Sinclair Broadcasting is Trump TV

SUBHEAD: The owner of  the most TV stations dumps Fox News to become Trump's mouthpiece.

By Staff on 30 July 2017 for Common Dreams -

Image above: The Sinclair Broadcasting cut a biased deal with Jared Kushner and the Trump campaign. Now the Trump FCC is paying back the favor. From original article.

“It’s unheard of to have one company pushing one specific agenda reaching so many people and doing it in a way designed to evade local input”

During the 2016 Presidential campaign, the Sinclair Broadcasting group cut a deal
with Jared Kushner for “good” coverage of the Trump Administration, which seems to have paid off.

Politico reported last December:

Sinclair would broadcast their Trump interviews across the country without commentary, Kushner said. Kushner highlighted that Sinclair, in states like Ohio, reaches a much wider audience — around 250,000 viewers[sic]— than networks like CNN, which reach somewhere around 30,000.

With Fox News suffering several major setbacks in the past year, Sinclair Broadcasting is making moves to become the new giant of right-wing media. Many are now calling Sinclair 'Trump TV.'
David D. Smith built Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. into the largest owner of television stations in the U.S. after taking over his father's television company (with his brothers) in the late 1980's.

With David as president and CEO, the Sinclair Broadcast Group blossomed to 59 stations in less than a decade. By 2014, that number had nearly tripled to 162. Smith stepped down earlier this year and became executive chairman.

The Smith family has heavily funded conservative Republican candidates. David Smith's Cape Elizabeth, Maine summer home, just 5 miles down the coast from Common Dreams' Portland office, regularly serves as a meeting place for right-wing politicians like Trump's HUD Secretary Ben Carson and conservative commentator Armstrong Williams.

Journalist David Zurawik, who has covered local television for roughly thirty years, is speaking out against Sinclair Broadcasting Group. In a recent segment on CNN on Sunday, Zurawik said:
“They come as close to classic propaganda as I think I’ve seen in thirty years of covering local television or national television. They’re outrageous! Whatever the White House says, you know, President Trump believes there was voter fraud and he sets up this commission to get data from the states and the states rightfully push back because it’s very intrusive data — Boris Ephsteyn’s piece on it ends with, the states should cooperate with President Trump.”
And John Oliver took aim at the Sinclair Broadcasting group earlier this month, examining the far right station’s ownership of many local TV news stations:
“National cable news gets a lot of attention with their big budgets and their fancy graphics packages. Meanwhile, local news often has to do a lot more with a lot less.”
The Sinclair Broadcasting group has close ties to the Trump administration and is forcing local stations to air pro-Trump news segments. Trump’s FCC chairman, Ajit Pai rolled back a key Obama administration regulation that had prevented Sinclair from further expansion. The green light from the Trump administration allowed Sinclair to purchase 42 more local stations from the Tribune Media company, extending its reach to 72 percent of American households.

Oliver went on to show clips of broadcaster Mark Hyman railing against “political correctness and multiculturalism”.
“Hyman is a commentator and former executive at Sinclair Broadcast Group, and Sinclair may be the most influential media company you’ve never heard of. Not only are they the largest owner of local TV stations in the country, they could soon get even bigger.”

“If the opinions were confined to just the commentary or the ad breaks, that would be one thing. But Sinclair can sometimes dictate the content of your local newscasts as well, and in contrast to Fox News, a conservative outlet where you basically know what you’re getting, with Sinclair, they’re injecting Fox-worthy content into the mouths of your local news anchors, the two people who you know, and who you trust, and whose on-screen chemistry can usually best be described as two people.

“You may not realize it’s happening because Sinclair and its digital news subsidiary Circa not only produce and send packages to their stations; they even write scripts that local anchors use to introduce the pieces. For example, this Tuesday night, anchors at Sinclair stations all over the country introduced a story about Michael Flynn like this.”
Oliver's footage then showed multiple Sinclair broadcasters in different locales introduce a report about Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, by downplaying the investigation as just a “personal vendetta” against Flynn.

They are called “must-runs,” and they are sent every day to all the local stations owned by Sinclair Broadcasting — video reports that are centrally produced by the company. Station managers around the country must work them into the broadcast over a period of 24 or 48 hours.

Today, the Portland Press Herald (Maine) reported:
Marc McCutcheon of South Portland was watching WGME’s evening newscast as he has for half a century when something came on that shocked him.

In the midst of the local news, a taped commentary from President Trump’s former special assistant Boris Epshteyn appeared on the screen, trumpeting the administration’s position with what he thought selective use and abuse of facts.

McCutcheon, a small-business owner and political independent, describes the experience as “surreal,” “extremely jarring” and “so out of place with the friendly, local broadcast from news people I’ve come to trust over the years.” There was no rebuttal, no context, no alternate point of view – a situation he found concerning.

WGME-TV (Channel 13) and WPFO-TV (Channel 23) each carry the segments nine times a week on orders from their owner, the Maryland-based Sinclair Broadcasting Group, the nation’s largest owner of local television stations and an aggressive, unabashed disseminator of conservative commentary supporting the Trump wing of the Republican Party.

“It’s unheard of to have one company pushing one specific agenda reaching so many people and doing it in a way designed to evade local input,” says Craig Aaron, president and CEO of Free Press, a Washington-based group that opposes media consolidation. “The idea of having local stations offer an array of viewpoints is great, but what we get with Sinclair is one set of political leanings being broadcast everywhere.”

Epshteyn, a 34-year-old Russia-born investment banker, is a friend and former Georgetown University classmate of the president’s son Eric Trump who ascended rapidly within Trump’s campaign.

“Bottom Line With Boris” commentaries echo the White House’s own talking points. After former FBI director James Comey said in televised congressional testimony that the president had pressured him to let go of parts of his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, Epshteyn asserted to Sinclair viewers that Comey’s appearance had been more damaging to Hillary Clinton than the president.

Fascism and the Denial of Truth

SUBHEAD: Party polarization and gridlock in the US have created unsolved issues amenable to a Trump demagogue.

By Thomas Scott on 30 July 2017 for Truth Out  -

Image above: Cover art for song release of "Demagogue" by Franz Ferdinand. From (

What is a fascist? How many fascists have we? How dangerous are they? These are the questions that the New York Times posed to Henry A. Wallace, Franklin Roosevelt's vice president, in April 1944.

In response, Wallace wrote "The Danger of American Fascism," an essay in which he suggested that the number of American fascists and the threat they posed were directly connected to how fascism was defined.

Wallace pointed out that several personality traits characterized fascist belief, arguing that a fascist is;
"one whose lust for money and power is combined with such an intensity of intolerance toward those of other races, parties, classes, religions, cultures, regions or nations as to make him ruthless in his use of deceit or violence to attain his ends."
Wallace also claimed that fascists "always and everywhere can be identified by their appeal to prejudice and by the desire to play upon the fears and vanities of different groups in order to gain power."

Fascists are "easily recognized by their deliberate perversion of truth and fact" (my italics), he contended.

Moreover, Wallace noted that fascists "pay lip service to democracy and the common welfare" and they "surreptitiously evade the laws designed to safeguard the public from monopolistic extortion."

Finally, Wallace identified that fascists' primary objective was to "capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they keep the common man in eternal subjection."

Wallace was writing in the context of an existential threat to democracy posed by Nazi Germany, Italy and Japan.

However, his essay is prescient in that he identified the existence of a domestic form of American fascism that emerged from the political context of enlightened thought, rule of law and limited government. Wallace drew a clear distinction between European fascism and the kind of fascism found in the United States.

Rather than resort to overt violence, American fascists would "poison the channels of public information," Wallace reasoned. Likewise, he argued that American fascism was generally inert, not having reached the level of overt threat that it had reached in Europe.

Despite this, Wallace argued that American fascism had the potential to become dangerous to democracy under that appropriate context; one in which a "purposeful coalition" emerges based on "demagoguery."

British historian Karl Polanyi has written in his seminal book, The Great Transformation, that fascism can emerge in a society in reaction to "unsolved national issues."

Party polarization and gridlock in the US have created unsolved issues concerning health care, immigration reform and the "war on terror." These volatile issues, in turn, have created the perfect political context for a demagogue to emerge in the United States.

With the election of Donald Trump, the purposeful coalition Wallace feared may have evolved. Trump is the first US president who has been seriously associated with fascist ideology.

His coalition of white supremacists, xenophobes, plutocratic oligarchs and disaffected members of the working class have aligned with the mainstream Republican Party.

The coalition's political philosophy, rooted in reactionary populism and "American First" sloganeering, has quickly led to the United States' systematic withdrawal from global leadership.

Coupled with a disdain for multilateral collaboration, a rejection of globalization, and a focus on militarism and economic nationalism, Trumpism has taken the country down the perilous path of national chauvinism reminiscent of previous fascist states like Spain under Franco, Portugal under Salazar, or Peronist Argentina.

Unlike past Republican and Democratic presidents, Trump has disregarded long-standing traditions related to political protocol and decorum in the realm of political communication. He routinely makes unsubstantiated claims about political rivals, questioning their veracity and ethics.

Trump's claim that the Obama administration wiretapped his phones during the 2016 campaign and that Obama refused to take action regarding Russian meddling in the 2016 election, as well as Trump's incendiary tweets about federal judges who ruled against his executive orders on immigration, suggest a sense of paranoia commonly associated with autocrats.

Trump has demonstrated a fundamental ignorance of democratic institutions associated with the rule of law, checks and balances, and the separation of powers.

Common to autocratic leaders, Trump sees executive power as absolute and seems confounded when the legislative or judicial branches of government question his decisions.

Trump has seemed willing to ignore norms that are fundamentally aligned with US democracy: equality before the law, freedom of the press, individual rights, due process and inclusiveness.

Typical of all autocratic leaders, Trump has a deep-seated distrust of the media. Calling journalists "enemies of the people," Trump's incessant claims that media outlets like the New York Times and the Washington Post create "fake news" is a common attribute of authoritarian regimes.

In response to investigative reports that are critical of his administration, Trump engages in systematic tactics of disinformation. Trump has refined the art of evasion through communicating a multiplicity of falsehoods as a means of obfuscating charges of abuse of power and political misconduct.

The biggest dilemma for an autocrat is confronting the truth. Systematic strategies to implant misinformation have historically provided significant political dividends for demagogues.

From Trump's earliest forays in national politics, the truth was his biggest enemy.

Trump discovered in the 2016 campaign that the perpetuation of lies and deceit could be converted into political capital. Lying on issues actually generated support from Trump's political base, many of whom were low-information voters.

The hope by many that Trump would conform to traditional political norms once elected proved to be a chimera. Trump has obliterated the Orwellian dictum that lies are truth; in Trump's worldview, truth does not exist. It is seen as a political liability.

As president, the debasement of truth has become an important political strategy shaping much of his communication to the American public.

Purposeful deceit has become one of the primary means by which Trump energizes and excites his supporters. It is the catalyst that drives their emotional connection to Trump, who is insistent on "telling it like it is" and fighting for "the people" as a challenge to the political elite.

For Trump, facts mean nothing. They are contrary to the desires of his political base. Connecting to his base is visceral; intellectualism is the antithesis of Trump's immediate political objectives.

By denying the existence of truth-based politics, Trump solidifies his populist vision and perpetuates one of fascism's greatest mechanisms for acquiring absolute power: the force of emotion conquering the force of reason.

As Timothy Snyder states in his insightful book On Tyranny, "To abandon facts is to abandon freedom.

If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so."

Seen in this light, empirical evidence based on scientific investigation is superfluous; public policy is only useful when it is connected to human emotion and desire.

This is all that matters in Trump's vision for the US. As such, facts and scientific research are a ruse, a tool of the elite designed to consolidate power over "the people" and discredit Trump's "America First" policies.

Truth is a necessity for democracy because citizens depend on truth-based decision-making to achieve reasoned judgments about public policy. In the Trump administration, the eradication of fact-based communication has normalized the denial of truth.

As a result, democracy is clearly under siege. Henry Giroux makes an excellent argument when he writes, "normalization is code for retreat from any sense of moral or political responsibility, and it should be viewed as an act of political complicity with authoritarianism and condemned outright."

All Americans should take heed of this point. History has provided ample evidence of how institutional and civic complicity with autocratic rule erodes democracy.

However, history has also demonstrated how engaged citizens can mobilize to resist this erosion.

]As Snyder argues, in order to confront autocracy, citizens need to become aware that democracy can disappear and mobilize to stop such a disastrous turn of events. In the age of Trump, there is no time for complacency.


Do you feel Capitalism dying?

SUBHEAD: We need to develop the fortitude and skills needed for the future that is coming at us.

By Joe Brewer on 24 July 2017 for Medium -

Image above: A sign about "Capitalism" in Westminister Square with the Tower of London at British Parlement in the background. From (

Can you feel capitalism dying around you? There is a mental disease of late-stage capitalism causing deep worry and anxiety, prompting feelings of severe isolation and humiliation, combined with a profound sense of powerlessness for millions of people around the world.

The question I ask today is What are YOU going to do about it?

The feeling bubbles up when students graduate from college with mountains of debt and few prospects for meaningful work. It spreads across cities where housing prices are skyrocketing and a giant financial chasm exists between owners and renters of residential property. And it aches in the spiraling decay of exploited ecosystems as they unravel after decades (or centuries) of pillaging industries waging war on nature.

There is a reason only 5 men have the same aggregate wealth as half the human population. And that the Earth’s climate is ramping up for a phase transition that threatens our entire civilization. It is because a Global Architecture of Wealth Extraction has been carefully built up in the last five hundred years to produce exactly these outcomes.

And it is causing millions of people to feel a malaise of loneliness and quiet desperation that tickles at the edge of their tongues — yet they don’t quite know what to call it.

I’ve called it late-stage capitalism and this resonated with hundreds of thousands when I wrote about it last year. The depth and tenor of this resonance revealed that these feelings are truly widespread and the currents run deep within our veins.

So what are we going to do with these feelings? Some tens of millions of Americans decided to elect President Trump last year. They had fallen victim to a sophisticated information war that functions as a kind of political mind control.

Too few among them were able to discern what is really going on and now they are emotionally manipulated pawns in the end game for a small cohort of super-elites.

This is not an acceptable place to direct the feelings we have about the death of capitalism. It will only accelerate us on the path to planetary-scale collapse that we need to reckon with in our lifetimes.

Instead — if we can develop the fortitude and skills — we need to direct these feelings toward the much more productive path of learning how to design cultural change.

You see, it has been our inability to collectively set intentions that enabled elite groups to divide-and-conquer us in these times of mass confusion, hardship, and despair.

We need to recognize that the real state of power is culture and learn how to wield this power the way our ancestors once did.

Anthropologists who study hunter-gatherer societies have long known that they are all egalitarian.

Bullies and dictators were not able to rise up and boss people around because the group sanctioned against it.

They did this through a combination of shaming and ostracism, or in extreme cases they resorted to expulsion or execution. But they were able to keep the bullies in check becaus;
  1. everyone knew everyone else in these small bands of people and
  2. relationships of trust were robust enough to navigate conflicts and cooperate effectively against individuals who might be stronger or more skilled at hunting than any one person on their own.
We now have a vast digital infrastructure — the internet plus cell phones and satellite communication systems — that make it possible for the first time since the birth of civilizations to coordinate with transparency and trust at larger scales of society.

Yet we remain divided into political tribes, fighting amongst each other at the beckoning of those who set the terms of debate.

Are you a Democrat or Republican? Socialist or Capitalist?

A person of color or a beneficiary of white privilege? Categories of division such as these may have important realities embedded within them but none gets at the root issue that defines these times.

We are in a deep crisis that is carrying us all on the path toward extinction. We must learn to rise above our labels of separation and remember that everything is connected. Only then can we be seeds of transformation in a world where most of our stories are breaking down.

So I call upon you to name your feelings of angst and powerlessness.

Recognize that you are living through the death of a capitalist system that has brought our entire civilization to the brink of ruin.

Learn how to design for change in a world where only through a paradigm shift in values and behaviors will it be possible to navigate our way toward planetary resilience in the decades ahead.

We can get to the future we all want but only when we realize that it is our power to create cultural mythologies that has blinded us to our place within a world barreling toward humanity’s end.

This power must now be employed in service of life, compassion, humility, and care for the living world. These are dangerous times and our actions matter more than most of us are ready to realize.

Take hold of your feelings and direct them toward life, healing, and regeneration of our broken world.

We owe it to ourselves. We owe it to our children, born and unborn.

And we owe it to the many other species whose very existence are now in jeopardy because an arrogant myth of human superiority has driven us to soil the beds we must sleep in as members of the natural world ourselves.

Time is short and there is much work to be done.

Onward, fellow humans.


How to Survive the Future

SUBHEAD: Surviving the Future: Culture, Carnival and Capital in the Aftermath of the Market Economy.

By Shaun Chamberlin on 28 July 2017 in Resilience -

Image above: Photo-illustration of "Desfile Portela 2014" by Fernando Frazão at Agência Brasil. From original article and (

Transition Towns founder Rob Hopkins describes the late historian and green economist David Fleming as “one of the most original, brilliant, urgently-needed, under-rated and ahead-of-his-time thinkers of the last 50 years.”

Fleming thought the globalised market economy would, in the not too distant future, begin to fail as it faces limits to growth from resource depletion, and said: “Localization stands, at best, at the limits of practical possibility.

But it has the decisive argument in its favor that there is no alternative.” And his work explores how we can create rich local cultures and economies as an alternative to global capitalism.

Fleming died suddenly in 2010, but his good friend, Shaun Chamberlin has recently turned a manuscript Fleming left behind, into two books: his magnum opus, Lean Logic: A Dictionary for the Future and How to Survive It, and a smaller introductory text, Surviving the Future: Culture, Carnival and Capital in the Aftermath of the Market Economy.

Greening the Apocalypse Podcast
SUBHEAD:  We speak to Shaun Chamberlin by Skype from his home in Devon.

 By Adam Crubb on 18 July 2017 for Greening the Apocalypse -

Shaun’s is behind the website where you can read his rather impressive bio, which includes co-founding Transition Town Kingston, and authoring the Transition movement’s second book The Transition Timeline.

You can find out more about the books at the Fleming Policy Institute.

We also mention the Dark Mountain Project and Mark Boyle, the Moneyless Man.
The podcast contains a slightly extended interview than what went to air.

Review of 'Dangerous Years'

SUBHEAD: David W. Orr he demolishes the lies of climate crisis denial, and a  minimalist response to this emergency.

By Gene Marshall on 28 July 2017 in Resilience -

Image above: Apocalyptic vision of buildings sinking into landscape. From original article.

[Resilience Editor's note: This piece was originally published in the Realistic Living newsletter. More information about the work of Realistic Living can be found on their website.

I started to write a brief review of David W. Orr’s 2016 book Dangerous Years: Climate Change, the Long Emergency, and the Way Forward. I found, however, that a longer “essay” was what I felt called to write.

Orr’s book is the best thing I have read on the overall social-change challenges of this century. I am ranking this book, along with the Bible, as something to read over and over for the rest of my life. I recommend that you buy a hard copy, and wear it out over the next decade.

The social content of this book is broad, deep, and on target, and Orr’s prose reads like poetry. His choice of words is beautiful, gripping, and often funny. I am going to quote some examples for you to taste.

First of all, he demolishes the lies of climate crisis denial, as well as the lies of minimalist response to this emergency:

Nearly everything on Earth behaves or works differently at higher temperatures. Ecologies collapse, forests burn, metals expand, concrete runways buckle, rivers dry up, cooling towers fail, and people curse, kill, and terrorize more easily. Climate deniers . . . are doomed to roughly the same status as, say, members of the Flat Earth Society. page 25

The solutions Orr develops begin with a shift in the human will or heart, then move on to a shift in the human mind, and end with real-world, down-and-dirty, power-politics, as well as the year-in-and-year-out local tasks of reconstruction. Here is a quote about the educational care of our social minds:
We would be embarrassed to graduate students who could neither read nor count.  We should be mortified, then, to graduate students who are ecologically illiterate—clueless about the basics of ecology, energetics, systems dynamics—the bedrock conditions for civilization and human life.  page 110
Orr prepares our awakening “hearts,” “wills,” and “minds” for our real-world politics with sentences like these:
And there will be no Deus ex machina, or cavalry, or invisible hand, or miracle technological breakthrough that will rescue us in the nick of time.  It will be up to us to change the odds and the outcomes on our own.  page 144
The next passage I will be reading aloud in my speeches. It is a gem that notices the spirit depth of our call to action:
If humanity is to have a better future it will be a more “empathic civilization,” one better balanced between our most competitive, hard-driving selves and our most harmonious, altruistic traits; one that embraces the yin-yang poles of behavior.  It must be a change sufficiently global to bridge the chasms of ethnicity, gender, religion, nationality, and politics and deep enough to shift perceptions, behaviors, and values. The change must enable people to grow from a “having” orientation to a “being” orientation to the world.  It must deepen our appreciation, affiliation, and competence with the natural world, albeit a natural world undergoing accelerating changes.

I do not think, however, that we can simply will ourselves to that empathic new world.  The transition will result from social movements, activism, education, and political changes.  But there is always an X-factor, an inexplicable process of metanoia, a word meaning “penitence; a reorientation of one’s way of life; spiritual conversion.”  It is a change of inner sight.  “I once was blind, but now I see” as the former slave trader John Newton wrote in the hymn “Amazing Grace.”  Metanoia is liberation from bondage—physical, mental, emotional—a total change of perspective. pages 147-8
I view the core of the revolution for a next Christianity to be the creation of metanoia circles, small groupings of people in which our deepest humanness can be nurtured on a regular basis and our compassion and persistence prepared for our wide-world responsibilities.

Orr pictures the role of politics as a “long revolution.” We now need more than small teams and edge movements: we need large structures of action that year-in-and-year-out for decades do all the little and big things that need to be done for this huge transition.

Orr works through our core challenges with thorough analysis and inspiring description of practical options. He also continues to indicate the spirit courage and persistence it is going to take. He deals with sustainable democracy, ecological design, hotter cities, systemic thinking, a new agriculture, and much more.

Orr concludes his book with a description of the Oberlin Project—a multi-committee, local project of community-renewal organized by Orr and others, in Orr’s Oberlin, Ohio home town. He pictures the kind of things that the co-pastors of future Christian Resurgence Circles might envision for their quality action in their local parishes of responsibility. Here is a quote taken from that final chapter:
We need people who make charity and civility the norm.  We need more parks, farmers’ markets, bike trails, baseball teams, book groups, poetry readings, good coffee, conviviality, practical competence, and communities where the word “neighbor” is a verb, not a noun.  We need people who know and love this place and see it whole and see it for what it can be. page 227
Orr is also clear that we need people who lead the global level responses to the climate crisis, economic equity, democratization, campaign financing, racism, sexism, and more.

• Gene Marshall has a long history of participation in Christian renewal and interreligious dialogue. In 1952 he made a decision to leave a mathematics career and attend seminary at Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, Texas. In 1962 he joined a religious order of families, the Order Ecumenical, and became a teacher and lecturer of Spirit topics.

Save Hawaii's beaches or property?

SUBHEAD: Climate change and ocean rise is forcing difficult choices on Hawaii now.

By Nathan Eagle on 28 July 2017 for Civic Beat -

Image above: A Waikiki lifeguard station surrounded by ocean water is barely operational today. From original article promo.

A coastal hazard expert briefs Hawaii officials and others about the need to adapt to rising sea levels and warmer temperatures.

With the impacts of climate change bearing down on Hawaii, government officials and community members need to make some important decisions about the islands’ iconic coastlines, said Dolan Eversole, a coastal hazards expert with the University of Hawaii’s Sea Grant program.

“That’s the policy question that we’re faced with now — what’s more important, protecting the property or protecting the beach?” he said. “It’s not a simple answer.”

Eversole was addressing a roomful of state and county officials, nonprofit leaders and others Thursday at the annual State of Hawaii Drowning Prevention and Ocean Safety Conference at the Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu.

Even under conservative projections, he said Hawaii will have to adapt to a suite of issues that are exacerbated by increasing temperatures and rising sea levels, including coastal erosion, hurricanes, tsunamis, high surf, high winds and flooding.

“Climate change is not necessarily an independent problem,” Eversole said. “It’s going to overlie the problems that we have and in many cases make them worse.”

The “king tides” that caused flooding in Waikiki and other parts of the state this summer were in many ways a glimpse into the future, he said.

It’s not all doom and gloom though, at least compared to other coastal states like Florida and Louisana that are also being forced to adapt to climate change.

Hawaii has the advantage of topography, Eversole said. Elevations increase quickly in the mountainous islands, so adapting for some can mean moving to the other side of Kamehameha Highway, which wraps around Oahu’s northern coast.

Image above: Coastal highway on north shore of Oahu threatened by high ocean waves. From original article.

“It’s going to be inconvenient but we won’t have to go too far,” he said, underscoring how that’s not even an option in some other places.

Eversole is also heartened by Hawaii having a climate adaptation plan underway. The first part of that plan, due in December, will show how sea-level rise will likely affect hotels, homes and other properties in the coming decades.

Honolulu Emergency Services Director Jim Howe, who was the city’s longtime ocean safety chief, said the city has much of the necessary information and has started to respond.

He said the newly created Office of Climate Change, Resilience and Sustainability has held its first major gathering of stakeholders to gain input. A full report from that meeting with roughly 350 individuals from businesses, nonprofits, government and environmental groups is coming, he said, but the preliminary results illustrate the need to focus on the coastal areas and infrastructure.

“We’re going to have to make some priority decisions,” Howe said. “Where are we going to best spend our money? What is going to be the best approach for us as a community? That’s a dialogue that we need to have.”

He said Hawaii has to brace for weather impacts, from increased flooding to more frequent hurricanes.

“All of us in the community need to be prepared,” Howe said. “The more we can be proactive, the better off we’re going to be in the end.”

There’s a lot at stake. Hawaii’s economy largely depends on millions of tourists coming to visit its famed beaches.

Hospitality Advisors, a consulting firm, estimated Waikiki Beach alone contributes more than $2 billion in visitor spending annually.

Waikiki Beach is already in need of millions of dollars of overdue work and there’s still no master plan for the beach, Eversole said.

Image above: The beach at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel is under ocean waves that break against the hotel's porch railing. From original article promo.

And the adjacent Kuhio Beach is a “public safety emergency,” he said, noting how sections of the groin are collapsing in front of a mound where hula dancers perform.

“It’s a mess right now,” he said. “It’s the worst I’ve ever seen it.”

Studies are underway, including the state’s $800,000 Waikiki Beach Technical Feasibility Study, and public-private partnerships have formed to address the most serious problems.

The Waikiki Beach Special Improvement District Association is splitting a $1.5 million project with the state to fix the Royal Hawaiian groin, which Eversole said “literally holds together Waikiki Beach.”

Commercial properties pay a special tax that funds the association’s projects, which are all focused on beach management.

Construction may not begin for two years, though, due to permit requirements, Eversole said.

“Hawaii is probably one of the most vulnerable areas to coastal hazards in the world,” he said.

This is not the first time Eversole has waved flags trying to alert the public and policymakers to the problems Hawaii faces due to climate change.

He was lead author of a 2014 UH Sea Grant report, funded by the Hawaii Tourism Authority, that details the current and future effects of climate change in the islands.

Eversole said what concerns scientists the most are the extremes, not the averages, in terms of swings in temperatures and the rates of change.

The rate of warming air temperature in Hawaii has quadrupled in the last 40 years to more than 0.3 degrees Fahrenheit per decade. This causes stress for plants and animals, heat-related illnesses in humans and expanded ranges for pathogens and invasive species, he said.

“It could get exponential at some point in the future unless we do something about it,” he said.

When it comes to sea-level rise, the global average is 4 millimeters a year, but it’s not uniform. Low-lying atolls in the western Pacific are seeing 10-millimeter increases annually while Hawaii is averaging 1.5 millimeters a year.

Eversole said that Hawaii should not bank on its below-average increase because projections show it will greatly accelerate.

“Inarguably in the scientific community, climate change is real. There is no question,” he said. “The only question that surrounds climate change is what do we do about it. We’re in a catch-up mode.”

Truth about Hawaiian bottled water

SOURCE: Ken Taylor (
SUBHEAD: The industry exacerbates the global water crisis, and it’s not good for the islands either.

By Risa Kuroda on 27 July 2017 for Civic Beat -

Image above: Kauai Natural Artesian Water promotional photo showing a waterfall background. That's not where this water comes from. From (

Quickly trying to gather your things and your peace of mind, you relax your shoulders slightly: you’ve made it through the security checkpoint at Honolulu International Airport.

Since TSA made you empty your Hydro Flask, you decide to look for a drink. The only water fountain in the terminal trickles water so intermittently that it would take ages to fill your bottle.

You considered just getting a sip to quench your thirst but perceived the risk of catching a minor disease or being shot in the face with a random jet stream as you unwillingly pursed your lips as close to the fountainhead as possible. With a defeated sigh you drag yourself to a store to find no shortage of cold, refreshing, pristine, and over-priced Hawaiian bottled water.

Chances are, you recognized maybe one of the three Hawaiian bottled water brands in that airport store. Hawaii bottles an abundance of magical life giving elixirs but for the most part the water in the bottles of Hawaiian Springs, Waiakea or Hawaii Volcanic, to name a few, is not the water that most Hawaii residents drink.

As the state’s second-highest revenue-generating export, Hawaii’s water travels thousands of miles to bring in in hundreds of thousands of dollars to the local economy.

Sounds like a good trade off right? Unfortunately the implications of bottled water on our islands may not be as pristine as we hope it to be.

In fact, our bottled water industries gravely contribute to the exacerbation of the global water crisis, which has profoundly negative impacts on our environment and local communities.

The global water crisis is no hoax. Earth is covered in water but only 2.5 percent of it is fresh water.

Of that portion, 70 percent of it is locked in ice and nearly 30 percent is deep underground in aquifers. Just 0.3 percent of all fresh water is surface water, or what is considered “renewable water” within humanity’s conceivable lifespan.

Though agriculture is the main culprit of consumptive, meaning non-renewable, water extraction bottlers like Hawaiian Springs and Hawaii Volcanic’s unscrupulous use of artesian aquifer wells contribute to what political and environmental pundits foresee as eventual cause for future wars.

Image above: A Surfrider poster about the danger to sea birds of floating plastic junk like water bottle caps. From (

Bottled water, and its role in the global water crisis, is also about the bottles, the transportation, the marketing, the profits and the collateral damages that occur both to the environment and to human communities during and after the production of this fetishized commodity.

Though some companies are turning to glass bottling most, including the main bottling companies in Hawaii, still use polyethylene terephthalate plastic. Every PET bottle made requires double the amount of water actually in the bottle to manufacture. Since the average American consumes 36.4 gallons of bottled water per year, we are actually consuming around 72.8 gallons of bottled water.

In the same one-year span, more than 17 million barrels of crude oil is needed to produce the bottles — an amount of oil enough to sustain 1 million vehicles on the road or power approximately 190,000 American homes for one year. In a study done on FIJI Water, the manufacture and transport of one bottle was worth 7.1 gallons of water, 1 liter of fossil fuels and 1.2 pounds of greenhouse gases.

At what enormous cost does Hawaiian water make its way not to the communities where it came from but to the lobbies of five-star hotels in Hawaii and around the world? It is estimated that solving the water crisis would cost $10 billion.

The price that bottling companies pocket in revenue is $13 billion. We cannot think for one second that Hawaii has nothing to do with perpetuating a crisis.

Plastic bottles also do not biodegrade. The bottled water industry generates as much as 1.5 million pounds of bottles per year and only 13 percent of plastic bottles are actually recycled after being discarded. The rest go to landfills, where they can leach toxic chemicals into the land.

Or better yet, they end up in the ocean: Marine plastic pollution has impacted at least 267 species worldwide, including 86 percent of all sea turtle species, 44 percent of all seabird species and 43 percent of all marine mammal species.

Since Hawaii depends on the environment, including the vitality of our marine life, it is incredibly important for us to not turn our islands into a giant, lifeless trash heap. After all, would tourists or even the film industry pay to experience Hawaii’s dead monk seals and turtles?

In addition, though bottling companies can contribute jobs to a neighborhood, when the profit-driven interests of a corporation conflict with the interests of a local community or ecosystem, it is rarely the latter that benefit.
Most often, local communities and watersheds are left to deal with negative externalities when bottling companies decide to turn a blind eye.

For example, our state is currently in a period of drought and has just recently bounced back from a period of severe to extreme drought just last year. Given intensifying global warming, it is not prudent to be unscrupulously drawing upon water sources for jobs and capital accumulation. In the end, the communities will be the ones literally left in the dried up dust while bottling corporations’ wallets are lush with green Benjamins.

Bottled water is no environmentally friendly product. It is a prime example of greenwashing, which is an attempt to do ethically or environmentally what should not be done at all.

Under General Comment 15 of the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, governments have a responsibility to ensure that its citizens not only have access to but also actually have clean and affordable tap water in accordance with their right to life.

The residents of Hawaii, like those of San Francisco and Concord, Massachusetts, need to take back the tap and push Hawaii lawmakers to wake up to the dirty truth that is Hawaii’s bottled water industry.

Decision against Kauai Springs
SUBHEAD: The industry exacerbates the global water crisis, and it’s not good for the islands either.

By For Chris Deangelo on 6 October 2014 for the Garden Islands -

Image above: Label for  a five gallon bottle of Kauai Springs water. The water comes from a diversion of spring water to Grove Farms. From (

In February, the state Supreme Court — in what has been called a landmark decision for Hawaii’s Public Trust Doctrine — sided with the County of Kauai by striking down a 2008 circuit court ruling that the Kauai Planning Commission “exceeded its jurisdiction” in denying Kauai Springs, Inc. permits for its operation.

Seven months later, and contrary to that ruling, the Koloa-based water bottling and distribution company’s doors remain open.

“They continue to operate,” said Attorney David Minkin, who was hired as special counsel to represent the county in the Kauai Springs case. “Working with the Planning Department, we have sent them a notice of violation telling them that, if they don’t shut down, we will start fining them and turn it over both at the Planning Commission level as well as the prosecutor’s office to go after them for violating the law.”

The notice was sent to Kauai Springs on Tuesday, following a site investigation of the property by the Planning Department a week before. It orders the company to cease and desist all water bottling and distribution activities. Failure to comply could result in fines of up to $10,000 per day, as well as criminal prosecution, the letter states.

Kauai Springs has been given until Oct. 14 to respond.

On Wednesday, at the request of Councilman Tim Bynum, Minkin briefed the Kauai County Council’s Planning Committee on the Supreme Court ruling in the case and its application and relevance to the law.

Hawaii’s Public Trust Doctrine states that, “For the benefit of present and future generations, the state and its political subdivisions shall conserve and protect Hawaii’s natural beauty and all natural resources, including land, water, air, minerals and energy sources, and shall promote the development and utilization of these resources in a manner consistent with their conservation and in furtherance of the self-sufficiency of the state … All public natural resources are held in trust by the state for the benefit of the people.”

Minkin said the Supreme Court judge ruled the Planning Commission made the right call in denying the permits.

So what does the ruling mean moving forward?

“It means that, especially when water’s at issue, that every agency that has some duty or responsibility has to take a look at it from the constitutional perspective of the Public Trust Doctrine,” Minkin said. “You just can’t punt it and say, ‘Not my kuleana.’ You have to look at it. You have to evaluate it. You have to get information. And if you’re left with a question in the back of your mind that you don’t have enough information, it’s not the department, in this case the Planning Commission, it’s not their duty to go out and track down and get information.”

Instead, the applicant — in this case, Kauai Springs — must present the appropriate information.

“It basically shifts the burden,” Minkin said of the ruling.

Councilman Mel Rapozo questioned what good the Supreme Court decision is if the county doesn’t act on it. He said it’s time to put teeth behind it and stop Kauai Springs from utilizing the island’s natural resources illegally.

“I think the public needs to know. Are we going to fine them? Are going to just send them letters? I mean, if it’s this landmark decision, we should be prosecuting,” Rapozo said.

Kauai Springs has a long-term agreement with the Knudsen Trust to obtain water from a spring at the base of Mount Kahili. The pipeline, which brings the water to company’s Koloa bottling facility, is owned by Grove Farm.

Deputy County Attorney Mauna Kea Trask said the ruling was a substantial document, 107 pages to be exact, and “took a while to digest.”

“We are moving down that avenue,” he said of enforcement, adding that his hope is to reach a resolution without having to expend additional funds or go back to court.

Minkin said recent efforts to work things out with Kauai Springs’ legal counsel proved unsuccessful.

“We’ve resolved it as much as I can, now the next step has to be taken,” he said to Rapozo. “And I’ve made the recommendation, I agree with you — my background is also law enforcement — and I think, yes, this needs to be shut down.”

Kauai Springs owner Jim Satterfield did not return phone calls or emails seeking comment.

For several years, the case went back and forth, with both sides filing appeals. In 2007, the Planning Commission denied Kauai Springs’ three permit.

Kauai Springs turned around and sued the commission over the denial of the permits.

In 2008, 5th Circuit Judge Kathleen Watanabe sided with Kauai Springs and ordered the county to issue the permits.

“We felt, and the county felt, that was inappropriate … and we appealed it and we got the initial decision by the intermediate court,” which vacated the circuit court’s final judgement, Minkin said. “Applicant wasn’t happy with that and then it went up to the state Supreme Court, and the state Supreme Court went even further than the intermediate court did, to basically specify what our duties are as the county.”

The county has spent about $111,000, under the budget of $115,000, on the case, including the appeal, according to Minkin.

Bynum said he is proud of the Planning Commission and county for taking the Public Trust Doctrine seriously. While the court case was long, with many ups and downs, it was important for the community, he said. 


Historical Turning Point Arrives

SUBHEAD: It affects both international relations, and America’s domestic policies. We see it all around us.

By Eric Zeusse on 27 July 2017 for Strategic Culture -

Image above: Soldiers, assigned to the Estonian scouts, watch a U.S. Army AH-64 Apache helicopter from an American Attack Reconnaissance Battalion as part of NATO Exercise Trident Juncture in 2015 in Zaragoza, Spain.  Photo by Chase Geiger. From original article and (

Regarding international relations: On June 29th, Politico bannered House panel votes to force new debate on terror war, and reported that, Congress may finally be getting fed up with war on autopilot. A powerful House committee voted unexpectedly Thursday to require Congress to debate and approve US military action in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and other far-flung countries.

On July 23rd, the always-insightful Wayne Madsen at Strategic Culture Foundation headlined The End of the ‘New American Century’ Pronounced by the Pentagon», and reported that, The days of US-led dubious coalitions of the willing taking unilateral military action are over.

He summarized an extremely important new study, which had been commissioned by the Obama Administration but was issued only recently (last month), titled AT OUR OWN PERIL: DOD RISK ASSESSMENT IN A POST-PRIMACY WORLD, which calls for the US government to abandon unilateralism altogether, and to employ military power only in conjunction and cooperation — as equals — with a small circle of four historically long-term international allies (page 100) the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and France are particularly active US global partners on a global basis, but the regional variety of ally includes (in addition to those four) Japan and the Republic of Korea in the Pacific, and Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Israel in the Middle East come to mind in this regard.

Obviously, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Alliance is a clear example of a regionally-based entente as well.

In other words (page 103): There is universal recognition as well that the United States and its defense establishment no longer exercise the degree of unchallenged strategic dominance enjoyed from the end of the Cold War through the immediate post-9/11 period.

Bullying by America (regime-change) is, in so many words, said to be passé — not wrong, just no longer practicable (except, perhaps, when it has the participation of those ‘allies’, such as it did in Iraq, and in Libya, and — what are they really trying to say there — other than, perhaps, what they think the new President, Trump, might be wanting them to say?).

For such a document to be asserting that NATO — America’s oldest, largest, most formalized, and most clearly military, alliance — is of only regional military concern to the United States, comparable to the military concern that the US has regarding individual countries such as Jordan or Japan elsewhere, is a huge break away from prior US military thinking.

It is certainly a repudiation of the Cold War conception of US military commitments and objectives. It upends them.

This is also (whatever it is) a repudiation of Barack Obama’s famously repeated assertions that all other nations except the US are dispensable.

In the imperial view, only the imperial nation is essential; all other nations are mere vassal-states, of subordinate (if any) concern. It was always the view that imperial nations held.

It might even be said to define imperialism.

Typical from Obama was this — that imperial President’s most thorough statement of the imperial doctrine, on 28 May 2014, to graduating cadets at West Point, Remarks by the President at the United States Military Academy Commencement Ceremony:

Meanwhile, our economy remains the most dynamic on Earth; our businesses the most innovative. Each year, we grow more energy independent. From Europe to Asia, we are the hub of alliances unrivaled in the history of nations.

America continues to attract striving immigrants. The values of our founding inspire leaders in parliaments and new movements in public squares around the globe.

nd when a typhoon hits the Philippines, or schoolgirls are kidnapped in Nigeria, or masked men occupy a building in Ukraine, it is America that the world looks to for help. (Applause.)

So the United States is and remains the one indispensable nation. That has been true for the century passed and it will be true for the century to come.

But the world is changing with accelerating speed. This presents opportunity, but also new dangers.

We know all too well, after 9/11, just how technology and globalization has put power once reserved for states in the hands of individuals, raising the capacity of terrorists to do harm.

Russia’s aggression toward former Soviet states unnerves capitals in Europe, while China’s economic rise and military reach worries its neighbors.

From Brazil to India, rising middle classes compete with us, and governments seek a greater say in global forums.

And even as developing nations embrace democracy and market economies, 24-hour news and social media makes it impossible to ignore the continuation of sectarian conflicts and failing states and popular uprisings that might have received only passing notice a generation ago.

It will be your generation’s task to respond to this new world. The question we face, the question each of you will face, is not whether America will lead, but how we will lead.

He was telling America’s future military leaders that they would be waging wars for the only indispensable nation, against the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), where rising their middle classes compete with us.

Wars under the guise or cover of excuses such as the values of our founding and to attract striving immigrants and in instances such as when masked men occupy a building in Ukraine (whom his own Administration had actually hired to execute his coup to overthrow the then-existing Russia-friendly President of Ukraine by a rabidly anti-Russia fascist regime on Russia’s very border — but he didn’t mention any of that), etc.

When Obama’s agent who handled Ukraine told the US Ambassador in Ukraine, 23 days before the coup culminated, to appoint Yats to run that country after the coup would be completed, and she said there privately to that American Ambassador, Fuck the EU! this was Obama’s unilateralism, in the raw, not fit for public consumption but far more real than his exquisitely deceitful public words ever were.

George W. Bush had lacked such PR skill, of which Obama was a master.

And, now, this landmark military study, which his Administration had commissioned, says: It’s over. That era is ended.

he era which culminated with the regimes of George W. Bush and of Barack Obama, is now a proven disaster and must therefore be replaced. (That it’s a proven disaster is known to everyone except the propagandists — including ‘news’media — for America’s Establishment; but, that America’s military policy must be changed in accord with this recognition, is, until now, real news, to everyone.)

And, the evidence that the historical turning-point has arrived regarding also America’s domestic policies, was clearly shown and explained in my article Obama US Economic Recovery was America’s Weakest.

It was additionally placed into the broader global economic perspective by the current Chief Economist for the World Bank, Paul Romer, when he delivered a now-historic address on 5 January 2016 titled The Trouble With Macroeconomics, in which he documented that (the mostly US-created, but globally regnant) macroeconomic theory itself, is a lie, and is known privately among economists to be fraudulent, though they don’t say so in public.

Bloomberg News bannered about that speech, on 18 November 2016, The Rebel Economist Who Blew Up Macroeconomics, which reported that the lecture landed among Romer’s peers like a grenade. Only outside of the world of professional economists does the fact that economic theory is fraudulent remain still unknown, or in any sense.

We are living in a new world, and don’t really know yet where it’s going. The only thing that’s clear is that the turning-point has been reached, and that we are there, right now. The turning-point is now. But where the US and the world are heading, can only barely be glimpsed. The latest landmarks, summarized here, might indicate the way forward.


Mushroom at the End of the World

SUBHEAD: Survival and the possibility of life in the ruins of neoliberal capitalism.

By David Bollier on 27 July 2017 for David Bollier's Blog -

Image above: A White Matsutake mushroom emerging from the forest soil in New England. From (

In a world that is falling apart (no further elaboration needed), how shall we understand the dynamics of survival and collaboration? How does life persist and flourish in a world that is hellbent on commodifying and privatizing every aspect of human relations and the natural world?

For anthropologist Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, the answer is to study the strange life of the humble matsutake mushroom, which tends to grow in North America but is a prized delicacy in Japan.

The social and commercial systems by which the mushrooms are harvested, sorted, transported and sold – blending gift economies and global commodity-chains in the process – hold some penetrating insights into contemporary capitalism.

Tsing, a professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, tells this story in The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins (Princeton University Press, 2015).

The book bills itself as “an original examination into the relation between capitalist destruction and collaborative survival within multispecies landscapes, the prerequisite for continuing life on earth.” It’s a brilliant premise: explore the deep dynamics of capitalism by telling the unusual ecological life and commercial journey of a mundane fungus.

The book is a wickedly wonderful ethnography. The matsutake mushroom is not just a metaphor for showing how this mushroom species devises strategies of survival for itself (in this case, entering into a symbiosis with trees and other plants and microbes); the mushroom is a partner of sorts with humans who take, steal, gift and sell it in various contexts.

Why so much attention to matsutake, a wild mushroom that cannot be grown in captivity? Because Tsing sees it as a proxy for the fate of human beings in today’s near-ruined world.

The hardy, resourceful mushroom tends to grow in disrupted ecosystems and ruined landscapes — just as billions of people around the world must now scrape out an existence in the face of ubiquitous, often-predatory capitalist systems and blighted environments.

As a subterranean fungus of northern landscapes, matsutake play a valuable role in helping trees grow in forbidding locations. You might say that mushrooms are experts in dealing with precarity.

Oddly enough, so are the people who harvest the mushrooms. Matsutake foragers in the US Pacific Northwest tend to be refugees from Laos and Cambodia, American veterans, and itinerant poor people. They either can’t get regular jobs or don’t want them, preferring the “freedom” of being on their own in the open spaces of nature.

“Mushroom foragers work for themselves,” writes Tsing. “No companies hire them. There are no wages and no benefits; pickers merely sell the mushrooms they find. Some years there are no mushrooms, and pickers are left with their expenses.

Commercial wild-mushroom picking is an exemplification of precarious livelihood, without security.”

After a harvest in Oregon, say, the mushrooms are bought by pop-up wholesalers who ship them promptly to sorters, who classify them and export them to Japan, where a large and ready market of high-end customers eagerly buy them, usually to give as gifts.

Tsing rejects rejects the standard narratives about “progress” that tend to be the axis for understanding the future, in both capitalist and Marxist accounts.

Instead, in an analysis appropriate for our time, Tsing presents to us a capitalism of “disturbance-based ecologies in which many species sometimes live together without either harmony or conquest.”

Studying the mushroom trade is illuminating because it shows how investors commodify everything today and treat people and elements of nature “as if the entanglements of living did not matter.

Through alienation, people and things become mobile assets; they can be removed from their life worlds in distance-defying transport to be exchanged with other assets from other life worlds, elsewhere.”

Tsing’s primary message is that the whole “progress narrative” has been supplanted by a messy patchwork of precarious survival: the very life-strategy used by matsutake mushrooms.

She writes:
Global supply chains ended expectations of progress because they allowed lead corporations to let go of their commitment to controlling labor. Standardizing labor required education and regularized jobs, thus connecting profits and progress.

In supply chains, in contrast, goods gathered from many arrangements can lead to profits for the lead firm; commitments to jobs, education, and well-being are no longer even rhetorically necessary. 

Supply chains require a particular kind of salvage accumulation, involving translation across patches. The modern history of U.S-Japanese relations is a counterpoint of call-and-response that spread this practice around the world.
Tsing rejects the idea of a comprehensive, unitary critique of capitalism, arguing instead that the world is full of “patchiness, that is, a mosaic of open-ended assemblages of entangled ways of life,” which the capitalist growth-paradigm obscures.

Tsing accordingly presents the reality of precarity – for both mushrooms and people – in all their particularity and ephemerality. Living things are not fungible parts of machines; they are singular and improvisational — something our critiques ought to acknowledge.

Contemporary capitalism certainly recognizes this reality by “translating” the local and peculiar into usable inputs for ongoing capital accumulation.

Tsing wishes to show that no single rationality can begin to describe today’s economy, where “supply chains snake back and forth not only across continents but also across standards…”

Not only are supply chains wildly heterogeneous, they often rely upon non-capitalist social forms, much as Facebook relies upon social sharing and Airbnb and Uber have colonized people’s private lives by marketizing their apartments and cars. For Tsing, “capitalist and noncapitalist forms interact in pericapitalist spaces.”

Despite the messy contingencies of this arrangement, capitalism still manages to amass assets for further investment. “How does this work?” Tsing asks. The short answer is that capital accumulation proceeds through a process of “salvage accumulation”:
Civilization and progress turn out to be cover-ups and translation mechanisms for getting access to value procured through violence: classic salvage.”  In today’s global supply chains, this means “coerced labor, dangerous sweatshops, poisonous substitute ingredients, and irresponsible environmental gouging and dumping.
The Mushroom at the End of the World is no dry social-sciences monograph; in its poetic expressiveness and subtle depictions of social reality, the book often reads like a novel. There are no tidy conclusions, just a series of penetrating vignettes, analyses and observations.

The ultimate point is to open up a new grand narrative. Once we can get beyond the stark divide of “Man” and “Nature” as dual opposites, Tsing writes:
all creatures can come back to life, and men and women can express themselves without the strictures of a parochially imagined rationality. No longer relegated to whispers in the night, such stories might be simultaneously true and fabulous. How else can we account for the fact that anything is alive in the mess we have made?
If The Mushroom at the End of the World describes the survival techniques of precariat mushroom foragers working under capitalism — a story of ingenuity, commitment and proud autonomy — the next step is to tell more of the stories of how precariat commoners are emancipating themselves through commons.

Tsing is right: once the market/progress narrative is exposed as a cover-story, a range of different narratives become possible.


Buffalo rising from the ashes

SUBHEAD: One of its suburban neighborhoods ends its dependence on coal for energy.

By Eliziabeth McGowen on 11 July 2017 for Grist -

Image above: The retired coal burning Huntley Generating Station on the banks of the Niagara River. From original article.

Sixteen months ago, the coal-fired Huntley Generating Station, which sits on the banks of the Niagara River, stopped producing power for first time since World War I.

Erie County lost its largest air and water polluter. But the town of Tonawanda, a working class Buffalo suburb 13 miles downstream of America’s most storied waterfalls, also lost its biggest taxpayer.

The impact of Huntley’s decade-long slowdown — and finally shutdown — hit this upstate New York community like a punch to the gut.

In just five years, between 2008 and 2012, Huntley’s pre-tax earnings tumbled by $113 million as it operated far below capacity, translating into a combined revenue hit of at least $6.2 million to the town, county, and local school district. That precipitous decline came when state education funds were also shrinking. Belt-tightening wasn’t enough; 140 teachers lost their jobs. Three elementary schools and one middle school closed their doors.

Rebecca Newberry, a 35-year-old former bartender and LGBT-rights activist, saw her home town facing the same fate that has befallen so many other Rust Belt communities that fell on hard times following an industrial exodus. She was determined not to let it happen to the place where she grew up. And she was fortunate enough to find a diverse group of allies who were willing to fight for their survival.

By combining the resources of her nonprofit, the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York, with area labor unions and other community groups, Newberry helped to hatch a plan for Tonawanda’s next chapter — and provide an inclusive, equitable template for other blue-collar towns facing the loss of dirty energy jobs and other polluting industries. (The jargony term for this in advocacy circles is “just transitions.”)

The group that Newberry helped form would come to be known as the Huntley Alliance. The partnership convinced New York lawmakers to provide Tonawanda with a temporary cash infusion to sustain the town as it reinvents its tax base — the first time a state has offered a financial cushion to a community that was financially reliant on a coal-fired power plant.

“It was a trauma when Huntley finally announced it was closing,” Newberry says, “so we had to come at this from a place of healing. Our goal was to stop the bleeding to the industrial and public sectors.

“Always, our key question is: How are we going to take care of our people?”

Team of rivals

Tonawanda, a Native American word meaning swift waters, was founded by white settlers in 1836. East of the railroad tracks that run north from Buffalo to Niagara Falls, the 20-square mile town has nearly 73,000 residents and is known for its top-flight paramedic service.

But west of the tracks, it’s anything but quaint. Huntley and 50-plus industrial facilities coexist within a three-mile radius, mingled with older homes and trailer parks. Big grinding trucks assault the ears, and the air carries a distinct petroleum-rubber-chemical-exhaust stink.

The energy giant NRG purchased Huntley in 1999. Although the oldest current coal-fired unit dates back to 1942, the facility’s steam-generating history stretches back to World War I. NRG retired half of the plant’s 760-megawatt capacity in 2006 and 2007, with a corresponding drop in tax revenue.

In the fall of 2013, Peter Stuhlmiller, president of the Kenmore-Tonawanda Teachers Association, reached out to Richard Lipsitz, president of the local AFL-CIO chapter, to figure out how to save the community’s schools. They were soon joined by Newberry’s coalition, the Sierra Club, and trade unions representing steelworkers and Huntley employees.

“This country has a very poor record of rescuing communities built up around coal and heavy industries,” Lipsitz says. “Our goal was to stabilize the economy and provide income for a town that needed it desperately.”

Although their goal was the same, the various factions in the early Huntley Alliance had different priorities. The united front fell apart when a local Sierra Club member organized a protest calling for Huntley’s closure — with some demonstrators wearing union shirts. Labor leaders felt the rally threatened the livelihoods of the 70-plus remaining NRG employees. Finger-pointing ensued, and the plant’s union walked away from the nascent alliance.

Then the whole effort collapsed.

Newberry’s Clean Air Coalition didn’t join the Big Green’s call for Huntley’s closure — although it harangued other major polluters along the industrial waterfront during its decade of existence. The group’s leaders saw no need: The coal plant’s obsolescence seemed imminent with cheap natural gas flooding U.S. markets.

To motivate the Huntley Alliance to regroup, Newberry circulated preliminary results of a study her 200-member nonprofit commissioned. “Given that the plant is located in a region with substantial excess capacity for at least the next decade, the Huntley units appear ripe for retirement,” the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis concluded in a 24-page report released in January 2014.

That sobering prediction did the trick, ending the alliance’s six-month hiatus. Newberry — who ascended to the top job at the Clean Air Coalition in 2015, four years after being hired — insisted that workers couldn’t be left behind. It became the group’s guiding principle and managed to hold together unlikely allies. Teachers rubbed shoulders with steelworkers and teamsters. Male-dominated trade unions listened to women’s ideas. Labor and Big Green found common ground.

“Going through this helps me to visualize that we can do better as a society,” Newberry says. “We don’t always have to be fighting with one another.”

At least 1,500 members of the steelworkers union live in the Tonawanda area, many drawing paychecks at employers such as Tonawanda Coke, 3M, DuPont, and Sumitomo Rubber. They backed the alliance’s focus on job retention and creation, because they feared property taxes would spike after Huntley’s shutdown — to make up for lost revenues from the plant. That could spook existing employers and repel potential newcomers.

“We want to make sure there are good, clean, high-road, family-sustaining jobs that improve the quality of life,” says Dave Wasiura, the union’s organizing coordinator for the area.

Retired teacher Diana Strablow, a member of both the Sierra Club and Newberry’s group, was initially frustrated that the dangers of climate change sparked by coal-fired power plants weren’t the alliance’s number one priority. But Newberry helped her understand how a stumble by Huntley could mean a fall for her entire community.

“I was the angry environmentalist,” Strablow says. “I’ve learned we need to take care of both our workers and our environment.”

Don’t ask. Tell.

Once reunited, the Huntley Alliance needed clear goals — specifically ones that met the needs of the town’s residents. Through a series of listening sessions, door-to-door surveys, and voter-registration drives, the partnership channeled the hopes and anxieties of hundreds of residents. The wish list that emerged included keeping schools intact, creating good-paying jobs, expanding the tax base, and improving public health and the environment.

Those desires would be compiled with proposals and needs of businesses and other stakeholders into Tonawanda Tomorrow, a succinct blueprint for the town’s trajectory. A final version was released in June.

It was a tall order, so the alliance set about lobbying New York state legislators for “gap funds” to keep the town afloat during its transformation. After all, Newberry reasoned, Huntley had supplied electricity far beyond Tonawanda’s borders. Rather than asking lawmakers to find money for them, Newberry and her colleagues combed through the state’s budget themselves and compiled a list of potential funding pots to draw from.

By August 2015, when NRG announced Huntley’s impending retirement, a Democrat-majority State Assembly and a Republican-controlled Senate had already voted to back the alliance’s brainchild. When the 102-acre power plant went offline seven months later, the framework was in place for $30 million.

Cynthia Winland, a planning specialist at Chicago’s Delta Institute, praised New York legislators for being brave enough to act on Tonawanda’s financial request. Her sustainable solutions nonprofit helped assemble the town’s blueprint.

“If a state as geographically, politically, and economically complicated as New York is capable of this,” Winland says, “then other states can look for parallels.”

This spring, legislators expanded the Huntley-inspired measure — in part due to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s announcement last year that New York would strive to be coal-free by 2020. The gap fund’s budget ballooned from $30 million to $45 million, its availability was extended from five to seven years. (It now covers communities with plants powered by any fuel source.)

The initial funding makes Tonawanda’s post-Huntley metamorphosis viable, Newberry says, adding that the two-year extension “gives us the extra breathing room we will need.”

The fund so far has shored-up the school system — which is no longer hemorrhaging teachers — stopped electricity bills from skyrocketing, and kept the budget for the prized paramedic unit intact.

David Schlissel, a coauthor of the 2014 report questioning the Huntley Generating Station’s viability, emphasized that the alliance’s proactive approach and the New York legislature’s response offer a vital lesson for the rest of the country.

“Instead of spending millions on propping up coal plants,” Schlissel says, “we need to spend money to help communities make an economic transition.”

The Huntley Alliance took its cues from other communities forced to evolve beyond heavy industry. Members traveled as close as Appalachia and as far as Germany, where they were amazed to witness how the German government funded worker retraining programs and recycled old production plants, as renewables supplanted fossil fuels.

“That gave us hope that a cleaner environment can be achieved in Tonawanda without leaving broken workers behind,” Newberry says.

Back home, the alliance’s efforts also benefitted from a $160,000 grant from an Obama administration initiative to help communities distressed by the demise of coal. President Trump proposed defunding the program in his 2018 budget.

Not another Bethlehem Steel

Even with all the planning, the Huntley station’s idle smokestacks cause jitters among Tonawandans who have watched the 1,000-acre Bethlehem Steel plant idle in Lackawanna, 20 miles to the south, for three and a half decades. References to the hulking carcass send shivers down the spine of Tonawanda Town Supervisor Joseph Emminger.

“We are not going to have another Bethlehem Steel here,” he declares.

County and town planners view the reinvention of the Huntley site as a vital part of transforming 2,300-plus brownfield acres into greener ventures. Recent cleanups have allowed existing companies, such as Sumitomo Rubber, to expand and invited in newer industries, such as solar technology and warehousing operations.

“It’s a 20-year-long, step-by-step process,” says Erie County Director of Business Assistance Ken Swanekamp. “We’re doing it one project at a time.”


Are we Doomed?

SUBHEAD: For those considering the reality of it, threats of doom or promises of utopia are distractions.

By Richard Heinberg on 27 July 2017 for Post Carbon Institute -

Image above: Product artwork for video game "Doom II: Hell on Earth".  From (

My most recent essay, in which I discussed a highly publicized controversy over the efficacy of plans for a comprehensive transition to an all-renewable energy future, garnered some strong responses. “If you are right,” one Facebook commenter opined, “we are doomed.

Fortunately you are not right.” (The commenter didn’t explain why.) What had I said to provoke an expectation of cataclysmic oblivion?

Simply that there is probably no technically and financially feasible energy pathway to enable those of us in highly industrialized countries to maintain current levels of energy usage very far into the future.

My piece happened to be published right around the same time New York Magazine released a controversial article titled “The Uninhabitable Earth,” in which author David Wallace Wells portrayed a dire future if the most pessimistic climate change models turn to reality. “It is, I promise, worse than you think,” wrote Wells.

“If your anxiety about global warming is dominated by fears of sea-level rise, you are barely scratching the surface of what terrors are possible, even within the lifetime of a teenager today.”

Wells’s article drew rebukes from—of all people—climate scientists, who pointed out a few factual errors, but also insisted that scaring the public just doesn’t help.

“Importantly, fear does not motivate,” responded Michael Mann with Susan Joy Hassol and Tom Toles, “and appealing to it is often counter-productive as it tends to distance people from the problem, leading them to disengage, doubt and even dismiss it.”

It’s true: apocalyptic warnings don’t move most people. Or, rather, they move most people away from the source of discomfort, so they simply tune out. But it’s also true that people feel a sense of deep, unacknowledged unease when they are fed “solutions” that they instinctively know are false or insufficient.

Others came to Wells’s defense. Margaret Klein Salamon, a clinical psychologist and founder of the climate action group The Climate Mobilization, which advocates for starting a “World War II-scale” emergency mobilization to convert from fossil fuels, writes;
“It is OK, indeed imperative, to tell the whole, frightening story. . . . [I]t’s the job of those of us trying to protect humanity and restore a safe climate to tell the truth about the climate crisis and help people process and channel their own feelings—not to preemptively try to manage and constrain those feelings.”
So: Are we doomed if we can’t maintain current and growing energy levels? And are we doomed anyway due to now-inevitable impacts of climate change?

First, the good news. With regard to energy, we should keep in mind the fact that today’s Americans use roughly twice as much per capita as their great-grandparents did in 1925. While people in that era enjoyed less mobility and fewer options for entertainment and communication than we do today, they nevertheless managed to survive and even thrive.

And we now have the ability to provide many services (such as lighting) far more efficiently, so it should be possible to reduce per-capita energy usage dramatically while still maintaining a lifestyle that would be considered more than satisfactory by members of previous generations and by people in many parts of the world today.

And reducing energy usage would make a whole raft of problems—climate change, resource depletion, the challenge of transitioning to renewable energy sources—much easier to solve.

The main good news with regard to climate change that I can point to (as I did in an essay posted in June) is that economically recoverable fossil fuel reserves are consistent only with lower-emissions climate change scenarios.

As BP and other credible sources for coal, oil, and natural gas reserves figures show, and as more and more researchers are pointing out, the worst-case climate scenarios associated with “business as usual” levels of carbon emissions are in fact unrealistic.

Now, the bad news. While we could live perfectly well with less energy, that’s not what the managers of our economy want. They want growth. Our entire economy is structured to require constant, compounded growth of GDP, and for all practical purposes raising the GDP means using more energy. While fringe economists and environmentalists have for years been proposing ways to back away from our growth addiction (for example, by using alternative economic indices such as Gross National Happiness), none of these proposals has been put into widespread effect. As things now stand, if growth falters the economy crashes.

There’s bad climate news as well: even with current levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases, we’re seeing unacceptable and worsening impacts—raging fires, soaring heat levels, and melting icecaps.

And there are hints that self-reinforcing feedbacks maybe kicking in: an example is the release of large amounts of methane from thawing tundra and oceanic hydrates, which could lead to a short-term but steep spike in warming.

Also, no one is sure if current metrics of climate sensitivity (used to estimate the response of the global climate system to a given level of forcing) are accurate, or whether the climate is actually more sensitive than we have assumed. There’s some worrisome evidence the latter is case.

But let’s step back a bit. If we’re interested in signs of impending global crisis, there’s no need to stop with just these two global challenges. The world is losing 25 billion tons of topsoil a year due to current industrial agricultural practices; if we don’t deal with that issue, civilization will still crash even if we do manage to ace our energy and climate test.

Humanity is also over-using fresh water: ancient aquifers are depleting, while other water sources are being polluted. If we don’t deal with our water crisis, we still crash.

Species are going extinct at a thousand times the pre-industrial rate; if we don’t deal with the biodiversity dilemma, we still crash. Then there are social and economic problems that could cause nations to crumble even if we manage to protect the environment; this threat category includes the menaces of over-reliance on debt and increasing economic inequality.

If we attack each of these problems piecemeal with technological fixes (for example, with desalination technology to solve the water crisis or geo-engineering to stabilize the climate) we may still crash because our techno-fixes are likely to have unintended consequences, as all technological interventions do.

Anyway, the likelihood of successfully identifying and deploying all the needed fixes in time is vanishingly small.

Many problems are converging at once because society is a complex system, and the challenges we have been discussing are aspects of a systemic crisis. A useful way to frame an integrated understanding of the 21st century survival challenge is this: we humans have overshot Earth’s long-term carrying capacity for our species.

We’ve been able to do this due to a temporary subsidy of cheap, bountiful energy from fossil fuels, which enabled us to stretch nature’s limits and to support a far larger overall population than would otherwise be possible.

But now we are starting to see supply constraints for those fuels, just as the side effects of burning enormous amounts of coal, oil, and natural gas are also coming into view.

Meanwhile, using cheap energy to expand resource-extractive and waste-generating economic processes is leading to biodiversity loss; the depletion of soil, water, and minerals; and environmental pollution of many kinds. Just decarbonizing energy, while necessary, doesn’t adequately deal with systemic overshoot.

Only a reduction of population and overall resource consumption, along with a rapid reduction in our reliance on fossil fuels and a redesign of industrial systems, can do that.

Economic inequality is a systemic problem too. As we’ve grown our economy, those who were in position to invest in industrial expansion or to loan money to others have reaped the majority of the rewards, while those who got by through selling their time and labor (or whose common cultural heritage was simply appropriated by industrialists) have fallen behind.

There’s no technological fix for inequality; dealing with it will require redesigning our economic system and redistributing wealth. Those in wealthy nations would, on average, have to adjust their living standards downward.

Now, can we do all of this without a crash? Probably not. Indeed, many economists would regard the medicine (population reduction, a decline in per-capita energy use, and economic redistribution) as worse than whatever aspects of the disease they are willing to acknowledge.

Environmentalists and human rights advocates would disagree. Which is to say, there’s really no way out. Whether we stick with business as usual, or attempt a dramatic multi-pronged intervention, our current “normal” way of life is toast.

Accepting that a crash is more or less inevitable is a big step, psychologically speaking. I call this toxic knowledge: one cannot “un-know” that the current world system hangs by a thread, and this understanding can lead to depression.

In some ways, the systemic crisis we face is analogous to the individual existential crisis of life and death, which we each have to confront eventually. Some willfully ignore their own mortality for as long as possible; others grasp at a belief in the afterlife.

Still others seek to create meaning and purpose by making a positive difference in the lives of those around them with whatever time they have. Such efforts don’t alter the inevitability of death; however, contributing to one’s community appears to enhance well-being in many ways beyond that of merely prolonging life.

But is a crash the same as doom?

Not necessarily. Our best hope at this point would seem to be a controlled crash that enables partial recovery at a lower level of population and resource use, and that therefore doesn’t lead to complete and utter oblivion (human extinction or close to it).

Among those who understand the systemic nature of our problems, the controlled crash option is the subject of what may be the most interesting and important conversation that’s taking place on the planet just now. But only informed people who have gotten over denial and self-delusion are part of it.

This discussion started in the 1970s, though I wasn’t part of it then; I joined a couple of decades later. There is no formal membership; the conversation takes place through and among a patchwork of small organizations and scattered individuals.

They don’t all know each other and there is no secret handshake. Some have publicly adopted the stance that a global crash is inevitable; most soft-pedal that message on their organizational websites but are privately plenty worried.

During the course of the conversation so far, two (not mutually exclusive) strategies have emerged.

The first strategy envisions convincing the managers and power holders of the world to invest in a no-regrets insurance plan. Some systems thinkers who understand our linked global crises are offering to come up with a back-pocket checklist for policy makers, for moments when financial or environmental crisis hits: how, under such circumstances, might the managerial elite be able to prevent, say, a stock market crash from triggering food, energy, and social crises as well?

A set of back-up plans wouldn’t require detailed knowledge of when or how crisis will erupt. It wouldn’t even require much of a systemic understanding of global overshoot. It would simply require willingness on the part of societal power holders to agree that there are real or potential threats to global order, and to accept the offer of help.

At the moment, those pursuing this strategy are working mostly covertly, for reasons that are not hard to discern.

The second strategy consists of working within communities to build more societal resilience from the ground up. It is easier to get traction with friends and neighbors than with global power holders, and it’s within communities that political decisions are made closest to where the impact is felt.

My own organization, Post Carbon Institute, has chosen to pursue this strategy via a series of books, the Community Resilience Guides; the “Think Resilience” video series; and our forthcoming compendium, The Community Resilience Reader.

Rob Hopkins, who originated the Transition Towns movement, has been perhaps the most public, eloquent, and upbeat proponent of the local resilience strategy, but there are countless others scattered across the globe.

Somehow, the work of resilience building (whether top-down or bottom-up) must focus not just on maintaining supplies of food, water, energy, and other basic necessities, but also on sustaining social cohesion—a culture of understanding, tolerance, and inquiry—during times of great stress.

While it’s true that people tend to pull together in remarkable ways during wars and natural disasters, sustained hard times can lead to scapegoating and worse.

Most people are not party to the conversation, not aware that it is happening, and unaware even that such a conversation is warranted. Among those who are worried about the state of the world, most are content to pursue or support efforts to keep crises from occurring by working via political parties, religious organizations, or non-profit advocacy orgs on issues such as climate change, food security, and economic inequality.

There is also a small but rapidly growing segment of society that feels disempowered as the era of economic growth wanes, and that views society’s power holders as evil and corrupt.

These dispossessed—whether followers of ISIS or Infowars—would prefer to “shake things up,” even to the point of bringing society to destruction, rather than suffer the continuation of the status quo. Unfortunately, this last group may have the easiest path of all.

By comparison, the number of those involved in the conversation is exceedingly small, countable probably in the hundreds of thousands, certainly not millions. Can we succeed? It depends on how one defines “success”—as the ability to maintain, for a little longer, an inherently unsustainable global industrial system? Or as the practical reduction in likely suffering on the part of the survivors of the eventual crash?

A related query one often hears after environmental lectures is, Are we doing enough? If “Enough” means “enough to avert a system crash,” then the answer is no: it’s unlikely that anyone can deliver that outcome now. The question should be, What can we do—not to save a way of life that is unsalvageable, but to make a difference to the people and other species in harm’s way?

This is not a conversation about the long-term trajectory of human cultural evolution, though that’s an interesting subject for speculation. Assuming there are survivors, what will human society look like following the crises ensuing from climate change and the end of fossil fuels and capitalism?

David Fleming’s Surviving the Future and John Michael Greer’s The Ecotechnic Future offer useful thoughts in this regard.

My own view is that it’s hard for us to envision what comes next because our imaginations are bounded by the reality we have known. What awaits will likely be as far removed from from modern industrial urban life as Iron-Age agrarian empires were from hunting-and-gathering bands.

We are approaching one of history’s great discontinuities. The best we can do under the circumstances is to get our priorities and values straight (protect the vulnerable, preserve the best of what we have collectively achieved, and live a life that’s worthy) and put one foot in front of the other.

The conversation I’m pointing to here is about fairly short-term actions. And it doesn’t lend itself to building a big movement. For that, you need villains to blame and promises of revived national or tribal glory.

For those engaged in the conversation, there’s only hard work and the satisfaction of honestly facing our predicament with an attitude of curiosity, engagement, and compassion. For us, threats of doom or promises of utopia are distractions or cop-outs.

Only those drawn to the conversation by temperament and education are likely to take it up. Advertising may not work. But having a few more hands on deck, and a few more resources to work with, can only help.