Hawaiians removed from Wailua site

SUBHEAD: Sacred Kauai location to be re-developed as tourist resort despite Hawaiian claims.
By By Brittany Lyte on 22 February 2018 for Civil Beat -(http://www.civilbeat.org/2018/02/authorities-oust-protesters-from-coco-palms-resort-land)

Image above: Three officers block access to the encampment at the former Coco Palms resort property last Thursday. From original article.

[IB Publisher's note:  
"Authorities shut down a protest camp on the grounds of the famed Coco Palms Resort." 

That is the first sentence of this article and precisely represents the false premise of the American position on it's illegal takeover of the Hawaiian Islands in order to first achieve navel domination the Pacific Ocean and second, to make money anyway possible with the resources of the land. Some points to ponder - 

Number 1: tthe they state of Hawaii thinks it has authority over practices of Native Hawaiians on their sacred sites. 

Number 2: This site was been used for crass commercial tourism (built in part on the celebrity of Elvis Presley's movie "Blue Hawaii" until a hurricane Iniki destroyed the resort in 1992. The wreckage of the resort still stands at a choke point for traffic on Kauai. The con artists attempting to sell this project are pandering to unfounded nostalgia and greed.  

Number 3: Thew site is low lying and will be a likely place to inundation as the oceans rise due to global warming. The best use of this land would be for native cultural practices (like growing taro) and to act as a natural wetland that might absorb future flooding and ocean rise... a state park comes to mind. Certainly, the last thing Kauai needs is more tourism jamming up the Eastside.]

Authorities shut down a protest camp on the grounds of the famed Coco Palms resort Thursday morning, ordering campers off the property and blocking entry by those who had lived at the site for weeks, months and in some cases almost a year.

Almost a month after a judge ordered the eviction in the case of two encampment leaders, 25 deputy state sheriffs arrived to clear the property. About a dozen Native Hawaiians claiming ancestral ties to the land had continued to live on the property, farming taro, keeping watch over ancient burials and hosting Hawaiian language classes.

Mahealani Hanie-Grace, 23, who had been living at the camp, was arrested Thursday on suspicion of trespass and booked at the Kauai Police Department, according to the Hawaii Department of Public Safety.

“We were under the assumption that the ejectment was pending,” said Ke’ala Lopez, 22, an anthropology student at Columbia University who has been sleeping at the camp since New Year’s Day. “So when you are under that assumption and dozens of police officers come in and block the road and take over your hale, it’s devastating.”

Lopez told Civil Beat she wasn’t sure what her next step would be.

“I truly believe this place is protected,” she said. “Coco Palms got destroyed by a hurricane and for 20 years that one hurricane kept it from functioning. Now there are developers wanting to start again and the kanaka have been called in to protect it.”

As a trio of law enforcement agents blocked access to the encampment, Noa Mau-Espirito, one of two defendants in a land ownership dispute with Coco Palms Hui, displayed a map of the former Coco Palms resort property and informed the authorities of his plans to relocate the protest camp outside the bounds of the land parcel that is subject to the court order.

“I’m just letting you guys know these two plots are considered unencumbered state lands so that’s where I’m going,” Espirito said.

Image above: Noa Mau-Espirito, a defendant in the land ownership dispute, displays a map of the resort property Thursday. He informed authorities that he plans to relocate the protest camp elsewhere on the property and outside the bounds of the land effected by a recent court order. From original article.

The dispute over the Wailua property’s ownership has lasted almost a year, stalling a planned redevelopment of the hotel where Elvis Presley’s “Blue Hawaii” was filmed in 1961.

Long before the resort popularized torch-lighting ceremonies as a mainstay of Hawaii hospitality, the property was the 19th century home of Kauai’s last queen, Deborah Kapule Kaumuali’i.

Chad Waters and Tyler Greene of the Honolulu-based redevelopment firm Coco Palms Hui say they are committed to reopening the site as the Coco Palms Resort by Hyatt with an estimated $135 million project that will pay tribute to the property’s storied heritage.

The resort has been closed since it was heavily damaged in 1992 by Hurricane Iniki.

“Coco Palms Hui LLC is grateful that this particular saga in the rebuild of the Coco Palms Resort is now history,” Waters said Thursday. “We look forward to the next steps with final designs, engineering, permitting and then starting construction.”

Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho issued this statement Thursday:
I empathize with our Hawaiian community in this very emotional dispute. As Mayor, I understand the cultural and spiritual significance of this property. But above all emotions, I understand that we must all follow and respect the law. The court’s recent decision is very clear, and I continue to encourage all involved to move forward in a peaceful and respectful manner.
See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Wailua Nui Update 2/2/18
Ea O Ka Aina: Okay given to destroy Paradise 6/10/17
Ea O Ka Aina: Coco Palms Good to Go 3/11/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Annals of pure bullshit - Coco Palms 6/22/14  
Ea O Ka Aina: Coco Palms Travesty 8/10/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Wailua Beach "Elephant Path" 12/22/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Wailua Bike Path Consideration  12/12/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Prehistory Wailua Ahupuaa 1/20/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Kauai Future 2020 - Part 1 1/18/10
Ea O Ka Aina: Hawaiian Ceremony for Wailua 11/11/09
Ea O Ka Aina: Preserve Wailua Beach 9/13/09
Island Breath: Annals of False Advertizing - Kauai Lagoons 3/18/08
Island Breath: Coco Palms Developers Break Promises 1/14/07
Island Breath: Coco Palms & Traffic Problem 3/1/06
Island Breath: Coco Palms Review 1/8/06
Island Breath: Kauai Coconut Coast Overdeveloped 11/12/05
Island Breath: Coco Palms Development 12/28/04


Dark America's Retro Future

SUBHEAD: Review of two books about the future of America by John Michael Greer.

By Fred Kaminski on 13 February 2018 in Resilience -

Image above: "Today" and "Tomorrow" maps of southern Florida illustrating a 10 meter rise in sea level modeled by NASA. From (https://www.inquisitr.com/4487834/florida-hurricane-map-sea-levels/).

Dark Age America: Climate Change, Cultural Collapse and the Hard Future Ahead
245 pp. New Society Publishers – Sept. 2016. $18.95.

John Michael Greer acknowledges that his aim with Dark Age America is an ambitious one. The book is his attempt to sketch out the likely course of industrial society over the next 500 years, with a particular emphasis on the United States.

Greer’s core premise is that our present civilization, like the late Roman Empire and the classic Lowland Maya before it (to name two examples), has overshot its resource base and is now in terminal decline.

Thus, it’s inevitable that in coming centuries, America, along with the world’s other developed nations, will descend into a dark age as harsh as any the human race has ever known.

What makes Greer confident in his ability to extrapolate out half a millennium is the wealth of information we now have about the fates of previous civilizations.

Greer is a historian, and one of his chief influences is the work of historical theorists like Oswald Spengler and Arnold Toynbee, who have demonstrated the existence of cycles in history.

Civilizations, these theorists have shown, move through a predictable cycle of emergence, growth, maturity, decline and death. What’s more, the latter stages of this progression are the most predictable.

While civilizations tend to be distinct from one another early on in their development, they become nearly indistinguishable as they fall.

As Greer eloquently puts it, “[C]ompare one post-collapse society to another—the societies of post-Roman Europe, let’s say, with those of post-Mycenean Greece—and it can be hard to believe that dark age societies so similar could have emerged out of the wreckage of civilizations so different.”

Greer’s portrait of dark age America begins with the legacy of extreme environmental degradation we’re leaving our descendants. Climate change, in particular, threatens to destroy enormous swaths of human habitat throughout North America.

Based on the available paleoclimate data, Greer predicts that the western half of America will eventually come to resemble the Sahara Desert, while the Gulf states will become increasingly tropical and the Gulf coast will retreat ever further inland. Most of Florida will become an uninhabitable saltwater swamp.

Regions that are currently centers of agricultural production will fail to produce sufficient quantities of food due to topsoil loss and unpredictable rainfall. And, as seawater floods the ruins of hastily abandoned chemical facilities, what few fish remain in waters off North American coasts will in many places become too toxic to eat.

Judging from the population declines seen in previous dark ages, Greer expects the present world population to fall by as much as 95 percent. However, he stresses that this won’t, contrary to popular imagination, take the form of a cataclysmic die-off.

Rather, it will be a gradual change that people will come to accept as the new normal. Industrial nations will find themselves in a situation in which their death rates persistently exceed their birth rates by small margins—say one to three percent per annum—and while this will add up over time, people will adjust.

“That’s the way population declines happen in history,” explains Greer, adding, “Vast catastrophes need not apply.”

In addition to depopulation, two other factors that will shape the demographics of dark age America are mass migrations and the formation of new ethnic groups.

Those migrating will be fleeing desertifying regions like the southern Great Plains and the Great Basin, as well as areas that are already desert today—and are inhabitable now only because of present-day technology—such as the Sonoran Desert. They’ll also be leaving flooded coastal cities and poisoned lands.

Greer sees the erasure of ethnic divisions occurring in stages, beginning with a period of heightened strife among various groups as the industrial economy moves through its death cycle and economic inequities worsen.

Beyond this phase, a chaotic melting pot will ensue as the institutions that maintain ethnic divisions fall away. The final stage will be one in which totally new ethnicities arise.

The politics of the coming dark age will be characterized by the disintegration of America’s current social hierarchies.

These hierarchies, argues Greer, are like any other form of social capital in that they have maintenance costs that must be met. Their maintenance costs consist of the minimum standard of living that the elites must provide to persuade the masses to continue going along with the existing order.

As a civilization’s resource base shrinks, it becomes increasingly difficult for the ruling class to provide members of the laboring class with a living wage. Eventually an uprising becomes inevitable, and the elites face a choice of going into exile or being murdered by bloodthirsty mobs.

This grisly cycle is, in Greer’s estimation, already under way in America. So far, the elites have responded to the growing unrest with a mixture of repression and complacency.

On the repressive end, Greer points to the excessive militarization of local police, together with the rampant civil rights violations being perpetrated by both mainstream political parties.

At the same time, the elites seem to have been lulled into a belief that nothing could ever unseat them from their privileged positions.

“They’re wrong,” admonishes Greer, “and at this point it’s probably a safe bet that a great many of them will die because of that mistake.”

Greer believes that as political leaders, members of the scientific community and other public figures grow more and more out of touch with the general population, people will increasingly gravitate toward strongmen in much the same way that the Huns revered the fearsome warlord Attila.

In the process, society will come to adopt a new, grittier worldview that does a better job of explaining people’s everyday experience than does the cheery narrative of perpetual progress.

The key takeaway from Greer’s chapter on economic collapse is that economic growth in late industrial America has passed the point of diminishing returns and entered the zone of negative returns. In making this case, Greer refers to a 2013 study sponsored by the United Nations Environmental Program.

This study concluded that the world’s top 20 industries would become unprofitable if they had to pay for the ecological harm they cause, rather than foisting it off onto the public as they do now. This damage may not appear on businesses’ balance sheets, but it still impacts the economy.

Greer cites the example of fracking firms that would rather dump their wastewater into the environment than safely dispose of it. Though this decision saves the companies money, it puts a drag on the economy elsewhere in the form of increased public health costs from disease clusters that spring up around dumping sites.

Eventually, negative externalities like these add up until they come to debilitate an economy. Greer believes that this is where we’re at now with today’s industrial economy.

But externalities are only half the story when it comes to explaining what ails the modern growth economy.

The other half has to do with the depletion of oil and other nonrenewable resources. We’ve now reached a point where many finite resources are in irreversible decline, and Greer sees this as spelling the demise of industrialization.

To support this conclusion, he cites a well-established principle of human ecology called White’s law, which says that a society’s level of development depends on how much per capita energy is available to it.

Greer’s term for the process of decline that sets in when a civilization lacks the energy it needs to sustain itself is catabolic collapse. The word catabolic refers to the way in which such a society begins feeding on (i.e., catabolizing) itself, just as an organism deprived of essential nutrients destroys itself by breaking down its own body tissues for energy.

A chapter trenchantly titled “The Suicide of Science” delves into the ways in which Greer sees the scientific profession sowing the seeds of its own undoing.

These include the profiteering machinations of the medical industry, the demonstrable lies that scientific experts regularly tell the public, the verbal abuse that outspoken atheists within the scientific community hurl at people of faith and the toxic legacy that industrialism is leaving for future generations.

Even without these considerable downsides to modern-day science, scientific research would still have a tough go of it, since the resources on which it depends will be desperately needed for necessities like food production and defense against barbarians.

In light of all this, predicts Greer, it will be a no-brainer for communities to decide to stop funding science altogether. Greer also sees laboratories and other scientific facilities being vandalized and burned down for the betrayal of public trust that they will have come to embody.

The book’s section on responses to the predicaments of early dark age America focuses on individualized, localized actions. This is in keeping with the conventional wisdom among collapse thinkers that large-scale institutions will be of no use, since it’s their vast scale that caused the crises in the first place.

Greer’s specific recommendations all speak to the need to proactively ratchet down our energy and resource consumption so as to be prepared for the lean future ahead.

Greer also encourages readers to learn all they can about the lived experience of Americans during other periods of crisis in our history, both by reading books and by talking with elderly relatives about their personal survival strategies.

As those familiar with Greer’s previous work are well aware, he’s now written numerous other books that cover much the same territory as this one does, but from differing angles. Given this thematic dovetailing, it’s impossible not to marvel at how fresh each new entry feels.

Nothing ever seems recycled in the least. Rather, each new book astounds anew with its erudition, literary panache and ideative exuberance.

Image above: Detail from cover art of the book " Dark Age America from the original article.

The Retro Future: Looking to the Past to Reinvent the Future
227 pp. New Society Publishers – Sept. 2017. $19.99.

These days, the word progress has come to mean deterioration far more often than improvement. This is the central tenet of The Retro Future, and it’s something that Greer believes we all sense at some level but aren’t yet willing to admit.

We can’t help noticing that each new software upgrade is more riddled with bugs and less user-friendly than the one before, or that consumer products across the board grow shoddier, less satisfactory and more dangerous every year.

Yet our faith in progress prevents us from coming to terms with these facts. It’s this faith that The Retro Futuresquarely confronts.

The book proposes that the world’s industrialized nations deliberately reverse course technologically as a matter of public policy. Greer reasons that this transition is bound to happen eventually anyway, as we lose access to the money, energy and other resources necessary to sustain our current level of technology.

Thus, it would behoove us to get ahead of the curve by bringing about the shift ourselves while we can still do so gracefully. The U.S. government could spur this change through simple revisions to the U.S. tax code, as well as laws that would limit our public infrastructure to technology from previous eras (say the 1950s or the 1880s).

This would drastically decrease the nation’s dependence on dwindling energy supplies, since ‘50s technology, for example, was far less energy-intensive than is today’s. It would also put scores of unemployed people back to work, as the technology of the ‘50s relied far more heavily on manual labor than does today’s.

The tax code revisions that Greer has in mind would, he believes, go a long way toward bringing about these changes. It’s currently more cost-effective for businesses to automate than to hire people, because automation comes with significant tax breaks, while human capital entails additional taxes in the form of Social Security, unemployment insurance, workers compensation and the like.

Meanwhile, as companies automate more and more, society bears the costs of caring for displaced workers through taxpayer-funded assistance, while the environment shoulders the burden of rising pollution from the machines.

The new tax that Greer envisions would transfer the responsibility for these latter costs back to the companies.

With humans increasingly replacing machines on assembly lines, the wage-earning class would return to something like its former prosperity, and nature would rebound as well.

A glimpse into how this might work out in practice can be gleaned by reading Greer’s 2016 novel Retrotopia (reviewed by me here).

Set five decades from now in a nation known as the Lakeland Republic—which is located in what is currently the American Upper Midwest—Retrotopia paints a picture of what life could be like if citizens were allowed to decide democratically what level of infrastructure they were willing to support with their taxes. This approach has yielded fantastic dividends for the Republic.

At a time when most other nations within the former contiguous United States are economic basket cases because of their continuing commitment to growth and innovation, the Republic is flourishing due to its decision to pursue “retrovation.”

If you’re thinking that this strategy amounts to depriving people of access to technology, you’re wrong.

Greer emphasizes that the type of public policy he has in mind would apply only to publicly funded infrastructure; individual citizens and privately held companies would be free to own and use more modern technologies, as long as they were able to pay for them out of their own pockets.

The biggest barrier to this sort of change is cultural; it has to do with what Greer calls “the heresy of technological choice.”

Our culture worships progress so absolutely that people harbor a deep-seated superstition against picking and choosing which technologies to use or not use. People are expected to embrace the entire gamut of modern-day technology, or else reject it just as completely.

Those who don’t fall in line with this expectation—by, for instance, refusing to own a TV or cell phone, while still making use of the Internet and electric lighting—face ridicule. Fortunately, the taboo against technological choice will eventually, Greer thinks, fall away as we begin to run short on the resources that make the industrial era’s signature technologies widely available.

For me, the most fascinating part of this book is one exploring the concept of “orphan technologies,” or those that outlive the civilizations that birthed them.

In the course of this discussion, Greer speculates that today’s hydroelectric dams could well become an orphan technology in much the same way that the ancient Roman aqueducts did during the post-Roman dark ages.

If this proves to be the case, the denizens of dark age America will, like the inhabitants of early medieval Europe before them who inherited the aqueducts, be the recipients of a great windfall. Despite lacking the resources or knowledge needed to construct it themselves, they will nonetheless be benefitting from a fully functional advanced technology left over from our time.

I have one minor criticism of both Dark Age America and The Retro Future, and it’s one I’ve leveled at previous books by Greer. Greer’s book material comes from his prolific output of blog posts, and his method is to write on a particular theme for an extended period, then weave the resulting posts into one longer work.

Though he does this masterfully overall, there are sometimes points in the finished books where the transitions between blog posts could be smoother.

For instance, in Dark Age America there’s a spot where he expresses the same idea twice, using similar wording each time, within the space of a couple of pages.

Before the shorter pieces became a book, a degree of repetition was appropriate, as not every reader of a given post would have read the one before. When translated into book form, however, this is problematic. Greer’s books also occasionally neglect to define terms introduced in his blog.

While his regular blog readers will have encountered these terms enough times to know their meaning, this doubtless isn’t the case for everyone who reads his books.

But the editing lapses described above are a faux pas of mere aesthetics, not of content. What really matter are the visionary perspectives on the future of humanity that Greer’s books offer in spades.

Image above: Detail of cover from "The Retro Future" from original article.


Being Green is being a Terrorist

SUBHEAD: Environmentalists say they’re averting climate disaster. Conservatives say it’s terrorism.

By Alexander C. Kaufman on 20 February 2018 for Huffington Post -

Image above: Illustration by Ji Sub Jeong of "pollution" in the form of Donald Trump going after environmental activists. From original article.

Michael Foster, 53, is a mild-mannered mental health counselor and father of two from Seattle, with short-cropped silver hair and soft features.

But in a North Dakota court last October, prosecutors painted Foster as a ruthless killer and agent of chaos.

The prosecution team compared him to the 9/11 hijackers who killed 2,996 people in the worst terror attack in history, and warned that he envisioned an anarchic future under Islamic religious law. Prosecutors even put him in a league with Ted Kaczynski, the so-called Unabomber whose 17-year bombing spree left three dead and injured 23.

Foster hadn’t killed anyone. He didn’t even injure anyone when, on Oct. 11, 2016, he put on a white hard hat and neon-yellow safety vest, grabbed some bolt cutters, and clipped the chain locking a fenced section of the Keystone Pipeline in Walhalla, North Dakota. Once inside the fence, Foster cranked a giant wheel-like valve until it closed, temporarily stopping the flow of tar sands oil.

“In order to preserve life as we know it, and civilization, and give us a fair chance and our kids a fair chance, I’m taking action as a citizen,” Foster told another activist, Sam Jessup, who live-streamed the action. “I am duty-bound.”

Foster’s action was part of a protest in solidarity with the indigenous activists fighting to stop construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which runs through a sacred water source at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on the other side of the state.

Foster and Jessup did so in coordination with “valve turners” in four other states, timing their break-ins across the country to temporarily halt 15 percent of U.S. oil consumption.

Then came the legal crackdown.

In October, a judge convicted Foster and Jessup of felonies ― including criminal mischief and conspiracy to commit criminal mischief ― carrying maximum sentences of 11 to 26 years in prison. Earlier this month, the judge sentenced Foster to three years in prison; Jessup received two years of probation. (Other valve turners have faced up to 10 years in prison and $20,000 in fines.)

“They hit the trifecta: 9/11, the Unabomber, and that somehow our action was going to lead to Sharia law,” said Emily Johnston, 51, who is set to stand trial in May for turning a pipeline valve in Minnesota. “The theory being that if everyone just acted on what they believed in, it would be anarchy.”

That theory is now gaining some traction in Washington.

In October, 84 members of Congress, including four Democrats, sent Attorney General Jeff Sessions a letter urging him to find out whether the Department of Justice could prosecute pipeline saboteurs as terrorists.

The Justice Department has yet to announce a decision, but said in November that it was “committed to vigorously prosecuting those who damage this critical energy infrastructure in violation of federal law.” Doing so would be a break from the Obama administration’s decision to let states handle such cases, rather than treating them as federal crimes.
The purpose of this law isn’t to wrap everybody up and send them to federal prison. It’s to scare people, to create fear. - Will Potter, author of ‘Green Is The New Red’
But policymakers are sharpening their knives on the state level, too. Late last year, the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council drafted model legislation calling for severe punishments for anyone caught trespassing on or tampering with an oil, gas or chemical factory. The Critical Infrastructure Protection Act even includes a clause that any “conspirator” organization would be fined 10 times more than a trespasser, opening the door to crippling penalties for environmental groups.

Lawmakers in Ohio and Iowa are now considering bills based on the proposal. The Iowa bill is backed by Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline. In all, 31 states have considered 58 bills to crack down on protesters since November 2016, according to a database maintained by the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law. Eight have been enacted, and 28 are pending.

At a moment when the Trump administration is waging all-out war on environmentalism, macheting away regulations and gearing up for a massive pipeline construction spree, “eco-terrorism” is re-emerging as a boogeyman in a way it hasn’t since right after 9/11.

There are already laws in place to send environmentalists who tamper with fossil fuel infrastructure to jail, as Foster’s case demonstrates. But if conservative lawmakers get their way, new laws could undermine the environmental movement ― just as scientists say the humans are running out of time to make the changes needed to stave off the worst effects of climate change.

Image above: A screenshot frok video of Michael Foster turning the valve on the Keystone Pipeline. Shot by Sam Jessup. From original article.

Protesting After The Patriot Act

Targeting environmentalists as domestic security threats goes back nearly two decades. Radical environmental groups experienced their heydays in the 1990s, but became victims of their own success as concerns over pollution and animal cruelty went mainstream.

But even as the influence of these groups waned, a scorched-earth crackdown loomed. President George W. Bush signed the USA Patriot Act in October 2001, just over a month after the 9/11 attacks. The law expanded the government’s view of domestic terror suspects and granted law enforcement sweeping new powers to investigate organizations and individuals, including by seizing assets without any prior hearing or criminal charges.

“It’s about installing fear so they don’t go out and protest in the first place,” said Will Potter, author of the book Green Is The New Red, while comparing ALEC’s recent bill to the actions taken after 9/11. “The purpose of this law isn’t to wrap everybody up and send them to federal prison. It’s to scare people, to create fear.”

Potter would know. In 2002, when he was a reporter working on the Chicago Tribune’s metro desk, two FBI agents arrived at his home to question him about an animal rights protest he and his girlfriend had participated in months earlier.

Both had been arrested and charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct after leaving flyers in a neighborhood where an insurance executive whose company covered animal laboratory testing lived.

He says FBI agents, armed with new powers under the Patriot Act, threatened to add him to a domestic terror list if he didn’t become an informant on the group with which he protested.

The officers threatened him, telling him they could “make your life very difficult for you,” having secured “more authority now to get things done and get down to business” after 9/11, Mother Jones reported in 2011.
Is this about just protecting some businesses? Or is this about this larger idea that the radical left is threatening America? - Cas Mudde, Dutch political scientist
In 2005, John Lewis, then the FBI official in charge of domestic terrorism, ranked “eco-terrorism and animal-rights movement” activists ahead of radical Islamic extremists as the nation’s top domestic terror threat.

The agency began investigating Eric McDavid, a self-declared green anarchist, that same year. In a now-infamous case, the FBI recruited a mole to get close to McDavid and coax him into plotting a C4 bomb attack. He was arrested in January 2006, and spent a decade in prison.

Congress also quietly passed the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act in 2005, a sweeping law that classified many forms of animal rights protest as terrorism. It was used to prosecute Lauren Gazzola, the U.S. coordinator for a campaign against an animal product testing, on six felony charges that included conspiracy to violate an earlier law meant to protect businesses from protestors.

The crackdown was at odds with any realistic threat these environmentalists might have posed. Less than 10 percent of all radical environmental and animal rights actions from 2003 to 2010 even included criminal activity, according to a study published in 2014 in the journal Studies in Conflict & Terrorism. Of those acts, 66 percent were vandalism, less than 15 percent were house visits, and just over 12 percent involved freeing animals from cages. About 4 percent were arsons, and 1.4 percent involved explosives. There were no assassinations.

Protesting Post-Trump

Cas Mudde, a Dutch political scientist who co-authored the study on criminal activity amongst activists, points out that the attacks on environmentalists came at a time when many political protesters were speaking out against the Iraq War ― meaning environmentalists served as a sort of proxy for other left-leaning protest movements.

This is not unlike what we’re seeing now, Mudde said, noting that overlap between leftist activists and radical environmentalists makes it easy for conservatives to demonize both equally.

For example, Fox News hosts Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity spent months inveighing against the so-called “antifa” and “alt left” movements, terms they use to refer to certain anti-fascist protester groups that rose up in response to increasingly vocal white nationalists in the U.S. Researchers who study extremists say “alt left” does not describe a real phenomenon.

This New World

The current capitalist system is broken. Get updates on our progress toward building a fairer world.

Mudde said it could be especially telling to see how Republicans frame the laws to criminalize fossil fuel protest.

“Is this about just protecting some businesses?” he said. “Or is this about this larger idea that the radical left is threatening America?”

The surprise election of President Donald Trump in 2016 dashed any hopes that the so-called green scare was a thing of the past. Trump, who dismisses climate change and installed an EPA administrator who shares his ideological antagonism toward science, reversed regulations and announced plans to withdraw from the Paris climate accord.

The conditions primed the rise of a more militant environmental movement ― and for an even more militant crackdown.

In a provocative essay published in September in Foreign Policy, think tank scholar Jamie Bartlett argued that “formal, peaceful political activism — that all-important route to redress — isn’t working” to address pollution and that “the signs of growing radicalism in green circles are already there, if you know where to look.” He noted that hard-line environmental organizations are seeing a membership surge, and that local anti-fracking groups are growing faster than ever before.

In April, the Department of Homeland Security warned of attacks by eco-terrorists who “believe violence is justified” to stop the planned Diamond Pipeline from Oklahoma to Tennessee. But the report admitted that no current intelligence suggested any attack had actually been planned.

The oil and gas industry is fueling fears of impending eco-terrorist attacks. In October, the American Petroleum Institute disclosed that it was “working with the Trump administration on this issue, including the DOJ, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration,” according to the trade publication Natural Gas Intelligence.

API indicated that its lobbyists met with the FBI and other agencies to discuss “efforts related to pipeline security,” according to its final-quarter disclosure report from 2017.

The ALEC model bill is perhaps the clearest indication that “eco-terrorism” is back as a boogeyman on the right. When ALEC began shopping the bill around to state legislatures, it included a letter signed by a consortium of fossil fuel corporations and chemical manufacturers urging lawmakers to introduce bills based on the legislation to curtail the “growing and disturbing trend” of environmentalists attacking infrastructure.

The letter, which HuffPost obtained, listed five examples to back up the trend. One was the valve turners case. The others did not actually involve environmentalists. Instead, they were loosely bound by common threads of mental illness or workplace grievance:
  • In August 2011, Daniel Wells Herriman heard voices in his head, which convinced him to plant a crude bomb near a gas pipeline in Oklahoma. He turned himself in, pleaded insanity, and was sentenced the next year to more than five years in prison.

  • In June 2012 ― after spending months writing fawning prison letters to the Unabomber and posting enraged videos about having to pay taxes ― Anson Chi decided to live out his fantasies by blowing up a homemade explosive near a natural gas pipeline in Plano, Texas. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

  • Just after midnight on April 16, 2013, a sniper fired more than 100 rounds of .30-caliber rifle ammunition into the radiators of 17 electricity transformers in Metcalf, California. The attacker, believed to “an insider” who worked at the utility PG&E, was never found.

  • In October 2017, vandals believed to be recently furloughed employees ransacked a wastewater plant in Crow Agency, Montana, igniting a fire and firing off guns.


Making Friends with Microbes

SUBHEAD: Interview with Eva Bakkaeslitt on the importance of fermenting food in a low-tech future.

By Mark Watson on 12 January 2018 for Dark Mountain-

Image above: From original article.

This week Dark Mountain continues its Dark Kitchen exploration of food and eating in times of collapse. For our second course in the series Mark Watson interviews Norwegian artist Eva Bakkeslett about the ancient and modern language of fermentation.

‘It’s the next big thing,’ said Alexis, and handed me a jar of home-made kimchi.

‘Is it safe to eat?’ I asked, nervously peering into the pungent and compelling Korean ferment.

It was a very modern reaction: industrially processed, refrigerated, microbe-free and squeaky clean (dead) is good. Everything else is dangerous.

For thousands of years the arts of fermentation have transformed and preserved raw food in cultures across the world. Yet even though some of our strongest and most loved flavours – coffee, chocolate, cheese, salami, olives, as well as soy, miso and tempeh, wine and beer – are still alchemized via the life-death-life process of bacteria and yeasts, live, fizzing vegetables can be a challenge.

It was reading Sandor Katz’s encyclopaedic The Art of Fermentation that turned things around and got me hooked, with its hands-on approach to reviving the practice of fermenting just about everything.

The house started filling up with bubbling Kilner jars of fruit and flowers and vegetables –mead elixirs in the summer, kimchi in the winter – as my distrust gave way to bold, and delicious, experimentation.

Eva Bakkeslett is an artist, teacher and microbial cultural revivalist from Northern Norway. I came across her work with sourdough cultures and kefir in Lucy Neal’s Playing for Time: Making Art as if the World Mattered. Later we met and she gave me some Ivan Chai (an intense black tea of fermented rosebay willowherb leaves) made by wildcrafting colleagues in Russia.

I wanted to ask Eva about how she got into fermentation and microbes, and how they relate to current planetary, ecological and social conditions. 

MW: What’s going down in your ‘dark kitchen’ right now, Eva?

EB: Well, I’m tending to about six different ferments, so loads of little creatures are living on my kitchen bench: very old Scandinavian rømmekolle ferments, various kombuchas, Bulgarian yoghurts, kefir from the Caucasus, and an amazing sourdough from Russia. I’ve also started fermenting earth, using a Japanese composting method called bokashi, where you add microbes to your food waste. It speeds up the process and you get great compost for growing vegetables.

I started with bread. I always say the bread was talking to me. Fermenting bread has a very quiet language of its own. Put your ear against the rising dough and you hear these clicks and bubbles. I really wanted to learn about this extraordinary language. I wanted to befriend these guys. So it all started through language.

When I was growing up we fermented milk and bread, so when I started discovering the bacterial processes behind it I didn’t really have to overcome any distrust. I just remember being delighted at discovering this community of microbes I could make friends with.

I started making kombuchas and vegetable ferments, then explored the rather funky outer edges, like fermented shark in Iceland or kimchi with fish. That really tests the friendship – can I really be friends with somebody, you know, that funky?

MW: In Playing For Time you discuss rootlessness, and the relationship between place, belonging and fermentation. How can remembering the stories behind fermentation reconnect us?

EB: For some years now I’ve been exploring this yoghurt-like Norwegian milk ferment called rømmekolle. In my childhood everybody fermented it – in certain areas people wouldn’t have survived without it.

And the culture that develops between the place where the bacteria come from, and the material you ferment, in this case milk, and the humans that then share the culture, makes you very rooted to a particular place.

We now know from neuroscience research that there’s a huge connection between the bacterial flora in our guts and the way we think… so if everybody in a particular village is eating the same rømmekolle, you’re sharing that microbial community within your bodies; people would somehow be bonded through bacterial flora within a community, and to the place. And this was happening all over the world.

Also, people would closely guard their ferments and bring them wherever they went. A family from Finland emigrating to America, say, would dry their milk cultures on handkerchiefs, put them in their pockets and set off. When they settled, they’d put their handkerchiefs in milk and revive the bacterial culture.

Nowadays, with everyone constantly moving around and not connecting to places, we often feel fragmented. One way of rooting yourself is to befriend the local bacteria by growing vegetables and connecting with the soil. Ferment those vegetables and you’ll definitely communicate with the microorganisms in that particular place!

And the further you go into it the more you get excited about the taste, texture, colour – all the aesthetic elements of food and place. It’s a very rooting experience, as well as an antidote to industrialised food with its processed salts, fats and sugars: you start reconnecting and engaging with your food, the seasons – and time.

Fermentation has its own world and time-frame, and it can really help move you out of the hyped-up, driven pace of the modern world. You don’t even have to think about it. The relationship with the microbes just has that effect on you.

When people say they don’t have time for sourdough bread-making, I tell them it’s about working with time, replacing one way of thinking about time with another.

I see three elements to fermentation – time, conditions and ingredients – and the balance between those three. A vegetable ferment going for six months can be super-strong, a six-day one will be very mild. Time sits in the taste. It’s implied and embodied in the ferment and your experience of it.

Like growing vegetables, where you can’t rush your carrots, you can’t work against the fermentation process, you have to work with it. You heighten your awareness of what’s happening and your relationship with time changes. It roots you in the fabric of life.

MW: How can we learn from microorganisms?

EB: Bacteria communicate with each other with an incredible alertness, and they’re like magicians of adaptation. The hundreds of thousands of members in a culture communicate through this language called quorum sensing. And if something’s not working they’ll suddenly take a different course.

At an earlier time on the planet, bacteria eliminated all their food resources. They had to invent a way of processing the sun and transforming it into a new life substance through photosynthesis. I feel we can learn a lot from them, because we’re very set in our ways. It takes humans a long time to change.

MW: Right now we seem to need more time to get back on track with the planet, but don’t seem to have that much time. Can humans both bring time into the way we go about things and change swiftly enough? Also, so many of our collective stories seem outdated and resistant to change. Does fermentation have a story to counterbalance that?

EB: Well, we’re generally so removed from natural processes and going so fast, it seems almost impossible to slow down to a pace where we can have a natural relationship with time.

But I think through a close relationship to bacteria and to our earth, without us thinking that we have to change, it will happen naturally, through gentle action and collective absorption. If you create those relationships.

I’m fascinated by the sharing aspect of fermentation, when people give cultures to each other – especially through milk ferments and sourdough. There’s the sharing of the physical substance with the bacteria, which keeps it going, along with the sharing of cherished knowledge.

With that goes the sharing of stories, which accumulate within the bacterial cultures as people form their own relationship to them.

Somebody gives you some, and it already has a story; it enriches your life, and another layer of story is added to it. These stories create a different bond between people, the bacteria, and the Earth itself.

Fermentation is a beautiful way of transforming the way we live and communicate with each other. It’s an incredible thing that happens when your kefir is thriving, producing more and more grains, and you’re thriving from it, and so you go and meet your neighbor and tell them about kefir. Or like me you incorporate it into art events and share it publicly with people.

My favorite Christmas card this year was from a lady who came to an event I held in England in 2012. I gave her some of an old Romanian yoghurt culture that had travelled to a little Jewish café in New York. She’s been cultivating it ever since, and there it was in the photo, sitting amongst her Christmas decorations!

MW: What kind of art do you do with fermentation?

EB: A recent exhibition I gave in Bodø in Norway was with rømmekolle. It had disappeared, but I managed to find some eventually and I’m cultivating and sharing it now in all my events. I gathered archive photographs of people’s relationship to their milk animals.

Milk can have a bad reputation nowadays, but many people have traditionally had a close relationship not only with their cows, but also reindeer, buffalo, goats and sheep. The modern milk industry is another chapter entirely.

Image above: A photo of the historic social culture of consuming rømmekolle. From original article.

The rømmekolle culture was very sociable. On Sundays people would share a huge pot up in the mountains dressed in their finery. I interviewed old people about their relationship to this ferment for a radio program and video. So I’m bringing rømmekolle into the public sphere through these stories.

This exhibition included a bucket of worms with scrap food and a video camera and microphone attached. You could hear the worms talking – they have an amazing language, and when they’re happy they talk a lot. So I’m sharing the wonderful world of fermentation in a bucket, in the production of earth through worms.

I often do talks about bacterial connections, starting with when the Earth was formed, and about bacterial language – these always include some physical fermentation of milk or vegetables. I’ve also held a festival of different bread traditions. It takes different forms.

MW: It’s a lot about what’s worth keeping, isn’t it, particularly now when so many things are disappearing? A kind of cultural preservation.

EB: When you pay attention to these bacterial processes, you see we have to get to the roots in order to go forward. It’s like etymology. Often a word will go astray and start taking on a totally different meaning. But once you start looking at the roots of the word you realise there’s something fundamental in here that’s been lost. The bacterial world teaches me a lot about the way forward, because it has so much to do with the essence of life. So that’s the preservation part for me, more to do with not losing contact with the processes of life than preservation.

People often go ‘Eeeugh!’ when they see a bucket of compost, or smell one of my stronger ferments. Many people live in a very clean bubble where life processes can’t come in. I think it’s really important to stick our fingers in the earth, and for our kids to as well.

I bought a piss bucket recently and shocked my family: ‘You’re not going to make us piss in that are you?’ they cried. ‘Well, yeah,’ I said, ‘because piss is an amazing fertiliser, and nowadays we just think it’s something horrible and smelly. But it’s a life-giving property, right here in our system, and we just waste it.’ I want to bring back into the life-cycle all those vital things we just keep getting rid of.

I like this idea of the uncivilised. Many young people who come to my events are fed up with modern lifestyles. They’re get really excited about hands-on life processes like fermenting. When I get overwhelmed by the horrors of our fragmented world, I remember so many people have a real need for uncivilising, for seeing a different way. Things have been sterile for too long – we need to get grimy again.

MW: What about the future? Given our bodies are host to so many microbes, might we be our own microbial revolutions?

EB: Well, the current misuse of Earth and its resources is leading us to disaster. But many small groups of people are experimenting in living and doing things differently. They don’t believe in the predominant systems and want to uncivilise themselves. So from that disaster a lot of social fermentation is happening, bubbling in the corners, creating another type of atmosphere, temperature and timeframe for other things to blossom and thrive.

And I think learning about fermentation and bacterial communication, and exploring the way bacteria have adapted and survived, is a huge beginning.

The word culture comes from the Latin cultivare: to prepare the ground for something to grow. The word is used for everything now, including TV shows. But its original meaning implies a sense of mutual nurturing: we prepare the ground and the ground gives to us. And of course bacteria is alive, and makes up the earth, and us.

Image above: Squash and Red Cabbage kimchis in jars. From original article.
A Red Cabbage Kimchi ‘Slaw’ 

INGREDIENTS (Organic, local and home-grown vegetables if available) 
1 small red cabbage or ½ large one
1 large carrot
Japanese or daikon radish (mooli), equivalent size to carrot (optional)
Handful chives or small bunch spring onions
½ cup sea salt (not table salt)
5 cups filtered water (ratio = 1 part salt to 10 parts water) 
1 small or ½ large pear, peeled, seeded, chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled,  roughly chopped
1 thumb ginger, peeled, cut into small chunks
1 or 2 fresh red chillies, deseeded if too hot
1 tablespoon raw organic cane sugar OR 1 tablespoon RAW honey
½ – 1 small cup stock: liquid from 5-6 shitake mushrooms soaked in warm water plus 1 level teaspoon kelp powder (optional)
1 dessert spoon Korean red pepper flakes/chilli flakes OR level teaspoon smoked paprika powder

Note: for some ferments I omit the red pepper/chilli flakes/paprika, and use one or two homegrown ‘Ring of Fire’ chillies in the sauce This gives just the right heat, definitely hot without going into overburn! 

Chop/shred red cabbage. Remove hard center and keep intact for use as plug in the jar.

Place shredded cabbage in a bowl with water and sea salt. Stir and put plate on top of the bowl so all cabbage is submerged. Weight plate down with something heavy. Soak for 2 hours (at least), stirring and turning the cabbage thoroughly a few times.

Meanwhile soak five or six shitake mushrooms in warm water for 20 minutes.

Julienne carrot and daikon/mooli. (I often soak the carrots with the cabbage in the salt water.)

Rinse cabbage a few times and let drain in a colander.

In a liquidiser/food processor place pear, roughly chopped garlic, sugar/raw honey, chives/onion, ginger and mushroom and kelp stock (without the mushrooms). Blend to smooth sauce.

Place prepared vegetables in a bowl, pour the sauce on top and add red pepper flakes/smoked paprika. Gently and thoroughly mix in all the ingredients.

Place ‘kimchi slaw’ in a clean jar (mason jars are great) and push down firmly. Fold a few outer leaves of the cabbage and cover the slaw. At this point you can put the cabbage heart on top to hold the vegetables down further. The vegetables should be submerged under the liquid. Close the jar, or cover with a cloth.

IMPORTANT: Keep in a cool visible place. If you’ve put the top on, you must burp the jar frequently to prevent it exploding — seriously! You can start to eat this delicious ‘slaw’ after three days. Mine rarely last longer than a week before they are eaten up!
Images: Eva giving a workshop on the art and culture of viili, Finish live yoghurt, at Halikonlahti Green Arts in Salo, Finland  (photo: Tuula Nikulainen); pumpkins, kefir and kombucha in Eva’s kitchen (photo: Eva Bakkeslett); sharing rømmekolle in the snow, northern Norway, 1940s (archive photograph); fermenting pumpkin and red cabbage kimchi (photo: Mark Watson); Mark shaking it up at a raw food demo, Bungay Suffolk (photo: Josiah Meldrum)

Eva Bakkeslett is an artist, filmmaker, curator and cultural activist exploring the potential for social change through gut feelings and gentle actions. She creates spaces and participatory experiences that challenge our thinking and unravels new narratives that connect us to the earth as a living organism. Eva lives in North Norway and shows, lectures and performs her work worldwide. evabakkeslett.com
Mark Watson connects people, plants and places through walks, talks, teas, meads.

and other ferments. He has led medicine plant walks at Dark Mountain gatherings, and demonstrated how to make mead in five minutes at the launch of
Dark Mountain: Issue 8. As well as proofreading and downshifting, he is also part of the Dark Mountain production team and writes an occasional blog, Mark in Flowers. 

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Nutrition  (continuing)
Ea O Ka Aina: Advantages of decay in food system 2/23/17
Ea O Ka Aina: Jalapeño, Cilantro, Carrot Kraut 7/10/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Making sauerkraut at home 2/18/14
Ea O Ka Aina: "Sauerkimchi" Recip 3/14/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Fermaculture! 4/29/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Right Livlihood 10/19/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Fermenting Sauerkraut 6/23/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Green Papaya Sauerkraut 10/14/09


Another Year of Magical Thinking

SUBHEAD: If you think Honolulu is expensive, imagine the cost of a bag Doritos in Tesla's Mars colony.

By James Kunstler on 12 February 2018 for Kunstler.com -

Image above: A photoshopped image by Elon Musk's Tesla Corporation advertizing it's automobile and promoting its rocket division. Total self-promotional ego trip. From (http://metro.co.uk/2018/02/12/secret-payload-hidden-rocket-launched-tesla-space-7306830/).

A peculiar feature of the human condition is that a society in distress will call forth intellectual witch-doctors to put on a colorful show that distracts the supposedly thinking class from the insoluble quandaries that portend serious trouble ahead.

This feature is on display these days in the person of freelance space pioneer Elon Musk. He intends to establish a human colony on Mars of one million people by 2040.

Musk, who is also developer of the Tesla line of electric cars and businesses that make solar-electric gear and batteries, has tested a series of space vehicles, most recently last week’s celebrated launch of his Falcon Heavy Rocket, said to be the most powerful in the world.

It is just the precursor of the soon-to-come colossus Musk calls the BFR (“Big Fucking Rocket”) that will convey as many as 200 people at a time to their new home on the Red Planet.

NPR reporter Ari Shapiro was rhapsodizing about this “Space-X” project last week on the airwaves, lending it the media stamp-of-approval.

And since NPR is a major news source for the US thinking class especially, you can be sure this meme of colonizing Mars is now embedded in the brains of the Pareto distribution (“the law of the vital few”) who affect to be thought leaders in this land.

There’s an old gag about the space race of yore that goes something like this (trigger warning to the ethnically hyper-sensitive):
The UN convenes a General Assembly session on space travel. The ambassadors of various nations are asked to talk about their space projects. The Russians and the Americans tick off their prior accomplishments and announce plans to explore the planets. Finally, the ambassador from Poland takes his turn at the rostrum. “We intend to land a man on the sun,” he declares. There is a great hubbub in the assembly, cries of “say, what…?” and “wait a minute now….”

The Secretary-General turns to the Polish ambassador and says, “Your scientists must be out of their minds. It’s six thousand degrees up there! How can you possibly land a spacecraft on it?” A hush falls over the assembly. The Polish ambassador looks completely relaxed and serene. “We are going to do it at night!” he announces triumphantly.
NPR’s Shapiro interviewed blogger Tim Urban of the Wait But Why blog for the segment on Musk’s space program. Here’s a sample of their conversation:
URBAN: If humanity is, you know, like a precious photo album you’ve got, the Earth is like a hard drive you have it on. And any sane person would obviously back it up to a second hard drive. That’s kind of the idea here – is all of our eggs are currently on one planet. And if we can build a self-sustaining civilization on Mars, it’s much harder for humanity to go extinct.
SHAPIRO: And a million people is about how many people he thinks it would take for a population to be self-sustaining.
URBAN: Right, self-sustaining meaning if something catastrophic happened on Earth during some world war or something that has to do with, you know, a really bad-case scenario with climate change, maybe some – I don’t know – the species went extinct on Earth but ships stopped coming with supplies and anything else, a million people is enough that Mars’ population would be fine.
Not to put too fine a point on it, I never heard so much fucking nonsense in my life. There’s absolutely nothing that might make Mars a “sustainable” habitat for human beings, or probably any other form of Earthly life. The journey alone would destroy human bodies.

If you think that living in Honolulu is expensive, with most daily needs of the population shipped or flown in, imagine what it would be like sending a cargo of provisions (Doritos? Pepperoni sticks? Mountain Dew? Fabreeze?) to a million “consumers” up on Mars. Or do you suppose the colonists will “print” their food, water, and other necessities?

Elon Musk’s ventures have reportedly vacuumed in around $5 billion in federal subsidies. Mr. Musk is doing a fine job of keeping his benefactors entertained. Americans are still avid for adventures in space, where just about every other movie takes place.

I suppose it’s because they take us away from the awful conundrums of making a go of it here on Earth, a planet that humans were exquisitely evolved for (or designed for, if you will), and which we are in the process of rendering uninhabitable for ourselves and lots of other creatures.

This is our home. Can we talk about the necessary adjustments and arrangements we have to make in order to continue the human project here? Just based on our performance on this blue planet, we are not qualified to infect other parts of the solar system.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Tesla and the Laws of Physics 11/26/17
Ea O Ka Aina: Tesla's test in Puerto Rica 10/29/17
Ea O Ka Aina: Electric cars don't reduce CO2 8/19/17
Ea O Ka Aina: Kauai and Tesla are newlyweds 8/11/17
Ea O Ka Aina: KIUC aims at 100% renewables 6/11/17
Ea O Ka Aina: Musktopia here we come! 4/3/17
Ea O Ka Aina: Solar power one island at a time 11/24/16
Ea O Ka Aina: KIUC on PV - Tesla on PowerWall 5/1/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Annals of pure bullshit - Coco Palms 6/22/14 
Ea O Ka Aina: Coco Palms Travesty 8/10/13   
Ea O Ka Aina: HEI afraid of Solar Power 10/12/12
Island Breath: Annals of False Advertizing - Kauai Lagoons 3/18/08

How much energy do we need?

SUBHEAD: A reduction of 75% in energy use could stay within the carrying capacity of the planet.

By Kris De Decker on 8 January 2018 in Low Tech Magazine -

Image above: John Marshall is 50 years old and live on the beach in San Jose, California. He was once a cell phone engineer. From original article.

Because energy fuels both human development and environmental damage, policies that encourage energy demand reduction can run counter to policies for alleviating poverty, and the other way around. Achieving both objectives can only happen if energy use is spread more equally across societies.

However, while it’s widely acknowledged that part of the global population is living in ‘energy poverty’, there’s little attention given to the opposite condition, namely ‘energy excess’ or ‘energy decadence’. Researchers have calculated minimum levels of energy use needed to live a decent life, but what about maximum levels?

 Energy Use Per Capita

Humanity needs to reduce its energy use radically if we are to avoid dangerous climate change, the exhaustion of non-renewable resources, and the destruction of the natural environment upon which our survival depends. [1]

Targets for reductions in carbon emissions and energy use are usually framed in terms of national and international percentage reductions, but the energy use per head of the human population varies enormously between and within countries, no matter how it is calculated. [2]

If we divide total primary energy use per country by population, we see that the average North American uses more than twice the energy of the average European (6,881 kgoe versus 3,207 kgoe, meaning kilograms of oil equivalent).

Within Europe, the average Norwegian (5,818 kgoe) uses almost three times more energy than the average Greek (2,182 kgoe).

The latter uses three to five times more energy than the average Angolan (545 kgoe), Cambodian (417 kgoe) or Nicaraguan (609 kgoe), who uses two to three times the energy of the average Bangladeshi (222 kgoe). [3]
These figures include not only the energy used directly in households, but also energy used in transportation, manufacturing, power production and other sectors. Such a calculation makes more sense than looking at household energy consumption alone, because people consume much more energy outside their homes, for example through the products that they buy. [4]

Average energy use per capita 2014 LTM
Image above: Chart of per capita energy consumption in the equivalent of kilograms of oil. For North America the average consumption per person is over 2,000 gallons of petroleum oil. From original article.

Such a 'production-based' calculation is not perfect, because countries with high energy use per capita often import a lot of manufactured goods from countries with lower energy use per capita. The energy used in the production of these goods is attributed to the exporting countries – meaning that the energy use per capita in the most ‘developed’ countries is an underestimation.

Finding out about the distribution of energy use within countries requires data with higher spatial resolution. For example, an analysis of variations in household energy consumption (electricity + gas) and energy use in private transportation in the UK shows that the average energy use per capita can differ fivefold depending on the area. [2]

Taking into account both differences between and within countries, as well as the outsourcing of manufacturing (a ‘consumption-based’ calculation), the highest energy users worldwide can contribute 1,000 times as much carbon emissions as the lowest energy users. [5]

Inequality not only concerns the quantity of energy, but also its quality. People in industrialized countries have access to a reliable, clean and (seemingly) endless supply of electricity and gas.

On the other hand, two in every five people worldwide (3 billion people) rely on wood, charcoal or animal waste to cook their food, and 1.5 billion of them don’t have electric lighting. [6]

These fuels cause indoor air pollution, and can be time- and labour-intensive to obtain. If modern fuels are available in these countries, they’re often expensive and/or less reliable.

Beyond Energy Poverty: Energy Decadence

It’s now widely acknowledged that these 3 billion people in the developing world are living in ‘energy poverty’. [7][8]

In 2011, the United Nations and the World Bank launched the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) initiative, which aims to “ensure universal access to modern energy services” by 2030. Energy poverty has also gained attention in developed countries, where it is mainly focused on inadequate space heating.

A 2015 study found that up to 54 million Europeans are not able to adequately heat their homes in winter. [9]

The European Commission launched the Energy Poverty Observatory in 2017, which will conduct research and provide guidelines to national governments for setting up measures to address fuel poverty. [8]

Bringing the rest of the world up to the living standards and energy use of rich countries is not compatible with the environmental problems we face.

However, while it’s recognized that part of the global population is using not enough energy, there is not the same discussion of people who are using too much energy. [2] [10] [11]

Nevertheless, solving the tension between demand reduction and energy poverty can only happen if those who use ‘too much’ reduce their energy use. Bringing the rest of the world up to the living standards and energy use of rich countries – the implicit aim of ‘human development’ – would solve the problem of inequality, but it’s not compatible with the environmental problems we face.

Image above: Most families living in rural off-grid areas of Africa use dim kerosene lamps to light their homes at night. Even a modest solar PV panel can provide enough light for socialization and doing school homework. From original article.

Based on the figures given above, if every human on Earth would use as much energy as the average Western European or North American, total world energy use and carbon emissions would be at least two to four times higher than they are today. This is an underestimation, because to achieve the same living standards developing countries first need to build an infrastructure – roads, electricity grids, et cetera – to make this possible, which also requires a lot of energy. [12]

Consequently, whilst much work has been done around fuel poverty, there is a parallel debate to be had about ‘energy decadence’ or ‘energy excess’. [2]

The quest for ‘energy sufficiency’ – a level of energy use that is both fair and sustainable – should involve not only ‘floors’ (enough for a necessary purpose) but also ‘ceilings’ (too much for safety and welfare, in the short or long term). [13]

Otherwise, we would be mortgaging the health of future generations to realize development gains in the present. [14]

Calculating Energy Floors and Ceilings

How do we define energy decadence? How much is ‘too much’ energy use? To a large extent, we can build upon decades of research into energy poverty, which has measured the components of a minimum acceptable standard of living. [14]

For example, the Millenium Project of the UN Development Program establishes a minimum level of 500 kgoe per person per year – an amount of energy that is almost four times below the world average. [15]

Some researchers have addressed energy decadence in a similar way, calculating a maximum acceptable standard of living. For example, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology proposed the 2,000 watt society, which implies a worldwide energy use per capita of per 1,500 kgoe per year, while the Global Commons Institute’s Contraction and Convergence proposal limits energy use to 1,255 kgoe per person per year. [10][13][16]

These levels of energy use per capita correspond to a reduction of 20-35% below the world average today.

Because energy poverty research only investigates ‘floors’ and not ‘ceilings’ of energy use, minimum energy levels are calculated from the bottom-up. Researchers investigate how much energy is required to live a decent life, based on a set of goods and services that are considered essential.

On the other hand, maximum energy levels – above which energy use is considered to be excessive and unsustainable – are calculated from the top down. Researchers determine a ‘safe’ level of global energy use based on some indicator of the carrying capacity of the planet – such as a level of carbon emissions that is thought to keep global warming within certain limits – and divide it by the world population.

Between the upper boundary set by the carrying capacity of the planet, and a lower boundary set by decent levels of wellbeing for all lies a band of sustainable energy use, situated somewhere between energy poverty and energy decadence. [14]

These boundaries not only imply that the rich lower their energy use, but also that the poor don’t increase their energy use too much. However, there is no guarantee that the maximum levels are in fact higher than the minimum levels.

Between the upper boundary set by the carrying capacity of the planet, and a lower boundary set by decent levels of wellbeing for all lies a band of sustainable energy use.

When a minimum level of energy use is calculated from the bottom-up, it remains to be seen if this level can be maintained without destroying the environment. On the other hand, if a maximum level of energy use per capita is calculated from the top down, it remains to be seen if this ‘safe’ level of energy use is sufficient to live a decent life. If the ‘floor’ is higher than the ‘ceiling’, the conclusion would be that sustainable wellbeing for all is simply impossible.

To make matters worse, defining minimum and maximum levels is fraught with difficulty. On the one hand, when calculating from the top down, there’s no agreement about the carrying capacity of the planet, whether it concerns a safe concentration of carbon in the atmosphere, the remaining fossil fuel reserves, the measurements of ecological damage, or the impact of renewable energy, advances in energy efficiency, and population growth.

On the other hand, for those taking a bottom-up approach, defining what constitutes a ‘decent’ life is just as debatable.

Needs and Wants

The minimum and maximum levels of energy use mentioned above are meant to be universal: every world citizen is entitled to the same amount of energy. However, although distributing energy use equally across the global population may sound fair, in fact the opposite is true.

The amount of energy that people ‘need’ is not only up to them. It also depends on the climate (people living in cold climates will require more energy for heating than those living in warm climates), the culture (the use of air conditioning in the US versus the siesta in Southern Europe), and the infrastructure (cities that lack public transport and cycling facilities force people into cars).

Differences in energy efficiency can also have a significant impact on the “need” for energy. For example, a traditional three-stone cooking fire is less energy efficient than a modern gas cooking stove, meaning that the use of the latter requires less energy to cook a similar meal.

It’s not only the appliances that determine how much energy is needed, but also the infrastructure: if electricity production and transmission have relatively poor efficiency, people need more primary energy, even if they use the same amount of electricity at home.

Image above: It does not take a great deal of money or technical skill to transform the most isolated places with independent of grid electricity. From original article.

To account for all these differences, most researchers approach the diagnosis of energy poverty by focusing on ‘energy services’, not on a particular level of energy use. [17]

People do not demand energy or fuel perse – what they need are the services that energy provides.

For example, when it comes to lighting, people do not need a particular amount of energy but an adequate level of light depending on what they are doing.

An example of this service-based approach is NGO Practical Action’s Total Energy Access (TEA) indicator, which was launched in 2010. [17][18]

The TEA measures households in developing countries against prescribed minimum services standards for lighting, cooking and water heating, space heating, space and food cooling, and information and communication services.

For example, the minimum level for lighting in households is 300 lumens, and Practical Action provides similar standards for other energy services, not only in households but also in work environments and community buildings.

Needs are universal, objective, non-substitutable, cross-generational, and satiable. Wants are subjective, evolving over time, individual, substitutable and insatiable.

Some energy poverty indicators go one step further still. They don’t specify energy services, but basic human needs or capabilities (depending on the theory). In these modes, basic needs or capabilities are considered to be universal, but the means to achieve them are considered geographically and culturally specific. [10] [17]

The focus of these needs-based indicators is on measuring the conditions of human well-being, rather than on specifying the requirements for achieving these outcomes. [19]

 Examples of human basic needs are clean water and nutrition, shelter, thermal comfort, a non-threatening environment, significant relationships, education and healthcare.

Basic needs are considered to be universal, objective, non-substitutable (for example, insufficient food intake cannot be solved by increasing dwelling space, or the other way around), cross-generational (the basic needs of future generations of humans will be the same as those of present generations), and satiable (the contribution of water, calories, or dwelling space to basic needs can be satiated).

This means that thresholds can be conceived where serious harm is avoided. ‘Needs’ can be distinguished from ‘wants’, which are subjective, evolving over time, individual, substitutable and insatiable.

Focusing on basic needs in this way makes it possible to distinguish between ‘necessities’ and ‘luxuries’, and to argue that human needs, present and future, trump present and future ‘wants’. [14][17]

Change over Time: Increasing Dependency on Energy

Focusing on energy services or basic needs can help to specify maximum levels of energy use. Instead of defining minimum energy service levels (such as 300 lumens of light per household), we could define maximum energy services levels (say 2,000 lumens of light per household).

These energy service levels could then be combined to calculate maximum energy use levels per capita or household. However, these would be valid only in specific geographical and cultural contexts, such as countries, cities, or neighborhoods – and not universally applicable. Likewise, we could define basic needs and then calculate the energy that is required to meet them in a specific context.

However, the focus on energy services or basic needs also reveals a fundamental problem. If the goods and services necessary for a decent life free from poverty are seen not as universally applicable, but as relative to the prevailing standards and customs of a particular society, it becomes clear that such standards evolve over time as technology and customary ways of life change. [11]

Change over time, especially since the twentieth century, reveals an escalation in conventions and standards that result in increasing energy consumption. The ‘need satisfiers’ have become more and more energy-intensive, which has made meeting basic needs as problematic as fulfilling ‘wants’.

Energy poverty research in industrial countries shows that the minimum energy level required to meet basic needs is constantly on the rise. [11][20][21]

What is sufficient today is not necessarily sufficient tomorrow. For example, several consumer goods which did not exist in the 1980s, such as mobile phones, personal computers, and internet access, were seen as absolute necessities by 40-41% of the UK public in 2012. [20]
These days in the industrial world, even the energy poor are living above the carrying capacity of the planet.
Other technologies that are now considered to be minimal requirements have gone through a similar evolution. For example, central heating and daily hot showers are only a few decades old, but these technologies are now considered to be an essential need by a majority of people in industrialised countries. [22]

In fact, these days in the industrial world, even the energy poor are living above the carrying capacity of the planet.

For example, if the entire UK population were to live according to the minimum energy budget that has been determined in workshops with members of the public, then (consumption-based) emissions per capita would only decrease from 11.8 to 7.3 tonnes per person, while the UN Development Program’s target to limit the increase in average world temperature is less than two tonnes of carbon per person per year. [14]

In short, the ‘floor’ is three times higher than the ‘ceiling’.

Challenging Needs and Wants

“By equating what is ‘required’ with what is ‘normal’”, write UK energy poverty researchers, “we actively support escalating expectations of need, which runs counter to objectives like those of reducing energy demand… To achieve demand reduction entails challenging embedded norms rather than following them.” [11]

In other words, we can only solve energy poverty and energy decadence if we manage to decouple human need satisfaction from energy intensive ‘need satisfiers’. [21]

One way to do that is by increasing energy efficiency.

In a 1985 paper called Basic needs and much more with one kilowatt per capita, researchers argue that the amount of energy needed to avoid energy poverty will decline thanks to continuing improvements in energy efficiency – from 750 kgoe per capita per year in 1985 to only 570 kgoe in 2030. [23]

In reality, this is not what is happening, because efficiency gains are continually matched by more energy-intensive ways of life. However, if this trend could be halted or even reversed, advances in energy efficiency would allow us to live increasingly low energy lives.

For example, to produce the 300 lumens that Practical Action considers the minimum level for lighting, a LED-light requires six times less electricity than an incandescent light bulb.

More importantly, basic needs can be met with different means, and the relative necessity of some energy services could and should be questioned. This approach can be labeled ‘sufficiency’.

Energy services could be reduced (smaller TVs or lighter and slower cars, or less TV watching and car driving) or replaced by less energy-intensive ones (using a bicycle instead of a car, buying more fresh instead of frozen food, playing boardgames instead of watching television).

Substitution can also involve community services. In principle, public service delivery could bring economies of scale and thus reduce the energy involved in providing many household services: public transport, public bathing houses, community kitchens, laundrettes, libraries, internet cafés, public telephone boxes, and home delivery services are just some examples. [24] [25]
Combining sufficiency with efficiency measures, German researchers calculated that the typical electricity use of a two-person household could be lowered by 75%, without reverting to drastic lifestyle changes such as washing clothes by hand or generating power with excercise machines. [25]

Although this only concerns a part of total energy demand, reducing electricity use in the household also leads to reductions in energy use for manufacturing and transportation.

If we assume that similar reductions are possible in other domains, then the German households considered here could do with roughly 800 kgoe per capita per year, four times below the average energy use per head in Europe.

This suggests that a modern life is compatible with much lower energy demand, at least when we assume that a reduction of 75% in energy use would be enough to stay within the carrying capacity of the planet.

This article was originally written for The DEMAND Centre.


[1] Encouraging renewable energy sources alone cannot reduce carbon emissions, for two reasons. First, energy demand rises faster than the share of renewable energy, meaning that solar and wind power plants are not replacing fossil fuels, but accommodating part of a growing demand for energy. Secondly, renewable energy systems are highly dependent on fossil fuels for their manufacture, especially when we count on an infrastructure that aims to match supply to demand at all times. Energy efficiency is not getting us anywhere either, because advances in more efficient technology often result in new or more energy-intensive products and services, and because energy efficiency makes unsustainable practices non-negotiable.

[2] Chatterton, Tim, et al. "Energy justice? A spatial analysis of variations in household direct energy consumption in the UK." eceee, 2015. http://eprints.uwe.ac.uk/28337/1/Chatterton%20Barnes%20Yeboah%20Anable%202015%20Energy%20Justice%20-%20ECEEE%20Conference%20Paper.pdf

[3] Energy use (kilogram of oil equivalent per capita), 1960-2014. World Bank. http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/EG.USE.PCAP.KG.OE?locations=BD-GR-NL&year_low_desc=true

[4] Consumption of energy, Eurostat, 2017. http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Consumption_of_energy

[5] Piketty, Thomas. "Carbon and inequality: from Kyoto to Paris." Trends in the Global Inequality of Carbon Emissions (1998-2013) and Prospects for An Equitable Adaptation Fund. Paris: Paris School of Economics (2015). http://www.ledevoir.com/documents/pdf/chancelpiketty2015.pdf

[6] Poor people’s energy outlook 2010, Practical Action. https://policy.practicalaction.org/policy-themes/energy/poor-peoples-energy-outlook/poor-peoples-energy-outlook-2010. For later versions, see: https://policy.practicalaction.org/policy-themes/energy/poor-peoples-energy-outlook.

[7] Sustainable Energy For All, United Nations & World Bank. http://www.se4all.org/

[8] Thomson, Harriet, Stefan Bouzarovski, and Carolyn Snell. "Rethinking the measurement of energy poverty in Europe: A critical analysis of indicators and data." Indoor and Built Environment (2017): 1420326X17699260. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1420326X17699260

[9] Team, Authoring, and Claire Baffert. "Energy poverty and vulnerable consumers in the energy sector across the EU: analysis of policies and measures." Policy 2 (2015). https://ec.europa.eu/energy/en/news/energy-poverty-may-affect-nearly-11-eu-population

[10] Steinberger, Julia K., and J. Timmons Roberts. "From constraint to sufficiency: The decoupling of energy and carbon from human needs, 1975–2005." Ecological Economics 70.2 (2010): 425-433. http://julias.promessage.com/Projects/Articles/EE_SteinbergerRoberts_2010_DecouplingEnergyCarbonHumanNeeds_v2.pdf

[11] Walker, Gordon, Neil Simcock, and Rosie Day. "Necessary energy uses and a minimum standard of living in the United Kingdom: energy justice or escalating expectations?." Energy Research & Social Science 18 (2016): 129-138. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214629616300184

[12] Lamb, William F., and Narasimha D. Rao. "Human development in a climate-constrained world: what the past says about the future." Global Environmental Change 33 (2015): 14-22. http://decentlivingenergy.org/publications/Lamb-Rao-HDinClimConstrainedWorld.pdf

[13] Darby, Sarah. "Enough is as good as a feast–sufficiency as policy." Proceedings, European Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. La Colle sur Loup, 2007. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/8e68/c68ace130104ef6fc0f736339ff34b253509.pdf

[14] Gough, Ian. "Heat, Greed and Human Need." Books (2017). http://www.e-elgar.com/shop/heat-greed-and-human-need

[15] Energy for a sustainable future, Report and Recommendations, The Secretary-General’s Advisory Group on Energy and Climate Change (AGECC), 28 April 2010, New York. http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/pdf/AGECCsummaryreport[1].pdf

[16] Bretschger, Lucas, Roger Ramer, and Florentine Schwark. 2000 Watt Society?." https://www.mtec.ethz.ch/content/dam/ethz/special-interest/mtec/cer-eth/resource-econ-dam/documents/people/lbretschger/Brochure_2kW.pdf

[17] Day, Rosie, Gordon Walker, and Neil Simcock. "Conceptualising energy use and energy poverty using a capabilities framework." Energy Policy 93 (2016): 255-264. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421516301227

[18] Total Energy Access, Practical Action. https://policy.practicalaction.org/policy-themes/energy/total-energy-access

[19] Rao, Narasimha D., and Jihoon Min. "Decent living standards: material prerequisites for human wellbeing." Social Indicators Research (2017): 1-20. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11205-017-1650-0

[20] Mack, Joanna, et al. "Attitudes to necessities in the PSE 2012 survey: are minimum standards becoming less generous?." PSE-UK Working Paper Analysis Series 4 (2013). http://poverty.ac.uk/sites/default/files/attachments/PSE%20wp%20analysis%20No.%204%20-%20Attitudes%20to%20necessities%20in%20the%202012%20survey%20(Mack,%20Lansley,%20Nandy,%20Patazis)%20Oct_2013.pdf

[21] Mattioli, Giulio. "Transport needs in a climate-constrained world. A novel framework to reconcile social and environmental sustainability in transport." Energy Research & Social Science 18 (2016): 118-128. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214629616300536

[22] Hand, Martin, Elizabeth Shove, and Dale Southerton. "Explaining showering: A discussion of the material, conventional, and temporal dimensions of practice." Sociological Research Online 10.2 (2005). http://www.socresonline.org.uk/10/2/hand.html

[23] Goldemberg, Jose, et al. "Basic needs and much more with one kilowatt per capita." Ambio (1985): 190-200. https://www.jstor.org/stable/4313148?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

 [24] Thomas, Stefan, et al. Energy sufficiency policy: an evolution of energy efficiency policy or radically new approaches?. Wuppertal Institut für Klima, Umwelt, Energie, 2015. https://epub.wupperinst.org/frontdoor/deliver/index/docId/5922/file/5922_Thomas.pdf

[25] Brischke, Lars-Arvid, et al. Energy sufficiency in private households enabled by adequate appliances. Wuppertal Institut für Klima, Umwelt, Energie, 2015. https://epub.wupperinst.org/frontdoor/deliver/index/docId/5932/file/5932_Brischke.pdf