Friday, November 25, 2011
Read that again.
On top of this, there were shootings in parking lots and robberies near stores. C'mon America. This is appalling We've not just lost civility, we've lost humanity!
How do we work towards respecting others? How do we wean ourselves from our orgyistic consumerism which is both a blessing (it drives our economy) and a clear and present danger for our future (it drives our carbon consumption). How do we re-learn manners and civility? How do we create a national conversation that doesn't end it pepper-spray?
Thursday, November 24, 2011
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Sunday, November 13, 2011
juice of 1 large lemon
Monday, November 7, 2011
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
By Tom Whipple
Wednesday, September 21 2011 06:49:43 PM
In the last five or six years at least 20 major studies have been
published by governmental and non-governmental organizations that
either deal with or touch upon the possibility of severe energy
shortages developing in the near future.
Studies done by governmental entities, however, are rare for nearly
all of the world's governments still prefer to wait as long as
possible before confronting the myriad of problems that will
accompany declining oil production. Exceptions to this phenomenon of
denial, however, seem to be military organizations that have
realistic planning baked into their DNA. All professional military
services know that in the last century they have become so dependent
on liquid fuels that their effectiveness would be severely degraded
should shortages or extremely high oil prices develop.
Last year two military planning organizations went public with
studies predicting that serious consequences from oil depletion will
befall us shortly. In the U.S. the Joint Forces Command concluded,
without saying how they arrived at their dates, that by 2012 surplus
oil production capacity could entirely disappear and that by 2015 the
global shortfall in oil production could be as much as 10 million
b/d. Later in the year a draft of a German army study, which went
into greater detail in analyzing the consequences of peaking world
oil production, was leaked to the press. The German study which was
released recently is unique for the frankness with which it explores
the dire consequences which may be in store for us.
The Bundeswehr Transformation Center, the organization that prepared
the study, starts with the assertion that as there are so many forces
in play, it is impossible to determine an exact date for peak oil,
but that it will become obvious in hindsight. The Germans also
believe that it is already too late to complete a comprehensive
global transition to a post fossil fuel economy. They introduce the
notion of a peak oil induced economic "tipping point" that would
trigger so much economic damage that it is impossible to evaluate the
For the near future the study foresees that a very large increase in
oil prices would harm the energy-intensive agricultural systems that
produce much of our food. Not only could the costs of fertilizers and
pesticides become prohibitive, but the massive amount of
oil-dependent transportation needed to move agricultural products
long distances could make food unaffordable for many.
The study goes on to postulate a "mobility crisis" that would arise
from substantial increases in the costs of operating private cars and
trucks. Although sudden shortages could be relieved by volunteer and
regulatory measures, ultimately the mobility crisis would feed into
and add to the worsening economic situation.
As oil is used either directly or indirectly in almost 90 percent of
industrial production, major increases in the price of oil would
change most price relationships. Domestic and foreign trade will have
to adapt to these new relationships but doing so will likely lead to
economic upheavals. As businesses transform to less oil-dependent
forms of services and production, there would likely be an extended
period of "transformation unemployment" that will become a major
economic problem. A case could be made that our current "jobs" crisis
is simply the leading edge of the "transformation unemployment" that
could go on for decades.
The German study maintains that all countries on earth will sooner or
later be faced with the problem of transitioning to a post-fossil
fuel age. As such a transition has never happened before, there are
no guidelines for how it is to be accomplished. Of great significance
is the willingness of nations to implement the economic policies
necessary to effect the transformation to the post fossil fuel age.
Forms of government will be sorely tested. The Germans who have much
experience in these matters note that only continuous improvement in
individual living conditions forms the basis for tolerant and open
societies. Given the widespread unemployment and high mobility costs
that are almost certain to accompany the transition to a post fossil
fuel world, democratic forms of government are likely to face severe
challenges. We all remember the Weimar Republic. Also of note are
recent studies within the OECD that show that voting for extremist
and nationalist political parties tends to increase with economic setbacks.
For the immediate future, however, the German Army study foresees: 1.
increasing oil prices that will reduce consumption and economic
output (i.e. a recession or worse); 2. increasing transportation
costs that will lead to lower trade volumes - less income for many
and unaffordable food for some; and 3. pressure on government budgets
as they must keep populations fed, deal with the social consequences
of mass unemployment, and attempt to invest in sustainable sources of
energy. Governmental revenues are bound to fall as unemployment
increases along with resistance to further taxation.
In the medium term, most companies would come to realize that the
global economy is going to be shrinking for a long time and act
accordingly. In an indefinitely shrinking economy, savings would not
be invested as profits could no longer be made or borrowing costs
paid. In this environment, the banking system, stock exchanges and
financial markets would have a hard time surviving.
Banks would be left with no reason to exist as they would not be able
to pay interest on deposits or find credit-worthy companies or
individuals. The final step would be the loss of confidence in
currencies and with them the ability to carry on normal economic
transactions outside of barter.
If all this sounds extreme to American ears, remember the Germans
have been through far more than we have in the last century. What is
interesting is the way they are telling it like they see it - no
pulling of punches here.
Tom Whipple is a retired government analyst and has been following
the peak oil issue for several years.
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
A friend of mine spent a couple of years in the state of Bahia, northeastern Brazil, to map the distribution of monkeys of the genus Callicebus in that state. He had to talk to a lot of people to get information about the localization of the monkeys, and then check if they were still living in that area. Some people indicated an old man as a source of great knowledge about the fauna and flora of the region, and my friend went to a small community to interview him. By the end of the talk, my friend played the sound of a monkey vocalization and asked the man if he could recognize what sound was that. When the old man heard it, he stood up and started crying: “this was the sound of the forest! The sound of the forest! This does not exist anymore, people destroyed it! But it was not me!” His daughter, who was hearing the talk, asked my friend to stop the interview because his father needed to go home and rest. He was very excited and his body was shaking.
The old man didn’t know that sound was the vocalization of a monkey. For him, it was the forest. And the forest must have played an important role in his life. I wonder what he remembered when he heard “the forest”. Perhaps his youth, his family, friends, the social life in his community, good and bad things, all of them happened in that place, surrounded by the forest. The forest had been the background for life in that place. And the forest was not there anymore.
This kind of situation is an example that indicates we have to defend nature not only for the material things it supplies us. We need to conserve nature for the sake of our peace of mind. Forests, animals, and every other aspect of nature are inside us, are part of what we are. In a world where financial values are the central part of many discussions, even those related to environmental questions, cultural, ethical and spiritual values must not be forgotten, and we can incorporate some of these values living close to natural things.
Discussion topics: Does nature evoke good memories in you? Is there a special landscape that reminds you of good things that happened in you life?
Population growth sees myths reborn
November 1, 2011
The news that the human population now numbers more than 7 billion -
and the projection that it may grow to 15 billion - has caused the
re-emergence of many ancient population fallacies.
Australia is a centre of one of the most dangerous myths to infect
civilisation: that population and economic growth have no limits. The
"big Australia" fallacy is pushed by unscrupulous developers,
politicians, media moguls and their buddies, who will personally
profit from growth.
In fact, Australian population growth will promote further
destruction of the fragile environment of Australia. And it will
attack global life-support systems by adding more greenhouse
gas-emitting super-consumers to the human population.
Fortunately, most poor and middle-class Australians realise that the
growth boosters will push the costs of further overpopulation onto
them and the rest of Earth's people, while reaping the benefits for
themselves. Indeed, Australia leads all the rich countries in at
least having a debate about population and consumption, and having a
leader such as Dick Smith to galvanise it.
Let's look at some of the silliest ideas. There's the half-baked idea
that overpopulation isn't the problem - it's overconsumption. Yes,
most of humanity's environmental problems trace to too much total
consumption, but that consumption is due to population size and
Population and consumption are no more separable in producing
environmental damage than the length and width of a rectangle can be
separated in producing its area - both are equally important.
It's also wrong to say that there is not a "population bomb" but a
"cluster bomb" of rapidly growing countries. This claim focuses on
the plight of some poor countries struggling with rapid population
growth and increasing hunger.
However, it ignores the role of rich countries in worsening that
plight and, more importantly, in contributing to the most important
population-related problems that are global: climate disruption,
toxification of the entire planet, limited fossil fuels and
increasing risk of pandemics and nuclear war.
Likewise, it is silly to suggest that the additional 2 billion people
projected to arrive by 2050 will have the same environmental impact
as the last 2 billion. No, they won't. Each person added to the
population in the future will likely, on average, cause more damage
to humanity's critical life-support systems than did the previous person.
It will be necessary to farm ever poorer lands, use more dangerous
and expensive agricultural inputs, win metals from ever-poorer ores,
drill wells deeper or tap increasingly remote or more contaminated
sources to obtain water, then spend more energy to transport that
water ever-greater distances, and so on. Of course, if humanity got
serious about protecting the environment the next 2 billion could do
The idea that there is a big problem with ageing populations is
beloved of innumerate European politicians, but it is idiotic. The
shift of age composition towards a higher proportion of old people
who will need support is inevitable when a growing population moves
to zero population growth. But there will be a smaller proportion of
children to be supported, and it is much easier to make a 70-year-old
economically productive than a seven-year-old.
Only if the population were to grow forever could making the obvious
minor adjustments to changing population age structure be avoided.
The most widespread folly may be the idea that "healthy" economies
can grow forever at 3.5 per cent a year. It actually implies that in
20 years the capacity of Earth's environment to support us could be
roughly cut in half, and in a couple of centuries, that capacity
could be reduced to something like one-100th of today's. Perpetual
growth is the creed of the cancer cell. The human enterprise is
already too large to be sustained.
Perhaps the most dangerous fallacy of all is that the hazardous
consequences of population growth can sensibly be examined one at a
time. For example, in many discussions of the problems of feeding a
burgeoning population, the implications of climate disruption for
food production are not mentioned at all. The fact that agriculture
is utterly dependent on precipitation, patterns of which are already
changing with the rise of greenhouse gases, is rarely explained - let
alone that agriculture is one of the main emitters of those gases.
Finally, there's the idea that leaders and decision-makers understand
these fallacies. All one needs to do is listen to a political debate
among US Republican presidential candidates today, or note the
general absence of population and consumption from political
discourse, to know this is nonsense.
The debate about population and consumption should include what is
known of human evolution - which provides essential background on
human behaviour - and an understanding of what humanity is doing to
undermine its own life-support systems. If we don't change how we
treat each other and those vital systems, society almost certainly
Paul Ehrlich is the Bing professor of population studies at Stanford
University. This is an edited version of the Jack Beale Lecture on
the Global Environment delivered at University of NSW last night.