Pulling the Plug

SUBHEAD: Starve the system. Any machine can withstand tinkering, but no machine can run without fuel.

By Vera Bradova on 28 February 2015 for Leaving Babylon  -

Image above: Illustration of apocalyptic midtown Manhattan, looking south-west, as seen from south end of Central Park. From (http://www.starseeds-quebec.org/?page_id=1021).

 "We can refuse to participate in a dead society gone shopping."
— Joe Bageant
Once we understand what feeds it, it becomes possible to think of stopping the Machine. I puzzled over this one for a long time, only to suddenly grok the obvious: the fodder for the Machine is our precious life energy!

So then. Deny it its coveted fuel: your effort, your attention and interest, your money, your loyalty, your goodwill and your good ideas. Deny it your streams of energy, one by one. Direct them instead to the Lifeworld. And don’t shout it from the rooftops! Just blend discreetly into one of the various subcultures experimenting nowadays with a saner way of life; the minions and guardians of the Machine will never even notice you.

This is the crux. Any machine can withstand tinkering, but no machine can run without fuel. Like an old mill on a dry riverbed, it will become a relic of a past that’s done with, a useless hunk of debris. Our radical withdrawal will be the end of the Machine.

Here are some of the ways of seceding from Babylon:
  • Down-work, un-work
More work is the source of evils like resource depletion and stress and pointlessly complicated lives; the Earth needs us to stop working so hard! The less we work, the less we feed the Machine.

Our work aids the plunder, our de-working slows and stops it, one person at a time. This is why Babylon has always reinforced the message that work is virtuous and important even as it was inventing pointless busywork, harmful work, useless work.

Let’s celebrate “Freedom from Labor” Day! Working more is not the way to leisure. Leisure is the way to leisure. Find it before the Machine uses you up and spits you out.

Working less will give the earth a break and repatriate you from ratdom back to humanity. There is plenty of work out there for those who want to do real things, useful things that matter. Once we shed debts and provide ourselves with paid-for basics, money is a small part of the picture.

Well-being is what matters, not cranking out a pittance while the planet is plundered more and more. What we need is a “less work ethic”! Less work, less planet being used, more life.
  • Unschool
Unschooling does not mean turning the parent into a traditional teacher, and stuffing the kids full of the same nonsense that the official curricula dictate. No!

Let children learn as they did between the ages of birth and 5 or 6, when they acquired prodigious quantities of knowledge, all by their own efforts. Just help them along, and they will be far ahead of their institutionalized peers.

Best learning happens in context, by learners who are busily exploring their environment. Spend time with your children sharing with them what you know and what you love. Create neighborhood co-op schools. Get tutors (elders in particular): kind, child-cherishing experts who can take the kids down paths you do not know.

And make it possible for children to learn real things: basic medical care, care for animals, food growing and cooking, conversation, geography of travel, building. All those abstractions schools “teach” will either be learned in the course of their exploration, or will never be needed anyways. Honest: when was the last time you needed algebra?
  • Dis-identify with the hologram 
Exit the theater of the audience-nation! As Joe Bageant once ranted so well: “All Americans, regardless of caste, live in a culture woven of self-referential illusions. Like a holographic simulation, each part refers exclusively back to the whole, and the whole refers exclusively back to the parts.

All else is excluded by this simulated reality, a simulated republic of eagles and big box stores, a good place to live so long as we never stray outside the hologram. The corporate simulacrum of life has penetrated us so deeply it now dominates the mind’s interior landscape with its celebrities and commercial images.

Within the hologram sparkles the culture-generating industry, spinning out our unreality like cotton candy.”

The hologram and its spin meisters have been having themselves a veritable orgy of lies and propaganda dealing with the wreck that is Ukraine. This has been one part of the world I have followed with some alacrity over the last year. Nothing, nothing, nothing reported in the MSM was close to the reality on the ground. When the fated Malaysian plane was shot down, a relentless stream of deception sloshed out like long-stored toxic sludge that burst its containment.

As Ilargi has recently pointed out on Automatic Earth, 2014 was the year when the bargeload of lies heading our way was no longer even disguised. It may be time for me to pull back even from the little “Babylon-watching” that I still do. Their self-referential faux-reality does not deserve the gift of anyone’s attention. My heart goes to all those trapped in Babylon’s perpetual wars, and my blessings.
  • Unplug from the Spectacle
Toss the damn stupid boob box. Why are you still watching all those hundreds of channels with nothing on? It sucks away your hours like a vampire. Give those hours to something that will give you joy. After all, your supply of lifetime hours is very limited. News? You will learn about the important events from other people. It is quite possible to stop reading the papers – skimming the headlines is more than enough.

And you will spare yourself the crassness of commercials, ads, infomercials and disinformation. Computer news can be used far more selectively, and can supply news directly from other people like us, unfiltered by official channels. Find what works for you. Waking from the trance takes time and new habits.

But that’s not nearly enough. I have been amongst the TV-unplugged for 15 years now, and yet I too get sucked into the vortex of disastrous news. In the fall of 2008 I gaped with horror and disbelief as the evidence of stupendous plunder unfolded. I spent inordinate amount of my time trying to fathom it. But what good has it done me or my neighbors?

All those fear-mongering stories – the true and the false – are just stories, repetitive and debilitating messages of scarcity and doom, bringing about a festering sense of anxiety, failure and helplessness so that people become ripe pickings for demagogues and con-men.

We can choose not to play this game. We can tell stories that are of use, and disseminate them via our own channels.

And while the thugs and thieves will keep on with their business, we can and will find a way to secede from their Kingdom of Spin, leaving them to their slime, moving on.
  • Unshop
Buy only what you must. Economize. Go frugal. Share. Grow and make your own. Join a community that knows how. Support local merchants. Let the uglification of box stores mercifully fall into the understory of history. A healthy economy does not depend on buying up an avalanche of crap and working in pointless jobs to be able to afford i

It depends on people being genuinely productive and economical. It also depends on a healthy planet to feed us, and on social systems not based on theft so that we don’t have to run just to stay in one place, while others fatten themselves at our expense.
  • Undebt
Get a debit card if you must, or do a cash economy. Pay off the debts. Do what it takes. Get out of the yoke too demeaning even for oxen.
  • Delegitimize
Judiciously unvote. The choices are really between really bad and “keep fingers crossed” less bad. Is that good enough? For how long? Let Babylon’s politics languish on the periphery of your attention. Ignore the inanities of the election races. Stop chasing after the liars. Refuse the system your loyalty and your goodwill.
  • Break the spell of Thingness
We’ve been taught for endless generations that it is stuff that really matters. Stuff is primary. Stuff gives security and happiness. After all, we are the descendants of the Neolithic cult of MORE. But material stuff is just a fraction of what really matters here on Earth, and we already have more than enough of it.

Let us return to a larger vision: humans who break their addition to material wealth for the greater good. Humans as intelligent beings who cherish– not ruin — creation, humans as those who are wise enough to enlarge the chances of Life.
  • Down-specialize
Back off from single-minded pursuits and become a generalist. Every biochemist should know how to fix what breaks in the home. Every engineer should know how to start a fire. Every office worker should know how to do basic healing.

Every one of us should know how to grow food. We all together hold the potential to be able to do most anything that really matters and our local communities require. Let’s look at the priorities, and put specialization in its valuable, but much smaller place.
  • Undomesticate
Domestication, like slavery, rebounds on the perpetrator. We must return to thinking of our fellow animals and plants as symbionts, and more, as devoted friends. Some of these friends feed us; they give the gift of their lives so that we may live on. Others maintain the atmosphere, the ecosphere, the soil. Why don’t we treat them accordingly?

In return, we will reap a restoration of our own wild spirit now crushed under the weight of misery-spreading dependency, under the burden of everyday brutality that exists because of our own complicity. Babylon sweeps it under the rug, and then abuses the rebels who refuse to look the other way.

Dare I say it? Let’s rewild!
  • Repudiate usury
Babylon would like us to forget that usury, historically and biblically speaking, did not mean charging high interest. It meant not charging interest at all. Medieval economies flourished without interest. And it was interest that pushed the cancerous expansion of Western civilization.

Interest is one of the most powerful ratcheting forces behind the vicious circle of “endless growth” and accompanying plunder. There are other ways to conceive of money and lending. Send some of your energy to the financial rebels who are disseminating them.
  • Disencumber
Remember those storage sheds full of crap you will never use again, the closets chock-full of stuff you haven’t seen in years? Time to “shed it” for good. Most places have second-hand stores happy to take some of it. Try craigslist or freecycle websites. Some communities have Free Stores or book kiosks too, or need to.

I have had good luck with half.com and amazon for passing on books that I cared about but that I would never read again. Every time something, no matter how small, is passed on to the next user, life opens up new possibilities.
  • Divest
We cannot expect to shrink Babylon or leave it while giving it our money. These money systems are the dark heart of Babylon, and they are the ones that transform our living energy into the stuff that flows out. It is laughable to think that Babylon will allow significant reform so that community banking and money issuance could take hold.

But thousands of hidden, small experiments growing like mushrooms everywhere? At a time of ongoing high-level crises Babylon must deal with first – that indeed would be a formidable challenge. Divesting deflated South Africa’s balloon. It will deflate Babylon’s zeppelin too. Let’s find ways to invest our money in the service of Life.
  • Phase out economic dependencies
Learning to supply one’s basic needs without the dependence on Babylon is the key to freedom. Follow the paths of food to learn how ridiculous, wasteful, unsafe, and downright revolting our system is. Find local sources for the basics from food and soap to pottery and clothes. Become one of the local sources for something. Be part of the local economy. Cook from scratch. Relearn frugality and old-time skills and teach others. Restore the free and the abundant. Earn local money into existence.
  • Lighten the overhead
Stop feeding the chiseling bridge-trolls. Go direct for all the goods that you cannot buy locally. Look where the skimming goes on in an economic transaction, and find ways to circumvent the middlemen. The maintenance of elites is a luxury the planet can ill afford. As soon as we refuse to produce the skim-surplus that finances them, they will vanish like mist over a morning swamp.
  • Decontaminate one’s self
There are plenty of noxious ideas and patterns of thinking out there, the sort that keep us tied to Babylon’s strings forever. We must become shrewd and discerning. As we disencumber materially, it makes sense to do spring cleaning inside our heads as well. Community is more important than “multiculturalism” or “cosmopolitanism.”

Anomie is not something we must accept along with stainless steel and velcro. And good medical care need not be based on an overly high-tech, top-heavy, impersonal model. Dare to imagine — and come to visit — the lovely world outside Babylon’s box.
  • Un-victimize
We must learn to defend ourselves and our communities. A time may come when it becomes imperative. In any case, the police are expensive, and not really needed in communities run well by their citizens. The Amish have no need of the police.

And we must learn to ease off the grid, to rethink our vulnerabilities to centralized solutions from electricity to emergency services. There are many ways a small community can provide its own, and become far less vulnerable to sudden problems. Remember the hard winter 2008 out east and its long lapses in utility provision along with a run on generators and attendant theft?  None of that is necessary among people who have made reasonable provisions for unusual situations.

And finally, we must again play a key role in keeping our food supply safe. Becoming part of a network of trustworthy farmers, food processors and artisans is where it begins.
  • Down-compete
Competition, like fire, is a good servant but a terrible master. It works best when it’s contained within a larger collaborative world. Unfettered competition fails to promote common good, and often leads a race to the bottom. When the emphasis on competition makes people less cooperative, selfishness and free riding are promoted, contributions to public good are reduced, heavy stress takes a toll on health, and we all end up worse off.

Take a good look around you at this world out of kilter. One Harvard professor did, and he began to penalize students for lack of teamwork, even at exams. What do American schools call such teamwork? Cheating! Cheat Babylon by playing fair: cooperate.
  • Un-waste
Waste too is part of the grid in Babylon. The system encourages it in a myriad ways, from free dumps to curbside unlimited pick up, from its hidden network of sewers to water treatment plants (which are free at a glance, and very expensive and poorly designed if you really look) and toxic dumping.

Eeww indeed! Yet the solutions are already out there, from composting to grey water systems and water-purifying wetlands, from reusing to making do. Waste comes from feeding human and planetary energy to the maw of the Machine. Food into waste, life into death. Let us reverse the transformation and reestablish natural cycles.
  • Dis management
Letting go of the controlling, managerial paradigm and meddlesome interventionism will be key in regaining our sanity. Interventionism breeds more interventionism and has costs that Babylon hides by “cooking the books.” Remember… when it comes to the universe, we did not cause it, we cannot cure it, and we cannot control it. Let it run itself – it knows how.

Ran Prieur once said, “I swear, if we had infinite technological power, at our present emotional level, we would destroy all the clouds, replace them with holograms of clouds, and have fleets of airships drop water, instead of just letting it rain.” Isn’t that modern mis-managerial hubris in a nutshell!? Enough already…
  • Down-tech
Individuals and communities can scrutinize technology and pick and choose carefully. Must you really have another kitchen gizmo? Do you want to spend your days staring at a smart-phone, with the Eye following you wherever you go? Do you really need electricity 24/7? Each new artifact has its price, and impacts the well-being of human communities and the natural world. Heed the wise Akela’s call: “Look well, look well, oh wolves. As befits a Free People.”
  • Detoxify
Detoxify relationships, that is. Have you noticed? Anti-bully programs in schools are all the rage now, but nobody ever points out that schools exist, in part, to inure kids to being bullied (by teachers, administrators, and curriculum planners), so that when they get absorbed into the workforce, they think it’s normal, just put up and shut up. Domination is the poison in the wellspring of Babylon. Don’t drink from it.

Easier said than done. Bossism in all its forms has contaminated almost everything. Domination is a dirty trick, and we are all tainted. We all play the domination/submission game. But another game is afoot. The partnership game. The more you learn to play it, the less beholden you will be to the con-games of Babylon.

See? You don’t have to leave the country to leave the culture.


Ugly show at the Cow Palace

SUBHEAD: What did we learn from Hawaii Dairy Farm open house? How guile, disinformation, issue avoidance works.

By Diane de Vries on 27 February 2015 in TGI -

Image above: A herd of cattle pause in the Cow Palace parking lot after their arrival for the 63rd annual Grand National Rodeo, Horse & Stock Show in Daly City, California on Thursday, April 3, 2008. From (http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Cow-Palace-won-t-be-sold-after-all-3218092.php).

[IB Publisher's note: Been through this on many occasions when the development speculators bring in their consultants to do a smoke-and-mirror show for the "public".  It's all public relations and eye-wash. They are merely there to grease the skids on the next big ugly thing coming our way. This is another mess to blame on Pierre Omidyer.]

I don’t know about the rest of you but Thursday night’s dairy farm meeting at Koloa School cafeteria left me angry, disappointed and completely frustrated.

I went with the hope that some of my concerns would be answered or that I would feel reassured the dairy personnel or their contractor, Group 70 International, had things under control and knew what they were doing. Instead, we received no new information but were asked to break into groups and walk to tables set up around the periphery of the room where we could have our questions “addressed.”

Were they addressed? Not at all. Instead, Group 70 personnel stood with sharpie pens in hand, next to large white note pads and wrote down the questions people were asking. There were no answers at all. In fact, the engineer supposedly responsible for the dairy’s Waste Management Plan (WMP), was not even able to say how many cows would be grazing per paddock. How could he have been the person who “designed the WMP” as the head of Group 70 told the audience?

A copy of the dairy’s current WMP is on friendsofmahaulepu.org. That plan specifies the number of acres in each paddock, the herd size and the plan’s design to rotate 105-115 cows per paddock. When asked the question about how many cows HDF plans to graze per acre, the engineer told all who were clustered around that he would have to “look into that.” And so it went.

The only thing that happened was that people with black sharpies wrote down questions to be addressed, hopefully, in the draft Environmental Impact Statement at some future unspecified date.

So no one heard any confirmation of the total cow waste to be produced, how the surrounding streams and nearby ocean are to be protected from contamination by runoff with irrigation or rains or storms, and we heard nothing about how this farm meets any sustainable criteria when the dairy plans to import grain and export the milk to be processed elsewhere by another company before it is fit for consumption by the public somewhere.

The most unsettling aspect of this meeting was the fact that the Group 70 International architects and engineers seemed to be unaware of the concerns people were voicing as they made remarks like, “Oh, you’re concerned about contamination of the drinking water in the Koloa Wells, we’ll write that down.”

As I traveled from station to station watching the faces of so many concerned members of our community I found myself wondering, “Is their ignorance feigned or real?” Neither was comforting.
So folks, I don’t know about everyone else but the reactions I saw and experienced myself, I’d say the night was a complete bust! I invite others to do the same. We need our editor and the public to know.

[IB Publisher's note: Below are three recent letter in the Garden Island on the issue of the HDF Cow Palace.]

Dairy a Risky Proposition

As a frequent visitor to Kauai and the Koloa/Poipu area, we urge the citizens of this beautiful island to really ask the tough questions. We are former natives of Wisconsin, our families have roots there and some are still involved in the dairy business.

We have witnessed firsthand the inception of these huge, futuristic “modern-agriculture” practices to rural communities. This is not advanced thinking, as Susan Fukumoto so aptly stated at the Koloa meeting last Thursday evening.

First, there are thousands and thousands of gallons of waste that has to be dealt with on a daily basis! Where will it go? Will it be spread over unoccupied land in the guise of “fertilizer?” In your back yard? Shipped as sea cargo for the ocean?

Second is the smell. Trust us — our parents still live in their 145-year-old farmhouse and it’s unbearable when the wind shifts to the northeast. Instead of a valuable property that could be sold at a comfortable profit in their golden years, now it doesn’t have a prayer on the real estate market.

These are only two of many, many issues. Kauai would be the loser in this proposal.

Ken and Laurie Hartwig
Mayville, Wisconsin
1 March 2015

Perhaps a Dairy is Not End Goal
Thirty years ago our family was invited to a tour of the Koloa Mill by the manager John Hoxey. We met John at the mill offices. On the wall was a map of the entire area. The map showed all the area under cultivation for sugar from Koloa to Mahaulepu and the amount of rain that each section had annually.

What was really interesting was all the roads that were on the map. Mr. Hoxey explained that it was Grove Farm’s 50-year plan for development of Mahaulepu. The map was about 10 to 15 years old at that

Now why would a man (Pierre Omidyar), who is a developer of high-end resorts, Hanalai Plantation Resort, want a dairy? Is the long-term goal really a dairy?

Kathie Bedwell
Koloa, Kauai
28 February 2015

Dairy Farm History Raises Questions Regarding HDF

Does HDF want to consider relocating their eventual 2,000 dairy cow herd now, before having to move it later? The history of milking cow dairies on Kauai is one of relocating here and there until they all moved off the island of Kauai.

In 1905, Mr. HP Faye started the Waimea Dairy as a part of his Waimea Sugar Mill Co. His in-laws had a dairy in Moloa’a prior to his marriage. He suggested to the Lindsay family they relocate their dairy to Waimea, which they did. Over many years, Waimea Dairy flourished through the late 1960s when the milk was delivered by milkmen as far as Hanalei. The dairy herd was about 278 milking cows.

As a young teenager, through high school, I worked many dairy hours. We mulched sugar cane tops and mixed this with pineapple bran skins that were dried. We even picked keawe-tree beans as school kids during World War II for 10 cents a burlap bag! There was no “milk-flo” feed coming during the war. Keawe-tree beans kept cows cleaner, along with sugar-cane tops and pineapple bran.

Waimea Dairy was always very careful about cleanliness of the cows, pastures and pasteurizing plant. Near the end of 1969, the Faye family faced a required major expense to update the pasteurizing plant. The decision was made to accept an offer from MeadowGold Milk Co. of Honolulu. They would buy the herd, take over operations, and lease the facilities.

All went well until MeadowGold stopped control of nauseous odor and biting flies. Waimea Sugar Mill Co. closed operations and Kikiaola Land Co. then owned the Waimea Dairy facility. After Hurricane Iniki, Kikiaola converted the many sugar plantation homes into the Waimea Plantation Cottages. Now came the problem of dairy causing a problem with guests at the Waimea Plantation Cottages; a resort. Kind of like HDF being near the Hyatt Resort, hey?

As a result, Kikiaola evicted MeadowGold, who then moved their dairy to Moloaa; not to process milk, but to produce milk from the cow herd and send to Honolulu for processing and selling. It was not very long that the local residents of Moloaa managed to evict MeadowGold, claiming bad odors and dirty runoff that polluted Moloaa Bay.

This begs the question: Why not relocate the HDF now? There are many parcels that should not result in eventual eviction. Example: Kahili Mountain area. This location is away from residential complainers and business ventures. The special New Zealand grass will flourish there. The higher the elevation, the better the growth. The soil is more porous and less likely to generate major runoffs.

Surely, Mr. Case and his 16,000 acres of former Grove Farm lands can find a more suitable location that is still “ag” than historical Mahaulepu. I rest my case.

Alan Faye
Princeville, Kauai
26 February 2015

See also:

Ea O Ka Aina: Another Pierre Omidyer Screwup 2/24/15 
Ken Silverstein resigns from Omidyer's First Look Media, slams company's 'Incompetence'.

Ea O Ka Aina: Hawaii Dairy Farm Factsheet 10/11/14
HDF's sole owner is Pierre Omidyar, through his venture capital company Ulu'pono Initiative.

Ea O Ka Aina: The Hail Mary Pass 8/27/14
Pierre Omidyar, the founder of Ebay who has his telescopic sights set on Kauai.

Ea O Ka Aina: Omidyar - NSA - Snowden 12/17/13
Pierre Omidyar's PayPal corporation said to be implicated in withheld NSA documents.

Ea O Ka Aina: Beach Blockage Push Back 6/8/12
Montage Resorts, an ultra luxury hotel developer owned by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar.

Ea O Ka Aina: Preserving What's Left 1/15/12
Billioniare Pierre Omidyar  to develop an uberluxe sites along the the Hanalei River ridge.

Ea O Ka Aina: Hawaii's Farm Future 9/27/10
Speakers such as Kyle Datta, a founding partner with Pierre and Pam Omidyar's Ulupono Initiative


North Dakota's radioactive waste

SUBHEAD: As oil prices collapse, North Dakota considers weakening standards on radioactive drilling waste.

By  Sharon Kelly on 25 February 2015 for DeSmogBlog -

Image above: PA truck dumps what is labeled "Residual Waste" in NY. Tens of thousands of tons of radioactive drilling waste from Pennsylvania fracking sites are brought to into NY landfills, threatening public health and water quality. From (https://secure.sierraclub.org/site/Advocacy;jsessionid=73E58632AF0F8CF5A338C86053EB9F9E.app207a).

As the collapse of oil prices threatens North Dakota's shale drilling rush, state regulators are considering a move they say could save the oil industry millions of dollars: weakening the state's laws on disposing of radioactive waste.

The move has been the subject of an intensive lobbying effort by drillers, who produce up to 75 tons per day of waste currently considered too hazardous to dispose of in the state.

For every truckload of that waste, drillers could save at least $10,000 in hauling costs, they argue.

State regulators calculate that by raising the radioactive waste threshold ten-fold, the industry would shave off roughly $120 million in costs per year.

But many who live in the area say they fear the long-term consequences of loosened disposal rules combined with the state's poor track record on preventing illegal dumping.

“We don't want to have when this oil and coal is gone, to be nothing left here, a wasteland, and I'm afraid that's what might happen,” farmer Gene Wirtz of Underwood, ND told KNX News, a local TV station. “Any amount of radiation beyond what you're already getting is not a good thing.”
Environmental groups have also objected that the rule change would put private companies' profits before public health.

“The only reason we're doing this today is to cut the oil industry's costs,” Darrell Dorgan, spokesman for the North Dakota Energy Industry Waste Coalition, which opposes the move, told Reuters.
There is no question that the industry is under severe financial pressure. The same barrel of Bakken crude oil that sold for $136.29 in July 2008 was priced at $34.50 this month, putting drillers, many of whom carry high levels of debt, into a financial bind.

To make debt payments, companies need to drill and frack new wells, since shale wells deliver much of their oil in a fast burst immediately following drilling, oil industry analysts say. With prices well below the breakeven point for many operators in the state's shale field, the industry's desire to cut costs is intense.

State regulators across the U.S. are feeling the pain as well, concerned about lower revenue not only from extraction taxes, but also lost jobs and plunging property values. Although North Dakota officials predict relatively minor harm to the state's general fund, planned infrastructure improvements and road repairs might be put on hold, The New York Times reported in December.

But along with revenue from shale oil and gas, the drilling rush has brought an unprecedented amount of low-level radioactive waste to the US, fueling debates in many states about how to handle the waste in the absence of federal rules.

In North Dakota, the shale rush has already produced tens of thousands of tons of low-level radioactive waste laced with radium and uranium, including up to 169 million oil filter socks where radioactivity tends to be more heavily concentrated, per year.

We have many more wells, producing at an accelerating rate, and for each of them there’s a higher volume of waste,” Avner Vengosh, a professor of geochemistry at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, told Bloomberg in 2014. Unless it is well managed, he added, “we are actually building up a legacy of radioactivity in hundreds of points where people have had leaks or spills around the country.”

Under North Dakota law, drillers cannot currently dispose of waste carrying more than 5 picocuries per gram (pci/g) of radioactivity – roughly the amount found in much of the soil in the state. The proposed 50 pci/g cap, while far below the highest in the country, would make North Dakota one of the least strict states in the region.

State regulators say the higher cap would still protect human health and safety, basing their proposed new rules on a report by Argonne National Laboratory that recommended steps, included in the state's proposed rules, to protect against potential harm to workers handling the waste, including a 25,000 ton limit per licensed landfill per year and a requirement that the waste be buried at least 10 feet below ground.

To be sure, it would be far less hazardous for the radioactive waste to wind up in landfills that have better liners and controls for leachate run-off and groundwater monitoring than dumped illegally.
But some living nearby argue that adding any more radioactivity to their communities is too much.

“The Argonne Report is based on 25,000 tons per year of oilfield waste in a single landfill containing the higher levels of radioactive waste. Based on this, the study estimates people living within a 50-mile radius of a new 25,000-ton radioactive dump may be exposed to twice the normal amount of radiation,” wrote Theodora Bird Bear, chair of Dakota Resource Council. “This means our trade-off is more childhood leukemia, illness and death.”

Other advocates are skeptical that the limits in the new rules will be adequately enforced if they are adopted.

“If this administration hasn't been 'able to track low levels of radioactive and toxic waste… why would we trust them with more responsibility' on this issue,” Don Morrison, executive director of the North Dakota Resource Council, told Inside Climate News in December.

Currently, much of the waste is shipped to landfills in states like Idaho, Utah or Montana. But North Dakota regulators have no clear mechanism for tracking the waste, making illegal dumping tempting for some in the industry. In one high-profile case, an abandoned gas station was filled with roughly 200 trashbags stuffed with radioactive waste.

A 2014 Associated Press investigation found that in the span of one year, over 150 people attempted to illegally dump radioactive waste at local landfills – and state regulators never issued fines or sanctions, simply asked for a promise to lawfully dispose of the waste.

Some operators are not disposing of the waste at all. “There are operators out there who are stockpiling the stuff because either they don’t know what to do with the waste or it’s too expensive,” said Erickson, owner of Plains Energy Technical Resources. In response, state regulators issued regulations requiring drillers to store radioactive waste in leak-proof containers to prevent run-off.

Under the state's proposed new rules, 10 landfills in the state would be qualified to accept radioactive oil and gas waste, but many more have applied for approval, state regulators told Inside Climate News. The lack of federal regulations for hazardous waste from oil and gas sites has meant that state can individually set their own standards and enforcement mechanisms, and rules vary widely.

At the federal level, radioactive oil and gas waste is exempt from nearly all the regulatory processes the general public might expect would govern it,” Environmental Health Perspectives reported last year. “State laws are a patchwork.’”

Some states already allow municipal landfills to accept waste with radioactivity as high as North Dakota's proposed limits for industrial waste landfills.

But the sheer quantity of the waste from the shale rush gives the issue new dimensions – both in terms of the potential harm from contaminated water sources and airborne dust and the costs of disposal.

The radioactive material from shale drilling naturally lies buried in the same rock formations that drillers target, and is brought to the surface both in the wastewater from drilling and fracking, and in rock fragments called cuttings. The alpha radioactivity generally associated with drilling waste cannot penetrate skin, and is only harmful if people drink water or breathe air containing the materials. However, the radioactive materials can accumulate in trucks and pipelines, leaving regulators concerned about possible exposure threats to workers if the waste is carelessly handed.

The oil industry argues that North Dakota's current rules for handling the waste are simply too costly.
“You're talking hundreds of dollars to transport versus tens of thousands” of dollars under North Dakota's proposed looser standards, Kari Cutting, vice president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council told Reuters, adding that she had attended several public hearings on the topic. “This just shows how much of a priority we're putting on this and these costs.”

Some in the region find that logic unconvincing.

“When the Bakken oil boom started, the oil industry knew they were going to produce radioactive waste and they knew what they were required to do with it. But, they didn’t put that into their business plans,” wrote Ms. Bird Bear. “The process to increase the allowable level of radioactivity in our state began about two years ago with behind-closed-door meetings with the health department and the oil industry. The result is once again a green light to the oil industry, this time to dump more radioactive waste in our state.”
Public comment on the proposal has been extended until March 2.


NATO & centralization beyond control

SUBHEAD: This bears repeating - NATO exists to manage the risks created by its own existence.

By -Raul Meijer Ilargi on 27 February 2015 for the Automatic Earth - 

Image above: In late February 2015 NATO and Russian military forces were doing maneuvers in Estonia's border, 60 miles from St. Petersburg. From (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/estonia/11435698/Nato-and-Russia-hold-rival-military-exercises-on-Estonian-border.html).

In an article about NATO exercises in Estonia, just 300 yards from the Russian border, Daniel McAdams at the Ron Paul Institute makes a point that I want to use to make a much broader point. Not to provide answers, though, just to provide questions. McAdams quotes the Guardian review of a book by George Sakwa:

Russian military plane over international waters 25 miles from the UK coast is “real and present danger” to NATO. Yet… Yet yesterday US combat vehicles conducted a military parade and show of military force in Estonia just 300 yards – yards! – from the Russian border. That is just over 60 miles from downtown St. Petersburg. This is not a provocation, we are to believe. This is not a “real and present danger” to Russia. NATO is exempt from the rules it imposes on its enemies. In the Guardian’s review of a new book by Politics professor George Sakwa, the current fallout from a near quarter century of post-Cold War NATO policies is perfectly captured:

The hawks in the Clinton administration ignored all this, Bush abandoned the anti-ballistic missile treaty and put rockets close to Russia’s borders, and now a decade later, after Russia’s angry reaction to provocations in Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine today, we have what Sakwa rightly calls a “fateful geographical paradox: that NATO exists to manage the risks created by its existence”.
That line bears repeating: “NATO exists to manage the risks created by its existence.”
Yes, that line bears repeating, but it bears much more than that: the line doesn’t go nearly far enough. Because NATO doesn’t only exist, it develops and changes. In fact, to justify its prolonged existence, NATO has turned from a force for peace into a warmonger. That way, the organization argues, consciously or not, it provides itself with a reason to exist. It now doesn’t just exist to manage the risks, it exists to create them. In doing so, NATO itself has become the biggest risk.

Regular readers will be well aware that I, like Ron Paul, have said many times that NATO should be dismantled (and not just NATO). Not only because it’s long outlived its original purpose, based in the Cold War, but because it increasingly attracts as leaders people who use ever more aggressive language for ever more elusive reasons.

The latest in the series are new General Secretary Stoltenberg and General ‘Warhead’ Breedlove, both of whom seem hell bent on outdoing even Ukraine’s leadership pair of Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk when it comes to making unsubstantiated claims about Russia, and about the situation in Ukraine – and Eastern Europe – in a broader sense.

My thesis is that all supranational organizations will eventually attract a certain kind of people as their leaders, and that these are inevitably the last kind of people we should want in these positions. But in the absence of effective democratic oversight, they end up there anyway.

Therefore, the only way to counter this mechanism is to dismantle and abandon the organizations, while we still can. Which is not a given, since they function like power pyramids, in which ever more active power flows to an ever smaller top, until they become ‘untouchable’ by the nations that founded them in the first place.

These organizations don’t just fail to meet their originally stated purpose, they become entities dangerous to those they were meant to serve. That’s true for NATO, for the IMF, the World Bank, and the EU. They all end up serving only their most powerful members, at the cost of the smaller and less powerful. Since there is no mechanism to prevent this from happening while they exist, we must dismantle them.

There’s a strong correlation with an example from the economic world, in which corporations were originally incorporated for a specific project (e.g. building a bridge), a specific budget and a specific duration. And look at corporations now: there is no time limit to their existence, they are free to buy political control over our societies across generations, and they have even been granted person’s rights, though persons die and corporations no longer do.

What is true for corporations is just as true for supranational organizations: it’s all about scale. They are all – well, mostly – founded by well-meaning people, but these people ignore – willingly or not – to set time, financial and legal limits to them. And that’s a surefire recipe for disaster. The IMF upon its inception had lofty ideals behind it.

But look at the damage it’s done across the globe. The World Bank was intended to help fight poverty in poor nations, but, like the IMF, has become an instrument for the rich to control these nations and prey on them.

And NATO has been busy ever since the Berlin wall came down, to resurrect the Cold War, without which it knows it must fear for its continued existence. It’s a twin sister of the American military complex, which creates threats out of nowhere and fights wars that all end in disaster, creating chaos along the way that forms the reason, and the cradle, for the next theater of war.

I’ve said before that I’m somewhat hesitant to include the US in the list of supranational organizations that should be dismantled, but if the country, the union, can’t find a way to reform and refind itself, I don’t see much reason for it to live on. The concentrated power bastion in Washington simply does too much harm to too many people, both at home and abroad. Nobody should have that sort of power.

If you have an entity that comprises 300 million people, it’s inevitable that ‘rulers’ over that entity need to be curtailed and limited in their powers from the get-go, or things will go awfully wrong. In the US, arguably, that has long since started to happen. The solution – in theory – is real simple: decentralize power. The solution in practice is much less obvious, since the people in power won’t volunteer to give up what they’ve got. A critical mass has been reached from which it will be very hard to retreat.
‘Once it reaches a certain threshold, the process of institutionalization becomes counterproductive’
Those are the words from a man I’ve been thinking about for quite a while, when pondering these issues, 20th century philosopher/priest Ivan Illich, whose criticism of ‘institutionalization’, mostly published in the 1970′s from Latin America, was largely inspired by, and directed at, the Catholic Church, not coincidentally the world’s – by far – earliest truly multinational corporation.

Illich basically asserted that institutions tend to monopolize parts of societies that they should leave alone, because they belong to the people, and are essential to their well-being. From Wikipedia’s entry on Illich:
[e]lite professional groups . . . have come to exert a ‘radical monopoly’ on such basic human activities as health, agriculture, home-building, and learning, leading to a ‘war on subsistence’ that robs peasant societies of their vital skills and know-how. The result of much economic development is very often not human flourishing but ‘modernized poverty,’ dependency, and an out-of-control system in which the humans become worn-down mechanical parts.”
[2] Illich proposed that we should “invert the present deep structure of tools” in order to “give people tools that guarantee their right to work with independent efficiency.”[14]
Schools should not be able to declare themselves the only valuable source of education, nor hospitals that of health care. To Illich, the fact that he did see them do this anyway, meant people were being robbed of their freedom to learn, and to heal.

In the same vein, NATO should not have a monopoly on defending us from ‘evil’ enemies, because it will create that evil just to justify its own apparatus, in the process robbing people of the ability to judge what is evil and what is not.
‘[I]nstitutions create the needs and control their satisfaction, and, by so doing, turn the human being and her or his creativity into objects’
And that of course moves us real close to what I said about supranational organizations and multinationals, and to what Sakwa said: “NATO exists to manage the risks created by its existence.”. It shirks close to the Completion Backward Principle, in which first a need and a market is created and only then the product that fills that need.

My perhaps favorite Illich quote, which with a little imagination is one on one applicable to the entire institutionalization issue, is this:
Many students, especially those who are poor, intuitively know what the schools do for them. They school them to confuse process and substance. Once these become blurred, a new logic is assumed: the more treatment there is, the better are the results; or, escalation leads to success. The pupil is thereby “schooled” to confuse teaching with learning, grade advancement with education, a diploma with competence, and fluency with the ability to say something new. His imagination is “schooled” to accept service in place of value.
Medical treatment is mistaken for health care, social work for the improvement of community life, police protection for safety, military poise for national security, the rat race for productive work. Health, learning, dignity, independence, and creative endeavour are defined as little more than the performance of the institutions which claim to serve these ends, and their improvement is made to depend on allocating more resources to the management of hospitals, schools, and other agencies in question.
I never liked the education system I grew up in, any more than I like supranational institutions (it just took me a while to figure out the connection). High school was fine, because it was a breeze. But university was like running into a wall, multiple times. I just never had the idea that these people had anything I wanted. Just perhaps a degree that would have given me a ‘better’ job.

But to go through 4-5-6 years of something I absolutely didn’t want, or saw the use of, seemed to be far too high a price to pay. This was way after Illich wrote what he did, though I didn’t read it until even much later again, but when I did, I still had a feeling of redemption, of: I’m not the only one who saw what I did.

And of course people will say that I’m an idiot to throw away a university degree when so many others would kill to have one. That all, however, proves Illich’s point, and it leads back to the same issue: universities have a monopoly on learning, which means people learn less and less, they only ‘learn’ to be cogs in a machine. And if you don’t get the degree, than no well-paying job for you. And that’s exactly what Illich says. It makes for societies of unhappy people, who can’t even provide for themselves, as all their ancestors could, because all they’ve learned is to be that cog.

I wanted to bring Ivan Illich into the discussion about NATO we’ve been having for a long time, with Ron Paul and myself saying it should be banned and its pieces ritually incinerated, because Illich makes the idea far more accessible that this is all part of a much larger pattern. That is to say, we tend towards centralization at all levels, mostly at first – seemingly – innocently, but soon with control moving beyond our perception.

Who controls NATO, or the IMF? I’m sure you understand it’s not you. Still, when an organization exhibits aggressive behavior in your name, or lends out your money in your name, you should at all times feel that you are in control, through those you elect to represent you. Well, do you? Or are you merely thinking: that’s too far away from me?

Organizations, like so many things in life, don’t scale up well, if at all. Beyond a certain critical mass, they become counterproductive, as Illich states. They become predators on their own creators. That goes as much for NATO, IMF and EU as it does for schools and hospitals.
Modern societies appear to create more and more institutions – and great swathes of the way we live our lives become institutionalized. ‘This process undermines people – it diminishes their confidence in themselves, and in their capacity to solve problems… It kills convivial relationships. Finally it colonizes life like a parasite or a cancer that kills creativity’ (Finger and AsĂșn 2001: 10).
Experts and an expert culture always call for more experts. Experts also have a tendency to cartelize themselves by creating ‘institutional barricades’ – for example proclaiming themselves gatekeepers, as well as self-selecting themselves. Finally, experts control knowledge production, as they decide what valid and legitimate knowledge is, and how its acquisition is sanctioned.
Schooling – the production of knowledge, the marketing of knowledge, which is what the school amounts to, draws society into the trap of thinking that knowledge is hygienic, pure, respectable, deodorized, produced by human heads and amassed in stock…..
[B]y making school compulsory, [people] are schooled to believe that the self-taught individual is to be discriminated against; that learning and the growth of cognitive capacity, require a process of consumption of services presented in an industrial, a planned, a professional form;… that learning is a thing rather than an activity. A thing that can be amassed and measured, the possession of which is a measure of the productivity of the individual within the society. That is, of his social value.
It’s a trap we’ve set for ourselves, and over which we’ve now long lost control. Technology seems to make the world ‘smaller’, and to increase our control, but in effect it ends up doing the opposite. It makes us dumber, since we are now only cogs in a machine that others control, and over which we have no oversight. If the machine gets orders to go to war, the cogs will have to obey.

That’s our world today, and that’s what the NATO issue teaches us. NATO is our Frankenstein. And if we don’t stop it now, it will end up coming after us.


Klein at UH on HECO

SOURCE: Ed Wagner (ed.j.wagner@gmail.com)
SUBHEAD: Author Naomi Klein delivers inspiring speech at University of Hawaii faulting HECO for blocking solar energy.

By Nathan Eagle on 26 February 2015 for Civil Beat -

Image above: From (http://www.theguardian.com/books/naomi-klein).

Award-winning journalist Naomi Klein blamed Hawaiian Electric Co. for limiting the progress of solar energy during a motivating speech Thursday evening at the University of Hawaii.

Klein, the author of the New York Times bestseller “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism,” packed not one but two auditoriums on campus. The overflow crowd watched a live video of her on a giant screen in one room as others watched live in another room.

“The profit motive is getting in the way of the transition that people want here,” Klein said, garnering applause.

She also stressed the need for the state to avoid getting hooked on liquefied natural gas, something HECO and politicians are moving toward despite all the warnings.

Rep. Cynthia Thielen introduced a measure to block LNG, noting the $200 million price tag to switch to a foreign-supplied fuel. Her bill stresses the need to put that money toward renewables, but it never received a hearing in the Legislature before dying this session.

She covered a wide range of topics related to climate change and capitalism during her talk, which wrapped up with a Q&A session. She touted recent successes on the national level, such as President Obama vetoing the Keystone pipeline bill, and the local level, like Maui voters passing a ballot measure to place a moratorium on GMO farming despite seed companies spending millions of dollars to defeat it.

Klein has been serving as the Dai Ho Chun distinguished chair in Arts & Sciences at UH Manoa. Her speech centered on the theme of new book, “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate,” another bestseller.

Her speech is expected to be aired multiple times on Olelo Community Media TV stations.

HECO must be non-profit

By Ed Wagner on 27 February 2015 in Island Breath - 

Video above: This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate - Naomi Klein's book trailer. From (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPQI1Lui42c).  Is Earth Fucked? The answer is a resounding YES!

This is what both HECOgate and HARTgate have done to us and will continue to do to us if HECO is not converted to public, non-profit power, and heads rolled at HART and the City Council, and the responsible individuals sent to prison for their crimes against the people and against Mother Earth because of their insatiable lust for and idolatry or worship of money as the sole source of gratification in life.

These people have sold their souls to the devil. The economies of the world and the Earth itself are being destroyed by rampant and uncontrolled capitalism with the goal of money at all costs.

The ratepayers must organize a massive march and rally at the Capitol to stop this madness before it is too late.

Ms. Klein's book should be required reading for the PUC, DCA, Governor, Legislature, Energy Administrator, AG, city and state Ethics Commissioners, Mayor and City Council on all islands and more.

“The profit motive is getting in the way of the transition that people want here,” Klein said, garnering applause.

This is precisely the reason why the HECO monopoly is a very serious threat to state and national security.



The Externality Trap

SUBHEAD: How "progress"  inevitably commits suicide with technology, profits and growth.

By John Michael Greer on 25 February 2015 for Archdruid Report -

Image above: Early environmental impact of industrialization in 19th century England. From (http://microbesandclimatechange.blogspot.com/).

I've commented more than once in these essays about the cooperative dimension of writing:  the way that even the most solitary of writers inevitably takes part in what Mortimer Adler used to call the Great Conversation, the flow of ideas and insights across the centuries that’s responsible for most of what we call culture.

Sometimes that conversation takes place second- or third-hand—for example, when ideas from two old books collide in an author’s mind and give rise to a third book, which will eventually carry the fusion to someone else further down the stream of time—but sometimes it’s far more direct.

Last week’s post here brought an example of the latter kind. My attempt to cut through the ambiguities surrounding that slippery word “progress” sparked a lively discussion on the comments page of my blog about just exactly what counted as progress, what factors made one change “progressive” while another was denied that label.

In the midst of it all, one of my readers—tip of the archdruidical hat to Jonathan—proposed an unexpected definition:  what makes a change qualify as progress, he suggested, is that it increases the externalization of costs. 

I’ve been thinking about that definition since Jonathan proposed it, and it seems to me that it points up a crucial and mostly unrecognized dimension of the crisis of our time. To make sense of it, though, it’s going to be necessary to delve briefly into economic jargon.

Economists use the term “externalities” to refer to the costs of an economic activity that aren’t paid by either party in an exchange, but are pushed off onto somebody else. You won’t hear a lot of talk about externalities these days; it many circles, it’s considered impolite to mention them, but they’re a pervasive presence in contemporary life, and play a very large role in some of the most intractable problems of our age.

Some of those problems were discussed by Garret Hardin in his famous essay on the tragedy of the commons, and more recently by Elinor Ostrom in her studies of how that tragedy can be avoided; still, I’m not sure how often it’s recognized that the phenomena they discussed applies not just to commons systems, but to societies as a whole—especially to societies like ours.

An example may be useful here. Let’s imagine a blivet factory, which turns out three-prong, two-slot blivets in pallet loads for customers. The blivet-making process, like manufacturing of every other kind, produces waste as well as blivets, and we’ll assume for the sake of the example that blivet waste is moderately toxic and causes health problems in people who ingest it.

The blivet factory produces one barrel of blivet waste for every pallet load of blivets it ships. The cheapest option for dealing with the waste, and thus the option that economists favor, is to dump it into the river that flows past the factory.

Notice what happens as a result of this choice. The blivet manufacturer has maximized his own benefit from the manufacturing process, by avoiding the expense of finding some other way to deal with all those barrels of blivet waste. His customers also benefit, because blivets cost less than they would if the cost of waste disposal was factored into the price.
On the other hand, the costs of dealing with the blivet waste don’t vanish like so much twinkle dust; they are imposed on the people downstream who get their drinking water from the river, or from aquifers that receive water from the river, and who suffer from health problems because there’s blivet waste in their water.
The blivet manufacturer is externalizing the cost of waste disposal; his increased profits are being paid for at a remove by the increased health care costs of everyone downstream.
That’s how externalities work. Back in the days when people actually talked about the downsides of economic growth, there was a lot of discussion of how to handle externalities, and not just on the leftward end of the spectrum.  
 I recall a thoughtful book titled TANSTAAFL—that’s an acronym, for those who don’t know their Heinlein, for “There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch”—which argued, on solid libertarian-conservative grounds, that the environment could best be preserved by making sure that everyone paid full sticker price for the externalities they generated.
Today’s crop of pseudoconservatives, of course, turned their back on all this a long time ago, and insist at the top of their lungs on their allegedly God-given right to externalize as many costs as they possibly can.  This is all the more ironic in that most pseudoconservatives claim to worship a God who said some very specific things about “what ye do to the least of these,” but that’s a subject for a different post.
Economic life in the industrial world these days can be described, without too much inaccuracy, as an arrangement set up to allow a privileged minority to externalize nearly all their costs onto the rest of society while pocketing as much as possible the benefits themselves.
That’s come in for a certain amount of discussion in recent years, but I’m not sure how many of the people who’ve participated in those discussions have given any thought to the role that technological progress plays in facilitating the internalization of benefits and the externalization of costs that drive today’s increasingly inegalitarian societies. Here again, an example will be helpful.
Before the invention of blivet-making machinery, let’s say, blivets were made by old-fashioned blivet makers, who hammered them out on iron blivet anvils in shops that were to be found in every town and village. Like other handicrafts, blivet-making was a living rather than a ticket to wealth; blivet makers invested their own time and muscular effort in their craft, and turned out enough in the way of blivets to meet the demand. Notice also the effect on the production of blivet waste.
Since blivets were being made one at a time rather than in pallet loads, the total amount of waste was smaller; the conditions of handicraft production also meant that blivet makers and their families were more likely to be exposed to the blivet waste than anyone else, and so had an incentive to invest the extra effort and expense to dispose of it properly.
Since blivet makers were ordinary craftspeople rather than millionaires, furthermore, they weren’t as likely to be able to buy exemption from local health laws.
The invention of the mechanical blivet press changed that picture completely.  Since one blivet press could do as much work as fifty blivet makers, the income that would have gone to those fifty blivet makers and their families went instead to one factory owner and his stockholders, with as small a share as possible set aside for the wage laborers who operate the blivet press.
The factory owner and stockholders had no incentive to pay for the proper disposal of the blivet waste, either—quite the contrary, since having to meet the disposal costs cut into their profit, buying off local governments was much cheaper, and if the harmful effects of blivet waste were known, you can bet that the owner and shareholders all lived well upstream from the factory.  
Notice also that a blivet manufacturer who paid a living wage to his workers and covered the costs of proper waste disposal would have to charge a higher price for blivets than one who did neither, and thus would be driven out of business by his more ruthless competitor.
Externalities aren’t simply made possible by technological progress, in other words; they’re the inevitable result of technological progress in a market economy, because externalizing the costs of production is in most cases the most effective way to outcompete rival firms, and the firm that succeeds in externalizing the largest share of its costs is the most likely to prosper and survive.
Each further step in the progress of blivet manufacturing, in turn, tightened the same screw another turn.
Today, to finish up the metaphor, the entire global supply of blivets is made in a dozen factories in  distant Slobbovia, where sweatshop labor under ghastly working conditions and the utter absence of environmental regulations make the business of blivet fabrication more profitable than anywhere else. 

re as shoddily made as possible; the entire blivet supply chain from the open-pit mines worked by slave labor that provide the raw materials to the big box stores with part-time, poorly paid staff selling blivetronic technology to the masses is a human and environmental disaster.  Every possible cost has been externalized, so that the two multinational corporations that dominate the global blivet industry can maintain their profit margins and pay absurdly high salaries to their CEOs.
That in itself is bad enough, but let’s broaden the focus to include the whole systems in which blivet fabrication takes place: the economy as a whole, society as a whole, and the biosphere as a whole.
The impact of technology on blivet fabrication in a market economy has predictable and well understood consequences for each of these whole systems, which can be summed up precisely in the language we’ve already used.
In order to maximize its own profitability and return on shareholder investment, the blivet industry externalizes costs in every available direction.
Since nobody else wants to bear those costs, either, most of them end up being passed onto the whole systems just named, because the economy, society, and the biosphere have no voice in today’s economic decisions.
Like the costs of dealing with blivet waste, though, the other externalized costs of blivet manufacture don’t go away just because they’re externalized. As externalities increase, they tend to degrade the whole systems onto which they’re dumped—the economy, society, and the biosphere.
This is where the trap closes tight, because blivet manufacturing exists within those whole systems, and can’t be carried out unless all three systems are sufficiently intact to function in their usual way.
As those systems degrade, their ability to function degrades also, and eventually one or more of them breaks down—the economy plunges into a depression, the society disintegrates into anarchy or totalitarianism, the biosphere shifts abruptly into a new mode that lacks adequate rainfall for crops—and the manufacture of blivets stops because the whole system that once supported it has stopped doing so.
Notice how this works out from the perspective of someone who’s benefiting from the externalization of costs by the blivet industry—the executives and stockholders in a blivet corporation, let’s say.
As far as they’re concerned, until very late in the process, everything is fine and dandy: each new round of technological improvements in blivet fabrication increases their profits, and if each such step in the onward march of progress also means that working class jobs are eliminated or offshored, democratic institutions implode, toxic waste builds up in the food chain, or what have you, hey, that’s not their problem—and after all, that’s just the normal creative destruction of capitalism, right?

That sort of insouciance is easy for at least three reasons. 
First, the impacts of externalities on whole systems can pop up a very long way from the blivet factories.

Second, in a market economy, everyone else is externalizing their costs as enthusiastically as the blivet industry, and so it’s easy for blivet manufacturers (and everyone else) to insist that whatever’s going wrong is not their fault.

Third, and most crucially, whole systems as stable and enduring as economies, societies, and biospheres can absorb a lot of damage before they tip over into instability.
 The process of externalization of costs can thus run for a very long time, and become entrenched as a basic economic habit, long before it becomes clear to anyone that continuing along the same route is a recipe for disaster.

Even when externalized costs have begun to take a visible toll on the economy, society, and the biosphere, furthermore, any attempt to reverse course faces nearly insurmountable obstacles.

Those who profit from the existing order of things can be counted on to fight tooth and nail for the right to keep externalizing their costs: after all, they have to pay the full price for any reduction in their ability to externalize costs, while the benefits created by not imposing those costs on whole systems are shared among all participants in the economy, society, and the biosphere respectively.
Nor is it necessarily easy to trace back the causes of any given whole-system disruption to specific externalities benefiting specific people or industries.
It’s rather like loading hanging weights onto a chain; sooner or later, as the amount of weight hung on the chain goes up, the chain is going to break, but the link that breaks may be far from the last weight that pushed things over the edge, and every other weight on  the chain made its own contribution to the end result.
A society that’s approaching collapse because too many externalized costs have been loaded onto on the whole systems that support it thus shows certain highly distinctive symptoms.
Things are going wrong with the economy, society, and the biosphere, but nobody seems to be able to figure out why; the measurements economists use to determine prosperity show contradictory results, with those that measure the profitability of individual corporations and industries giving much better readings those that measure the performance of whole systems; the rich are convinced that everything is fine, while outside the narrowing circles of wealth and privilege, people talk in low voices about the rising spiral of problems that beset them from every side.
If this doesn’t sound familiar to you, dear reader, you probably need to get out more.
At this point it may be helpful to sum up the argument I’ve developed here:
a) Every increase in technological complexity tends also to increase the opportunities for externalizing the costs of economic activity;
b) Market forces make the externalization of costs mandatory rather than optional, since economic actors that fail to externalize costs will tend to be outcompeted by those that do;
c) In a market economy, as all economic actors attempt to externalize as many costs as possible, externalized costs will tend to be passed on preferentially and progressively to whole systems such as the economy, society, and the biosphere, which provide necessary support for economic activity but have no voice in economic decisions;
d) Given unlimited increases in technological complexity, there is no necessary limit to the loading of externalized costs onto whole systems short of systemic collapse;
e) Unlimited increases in technological complexity in a market economy thus necessarily lead to the progressive degradation of the whole systems that support economic activity;
f) Technological progress in a market economy  is therefore self-terminating, and ends in collapse.
Now of course there are plenty of arguments that could be deployed against this modest proposal. For example, it could be argued that progress doesn’t have to generate a rising tide of externalities. 
The difficulty with this argument is that externalization of costs isn’t an accidental side effect of technology but an essential aspect—it’s not a bug, it’s a feature. Every technology is a means of externalizing some cost that would otherwise be borne by a human body.
Even something as simple as a hammer takes the wear and tear that would otherwise affect the heel of your hand, let’s say, and transfers it to something else: directly, to the hammer; indirectly, to the biosphere, by way of the trees that had to be cut down to make the charcoal to smelt the iron, the plants that were shoveled aside to get the ore, and so on.
For reasons that are ultimately thermodynamic in nature, the more complex a technology becomes, the more costs it generates.
In order to outcompete a simpler technology, each more complex technology has to externalize a significant proportion of its additional costs, in order to compete against the simpler technology.
In the case of such contemporary hypercomplex technosystems as the internet, the process of externalizing costs has gone so far, through so many tangled interrelationships, that it’s remarkably difficult to figure out exactly who’s paying for how much of the gargantuan inputs needed to keep the thing running. This lack of transparency feeds the illusion that large systems are cheaper than small ones, by making externalities of scale look like economies of scale.
It might be argued instead that a sufficiently stringent regulatory environment, forcing economic actors to absorb all the costs of their activities instead of externalizing them onto others, would be able to stop the degradation of whole systems while still allowing technological progress to continue. The difficulty here is that increased externalization of costs is what makes progress profitable.
As just noted, all other things being equal, a complex technology will on average be more expensive in real terms than a simpler technology, for the simple fact that each additional increment of complexity has to be paid for by an investment of energy and other forms of real capital.
Strip complex technologies of the subsidies that transfer some of their costs to the government, the perverse regulations that transfer some of their costs to the rest of the economy, the bad habits of environmental abuse and neglect that transfer some of their costs to the biosphere, and so on, and pretty soon you’re looking at hard economic limits to technological complexity, as people forced to pay the full sticker price for complex technologies maximize their benefits by choosing simpler, more affordable options instead.
A regulatory environment sufficiently strict to keep technology from accelerating to collapse would thus bring technological progress to a halt by making it unprofitable.
Notice, however, the flipside of the same argument: a society that chose to stop progressing technologically could maintain itself indefinitely, so long as its technologies weren’t dependent on nonrenewable resources or the like.
The costs imposed by a stable technology on the economy, society, and the biosphere would be more or less stable, rather than increasing over time, and it would therefore be much easier to figure out how to balance out the negative effects of those externalities and maintain the whole system in a steady state. 
Societies that treated technological progress as an option rather than a requirement, and recognized the downsides to increasing complexity, could also choose to reduce complexity in one area in order to increase it in another, and so on—or they could just raise a monument to the age of progress, and go do something else instead.
The logic suggested here requires a comprehensive rethinking of most of the contemporary world’s notions about technology, progress, and the good society. We’ll begin that discussion in future posts—after, that is, we discuss a second dimension of progress that came out of last week’s discussion.

There will be a reckoning

SUBHEAD: Lester Brown delivers stark warning over dust bowl conditions spreading over Africa and Asia.

By John Queally on 25 February 2015 for Common Dreams -

Image above: A satellite captured a 2001 dust storm swirling over China. The storm eventually crossed the Pacific and reached the United States. Photo by NASA. From original article.

On the verge of retirement, noted environmentalist and celebrated systems analyst Lester Brown has a dire warning for the world he has spent more than half a century advising on issues of food and energy policy: there is no end in sight for the interrelated scourge of climate change, global poverty and hunger.

In fact, according to Brown, in several vulnerable areas around the world, the situation may be about to go from very bad to much worse.

"We are pushing against the limits of land that can be plowed and the land available for grazing and there are two areas of the world in which we are in serious trouble now," said Brown, who founded both the Worldwatch Institute and the Earth Policy Institute, in an interview with the Guardian's environment correspondent Suzanne Goldenberg.

“One is the Sahel region of Africa, from Senegal to Somalia," explained Brown. "There is a huge dust bowl forming now that is actually stretching right across the continent and that dust bowl is removing a lot of top soil, so eventually they will be in serious trouble."

At some point soon, he added, "there will be a reckoning" in those regions.

According to this NPR report from November, based on the work of the Earth Policy Institute, the dust bowl conditions forming in northern Africa and across central Asia are already having dire consequences:
In China, dust storms have become almost an annual occurrence since 1990, compared to every 31 years on average historically. In northern China and Mongolia, two large deserts — the Badain Jaran and the Tengger — are expanding and merging, often swirling together in massive sand storms when strong winds blow through each spring. The Gobi desert is also growing, inching ever-closer to Beijing as the grasslands at its edges deteriorate.
Meanwhile, in the Sahel region of Africa, millions of acres are turning to desert each year in countries including Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger and Nigeria. Dust from Chad's Bodele Depression been traveling the globe for many centuries — in fact, scientists think it helped make the Amazon fertile. But the amount of dust blowing out of West Africa has increased in the last 40 years. Dust clouds from the Sahara can affect air quality as far away as Houston, and may even harm Caribbean coral reefs.
According to Brown, as the situation worsens in these areas, the impacts will likely be much worse than they were in the United States during the 1930s. "Our dust bowl was serious," Brown explained to Goldenberg, "but it was confined and within a matter of years we had it under control ... these two areas don’t have that capacity."

The warning over soil erosion and the unsustainable farming practices that currently dominate large swaths of the planet have been on the mind of ecologists and agricultural experts for decades. As the threat of global warming has entered the public debate, the stakes have only intensified.

Brown was among the first and most thorough minds to set attention on the threat of planetary climate change, devoting an entire series of books—collectively titled Plan B—which assess and put forth solutions to the approaching crisis. The most recent edition is Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization.

However, in a statement last month, Brown announced that he would officially retire later this year and wind down the Earth Policy Institute following the publication of his next book, The Great Transition: Shifting from Fossil Fuels to Solar and Wind Energy.

"After careful consideration of my life at 80 years," announced  Brown in the statment, "and with profound appreciation to my staff, collaborators and supporters, I have decided to step down as president of the Earth Policy Institute and end its work as of July 1, 2015."

Brown continued, "I believe the Earth Policy Institute has accomplished what we set out to do when we began in 2001, and now it is time for me to make a shift and no longer carry the responsibility of managing an organization. I plan to continue to research and write on issues that I believe I can add to in some meaningful way."

Speaking with Goldenberg, Danielle Nierenberg, who joined Worldwatch in 2001 and went on to co-found her own institute, Food Tank, said the world owes much to Brown for his decades of work and unique vision.

"He’s the godfather of merging environmental and food issues," said Nierenberg. "If you are talking about food and the environment, everybody looks to Lester Brown."

As the world continues to grapple with the catastrophes spurred by our own human development, Brown wrote this in the introduction to Plan B 4.0: "The question we face is not what we need to do, because that seems rather clear to those who are analyzing the global situation.

The challenge is how to do it in the time available. Unfortunately, we don't know how much times remains. Nature is the timekeeper but we cannot see the clock."

He continued, "The thinking that got us into this mess it not likely to get us out. We need a new mindset."

The last question society should ask, he concluded, is whether or not what needs to be done is considered possible.