Climate Change

The Trump Effect: is Climate Change Denialism on the Rise?

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Published on Cassandra's Legacy on December 10, 2016

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The results of a search for "climate hoax" on Google Trends 

Google Trends shows a remarkable spike in the interest for the coupled terms "climate" and "hoax". Does that mean that people are becoming more skeptical about climate science? Or simply more interested in the subject? On this point, Google Trends tells us that there has been no special change in the level of interest in the general subjects of climate change and global warming. The interest is specific in the coupling of "climate" and "hoax." And, if we couple the terms "climate", "hoax" and "Trump" we see that there is a clear correlation.
 

So, it seems clear that the rise of Donald Trump has emboldened science deniers, who are more active than before. Qualitatively, it is a trend noted also by "DeSmog" and others. That doesn't necessarily mean a change in the distribution of the opinions on the danger of climate change, still deadlocked in what I termed "trench warfare in the climate wars". Instead, The election of Donald Trump may lead to an even sharper polarization of the US public opinion on climate. Most likely, the virtual trench warfare will continue for quite a while, and we can only hope that it won't become real warfare.

 

Italian Earthquakes & Silly Climate Comments

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Published on Cassandra's Legacy on August 26, 2016

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The earthquake in Italy and the silliest comment ever received about climate change

 

 

It is hard to take precaution against events that are difficult or impossible to predict. That holds for all kinds of "systemic shocks" which include earthquakes, economic crises, climate-related events, and more. 
 

Italy may be an especially vulnerable place for earthquakes. It is a country located in a highly seismic zone where a large number of  buildings have been erected just by piling up bricks, without worrying too much about safety. The results can be seen in the earthquake of a few days ago and in several other earthquakes of the past decades. (see the image above, source). But, if Italy is a bad place in terms of precautions against seismic events, it is normal that everywhere large earthquakes strike, the damage is enormous. Even Japan, although a country that places a lot of attention on earthquake safety, was badly hit by the 2011 tsunami and by the 1995 earthquake near Kobe.

The discussion about the recent earthquake in Italy raised up some comments on my Italian blog, one of which I found especially silly. Summarizing it, it said, "If earthquakes cannot be predicted, how can you pretend to predict climate change? We should just wait and see."

I think that the logic of this comment needs to be deconstructed; at least it is further evidence that human beings are not rational creatures. But it also raises an interesting point about the predictability of climate change. Much of the debate on climate turns around the often raised objection against the need of doing something that says, "if you can't predict exactly what's going to happen, then we should just sit and watch". Obviously, nobody would even dream to raise such an objection against reinforcing buildings against earthquakes, although in practice the idea is often resisted. Nor, anyone would maintain that you shouldn't wear seat belts in your car because you can't predict exactly when an accident will occur.

So, why is the debate on climate change so special? In one sense, it is the sheer vastness of the problem. While you can always think that the next earthquake will strike somewhere else, there is no escape from climate change: it affects the whole planet and that surely makes people tend to react by disregarding even the most elementary rules of logic. In another sense, it I think that the problem is in the very concept of "predictions". Geologists know a lot about earthquakes. but they have wisely abstained from trying to make predictions about them. Climatologists, instead, have made a big effort to develop predictive tools and they keep publishing diagrams telling us what temperatures we should expect for 2050 or 2100. That has led to a heated debate about the validity of the models which, as all models, can only be approximated (the map is not the territory).

Don't make me say that there is anything wrong in climate models. They are sophisticated, physics-based tools, perfectly valid within the assumptions that they make. There is, however, a problem. Climate change and seismic phenomena are, at the most basic level, very similar in the sense that they are both about the accumulation of energy in a reservoir. Geological faults cause the accumulation of elastic energy in the crust. Greenhouse gases cause the accumulation of thermal energy in the atmosphere and in the oceans.

Now, it is known that the release of elastic energy in the crust is not a linear phenomenon that generates sudden and catastrophic events. How about the release of thermal energy in the atmosphere/hydrosphere system? Mostly, we tend to think that it is a linear phenomenon: higher concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere cause rising temperatures and, indirectly, rising sea levels. But, unfortunately, that's not the whole story and it cannot be.

Complex systems tend to react to forcings in strongly non-linear ways, something that I termed the "Seneca Effect". And the rising temperatures may create plenty of sudden catastrophes when linked with the other elements of the ecosphere and also of the human econosphere. Just think of the effect of a sudden increase in the sea levels on the world's economy, largely based on marine transportation. And think about the effects on agriculture: much of the recent turmoil in North Africa and the Middle East may be seen as a non-linear reaction to rising temperatures and droughts.

But the most worrisome sudden transition related to greenhouse warming is known as the "runaway greenhouse" or the "Venus catastrophe;" the planetary equivalent of a major earthquake; something like what happened to the city of Amatrice, in Italy, completely razed down a few days ago. Of course, we may say that such a transition is "sudden" only in terms of a different time scale in comparison to earthquakes, but it may still be rapid enough to cause gigantic damage. We don't know for sure if such a catastrophe can occur on the Earth but, according to some recent studies, it seems to be possible. And make no mistake: a runaway greenhouse effect is not just a hotter earth, it involves the extinction of the biosphere.

In the end, the main problem of this whole story is that we don't know how to convince people about the risks related to non-linear phenomena, earthquakes, climate change and the like. Should we emphasize the risk? That has the unwanted effect that people tend to run away plugging their ears and singing "la-la-la." Or should we sweeten the pill and tell them that there is nothing to be really worried about; just a few minor adjustments and everything will be fine. That has the effect that nobody is doing anything, surely not enough. Will we ever find the right strategy?

 

 

 

The Luxury Cruise to the End of the World

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Published on The Daily Impact on August 24, 2016

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crystal serenity

 

 

This is how you watch the end of the world — aboard the Crystal Serenity, marinating in luxury.

Sorry, you missed it. But if you had known about it — I don’t know why you didn’t get the memo — and if you had $120,000 lying around ($22,000 for steerage) you could have joined 1,000-plus passengers served by 700 crew on the first luxury cruise from Seward, Alaska to New York City via the Northwest Passage through the Arctic Ocean. Once solid ice, the Northwest Passage became navigable in theory in 2007 because of climate change.

According to the brochure, the good ship Crystal Serenity is “an abomination—a massive, diesel-burning, waste-dumping, ice-destroying, golf-ball-smacking middle finger to what remains of the planet, courtesy of precisely 1,089 of its richest and most destructive inhabitants. And it’s all made possible by runaway climate change, the existential global crisis that these same people and their ilk have disproportionately helped to create.”

 

Oh, wait, I’m sorry, that’s not the brochure, that’s a report on the cruise from Slate.com written by Will Oremus. Damn, I wish I had said that.

What the brochure says is that this is “the ultimate expedition for the true explorer.” And that is certainly the case. Not many Arctic expeditions of the past have been conducted by people sleeping in luxurious suites, with access to “a spa, a fitness center, a hair salon, multiple swimming pools, six restaurants, a movie theater, a casino, a driving range” and a selection of “luxury shops”.  Only a “true explorer” would endure such limited access to gyms, restaurants and luxury shops in order to participate in an “historic voyage, one that marks the opening of one of Earth’s last frontiers.”

That these true explorers are intrepid is self-evident. Because there is, you know, a teensy bit of ice left in the Arctic Ocean, some of it in the form of bergs. They were required to take out a $50,000 emergency-evacuation insurance policy in order to board their expeditionary vessel. The policy has a one-year money-back guarantee. If rescuers don’t get to the ship within one year, your heirs don’t have to pay.

And if that were not enough of a reminder of the danger they are in, they cannot ignore the fact that they are being escorted by an icebreaker. It took “three years of planning and preparation,” gushed Business Times about this major advance in global gluttony, “to avoid any mishaps, including a repeat of the Titanic.” Yeah. That’s a quote.  

Yes, if only you hadn’t missed it, you too could have helped open this last frontier by being among the first few thousand people to defecate in some of the last pristine water on the planet. You could have taken a comfortable helicopter tour to watch the last polar bear drown. Or set a personal best by watching Batman v Superman north of the Arctic Circle.

“Not everyone is hailing the high profile voyage,”  marvels Business Times. It’s not like Crystal Cruises is insensitive to the environment: they have assured everyone that they will not dump their sewage within 12 miles of land. (They were one of four cruise lines that drew special criticism in a 2014 Friends of Earth study that estimated that cruise ships dump a billion gallons of sewage into the world’s oceans every year.)

Still, the tree-huggers are not satisfied. There’s just something about the thought of this 820-foot long, 13-deck high monstrosity ploughing through Arctic waters belching diesel exhaust and gushing sewage for the entertainment of some rich dilettantes that bothers them.

Go figure.

Who will speak for the voiceless?

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Published on Rivera Sun on July 30, 2016The Rim Fire in California’s Sierra Nevada burned over a quarter million acres in 2013. Seemed amazing then, now it’s just another day in the woods (and on the tundra). (US Forest Service photo)The Rim Fire in California’s Sierra Nevada burned over a quarter million acres in 2013. Seemed amazing then, now it’s just another day in the woods (and on the tundra). (US Forest Service photo)

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Tune in to the Collapse Cafe tomorrow Sunday August 14th @ 4PM EDT for an interview with Rivera Sun

The forest sways in ripples of green. Wind sends the dappled sunlight sparkling through the branches. These are the things we forget in the heat of the political season. There are few politicians who will speak on behalf of all people . . . and even fewer who will speak for the beings that comprise the other 99 percent of the planet and are essential for human existence.

Sitting in the forests of rural Maine last week, I stared for hours at the swaying walls of green. Having lived too long in dry places, in landscapes of dust and drought, on concrete and asphalt flatlands, in the stench of exhaust, I had nearly forgotten the beauty of a forest deep in the verdant sigh of summer. As I sit here in a tucked-away section of woods between small farms and fishing coves, the forests return to prominence in my thoughts, replenishing . . . yet troubling.

More than half of the population of the United States has become urbanized. We live under the canopy of skyscrapers. Asphalt is the new green. Climate change is measured by increased air conditioning bills. For many citizens and public officials, nature is an abstract idea hanging like a wall calendar in our minds.

Even among the rural populace, many live in mono-cropped landscapes amidst thousands of acres of genetically modified soy and corn. How many rural voters believe the misinformation on screens rather than their eyes and lifetimes of experiences? Climate denialism still spouts from the mouths of many. The disconnection is severe and dangerous.

For most Americans, the holocaust of mass species extinction has already occurred within their neighborhood. Within our human-dominated landscapes, most of the native and wild species have long since been crowded out. The death of our fellow species is abstract because they died to our “world” decades ago. Why would an inner-city child mourn the death of a butterfly she’s never seen? Who in the suburbs realizes how sterile and deathly still their yards have already become?

How many more election cycles do we get?

The answer is not many. In November, millions of Americans will go to the polls, line up on concrete, wait in office buildings, and then tap screens of choices for political candidates. They will vote for the lesser evil, to make America great again, to put a woman in the White House, or in vain hopes of ousting corporatocracy, oligarchy, or big government out of power. They will vote on slogans, circuses, email scandals and celebrity hat tricks. They will vote on what the pundits tell them.

And all the while, the clock is ticking. Another day passes. The sun is touching the tips of the green trees across the meadow. The planet is heating. Where I live, the mountains are burning. The twisted pines of the desert forests are yellowing with disease and bug infestations. The rivers are shrinking. We normalize these things, attuning to the increasing heat levels, compensating for the lack of rain and humidity by drawing up more water from underground aquifers. A few years ago, a catastrophic forest fire nearly burned Los Alamos National Laboratory – and tons of radioactive waste and stored plutonium – into ash. That record-breaking fire was turned aside just miles from Los Alamos. It raged so hotly that the earth literally melted. Sections of the burn area still look like black moonscapes, even years later.

Who mourns these forests? Who remembers them? Who invokes these swaying giants of trees as they ride the subway? Who consults these leafy communities of being as they make public policies that affect our world? We have largely forgotten these things and our responsibility to them. Humans gather in windowless rooms illuminated by burning kilowatts of fossil fuels or deadly nuclear fission, amplifying a few voices to crowds of other human beings, declaring why this candidate or that should become the next president.

Outside, the trees outnumber humans. Voiceless, unable to travel to conventions or vote, without any hope of political representation, the forests, the Earth, and our fragile, interdependent existence have been left out of democracy. The forests transform the exhaust of our words, breath, cars, and factories into the oxygen we require for existence. And yet, who speaks for them from the podium? Who honors the gift of life the forests bring? Who acknowledges the heavy burden of responsibility we are faced with now?

I am sitting in Maine, in the forest, remembering the things that we seem to have forgotten as we traverse concrete and drought-cracked landscapes, dusty and grimy. My breath is slow and saddened as I watch the tidal sway of the trees rippling in the wind. The sun sets over the branches, shadows lengthen. No easy answers come. Election Day draws closer.

_____________

ARivera New Hatuthor/Activist Rivera Sun, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is the author of The Dandelion Insurrection, Billionaire Buddha and Steam Drills, Treadmills, and Shooting Stars, the cohost of Love (and Revolution) Radio, and the cofounder of the Love-In-Action Network. She is a trainer and social media coordinator for Campaign Nonviolence and Pace e Bene. Sun attended the James Lawson Institute on Strategic Nonviolent Resistance in 2014 and her essays on social justice movements appear in Truthout and Popular Resistance. www.riverasun.com

 

Hot Rockin’

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Published on Peak Surfer on August 7, 2016

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"All that is necessary to open up unlimited resources of power throughout the world is to find some economic and speedy way of sinking deep shafts." — Nikola Tesla, Our Future Motive Power, 1931
 

 

 

Like many in the Peak Everything/Age of Limits psychographic, we find ourselves rolling our eyes whenever we hear techno-utopians describing AI implants, self-driving Teslas and longevity DNA-splices. We know all too well that each Google search uses enough energy to boil a cup of water, and that the average cellphone adds one ton of carbon to the atmosphere each year – roughly 3 jet passenger trips back and forth between New York and Cancun.

The insularity of Silicon Valley leads to confirmation bias, to the point where someone like Kevin Kelly, in a recent Long Now talk, can describe the diversification of Artificial Smartness as "alien intelligences" without grasping that we have, right now living amongst us, vastly diverse typologies of intelligence in the biological world, but that our overconsuming, polluting technosphere is killing them off in the Sixth Mass Extinction before we even grok their quantum entanglement.

In Kelly's view we will soon be tapping into artificial, alien intellect like we do electricity or wifi. We will become cyber-centaurs — co-dependent humans and AIs. All of us will need to perpetually upgrade just to stay in the game. And power-up too.

Groan. The digital divide on steroids.

We've opined in many posts here that we thought a rubber-road interface would soon be upon this kind of techonarcissism. Limits will be in the driver's seat again. But oddly enough, it might not be the energy shortfall that pitches all that Teslarati into the ditch.

There is no shortage of energy and there never has been.

Take it back an Ice Age or two. So we discovered fire. Get over it! Being stupid apes, we have become completely obsessed with fire. So now we are burning down the house.

All around us there are much more abundant forms of energy than fire. Consider the gravitational pull of the moon that raises oceans. Consider the spin of the Earth, or the latent heat within its slowly cooling core. Who needs dilithium crystals? We travel through space aboard a dynamo.
 

Nicola Tesla

In the eight years since the post below was originally published in the summer of 2008, it has received a grand total of 68 page views, many of which were doubtless our own. Not wanting to see such gems disappear into the akashic records without at least a few more reads, we're republishing in this summer re-run series.

Bear in mind that Nicola Tesla was a steampunk. In Iceland we can see steam and hydrogen being generated by geothermal heat, but the Teslovian technology being applied — pumped water and steam — is inefficient and self-defeating. It sets up a depletion curve — years to decades — because it cools the magma. Apply today's dielectric alloys instead of steam and you can imagine live current from the temperature differential without cooling the Earth below. But have a look.

Hot Rockin'

Drill, Drill, Drill say the Republicans
Drill, Drill, Drill say the Democrats
Drill, Drill, Drill says McCain
Drill, Drill, Drill says Obama
It polls well.
And, meanwhile, the climate just goes to Hell.

It is interesting to see the major oil companies take on a really tough challenge, like drilling deep continental or deep ocean sites. In order to drill the Bakken formation, where gigatons of carbon deposits are entombed beneath the wheat fields of North Dakota, Montana, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, they are going to have to go very deep, into very hard and hot rock.

Even tougher challenges await Chevron's mega-well, Jack 2 in the Gulf of Mexico, or Petrobras' Saudi-scale Tupi or Carioca fields in the equatorial Atlantic off Brazil. Individual wells in those fields are expected to run $180 million to $200 million each, assuming Big Oil can even solve the impressive technical issues.

Engineers are estimating three decades will be needed to develop alloys for drills and pipes that can withstand the heat 2 to 6 miles down, with 18,000 pounds per square inch of pressure, and temperatures above 500° Fahrenheit (260°C).

Two years ago, Exxon Mobil and Chevron saw diamond-crusted drill bits disintegrate and steel pipes crumple when they attempted to tap deep deposits in the outer continental shelf. Anadarko Petroleum is successfully extracting natural gas under a mere 8,960 feet of water in the Gulf of Mexico, where pressure measures 3,069 pounds per square inch, but it costs a lot to keep replacing imploded joints and ruptured seals.

Pumping oil from the Brazilian fields, parts of which are 32,000 feet (10,000 m) below the surface, will require drilling more than three times the depth of the Anadarko wells and almost twice the world’s deepest Gulf wells, in the Tahiti lease, which cost Chevron $4.7 billion to produce.

But here is the irony. At those depths, the heat is a constant. In energy output worldwide, it measures in the exoWatt range. It could power everything. And you don’t have to sail halfway across the Gulf of Mexico, down into the South Atlantic, or up to the North Pole to find it. Wherever you are on Earth, it is right below you.

We’ve known about this energy source, deep geothermal, for centuries, and we have known how to go about harnessing it, big time, for decades. In 1932, Nicola Tesla wrote in The New York Times, “It is noteworthy that …  in 1852 Lord Kelvin called attention to natural heat as a source of power available to Man. But, contrary to his habit of going to the bottom of every subject of his investigations, he contented himself with the mere suggestion.”

Tesla went on, “The arrangement of one of the great terrestrial-heat power plants of the future (illustration). Water is circulated to the bottom of the shaft, returning as steam to drive the turbine, and then returned to liquid form in the condenser, in an unending cycle…. The internal heat of the earth is great and practically inexhaustible….”

Karl Grossman produced a piece on it for WVVH-TV in Long Island. You can see that on YouTube. An MIT study in 2007 estimated you could produce 100 GWe (the equivalent of 1000 coal plants) for less than the cost of a single coal plant.

So why can’t we see the forest for the trees?

Hot Brain, Cool Brain

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Published on Peak Surfer on June 12, 2016

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  Lion and wolf cubs, when they learn to stalk prey, learn fairly quickly that they must delay the urge for immediate gratification if they are to be successful. They have to cultivate patience.

 

 
Babies who are taken to their mother's breast whenever they cry do not learn this as early. Those allowed milk only after they stop crying, and maybe even then not right away, learn patience.
 
Last month Walter Mischel gave a Long Now talk that eventually found its way to our earbuds as we bicycled through Amish country in Southern Tennessee.
 
It is wheat harvest time here and Amish men are out scything the sheaves, tying bundles, and forming them into shocks to field dry in the sun. When the wheat has cured, the shocks will be collected by horse wagon and carried back to the barn for threshing. The Amish abide in the Long Now.
 

Walter Mischel’s psychology experiment at Stanford in the 1960s took students from the Bing Nursery School, put them in a room one-by-one, gave them a choice of a cookie, mint, pretzel, or marshmallow and the following deal: they could eat the treat right away, or wait 15 minutes until the experimenter returned. If they waited, they would get an extra treat. 

Michel and his team then went behind the one-way glass and filmed for 15 minutes.

Footage of these experiments, which were conducted over several years, is poignant, as the kids struggle to delay gratification for just a little bit longer. Some cover their eyes with their hands or turn around so that they can’t see the tray. Others start kicking the desk, or tug on their pigtails, or stroke the marshmallow as if it were a tiny stuffed animal. One child, a boy with neatly parted hair, looks carefully around the room to make sure that nobody can see him. Then he picks up an Oreo, delicately twists it apart, and licks off the white cream filling before returning the cookie to the tray, a satisfied look on his face.
— Jonah Lehrer, The New Yorker 


The genius of the experiment was not in discovering what percentage of children delayed gratification and how that might correlate to sex, age, race, ethnicity or income, but in following the children with a longitudinal study for the rest of their lives.

 

As they matured and became adults, the kids who had shown the ability to wait got better grades, were healthier, enjoyed greater professional success, and proved better at staying in relationships—even decades after they took the test. They were, in short, better at life.
— Drake Bennett, Bloomburg 

 

Mischel showed that a child’s ability to delay eating the first treat predicted higher SAT scores (by 210 points) and a lower body mass index (BMI). They got paid more, lived longer, and had fewer divorces. 

 

 
In 2012, researchers at the University of Rochester added more nuance to the original work.  In "Rational snacking: Young children’s decision-making on the marshmallow task is moderated by beliefs about environmental reliability," Celeste Kidd, Holly Palmeri and Richard N. Aslin tested children who had little reason to trust that the scientists would return in 15 minutes versus a control group of children who were more likely to have trust. Children raised in homeless shelters or alleys, for instance, have much less faith in the reliability of their environments, or adult authorities, than children who are raised in stable family settings surrounded by environmental constancy.
 
What do children plucked from bus station bathrooms do when told that if they delay gratification they will get a bigger reward? They eat the treat right away. While the study is too recent to track those kids for a lifetime, the long term effects of mistrustful childhood do not require a leap of imagination.
 
Kidd et al report:
The results of our study indicate that young children’s performance on sustained delay-of-gratification tasks can be strongly influenced by rational decision-making processes. If self-control capacity differences were the primary causal mechanism implicated in children’s wait-times, then information about the reliability of the environment should not have affected them. If deficiencies in self-control caused children to eat treats early, then one would expect such deficiencies to be present in the reliable condition as well as in the unreliable condition. The effect we observed is consistent with converging evidence that young children are sensitive to uncertainty about future rewards.
***
To be clear, our data do not demonstrate that self-control is irrelevant in explaining the variance in children’s wait-times on the original marshmallow task studies. They do, however, strongly indicate that it is premature to conclude that most of the observed variance—and the longitudinal correlation between wait-times and later life outcomes—is due to differences in individuals’ self-control capacities. Rather, an unreliable worldview, in addition to self-control, may be causally related to later life outcomes, as already suggested by an existing body of evidence.
 
There is also an existing body of evidence that tells us that humans are predisposed to disbelieve scientific facts, or even their own experiences, if they conflict with strongly held beliefs. This is likely the phenomenon most responsible for our failure not merely to make the cultural changes required of us to avert climate Armageddon and Near Term Human Extinction – even simple lifestyle changes like eating lower on the food chain, cutting discretionary travel, living in a smaller house and having no more than one child – but our failure to even acknowledge, as individuals or collectively, that we have a problem. We have chosen instead, to use the words of Dr. Kidd, an unreliable worldview.
 
As John Michael Greer says, human beings are like yeast. They respond to increased access to food and energy with increased reproduction. In other words, marshmallows make us horny.
 
Our cockeyed worldview has a concatenation of causes. We are products of the religious views of our parents. We inhabit a globalized culture that infantilizes us while it trains us to become dedicated followers of fashion.  We like hearing the sound of our "own" voice in our heads. Add all that up and it amounts to simmering distrust. We are not at all prepared to delay gratification. The average child in Kidd's study waited only 6 minutes.
 
In his Long Now talk and in his book, The Marshmallow Test,  Walter Mischel spoke of our internal dialog in terms of a conflict between the "hot brain" that wants to operate on impulse and take what is right in front of it, and "cool brain," that is willing to wait, willing to trust, and then to reap the greater rewards.
 
Those who find themselves more often on the winning side – whether in athletics, business, politics or relationships – are those who have cool brains. They play the long game.
 
All too often they use the inabilities of opponents to see that long game to pad their advantage. That is how they get ahead.
 
Climate change and the existential threat it holds cannot even be perceived without a long view. It needs a cool brain, not a hot one. But there is a self-reinforcing feedback being played out here that does not work in favor of our species. Climate change weirds the normal course of things. It makes the environment for everyone unreliable. It seeds distrust. It makes brains hot.
 
The question then becomes, how can we develop cool brains? Mischel suggests several techniques of ideation that can help build self-control. What is clear, however, is that the best self-control starts early in life and is built upon a foundation of trust. The environment a child experiences will affect how much trust they can invest in adults, their culture — its rules and social responsibilities — and their future. Take away stability and trust from children and the effects of that loss ripple out to very large consequences for everyone.
 
"By changing cognitive skills and motivation, we can use the cool system to regulate the hot system," Mischel says. "Is it all pre-wired? My answer is an emphatic no."
Attention control strategies and cognitive transformations/reappraisals can 'cool' the immediate temptations and 'heat' the delayed consequences is what's important.
***
The point I am trying to make is that if we are going to talk seriously about taking long term consequences like climate change into account, we've got to make the consequences hot. We have to really make them hot. And that's not easy to do.
 
One of the reasons that it is not easy to do is because that limbic system, that hot system that activates automatically when you have high stress, is there for good reason.
 
We have often wondered whether continuing to write scary tomes about our future is an effective strategy. Mischel says it is and we need more of it. But we also need to cool our brains once they have grasped hot consequences.
 
His advice is to narrow the economic class divide, teach self-control in schools, assume everyone is capable of improving their skills, and stop creating new victims of biological and social biographies.
Mischel’s main worry is that, even if his lesson plan proves to be effective, it might still be overwhelmed by variables the scientists can’t control, such as the home environment. He knows that it’s not enough just to teach kids mental tricks—the real challenge is turning those tricks into habits, and that requires years of diligent practice. “This is where your parents are important,” Mischel says. “Have they established rituals that force you to delay on a daily basis? Do they encourage you to wait? And do they make waiting worthwhile?” According to Mischel, even the most mundane routines of childhood—such as not snacking before dinner, or saving up your allowance, or holding out until Christmas morning—are really sly exercises in cognitive training: we’re teaching ourselves how to think so that we can outsmart our desires. But Mischel isn’t satisfied with such an informal approach. “We should give marshmallows to every kindergartner,” he says. “We should say, ‘You see this marshmallow? You don’t have to eat it. You can wait. Here’s how.’ “
— Jonah Lehrer
 
From the presidential campaign now playing out in the United States and similar dramas in Brazil, Philippines and elsewhere, we can surmise that a cool brain standard is not in the immediate offing. It is easy to see the distinctions between the many hot brain / instant gratification candidates and constituencies, whose policies would widen the class divide, rekindle the Cold War and heat the planet, and the rare cool brain / calm and steadfast candidates and constituencies, who want to end divisive rhetoric, level the playing field, and pursue a path to real progress in peace, justice and transformative change.
 
Voting these days is like choosing between the hot faucet and the cold faucet, but only the hot faucet works.
 
Watching the Amish gather in the sheaves we see a culture that invests in trust. Children grow up relying on adults to be steadfast, seasons to come and go, and the good earth to provide. They learn self-denial and delayed gratification early. It becomes a joyful practice because it underpins a greater love of community, and the return of community love for each member.
 
Humans are capable of these things. We are capable of designing entire societies that function this way. Whether we choose to act rationally, with self-control, and not on impulse, is simply a matter of choice.

Let Nature be Nature

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Published on Peak Surfer on May 29, 2016

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"Can the extravagance of growth fanatics continue? Clearly not. Will President @realdonaldtrump keep the lemmings racing towards the cliff? Definitely so."

 

 

!Kung peoples managed their energy well – C.A.S. Hall

  After posting a pretty dour outlook last week we were amazed to watch it attract more page views more quickly than any of our previous 22 posts this year. No accounting for taste, we suppose.

At the risk of alienating our new audience right off the bat, we are posting something more upbeat this week.

We had two scientific papers shoved under our door, and both of are serious sources of hope for a world undergoing climate shock. They represent the two sides of the solution ledger, adaptation and mitigation.

The first is an open research white paper, The Sower’s Way: Quantifying the Narrowing Net-Energy Pathways to a Global Energy Transition, by Sgouris Sgouridis and Denes Csala of the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, United Arab Emirates, and Ugo Bardi from the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Florence, Italy.

 

 

 

Hubbard Linearization – Courtesy C.A.S. Hall

The second is a journal article, published under a creative commons license in Science Advances 2016, entitled Carbon sequestration potential of second-growth forest regeneration in the Latin American tropics by 60 co-authors at 45 institutions in almost as many countries. The lead author is Robin L. Chazdon, a professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Connecticut and a visiting professor at the International Institute for Sustainability in Rio de Janeiro.

In The Sower’s Way, Sqouridis’ group looks at the INDPs (national pledges) submitted at the Paris climate conference in December, sees that they are clearly inadequate to arrest runaway climate chaos and near term human extinction (NTHE)) and asks the pregnant question, suppose they weren’t?

Suppose the overarching goal set in Paris — to phase out fossil energy by 2050 or sooner — were actually committed to by all those who exchanged pens at the signing of the legally binding treaty last month at One UN Plaza?

 

 

 

The Energy Cliff – Courtesy C.A. Hall

“Is it possible to satisfy the dual constraint of reducing emissions fast enough while achieving the desired energy availability?” the authors ask.

 

 

 

“… [I]mplicit in the COP21 agreement is that these reductions should be obtained while offering sufficient available energy for humankind, especially for developing countries that are ascending the energy availability ladder.”

After completing the study, one of the authors, Ugo Bardi, conducted a poll on the Doomstead Diner   of how realistic most doomers thought the renewables revolution to be.

 

 

What is the possibility of a society not too different from ours (but 100% based on renewable energy sources, and on the possibility of obtaining it before it is too late to avoid the climate disaster. This said, what statement best describes your position?

  1. Courtesy C.A.S. Hall

    It is impossible for technical reasons. (Renewables have too low EROEIs, need too large amounts of natural resources, we'll run out of fossil fuels first, climate change will destroy us first, etc.)

  2. It is technically possible but so expensive to be unthinkable. 
  3. It is technically possible and not so expensive to be beyond our means. However, it is still expensive enough that most likely people will not want to pay the costs of the transition before it will be too late to achieve it, unless we move to a global emergency status.
  4. It is technically possible and inexpensive enough that it can be done smoothly, by means of targeted government intervention, such as a carbon tax.
  5. It is technically possible and technological progress will soon make it so inexpensive that normal market mechanisms will bring us there nearly effortlessly.

Our own response, after returning from Paris, was: "option 6 – it will be faster than anyone expects.” Our reasoning was that once the curves cross  — and solar is cheaper than oil — there will be a mad rush to dump oil stocks and buy solar, without any consideration of net energy. Simian neurobiology will then be buckled into the driver’s seat, chasing lost investments with fresh money until every last shekel is exhausted. In the end, there will be a lot of solar, wind, geothermal, and tidal energy to show for the effort but just not anything resembling the consumerist civilization most people now take for granted.

There will not be Space Cadet academies on Mars.

The Sqouridis paper concludes that “renewable energy installation rates should accelerate and increase at least by a factor of 50 and perhaps more than 90 over current” in order to meet the UN sustainable development goals. They conclude that growth rate is entirely possible and may already be in process. The key, they say, is “the sower's strategy”:

 

“… the long-established farming practice to save a fraction of the current year's harvest as seeds for the next. Fossil fuels produce no “seed” of their own but we can “sow” what these fuels provide: energy and minerals to create the capital needed for the transition. Yet, withdrawing the “seed” energy reduces net available energy for society. The challenge therefore is to balance energy availability and emissions in order to complete a renewable transition before fossil fuel depletion makes it impossible without inflicting crippling damages on the climate.”

 

Courtesy J.G. Lambert

Moreover, to be rated a success, the solar power transition has to meet three criteria:

 

  1. The impacts from energy use during the transition should not exceed the long-run ecosystem carrying and assimilation capacity;
  2. Per capita net available energy should remain above a level that satisfies societal needs at any point during transition and without disruptive discontinuities in its rate of change; and
  3. The rate of investment in building renewable energy harvesting and utilization capital stock should be sufficient to create a sustainable energy supply basis without exhausting the non-renewable safely recoverable resources.


The group concluded:

 

 

In every case, a successful SET (sustainable energy transition) consists of a sustained acceleration in the rate of investment in renewable energy of more than one order of magnitude within the next three decades following a trajectory dictated by the chosen fossil-fuel phase-out. A peak in installation rates, but not cumulative capacity, forms at the point where the rate of energy demand growth starts to slow down.

In other words, the group concluded that Option 6 was the most likely: it will be faster than anyone expects. At least 50 times faster than it is right now.

 

 

 

Courtesy C.A.S. Hall

Meanwhile the seminal bioeconomist Charles A. Hall reminded us:

 

 

 

There are three good studies — Mohr et al.'s 2012 (Ward, J., S.H. Mohr, B. Meyers and W. Nel. 2012. High estimates of supply constrained emissions scenarios for long-term climate risk assessment. Energy Policy 51: 598-604); Maggio and Cacciola (Maggio, G., and G. Cacciola. 2012 "When will oil, natural gas, and coal peak?" Fuel 98: 111-123); Laherrere's ASPO-France web page —  that agree that there is likely to be a peak in ALL fossil fuels in +/- 2025 and then a sharp decline. It seems extremely unlikely that renewables will fill that gap. On the other hand the near cessation of economic growth in OECD countries and the slowdown for China might smooth out and slow down our approach to the peak. 

 

 

Murphy and Hall, 2011

With that opening salvo, we can see Hall’s studies and raise a few more:

Leggetta, L.M.W. and D.A. Ball. 2012. The implication for climate change and peak fossil fuel of the continuation of the current trend in wind and solar energy production, Energy Policy 41: 610-617. doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2011.11.022:

 

 

Courtesy J.G. Lambert

Climate change, and more recently, the risk of fossil fuel production being unable to keep pace with demand (peak fossil fuel) are both considered as risks to civilisation, or global risks. In an initial empirical analysis, this paper attempts to answer the following questions, which have often been posed but have not, to our knowledge, been answered empirically at global level. At which date, if unaddressed, will the risks become critical? Given that the substitution of fossil fuels by wind and solar energy is often proposed as a solution to these problems, what is its current aggregate growth rate and is there a plausible future growth rate which would substitute it for fossil fuels before the risks become critical? The study finds that the peak fossil fuel risk will start to be critical by 2020. If however the future growth rate of wind and solar energy production follows that already achieved for the world mobile phone system or the Chinese National Expressway Network the peak fossil fuel risk can be prevented completely. For global warming, the same growth rate provides significant mitigation by reducing carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels to zero by the early 2030s.

Mohr, S.H., J. Wang, G. Ellem, J. Ward, and D. Giurco. 2015. Projection of world fossil fuels by country. Fuel 141: 120-135. doi:10.1016/j.fuel.2014.10.030:

 

 

 

We model world fossil fuel production by country including unconventional sources. The Low and Best Guess (BG) scenarios suggest that world fossil fuel production may peak before 2025 and decline rapidly thereafter. The High scenario indicates that fossil fuels may have a strong growth till 2025 followed by a plateau lasting approximately 50 years before declining. All three scenarios suggest that world coal production may peak before 2025 due to peaking Chinese production.

 

 

Courtesy C.A.S. Hall

Thus, whether lured by the carrot of a sun-powered future or frightened by the sound of the dip stick scraping the bottom of the oil pan, a Great Change is coming. But what is the shape of the curve? In comments to our last week’s post, reader Don Stewart wrote:

Harquebus, as quoted [on Ugo Bardi’s blog]:

 

 

“Whenever somebody with a decent grasp of maths and physics looks into the idea of a fully renewables-powered civilised future for the human race with a reasonably open mind, they normally come to the conclusion that it simply isn’t feasible.”

Stewart continues:

 

 

 

Courtesy C.A.S. Hall

We are completely convinced that the above statement is true, but that does not mean that renewables cannot be of significant use to modern society. It is not that they can replace fossil fuels, but they could considerably extend their useful life span. That could be as much as a century. At the world’s present consumption rate the oil age will be ending in 13 years, and society will have to pay a very high price to get it there. We are now witnessing the bankruptcy of the Petro-States,  and much of the Western world’s petroleum industry. Over the next five years it will become very apparent as to what is happening. Geothermal, wind, tidal power, small hydroelectric, and in some cases solar can replace much of the electricity production of the world — electricity that is now being supplied from our rapidly depleting fossil fuels.

 

 

Courtesy C.A.S. Hall

Of course clean electricity is not a substitute for fossil energy; nor are biofuels; nor are both in combination. Professor Hall recommends Alice Freidemann's new book When Trucks Stop Running for a fuller discussion of that issue. Friedemann blurbs:

 

 

Our era of abundance, and the freight transport system in particular, is predicated on the affordability and high energy density of a single fuel, oil. This book explores alternatives to this finite resource including other liquid fuels, truck and locomotive batteries and utility-scale energy storage technology, and various forms of renewable electricity to support electrified transport. Transportation also must adapt to other challenges: Threats from climate change, financial busts, supply-chain failure, and transportation infrastructure decay.

Hall, Friedemann and Stewart all raise a common point: assuming renewable energy was rolled out with adequate speed and with all the boost the last hours of ancient sunlight and fossil energy era technology can supply, is it enough? The answer to that question lies in our civic willingness to face limits, both to the size of the human population and to how much it consumes. Can the extravagance of growth fanatics continue? Clearly not. Will President @realdonaldtrump keep the lemmings racing towards the cliff? Definitely so.

Chazon’s 60 scientists looked at something entirely different. They asked the question, what if we let nature be nature? Would she recover? Would she do so in time? The answer, which is really quite shocking given what we presented here last week, is yes. We have only to step aside.

Chazon, et al, noticed that although deforestation in the world’s tropical regions, owing to expansion of cattle farming, urban sprawl and fire, continues to reduce overall forest cover, second-growth forests (SFs) are expanding in many deforested areas of Latin America. SFs emerge spontaneously in post-cultivation fallows, on abandoned farms and pastures, in the understory of ecological restoration plantings, and following assisted natural regeneration on private or communal lands. Given that there has been good satellite telemetry for more than 4 decades, Chazon’s group asked,

 

 

 

“What is the total predicted carbon storage potential of naturally regenerating forests over four decades across biomes and countries?”

The answer was “a lot.”

Only about 28% of the millions of hectares studied was second growth forest, but looking carefully at that part, the researchers concluded that if second-growth forests were permitted to recover, unaided by tree planting or other interventions, 8.48 gigaton of carbon would be net sequestered over 40 years just in the aboveground biomass. Calculating below ground carbon they say would add another 25% (although we think that is too low). Their number corresponds to a total sequestration of 31.09 Gt CO2, equivalent to emissions from fossil fuel use and industrial processes in all of Latin America and the Caribbean from 1993 to 2014.

Just imagine what could be achieved with the addition of step-harvesting of forest products and biochar from woody wastes — or if we just left alone the other 90 percent of the planet that would naturally revert to second-growth forest if were allowed to. In either of those scenarios, so much carbon would be sucked out of the atmosphere that Earth’s atmosphere could quickly recover to pre-industrial greenhouse gas levels in a time far short of 40 years.

Suicide is not the only option, as the volunteer on the other end of the hot line will tell you.

There are still choices.

 

You Too Can Have a Bigger Graph

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Published on Peak Surfer on May 22, 2016

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We confess to occasionally indulging in the optimistic whimsy that if we humans would only recover the common sense to let nature be nature, and maybe help her out by planting a few trees, the climate crisis would be over quite quickly. Then in a darker rebound, we despair that indeed we are really a very dumb species and probably will be doing creation a favor by going extinct, and moreover, let’s hope we do it soon enough so that fewer other species will be harmed in the process.

 

 

 

Do we need to be reminded by more Doomer Porn? The greatest impediment to Earth’s ecological recovery is not her ability to heal. Our planet still has that, even at this late date. The greatest impediment is human cultural and cognitive inertia.

In our naivete, we used to think that humans might stand a chance at culture change, but the more we learn about neurobiology, the more it seems we sapiens are locked into a primate brain that is determined to retain more reptilian instincts and reject anything sounding vaguely angelic.

Lately, credible scientific research tells us that a lack of information is not the problem. No amount of public opinion mustering will matter, so trying to educate is a lost cause.
What could change the equation? Don’t really know that yet. We are pinning hopes on raising on permaculture army, but who can say? Hang on for the ride. The best is yet to come.

Here are more than 40 visual images of what is transpiring in the real world, outside our cultural filters. Beyond this point, as Robert Scribbler said, "We're gonna need a bigger graph."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“There is a possibility that this gradual global warming could lead to a relatively abrupt slowing of the ocean’s thermohaline conveyor, which could lead to harsher winter weather conditions, sharply reduced soil moisture, and more intense winds in certain regions that currently provide a significant fraction of the world’s food production. With inadequate preparation, the result could be a significant drop in the human carrying capacity of the Earth’s environment.”

Climate Institute 2003 Report

 

 

 
 
 
 

“Many of the most memorable and devastating storms in eastern North America and western Europe, popularly known as superstorms, have been winter cyclonic storms, though sometimes occurring in late fall or early spring, that generate near-hurricane force winds and often large amounts of snowfall. Continued warming of low latitude oceans in coming decades will provide more water vapor to strengthen such storms. If this tropical warming is combined with a cooler North Atlantic Ocean from AMOC slowdown and an increase in midlatitude eddy energy, we can anticipate more severe baroclinic storms.”

Hansen et al. 2015, Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms: evidence from paleoclimate data, climate modeling, and modern observations that 2C global warming could be dangerous.
 

 

 

 

 

 

“Doubling times of 10, 20 or 40 years yield multi-meter sea level rise in about 50, 100 or 200 years. Recent ice melt doubling times  are  near  the  lower  end  of  the  10–40-year  range,  but the record is too short to confirm the nature of the response.”

Hansen et al. 2015, Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms: evidence from paleoclimate data, climate modeling, and modern observations that 2C global warming could be dangerous.
 

 

 

 

“Many of the most memorable and devastating storms in eastern North America and western Europe, popularly known as superstorms, have been winter cyclonic storms, though sometimes occurring in late fall or early spring, that generate near-hurricane force winds and often large amounts of snowfall. Continued warming of low latitude oceans in coming decades will provide more water vapor to strengthen such storms. If this tropical warming is combined with a cooler North Atlantic Ocean from AMOC slowdown and an increase in midlatitude eddy energy, we can anticipate more severe baroclinic storms.”

Hansen et al. 2015, Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms: evidence from paleoclimate data, climate modeling, and modern observations that 2C global warming could be dangerous.
 

 

 

 

 

We show that long-term fluctuations of war frequency and population changes followed the cycles of temperature change. Further analyses show that cooling impeded agricultural production, which brought about a series of serious social problems, including price inflation, then successively war outbreak, famine, and population decline.

– Zhang, et al, 2007. Global climate change, war, and population decline in recent human history
 

 

 

 

 

Hand in hand with the skimpy ice cover, temperatures across the Arctic have been extraordinarily warm for midwinter. Just before New Year’s, a slug of mild air pushed temperatures above freezing to within 200 miles of the North Pole. That warm pulse quickly dissipated, but it was followed by a series of intense North Atlantic cyclones that sent very mild air poleward, in tandem with a strongly negative Arctic Oscillation during the first three weeks of the month.

– Jeff Masters, Wunderground
 

The normal climate of North America in 2095 under business as usual warming (i.e. no Paris agreement) according to a 2015 NASA study. The darkest areas have soil moisture comparable to the 1930s Dust Bowl:

 

In the 1993 blockbuster movie "Jurassic Park," a sleazy scientist played by Jeff Goldblum quips that "life finds a way." For real biologists, climate change is like a massive, unplanned experiment, one that may be too fast and strange for some species to survive it.

Colorado Bob

 

Solomon et al., 2011. Warming World: Impacts by Degree, based on the National Research Council report, Climate Stabilization Targets: Emissions, Concentrations, and Impacts over Decades to Millennia

 

 

 

 

 

 [I]f indeed Sivaram (Foreign Affairs) and Revkin (The New York Times) are joining all the nations of the world in acknowledging that 1.5°C is the preferred target for humanity, then we are in a “hair on fire” moment.

Joe Romm, Climate Progress
 

 
 
Increased temperatures from global warming are decreasing rain and snowfall and are increasing evaporation in the Colorado River watershed. This is reducing runoff into the reservoirs. The team predicts the water storage in Lakes Mead and Powell has a 50 percent chance of becoming exhausted by 2021 if climate change reduces runoff as predicted and if water consumption continues at current levels. This scenario would have dire consequences for the American Southwest.

American Museum of Natural History Science Updates
 

 

 

 

 

The world is just not prepared to handle large scale abrupt changes, most of us never learned to grow our own foods, we just go to the supermarket and pick whatever we want from the refrigerator. Unless we learn to accelerate our efforts to keep pace with the system change required to stop all the developments, we risk that parts of the world become uninhabitable, and turmoil which could even lead to nuclear war. 

The growth of our civilization reached a threshold, which will test our species capabilities, especially our intelligence in regards to how we manage future states of our environment. We can either try to stay in the realm of ecosystem boundaries (basically as far as possible back to a planet with around 280 ppm CO2 in the atmosphere), or we can keep acting situational and experimenting with the Earth’s climate.

The majority of us is still using the same old technologies, and thinking which caused the climate crisis in the first place.

– Chris Machens, ClimateState, based in Berlin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 comments:

 

 

 

dex3703 said…

As always, thank you for this grim work.

Could you provide a link or reference for the paragraph beginning: Increased temperatures from global warming are decreasing rain and snowfall….

 

 

 

Albert Bates said…

Thanks and apologies for the omission Dex3703. The link is American Museum of Natural History Science Bulletins. It reports on a Scripps Inst. study and provides a video of Lake Mead drying up by 2021.

 

 

 

Doomstead Diner said…

This would be a good time to start dropping acid. 🙂

Take the new Renewable Energy survey!

http://freeonlinesurveys.com/s/Wixv2RMd

RE

US Climate Migrations About to Begin

gc2smOff the keyboard of Thomas Lewis

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Published on The Daily Impact on May 12, 2016

Too close for comfort: rising waters of the Gulf of Mexico are turning the residents of Isle de Jean Charles, LA, into the first U.S. climate refugees. (Photo by Karen Apricot/Flickr) Too close for comfort: rising waters of the Gulf of Mexico are turning the residents of Isle de Jean Charles, LA, into the first U.S. climate refugees. (Photo by Karen Apricot/Flickr)

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Does the Congress know about this? The Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development in January approved grants of about a billion dollars to communities in 13 states to help the deal with climate change — a problem that according to a majority of the leaders of Congress, and a majority of the members of the Senate, does not exist. Among those grants was one for $48 million to help move an entire Louisiana community to higher ground as rising seas obliterate its land. This is a first for America. It is hardly the last.

The community is Isle de Jean Charles in southeast Louisiana, an island community of Native Americans that has lost 90% of its land to the sea already (not only, but increasingly, because of climate change and rising sea levels). There are just 60 people left on the island, whose resettlement will cost taxpayers about $800,000 per person. Wrenching as their experience is bound to be, these folks have a first-class ticket that will not be available when the crowds arrive.

The waves of change are lapping at the feet of Americans all along the East and Gulf Coasts. Just last week, flood waters from one to three feet deep inundated areas (West End, North Wildwood) of Atlantic City, New Jersey. There was no rain, and no storm — just a northeast breeze and a seasonal high tide. The water bubbled up into the city through storm drains that are supposed to carry it the other way. Imagine if you put a storm on top of that.

Even without a major storm, the rate of sea level rise alone may make Atlantic City untenable within 15 years. Will we have $800,000 for each person that needs to relocate then?

Fortunately, the area is represented by the hard driving governor Chris Christie, who given his experience with Superstorm Sandy will no doubt take forceful action…wait, what? [Christie Says Climate Change “Not a Problem.”]

Similar incidents — often referred to as “blue-sky floods” — are occurring with increasing frequency from Boston to Norfolk to South Miami Beach. For a year and more, candidates from Florida, Virginia and New England have been running for President of the World; wouldn’t you think a problem as real and present as this one would have come up? It didn’t.

We will have climate refugees,” said Interior Secretary Sally Jewell ten days ago, but she wasn’t referring to Louisiana or Atlantic City, but to the Arctic. The threat there is not so much from rising seas as warming temperatures, which are melting the sea ice and the permafrost. As the sea ice disappears, the storm waves get bigger and closer to human settlements; as the permafrost melts, the ice highways on which many villages depend for supplies become impassable. Probably the first to go completely under will be Kivalina, Alaska, population 400. President Obama has been there to empathize with the refugees to be; there is no evidence that the Congress believes in Alaska.

Given the tunnel vision and the obtuse denial of American financiers and politicians, the onset of the American Climate Diaspora will not be slow. It will start only when enough tasseled boat shoes are deeply under water, and then it will likely be a stampede.

We are seeing today all of Europe being seriously destabilized by climate refugees out of North Africa and the Middle East. (Yes, climate refugees. Everything that is happening in that beleaguered region has roots in severe, prolonged, famine-inducing drought.) That crisis will no doubt worsen for many years to come, and may well call into question the survival not just of the European Union, but the countries of Europe.

And what will our own, homegrown climate migration call into question? Everything.

Don’t tell Congress, you’ll only upset them.

Is a 100% Renewable Energy World Possible?

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Published on Cassandra's Legacy on May 19, 2016

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A poll among experts…and YOU TOO!

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I am reporting here the results of a small survey that I carried out last week among the members of a discussion forum; mainly experts in renewable energy (*). It was a very informal poll; not meant to have statistical value. But some 70 people responded out of a total of 167 members; so I think these results have a certain value in telling us how the experts feel in this field. And I was surprised by the remarkable optimism that resulted from the poll.

This is what I asked the members of the list

The question is about  the possibility of a society not too different from ours (**) but 100% based on renewable energy sources, and on the possibility of obtaining it before it is too late to avoid the climate disaster. This said, what statement best describes your position?

1.  It is impossible for technical reasons. (Renewables have too low EROEIs, need too large amounts of natural resources, we'll run out of fossil fuels first, climate change will destroy us first, etc.)

2. It is technically possible but so expensive to be unthinkable.

3. It is technically possible and not so expensive to be beyond our means. However, it is still expensive enough that most likely people will not want to pay the costs of the transition before it will be too late to achieve it, unless we move to a global emergency status.

4. It is technically possible and inexpensive enough that it can be done smoothly, by means of targeted government intervention, such as a carbon tax.

5. It is technically possible and technological progress will soon make it so inexpensive that normal market mechanisms will bring us there nearly effortlessly.

As I said, it was a very informal poll and these questions could have been phrased differently, and probably in a better way. And, indeed, many people thought that their position was best described by something intermediate, some saying, for instance, "I am between 4 and 5". Because of this, it was rather difficult to make a precise counting of the results. But the trend was clear anyway.

Out of some 70 answers, the overwhelming majority was for option 4, that is, the transition is not only technologically possible, but within reach at a reasonable cost and fast enough to avoid major damage from climate change. The second best choice was option 3 (the transition is possible but very expensive). Only a few respondents say that the transition is technologically impossible without truly radical changes of society. Some opted for option 5, even suggesting an "option 6", something like "it will be faster than anyone expects".

I must confess that I was a little surprised by this diffuse optimism, being myself set on option 3. In part, it is because I tend to frequent "doomer" groups, but also on the basis of the quantitative calculations that I performed with some colleagues. But I think that these results are indicative of a trend that's developing among energy experts. It is an attitude that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago, but the experts are clearly perceiving the rapid strides forward of renewable technologies and reacting accordingly. They feel that there is a concrete chance to be able to create a cleaner world fast enough to avoid the worst.

I understand that this is the opinion of just a tiny group of experts, I understand that experts may well be wrong, I understand that there exist such things as the "bandwagon effect" and the "confirmation bias." I know all this. Yet, I believe that, in the difficult situation in which we find ourselves, we can't go anywhere if we keep telling people that we are doomed, no matter what we do. What we need in order to keep going and fight the climate crisis is a healthy dose of hope and of optimism. And these results show that there is hope, that there is reason for optimism. Whether the transition will turn out to be very difficult, or not so difficult, it seems to be within reach if we really want it.

(*) Note: the forum mentioned in this post is a private discussion group meant to be a tool for professionals in renewable energy. It is not a place to discuss whether renewable energy is a good thing or not, nor to discuss such thing as the incoming near term extinction of humankind and the like. Rather, the idea of the forum is to discuss how to make the renewable energy transition happen as fast as possible; hopefully fast enough to avoid a climate disaster. If you are interested in joining this forum, please write me privately at ugo.bardi(zingything)unifi.it telling me in a few lines who you are and why you would like to join. It is not necessary that you are a researcher or a professional. People of good will who think they have something to contribute to the discussion are welcome.

(**) The concept of a society "not too different from ours" is left purposefully vague, because it is, obviously subjected to many different interpretations.Personally, I would tend to define it in terms of what such a society would NOT be. A non-exhaustive list could be, in no particular order,
 

  • Not a Mayan style theocracy, complete with human sacrifices
  • Not a military dictatorship, Roman style, complete with a semi-divine imperial ruler
  • Not a proletarian paradise, complete with a secret police sending dissenters to very cold places
  • Not a hunting and gathering society, complete with hunting rituals and initiation rites
  • Not a society where you are hanged upside down if you tell a joke about the dear leader
  • Not a society where, if you can't afford health care, you are left to die in the street
  • Not a society where you are worried every day about whether you and your children will have something to eat
  • Not a society where slavery is legal and the obvious way things ought to be
  • Not a society where women are supposed to be the property of men
  • Not a society where most people spend most of their life tilling the fields
  • Not a society where you are burned at the stake if you belong to a different sect than the dominant one
 
Many other things are, I think, negotiable, such as having vacations in Hawai'i, owning an SUV, watering the lawn in summer, and more.

 

 

 

 

Who are the “We”?

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Published on The Doomstead Diner on May 22, 2016

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Who is RESPONSIBLE for the mess?

responsibilityWhen I cruise through the blogosphere reading of tales of woe in the environment, politics and economics, I often run across the sad conclusion from the authors how "we" failed to change our carbon burning  ways or elect the right leaders or correct the imbalances in our economic system.  The results "we" have reaped are "our" fault collectively.  "We" live in a Democracy right?  "We" could have voted different people into office!  "We" could have held them accountable!  When the financial crisis took off in 2008, "we" could have stopped the bailouts of the TBTF Banks.  "We" could take the power of money creation away from the Federal Reserve and create our own Public Banking system!

So many things we shoulda, coulda, woulda done, if only we weren't so stupid and so weak.  Of course at the same time the same writers will often speak about how INTELLIGENT we are as a species, and how this intelligence should have been used in a vast selection of suggestions on how it would have been better if we just did this or that, or elected this guy instead of that one, etc.

http://www.storebrandsdecisions.com/upload/new_images_june2010/walmart/Walmart-low-prices-back_web.jpg The thing about dumping the blame on "us" is that once everyone is responsible, then nobody is responsible.  You can't blame our political leaders for fucking up, because we elected them!  You can't blame energy companies for destroying the environment, because we buy the gas from them!  You can't blame Da Federal Reserve for destroying the value of the dollar, because we gave them the power to print the money!  You can't blame capitalista pigmen for offshoring jobs, because we wanted cheap toys from Walmart at Low, Low Prices Every Day!

This meme is just GREAT for the managers, politicians and pigmen running the show, because once we are responsible for the mighty mess we are in here, they no longer are.  The managers of corporations who load them up with debt and then go bankrupt aren't held responsible for that either, no rather they get Golden Parachute severance packages and we allow that to happen!  Not only that, we are responsible for the fact law enforcement and the judiciary doesn't prosecute any of the banksters for fraud, because we either elect the judges ourselves or we elect the politicians who appoint the judges!

Democracy was the greatest thing the Elite ever invented for them, because much like the Corporation they no longer could be held personally responsible for any of the shit they rain down on the population at large, it all now becomes the collective responsibility of the people themselves!  However, along with the vote and collective responsibility, did the population at large ever get any real power over decision making at the top?  Of course not.

Were the Amerikan people ever consulted about sending troops into Vietnam?  Afghanistan? Iraq?  No, rather they get sold on these things via Bernays style propaganda, and even then you can have a majority of the population against such a war, but the folks in charge go right on bombing anyhow.  It doesn't matter if the population at large would prefer Single Payer Health Care, you get Obamacare instead because that is what the Insurance Companies want, and they make the campaign contributions to get the politicians elected.

http://www.straitstimes.com/sites/default/files/styles/borealis_retina_large_respondxl/public/articles/2016/05/14/ST_20160514_XOLD_2290866.jpg?itok=XUJ89Ys8 When were you ever given a choice insofar as who coins the money in the FSoA and what is used for money?  I'm no big fan of Gold as a basis for a monetary system, but at what point have you even had such a choice?  About the last time might have  been back in 1913 when the Federal Reserve Act was passed, so there is not a person alive over the age of 3 when that bill was passed in Congress.  The oldest Amerikan alive, Susanne Mushatt Jones died at the age of 116 last week.  There might be a 115 year old floating around somewhere though.  Even anyone who was alive at the time of voting age didn't have a choice on this, the Federal Reserve Act was passed after secret meetings on Jekyll Island by powerful politicians and pigmen, then passed quietly just before the Christmas Congressional break, with little in the way of knowledge about this in the public at large.  There sure was no referendum on it.

Once you have control over the system of credit and how that credit is sprinkled out, who gets voted into office doesn't matter worth a damn.  In the words of Woodrow Wilson, the POTUS who signed this act into law

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-ad71B-DCDio/U4mkt3qps2I/AAAAAAABnCo/9Te84GtwVDk/s1600/Woodrow+Wilson+-+FED+Quote.png

Power in a society that is run on money does not come from the Ballot Box, who you vote for doesn't matter.  This has been well known by the Elite going back at least as far as the Amerikan Revolution itself, but in reality likely going back as far as the Babylonians and the first monetary systems.  In the words of Mayer Amchel Rothschild

http://libertyupward.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Mayer-Amschel-Rothschild.jpg

Of course, most of the population at large doesn't grasp this principle, most people believe they have control through their votes at the ballot box.  That is the beauty of the "democratic" system as far as the Elite are concerned, and they most certainly work to keep the ignorance in place, along with the misplaced belief people have in voting as a means to make significant changes in governance.  That ignorance comes in two forms, first from the basic intelligence distribution in the population at large, and then is backed up by Bernays style prooaganda pitched out both by our educational institutions and by the mass media, both controlled by the Elite in the same way they control the political system, through the control of the money supply and its distribution.  Probably 50% of the population with IQ under 100 (by definition) couldn't understand this nonsense no matter how carefully you tried to explain it, in large part there also because it makes no sense to begin with.  Then the 50% of the population above the mean are generally sold on the ideas and buy them because their critical thinking skills are systematically destroyed.  You only end up with a tiny percentage of people who have any grasp of this stuff at all, and most of those people get coopted into the system and it benefits them.  Read that Nobel Laureate economistas like Paul Krugman who pitch out even bigger bullshit, but couched in nice Academic prose so it sounds like something only the smartest guys in the room can understand, so you should take their word for it because they are World Class Experts.  Why do really SMART Guys like this pitch out such utter and complete BULLSHIT? For the answer to that one, you have to go to Upton Sinclair.

http://www.livableincome.org/wUptonSinclair3.jpg

You have an entire cadre of people up at the top of the pyramid who probably do have the brainpower to understand what is going on here, but their livelihoods depend on them NOT understanding it.  So they come up with ever more ridiculous justifications for ever more ridiculous concepts like Negative Interest Rates and Helicopter Money, and with a perfectly straight face SELL this nonsense across the Op-Ed pages of the NYT and the WSJ.  The Vox Populi then reads this nonsense, and what ensues after that in the Blogosphere is a complete cacophany of ideas on why the nonsense will or will not work.  By now, even pretty smart people are completely confused, and the 50% of dumb people out there aren't even reading it to begin with because they are more concerned with the color of Kim Kardashian's panties, so they got no clue whatsoever here.  All they got a clue on is the latest Sound Bite from some candidate who promises to "Make Amerika Great Again", usually by some Hocus Pocus involving Bombing Terrorists back to the Stone Age or preventing Transgender people from using the wrong bathroom.

Absolutely NOBODY up at the top EVER talks abot what the REAL problems are, Resource Depletion and Population Overshoot.  "Growth" is constantly put forth by EVERY candidate of EVERY political persuation Lefty or Righty as the ULTIMATE solution to all problems!  We can GROW our way out of debt!  The fact this is a finite planet with finite resources is never discussed anywhere except on fringe websites like this one.  The reality is we can only solve our problems if we STOP GROWING and START SHRINKING!

With that in mind, lets move off the topic of incredibly stupid and misconceived notions surrounding our political ande economic systems to the more fundamental problem of our ENVIRONMENT.  Are "WE" responsible for the massive trash heap that Planet Earth is turning into?  This is "our" fault?

I will start with myself here,, from right after I was born in 1957, about dead center of the Baby Boom in the aftermath of WWII. I was born in NY Shity, and from my earliest years I remember riding the Subways,  They were just part of my environment.  I had no clue whatsoever at the age of 3 or 4 all the energy it took to make those trains run.  Because I rode them though, does that make me RESPONSIBLE for this?  By any reasonable measure, no, I was not responsible, first off I had no clue as to how these things were powered and second even if I did know there was certainly nothing a 4 year old could have done to change this system.  It EXISTED, it had EVOLVED over time, and as a system there wasn't anything I could do about that.

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-tdiy7K1ziQ8/Tj8DL_aFQsI/AAAAAAAACG0/yXvfHMsNoRM/s1600/images1944028_1.jpg The same is true for the Carz, the Interstate Highways, the Suburban Sub-Devleopments, Malls and Ring Roads that developed as I was growing up.  Did I ever have a choice here in this?  For the first 18 years of my life I couldn't even VOTE, not that this franchise makes a damn bit of difference anyhow.  So HTF am I RESPONSIBLE for this mess?  I was born into it, and my imperative is just to SURVIVE.  So you make your compromises and do what is necessary to insure that survival.  To make it to work in many places I lived, I HAD to have a car!  No choice there at all in many locations I lived.  I had no ability or knowledge or money enough at the time to even TRY going out to "live off the land", I was born a City Boy and by the time I graduated college, nicely in debt also though not to the extent the current generation is on this level.

There WAS a brief rebellion against this form of living back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Anti-War and Back to the Land Movement of the period.  This brief fling at stopping the Juggernaut was powerfully surpressed and CRUSHED by TPTB and the Deep State, sending the MESSAGE to all that to rebel against the system was to DIE.  Do YOU remember the 4 Dead in O-H-I-O?  I do.

Off the topic now of how trapped we have all been economically and culturally, let us now move to the area of the Environment & Climate Change, where it has been known for just about my entire life that we have been in the process of destroying the environment we depend on.  Rachel Carson wrote her seminal book Silent Spring in 1962 when I was 5 years old.  The original Limits to Growth study was published in 1972, when I was 15.  In the intervening years, the stories of environmental degradation and damage resultant from Industrialization have been non-stop. Love Canal, the Exxon Valdez, Chernobyl.Macondo, Fukushima etc etc etc and those are just the big ones.  All of China is one big industrial sewer now, and we barely hear about the problems there.

Once again here, how could "WE" have ever stopped this inexorable march of destruction across the scope of the planet?  When did YOU ever have any opportunity to stop the Chinese from turning their portion of the Global Land Mass into a Global Sewer?  In fact, when did even any typical Chinese Chen Rice Wine have any say in stopping the Chinese Oligarchy from selling out to the Western Industrialist Iluuminati?   They never could, they never had any power to do this either.

EVERY single country that has ever tried to resist the incursion by the industrial model has had their political system and economy CRUSHED by one means or the other.  Sometimes by outright aggression and Warfare as was the case with Vietnam, but more often all sorts of sneaky CIA backed Coups such as the one that installed the Shah of Iran back in the 1950s.  This nonsense of course persists and becomes ever more pervasive with "Color Revolutions" all over the world, from Ukraine to Libya to now Brazil.  Who among you has any power whatsoever, no matter WHO you elect to stop this ever expanding cycle of CHAOS?  Absolutely not a single goddamn one of you could make a difference on this level, not even if you were a Billionaire Debtor Tycoon like The Donald.  If he does in fact get elected, there is not a goddamn thing he can do to stop the spin down that is ahead of us either, and pretty much no POTUS in history could have done this because the Locus of Power hs never been in the political systems, rather it is in the MONETARY SYSTEM.  Once again here, you and I have NEVER had any choice in how this is run, who gets dished out the credit and who does not, this POWER is controlled by an exceedingly small cadre of people, and that power has been jealously guarded in this iteration of the monetary cycle, beginning more or less with the Medici Banking family in the 15th Century.

So, basically here folks, it is just a lot of HORSESHIT that "we" are responsible, "we" are not.  If you want to finger some responsibility here, it lies in the folks who either were born into or maneuvered their way to the top of the food chain and then maneuvered the society down this path, mainly for their own self-aggrandizement.  Just like you and me, they too have been exposed to the same stories and have been witnesses to the ever increasing planetary degradation.  The difference between "them" and "us" is they are in positions of power where they could effect change.  Sadly the only change they wish to effect is to "increase shareholder value" of the corporations they run, and then by extention increase their own compensation packages.  It doesn't matter to them what the consequences are, child slave labor in 3rd World countries, topsoil depletion from unsustainable Industrial Agriculture practices, endangering the safety of the food supply with GMO foods, destroying the ecosystem of the Gulf of Mexico…none of that matters.  All that matters is the bottom line of corporate profits.

10-Corporations-Control-What-We-EatThese are the folks who control your food supply

Energy companies hire geochemist experts who tell us fracking is safe, and meanwhile you get ever increasing earthquakes in Oklahoma, groundwater increasingly filled with the toxic chemicals used in the fracking process and even rivers going on fire as methane released by frackers bubbles up through new cracks in the ground.

As if we didn't have enough trouble with methane bubbling up from the permafrost and the Arctic Ocean, we need to add to this problem by making new cracks in the ground for it to leak from?

What the criminals in charge of these organizations will tell you is that this is not THEIR fault, it is OUR fault because of our insatiable desire for more energy to run the industrial culture.  You see, if we just would stop buying their gas, they would go out of bizness.  Isn't that just brilliant logic?  Precisely how are we supposed to stop buying this stuff when the entire infrastructure we live with requires it in order to keep functioning? The gas powers the thermal electric plants which power the lights and the water pumps and sewage systems, which if you shut all that shit down the society goes to Mad Max in a matter of days.  When the entire housing stock has been built around ring roads requiring carz to make the commute to work if you still have a job, precisely how do you just give up your SUV out of consideration for the environment?

Then we have dropping into the toxic stew of criminals in charge of this show Con Men and Snake Oil Salesmen like Elon Musk, promising us a Clean, Green High Tech future of EVs and Vacations on Mars in their Rocket Ships.  Just replace your old nasty Fossil Fuel burning EV with one of Elon's Teslas and help stop Climate Change today!  MORE HORSESHIT!

First off, nobody explains how more than half the population who has less than $1000 in the bank is going to afford a nice new $35,000 Tesla, and that is the "cheap" model for the masses supposedly.  Then since it is mostly occuring over in China, nobody seems to notice that these supposedly Clean & Green Carz require massive rechargeable Li-I batteries, which require massive mining and refining of Lithium for their manufacture.  Such mining and refining operations always produce copious quantities of toxic waste, which is why we shipped such operations over to China where they don't have all those nasty regulations against polluting the water supply, thus making manufacture of such goodies a whole lot cheaper over there than it would be here.  On top of that you have a workforce of 1.3B people willing to work at slave wages a fraction of the cost of even minimum wage workers over here.  How do "we" stop the pollution when the vast majority of the world population lives in 3rd World countries where the people are just looking for a means to eke out survival, by whatever means possible within their own societies?  Just like when I was born back in 1957 in New York Shity, these folks were born into and trapped into a style of living they never had any real choice in at all.  The Industrial Bandwagon inexorably moved it's way around the globe, and even if your society did not willingly jump on the bandwagon, the industrialists in charge of the War Machine of the Military-Industrial-Banking complex brought in the Death from Above to make sure you had to leave your little villages and head for the Big Shities of your country to work in factories making toys to sell for Low, Low Prices Every Day at Walmart.

 

So, even if "we" as in the entire population of the 1st World countries could by some magical means stop burning all the fossil fuels that it takes to run these cultures, who is going to stop the juggernaut from continuing onward in 3rd World countries, where most of the population just wants to have the wonderful Happy Motoring lifestyle that Amerikans and Europeans got for the last century?  It's THEIR turn to live the High Life they got sold over the TV and Movies, just like the 'Murikans before them were sold this bill of goods.

The Sales Job of the Industrial Lifestyle and endless progress and growth of the techno-society has been ongoing and pervasive since the earliest days of the Industrial Revolution.  The Chicago World's Fair of 1893 kicked off this Sales Job, financed by the World Class Robber Barons of the era, beople like Cornelius Vanderbilt & JP Morgan.

https://i10.fotocdn.net/s14/179/public_pin_3c/17/2484211890.jpg Many prominent civic, professional, and commercial leaders from around the United States participated in the financing, coordination, and management of the Fair, including Chicago steel tycoon Charles H. Schwab, Chicago railroad and manufacturing magnate John Whitfield Bunn, and Connecticut banking, insurance, and iron products magnate Milo Barnum Richardson, among many others.[6]

The fair was planned in the early 1890s during the Gilded Age of rapid industrial growth, immigration, and class tension. World's fairs, such as London's 1851 Crystal Palace Exhibition, had been successful in Europe as a way to bring together societies fragmented along class lines.

The first American attempt at a world's fair in Philadelphia in 1876, drew crowds but was a financial failure. Nonetheless, ideas about distinguishing the 400th anniversary of Columbus' landing started in the late 1880s. Civic leaders in St. Louis, New York City, Washington DC and Chicago expressed an interest in hosting a fair to generate profits, boost real estate values, and promote their cities. Congress was called on to decide the location. New York's financiers J. P. Morgan, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and William Waldorf Astor, among others, pledged $15 million to finance the fair if Congress awarded it to New York, while Chicagoans Charles T. Yerkes, Marshall Field, Philip Armour, Gustavus Swift, and Cyrus McCormick, offered to finance a Chicago fair. What finally persuaded Congress was Chicago banker Lyman Gage, who raised several million additional dollars in a 24-hour period, over and above New York's final offer.[7]

The exposition corporation and national exposition commission settled on Jackson Park and an area around it as the fair site. Daniel H. Burnham was selected as director of works, and George R. Davis as director-general. Burnham emphasized architecture and sculpture as central to the fair and assembled the period's top talent to design the buildings and grounds including Frederick Law Olmsted for the grounds.[2] The temporary buildings were designed in an ornate Neoclassical style and painted white, resulting in the fair site being referred to as the “White City”.[7]

The Exposition's offices set up shop in the upper floors of the Rand McNally Building on Adams Street, the world's first all-steel-framed skyscraper. Davis's team organized the exhibits with the help of G. Brown Goode of the Smithsonian. The Midway was inspired by the 1889 Paris Universal Exposition, which included ethnological "villages".[8]

All the marvels of the era were presented, the first "moving sidewalk", the first big Ferris Wheel, designed by George Ferris himself.  Architecture by Frederich Law Ohlmstead, the same dude who designed Central Park in New York Shity.  They didn't have any city models with Flying Carz yet in that one, since the Wright Brothers had yet to get their first airplane off the ground, but by the time the next World's Fair in Chicago showed up in the 1930s in the heart of the Great Depression, that idea was already being pitched to the masses, who were mostly unable to afford food to eat much less a land based car, forget the flying models.  They could however afford a Nickel for entrance to the Fair and escape into this wonderful fantasy world of the Future the Industrialists had planned for them.

This period of course is contemporaneous with the period I began this article with, when powerful Industrialists took final and absolute control over our monetary system with the Federal Reserve Act of 1913.  This however was just the culmination of a long battle that began right with the end of the Amerikan Revolution, with Alexander Hamilton selling out to the Banksters in Europe, mainly the House of Rothschild and chartering the First Bank of the FSoA, to be followed later by the Second Bank of the FSoA, famously squashed by Old Hickory Andrew Jackson, himself famous also for massacre and genocide of numerous First Nations people.

http://mrkash.com/activities/images/jacksonmonster.jpg

"Gentlemen, I have had men watching you for a long time and I am convinced that you have used the funds of the bank to speculate in the breadstuffs of the country. When you won, you divided the profits amongst you, and when you lost, you charged it to the bank. You tell me that if I take the deposits from the bank and annul its charter, I shall ruin ten thousand families. That may be true, gentlemen, but that is your sin! Should I let you go on, you will ruin fifty thousand families, and that would be my sin! You are a den of vipers and thieves. I intend to rout you out, and by the Eternal God, I will rout you out."
Andrew Jackson (1767-1845)

Nowhere along this sad and sordid story of the progress of industrialization around the globe have "we" ever had a real choice here.  Industrialization is like a Tsunami that washed over our world, beginning with the first Steam Engines used to pump water out of Coal Mines in Jolly Old England at the beginning of the 18th Century.  It matured and "gathered steam" (sic) with the discovery of Oil in Pennsylvania in the mid 19th Century, and by the beginning of the 20th Century with the Chicago World's Fair, it was in Full Swing, the tide was rolling in fast and there was no stopping it, at least not by the population at large anyhow.  As a society and civilization we were well and truly captured, totally at the mercy of the "Den of Vipers & Thieves" Andrew Jackson fought his battle against and briefly won that one, but in the end the War was lost when Woodrow Wilson put the final signature on the Slavery Contract of the Federal Reserve Act.

In assigning responsibility for what the state of the world is, it must be placed on the people in charge, not the essentially powerless victims of their criminality and greed.  When a family gets in a car and they all get killed because Dad was driving drunk, are the kids in the car responsible because they had to ride in the backseat while he was driving?  Could the kids wrest control of the car from dad?  Of course not, and no one would blame the kids for the accident.  Reading many pundits and commenters through the blogosphere though, that is precisely what they do when looking at our economic, political and ecological disasters and then draw the conclusion "WE are responsible".   Speak for yourself there dude, I for one will not take responsibility for a clusterfuck I had no part in creating and never could do a damn thing to stop at any point in my lifetime.

Is there any HOPE then for the "We" of our society, controlled as it is by a corrupt criminal racket run by the Elite and their minions and overseers?  Yes, I believe there still is Hope.  A day will come at some point in the not too distant future when the Jets will no longer fly and the Death From Above will no longer rain down from the Heavens.  That day is not today, but it will come.  A day will come when the monetary system used to control our lives will no longer function, and we will be set free.  That day is not today, but it will come.  A day will come when true JUSTICE is served on those responsible for CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY.  That day also is not today, but it too will come.

In the words of Anonymous:

http://www.hdfbcover.com/randomcovers/covers/we-are-anonyumous-we-are-legion.jpg

Epiconomics 102 : The Sunlight Economy

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Published on Peak Surfer on May 15, 2016

PeakSurfer

Discuss this article at the Economics Table inside the Diner

 
"It is green capitalism, we admit, but the gene expression for capitalism must and will change."

 

 

 

The adoption of The Paris Agreement by 195 countries on December 12, 2015 marks the end of the era of fossil fuels. There is no way to meet the targets laid out in this agreement without keeping 90 percent or more of remaining coal, oil and gas in the ground. The final text still has some serious gaps, and the timetable will have to speed up, but the treaty draws a red line on atmospheric CO2 we cannot cross. As science, economics and law come into alignment, a solar-powered economy is barrelling at us with unstoppable force.

Nafeez Ahmed, a former Guardian writer who now blogs the System Shift column for VICE’s Motherboard recently pondered the Energy Returned on Energy Invested (EROEI) problem with renewables and came up with something that might form the basis for smoothing the transition.

First, you have to get a sense of the scale of the driving force behind this change. Ahmed observed that since the crash in oil prices (underlying causes here) and the Paris Agreement, more than 65% of the world’s oil companies have declared bankruptcy. The Economist puts the default at $2.5 trillion. The real number is probably much higher. Following Paris, Goldman Sachs surveyed over $1 trillion in stranded assets out in the fracking fields that will never be booked. Carbon Tracker puts the likely cash that will be thrown down bad wells by the still standing 35% of fossil industry dinosaurs — and never-to-be recouped — at $2.2 trillion.

In our book, The Paris Agreement, we described why the fossil shakeout is likely to liberate huge cashflows into renewable energy, but with one giant caveat. There is significantly lower net energy (EROEI) in renewables than the fossils provided in their heyday. That augurs economic contraction no matter how you slice it.

Degrowth is already happening. Carbon Tracker identified Peabody Coal as one of those energy giants unable to pass a 2C stress test. Peabody scoffed. Six months later, Peabody went bankrupt.  There are now more solar installers than coal miners in the US and the gap widens each month.

Mark Harrington, an oil industry consultant, tells his clients now the cascading debt defaults will shake the global economy by late 2016 or early 2017 and could make the 2007-8 financial crash look like a cakewalk. Utilities are the new housing bubble.

The EROEI on Texas Spindletops was 100 to 1. The net energy produced from Canadian tar sands or Bakkan shale is less than you can get from green firewood, maybe 3 to 1. Oil rig count in the Bakkan as of this morning: zero. Lost investment exploring and drilling there? billions.

Nafeez Ahmed says:

The imperative to transition away from fossil fuels is, therefore, both geophysical and environmental. On the one hand, by mid-century, fossil fuels and nuclear power will become obsolete as a viable source of energy due to their increasingly high costs and low quality. On the other, even before then, to maintain what scientists describe as a ‘safe operating space’ for human survival, we cannot permit the planet to warm a further 2C without risking disastrous climate impacts.

Staying below 2C, the study finds, will require renewable energy to supply more than 50 percent of total global energy by 2028, “a 37-fold increase in the annual rate of supplying renewable energy in only 13 years.”

Let us leave aside the 2C discussion for now. Two degrees is in the bank and 5 degrees is what we have a slim chance of averting, assuming we can muster the collective will to plant enough trees, make soil, and stop dumping carbon into the atmosphere. Whether 4 degrees, which is likely to be reached by about mid-century, give or take 10 years, is survivable by mammals such as ourselves remains an open question. The odds do not favor our collectively recognizing the risk in time, all of us must acknowledge.

Those odds get even longer once President Trump, taking advice from the Koch brothers, Dick Cheney and Mitch "Black Lungs Matter" McConnell, appoints an Energy Task Force sometime in the first hundred days. Within a few months, Congress will attempt to bend energy economics around their political gravity well. They will superincentivize coal, nuclear and fracked gas and raise even more impossible hurdles for solar power, responsible biomass waste conversion and energy efficiency. Chances then of humans surviving another century: nil.

Trump's tweet has now been retweeted 27,761 times.

Last year the G7 set the goal of decarbonization by end of century, which, like Trump, is a formula for Near Term Human Extinction. At the Paris gathering 195 countries agreed to bounce the date to 2050, with a proviso that it could even accelerate more if needed. More will be needed.

The Bright Shining Hope

Analysts like Stanford’s Tony Seba say that solar power has doubled every year for the last 20 years and costs of photovoltaic power have dropped 22% with each doubling. If you believe these numbers, eight more doublings — by 2030 — and solar power will provide 100% of the world’s electricity at a fraction of today’s prices with significant reductions of carbon emissions. But there is a hitch.

The EROEI of solar power is not improving as quickly as the price. Energy efficiency, especially the embodied energy of components like turbine towers and rooftop arrays and the mined minerals for crystal manufacture, is substantially less than the concentrated caloric punch of oil and coal. Fossil sunlight is to sunlight as crack cocaine is to coca leaves.

And a decarbonated SMART is not your daddy’s muscle car.

That is not to say a civil society living on sunlight can’t still be very nice, and nicer, in fact, than the dirtier industrial civilization, especially if you only have a generation or two left before you go extinct to enjoy it.

All of this revolution could be accomplished, and paid for, simply by a small epigenetic hack in the DNA of central banks. They need to express the gene that prints money. As Ellen Brown explains:

"The combination of fiat money and Globalization creates a unique moment in history where the governments of the developed economies can print money on an aggressive scale without causing inflation. They should take advantage of this once-in-history opportunity . . . ."

Don't panic, and it might be a good idea to follow Ford Prefect's example of carrying a towel, in the unlikely event that the planet is suddenly demolished by a Vogon constructor fleet to make way for a hyperspace bypass.

Despite the paucity of intelligence in the throne room of the Empire, there is, however, a faint glimmer of light coming from a corner of the dungeon, should we peer farther. Ahmed latches on to Eric Toensmeier’s new book, The Carbon Farming Solution, that quotes a Rodale Institute study:

Simply put, recent data from farming systems and pasture trials around the globe show that we could sequester more than 100 percent of current annual CO2 emissions with a switch to widely available and inexpensive organic management practices, which we term ‘regenerative organic agriculture’… These practices work to maximize carbon fixation while minimizing the loss of that carbon once returned to the soil, reversing the greenhouse effect.

As we described in our books, The Biochar Solution and The Paris Agreement, it is possible to unleash the healing powers of the natural world — not by tampering further but by discerning and moving with its flows the way indigenious peoples did for eons — that doesn't just halt climate change but restores it to the pre-industrial. By using a permaculture cascade — regenerative cropping to food, feed and fiber; to protein and probiotic extracts (from waste byproducts); to biofuels (from waste byproducts); to biochar and biofertilizers (from waste byproducts); to probiotic animal supplements and industrial applications like fuel cells (from biochar) — bioeconomics can transform a dying planet into a garden world. But, again, there is a hitch.

Ahmed says:

According to a 2011 report by the National Academy of Sciences, the scientific consensus shows conservatively that for every degree of warming, we will see the following impacts: 5-15 percent reductions in crop yields; 3-10 percent increases in rainfall in some regions contributing to flooding; 5-10 percent decreases in stream-flow in some river basins, including the Arkansas and the Rio Grande, contributing to scarcity of potable water; 200-400 percent increases in the area burned by wildfire in the US; 15 percent decreases in annual average Arctic sea ice, with 25 percent decreases in the yearly minimum extent in September.

The challenge climate change poses to bioeconomics is where epigenetic agents come in. There is a permaculture army waiting in the wings. We have been training and drilling for 30 years. Cue marching entrance, stage left, with George M. Cohan’s arrangement of Yankee Doodle Dandy.

 

 

This will require more than Busby Berkeley. First, as we described here last week, we will need a change of the command switches that express civilization’s genes. This is unlikely to come from Hillary Clinton, central banks, the G7 or the International Monetary Fund — just witness the debacle at Doha in April.  It will more likely arise spontaneously from the grass roots, led by regenerative farmers, treehuggers and degrarians, but funded — massively — by institutional investors in search of safe havens from petrocollapse and failing confidence in a stale, counterproductive paradigm.

It is green capitalism, we admit, but the gene expression for capitalism must and will change.

"If you think about it, economic growth could happen through dematerialization," says Jack Buffington, a researcher at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm and author of Progress, Technology and Seven Billion People: A Solution to Save Capitalism and The Recycling Myth: Disruptive Innovation to Improve the Environment.

"Think about all the different things your smart phone can do that 20 years ago you had a computer, you had a telephone. you had an alarm clock…. So, I think there is a way to transform things through the use of materials to dematerialize while at the same time leading to economic growth. Even if you tried to stop innovation you won't. What we have to push for is a model that between the environment and the economy is complementary, so we achieve goals of improving people's lives at the same time as improving the environment."

A bioeconomy is coming. Fast. There are demonstrations of it, large and small, popping up all over the world. The DNA for the global financial marketplace — our social customs for nations, currency systems and trade — has not changed. What is being transformed is the histone that occupies the space between the helices and flips the switches to turn expressions on and off. Who are the radical free agent proteins that are moving in to transform the histone?

You are.

 

The Worst Reporting on Climate Change. Ever. (So Far.)

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Published on The Daily Impact on April 28, 2016

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In describing our progress toward a well-educated and -informed citizenry, served by a free and fearless press, seeking a smoothly functioning democratic republic, do you believe in devolution, or are you a destructionist? That is, do you think we are rotting away from within, or is God punishing us? It’s probably too late to have that discussion; when you’re in a sinking scow, you can lament the lack of a luxury cruiser only so long, then you have to shut up and swim.

The low water mark (to twist the metaphor) of our society’s deteriorating journalism, its increasingly muddled grasp of scientific discoveries, and its atrophied ability to speak its own native language — not to mention its suffocating narcissism — was expressed in a single news story recently whose pungency and brevity would have been admirable if the perpetrators had intended it.

(I checked, and modernreaders.com does not appear to be a satirical site. Just modern.)

This is the headline: “America seemingly fine with global warming for the meantime,” On a scale of one to ten, one being the grunts of a caveman roasting a mastodon, and ten, Abraham Lincoln’ Second Inaugural Address, where would this sentence fall? (No, I’m sorry, we can’t go below caveman grunts.)

Does this really mean to say that Americans not only know what global warming is, but like it? I guess that depends: on what is meant by “America” (All the Americas, or one of them? All its people, or some of them?); on what “seemingly” means — to whom, and why and how? On what it means to be “fine” with global warming? And on what “the meantime” is.

Do things get any better after the first ten words? Not hardly. Here are the next 30;

For Americans, global warming has been an oft-mentioned buzzword since the 1970s. It’s also been a staple of scientists’ warnings about the dangers of high carbon dioxide emissions.

Whoa. The lede sentence defines the subject, global warming, as a “buzzword.” Which is further defined in the dictionary (the what?) as “a word or phrase that is fashionable at a particular time.” So there you have its significance: it’s been fashionable since the 1970s. If that is not sufficiently impressive, consider this: “It’s also been a staple [you know, as rice is a staple in Chinese takeout] of scientists’ warnings about the dangers of high carbon dioxide emissions.” And what has “it,” that is, global warming, been to scientists discussions of the dangers of the other greenhouse gases — methane, nitrous oxide, water vapor, ozone, and chlorofluorocarbons? Garnishes, perhaps.

Now that we have rigorously defined our subject, it’s time for the news, and this is the news:

“U.S. residents seem to be mostly better for the ongoing climate change, according to a new study.”

Like the headline, this is a sentence that resists translation into English. We could try annotating it: “U.S. residents (not tourists or undocumented aliens) seem to be (a term of art that seems not to know what it means) mostly better for (that’s the opposite of least worst of) ongoing climate change (not the offcoming kind).

The study to which this word salad refers (without linking to it, but here you go), does not in fact claim that we are better off for climate change. It is an examination of public perceptions of climate change, which finds that people (the vast majority of whom, one assumes, live in air conditioned homes and travel in air conditioned vehicles to air conditioned workplaces) have not yet noticed any deleterious effects of climate change, but do find the warmer winters more agreeable.

If one was to get the results described by this lamebrain news site, the sample of the Lowest Common Denominator used by the researchers would have to have been screened to exclude people who survived or had knowledge of the mass deaths of many species in the warming and acidifying waters of the Pacific Ocean, the rampant wildfires of California and Alaska, the historic drought in the western states, the disappearance of the snowpack and glaciers from the western mountains, the burgeoning toxic algae in the warming waters of our lakes and rivers, the struggles of cities from South Miami Beach to Norfolk to Boston to deal with the encroachment of rising sea water, Hurricane Sandy, 500-year flood events now occurring in Texas at six month intervals, tornado swarms, etcetera.

Because it is really unlikely that any person with experience or knowledge of any of that would proclaim himself or herself to be fine with that.

This is a news story of a quality that is becoming more common in journalism, and that in the immortal words of Henry Luce, scrawled across an inept submission for publication in TIME, “subtracts from the sum total of human knowledge.” And we really can’t afford to lose any more.

Open letter to Doctors for the Environment Australia

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on April 21, 2016

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In the USA and especially Hollywood, "DEA" stands for drug enforcement agency and conjures up images of trigger happy feds in helmets and flak jackets carrying M16s. In my world, DEA stands for "Doctors for the Environment Australia" which conjures up images of kindly, well meaning physicians who unfortunately do not fully realise the enormity of the planetary predicaments we face, nor fully understand exactly what can and cannot be done about them.

 

Open letter to Doctors for the Environment Australia

Geoffrey Chia, MBBS, MRCP, FRACP. April 2016

Dear Colleagues,

I attended your DEA conference in Brisbane on 17 April 2016 as a non-member delegate. I agree with the broad philosophy of DEA, that failure to care for our environment is causing adverse public health consequences worldwide and we need to take appropriate action. Unfortunately that is about as far as it goes. I have utmost respect for you as fellow medical professionals, but I beg to differ with the DEA's official position regarding the current state of the planet and the actions we ought to take to reduce human suffering and death.

Although I am a Cardiologist, my real interests lie in scientific and ethical philosophy and how these can be applied to confer the greatest amount of good to the greatest number of people for the longest duration. I convened the group "Doctors and Scientists for Sustainability and Social Justice" from 2006 to 2013 during which we held monthly meetings at the S&N pathology boardrooms in Taringa and invited many speakers, all experts in their fields, to educate us on important environmental and social matters.

Here are my points of disagreement with DEA:

  1. DEA's overall message is that climate change, although accelerating, is still fixable if we campaign hard enough for reform. Climate change is without doubt the gravest challenge facing humanity, but I must emphasise two points. Firstly, it is no longer fixable, it has spiralled out of control. The IPCC reports were all politically watered down deceit. A proper understanding of the paleoclimate record, self reinforcing feedback mechanisms and observation of the extreme events occurring year upon year, which will only get worse, demonstrate beyond any reasonable doubt that even if all anthropogenic carbon emissions were to cease today, worsening climate change is unstoppable. At least 4 degrees C eventual global average temperature rise is already locked in, which will mean the end of large scale agriculture and hence the end of civilisation. However in the long run there will probably be 8 to10 degrees rise, although the final equilibrium temperature may be slightly reduced by what we do now1. Secondly, climate change is not the most immediate issue.

  2. DEA focus almost exclusively on climate change and pay little attention to other major issues which will cause the collapse of industrial civilisation and massive global human die-off much sooner: namely the impending implosion of the worldwide financial/economic system and, intimately related to that, resource depletion, principally petroleum depletion. Economic meltdown will lead to civil unrest and, depending on the country affected, either collapse of the State as a functioning entity or imposition of martial law by fascist governments, with loss of democratic freedoms. Either way, there will be loss of future options for those individuals who remain trapped in the belly of the beast (the crumbling cities). Competition for resources such as water and energy will trigger wars between nations, which will become more frequent, more barbaric and possibly even global. These views are entirely consistent with hard headed think tanks such as the Peak Oil task force group in the UK (a business group), the Pentagon and the German military. Anyone who still claims the invasion of Iraq by the Halliburton proxies in 2003 was about anything other than oil, is either a liar or a fool or both.

  3. DEA offer nothing with regard to the practical measures which sapient people can and must take now to mitigate against the above.

I realise my views may be viscerally repugnant to you, indeed I experienced the same revulsion when I came to those conclusions in 2012, which led me to disband my D3SJ group in 2013. Nevertheless it is absolutely essential that we accept the evidence-based truth of a situation, no matter how horrific, so we can pursue the most effective actions, to enable the best (or least bad) outcome. With my deepening understanding of these worsening predicaments, my thinking over the years has shifted from global technological solutions (now impossible), to the mitigation of suffering and death for the majority of humanity (now also impossible), to at present, striving to avoid near term human extinction. Bitter experience has taught me it is a waste of time and energy to look to governments and corporations for solutions. They mouth meaningless green-wash platitudes and are in fact the cause of our problems. The only solutions forthcoming will be those which arise from our own individual actions.

Here is another stark reality you may find repugnant: it will not be possible to prevent the premature die-off of the majority of humanity.

This is the goal of most Australian medical practitioners today, myself included: we take whatever measures necessary to ensure our patients can live a good quality, "normal" duration of life of at least 85 years or so. In our wishful thinking, we would like to extend that goal to the other 7.5 billion people around the world. However, with the inevitable curtailment of fossil fuel energy2, it will not be possible to generate enough food, services and materials to comfortably support more than 500 million people worldwide, assuming a stable climate and a thriving ecosphere. Unfortunately, with worsening climate devastation and the sixth great global mass extinction well under way now, even 100 million survivors will be extremely unlikely. Such a view is entirely consistent with those held by top scientists including James Lovelock, many members of the Royal Society of London including former president Martin Rees and scientists who updated the original Limits to Growth models, in particular Ugo Bardi and Graham Turner. We may well face a "genetic bottleneck" with human numbers reduced to just a few thousand, confined to the deep South of the Southern hemisphere.

I do not accept that near term human extinction is certain. NTHE is not a guaranteed, forgone conclusion and I vehemently oppose those who ideologically adopt such a nihilistic position and promote defeatism. However irrefutable evidence forces me to accept that NTHE is a genuine possibility, indeed a significant probability if we take no action or waste time pursuing the wrong actions.

DEA may feel politically obliged to offer a positive, uplifting facade to their members and the public, however such a position is detrimental, indeed actively harmful, to anyone who follows your manifesto and your recommended course of action. Why? Because adoption of your current goals will cause your members to waste precious time, energy, resources and money pursuing useless activities based on delusional hopes. I am amply qualified to make that statement because I too have been guilty of such useless behaviour.

You will be familiar with the "golden hour" after a severe injury, when appropriate vigorous action taken by ambulance officers and A&E staff can make all the difference between life and death, between good quality survival and permanent disability. Correct, timely action makes all the difference.

Time is short. Right now we are reaching the end of our metaphorical "golden hour”. If we miss this vital window of opportunity, we stand to lose all future options. The impending collapse of numerous fraudulent schemes such as shale oil (which dwarf the previous sub-prime mortgage scam) means that we are on track to experience the next global financial meltdown soon, from which systemic recovery may be impossible. This may occur in a couple of years or even this year. Things may seem “fine” to you now, however things also seem “fine” to the passenger snoozing in the plush seat of an air-conditioned coach which is speeding towards the edge of a cliff.

What correct, timely action should we take? Exhaustive studies and practical experience from contributors to research bodies such as the Post Carbon Institute recommend we decentralise our lifestyles and become as self sufficient as possible. Here are some practical suggestions:

What to do: http://www.doomsteaddiner.net/blog/2015/01/20/doctors-scientists-for-sustainability-social-justice/

Where to go: http://www.doomsteaddiner.net/blog/2016/01/14/location-location-location/

One viable strategy: The off-grid Tiny House permaculture community:

http://www.resilience.org/resource-detail/2544932-building-a-tiny-house

I am not advocating that you move immediately to a remote off-grid self-sufficient homestead, but I am advocating that you set up such a homestead immediately, which will then be ready for you to move to at short notice. Alternatively you can, right now, build a relationship with an established self-sufficient community, which you can then move to at short notice, provided you have useful skills to offer and you have pre-arranged your own accommodation.

We face unstoppable and unimaginably horrific events which will radically alter our world. Only radical adaptation will enable our survival. Nature dictates that failure to adapt will lead to extinction.

It is no coincidence that by making the radical lifestyle changes suggested above, you will also reduce your carbon and environmental footprint to essentially zero, which I believe is the ultimate goal of DEA. It is not appropriate for us to harangue others to abandon coal fired power unless we ourselves can show them how to live well without coal fired power. Talk is cheap but if we lead by example we are more likely to be taken seriously.

 

Footnotes:

  1. David Wasdell's comprehensive explanation is probably the best one, available here: https://soundcloud.com/radioecoshock/facing-the-harsh-realities or here: http://www.apollo-gaia.org/ and independently vindicated here (transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh):

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-12/uoe-com120915.php

  1. Current low oil prices are misleading. We are now experiencing the calm in of the eye of the storm, a storm which will shortly return to decimate the global economy. Please see: http://www.doomsteaddiner.net/blog/2015/11/16/peak-oil-revisited-part-1/

Climate Trench Warfare…or Blitzkrieg

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Published on Cassandra's Legacy on March 24 & 28, 2016

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Thursday, March 24, 2016

 

Trench warfare in the climate wars: no victory in sight

 

 


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The latest data from Gallup about how much Americans worry about global warming are nothing less than amazing. Today, we are exactly where we were more than one-quarter of a century ago. And yet, climate science has progressed, temperatures have been rising, the ice has been melting, the sea level has been rising, and plenty more evidence of dangerous global warming has accumulated. But the curves go up and down while the average remains constant; no long-term trend is apparent. It looks like trench warfare during the first world war. Mighty battles, lots of casualties, but neither side is winning.

In a sense, it is not surprising. I have been following the climate debate for several years and I can say that it is not a debate – it is a war. And in a war, you don't debate using rational arguments, you take sides. It has to do with the extreme polarization that is taking hold in most Western societies (and it is increasing!). When it comes to discussing major issues, such as global warming, people are not debating; they are only making statements of identity. And it is normal that we are not going anywhere: neither scientific data nor anti-science spin campaigns (*) can move people who have chosen the side they belong to.

However, it is also true that trench warfare in the first world war didn't last forever. At some point, one of the two sides couldn't take it anymore and had to concede. Could something like that occur for the climate war? Possibly, yes. Indeed, many of us have been hoping for an event so major and so evident that the danger of global warming could not be denied anymore; the equivalent of a "decisive battle" in war. But even facing extreme events, reality can always be denied when ideological polarization takes hold. For the time being, we remain locked in trench warfare.

(*) At least, it is a consolation to note that all the money that was spent by the fossil fuel lobby for those spin campaigns was wasted.

Monday, March 28, 2016

 

The climate wars: trench warfare or blitzkrieg?

 

 

 

 

In a previous post, I examined more than 25 years of Gallup polls in the US and I came to the conclusion the climate debate is stuck in a trench warfare condition. Apparently, the percentage of Americans who say they are "worried" about climate change is today nearly the same as it was in 1989.

 

 
After the publication of that post, I received a comment that cited the results of a recent study of the social media sponsored by "The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate" that seem to be indicating a different trend. Here is the main result of that study;
 
 
 
 
Clearly, something has changed in 2014 that has led to a remarkable change in the discourse on the relation of climate and economic growth, with a very large growth (around 700%) of people having an attitude defined as "positive" toward climate change. At first sight, it looks good: this is not trench warfare, it is a true blitzkrieg.
 
However, it is also something that has to be taken with great caution. Note that the question that was examined in the analysis was very narrow; strictly limited to whether one believes that climate change and economic growth are compatible. The analysis didn't examine whether the messages indicated that people were worried or not about climate change, or even whether they believed it existed and was caused by human actions. And the "negative" opinion expressed in a fraction of the messages might well have been expressed by people who were very worried about climate change; so much that they thought (reasonably, in my opinion) that economic growth can only worsen things. 
 
Indeed, the goals and the approach of the group of people who call themselves "The New Climate Economy Commission" seems to be very limited. In one of their reports, they state.
 

The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate is a major international initiative to analyze and communicate the economic benefits and costs of acting on climate change. Chaired by former President of Mexico Felipe Calderón, the Commission comprises 28 former heads of government and finance ministers and leaders in the fields of economics and business. The goal of the New Climate Economy is to shift public discourse away from the costs of climate action to one focused on how economic growth and climate action can be achieved together

This group is said to be "commissioned by seven countries – Colombia, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Norway, South Korea, Sweden and the United Kingdom," but there are few details on what were the terms of the financing were and which agencies provided it. The page where they could provide more details on these questions is not accessible to the public. Apparently, anyway, the idea is that, since economic growth is good by definition, then it will also solve the climate change problem. Which is debatable, to say the least.
 

Nevertheless, we have here an interesting result that indicates that the debate on climate is not necessarily stuck forever and that, at least, there is a growing interest in the issue. It also shows that we have remarkable capabilities of studying trends in the debate not just on the basis of the old style opinion polls, but by analyzing complex trend on a vast network of social media. So far, I haven't been able to find an equivalent study that would ask questions such as, for instance, what is the percentage of people believing that it is urgent to act against global warming. That may come in the near future and then we'll be able to see if trench warfare in the climate wars is really transforming itself into a blitzkrieg.
 
 
 
h/t Jeremy Leggett

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tribute to the City

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Published on Pray for Calamity on March 24, 2016

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The vernal equinox has come and passed and with it the official start of spring is here in the northern hemisphere. Across the countryside Jane Magnolia trees have awoken. Their hundreds of fingers each cupping rose colored blooms like candles, as if they were so many tiny lavender hands offering up communion to the sun. Daffodils peer out of the hillside clearings like periscopes or perhaps yellow gramophones all playing a song of rebirth to call back the songbirds and honeybees. The energy sequestered in the root-balls and mycelium mats as the land went to sleep the last few months has begun surging upward, and it is hard to not feel it flowing through me as I walk my land taking stock of which fruit trees and berry bushes are producing buds. A good friend of mine, and mentor, once told me that I am doing well if I can establish two fruit trees per year. Looking at my spread of apple trees, it looks like I am on track to have done well in that regard. My partner does all of the work to care for our bee hive, and after donning her protective veil for a spring inspection, she reported to me that the hive is in great condition. I have heard it said that bees surviving the winter is what converts one from a bee-haver into a bee-keeper.

Our garden calls for much attention, and each week I spread a truck load of wood chips on the walking paths, which were first covered with flattened cardboard. Hopefully this effort will buy me a few years of relatively weed free walkways. Mint is returning with a vigor, and the strawberry leaves are vibrantly green. Kale, spinach, beets, and parsnips have been seeded, and I am keeping a keen eye for the first asparagus shoots. This year I have to grow significantly more food than I have in the past, as my partner is returning to work full time and I will be staying home during the week days with our daughter. In the short term we will have less money, but I will have more time to attend to tasks around the homestead. Walking through the garden brings me such a deep sense of calm as I talk to the plants and lose myself in my many tasks. Starting seeds is a great way to practice slowing oneself down, especially small seeds that tend to stick together like those of tomatoes and carrots.

I find myself happy as the sun tans my shoulders and a red tailed hawk cries from its nest somewhere high up in the trees behind me.

February was the warmest month in recorded history. The record it broke for such crowning glory had been set in December. February temperatures saw the Earth cross the two degrees centigrade above pre-industrial average barrier that has been established as a hard danger zone by climate scientists. It was an anomaly, for now, but one that is likely to rear itself again and again. The most dramatic warming has been in the Arctic, which bodes ill for jet stream patterns as well as summer sea ice coverage. Time will tell if we see our first ice free Arctic this summer. Somehow the magnitude of the crisis of climate change still seems to evade most general discourse despite the pomp and show of the electoral season now in bloom in the US. There are lots of grand promises being hurled at the public about bringing manufacturing jobs back stateside. If that is not the dictionary definition of cognitive dissonance then I do not know what is. Industrialism long ago set us on a crash course with calamity, and now that the calamity has begun to rain down upon the world in the form of mega droughts, fires, famines, and super-storms, those angling for positions of power are promising more industrialism.

Of course, it is not even a job in a factory per se that most Americans dwelling in the rust belt actually want, it is a secure living situation. They want their basic needs met in a way that does not leave them uncertain and wrecked by stress month after month. It is a culture of production organized and operated through the machinations of capitalism that requires that people work a job in order to have these needs met in such a satisfactory way. When politicians say “Jobs!” it has become a Pavlovian response for the middle, and formerly middle, classes to come salivating like starving dogs to desperately pull a lever in their favor. They forget that first the food, and the land, and the ability to provide for oneself had to be taken away before they could be forced to work jobs for these things. A great deprivation preceded the creation of job economies whereby everyone was made to punch a clock and become the automaton of some civilized production scheme in order to have enough to eat and a place to sleep at night. This deprivation now long forgotten, people have no memory of themselves as anything but workers, and so they beg for work.

Neo-liberal capitalism may be the dominant platform by which this scheme is globally enacted, but it is merely the software that operates on the hardware of the civilized model of human organization. It is key to recall that ecological decimation was the order of the day long before the advent of capitalism. Forests had been clear cut from the Levant, through Greece and across Europe and the UK as civilization marched across the ancient world, slashing and burning its path to conquest and dominion over greater and greater expanses of the Earth. This pattern was repeated globally where ever civilizations formed. The Maya deforested the jungles of the Yucatan Peninsula long before Europeans brought their particular version of civilization to the continent and eventually ran head first into the consequences of such short sighted actions. The Aztecs, who may have created one of the more arguably “sustainable” cities in Tenochtitlan, did so on the backbone of war, expansion, tribute, slavery, and human sacrifice. Sure, they recycled their human excrement for crop fertilizer in their Chinampas, but they also relied on the growth of the territory that they dominated through blood shed. Food, firewood, and other material goods flowed into the city from outlying tribute towns where common people had to work to not only provide for themselves, but to pay a quarterly tribute to the city center of the empire.

Such is the way with cities. Goods and raw materials flow in and waste flows out. Cities harvest the natural wealth of outlying areas, and this model is now global, with powerful nations harvesting the material wealth of poor nations. No matter how desperately people may want to believe in the idea of the “sustainable city,” it is a contradiction of terms. Austin, Texas proclaims itself “America’s most sustainable city,” yet every day truckloads of food make deliveries while truck loads of garbage and waste are removed. The city depends on dammed lakes off the lower Colorado river for water which will one day fail to support the city’s growing population, and which in the present deprive down stream communities. According to 2010 data, households in Austin spent the most money on gasoline relative to other American cities. And Austin continues to grow, to cover more of the land in concrete preventing the recharging of the Edward’s Aquifer and demanding more energy for cooling as the city can have over one-hundred days in a year that breach one-hundred degrees fahrenheit.

A recent study calculated how much food the city of Seattle could produce based on how much solar radiation falls on its potentially farmable locations, including parks, rooftops, and yards. Even selecting crops that grow well in Seattle’s climate conditions the study’s authors determined that the city could provide only one percent of its food needs. If the streets and sidewalks were ripped up, the number could rise to two or three percent, but the city would lose functionality. After all, even if day to day travel was carried out on foot or on bicycle, deliveries with diesel powered semi-trucks would still be necessary for everything the city’s inhabitants required, from clothes, to air conditioners, to building materials, and of course, the other ninety-eight percent of the food they could not produce for themselves.

Sustainable living and cities are not compatible. This is not a matter of ideology. This is a matter of hard material reality, and suggestions that somehow 3D printing or vertical farms or a population fed a steady diet of algae shakes will be just the miracle we need to upend hard material constraints are at best, petulant whimpers of those who have become accustomed the vast wealth of selection that living in a first-world city provides, or at worst, Kubler-Ross stage three bargaining, hoping that somehow, by some stretch of compromise we can sustain the unsustainable.

But we can’t. Not without expansion. Not without tribute. Not without an exploitative power dynamic and flows of violence that may or may not be visible from the comfortable confines.

http://buzzkenya.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Poverty-in-kenya3.jpg

Hot coffee is a miracle, or damn near one. Every morning millions of Americans have a cup or two of hot coffee, the beans of which were grown in Columbia, or Ethiopia, or Hawaii. Maybe those Americans have tea grown in India or a banana grown in Peru. They pull on shoes made in Vietnam and perhaps ride their bicycle made with bauxite mined in Australia on a road paved with bitumen from Alberta. Perhaps these Americans stop off at a local food co-op or farmer’s market where they purchase some locally grown kale. They take pictures of the fresh eggs at the market with their iPhone which has a slew of globally sourced components buried within it, and they post this photo online with the help of a network of satellites and tag it with some cute caption about sustainability.

When the average American city dweller thinks about urban living, they likely think of the comedy clubs, the used book stores, the fusion restaurants, or the bars. They fail to think about the global hegemony of the United States military and how a worldwide network of bases has laid the foundation for dollar dominance. Most of the American or European or Australian or Canadian city dwellers who stammer on about generating green, sustainable cities are not picturing the mega-cities of the world like Dakha or Rio de Janeiro. Millions of children living in the squalor of slums and favelas, tin roofed shacks and human waste littering the streets and waterways are not what the white first worlders are picturing in their minds when they declare the supremacy of urban existence. Even the relatively lucky people in Hong Kong or Manila live in crammed, small apartments set inside concrete towers that resemble prisons more than anything else.

The wealth extracted from around the planet by western powers over the course of centuries, a process which went into overdrive in the twentieth century, has absolutely skewed the perceptions of those average citizens who reside within these conquistador nations. Like Tenochtitlan, the US and its neo-liberal capitalist crony nations exact tribute from the global poor. We may not adorn ourselves in exotic feathers and obsidian jewelry, but our sneakers and our jeans and our lattes and our cellphones will never be sustainably sourced and manufactured within the footprint of our home city limits. It is just not possible. We can have civilization, or we can have a livable planet, but we cannot have both.

Phosphorous leaches from agricultural and manufacturing sources into water ways. Eventually it alters the chemistry of these waterways creating the conditions that support toxic algae blooms. Power plants are often built along waterways. Coal fired plants have been using rivers such as the Ohio as a waste dump for decades. Radioactive tritium has been leaching into the groundwater from the Indian Point nuclear plant in New York, and the leak is getting worse. The Turkey Point nuclear power facility is leaking waste into Biscayne Bay just outside of Miami.

Often when I discuss the destruction wrought by civilized existence, the first critique hurled in my direction is that, “We cannot go back.” On this point, I agree. We cannot go back because civilization has greatly destroyed the ability of so many natural systems to harbor life. Industrial civilization will decay and fracture in the coming decades and centuries. I do not know how this process will play out or how long it will take to complete, but I feel that I could safely suggest that several generations from now the people who are making new ways of living will curse the stupidity and greed of those who poisoned the water. They will wonder what demons possessed our hearts with such a dark poison that we could so callously wipe out the other living beings who we rely on for survival.

In the dry wastes a young girl will dig for tubers amongst a backdrop of drought ravaged trees and the charcoal remains of those that burned in the previous season. Seeking a nourishing root she finds the bric a brac of our brain dead culture; a plastic fork, a beer can, rubber testicles that once swung from a pick-up truck’s trailer hitch. Yee haw.

Her family boils caught rainwater unaware that it contains heavy metals which will be responsible for some of their eventual deaths. They will laugh, as people do, and they will tell cautionary tales about a long ago world in which people set the sky on fire.

Whatever gods there may be forgive us. We were drunk on oil and pictures of ourselves. We really wanted good jobs.

Time to PANIC!?!?

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Published on Cassandra's Legacy on March 15, 2016

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The climate emergency: time to switch to panic mode?

The latest temperature data have broken all records (image from "think progress"). At best, this is an especially large oscillation and the climate system will be soon back on track; following the predictions of the models – maybe to be retouched to take into account faster climbing temperatures. A worst, it is an indication that the system is going out of control and moving to a new climate state faster than anyone could have imagined.

James Schlesinger once uttered one of those profound truths that explain a lot of what we see around us: it was: "people have only two modes of operation: complacency and panic."

So far, we have been in the "complacency" mode of operation in regard to climate change: it doesn't exist, if exist it is not a problem, if it is a problem, it is not our fault, and anyway doing something about it would be too expensive to be worth doing. But the latest temperature data are nothing but spine-chilling. What are we seeing? Is this just a sort of a rebound from the so-called "pause"? Or something much more worrisome? We may be seeing something that portends a major switch in the climate system; an unexpected acceleration of the rate of change. There are reasons to be worried, very worried: the CO2 emissions seem to have peaked, but that didn't generate a slowdown of the rate of increase of the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere. If nothing else, it is growing faster than ever. And then there is the ongoing methane spike and, as you know, methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than CO2.

What's happening? Nobody can say for sure, but these are not good symptoms; not at all. And that may be a good reason to switch to panic mode.

The problem is that societies; specifically in the form called "states" do not normally show much intelligence in their behavior, especially when they are in a state of panic. One of the reasons is that states are normally ruled by psychopaths whose attitude is based on a set of simple rules, mainly involving intimidation or violence, or both. But it is not just a question of psychopaths in power; the whole society reacts to threats like a psychopath: with the emphasis on doing "something", without much concern about whether it is the right thing to do and what would the consequences could be. So, if climate starts to be perceived as a real and immediate threat, we may expect a reaction endowed with all the strategic finesse of a street brawl: "you hit me – I hit you."

A possible, counterintuitive, panic reaction might be of "doubling down" in the denial of the threat. That could lead to actions such as actively suppressing the diffusion of data and studies about climate; de-funding climate research, closing down climate research centers, marginalizing those who believe that climate is a problem; for instance classifying them among "terrorists." All that is already happening in some degree and it may well become the next craze, in particular if the coming US elections will handle the presidency to an active climate denier. That would mean hard times for at least a few years for everyone who is trying to do something against climate change. And, perhaps, it would mean the total ruin of the Earth's ecosystem.

The other possibility is to switch all the way to the other extreme and fight climate change with the same methods used to fight terrorism; that is, bombing it into submission. Of course, you cannot bomb the earth's climate into submission, but the idea of forcing the ecosystem to behave the way we want is the basic concept of "geoengineering".

In the world of environmentalism, geoengineering enjoys more or less the same reputation that Saddam Hussein enjoyed in the Western press in the 1990s. That's for good reasons: geoengineering is often a set of ideas that go from the dangerous to the impossible, all ringing of desperation. For a good idea of how exactly desperate these ideas can be, just take a look at the results of a recent study on the idea of pumping huge amounts of seawater on top of the Antarctic ice sheet in order to prevent sea level rise. If it were a science fiction novel, you'd say it is too silly to be worth reading.

However, it may be appropriate to start familiarizing with the idea that geoengineering might be the next world craze. And, perhaps, it is better to take the risk of doing something that could go wrong than to do nothing, considering that we have been doing nothing so far. Don't forget that there are also good forms of geoengineering, for instance the form called "biosphere regeneration." It is based on reforestation, fighting desertification, regenerative agriculture and the like. Removing some CO2 from the atmosphere by transforming it into plants can't do too much damage, although it cannot be enough to solve the problem. But it may stimulate also other fields of action against climate change; from adaptation to switching to reneable energy. Maybe there is still hope….. maybe.

 

 

 

 

Maginot Line: Permaculture Realized, Part III

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Published on Peak Surfer on March 6, 2016

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"There's a problem with all utopian visions which is that sooner or later if you try to put them into practice you run into problems with the real world."

 

The following transcript, from an interview for Permaculture Realized podcast on February 2, 2016, has been lightly edited for corrections and readability.

Levi Meeuwenberg: How do you foresee some of these new approaches starting to be implemented and then get rolled out in the long term?

Albert Bates: If you're a country and you've just signed the agreement along with 195 other countries, the first thing you did to get to that was to come up with an INDC — which is your pledged national commitment — your contribution to reduce climate change. It was a promise. You had to make a pledge. So all the countries that came to Paris had already put in their INDCs and if you add up all the sum of the INDCs we still get to three degrees by mid-century, five to seven degrees by end of century. The ambition was way too low.

We knew that. But don’t fret — that was the opening bid. if you're in a poker game that was the ante. You had to put in that much to get in the game. Coming out of Paris what they put in was what they called “stocktake.” This is a new word for Webster’s. Stocktake is what's going to happen for various parts at three or five year intervals. There are a lot of attempts by oil-based economies like Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Malaysia, the ones who have coal and stuff, to have the stocktakes taken out but the stocktakes stayed in the treaty so the Paris agreement requires a revision at close intervals now. There is a science stocktake in 2018, and then the next big one for the pledge system is in 2020. The stocktake which will happen in 2018 will look at the 1.5 goal and see what kinds of INDC revisions would be necessary to get and hold global warming to 1.5 degrees C.

Dare I say? We probably already know the answer. If you know anything about climate science you know that 1.5 is already baked in the cake. There's no way that we're not going to go sailing right through a 1.5 degrees celsius increase in global temperature of the planet. We're on that trajectory and there are so many feedback mechanisms, so many positive forcings which are already in play that 1.5 is a done deal. To try to set such an ambitious goal is ignoring the science to begin with, but I'm fine with high ambition so, sure, set that goal. It's kind of like building the Maginot line. If you're familiar with the history of Europe after WWI the French, who had fought all that trench warfare with the Germans which was really nasty, said we're going to pre-build a defensive line of bunkers – cement, barbed wire, trenches and all that – and massive earthworks all around our border so that we can never have this trench warfare slaughter again. We're going to build this giant wall – kind of like Trump's wall with Mexico – around France.

What happened in the Blitz? Germany just flew right over and dropped paratroopers on the other side. The French Minister of War, André Maginot, was fighting the last war. The Wehrmacht had a responsive strategic design process. They laughed all the way to Paris.

What they're doing now is building a Maginot line on the climate and saying that they're going to hold the line at 1.5. Well, I've got news for you, we're already past 1.5. But that's o.k. because what they're doing in that process is education, an interactive education process. We understand that when we're talking about governments and making them change, they change all the time. There are elections and changes in government and you get crazies in and you get different kinds of things happening, two steps back and one step forward. That's just normal in government. Just look at the difference in Obama in the first term and Obama in the second term in terms of climate change. I think partly that's laid at the feet of John Holdren who's the White House Science Adviser who got to meet with Obama on a regular basis and educate him.

I think that in the future we're going to have the same problem of educating governments over and over again. The weather is doing a lot of that for us so we don't really have to worry that much. The underground cities they built on the Maginot Line might even be good examples for urban design in coming decades, as long as they are not on coasts. But the idea of changing the way we farm is going to have to involve a major shift away from Cargill, Monsanto, and the agro industry and the way things are done now.

How do you make a shift like that? Frankly, I see it through tools like permaculture, home gardens, victory gardens, urban gardens. People looking for food security in these turbulent times when the economy is doing really badly and there issues with energy and the absence of energy after the crash of the fracking industry. So we're going to find ourselves where everybody is going to want food security and to do that they're going to have to learn how and to do it in a way that sequesters carbon. If we can produce electricity using clever stoves and things which sequester carbon as well as boost nutrient density that way — that’s the revolution. That can happen worldwide and the seed for that revolution, the starter in the yogurt, is all these little permaculturists running around like a yogurt starter culture.

A lot of different strategies are around to try to deal with climate and I don't begrudge their particular strategy. I think all of them are needed and I think that one of the things that we are going to see in the future is the idea that Bill McKibben launched in Paris and afterward and we’ll see it coming from him, Naomi Klein, Greenpeace, and others, which is that the new standard is 1.5 degrees by mid-century.

So essentially, the international agreement is to go carbon negative in the second half of the 21st century, which is in the actual language of the treaty – which requires 196 countries to eliminate fossil fuels by around mid-century, maybe a little bit after. I think that the ratcheting process may speed it up because the more we learn about the science and the more weather events happen, the more incentive there will be to ratchet up.

But the slogan that Bill McKibben coined was 'every pipeline, every mine — you said 1.5' and I can hear that chant in the back of my head as companies try to send railcar loads of shale oil through cities or carve new strip mines in the mountains or open new fracked gas wells which have already been leased but have not been drilled: “Stop! Every pipeline, every mine, you said 1.5!”

From a science standpoint it's absolutely impossible to hold to the Paris limits if you open up new fossil fuel mines and pipelines. You cannot have any new ones. You cannot have any more. You should be starting to shut down the ones we have. That's the only way to get there. We saw a lot of Fortune 500 companies signing on to this whole notion of going carbon negative or at least carbon neutral. There were one hundred and fourteen companies that signed the science-based initiative of going completely neutral and several of them have already achieved that. That's actually a coalition between environmentalists and business that's happening so now it's up to the environmentalists to hold the feet of these people to the fire, including the governments. So the protests are completely justified.

I had trouble with a lot of protests earlier because I'm a student of Mahatma Gandhi. I read Mahatma Gandhi when I was a high school student. I read pretty much all of his writings when he was a newsletter editor and his various collected writings so I understood the principles of Satyagraha which is seeking truth through peaceful means. One of those principles is to give your opponent every possible opportunity to correct their actions peacefully before you do anything to obstruct them or otherwise cause them harm – economic harm, I'm not talking about physical harm. When Gandhi would plan a march he would notify the authorities – “here's where we're going to be, come and arrest us if you want” – and when he goes into court (and remember he began as a lawyer in South Africa) he asks the judge to give him the maximum possible sentence. “Let's just go ahead and dispense with the trial, I'm guilty, put me in jail for as long as you want.” That's Satyagraha.

Here we have every pipeline, every mine and the moral justification is now there. Everyone's on notice. Everyone has been notified. There is no excuse now. Everybody has already agreed in principle that this must be done – no new pipelines, no new mines. So I think it's completely within everyone's privilege and in fact their duty to oppose anything new in the way of getting fossil fuels out of the ground.

Levi: What are some of the most effective ways? Let's say that we know that there are existing frack wells nearby, which is the case, should we approach the company, should we approach the government, should we go through legal means, or should we just occupy the space? What approach would you say would be best for getting that message out?

AB: I'm not going to dictate local initiatives. I think that this should come from the locality and everybody can best judge in their own location what is the best strategy. I think it's a little more problematic when you're talking about existing structures because those have to be withdrawn in a gradual way so there's a certain amount of latitude that must be there. I understand that. On the other hand if there's a new one then I think that it's perfectly justified to block the well-drilling rigs. It's perfectly justified to oppose them at every stage. For instance, they have to get state permits in every state to go in and drill. They have to get state permits to use the roadways. They have to have NPDES permits which are pollution discharge permits. All of those are places of entry where citizens and groups can go and make statements at those meetings and even protest those meetings if the state decides to ignore the legal requirement. They're outlaws if they ignore the legal requirement.
What needs to happen is the elevation of general public awareness about what the law now says. We're talking about international law which is the supreme law of the land under the U.S. constitution.

Levi: I hear a lot of talk about renewable energy, solar and all that – maybe too much. People who don't have an understanding of permaculture solutions or more holistic solutions or soil solutions see renewable energy as solving everything in some way. How do you see that being part of the picture?

AB: I spent a lot of my book, The Paris Agreement, on this. I blogged for a year leading up to Paris and took all those blogs and wrote an introduction and did a daily blog while I was in Paris. Then I spent a week or two afterward summarizing, synthesizing, and putting it all together to make the book. I put the book out on December 19th which was seven days after the Paris Climate Conference ended. It included the entire text of the treaty along with the year-long analysis that led up to it and I think the point of the book and what I spent a long time talking about was renewable energy and the myth surrounding renewable energy which I saw a lot of in Paris.

It's kind of this idea, this notion to just take out the dirty, greasy, black gooey stuff, the dirty smelly stuff, and the dirty powdery coal and all that which makes our hands black. We'll get rid of all that dirty stuff and we'll put in this shiny polished stainless steel, poly-composite graphite windmills and solar arrays and thermal mirrors and all these fancy new devices, this whole new tech industry which will suddenly transform the world and employ our entire population and give us clean energy, green growth jobs and so forth.

That's the utopian vision and there's a problem with all utopian visions which is that sooner or later if you try to put them into practice you run into problems with the real world. In the real world there are natural laws and one of those is energy return on energy invested. So we have to look at what is the actual cost in the life cycle of a solar cell or the life cycle of a windmill and how much energy is required to make a windmill? Are there steel components? How was that steel made? Was it made with sunlight? I don't think so. What about aluminum? What about some other fancy composites? What about the silicon wafers in the solar cells? Where did they come from and how were they made? What kinds of facilities do that?

Actually, I have to take an aside here and say that some years back, probably 20 years ago now, Solarex, a big solar company, built the first solar breeder which was a factory in Hyattsville, MD which was solar powered and which made solar cells so that's actually something which can be done. But if you look on the energy return on investment and the life cycle and so forth what you suddenly discover is we have been running on high-entropy, high-return, energy density. For instance, oil and coal and these other dense forms of stored solar energy pack a lot of calories per unit of weight or volume, but took 500 million years of sunlight to make. They're concentrated sunlight which has been stored in the earth.

That was our savings account which we went through in about 200 years. We're now switching over to a checking account, based on daily income – how much sun falls on the planet? Most of that's on the ocean. How much of that can be transformed into useful energy, how much can make liquid fuels? What we find is caloric return per unit weight or volume is much lower, an order of magnitude or more lower than what we were getting from fossil. So it's the first time in history that we're going from a denser form of energy to a less dense form. Every other time we've moved from whale oil to shale oil, from wind from canvas to wind from hydraulics and electromagnets and now we're going back the other way.

There's enormous power stored in ocean waves and tides and things like that. We can and will tap all those things to our benefit but compared to fossil fuels they're going to be a step back. We're actually going to have to contract. The economy is going to have to contract. It already is. What we're seeing now with the broader global economy is a major contraction that's already under way. It's what James Kunstler calls the long emergency. It's going to last a long time and it's going to be in stair steps. It's not going to come all at once.

But if we think that somehow solar power is going to change that trajectory, it's not. We're still going to have to step down. There's a lot of ground to be gained from increased efficiency and from employing low tech solutions and so on. Lifestyle is going to have to shift to reflect that change too. Most people don't understand that.

Personally, I think that megacities are doomed, especially coastal ones. Megacities are based on the import of resources from the periphery to the center. That's going to become much harder when transportation fuels are at much more of a premium. I think that the bioeconomy is the future. We're going to learn to cascade our crops to be able to get ecosystem services from the way in which they are designed and then some food and maybe some fuel and energy from that. Then biochar and carbon, which we're going to put back in the soil, is going to make a reversal in the climate trend and that cycle – actually already – of using bioenergy is seven times more cost-effective from an energy production standpoint than photovoltaics.

If you're going to install photovoltaics in a remote location on a village scale you'll find you'll have seven times more bang for the buck if you go with a biomass kiln and a local crop of food which produces a waste stream for that kiln and the kiln is pyrolytic, it's gasified and so it makes biochar and is therefore a whole business for you. It gives you pharmaceuticals, animal feed and other kinds of things which are of benefit to you. I think that's the future. The problem is that it's a much different future than most people envision and is certainly different than governments coming out of Paris thought was going to happen.

Levi: I would go as far as to say many people can't imagine or have lost this ability to imagine a world that is so vastly different from what it is now. Especially kids nowadays who have access to TV shows and the internet so they don't have to use their imagination as much so I think it withers a bit.

AB: Let me jump in and say something about that. I think that some of the things that people do with permaculture design courses and with introductions to permaculture, and through lectures to the public and so forth, those kinds of entries into what we do in that world are ways of re-educating the population not just to the crisis that we face but also to the things that you can do to make your life better even while the world is undergoing this monumental shift.

I've been teaching this course in Belize for many years. It's the eleventh time we've taught this course at this one farm, an experimental research station in Belize. It is the 50th permaculture design course that I've taught. The thing that I'm getting out of that is that we bring people from North America and Europe into this setting which is a very rural, rustic place. It's the Mayan world. If you go deeply enough into the Yucatan peninsula you find the Mayan world which hasn't changed a lot since Columbus. It's been globalized to a large extent. People wear the same clothes as people in the outside world and they have bicycles and drive cars so the outer things have changed. But the first language is still Mayan. It's still an indigenous population which has indigenous ways. I just attended a funeral ceremony here where I am in the Yucatan right now and it's as much Mayan as it is Catholic.

In the Mayan mountains where we go to the course we're really putting people into a time portal. It's like an adventure where you get to go to a different planet because we're tucked into the foothills of the Mayan mountains two miles up-river from the village of San Pedro, Columbia in southern Belize. You have to get there by an hour in a dugout canoe being poled up river. That's the only way to get there. There's a trail but you probably wouldn't want to try that with a pack, and you still have to ford the river. When you get there, suddenly there's this beautiful sight that's all renewable energy. The food for the course comes from the land every day. For twenty years they've been doing integrated agro-forestry, what the UN calls eco-agriculture, and applied biodiversity. For a quarter of a century really, twenty-six years, they've been there growing organic food and converting citrus and cattle farming to a biologically diverse polyculture. So when you make this trip, when you go through this time portal, you're transported back to a society which existed a thousand years ago and was in complete harmony with the seasons, kept its population within the limits of production of the local watersheds, and had an elegant, simple, wonderfully fruitful life and a community society. You stumble over stones which are parts of old pyramids. This is a long lost city complex of the Maya and was there at its peak a thousand years ago. This is actually the best way to live the future, to see steady-state economies of the past which had it figured out and which actually can change the climate back to the holocene from the anthropocene, given the tools. So I recommend not just our course in Belize which anyone can attend but also other courses in similar settings where there are still indigenous cultures, for a wonderful experience in seeing what the future holds.

Levi: I really appreciate you coming on here and sharing all your great messages, all this information, and spreading it and all that you're doing.

AB: Thanks. It's been great talking to you. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Runaway Geotherapy

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Published on Peak Surfer on February 28, 2016

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Permaculture Realized, Part II

 

 

 

"Putting biology first means challenging big agriculture at the global industrial level."

 

 

The following transcript, from an interview for Permaculture Realized podcast on February 2, 2016, has been lightly edited for corrections and readability.

Levi Meeuwenberg: Since the Paris agreement just took place and I think that a lot of people are curious about that, and hopeful, can you tell us what you witnessed there? What happened?

Albert Bates: People tend to lump Paris into either a good or bad category depending on their viewpoint and I'm ambivalent. I'm kind of in both camps, one foot in each camp, because I've been going to these for a number of years going back to the Rio Convention which started the United Nations Convention on Climate Change and then the Rio+10 and Rio+20 Earth Summits, as well as many of the COPs and PrepComs. I was at the COP in Copenhagen for the entire time and blogging it daily and watched in frustration as the whole thing dissolved.

I attended the COPs after that in Cancún and other places so coming into this one I didn't have a lot of expectation because I knew the process and it was moving in very small increments toward something which is really just a band-aid on a much bigger wound. So I didn't expect much more than a band-aid. For a number of years myself and others — people in the organic foods industry, people who are protecting forests, people who are urging agro-forestry, alternate energy, renewables people, and others who are involved — we are called “observers” in UN parlance but who actually have consultative status and can actually input changes to language and treaties and so forth — we in that “civil society” or “multi-stakeholder” side of the UN have been pushing this agenda of carbon sinks — that there's actually, literally, more ground to be gained by looking at forests and soil than there is by emissions reductions.

We do need to do emissions reductions. In fact we should go to zero as quickly as possible. But then we need to go beyond zero and this is the point that we've been raising for a number of years. You can set a target of two degrees or 1.5 degrees above the industrial era and it's great that you have that, but until you actually do the math and figure it out, you don't really have much hope of achieving that, even by reducing emissions, at this point, because you are already on the roller coaster. We've gone over the top of the incline and are on the ride now, for better or worse, and the tipping points which have already been crossed – the release of methane hydrates from the arctic, the melting of Greenland and the Antarctic ice sheets, the changes in the equatorial regions, the deserts, the desertification of Brazil and Indonesia, the peat fires – all of those kinds of things, all those tipping points which have already been crossed, are now going to be keeping us busy just keeping up with those, right? Never mind emissions.

For every one degree that we increase the temperature of the planet the amount of methane being released from melting permafrost is equal to 1.5 times our current (2015) emissions. 

Let me say that again. Fifty percent more than the equivalent of all anthropogenic emissions are released from permafrost for every degree that the planet warms. We're already up one degree now so these ‘natural’ sources have already been increased, which leads us to say that for a two degree change we'll get an annual triple dose of present human emissions.

We can't do anything about that by stopping emissions. We can and we should stop emissions and that's what most of the conversation is about at the UN. It's about who is willing to tighten their belt. It's the carrot and stick approach. How can we get people to tighten their belts? Can we tax them? Can we pay them? Can we change the rules on fossil fuels at the source? Can we put fees on mining? Things like that.

The whole Bill McKibben/350.org/Greenpeace approach tends to be in that direction. Naomi Klein says let's blockade. Let's protest. Let's stop emissions. Let's stop new pipelines. I'm all in favor of all of that except it's not going to stop the three times anthropogenic emissions coming from an already heating planet. It's not going to stop that. The only thing we can do about that is to look at the things that soil scientists and farmers look at.

Look at how carbon can be taken out of the atmosphere — the answer to that is photosynthesis. It's very simple, photosynthesis. What's the greatest photosynthesizer? – a forest. Everybody who's taken a permaculture course knows how many hectares there are in a single tree of leaf surface that's photosynthesizing all the time. What's that doing? It's taking the carbon from the CO2 that's in the atmosphere and converting it into a form of labile biocarbon which travels through the phloem of the tree down into the roots and is deposited at the root zones so even if you cut the tree down and burn it, you've still left a lot of carbon in the soil. I'm not urging anybody to cut down trees and burn them, but a tree is an atmospheric scrub brush so we need lots more of them. Can we get our food that way? Can we get our food through forests? Yes, we can. In fact we can get more and better food through forests. Can we get soil sequestered through grasslands? Yes, through holistic management practices of mob grazing and rotational pastures and things like that. Yes, we can absolutely do that. It's been shown. We can demonstrate sequestration from grasslands. Can we re-green the deserts? We absolutely can. We know how to do this. It's not a secret. There are a variety of different methods and it is being done in small scale.

So the soil is our biggest hope and when I went to Paris I carried with me the declaration which had been drafted at the International Permaculture Convergence in London which essentially outlines what permaculture brings to the subject of climate change and it has all of the tools that the world needs, available right now in practice. It just needs the scale. The real victory at COP21, I think, was the recognition that we had this previously hidden weapon to fight climate change – the role that soils can play in reversing global warming.

Managing carbon content in soils is really the best way to take control of the carbon cycle. Not only can soils be a sink but most soils need carbon in order to regain vitality worldwide. Fifty to seventy percent of the carbon in soils has been lost. That's a lot of what's up in the atmosphere. The culprits were irrigation and the plow and those go back ten thousand years. If we can increase photosynthesis with trees and plants and we can get our food that way, then carbon farming is a win-win solution because it's building carbon in the soil.

This is not new. I think my friend Thomas Goreau, who was also in Paris, wrote an article in Nature back in 1987 that said that the way to escape the greenhouse problem was by renewable resource-based land management and it's the cheapest option in the long run. It has lots of advantages in addition like water sequestration, preventing floods, mitigating droughts, controlling polluting inorganic fertilizers, stopping erosion, and so on. All these things come with that approach. Then in 2015 Tom co-authored and edited Geotherapy which is an absolutely fantastic book. It's a free download. Its innovative methods of soil fertility restoration, carbon sequestration, and reversing carbon dioxide increase through soil.

The idea here is to control the carbon cycle with soil and we were like voices in the wilderness at many of these COPs. We said this in Lima, in Warsaw, in Cancun and yet we weren't being heard particularly. But suddenly in Paris this whole idea got traction. I think that one of the major catalysts was the people in the French government in particular who created a program which was launched in Paris on the first of December but which had really been created at the COP in Lima a year earlier called 4 Per 1000 Initiative. You can look this up at 4p1000.org. Four grams per one thousand grams of carbon in the soil is the idea behind 4p1000. I think that this is the new 350.

You can talk about 1.5 degrees, you can talk about 2 degrees, but the only thing you can really talk about which really makes sense to me is 4 per 1000. You can gain four tenths of one percent carbon content for your soils every year. Everyone can. So, if you are keylining a field, planting trees, or changing your method of mulching to where you're getting an addition of four tenths of a percent of carbon to your humus annually your top soil is building. That's not a difficult lift. Most farmers understand that. Although, I have to say, if you go to an ag course like a master gardener course or something in the conventional agriculture schools, they consider a loss of four percent a year to be tolerable and only losing four tenths of a percent as wonderful. That's best practice, to them.
We're not talking about loss. We're talking about gain, about gaining four tenths of a percent and maybe even gaining four percent. You could build a meter of top soil in ten years if you try.

That was signed in Paris by twenty-five countries and fifty civil society organizations in a big rollout. I think that there are probably more countries that have signed on since. France's minister of agriculture was definitely one of the leaders that put that in place. I applaud that because it brought soil to the front of the discussion and it actually means that we can have massive reduction of emissions from energy as we go into biomass energy systems which are stacking functions and cascading from energy into food, carbon soil building, transportation, industries, and broad scale ecological restoration.

All of these are ways out of runaway climate change. We can actually go beyond zero. We can put net carbon into the ground every year. That means that we're creating an atmosphere which has less greenhouse imbalance year after year. Despite the increase of methane and all these other tipping points, we can still get to net zero. We can get to beyond net zero and into net sequestration. That's a game changer and the biggest thing coming out of Paris – that recognition and the number of countries and organizations that bought into that.

 It was not reported outside the blogosphere. USA Today doesn't get it. The New York Times doesn't get it. None of these people understands any of that. They look at the politics – will the Senate ratify this and so on. That's all a big side show which is what the press does. But if you go and see what actually came out of Paris, there's a paradigm shift. It's giving rise to a geotherapy which puts biology first. It's challenging big agriculture at the global industrial level. It places the soil-food-life web near the center of discussions in every COP to come. We are now entering a new age of soil and food. Non-profit organizations like Carbon Underground, Regeneration International, Regrarians and so on are all at the forefront. They're going to find themselves swamped with requests for information and projects to do.

Levi: That is so good to hear. That is so reassuring. Smells like hope. Thank you. That's awesome. How do you foresee some of these new approaches starting to be implemented and then get rolled out in the long term?

Continued next week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Community in Death

Death-Rattlegc2reddit-logoOff the keyboard of Albert Bates

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Published on Peak Surfer on February 7, 2016

PeakSurfer

Discuss this article at the Environment Table inside the Diner

 

"Denial is common among our kind of sapient apes and faith in the supernatural — angels, aliens, and economists — exposes our deeper fear of overdue reckonings."

 

 

 

 
When a person you know dies, a part of you must go too, like a thread being cut and a part of yourself unraveling. We are a weave of such threads, we two-leggeds, and our knits are a biochemical, emotional, electrical and microbial gestalt. We interweave with each other in ways that are seen and unseen, forming a fabric that we call, for lack of precision, "community."

We have been spending some winter months in recent years in a small village on the North coast of the Yucatán Peninsula. When we first arrived it was a not atypical coastal town with dirt streets and thatched or tin roofs. It is secure within one of Mexico's largest nature preserves, and it is here because the village pre-existed the reserve, so it was allowed to remain as long as it behaved, and then even when it didn't. Development has been very cruel to this region in recent years, has made it socially, economically and ecologically more fragile, and has set it up for a big fall in the not very distant future. 

We are much more comfortable wintering here than in the cold north, in Tennessee, or in touristy trendy spots like Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, Cabo San Lucas or Playa del Carmen. Here we can find the quiet time we need to gather and sort our lost or jumbled thoughts, recover from our summer labors and travels and prepare for the work to come. We have written 5 books here and substantially contributed to at least twice that many more.

Before there was Cancún or the state of Quintana Roo, this had been just one more fishing village — a few hundred souls. It was known mainly for the quality of its hammocks and the beautiful seashells that washed up on its beaches. Because of its position along Cabo Catoche and the Straits of Cuba, it receives annual migrations of fish, birds, sea turtles and marine mammals and the biodiversity runs deep. The name of a nearby town is the Mayan word for manatee. The name for this place in Mayan is "black hole," a reference perhaps to the freshwater Yalahau cenote that for more than five centuries attracted whalers, pirates and explorers to refill their water casks. Among the older family lines you can recognize Russian, Nordic, Moorish, Maori and Portuguese lineages in facial hair, skin complexion, physical build and other features that are neither Yucatec nor Mestizo.

Here, where it is so full of life, is a strange place to think of death, but there come times when everyone needs to. Mexico has very different customs regarding death than its neighboring countries to the North. As Octavio Paz wrote in Labyrinth of Solitude:

"The Mexican … is familiar with death, jokes about it, caresses it, sleeps with it, celebrates it. True, there is as much fear in his attitude as in that of others, but at least death is not hidden away: he looks at it face to face, with impatience, disdain or irony."

When Hernan Cortes conquered the region that is now Mexico City, his conquistadors noticed a local ritual of making offerings to the goddess Mictecacihuatl, Queen regnant of Mictlan, the underworld, ruling over the afterlife. In the Aztec codices, Mictecacihuatl is represented with a defleshed body, jaw agape to swallow the stars during the day. Cortes' priests were quick to link the Aztec rituals to the Catholic observances of All Hallows Eve, All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day, just as they brilliantly connected the dark-skinned indigenous Madonna, the Virgin of Guadalupe, to the corn goddess, Chicomecoatl. Unlike the masses for the dead celebrated elsewhere, however, Dia de los Muertos is a happy occasion, with a carnivalesque atmosphere.

For the south of Mexico and in rural areas, death holds far greater social and cultural significance than in the north and large cities; families and communities may spend large parts of the year in smaller rituals and processions and it is not uncommon to find an altar in every home with images of the departed. The pre-Columbian concept of life and death was as part of a broader, never-ending cycle of existence, which dovetailed neatly with Christian and Asian traditions of veneration of the deceased, afterlife and reincarnation. In places and periods where unnatural death is a regular feature, as it was in much of Turtle Island after European contact and for 500 years, death becomes engrained as a cultural expression. As the artist Diego Rivera said in 1920: "If you look around my studio, you will see Deaths everywhere, Deaths of every size and color."

Our neighbor across the way on Calle Gonzalo Guerrero is Capitán Carmelo, a fisherman and whale shark diving guide. He is part of an old family in the town and an "abuelo" now, with grandchildren in their teens. A day ago his wife, Maria Coral de Sabatini, died and today the community laid her to rest. We are going to spend a few moments now describing that process, because it has a lot to say about the power of community, how it is built, how it is held, and how it passes between generations.

We started noticing Maria's cough a few years ago. She sort of shrugged it off, sitting as she did in her chair in front of her home every day, but we couldn't help but notice as it became deeper, more throaty and more painful. We suspected that because she and Carmelo neither drink nor smoke and neither does anyone else in their house, that it was not likely lung cancer but more probably tuberculosis. Her family simply called it las garras (the claws, or what we might call the grip). When we returned last year it had gotten so severe that she had lost a lot of weight and could not sit outside on dusty days. When we returned this year she was gone. We asked after her and Carmelo said she was in the hospital.

Then on Christmas she returned home. We asked her about her health and she said she lived day to day, “poca a poca,” little by little. We understood her to be dying. She had come to do that at home, among friends.

The knowledge that a person will die, combined with the uncertainty of not knowing when the event will happen, can be very stressful for family members and we witnessed this as the family drew together over the holidays. Then she seemed to recover, was up and about, and we were happy to see her walking to the corner store for eggs or fruit again, frail but smiling. The family dispersed again, the kids back to school, Carmelo and his son-in-law to fish each morning before sunrise.

A few days ago Maria's condition worsened and the family was pulled back together. Then one morning she suffered an arrest and the paramedics were summoned, followed by the police with the village pickup truck that doubles as an ambulance. We watched from our home and after an hour or so, the medics and police left and soon the village priest arrived.

Maria was given last rites by the priest and anointed with holy oil. If she was able, the priest heard her final confession, provided communion and offered absolution. Then began the vigil.

The vigil was attended mostly by immediate family, close neighbors and friends and lasted a day and a night, until Maria passed, peacefully, in her sleep. In the morning the family closed off the street and erected a tent. Chairs were brought and placed in a circle. A white coffin arrived, and Maria was bathed, dressed, and placed in it, on a pedestal in the front room of her home. For the next 24 hours, everyone who knew her came to pay their respects and say goodbye. They filed into the home and then out to the tent, where they sat, told stories, ate, sang. Musicians — different ones, separately and in groups — came with instruments, some several times. Choirs appeared and serenaded. Prayers were recited. Children came and sat with their elders or wandered in to stare at the body in the open coffin. Candles were lit. Elders were helped in, touched her, held her hand, said a prayer and were helped back out to the street. More candles were lit. More hymns, more prayers.

The wake continued through the night. A heavy rain fell, the heaviest of the winter so far. The songs got louder to drown the rain. Because Carmelo and Maria were teetotalers, there was no alcohol. This was a time for friends and family members to share memories of the past, to speak of their concerns for their own families, the village, the future. It is a moment when the fabric of the tribe is being woven. Lost threads are recovered. Wrongs are forgiven. Apologies are made. Expressions of friendship, kinship and love patch tears in the fabric. The children witness it all. This is part of their formative experience.

Maria was royalty. She bears the family name of José María Sabatini, for whom the annual fishing tournament is named. Her family, and the family of Carmelo, go back to the group that endured the great hurricane that swept away the original village on the Southwest point of the peninsula and made new islands there. They migrated their ejido southeast and built the village that is here now. There are a few names that appear most often in the cemetery that mark these families: Moguel, Ancona, Betancort, Avila, Nuñez, Rosado, Coral, Sabatini. Notice that these are not Mayan names and some are also not Spanish.

At sunrise a pickup truck fords the deep puddles and backs up to the house. The coffin and flowers are raised into the truck bed and the procession of mourners follows it at a walking pace to the church. There the coffin is unloaded, brought to the front of the nave and opened for viewing again. It is 8 am. Now the village gathers.

Capitan Carmelo is a vicar in the church and normally it would be his duty to prepare the way, usher the family to seats, read part of the scripture, and make the collection. Instead, he takes his position in the front row with his family while his fellow deacons, dressed in white, perform those functions. A choir forms at the vestry door and sings energetically at various points in the service. Loudspeakers in the nave make their small number seem larger than it is, but they sing in a style that is definitely homespun and authentic, not canned.
 

The cement angel motions the dead to hush up and sleep

Midway through, the town's power is lost, a not uncommon daily occurrence in this place. The priest does not even pause to acknowledge the loss. Lit through stained glass and with acapella choir, his mass does not miss a beat.

After communion, the pallbearers return to stand beside the coffin and Carmelo leans in to plant one last kiss on Maria before the lid comes down. It is a touching moment.

Then the coffin and flowers are carried back onto the bed of the pickup, which gets stuck turning around in the mud, and once unstuck, the long procession passes slowly through town and out to the cemetery in a light rain.

In Mexico it is said the dead return on certain days of the year. Those days they are remembered through special ceremonies. The body must be buried, not cremated, for their return to occur. Because we are on the sandy coast, the cemetery consists of aboveground vaults, cemented and tiled to protect from the sea. During Hurricane Wilma, the entire cemetery, and the town, went a meter or more under the waves and although the cemetery wall had to be repaired, relatively few of the vaults were badly damaged. Maria's family names, Coral and Sabatini, are on several of headstones.

Afterward, the mourners gather back in our street for a meal and reception. This is a time for levity, good food, and comforting those who are still dealing with their grief. Then, after two or more days awake, the family gets to sleep a short while and Maria Coral de Sabatini is gone but not forgotten.

The tent remains for the next 8 days, and each day there are visitors. Twice each day the front room of the house is filled with voices raised in hymn and the recitation of the rosary. On the final day, it is an all-night ceremony.

The cemetery is particularly poignant because this is a town that is built on the coral sand of a barrier island. The highest point of land is no more than 3 meters above the sea. Wetlands approach the edge of the cemetery and trash is being dumped there to fill the sinkholes. Some of that trash includes old monuments and broken crypts of the departed whose names have been forgotten, the marks on their stones and crosses rubbed out by time and salt air.

It might be denied by the government or wishful thinkers, but this is an entire town on death watch. The vigil begins every June, when it enters hurricane season, because one more Wilma could erase everything but the memories. Already regular tides that coincide with the moon are bringing seawater inland to places it has not reached in the memory of the elders. Many seawalls that were constructed after Wilma are now nearly obsolete. The population here continues to grow on the strength of tourism and Catholic fecundity, but where it will go when the town vanishes is anyone's guess. It is likely that many of these families could break apart. This is a community of place.

How long does it have? That's anyone's guess too. It could be a decade. Maybe two. Three seems unlikely, because both the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico are warming dramatically and molecular thermal expansion of the water, combined with the westerly currents at this latitude which dictate that sea level rise here will be stronger and faster than most other parts of the Earth. Southeastern Mexico, Galveston, New Orleans and Miami are on the front lines of climate change. Miami Beach, like here, has been sinking one inch each year, one foot every 12 years, and that is accelerating.

Some here believe that some supernatural event will spare this place its preordained fate. Denial is common among our kind of sapient apes and faith in the supernatural — angels, aliens, and economists — exposes our deeper fear of overdue reckonings. Still, not even the most hopeful provisions of The Paris Agreement can alter the fate of coastal cities and low islands now.

In the not-too-distant future the only way to visit Maria will be with a mask and snorkel. Unless the government decides to relocate everything, an unlikely prospect, she will still be here, and probably alongside Carmelo, when the rest of us have moved to higher ground. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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