dakota Access Pipeline 9/27/16
Ea O Ka Aina: UN experts to US, "Stop DAPL Now!" 9/27/16
Ea O Ka Aina: No DAPL solidarity grows 9/21/16
Ea O Ka Aina: This is how we should be living 9/16/16
Ea O Ka Aina: 'Natural Capital' replacing 'Nature' 9/14/16
Ea O Ka Aina: The Big Difference at Standing Rock 9/13/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Jill Stein joins Standing Rock Sioux 9/10/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Pipeline temporarily halted 9/6/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Native Americans attacked with dogs 9/5/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Mni Wiconi! Water is Life! 9/3/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Sioux can stop the Pipeline 8/28/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Officials cut water to Sioux 8/23/16 


CO2 passes 400 parts per million

SUBHEAD: Point of no Return - Carbon dioxide output will not drop below 400ppm in our lifetimes.

By Nadia Prupis on 30 September 2016 for Common Dreams -

Image above: Mountain top removal - Coal strip mining operations work around the clock at amazing speed; this lonely stand of trees disappeared in barely a day. The small bulldozer on the upper level pushes loose material down to the loader, which scoops it up into the next earth mover in line which will dump it into a nearby "valley fill," burying the stream there. From (

September's carbon dioxide output failed to drop below 400 parts per million (ppm) despite historically being the year's low point for CO2 emissions, which means the Earth has very likely passed that symbolic climate threshold forever.

The Earth has hit 400ppm before, but seasonal cycles have always reduced carbon dioxide output back below that level. Now, climate scientists say it is "almost impossible" that will ever happen again.
According to Climate Central:
September is usually the month when carbon dioxide is at its lowest after a summer of plants growing and sucking it up in the northern hemisphere. As fall wears on, those plants lose their leaves, which in turn decompose, releasing the stored carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere. At Mauna Loa Observatory, the world's marquee site for monitoring carbon dioxide, there are signs that the process has begun but levels have remained above 400 ppm.
"Is it possible that October 2016 will yield a lower monthly value than September and dip below 400 ppm? Almost impossible," scientist Ralph Keeling, who runs the carbon dioxide monitoring program at the Scripps Institute for Oceanography, wrote in a blog post this week.

"Brief excursions towards lower values are still possible but it already seems safe to conclude that we won't be seeing a monthly value below 400 ppm this year—or ever again for the indefinite future."
Climate Central continues:
We may get a day or two reprieve in the next month, similar to August when Tropical Storm Madeline blew by Hawaii and knocked carbon dioxide below 400 ppm for a day. But otherwise, we're living in a 400 ppm world. Even if the world stopped emitting carbon dioxide tomorrow, what has already put in the atmosphere will linger for many decades to come.
"At best (in that scenario), one might expect a balance in the near term and so CO2 levels probably wouldn't change much—but would start to fall off in a decade or so," Gavin Schmidt, NASA's chief climate scientist, said in an email. "In my opinion, we won't ever see a month below 400 ppm."
The confirmation comes soon after a report from the U.K. Met Office in June warned that the planet was well on its way toward that grim milestone as the impact from rising fossil fuel emissions was worsened by a turbulent El Niño event. Similar predictions came in May as climate scientists cautioned the limit could be hit at any time.

Another recent report also found that the planet could pass another point of no return—the agreed-upon 1.5°C warming threshold—in a decade.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Too Little - Too Late 12/23/15
At COP21 the world’s nations tried to limit the rate at which the greenhouse gases will increase in the future.


China's suicidal food strategy

SUBHEAD: Their $450 billion farm plan will determine our fate - namely depending on GMO's and Big Ag.

By Nathaniel Johnson on 30 September 2016 for Grist -

Image above: Woman carrying fertilizer to field in traditional rural China. From original article.

[IB Publisher's note: If this article is correct, we think this is exactly the wrong strategy going forward. Expanding the use of artificial fertilizer, pesticides, GMO monoculture, heavy fossil fuel ag equipment, large scale farm dependency will result in ecosystem disaster and more global warming. The Chinese have spent for than a generation moving people from small low-tech self sufficient rural farming areas to polluted urban manufacturing centers. The Chinese have bought Syngenta to "catch up" with America's GMO powered suicidal race to the bottom.]
Four hundred and fifty billion dollars. That’s the amount of money Chinese officials recently announced they would invest to improve the country’s farms over the next four years.

That isn’t just a big number — it’s a redonkulously humongous number. Compare it to the new $3 billion Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (that’s Zuckerberg of Facebook wealth and fame) that aims to treat or prevent all diseases by 2100. Or the record $4.6 billion that U.S. investors crowed about pouring into ag startups last year.

Take those massive efforts and multiply them 100-fold, and then we’re in the same range as this proposed Chinese investment.

The Agricultural Development Bank of China has created a fund to loan out at least that much money by 2020, according to state media. Experts that I talked to are skeptical — China has announced it would spend big money before and followed through with just a fraction — but even a fraction of $450 billion could be transformative.

China’s choices, not to put too fine a point on it, will determine the fate of the world. If China were to follow the same path as the United States and Europe, by using inefficient fossil fuels to lift its 1.3 billion people to a comfortable standard of living, it could be pumping 30 gigatons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere by 2030 — that’s three times as much as the whole world emits now.

As the country feeding the largest population in the world, China’s policies on fertilizer use, genetically modified seed research, and agricultural regulations will matter to us all.

So where will all that money go, and what impact could it have on sustainability? I asked some experts on China ag policy for their theories.

Geopolitical strategists have long understood that the stability of a nation depends on its ability to keep its citizens fed: Military might depends on agricultural might, hence the old saying, “an army marches on its stomach.”

Historically, China has tried grow enough grain to feed itself, but it has scaled back its self-sufficiency goals and, in the last decade, the country has allowed food imports to surge in.

But it’s been trying to mount a counteroffensive on a different front, buying farmland and agribusinesses in other countries (like the pork company Smithfield from the United States).

Some of these newly announced loans could finance further expansion abroad. But recent signals from Chinese officials suggest they are focused less on controlling land these days, and more on controlling seeds.

Last year, the Chinese government announced its intentions to become a leader in the genetically engineered crop market. “We cannot lag behind others in the GMO research. Our GMO market should not be saturated by foreign brands,” said agriculture official Han Jun.

China sees control of its food as a matter of national security, said Scott Rozelle, who studies Chinese agricultural policy at Stanford. And it’s hard to control your food if you rely on foreign countries for your seed.

The world got a major hint that China has been trying to catch up with American seed companies in 2012, when the FBI caught three men trying to smuggle corn kernels from Iowa fields into China.

As journalist Ted Genoways wrote in his telling of the story: “The Department of Justice maintains that China is quietly permitting and even encouraging companies to steal American agricultural secrets right out of the ground.”

Then this year, the China National Chemical Corporation sought to gain a foothold in the seed industry by paying $43 billion to purchase the Swiss seed company Syngenta. That acquisition might be part of the $450 billion pot, said Elizabeth Economy, a China expert at the Council on Foreign Relations.

China says it can produce more food and reduce the environmental pressure of farming by breeding better seeds. One of the chief complaints of the anti-GMO movement is that the food system is increasingly controlled by a few profit-driven companies.

It’ll be interesting to see what a communist GM seed company — that is, a company primarily beholden to government interests rather than shareholder profits — engineers.

There may not be many more huge dams or long irrigation canals to be built in China, Rozelle said, but there are several ways in which the country could bring its farming practices up to date.
“They recognize that their agriculture is enormously inefficient, and they want to fix that,” Economy said.

The primary inefficiency is the amount of fertilizer that Chinese farmers use — more than twice as much as their U.S. counterparts. That fertilizer washes off the fields and pollutes waterways. It turns into nitrous oxide gas and warms the earth.

Most significantly, it takes lots energy to make nitrogen fertilizer. Improving fertilizer efficiency could reduce China’s total carbon emissions by as much as 6 percent, according to one study. That’s much as all the emissions from Switzerland. Six percent matters when, as Ben Adler points out, we get excited by a 1-2 percent decline in emissions.

China is moving quickly from a system of growing a few head of livestock at a time in backyards to concentrated animal feeding operations. CAFOs may be big and stinky, but when you are raising twice as many pigs as there are Americans, you need to capture their poop and keep it from running into the rivers.

We’ve seen disgusting examples of CAFO manure lagoons rupturing into rivers here in the United States, but those catastrophes are nothing compared to the pollution catastrophe that you’d have if there were no attempt to control the feces.

If you look at the amount of fertilizers and pesticides to feed each person, U.S. farms were dirtiest in the mid 1970s, and they’ve been improving since then. By spending this money, China potentially could jump past our dirtiest phase.

This announcement also could be a nod to people living in the countryside. “President Xi Jinping has long been accused of completely neglecting rural China,” Rozelle said. The government may be seeking to show that it has money for rural areas by announcing this massive agricultural loan package.

That might not be the best approach if China really wants to increase rural incomes and clean up the environment, according to Economy. “China will often look to technology as a cure-all,” she said.


Morgan Freeman supports bees

SOURCE: Katherine Muzik PHD (
SUBHEAD: Actor converts his 124 acre Mississippi ranch into a giant sanctuary for wild bees.

By Kate DiStacio on 30 September 2016 for Inhabitat -

Image above: Morgan Freeman on Tonight Show shortly after becoming a beekeeper. From original article.

Morgan Freeman has played so many roles during his long Hollywood career it’s difficult to keep track, but his newest role may prove to be his most important. The actor has turned his 124-acre Mississippi ranch into a sanctuary for wild bees, in an effort to help support population growth for the little pollinators.

Freeman started beekeeping in 2014 with 26 hives of buzzing babies, and he explained that tons of bee-friendly plants have been planted on his property.

Back in 2014, Freeman talked to Jimmy Fallon about his new hobby during an appearance on “The Tonight Show.”

Having taken up beekeeping just two weeks prior to the interview, the actor described how well he and his bees get along. The actor told Fallon that he doesn’t even need to wear a protective beekeeper’s suit or veil when tending to his precious pollinators, suggesting that he has reached a level of skill and ease akin to his on-screen performances.

Freeman didn’t start keeping bees because of a sweet tooth, but rather as a direct response to the mass bee die-offs that have been threatening the survival of wild bees for the past several years. The actor recognized the opportunity to make a difference through personal action, so he imported 26 hives full of bees from Arkansas and started feeding them sugar water.

Freeman said he doesn’t wear the beekeeper’s hat and veil because the bees do not sting him, joking that the protective gear is “for people who can’t resonate” with the bees. When Fallon suggested Freeman had become “at one with the bees,” the actor couldn’t help but agree.

It’s difficult to measure what kind of an impact Freeman’s efforts may have on the larger bee populations in North America, but his hobby is an inspiring gesture of goodwill toward those tiny living creatures that are often taken for granted.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Bayer &  Syngenta Poisoning Bees 9/22/16


Militarized police raid NoDAPL

SUBHEAD: Sioux say that "with state police protecting Dakota Access Pipeline that Obama's words are meaningless."

By Lauren McCauley on 29 September 2016 for Common Dreams -

Image above: "Roughly 150 peaceful Water Protectors gathered for prayer near construction sites of the Dakota Access Pipeline...and were met with a heavy show of force by authorities." said Rob Wilson, the photographer. From original article.

Twenty-one water protectors were arrested in North Dakota on Wednesday after a military-style raid interrupted a peaceful prayer ceremony at a Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) construction site.

Hundreds of demonstrators have been taking part in the prayer ceremony in recent days, according to the Red Warrior Camp, traveling to sacred sites that are being threatened by the pipeline construction, beginning Tuesday with the ancestral site where private security guards unleashed attack dogs on unarmed protesters earlier this month.

Construction was halted Tuesday as a result of the peaceful demonstration. On Wednesday, police helicopters and a circling crop-duster followed the caravan of cars south of Mandan, North Dakota.

Image above: Police with military automatic assault rifles stand near Mrap vehicle of the kind of bomb proof vehicle developed to fight "terrorists" in Iraq and Afghanistan now in use by US domestic police forces. From video by UnicornRiot.Ninja.

According to the independent journalism outfit Unicorn Riot, which has been reporting live on the Dakota Access protest from the camps, after praying at the second site, "a large amount of police vehicles arrived and blockaded the only exit on the public road leading to the DAPL work site."
Unicorn Riot continued:
Dozens of militarized police with shotguns appeared with a Bearcat armored vehicle as well as a [Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, also known as an MRAP]. The Bearcat was also brought out by police at yesterday’s action, but the MRAP, a larger tan colored armored vehicle, had not been seen at any DAPL sites until today.
After blockading the exit points, police vehicles sped across open fields towards the crowd of protectors as they left the site. Several arrests were made, as police brandished loaded shotguns, and assault rifles. The latest information we gathered is that there were up to 21 arrests.
The Sacred Stone Camp has started a legal defense fund to support those arrested and others involved in the direct action campaign.

Though images and videos of the raid were shared widely on social media, as others noted, there was no corporate media coverage of the arrests.

Video above: Water Protectors pray at construction site, met with Police armor and automatic weapons. From UnicornRiot.Ninja (

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Stop funding of Dakota Access Pipeline 9/27/16
Ea O Ka Aina: UN experts to US, "Stop DAPL Now!" 9/27/16
Ea O Ka Aina: No DAPL solidarity grows 9/21/16
Ea O Ka Aina: This is how we should be living 9/16/16
Ea O Ka Aina: 'Natural Capital' replacing 'Nature' 9/14/16
Ea O Ka Aina: The Big Difference at Standing Rock 9/13/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Jill Stein joins Standing Rock Sioux 9/10/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Pipeline temporarily halted 9/6/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Native Americans attacked with dogs 9/5/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Mni Wiconi! Water is Life! 9/3/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Sioux can stop the Pipeline 8/28/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Officials cut water to Sioux 8/23/16 

'Non-GMO' labels not strong enough

SUBHEAD: Non-GMO labels only speaks to genetic modification and does not address dangers of glyphosate.

By J. Cardonna and T. Vrain on 29 September 2016 for Resilience -

Image above: Pesticide sprayer in wheat field. Many food crops, particularly grains, are sprayed to death with glyphsate to dry them and make them easier to harvest. Only "organic" products are guaranteed free of genetic modification and pesticides. From (

The total sale of products with ‘Non-GMO’ labeling is now in the billions, and the growth of this market is certainly to be applauded. However, the Non-GMO label inadvertently shields health-conscious consumers from one of the scarier realities of the modern food system—that glyphosate, which is the main ingredient in the herbicide Roundup, is also being applied to non genetically modified crops.

The world now has 500 million acres of GMO crops, mainly soy and corn in North and South America, but also cotton in the US, China, and India, and canola, sugar beet, and alfalfa in the US and Canada.

These crops are genetically modified to withstand the application of glyphosate, in the form of Roundup—hence the label “Roundup Ready” crops. Glyphosate is a synthetic amino acid, a glycine analog that kills all plants except for the crop engineered with a bacterial gene that provides resistance to the herbicide.

Numerous scientific studies since 2009 have shown that glyphosate inactivates detoxification enzymes, disrupts the endocrine system, damages the microbiome and immune system, and is carcinogenic. The symptoms of the many chronic diseases that have reached epidemic proportions in the last 20 years can be explained by glyphosate’s (mis)incorporation as a synthetic amino acid in all our proteins (Samsel and Seneff 2016).

That is, glyphosate accumulates in all human organs, including breast milk (Kruger 2014). The public is increasingly concerned about this reality, which is why foods labeled ‘Organic’ (free of both GMOs and glyphosate) and ‘Non-GMO’ continue to grow in market share.

It is also on the basis of these studies that the World Health Organization (2015) and the State of California (2016) recently listed glyphosate as a “carcinogen,” and many European countries that already tightly regulate glyphosate, finally banned Roundup as an over-the-counter weed killer. On Vancouver Island, where we both reside, the municipalities of Victoria, Esquimalt, and Saanich have also banned the “general use” of Roundup.

What is less well known is that glyphosate is also being used as a “desiccant” on crops that are not genetically modified.  At present, there are no GM cereal grains on the market, and thus crops such as wheat and barley cannot survive a dousing of glyphosate.

But since the turn of the 21st century, the USDA and Agriculture Canada have encouraged farmers to spray glyphosate onto grains and seed crops, in an effort to preemptively kill and dry out the crop prior to harvesting, to facilitate processing. This process is called “chemical drying” or “desiccation.” Glyphosate also kills the weeds around the crop, making it a convenient pre-harvest technique.

The Non-GMO label does not currently address the reality that products carrying the Non-GMO label contain conventional cereal grains that were doused with glyphosate. That is, many non GMO crops have glyphosate residues in them. This should be a major public concern and one that needs to be addressed legislatively.

There have been dozens of peer-reviewed studies on glyphosate in recent years, but the only one that has been widely publicized is from France (Seralini 2014).

A top French court recently upheld its findings, which showed that Roundup Ready corn (sprayed with glyphosate) is clearly harmful to lab rats. The bulk of the results suggest that it is glyphosate that is the toxic agent—a point that is somewhat missed by ‘Non-GMO’ labeling.

In light of these facts, we urge the Non-GMO Project to take stock of this ambiguity and add ‘Glyphosate-Free’ to its label—for products that are, in fact, free of glyphosate. Short of such a development, the only certain way for consumers to avoid harmful dosages of glyphosate is to buy or grow organic foods.

Not only is glyphosate still legal in the US and Canada, but Agriculture Canada and the EPA recently raised the “safe” levels of glyphosate concentrations in human food and animal feed, in denial and defiance of the studies cited below. The reason for the change comes from industry pressure, since glyphosate concentrations are, on the whole, rising in our food—a fact that has not received enough public attention.

Consumers have a right to know what foods are contaminated and what they are putting into their bodies, and the best solution is to have clear labeling and well-informed consumers.

The regulation and labeling of GM foods is a good start, but we need to pay more attention to the toxic herbicides that most GMOs are modified to withstand. The European model of banning glyphosate on all food crops—whether genetically modified or not—should be adopted in North and South America.

Although this short article focuses on the adverse health effects of glyphosate, it is important to understand that there are many interrelated reasons to reject GMOs, and many ways of approaching the issue. Below is a short summary of the problems as we see them.
  1. Non-science?
    Although the defenders of GMOs frame the topic as a debate between science and non-science, the reality is that numerous peer-reviewed scientific studies (cited below) have attested to the dangers of glyphosate, to other ingredients in Roundup, and to at least some GMOs. The science can be contradictory on the matter, but what’s striking is that the independent, non-industry-backed studies are inevitably the ones that find glyphosate toxic, whereas the industry-backed studies tend to find the opposite.

  2.  Human health.
    The peer-reviewed studies cited below demonstrate quite conclusively that glyphosate induces oxidative stress, disrupts the endocrine system, functions as a strong antibiotic that damages animal (and human) health, and is a carcinogen, conclusive enough to the WHO, much of Europe, and the State of California.

  3. Ecological destruction.
    Although it is possible to have conventional, industrial-scale monocultures without GMOs, GMOs are overwhelmingly grown at the industrial scale and in monocultures. They form part of the destructive agricultural system that has depleted soils in North America and elsewhere, and toxified the environment through the increased usage of the herbicide/antibiotic Roundup.

  4. Decline of biological diversity, lack of resilience.
    GMOs lack genetic diversity and are generally grown in monolithic blocks of a single crop. This lack of diversity creates vulnerabilities in the food supply and decreases resilience in the face of pests. Crops with low levels of diversity are more susceptible to disease and infestations. This state of affairs triggers a vicious cycle in which human beings wage a pointless arms race with weeds and pests and increase the use of chemical fertilizers to compensate for fragile plants, the adaptation of weeds and pests, and the absence of natural forms of fertility.

  5.  Privatization of genetic material.
    This fact is often ignored in the great debate on GMOs. When farmers purchase seeds, they purchase the ability to grow those seeds and harvest its crop. Farmers must sign a contract that prevents them from saving seeds. Thus, in a sense, farmers are growing someone else’s seeds, as the entire seed industry has now become controlled by only a handful of corporations. Seed-saving is an ancient practice, and one that fosters self-sufficiency, resilience, and biological diversity, and it has now been greatly impaired by the privatization of genetic material. This dead-end farming that makes farmers ever more reliant on corporations first began with the development of hybridized seeds – well before GMOs – which generally produced non-viable seeds and thus forced farmers to re-purchase seeds on a yearly basis. This practice then passed to GMOs. In a sense, the GMO farmer has become a modern-day sharecropper, growing someone else’s crops.

  6. Culture of secrecy. Although GMO labeling exists in 64 countries, mainly in EU member states, the US and Canada have succumbed to industry pressure and still function without such laws. Further, the practice of chemical drying has taken place since 2000 with virtually no public consultation, consent, or transparency. There is ample reason to regulate glyphosate out of existence, as many countries and municipalities have begun to do, but until sweeping legislation occurs in North America, clear labeling on products that carry GMOs and glyphosate needs to exist, so that consumers can make well-informed decisions about what chemicals they are putting into their bodies. Governments should also foster public input before enacting policies that relate to GMOs and glyphosate.
Dr. Jeremy L. Caradonna
 Environmental Studies University of Victoria

Dr. Thierry Vrain
Head of Biotechnology at Agriculture Canada’s
Summerland Research Station (retired)

A Note on References
Given the immense interest in and suspicion of GMOS, we feel it is necessary for the public to have access to the scientific, peer-reviewed studies that address the adverse health effects of glyphosate. The studies below all appeared in highly respected, mainstream scientific journals that offer the latest research on toxicology, chemistry, microbiology, and more. We strongly encourage readers to take the time to read at least some of these technical studies.

References Cited in the Article
Samsel and Seneff 2013 Glyphosate’s Suppression of Cytochrome P450 Enzymes and Amino Acid Biosynthesis by the Gut Microbiome: Pathways to Modern Diseases Entropy 2013, 15(4), 1416-1463

Samsel and Seneff 2016. Glyphosate pathways to modern diseases V: Amino acid analogue of glycine in diverse proteins. Journal of Biological Physics and Chemistry · June 2016
Swanson et al 2014 Genetically engineered crops, glyphosate and the deterioration of Health in the United states of America. Journal of Organic Systems Vol.9 No.2 (2014)

Thongprakaisang et al 2013 Glyphosate induces human breast cancer cells growth via estrogen receptors. Food Chem Toxicol. Sep;59:129-36.

Krüger et al 2014. Detection of Glyphosate Residues in Animals and Humans. J Environ Anal Toxicol, 4(210), 2161-0525.

Séralini et al 2014 Republished study: long-term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize. Environmental Sciences Europe , 26:14

Additional References on Glyphosate in Animal Health
Ackermann W, Coenen M, Schrödl W, Shehata AA, Krüger M. (2014) The Influence of Glyphosate on the Microbiota and Production of Botulinum Neurotoxin During Ruminal Fermentation. Curr Microbiol. 2014 Nov 19.

Adam A, Marzuki A, Abdul Rahman H, Abdul Aziz M. (1997)The oral and intratracheal toxicities of ROUNDUP and its components to
rats. Vet Hum Toxicol. Jun;39(3):147-51.

Astiz M, de Alaniz MJ, Marra CA. (2009) Effect of pesticides on cell survival in liver and brain rat tissues. Ecotoxicol Environ Saf. Oct;72(7):2025-32.

Astiz M, Hurtado de Catalfo GE, García MN, Galletti SM, Errecalde AL, de Alaniz MJ, Marra CA. (2013) Pesticide-induced decrease in rat testicular steroidogenesis is differentially prevented by lipoate and tocopherol. Ecotoxicol Environ Saf. May;91:129-38.

Astiz M, de Alaniz MJ, Marra CA. (2012) The oxidative damage and inflammation caused by pesticides are reverted by lipoic acid in rat brain. Neurochem Int. Dec;61(7):1231-41.

Benachour N, Sipahutar H, Moslemi S, Gasnier C, Travert C, Séralini GE. (2007) Time- and dose-dependent effects of roundup on human embryonic and placental cells. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol. Jul;53(1):126-33

Benachour N, Séralini GE. (2009) Glyphosate formulations induce apoptosis and necrosis in human umbilical, embryonic, and placental cells. Chem Res Toxicol. Jan;22(1):97-105.

Benedetti AL, Vituri CdL, Trentin AG, Domingues MA, Alvarez- Silva M. (2004) The effects of sub-chronic exposure of Wistar rats to the herbicide Glyphosate-Biocarb. Toxicol Lett. 153(2): 227–232.

Cecilia Judith Beuret, Fanny Zirulnik, María Sofía Giménez (2005) Effect of the herbicide glyphosate on liver lipoperoxidation in pregnant rats and their fetuses. Reproductive Toxicology Volume 19, Issue 4, March–April, Pages 501–504

Chaufan G, Coalova I, Molina Mdel C. (2014) Glyphosate commercial formulation causes cytotoxicity, oxidative effects, and apoptosis on human cells: differences with its active ingredient. Int J Toxicol. 2014 Jan;33(1):29 - 38.

Cassault-Meyer, Steeve Gress, Gilles-Éric Séralini, Isabelle Galeraud-Denis (2014) An acute exposure to glyphosate-based herbicide alters aromatase levels in testis and sperm nuclear quality Environmental Toxicology and Pharmacology Volume 38, Issue 1, July, Pages 131–140
Magdalena Chłopecka, Marta Mendel, Natalia Dziekan, Wojciech Karlik (2014) Glyphosate affects the spontaneous motoric activity of intestine at very low doses – In vitro study. Pesticide Biochemistry and Physiology, Available online 24 June 2014

Clair E, Mesnage R, Travert C, Séralini GÉ. (2012) A glyphosate-based herbicide induces necrosis and apoptosis in mature rat testicular cells in vitro, and testosterone decrease at lower levels. Toxicol In Vitro. Mar;26(2):269-79.

Daiane Cattani, Vera Lúcia de Liz Oliveira Cavalli, Carla Elise Heinz Rieg, Juliana Tonietto Domingues, Tharine Dal-Cim, Carla Inês Tasca, Fátima Regina Mena Barreto Silva, Ariane Zamoner (2014) Mechanisms underlying the neurotoxicity induced by glyphosate-based herbicide in immature rat hippocampus: Involvement of glutamate excitotoxicity Toxicology 15 March

Elie-Caille C, Heu C, Guyon C, Nicod L. (2010) Morphological damages of a glyphosate-treated human keratinocyte cell line revealed by a micro- to nanoscale microscopic investigation. Cell Biol Toxicol. Aug;26(4):331-9.

Dallegrave E, Mantese FD, Coelho RS, Pereira JD, Dalsenter PR, Langeloh A. (2003) The teratogenic potential of the herbicide glyphosate-Roundup in Wistar rats. Toxicol Lett. Apr 30;142(1-2):45-52.

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Coming of the Post-Liberal Era

SUBHEAD: Clinton may still win the election, but the broader currents in American political life have changed.

By John Michael Greer on 28 September 2016 for the Archdruid Report -
Image above: A poster supporting American temperance from alcohol, a Liberal goal in the 19th century. It's labeled "The Drunkard's Progress - From the First Glass to the Grave". Click to enlarge. From (

One of the big challenges faced by any student of current events is that of seeing past the turmoil of the present moment to catch the deep trends shaping events on a broader scale.

It’s a little like standing on a beach, without benefit of tide tables, and trying to guess whether the tide’s coming in or going out.

Waves surge, break, and flow back out to sea; the wind blows this way and that; it takes time, and close attention to subtle details, before you can be sure whether the sea is gradually climbing the beach or just as gradually retreating from it.

Over the last year or so, though, it’s become increasingly clear to me that one of the great tides of American politics has turned and is flowing out to sea.

For almost precisely two hundred years, this country’s political discourse has been shaped—more powerfully, perhaps, than by any other single force—by the loose bundle of ideas, interests, and values we can call American liberalism. That’s the tide that’s turning.

The most important trends shaping the political landscape of our time, to my mind, are the descent of the liberal movement into its final decadence, and the first stirrings of the postliberal politics that is already emerging in its wake.

To make sense of what American liberalism has been, what it has become, and what will happen in its aftermath, history is an essential resource.

Ask a believer in a political ideology to define it, and you’ll get one set of canned talking points; ask an opponent of that ideology to do the same thing, and you’ll get another—and both of them will be shaped more by the demands of moment-by-moment politics than by any broader logic.

Trace that ideology from its birth through its adolescence, maturity, and decline into senescence, and you get a much better view of what it actually means.

Let’s go back, then, to the wellsprings of the American liberal movement. Historians have argued for a good long time about the deeper roots of that movement, but its first visible upsurge can be traced to a few urban centers in the coastal Northeast in the years just after the War of 1812.

Boston—nineteenth century America’s San Francisco—was the epicenter of the newborn movement, a bubbling cauldron of new social ideas to which aspiring intellectuals flocked from across the new Republic.

Any of my readers who think that the naive and effervescent idealism of the 1960s was anything new need to read Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Blithedale Romance; it's set in the Massachusetts counterculture of the early nineteenth century, and most of the action takes place on a commune. That’s the context in which American liberalism was born.

From the very beginning, it was a movement of the educated elite.

Though it spoke movingly about uplifting the downtrodden, the downtrodden themselves were permitted very little active part in it. It was also as closely intertwined with Protestant Christianity as the movement of the 1960s was with Asian religions.

Ministers from the Congregationalist and Unitarian churches played a central role in the movement throughout its early years, and the major organizations of the movement—the Anti-Slavery Societies, the Temperance League, and the Non-Resistant League, the first influential American pacifist group—were closely allied with churches, and staffed and supported by clergymen.

Both the elitism and the Protestant Christian orientation, as we’ll see, had a powerful influence on the way American liberalism evolved over the two centuries that followed.

Three major social issues formed the framework around which the new movement coalesced.

The first was the abolition of slavery; the second was the prohibition of alcohol; the third was the improvement of the legal status of women. (The movement traversed a long and convoluted road before this latter goal took its ultimate form of legal and social equality between the genders.)

There were plenty of other issues that attracted their own share of attention from the movement—dietary reform, dress reform, pacifism, and the like—but all of them shared a common theme: the redefinition of politics as an expression of values.

Let’s take a moment to unpack that last phrase. Politics at that time, and at most other periods throughout human history, was understood as a straightforward matter of interests—in the bluntest of terms, who got what benefits and who paid what costs.

Then and for most of a century thereafter, for example, one of the things that happened in the wake of every Presidential election is that the winner’s party got to hand out federal jobs en masse to its supporters. It was called the “spoils system,” as in “to the victor belongs the spoils;” people flocked to campaign for this or that presidential candidate as much in the hope of getting a comfortable federal job as for anyother reason.

Nobody saw anything wrong with that system, because politics was about interests.

In the same way, there’s no evidence that anybody in the Constitutional Convention agonized about the ethical dimensions of the notorious provision that defined each slave as being 3/5ths of a person.

I doubt the ethical side of the matter ever crossed any of their minds, because politics was not about ethics or any other expression of values—it was about interests—and the issue was simply one of finding a compromise that allowed each state to feel that its interests would be adequately represented in Congress.

Values, in the thought of the time, belonged to church and to the private conscience of the individual; politics was about interests pure and simple.

(We probably need to stop here for a moment to deal with the standard response: “Yes, but they should have known better!” This is a classic example of chronocentrism.

Just as ethnocentrism privileges the beliefs, values, and interests of a particular ethnic group, chronocentrism does the same thing to the beliefs, values, and interests of a particular time.

Chronocentrism is enormously common today, on all sides of the political and cultural landscape; you can see it when scientists insist that people in the Middle Ages should have known better than to believe in astrology, for example, or when Christians insist that the old Pagans should have known better than to believe in polytheist religions. In every case, it’s simply one more attempt to evade the difficult task of understanding the past.)

Newborn American liberalism, though, rejected the division between politics and values. Their opposition to slavery, for example, had nothing to do with the divergent economic interests of the industrializing northern states and the plantation economy of the South, and everything to do with a devoutly held conviction that chattel slavery was morally wrong.

Their opposition to alcohol, to the laws that denied civil rights to women, to war, and to everything else on the lengthy shopping list of the movement had to do with moral values, not with interests. That’s where you see the impact of the movement’s Protestant heritage: it took values out of the church and tried to apply them to the world as a whole.

At the time, that was exotic enough that the moral crusades just mentioned got about as much political traction at the time as the colorful fantasies of the 1960s did in their own day.

Both movements were saved from complete failure by the impact of war. The movement of the 1960s drew most of its influence on popular culture from its opposition to the Vietnam War, which is why it collapsed nearly without a trace when the war ended and the draft was repealed. The earlier movement had to wait a while for its war, and in the meantime it very nearly destroyed itself by leaping on board the same kind of apocalyptic fantasy that kicked the New Age movement into its current death spiral four years ago.

In the late 1830s, frustrated by the failure of the perfect society to show up as quickly as they desired, a great many adherents of the new liberal movement embraced the prophecy of William Miller, a New England farmer who believed that he had worked out from the Bible the correct date of the Second Coming of Christ. When October 22, 1844 passed without incident, the same way December 21, 2012 did, the resulting “Great Disappointment” was a body blow to the movement.

By then, though, one of the moral crusades being pushed by American liberals had attracted the potent support of raw economic interest. The division between northern and southern states over the question of slavery was not primarily seen at the time as a matter of ethics; it was a matter of competing interests, like every other political question, though of course northern politicians and media were quick to capitalize on the moral rhetoric of the Abolitionists.

At issue was the shape of the nation’s economic future.

Was it going to be an agrarian society producing mostly raw materials for export, and fully integrated into a global economy centered on Britain—the southern model? Or was it going to go its own way, raise trade barriers against the global economy, and develop its own industrial and agricultural economy for domestic consumption—the northern model?

Such questions had immediate practical implications, because government policies that favored one model guaranteed the ruin of the other. Slavery was the linchpin of the Southern model, because the big southern plantations required a vast supply of labor at next to no cost to turn a profit, and so it became a core issue targeted by northern politicians and propagandists alike.

Read detailed accounts of the struggles in Congress between northern and southern politicians, though, and you’ll find that what was under debate had as much to do with trade policy and federal expenditures.

Was there to be free trade, which benefited the South, or trade barriers, which benefited the North? Was the federal budget to pay for canals and roads, which benefited northern interests by getting raw materials to factories and manufactured products to markets, but were irrelevant to southern interests, which simply needed riverboats to ship cotton and tobacco to the nearest seaport?

Even the bitter struggles over which newly admitted states were to have slave-based economies, and which were not, had an overwhelming economic context in the politics of the time.

The North wanted to see the western territories turned into a patchwork of family farms, producing agricultural products for the burgeoning cities of the eastern seaboard and the Great Lakes and buying manufactured goods from northern factories; the South wanted to see those same territories made available for plantations that would raise products for export to England and the world.

Yet the ethical dimension became central to northern propaganda, as already noted, and that helped spread the liberal conviction that values as well as interests had a place in the political dialogue.

By 1860, that conviction had become widespread enough that it shaped thinking south of the Mason-Dixon line. As originally written, for example, the first line of the Confederate song “The Bonny Blue Flag” ran “fighting for the property we won by honest toil”—and no one anywhere had any illusions about the identity, or skin color, of the property in question.

Before long, though, it was rewritten as “fighting for our liberty, with treasure, blood and toil.” The moment that change occurred, the South had already lost; it’s entirely possible to argue for slavery on grounds of economic interest, but once the focus of the conversation changes to values such as liberty, slavery becomes indefensible.

So the Civil War raged, the Confederacy rose and fell, the Northern economic model guided American economic policy for most of a century thereafter, and the liberal movement found its feet again.

With slavery abolished, the other two primary goals took center stage, and the struggle to outlaw alcohol and get voting rights for women proceeded very nearly in lockstep.

The 18th Amendment, prohibiting the manufacture and sale of alcohol in the US, and the 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote, were passed in 1919 and 1920 respectively, and even though Prohibition turned out to be a total flop, the same rhetoric was redirected toward drugs (most were legal in the US until the 1930s) and continues to shape public policy today.

Then came the Great Depression, and with the election of Franklin Roosevelt in 1932—and above all with his landslide reelection victory in 1936, when the GOP carried only two states—the liberal movement became the dominant force in American political life.

Triumph after triumph followed. The legalization of unions, the establishment of a tax-funded social safety net, the forced desegregation of the South: these and a galaxy of other reforms on the liberal shopping list duly followed.

The remarkable thing is that all these achievements took place while the liberal movement was fighting opponents from both sides.

To the right, of course, old-fashioned conservatives still dug in their heels and fought for the interests that mattered to them, but from the 1930s on, liberals also faced constant challenge from further left.

American liberalism, as already mentioned, was a movement of the educated elite; it focused on helping the downtrodden rather than including them; and that approach increasingly ran into trouble as the downtrodden turned out to have ideas of their own that didn’t necessarily square with what liberals wanted to do for them.

Starting in the 1970s, in turn, American liberalism also ended up facing a third source of challenges—a new form of conservatism that borrowed the value-centered language of liberalism but used a different set of values to rally support to its cause: the values of conservative Protestant Christianity.

In some ways, the rise of the so-called “new conservatism” with its talk about “family values” represented the final, ironic triumph of the long struggle to put values at the center of political discourse.

By the 1980s, every political faction in American public life, no matter how crass and venial its behavior or its goals, took care to festoon itself with some suitable collection of abstract values. That’s still the case today; nobody talks about interests, even when interests are the obvious issue.

Thus you get the standard liberal response to criticism, which is to insist that the only reason anyone might possibly object to a liberal policy is because they have hateful values.

Let’s take current US immigration policy as an example. This limits the number of legal immigrants while tacitly allowing unlimited illegal immigration. There are solid pragmatic reasons for questioning the appropriateness of that policy.

The US today has the highest number of permanently unemployed people in its history, incomes and standards of living for the lower 80% of the population have been moving raggedly downward since the 1970s, and federal tax policies effectively subsidize the offshoring of jobs.

That being the case, allowing in millions of illegal immigrants who have, for all practical purposes, no legal rights, and can be employed at sweatshop wages in substandard conditions, can only drive wages down further than they’ve already gone, furthering the impoverishment and immiseration of wage-earning Americans.

These are valid issues, dealing with (among other things) serious humanitarian concerns for the welfare of wage-earning Americans, and they have nothing to do with racial issues—they would be just as compelling if the immigrants were coming from Canada.

Yet you can’t say any of this in the hearing of a modern American liberal. If you try, you can count on being shouted down and accused of being a racist.

Why? I’d like to suggest that it’s because the affluent classes from which the leadership of the liberal movement is drawn, and which set the tone for the movement as a whole, benefit directly from the collapse in wages that has partly been caused by mass illegal immigration, since that decrease in wages has yielded lower prices for the goods and services they buy and higher profits for the companies for which many of them work, and whose stocks many of them own.

That is to say, a movement that began its history with the insistence that values had a place in politics alongside interests has ended up using talk about values to silence discussion of the ways in which its members are pursuing their own interests.

That’s not a strategy with a long shelf life, because it doesn’t take long for the other side to identify, and then exploit, the gap between rhetoric and reality.

Ironies of this sort are anything but unusual in political history. It’s astonishingly common for a movement that starts off trying to overturn the status quo in the name of some idealistic abstraction or other to check its ideals at the door once it becomes the status quo.

If anything, American liberalism held onto its ideals longer than most and accomplished a great deal more than many, and I think that most of us—even those who, like me, are moderate Burkean conservatives—are grateful to the liberal movement of the past for ending such obvious abuses as chattel slavery and the denial of civil rights to women, and for championing the idea that values as well as interests deserve a voice in the public sphere.

It deserves the modern equivalent of a raised hat and a moment of silence, if no more, as it finally sinks into the decadence that is the ultimate fate of every successful political movement.

The current US presidential election shows, perhaps better than anything else, just how far that decadence has gone. Hillary Clinton’s campaign is floundering in the face of Trump’s challenge because so few Americans still believe that the liberal shibboleths in her campaign rhetoric mean anything at all.

Even among her supporters, enthusiasm is hard to find, and her campaign rallies have had embarrassingly sparse attendance.

Increasingly frantic claims that only racists, fascists, and other deplorables support Trump convince no one but true believers, and make the concealment of interests behind shopworn values increasingly transparent.

Clinton may still win the election by one means or another, but the broader currents in American political life have clearly changed course.

It’s possible to be more precise. Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, in stark contrast to Clinton, have evoked extraordinarily passionate reactions from the voters, precisely because they’ve offered an alternative to a status quo pervaded by the rhetoric of a moribund liberalism.

In the same way, in Britain—where the liberal movement followed a somewhat different trajectory but has ended up in the same place—the success of the Brexit campaign and the wild enthusiasm with which Labour Party voters have backed the supposedly unelectable Jeremy Corbyn show that the same process is well under way there.

Having turned into the captive ideology of an affluent elite, liberalism has lost the loyalty of the downtrodden that once, with admittedly mixed motives, it set out to help. That’s a loss it’s unlikely to survive.

Over the decades ahead, in other words, we can expect the emergence of a postliberal politics in the United States, England, and quite possibly some other countries as well.

The shape of the political landscape in the short term is fairly easy to guess.

Watch the way the professional politicians in the Republican Party have flocked to Hillary Clinton’s banner, and you can see the genesis of a party of the affluent demanding the prolongation of free trade, American intervention in the Middle East, and the rest of the waning bipartisan consensus that supports its interests.

Listen to the roars of enthusiasm for Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump—or better still, talk to the not inconsiderable number of Sanders supporters who will be voting for Trump this November—and you can sense the emergence of a populist party seeking the abandonment of that consensus in defense of its very different interests.

What names those parties will have is by no means certain yet, and a vast number of other details still have to be worked out. One way or another, though, it’s going to be a wild ride.


Review of "Dark Age America"

SUBHEAD: No, we aren’t going to work cooperatively to painlessly transition to a brave new green economy.

By Mary Wildfire on 28 September 2016 for Resilience -

Image above: Detail of cover of John Michael Greer's new book "Dark Age America" From original article.

John Michael Greer’s latest nonfiction book looks at the likely trajectory for North America over the next five centuries. It’s too late, he says, to avert a collapse and ensuing dark age. Perhaps if we had embraced the alternative technologies that Greer himself was involved in exploring in the 1980s we could have avoided this fate, but instead we chose Ronald Reagan, Morning in America, and a continued addiction to fossil fuels and economic growth.

Now a combination of climate change and resource depletion, together with the cultural changes that reliably go along with a failing empire, guarantees that we will follow the time-honored path of previous collapsing civilizations.

As with Greer’s previous books, I have to take his word for these historical patterns as I’m not enough of a student of history to have my own opinion; but he does cite sources for many of these claims. These citations in turn link to a reading list. As with the last Greer book I reviewed on this site (Decline and Fall: the end of empire and the future of democracy in 21st century America), those readers who closely follow his writing will not find a great deal that’s new in this book.

But for anyone who doesn’t follow the Archdruid Report faithfully, there is much food for thought here—and despite the similar theme, little overlap with Decline and Fall. Greer spends little time persuading the reader that “a hard rain’s a-gonna fall”—instead he focuses on the likely outcomes over the next five centuries, after which he thinks a renaissance of some kind may come. He looks especially at North America, but much of his history-informed theorizing will apply to Europe and elsewhere too.

The titles of the chapters provide a pretty good overview of the themes: The Wake of Industrial Civilization is the first chapter and introduction, followed by the Ecological Aftermath, the Demographic Consequences, the Political Unraveling, the Economic Collapse, the Suicide of Science, the Twilight of Technology, the Dissolution of Culture; and the Road to a Renaissance.

The Ecological Aftermath focuses on climate change while acknowledging other environmental assaults of our society, notably upon the oceans, but he also mentions topsoil loss and “the long-term consequences of industrial America’s frankly brainless dumping of persistent radiological and chemical poisons”… the results of that last one will outlast the dark age.

He projects that North America will mostly dry out, with deserts overtaking all of the US Southwest and into the central plains, whose grassland will extend all the way to the Allegheny Plateau.

The most habitable areas, he thinks, will be in New England, the Eastern seaboard (that is, the new seaboard after rising seas take out the cities of the current coastline) the Great Lakes region, and some of the Pacific coast. He bases this on historical patterns when our continent was warmer than today.

This leads into the Demographic Consequences. Without the fossil fuel subsidy, our land will support nowhere near today’s population, and the ecological damage will reduce its carrying capacity further. Large-scale migration is also inevitable.

The Political Unraveling covers familiar terrain; you could call it class struggle. He refers to the time of “elite senility” in which those who run our world for their own benefit lost the ability and inclination to respond to crises. This opens the way to the warbands who will eventually rise to take power after some crisis… not a pleasant scenario but all too realistic.

The Economic Collapse looks at what Greer calls “intermediation” which is the habit of inserting specialists and bureaucrats between producers and consumers. With the breakdown will come “disintermediation” or a reduction in complexity. Much of this has to do with the end of the subsidy provided by fossil fuels.

The Suicide of Science, on the other hand, has more to do with the mistakes of scientists and those who speak for them. He includes here the complete change in what we are told about nutrition, the venal manipulation of studies by the pharmaceutical industry, and the arrogance of prominent atheists.

This is compared with the fate of intellectuals of earlier civilizations in decline—the association between these intellectuals and the elite led to their victimization.

The Twilight of Technology might not be what you’d expect, after that. Instead, Greer insists on looking at technologies individually, and asking whether they are affordable, useful, and actually improve lives. Many fashionable ones fail this test, once you take externalities into account.

Here Greer makes the important point that to be useful, technologies often need to have a suite of associated technologies supported, and so it would be very useful to think through which technologies are worth preserving and therefore looking into maintaining the associated suites (he didn’t mention it, but it strikes me that bicycles are said to be the most efficient means of transportation known; what can we use for tires in the deindustrial future?)

The final chapter is, as you might expect, the one where he talks about solutions.

First he dispenses with the notion that some technical miracle will allow us to continue living in accustomed, wasteful ways—or that some apocalypse will end the whole show and free us from having to do anything about anything.

His advice amounts to two things: to protect yourself and ease the transition, “collapse now and avoid the rush.” In other words, transition to a lifestyle that doesn’t depend on a global economy, money, and fossil fuels.

Perhaps, he suggests, it’s already too late to move to the country, grow your own food and so forth unless you are already well along with that program. But finding ways to do for yourself and your family, and to produce something your neighbors will need, is a sensible course.

The other focus here is what you can do for humanity, to preserve the good parts of our culture for a future civilization that will emerge after the dark age. Here he mentions his own project of getting into letterpress printing, as books can be a durable way to preserve information.

The difference between Greer’s works and those of authors covering similar terrain is that Greer refuses to sugarcoat anything. No, we aren’t going to painlessly transition to a brave new green economy; and no, we aren’t going to work cooperatively to bring all of humanity (not to mention other life forms) through the coming crises with as little pain as possible.

For a reader willing to face hard realities, this book is well worth reading.


A Time for Retrovation

SUBHEAD: The deliberate technological regression does not amount to a return to the caves—quite the contrary.

By John Michael Greer on 21 September 2016 for the Archdruid Report -

Image above: A photochrom of Belgian milk peddlers with a dogcart and cunstomer, circa 1890–1900. From (

It's been a little more than a year now since I started the narrative that wrapped up last week.

The two weeks that Peter Carr spent in the Lakeland Republic in late November of 2065 ended up covering a little more ground than I’d originally intended, and of course the vagaries of politics and culture in the twilight years of the American century got their share of attention on this blog.

Now that the story’s told and the manuscript is getting its final revisions before heading off to the publisher, I want to talk a bit about exactly what I was trying to do by taking an imaginary person to an imaginary place where things work better than they do here and now.

Part of it, of course, was an attempt to sketch out in detail the practical implications of a point I’ve been exploring on this blog for a good while now.

Most people in today’s industrial society believe, or think they believe, in progress: they believe, that is, that human history has a built-in bias that infallibly moves it from worse things to better things over time.

These days, that belief in progress most often attaches itself to the increasing complexification of technology, and you get the touching faith in the imminence of a Star Trek future that allows so many people these days to keep slogging through the wretchedly unsatisfactory and steadily worsening conditions of the present.

Faith does not depend on evidence. If that statement needs any further proof, you can get it by watching the way people respond to technological failure.

Most of us these days know perfectly well that every software “upgrade” these days has more bugs and fewer useful features than what it replaced, and every round of “new and improved” products hawked by the media and shoveled onto store shelves is more shoddily made, more loaded with unwanted side effects, and less satisfactory than the last round.

Somehow, though, a good many of the people who witness this reality, day in and day out, still manage to insist that the future is, or at least ought to be, a paradise propped up by perfectly functioning machines.

That the rising tide of technological failure might be something other than an accidental roadbump on the way to utopia—that it might be trying to tell us something that, by and large we don’t want to hear—has not yet entered our society’s darkest dream.

It so happens that in very many cases, older, simpler, sturdier technologies work better, producing more satisfactory outcomes and fewer negative side effects, than their modern high-tech equivalents.

After most of two years taking apart the modern mythology of progress in a series of posts that became my book After Progress: Reason and Religion at the End of the Industrial Age, and most of another year doing the more pragmatic posts that are being turned into a forthcoming book tentatively titled The Retro Future, I decided that the best way to pursue the exploration further was to imagine a society very much like ours that had actually noticed the declining quality of technology, and adjusted public policies accordingly.

That was the genesis of Retrotopia: the attempt to show, by means of the toolkit of narrative fiction, that deliberate technological regression as public policy didn’t amount to a return to the caves—quite the contrary, it meant a return to things that actually work.

The form that this exploration took, though, was shaped in important ways by an earlier venture of the same kind, Ernest Callenbach’s Ecotopia. I don’t know how many of my readers realize just how dramatic a change in utopian literature was marked by Callenbach’s solidly written tale.

From the days of Thomas More’s novel Utopia, which gave the genre its name, utopian literature worked with the contrast between the world as it is and an ideal world as imagined by the author, without any connection between the two outside of the gimmick, however worked, that got a viewpoint character from one to the other.

More’s Utopia was a critique of the England of Henry VIII, but there was never any suggestion on More’s part that England might be expected to turn into Utopia one of these days, and nearly all the utopian tales that followed his embraced the same approach.

With William Morris, things began to shift. Morris was a socialist, and thus believed devoutly that the world could in fact turn into something much better than it was; during the years that his commitment to socialism was at its height, he penned a utopian tale, News from Nowhere, which was set in a future England long after Victorian capitalism had gone gurgling down history’s sewer pipe.

Later on, in the pages of his tremendous fantasy novel The Well at the World’s End, he wove a subtle but pervasive critique of the socialist views he’d championed—socialism appears there in the stark and terrible symbolic form of the Dry Tree—but that’s a subject for a different post entirely.

News From Nowhere was quite the controversial book in its day, not least because the socialist future Morris imagined was green, agrarian, and entirely free of the mechanized regimentation of humanity that played such a huge role in the Marxist imagination then as now.

Still, the historical thread that linked Morris’ utopia to the present was very thin. The story was set far off in the future, and Morris skimmed lightly over the process that led from the dark Satanic mills of Victorian England to the green and pleasant land of his imagined socialist England.

That was where Callenbach took hold of the utopian narrative, and hammered it into a completely new shape. Ecotopia was set barely a quarter century in Callenbach’s own future.

In his vision, the states of Washington, Oregon, and the northern two-thirds of California had broken away from the United States in 1980, and the usual visitor—journalist William Weston, from what’s left of the United States—came to pay the usual visit in 1999.

Over the nineteen years between independence and Weston’s visit, the new nation of Ecotopia had entirely reshaped itself in the image of the Whole Earth Catalog, adopting the technologies, customs, and worldview that San Francisco-area eco-radicals of the 1970s dreamed of establishing, and here and there actually adopted in their own lives.

It really is a tour de force.

One measure of its impact is that to this day, when you ask people on the leftward end of things to imagine an ideal future that isn’t just a lightly scrubbed version of the present, dollars will get you organic free range doughnuts that what you’ll hear is some version or other of the Ecotopian future: wind turbines and solar panels, organic farms everywhere, and everyone voluntarily embracing the social customs and attitudes of the San Francisco-area avant-garde circa 1975 in perfect lockstep.

While I was writing Retrotopia, until some of my readers got the hang of the fact that I don’t crowdsource my fiction, I fielded any number of comments and emails insisting that I really ought to incorporate this or that or the other aspect of the Ecotopian future into my narrative.

I didn’t take offense at that; it was pretty clear to me that for a lot of people nowadays, Ecotopia is literally the only alternative to the status quo that they can imagine.

We’ll get to the broader implications of that last point in a moment. Just now, I want to talk about why I didn’t write a mildly retro version of Ecotopia. I could have; it would have been easy and, frankly, quite entertaining to do that.

I’ve imagined more than once writing a tale about somebody from our world who, via some bit of science-fictionish handwaving, is transported to an alternate America in which Ronald Reagan lost the 1980 election, the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant underwent a full-scale Fukushima Daiichi meltdown with tens of thousands of casualties, and the United States had accordingly gone careening ahead toward the sustainable future we almost adopted. I may still write that story someday, but that wasn’t what I chose to do this time around.

Partly, of course, that was because Ernest Callenbach was there already forty years ago. Partly, though, it’s because not all the assumptions that undergirded Ecotopia have worn well in the decades since he wrote.

It’s become painfully clear that renewable energy sources, valuable and necessary though they are, can’t simply be dropped into place as a replacement for fossil fuels; huge changes in energy use, embracing issues of energy concentration and accessibility as well as sheer quantity, will have to be made as fossil fuels run out and we have to make do with the enduring power sources of sun, wind, water, and muscle.

It’s also become clear, painfully or amusingly as the case may be, that the notions that Sausalito intellectuals thought would save the world back in the 1970s—communal living, casual pansexuality, and the like—had downsides and drawbacks that nobody had gotten around to noticing yet, and weren’t necessarily as liberating and transformative as they seemed at the time.

Ecotopia also fell headlong into both of the standard pitfalls of the contemporary liberal imagination.

The first of these is the belief that a perfect society can be attained if we can just abolish diversity of ideas and opinions, and get everyone to believe what the affluent liberal intelligentsia think they ought to believe.

That’s why I put ongoing controversies between conservative and restorationist blocs into the story. It’s also, on another level, why I put in repeated references to religious diversity—thus there are people running for public office in the Lakeland Republic who end an oath of office with “So help me Jesus my Lord and Savior,” just as there are military officers there who spend every Sunday at the Greek Orthodox cathedral in Toledo, and politicians who attend the Atheist Assembly.

The second pitfall, which follows from the first, is the belief that since you can’t get “those people” to have the ideas and opinions you think they ought to have, the proper response is to hole up in a self-referential echo chamber from which all unacceptable views are excluded.

Ecotopia assumes implicitly that the United States, and by inference the rest of the world’s nations as well, are utterly irredeemable; the nation of Ecotopia thus barricades itself inside its borders and goes its green and merry way, and the climax of the story comes when William Weston decides to stay in Ecotopia and become one of the good people. (He had a significant other back home in the USA, by the way; what she thought of his decision to dump her for a San Francisco hippie chick is nowhere mentioned.)

We’ll be discussing both those pitfalls at length in future posts, not least because they bid fair to exert a massive influence on contemporary politics, especially but not only in the United States. The point I’d like to make here, though, is just how deep the latter habit runs through the liberal end of our collective imagination.

I’m thinking here of another powerful and morally problematic work of fiction to come out of the same era, Ursula K. LeGuin’s haunting story “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas.” The core of the story is that there’s a splendid city, Omelas; its splendor depends on the infliction of suffering on one helpless person; now and again, people get upset by this, and leave the city. It’s stunningly well written but evades a crucial question: does walking away do anything to change the situation, or does it just let the ones who walk away from Omelas feel morally superior?

That was one of the reasons why the conclusion of Retrotopia didn’t feature Peter Carr chucking his Atlantic Republic passport and moving in with Melanie Berger.

Instead, he caught the train back home, having committed himself to the challenge of trying to move his own country in the direction that the Lakeland Republic has already taken, in the full knowledge that he might not succeed.

I had the entire last scene in mind from the beginning of the project, partly as a deliberate challenge to that aspect of Ecotopia, partly because that sort of leap into uncertainty seems much more relevant to our present predicament. We don’t know, any more than Carr did, what lies behind the clouds that hide the future.

Of course the primary difference between Ecotopia and Retrotopia was that my narrative was meant to explore a very different approach from Callenbach’s. He was trying to propose a new, avant-garde, cutting-edge future—it’s often forgotten that the kind of thing Callenbach was talking about really was seen as the next great wave of progress in the 1970s, before the current fad for schizoid withdrawal into a cybernetic Neverland took that title away from it in the 1980s.

I’m trying to explore the possibility that going back to what worked is a better idea than plunging forward along a trajectory that leads to no place any sane human being would want to go. He was talking about innovation, while I’m talking about retrovation: the strategy of using the past as a resource for problem-solving in the present.

Retrovation used to be utterly unthinkable in modern industrial societies.

At the moment, it’s making the transition from utterly unthinkable to unspeakably heretical—thus another term for it I introduced in a post a while back, the heresy of technological choice—but a lot of people still can’t get their minds around it at all.

When I’ve proposed steampunk technology as one model for the future, I’ve inevitably fielded a flurry of comments insisting that you can’t possibly have Victorian technology without child labor and oppressive gender politics—and of course while I was writing Retrotopia, quite a few readers assumed as a matter of course that the tier system in the Lakeland Republic governed every detail of daily life, so that you weren’t allowed to have anything belonging to a post-1830 technological suite if you lived in a tier one county.

Not so. The word I’ve coined for the strategy under discussion, retrovation, is obviously backformed from “retro” + “innovation,” but it’s also “re-trove-ation,” re-finding, rediscovery: an active process of searching through the many options the past provides, not a passive acceptance of some bygone time as a package deal.

That’s the strategy the Lakeland Republic puts to use in my narrative, and those of my readers who know their way around the backwaters and odd corners of history may find it entertaining to figure out the sources from which I lifted this or that detail of Retrotopian daily life.

The rhetoric of progress, by contrast, rejects that possibility, relies on a very dubious logic that lumps “the past” together as a single thing, and insists that wanting any of it amounts to wanting all of it, with the worst features inevitably highlighted.

I’ve long since lost track of the number of times I’ve been told that rejecting the latest new, shiny, and dysfunctional technology, in favor of an older technology that works, is tantamount to cheerleading for infant mortality, or slavery, or living in caves, or what have you.

I’ve sometimes thought that it might be entertaining to turn that around—“if you won’t use a cell phone, you must be in favor of bringing back a balanced global climate!”—or simply taking it in directions a little more absurd than it’s gone already—“if you prefer rail travel to air travel, why, you might as well just restart the Punic Wars!” In either case, the point that might be made is the silliness of the progress-worshippers’ insistence that the past, or the present, or for that matter the future, is an all-or-nothing deal.

That’s also why, to return to my narrative for a moment, I made a point of showing that the sexual mores of people in the Lakeland Republic didn’t correspond to how people behaved at some point in the past—or, more to the point, the mythical notion of how people behaved in the past that’s been circulated by certain pseudoconservatives in recent decades.

Thus industrial magnate Janice Mikkelson is a lesbian with a lovely wife, Peter Carr happens to see two young men who’ve just gotten married on their way to their honeymoon, and when Peter and Melanie go out for dinner and an opera, the evening ends in her bedroom. I know that was uncomfortable for the social and religious conservatives among my readers, but it had to be there, for two reasons.

On the one hand, as a moderate Burkean conservative, I see absolutely no justification for imposing legal restraints on what consenting adults do in the privacy of their own bedrooms, or for that matter in that dimension of the public sphere that pertains to marriage licenses—and, after all, this is my utopia and I’ll permit what I want to.

On the other hand, just as I put devoutly religious people into the story to discomfit the sort of doctrinaire liberals who believe that nobody should follow traditional religious teachings, I put married gay and lesbian people into the story to discomfit the sort of doctrinaire conservatives who believe that nobody should follow contemporary sexual mores.

In both cases, the point I hoped to make is that the Lakeland Republic, with its policy of retrovation and its relative comfort with a diversity of ideas and lifestyles, hasn’t gone “backward,” or for that matter “forward,” but off in a direction all its own—a direction that can’t be defined in terms of the monomaniacally linear fixations of the worshippers of progress.

And of course that’s the crucial point, the most important thing that I hope my readers got out of the narrative. At the heart of most of the modern world’s insoluble problems is the faith-based claim that human history is a straight line with no branches or meanders, leading onward and upward from the caves to the stars, and that every software upgrade, every new and improved product on the shelves, every lurch “forward”—however that conveniently floppy word happens to be defined from day to day by marketing flacks and politicians—therefore must lead toward that imaginary destination.

That blind and increasingly untenable faith, I’ve come to think, is the central reason why the only future different from the present that most people can imagine these days, if it’s not Ecotopia, is either a rehash of the past in every detail or some kind of nightmare dystopia. These days, as often as not, that even extends to science fiction, once our society’s most effervescent cauldron of novel futures.

While writing an essay on the genre for a new magazine of science fiction and fantasy, Mythic, it occurred to me—and not for the first time—how few recent works of science fiction seem to be able to portray a future society that isn’t either a straight-line extrapolation from the present, complete with all its most parochial features, a carbon-copy rehash of some specific society of the past, or a smoking wasteland.

Not all that many decades ago, SciFi authors routinely spun future societies as radically different from ours as ours is from, say, the ancient Maya, but such visions are rare now. I don’t think that’s accidental.

To borrow a metaphor from Retrotopia, when you’ve driven down a blind alley and are sitting there with your bumper pressed against a brick wall, the only way forward starts by backing up—but if you’ve been convinced by your society’s core ideological commitments that “backing up” can only mean returning whole hog to the imaginary, awful past from which the ersatz messiah of progress is supposed to save us, you’re stuck.

There you sit, pushing uselessly on the pedal, hearing the engine labor and rattle, and watching the gas gauge move steadily toward that unwelcome letter E; it’s no surprise that after a while, the idea of a street leading somewhere else starts to seem distinctly unreal.

Other futures are possible. Retrotopia isn’t the only option, though I have to say it strikes me as a much more pleasant choice than what we’ve got now, and retrovation isn’t the only tool we need to get us out of that blind alley, though I suspect it’s more useful than a good many of the more popular items in our contemporary toolkit.

Still, time will tell—and if my narrative irritates some of my readers enough to get them working on their own, radically different visions of a future that breaks free of the blind alley of linear progress, all the better.