Tesla's test in Puerto Rica

SUBHEAD: Tesla’s solar vision gets its first big test at replacing centralized fossil fuel power.

By Amilia Urry on 24 October 2017 for Grist Magazine -

Image above: Solar panels being installed in Puerto Rico to replace hospital grid connection. From original article.

It was a transaction concocted on Twitter — and in a few short weeks, declared official: Tesla is helping to bring power back to Puerto Rico.

Early this month, Elon Musk touted his company’s work building solar-plus-battery systems for small islands like Kauai in Hawaii and Ta’u in American Samoa. He suggested a similar setup could work for Puerto Rico. The U.S. territory’s governor, Ricardo Rossell√≥, tweeted that he was game. Musk replied quickly: “Hopefully, Tesla can be helpful.”

After earlier reports of the company’s batteries arriving at San Juan’s port, Tesla announced today that it has started constructing its first microgrid installation, laying out a solar field and setting up its refrigerator-sized Powerpack batteries to supply electricity to a children’s hospital in the Puerto Rican capital.

More than a month after Hurricane Maria destroyed swaths of the island’s electrical grid, 85 percent of Puerto Rico is still without power. Total grid repair costs are estimated at $5 billion — an especially steep price for a public utility already $9 billion in debt.

The lack of power is especially dire for hospitals, where unreliable electricity may spoil medicines that require refrigeration and complicate crucial medical procedures. The results could be deadlier than the storm itself, but solar power could help head off further disaster.

The idea that solar could serve as a viable source of emergency relief is new. Sure, renewable technologies have proliferated and become more affordable, but there’s a tried-and-true response to natural disasters: Fall back on diesel generators and fuel until utilities have a chance to restore grid power.

This has largely been the pattern in post-Maria Puerto Rico. One hardware store told the New York Times it was selling up to 300 generators a day. FEMA claims it has installed more generators in Puerto Rico than in hurricane-ravaged parts of Texas and Florida combined. But generators are expensive, inefficient, and prone to failure. And burning diesel or gasoline in homes comes with health risks like carbon monoxide poisoning.

By contrast, a microgrid setup — that is, a combination of solar panels, battery storage, and electrical inverters that doesn’t require input from the main power grid — can potentially take immediate effect, providing reliable electricity with no pollution. And, once installed, these self-contained systems could help eliminate the rolling blackouts that were a problem for Puerto Rico’s major utility even before Maria.

Tesla is only the most prominent company to bypass the conventional avenues of rebuilding to install renewable power and batteries. Other companies and nonprofits have been marshalling resources to fill the void left by federal relief efforts.

German renewable energy outfit Sonnen has pledged to build microgrids in priority areas, working with local partner Pura Energia to install donated batteries to power first aid and community centers.

Another group, Resilient Power Puerto Rico, is distributing solar generators to remote communities, where they can serve as hubs for immediate necessities like charging phones and filtering water.

Marco Krapels, founder of the nonprofit Empowered by Light, traveled with a solar installation team to Puerto Rico in early October to deploy solar-plus-battery microgrid systems on fire stations. The nonprofit partnered with local firefighters to quickly cut through red tape paralyzing much of the disaster response.

“It takes only 48 hours to deploy once it arrives in the San Juan airport,” Krapels says of the standalone systems. “The firefighters, who have 18 flat-bed trucks, pulled up to our cargo plane; three hours later we were installing the system; and 48 hours later we’re done.”

The microgrid systems provide electricity and communications to the fire stations, as well as water purification technology that can provide up to 250 gallons of drinkable water a day — crucial on an island where 1 in 3 residents currently lack access to clean water.

There are 95 fire stations in Puerto Rico, Krapels says, and he estimates it will take just under $5 million for Empowered by Light to outfit them all.

So far, the nonprofit has transformed two stations, one in the low-income Obrero neighborhood of San Juan and one in the town of Utuado, in the remote center of the island.

After both installations, Krapels says, the local fire station was the only building with the lights on after dark — outlying and underserved communities are always among the last to receive emergency relief.

“There are parts of the island that are so destroyed that there is no grid,” Krapels says. “There is nothing to fix: The transformers are all burnt, the poles are gone, the wires are laying on the street.”

As much as 80 percent of the island’s high-power transmission lines were destroyed, Bloomberg reported, and even optimistic estimates of repair work have a majority of the island off the grid until late this year.

In the coming months, as communities and companies work to rebuild that infrastructure, there will be an opportunity to make the island more resilient. Companies like Tesla offer one path to less vulnerable electricity infrastructure.

Meanwhile, organizations like Resilient Power Puerto Rico emphasize the importance of economic resilience, too.

The New York-based founders want to put power in the hands of the island’s residents, modeled after similar efforts in the Rockaways post-Sandy. The nonprofit has ambitions to establish 100 solar towns, a robust green economy, and more electrical independence for all.

“If we’re going to rethink energy in Puerto Rico, let’s really empower people to deploy their own distributed renewable generation and storage,” Krapels says. “The sun is there every day, and it’s going to shine for the next 5 billion years.”

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Kauai and Tesla are Newlyweds 8/10/17


New Zealand to restrict foreigners

SUBHEAD: Plans to restrict wealthy foreign buyers from buying homes in New Zealand.

By Richard Paryington on 25 October 2017 for the Guardian -

Image above: Lake Wanaka harbour on New Zealand’s South Island. Photograph by Alamy. From (https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/jan/29/silicon-valley-new-zealand-apocalypse-escape).

New Zealand is planning to ban foreign buyers from purchasing existing homes in an attempt to tackle a housing crisis by halting a trend among the world’s wealthy to snap up property in the country.

The restrictions announced by the prime minister-designate, Jacinda Ardern, are likely to be closely watched by other countries around the world also facing housing shortages and price rises driven by foreign investors. At 37, Ardern has become New Zealand’s youngest leader for 150 years.

New Zealand has become a destination for Chinese, Australian and Asian buyers and has gained a reputation as a bolthole for the world’s wealthy – who view it as a safe haven from a potential nuclear conflict, the rise of terrorism and civil unrest, or simply as a place to get away from it all.

The country has become a hotspot for wealthy Americans seeking an escape from political upheaval elsewhere, who view it as a stable nation with robust laws and far from potential conflict zones. Peter Thiel, the co-founder of PayPal and a Facebook board member and donor to Donald Trump’s campaign, is among those to have purchased property in New Zealand.

Global financiers have been increasingly snapping up properties in the country. Speaking at the annual gathering of the world’s elite in Davos, Robert Johnson, the president of the Institute for New Economic Thinking, said: “I know hedge-fund managers all over the world who are buying airstrips and farms in places like New Zealand because they think they need a getaway.”

Reports by Bloomberg and the New Yorker have suggested dozens of Silicon Valley futurists are secretly preparing for doomsday, acquiring boltholes in the country. Jack Ma, the man behind Alibaba, China’s answer to Amazon and its richest man, is also reported to have shown interest in buying a home there.

Land sales to foreign buyers are booming in New Zealand, with 465,863 hectares (1.16m acres) bought in 2016, an almost sixfold increase on the year before. That is the equivalent to 3.2% of farmland in a country of 4.7 million people.

Despite this apparent boom, official statistics show that of the 48,603 property transfers registered by the government in the three months to June, just 3% were buyers with an overseas tax residency.

The bulk of those buyers were Chinese, followed by Australians. Tax residents of the UK, US and Hong Kong were also among the biggest buyers of property.

Domestic buyers feel they are losing out. Only a quarter of adults in New Zealand own their own home, compared with half in 1991. Soaring house prices have put home ownership out of reach for many. Hundreds of families in Auckland were found last year to be living in cars, garages and even a shipping container.

According to research from property agents Knight Frank, New Zealand was the 10th fastest growing country in the world in terms of house prices. Prices increased by 10.4% in the year to the end of June, compared with 2.8% in the UK. In Wellington, the capital, they soared by more than 18% in the same period. A report by the Economist this year showed New Zealand had the most unaffordable house prices in the world, with prices in Auckland climbing 75% in the last four years, although the market has cooled in recent months.

The country’s proposed ban on foreign buyers, which would only apply to non-domiciles, comes amid rising support for protectionist policies in developed nations around the world. Trump rode to election victory by pledging more jobs and support for US citizens, while the Brexit vote has been interpreted as a call to prioritise British workers over European migrant labour.

The steps announced by Ardern form part of a coalition deal unveiled this week by her Labour party and the minority partners forming her government – the Green party and anti-immigration New Zealand First. It follows a campaign pledge by Labour to crack down on “property speculators”.

Speaking after the announcement of the ban on foreign buyers of existing homes, the leader of NZ First, Winston Peters, said: “There’s going to be a change and a clear signal sent internationally that New Zealand is no longer for sale in the way it has been. And we are happy with that.”


Volatility on Steroids

SUBHEAD: Regeneration, in this context, is about getting better, stronger, more resilient over time.

By Dr Nelson Lebo III on 17 OCtober 2017 in Automatic Earth -

Image above: Still frame of life in Las Vegas in 1982 fro the film  "Koyaanisqatsi". A film about our modern life out of balance. From (http://www.londoncitynights.com/2012/12/philip-glass-at-75-koyaanisqatsi-at.html).

Volatility is the new normal – that’s the message I gave a local Rotary Club when I spoke to members four or five years ago. I had been told beforehand the group was “worldly” and specifically instructed in the invitation to challenge them with my presentation.

As a weekly columnist in the city’s paper – the Wanganui Chronicle – I was widely known for my positions on wealth inequality, climate change, and debt, as well as a wide range of practical approaches to address these issues.

Around that time it was clear that a post-GFC new normal was functioning worldwide and many writers were using the term.

By then The Spirit Level (Pickett & Wilkinson, 2009) had been widely read and widely praised for its documentation of the relationship between wealth and income inequality and social problems.

Additionally, peer reviewed research based on decades worth of data had shown there was a quantitatively measurable increase in extreme weather events: more big storms and more big droughts.

I thought my audience would be well on board.

Judging from the response that day, however, the brief I had been given was misguided and most club members were neither expecting nor wanting a presentation that challenged the dominant paradigm of infinite growth without consequences no matter how factual.

As a mid-week midday meeting with New Zealand ‘fush ‘n chups’ on the menu the message that the-world-as-you-know-it-has-changed-forever was a bit heavy for people on their lunch break.

The response that day was, of course, perfectly ‘normal’. Almost no adult human seeks out new and different worldviews. On the contrary, we are far more inclined to cling to outdated ones, √† la “Make America Great Again” than to acknowledge changing realities.

Social media allows us to reverberate in echo chambers of our own beliefs where we know we’re right because the echo told us so. Social science researchers have told us this for decades. The Internet just makes it worse and more obvious.

I’ve been writing about Trump, doubling-down and the post-truth world for two years now, and if anything I am more certain of the point I’ve been trying to make: most people are irrational. Seems there’s now a Nobel Laureate who has been arguing the same for decades.

Behavioral economist Richard Thaler was recently awarded a Nobel for his study of the psychology of economics, which seeks to understand how we are irrational and the impact on traditional economic theories that have failed time and again (think 2008 Global Financial Crisis) because they don’t sufficiently incorporate human factors. (Remember Greenspan’s admission?)

In no way do I intend to single out the Wanganui Rotarians, but rather use this example as illustrative for what my community, nation, and the entire world face: volatility made worse by inertia. In other words, the longer we choose to ignore inconvenient truths the greater will be their negative impacts.
This situation usually manifests in the form of tipping points .

 Malcolm Gladwell defined a tipping point in his debut book of the same name as “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point.” Everything looks fine with the economy and the climate…until it’s not. And by ‘not fine’ we are talking really NOT FINE √† la Greece, Puerto Rico, Houston, etc.

Tipping points is volatility on steroids. Brace yourselves.

Well-informed leaders from President Obama to Pope Francis agree the greatest threats facing humanity are climate change and wealth inequality. I’ve written extensively about both for many years yet neither appears to get much traction locally or globally.

Our ‘leaders’ ignore these issues at all of our peril because the result of each is increasing volatility in many forms: social, economic, financial, political, and an increasing incidence of extreme weather events.

Volatility is not good for social order, and where I live is a perfect example of the canary in the coalmine: a coastal, river city with high levels of inequality. It’s a tipping point waiting to happen.

Some readers may remember the 1982 film by Godfrey Reggio called Koyaanisqatsi, named using a Hopi term meaning “chaotic life” or “life out of balance.”

The film is unnerving, as is much of what comes via news media these days: hurricanes, mass shootings, hurricanes, opioid epidemics, hurricanes, people sleeping in cars, hurricanes, rising suicide rates, hurricanes, and children dying from cold damp homes.

And then there’s Myanmar: When Buddhists become the aggressors, you know the world is well and truly out of balance.

Okay, so the world is out of balance. What can be done about it?

Our solution to imbalance, as any regular reader of our blog knows, is called “Eco-Thrifty.” This approach to design and to life is about living better on less. Seems we have good company along these lines in the form of Costa Rica, the small Central American nation that regularly tops the Happy Planet Index published by the New Economics Foundation.

Despite per capita income one quarter that of New Zealand (ranked 38th of 140) and one fifth that of the US (108th of 140) Costa Rica matches many Scandinavian countries in terms of equality, wellbeing, life expectancy and ecological impact.

As Jason Hickel of the Guardian recently put it, “Costa Rica proves that rich countries could theoretically ease their consumption by half or more while maintaining or even increasing their human development indicators.”

“The opposite of growth isn’t austerity, or depression, or voluntary poverty. It is sharing what we already have, so we won’t need to plunder the earth for more.”

Sharing is at the heart of the permaculture ethics, where it is joined by caring for the environment and caring for people. Although we practice permaculture on our farm and in our community, we’re not dogmatic about it. What drives the eco-thrifty bus is resilience accompanied by regeneration.

Resilience, in this context, is the ability to withstand a pulse. It does not happen by accident. It can be designed, built and managed. Resilience only matters 0.0001% of the time, but when it matters it really matters.

Resilient homes stand up to earthquakes and hurricanes. Resilient farms stand up to major rain events and extended droughts. Resilient communities withstand economic downturns and ‘natural disasters’.

Regeneration, in this context, is about getting better, stronger, more resilient over time.

Regenerative farms grow food while building soil fertility, reducing erosion, storing carbon, managing storm water, and increasing biological diversity.

Regenerative communities reduce crime, domestic violence, drug abuse, and suicide rates while keeping wealth and resources circulating locally. They improve quality of life while shrinking energy use, pollution and wealth inequality.

From these perspectives Costa Rica is a good, albeit imperfect, case study. It is, however, about the best example we can find and has the data to show long-term consistently high quality of life.

Image above: "Pura Vida" is Spanish for "Pure Life". One alternative to the Ponzi scheme our debt based "economy" enshrines. From (https://www.goabroad.com/articles/study-abroad/10-reasons-to-study-abroad-in-costa-rica).

Pura Vida trumps Koyaanisqatsi.


Degrowing the Economy

SUBHEAD: It's only one way to avoid climate catastrophe that we find ourselves in the midst of.

By Jason Hickle on 18 October 2017 for the P2P Foundation -

Image above: View of abandoned city from movie "Blade Runner 2029". From (https://www.thewrap.com/blade-runner-2049-everything-we-learned-trailer/).

You can almost feel the planet writhing. This summer brought some of the biggest, most destructive storms in recorded history: Harvey laid waste to huge swathes of Texas; Irma left Barbuda virtually uninhabitable; Maria ravaged Dominica and plunged Puerto Rico into darkness.

The images we see in the media are almost too violent to comprehend. And these are the storms that made the news; many others did not.

Monsoon flooding in India, Bangladesh and Nepal killed 1,200 people and left millions homeless, but Western media paid little attention: it’s too much suffering to take in at once.

What’s most disturbing about this litany of pain is that it’s only going to get worse.

A recent paper in the journal Nature estimates that our chances of keeping global warming below the danger threshold of 2 degrees is now vanishingly small: only about 5 per cent. It’s more likely that we’re headed for around 3.2 degrees of warming, and possibly as much as 4.9 degrees.

If scientists are clear about anything, it’s that this level of climate change will be nothing short of catastrophic. Indeed, there’s a good chance that it would render large-scale civilization impossible.

Why are our prospects so bleak? According to the paper’s authors, it’s because the cuts we’re making to greenhouse gas emissions are being more than cancelled out by economic growth. In the coming decades, we’ll be able to reduce the carbon intensity (CO2 per unit of GDP) of the global economy by about 1.9 per cent per year, they say, if we make heavy investments in clean energy and efficient technology.

That’s a lot.

But as long as the economy keeps growing by more than that, total emissions are still going to rise. Right now we’re ratcheting up global GDP by 3 per cent per year. At that rate, the maths is not in our favour; on the contrary, it’s slapping us in the face.

In fact, according to new models published last year, with a background rate of 3 per cent GDP growth it’s not possible to achieve any level of emissions reductions at all, even under best-case-scenario conditions. Study after study shows the same thing: keeping global warming below 2 degrees is simply not compatible with continued economic growth.

This is a tough pill to swallow. After all, right now GDP growth is the primary policy objective of virtually every government on Earth.

Over in Silicon Valley, tech-optimists are hoping that a miracle of artificial intelligence might allow us to decarbonise the economy by 3 per cent or more per year, so we can continue growing the GDP while reducing emissions. It sounds wonderful.

But remember, the goal is not just to reduce carbon emissions – the goal is to reduce them dramatically, and fast.

How fast, exactly?

Climate scientists Kevin Anderson and Alice Bows say that if we want to have even a mere 50 per cent chance of staying under 2 degrees, rich nations are going to have to cut emissions by 8-10 per cent per year, beginning in 2015. Keep in mind we’re already two years in, and so far our emissions reductions have been zero.

Here’s the hard bit. It’s just not possible to achieve emissions reductions of 8-10 per cent per year by decarbonising the economy. In fact, there is a strong scientific consensus that emissions reductions of this rate are only feasible if we stop our mad pursuit of economic growth and do something totally unprecedented: begin to scale down our annual production and consumption. This is what ecologists call ‘planned de-growth’

It sounds horrible, at first glance. It sounds like austerity, or voluntary poverty. After all, for decades we’ve been told that GDP growth is good, that it’s essential to progress, and that if we want to eradicate poverty around the world, we need more of it.

The only reason we’re all chasing GDP growth is because we’ve been made to believe that it’s the only way to improve the incomes and lives of ordinary people. But it’s not.

Politicians and economists rally around GDP growth because they see it as preferable to redistribution. They would rather grow the pie than go about the messy business of sharing what we already have more equally, since the latter tends to upset rich people.

Henry Wallich, a former member of the US Federal Reserve Board, made this clear when he pointed out that ‘Growth is a substitute for equality’.

But we can flip Wallich’s greedy little quip on its head: if growth is a substitute for equality, then equality can be a substitute for growth. By sharing what we already have more fairly, we can render additional economic growth unnecessary.

In this sense, de-growth is nothing at all like austerity. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite. Austerity means cutting social spending and slashing taxes on the rich in order to – supposedly – keep the economy growing. This has crushing consequences for ordinary people’s lives.

De-growth, by contrast, calls for cutting the excesses of the richest while redistributing existing resources and investing in social goods – universal healthcare, education, affordable housing etc.

The whole point is to sustain and even improve human wellbeing without the need for endless economic expansion. De-growth is a philosophy that insists that our economy is already more than abundant enough for all of us – if only we learn how to share it.

One easy way to do this would be to roll out a universal basic income and fund it through new progressive taxes – taxes on carbon, on land, on resource use, on financial transactions, and so on.

This is the most sensible and elegant way to share our abundance, and it comes with an added benefit: if the basic income is high enough, it will free people to walk away from unnecessary jobs that produce unnecessary stuff, releasing some of the pressure on our planet.

Crucially, de-growth does not mean we have to get rid of the stock of stuff that we already have, as a nation: houses, furniture, shoes, museums, railways, whatever. In fact, it doesn’t even mean that we have to stop producing and consuming new stuff.

It just means we have to reduce the amount of new stuff that we produce and consume each year.

When you see it this way, it’s really not so threatening.

If we degrow by 5 per cent per year (which is what scientists say is necessary), that means we have to cut our consumption of new stuff by 5 per cent. It’s easy to make up for that by just repairing and reusing stuff we already have. And we can encourage this more creative approach to stuff by curbing advertising, like Sao Paulo, Chennai and other cities have done.

Of course, there are deeper, more structural dimensions of our economy that we will have to change.

One of the reasons we need growth is to pay off all the debt that’s sloshing around in our economy. In fact, our entire money system is based on debt: more than 90 per cent of the currency circulating in our economy is loans created out of thin air by commercial banks.

The problem with debt is that it comes with interest, and to pay off interest at a compound rate we have to work, earn, and sell more and more each year. In this sense, every dollar of new money we create heats up the planet.

But cancel the debt and shift to a debt-free currency, and suddenly we don’t have to labour under this relentless pressure. There are already plenty of ideas out there for how to do this.

Still, we have to be honest with ourselves: : the Stern Review projects that climate change is set to cost us 5-20 per cent of global GDP per year, which is going to violently change our economy beyond all recognition, and cause enormous human suffering in the process.

The storms that churned across the Atlantic this summer are only a small taste of what is to come.

The choice is clear: either we evolve into a future beyond capitalism, or we won’t have a future at all.

Dr Jason Hickel: An anthropologist who works on political economy and global justice. He is the author of a number of books, including most recently The Divide: A Brief Guide to Global Inequality and its Solutions(Penguin 2017).

Into the Cold and Dark

SUBHEAD: American life which emerges from this maelstrom will not look like what we’re living in today.

By James Kunstler on 20 October 2017 for Kunstler.com -

Image above: Illustration of obese crazy American with machinegun. By Pokket Mowse at https://pokketmowse.deviantart.com/gallery/. Found at (http://www.greanvillepost.com/2017/10/05/why-america-acts-so-goddamn-crazy/).

It amuses me that the nation is so caught up in the sexual mischief of a single Hollywood producer when the nation as a whole is getting fucked sideways and upside down by its own political caretakers.

Behind all the smoke, mirrors, Trump bluster, Schumer fog, and media mystification about the vaudeville act known as The Budget and The Tax Cut, both political parties are fighting for their lives and the Deep State knows that it is being thrown overboard to drown in red ink.

There’s really no way out of the financial conundrum that dogs the republic and something’s got to give.

Many of us have been waiting for these tensions to express themselves by blowing up the artificially levitated stock markets.

For about a year, absolutely nothing has thwarted their supernatural ascent, including the threat of World War Three, leading some observers to believe that they have been rigged to perfection.

Well, the algo-bots might be pretty fine-tuned, and the central bank inputs of fresh “liquidity” pretty much assured, but for all that, these markets are still human artifacts and Murphy’s Law still lurks out there in the gloaming with its cohorts, the diminishing returns of technology (a.k.a. “Blowback”), and the demon of unintended consequences.

Many, including yours truly, have expected the distortions and perversions on the money side of life to express themselves in money itself: the dollar.

So far, it has only wobbled down about ten percent. This is due perhaps to the calibrated disinformation known as “forward guidance” issued by this country’s central bank, the Federal Reserve, which has been threatening — pretty idly so far — to raise interest rates and shrink down its vault of hoarded securities — a lot of it janky paper left over from the misadventures of 2007-2009.

I guess the lesson is that when you have a pervasively false and corrupt financial system, it is always subject to a little additional accounting fraud — until it’s not. And the next thing you know, you’re sitting in the rubble of what used to be your civilization.

The ever more immiserated schnooks who make up the former middle-class know that their lives are crumbling, and may feel that they’re subject to the utterly overwhelming forces of a cruel destiny generated by a leviathan state that hates and despises them.

And of course that is exactly why they turned to the Golden Golem of Greatness for salvation.

Alas, Mr. Trump has not constructed a coherent strategy for defeating the colossus of fakery that drives the nation ever-deeper toward the cold and dark.

He has a talent for distraction and disruption, though, and so far that gave cover to a whole lot of other people in power who have been able to stand around with their hands in their pockets doing nothing about the sinking state of the nation.

Now, the vaudeville act is coming to a spectacular conclusion as the trappings of Halloween go back in the closet and the pulsating, LED-studded Santas go up on the rooftops.

Every ceremony of American life seems drained of meaning now, including the machinations of government over the budget and taxes.

The revolution to come out of this frozen swamp of irresponsibility will be the messiest and most incoherent in world history. Nobody will have any idea what is going on outside the geo-storm of failure.

About the only thing one can say for sure is that the American life which emerges from this maelstrom will not look a whole lot like what we’re living in today.

I remain serenely convinced that when it finally passes, the air will be fresh again and the sun will shine, and a lot more people will know what is real and what is not.


The Path We Take

SUBHEAD: Turn left in 300 feet … turn left … turn left…. Rerouting … rerouting … rerouting.

By Brian Miller on 3 October 2017 for Winged Elm Farm -

Image above: Modern dashboard automobile navigation system displays route ahead and can anticipate traffic ahead. From (https://www.greenbot.com/article/2931099/android-auto-review-the-best-way-to-get-google-maps-in-your-car.html).

Recently, a young relative of mine set out on a 600-mile road trip to attend his cousin’s wedding — and got lost halfway there when his phone went dead. Hearing of his misadventure I was confused. How could someone go so far and then get lost?

And how did a dead phone terminate his travels?

Did he not consult a map? Own one? Pick up the free one at the state line?

No, apparently a map wasn’t needed because he had a smart phone. Until it wasn’t.

The would-be wedding guest set off on an eight-hour-plus journey, armed with no more than an address to guide him in where and how he was going. So, what did he do, when the phone, and consequently the GPS, died? He turned around and drove home.

As kids, my older brother and I would sit down with the National Geographic and, starting in June, begin to dream about August vacation destinations. The back pages of the magazine were chock-full of advertisements from state tourism boards.

We’d send off for packets from exciting places like Montana, New Mexico, and Idaho, all locations with elevations higher than the six-feet-above-sea-level spot that we called home.

Soon, fat packages of maps and “things to do” would arrive in the mail.

The maps would be unfolded on the kitchen table, where we would trace out routes we might take on the most narrow and obscure road possible. “Let’s drive down this little road in this valley south of Missoula,” I’d say. We’d pull out the encyclopedia and read about places we were going to visit.

There were shoeboxes jammed with maps in the closet, a big globe and stacks of atlases in the den.

Today, in my own library, there resides a broad assortment of state and international maps and world and historical atlases. Because, maps give us more than a hopeful path to a distant destination. They inform.

Why is there a Northwest Angle exclave in Minnesota, and just what is an exclave anyway? Where were the original colonial boundaries of North Carolina? How did the frontier of the late Roman Empire contract? Maps inform, and they also feed our curiosity:

Is Puerto Rico surrounded by water? (Why, indeed it is, Mr. President.)

They serve as a springboard into the past, present, and future. And, yes, even answer the mundane: What are my options for getting to a wedding in Oregon?

Of course, GPS is a remarkable technological feature. It gets us to a destination without getting lost, without having to wonder where we are. Yet, cocooning ourselves in a cushion of geographical illiteracy also breeds a listless lack of awareness, demanding nothing more from us than an abiding self-interest.

And, in the absence of an alternative mode of mapping — whether it’s orienting to the sun or grabbing the gazetteer — when the GPS goes dark, it leaves us with no option but to turn around and go home, wherever that might be.


Truth about Military Recruiting

SUBHEAD: Military recruiters don't tell the whole truth. Help us complete the picture.

By Kip Goodwin on 3 October 2017 for Hawaii Peace and Justice -

Image above: Volunteers providing information about the truth regarding US military recruitment in support of 808truth2youth and Hawaii Peace and Justice. From https://youtu.be/_8rbHwMXMT8.

The Pentagon spends $1.4 billion annually on public relations and recruiting, teaming with professional sports, Hollywood, and the video gaming and media industries. Their primary audience is 15 to 25 year olds, the demographic from which they recruit about one quarter million annually.

There are missing pieces in the recruitment narrative, and there is no organized effort on the part of the schools or anyone else to fill in gaps. We need your support to meet the need. If we reach our goal, more than 20,000 Hawaii youth will have the opportunity to learn:
Enlistment contract promises made to the enlistee can ALL be broken.
Service term is for eight years, and may be extended.
Job training is for military, not civilian jobs.
College benefits are NOT guaranteed.
Our young Hawaii citizens who are committing to military service have a right to know:

Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs report in 2016 that 10 to 17% of combat veterans suffer PTSD and 10-23% have traumatic brain injury (TBI).  25% have some to extreme difficulty in social functioning, productivity and self care.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports in 2015 male veterans 50% as likely, women vets almost twice as likely to be homeless, than the general population.

In 2014, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 100 men reported military sexual trauma. "For women, an experience of sexual trauma while in the military greatly increases risk of homelessness."

The Veterans Administration reports in 2016 thirty veterans per 100,000 population commit suicide, more than twice the number for the general population. On average, twenty veterans are committing suicide every day.

America's Health Rankings, based on interviews with 400,000 Americans in 2016, reported 62% higher rate of heart disease and 13% higher rate of cancer in veterans than in the general population.

Modern neuroscience teaches us that the parts of our brains that allow reason to overcome emotion don't fully mature until our early to mid twenties. The military plays on this with promises of adventure. Our mission is to fully disclose the reality of the military commitment, during active duty and afterward.

808truth2youth is currently engaged in social media outreach to our children growing into adulthood in low income communities (the most recruiter-vulnerable) on the four main islands. Every six days, our posts have gone out to hundreds of young people on Facebook. We have surpassed 10,000 "reaches". You can see these posts on our Facebook page, 808truth2youth.

We encourage them to consider alternatives, especially education leading to secure, good paying careers that promote peace. Our donation website, 808truth2youth.org, has a how-to guide to the best schools, and scholarships exclusively for students who show an interest in social justice, nuclear disarmament and conflict resolution.

Please help us empower our youth with the truth about the military and by extension about America's addiction to a war economy and the endless cycle of war that will end only when a critical mass of awareness is arrived at.

Image above: Retired Special Forces Master Sergeant Stan Goff explains what military life really entails. From (https://youtu.be/_8rbHwMXMT8).

Thank you! for what support you can give for our Hawaii youth's right to know.

You can donate to our mission through Hawaii Peace and Justice, our fiscal sponsor.

Click here to donate:

Send a check to:
Hawaii Peace and Justice
2426 O`ahu Avenue
Honolulu, Hawaii 96822-1967

-in memo line, write 8808truth2youth