Restrictions on Hawaii public land

SOURCE: Rayne Regush (RayneRegush@aol.com)
SUBHEAD: New law will make it that much easier to legally prohibit access to public trails.

By Debora Chang on 28 March 2017 in Island Breath -
(http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2017/03/rrestrictions-on-hawaii-public-land.html)


Image above: Photo by Kaleo Lancaster of hike on Laie Ridge Trail on public land on Oahu, Hawaii. From (http://kaleolancaster.blogspot.com/2012_12_01_archive.html.

Please take some time to read about this bill which is making its way through the legislature. I’m concerned that it could make many of us criminal trespassers if passed.

It is SB895 SD1 HD1 and here’s the link to the current version: See (http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=SB&billnumber=895&year=2017).

 I have also attached a PDF copy of it here: (http://www.islandbreath.org/2017Year/03/170329SB895.pdf).

The bill is scheduled for a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee this Wednesday, March 29.

Unfortunately, I’ve been distracted with other concerns to pay much attention to the legislative session this year (like most of us who have jobs to do). I did see a Native Hawaiian testifying against this bill on the TV news a few weeks ago, which prompted me to take a closer look.

My concerns are not with the beginning part of the bill, but with the rather innocent-looking changes proposed at the latter part of the bill.

Beginning on p. 5, agricultural government property would be added to the list of offenses qualifying as criminal trespass in the second degree. While criminal trespass in the second degree is a “petty misdemeanor,” you end up with a criminal record if found guilty of such an offense.

The bill starts off making it a criminal trespass offense to enter on to closed “improved state land.” It describes lands that are clearly developed, fenced, signed, and closed to public access.

I don’t have a problem with such regulations over state harbors, highway baseyards, etc., although advocates of the homeless seem to be most concerned about this part of the bill.

Where the bill gets especially relevant to those of us who live in rural areas surrounded by vast, undeveloped agricultural lands, is from page 5 to the last page, where it proposes to amend Section 708-814 of the HRS.

Agricultural private lands have had this protection from trespassers in the law for some time. This bill would add government property to this protection.

The only requirement would be to post no trespassing signs at reasonable intervals and next to roads or trails entering the property.

My major concern is where historic Hawaiian trails exist on private lands. These trails, in many cases, are government property.

The Haleakala Trail, Judd Trail, Hookena-Kauhako Trail, several trails to Kaawaloa, and Kauai Ala Loa, are just a few historic trails that come to mind. These trails and many others are kept closed by the state for lack of “resources” to open them to the public. While they remain closed, they are vulnerable to being “lost” to neglect, becoming overgrown and unrecognizable, damage, and destruction.

This law will make it that much easier to legally prohibit access to trails that are public trails per the Highways Act of 1892.

Most people are respectful of keep out signs, and over time the knowledge that a public trail exists in that area will be lost.

Only Native Hawaiians will be able to legally access the public trails as part of customary practices, but posting a no trespassing sign at the trail is likely to discourage or intimidate Native Hawaiians too.

The law currently protects Native Hawaiian rights to use the trails – see Section 6 on the bill’s last page. Is this an acceptable approach where public trails are concerned?

Another important detail:  the Bill’s "Description" on the final page states that the criminal trespass offense applies to government agricultural property even though it may not be fenced or enclosed.

This clearly applies to historic trails, which are usually not fenced on both sides or otherwise enclosed.

The more I read this bill, the more deeply concerned I become. I urge you to email your concerns to the House Judiciary Committee members as soon as possible, if you share these concerns! Here’s the link to the committee that names the members: See (http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/committeepage.aspx?comm=JUD&year=2017

If you want to send an email to them you can use this link: See (http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=SB&billnumber=895&year=2017)

There is a “Submit Testimony” button near the top. You will have to go through a sign in procedure before submitting your testimony.

Mahalo for your time and attention! If we don’t care, who will?

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Determining Kauai's Ala Loa Trail 2/18/17
Ea O Ka Aina: Kauai's Ala Loa Trail 11/6/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Haleakala Trail is public land 4/27/14
Ea O Ka Aina: The Ala Loa Trail 4/10/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Trails and Tribulations 2/26/13


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Monsanto and EPA collusion

SUBHEAD: More evidence of collusion between the EPA and Monsanto covering up RoundUp cancer link.

By Josh Nelson on 29 March 2017 for Credo -
(https://act.credoaction.com/sign/monsanto_epa)


Image above: This story goes back to 2015 revelations, but more just keeps pouring forth. From (http://thefreethoughtproject.com/unearthed-documents-reveal-monsanto-epa-knew-glyphosates-toxic-carcinogenic-effects/).

Stunning new documents unsealed by a federal judge suggest that Monsanto worked directly with federal regulators to hide the health risks of and manipulate the science behind its best-selling herbicide, RoundUp.

The documents reveal that Monsanto pressured Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials to not publicly release information on the cancer risks of glyphosate, the main ingredient in RoundUp, ghostwrote research for the EPA and worked with a senior official at the agency to quash a federal review of the chemical.1

These documents suggest an unprecedented level of collusion between the EPA and Monsanto to cover up evidence that RoundUp is a likely carcinogen. The Office of Inspector General of the EPA, an independent office tasked with investigating fraud and abuse in the agency, must immediately launch an investigation to hold Monsanto and all EPA employees involved accountable.

In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared glyphosate a probable carcinogen, which spurred a class-action lawsuit brought by hundreds victims who developed cancer after being exposed to the chemical.

These newly uncovered documents reveal that months before the WHO’s determination, an EPA official tipped off Monsanto to the upcoming ruling in an effort to aid the agricultural giant’s public relations campaign.

The official promised the company that he would attempt to beat back an upcoming review of glyphosate by the Department of Health and Human Services, saying “If I can kill this, I should get a medal.” HHS subsequently never completed the review.2

Unsealed documents also suggest that a Monsanto executive gave his employees the go-ahead to ghostwrite favorable research on glyphosate and later attribute the studies to academics by merely placing their names on the research.3

Given Donald Trump’s appointment of Scott Pruitt to head the EPA, this is a crucial opportunity for the the Office of the Inspector General to prove that it will remain truly independent under a Trump administration determined to exert total control and suppress all dissent.

The inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services has recently launched an investigation into the Trump administration, so there is precedent for the EPA inspector general to follow suit.4

Monsanto has a long and dark history covering up glyphosate’s dangers, but it’s simply unconscionable that the EPA would collude with Monsanto to conceal the serious threat the chemical poses to public health.

The defeat of Trumpcare shows that our activism works. Now it’s time for the the Office of the Inspector General to do its job and hold Monsanto and EPA employees accountable.

Tell the Office of Inspector General of the EPA: Investigate collusion between Monsanto and the EPA. Click here (https://act.credoaction.com/sign/monsanto_epa) to sign the petition.

References:
  1. Danny Hakim, "Monsanto Weed Killer Roundup Faces New Doubts on Safety in Unsealed Documents," The New York Times, March 14, 2017.
  2. Reynard Loki, "Has Monsanto Orchestrated a Massive Cancer Coverup? Unsealed Court Case Documents Point to a Scandal," AlterNet, March 17, 2017.
  3. Lorraine Chow, "Monsanto Faces Hundreds of New Cancer Lawsuits as Debate Over Glyphosate Rages On," EcoWatch, March 22, 2017.
  4. Mary Papenfuss, "Inspector General Probes Trump Administration’s Move To Pull Obamacare Enrollment Ads," The Huffington Post, March 25, 2017.

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Trump speeds warming by 170xs

SUBHEAD: Study says half the species on Earth today will likely disappear by the middle of the century.

By Jahr Jamail on 27 March 2017 for Truth Out -
(http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/39906-as-trump-s-denialists-get-to-work-the-climate-is-changing-170-times-faster)


Image above: An Alien planet like image from Meteor Crater, Arizona. A mile wide crater formed in a fraction of a second as 175 million tons of limestone and bedrock were uplifted from formerly flat terrain 50,000 years ago. The meteorite was only 150 ft. wide. From (https://www.pinterest.com/FDVoyages/meteor-crater-arizona/).

You can feel it, can't you?

You already know what is happening to the planet. To Gaia. To Earth. To the only planet humankind will ever "permanently" inhabit. We've nowhere else to go but here ... this incredible, majestic, beautiful Garden of Eden that has held us, and carried us, this far.

We have ignored the fact that we are, at best, mere stewards. We have forsaken the Earth by fantasizing that the planet was ours to control. To exploit. To manipulate. To drill, mine and desecrate.

To gain riches from.

The balance is upset, the die is cast, now we reap the consequences of a whirlwind of forces so vast we cannot comprehend them.

We needn't look far to see how very far off the climate precipice we have already fallen, as our pace accelerates by the day.

A recent study, Extinction Risk from Climate Change, published in the prestigious journal Nature, shows that half the species on Earth today will likely disappear by the middle of the century -- within 33 years. Although this information is devastating, perhaps we should not be surprised, since we've known for years now that we have already entered the Earth's sixth mass extinction event.

Last month, a paper titled The Anthropocene Equation revealed that anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) is causing the climate to change 170 times faster than it would if only natural forces were affecting it. "The human magnitude of climate change looks more like a meteorite strike than a gradual change," one of the authors of the study said.

Both NASA and NOAA data showed that this January was the third hottest January ever recorded, with the brunt of the warming extremes occurring, distressingly, in the Arctic. Some anomalies were as high as 50 degrees Fahrenheit above normal over the winter.

The amount of dissolved oxygen in Earth's oceans is currently declining, according to a recently published paper in the journal Nature. This will assuredly have severe consequences for all marine organisms.

For perspective on where we are in relation to what has happened in Earth's history, National Geographic recently published a piece that shows how sudden and dramatic changes in the planet's climate have historically been catastrophic for humans, bringing plagues, famines and heat waves.

The article highlights the importance of not only the extreme change that is predicted over the next 100 years (4° to 6° Celsius, which could be an extremely conservative estimate), but also the rate of change, as it far exceeds nature's ability to adapt in order to sustain most life forms.

National Geographic goes on to point out that this exceptional rate of change will test adaptability by all global species, including humans, and that over the long term, all of our survival is far from certain.

In 2015, NASA launched a massive mission to study how quickly the oceans are melting Greenland, and the findings that are now coming in are disturbing. While we don't yet have all of the results, the study has already enabled the lead researchers to provide some broad brushstrokes on what they are finding.

"Overall, together I think these papers suggest that the glaciers as a whole are more vulnerable than we thought they were," Josh Willis, a researcher at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the principal investigator on the mission told the Washington Post.

"We could be in for more sea level rise than we thought," he added. "And we're not alone; the fact is that almost every time some new results come out of Greenland or Antarctica, we find these glaciers are more vulnerable than we thought."

At roughly the same time Willis was making those comments, US satellite data from Antarctica showed that sea ice around that continent had hit a record low.

That means that the sea ice around Antarctica has shrunk to its smallest annual extent on record, after having been at its record high just a few years earlier. It's also worth noting that in mid-February, the Larsen C ice shelf there shed a Manhattan-sized chunk of ice into the sea.

On February 22 Truthout reported that the next major bleaching event to hit the Great Barrier Reef in Australia had begun. A little over two weeks later, the first survey for this year was conducted by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), and the survey confirmed that another mass bleaching event had occurred and was ongoing.

"In total, those extreme weather events and the overall impact of climate change is a major threat to the future of the reef," the GBRMPA's David Wachenfeld said grimly to the media of his findings.

Closer to home in the US, on February 12 the tallest dam in the country, the Oroville dam, was at risk of disintegrating due to an onslaught of torrential flooding that prompted the evacuation of more than 200,000 people living downstream.

The crisis underscored how infrastructure mechanisms like dams are in no way built to withstand the impacts that ACD is already causing, let alone future impacts.

Truthout published an article that contained an interview with Deborah Moore, who was a commissioner with the World Commission on Dams, an international body that investigated the performance of dam projects across the world.

 Moore was asked what experts like herself should be looking at in terms of incorporating climate science into engineering design. Her response? "We can no longer use historic data in order to plan these projects because it's no longer relevant."

Earth
The evidence of runaway ACD across the land sectors of the planet is glaring.

A recent State of the Environment Report for Australia has warned that ACD could be "irreversible," and that ACD's impact to ecosystems continues to increase. "It [ACD] is altering the structure and function of natural ecosystems, and affecting heritage, economic activity and human wellbeing," the report's summary said. "Evidence shows that the impacts of climate change are increasing, and some of these impacts may be irreversible."

As if to underscore this point, another report from Australia emerged recently, which showed that country's wheat productivity has "flatlined" as a direct result of ACD.

Lastly in this section, spring has arrived nearly a full month early for many plants in the Arctic. Scientists have warned of ominous consequences from this, as the change marks the greatest shifting of the spring plant emergence that they have ever observed in the Arctic.

"As a climate scientist who studies the start of spring, I struggle to answer the question, 'What is spring?'" Heidi Steltzer, a professor at Fort Lewis College and author of the recent scientific paper, told the New York Times. "A longer spring opens up the potential for gaps -- points in time when it would be spring with no spring-like events occurring. Would this still be spring?"

Water
As is usually the case in these dispatches, the watery realms are where runaway ACD is the most visible.

Major droughts, which are looking more permanent with each passing year, are persisting around the globe. In Somalia, a country that has had to grow accustomed to drought, words like "unprecedented" and "record-breaking" have begun to lose their meaning.

The drought there is now so bad that hyenas won't even eat the carcasses of goats, sheep and camels that have died, as there isn't enough meat on their bones to make it worth their while. In early March, in one 48-hour period, at least 110 people died in Somalia from famine and diarrhea resulting from the ongoing drought conditions.

Famine warnings have now been issued for Rwanda, Kenya, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Somalia, all of which are experiencing their worst droughts in decades, with no end in sight.

By February, it became clear that the climate in the Arctic was, and had been for several months, already well advanced into abrupt ACD. Temperatures in many areas, including the North Pole, were clocking in between 30°-40°F above normal for extended periods of time, and the Arctic sea ice was hitting record minimum extent levels.

In January, what is normally one of the colder months of the year there, sea ice extent was nearly half a million miles below the January 1981-2010 long-term average, an average that was already well below what a healthy preindustrial age sea-ice level would have looked like.

A recent study showed that as Arctic warming continues to ramp up, Canadian glaciers are paying for it dearly; the melt-off from them has risen by a staggering 900 percent. This has now caused them to become a major contributor to sea level rise. Another recent study revealed that of all the permafrost that exists in the global Arctic, at least 10 percent is already melted out.

Anchorage, Alaska will lose its drinking water source before 2100, according to another recent study. The city's water comes from the Eklutna Glacier, in the Chugach Mountains above Anchorage, which is in the process of melting away, according to United States Geological Survey (USGS) Scientist Louis Sass, the lead author of the study.

"Eklutna looks like it's going to more or less disappear," he said, adding that the only question is how long that will take. According to Sass, who this writer accompanied on a USGS glacial survey of another Alaskan glacier twice during 2016, if the climate remains as it was between 2008 and 2015, the Eklutna will be gone by 2100.

But, he said recently, if the climate warms more, which of course it will, the timeline could be half that long. To give you an idea of how fast the glacier's melt rate is increasing: Between 1957-2010, the rate of melting ice there was 5 percent per year. Between 2010-2015, that rate had risen to 7 percent. And during that same period, during hotter years like 2013 and 2015, the rate even reached 13 percent. Farewell, Eklutna.

Meanwhile, sea level rise continues, and coastal regions are paying a price. A recently published study showed that US coastal cities could be flooding three times every single week by 2045. That means, if you buy a home in those areas now, before you finish paying off your 30-year mortgage, you would have a little trouble selling your constantly flooding real estate.

Lastly in this section, even life in the deepest seas is being impacted negatively by runaway ACD. A recently published study has shown that creatures living in the deep ocean are facing major food shortages, rapidly changing temperatures and other human-caused problems.

The deep ocean plays an essential role in the sustenance of commercial fishing and also removes major amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere, but the study notes that food supply in the deeper areas of the oceans could fall by a stunning 55 percent by 2100, which will of course starve the animals and microbes that live there.

Fire
So much for fire season being in the summer.

In early March, within just a few days, wildfires had torched a 1.5 million acre swath across the Central US, incinerating at least six people. The area, ripe for burning due to ACD-warmed temperatures and an ongoing drought, detonated into fires that spread across Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas.

In addition to the deaths, the fires caused vast amounts of damage: Thousands of people were forced to evacuate, much livestock was burned to death, vast expanses of cropland were lost, and numerous structures went up in flames.

In Kansas, one wildfire burned more than 1,000 square miles, breaking the record for that state's largest-ever fire. These fires were ongoing in all three states at the time of this writing.

Air
In February near the North Pole, temperatures were 50 degrees warmer than normal, yet again. In one area of Greenland, temperatures surged upwards of 43 degrees in a mere 12 hours as scientists continue to watch in amazement and shock as the Arctic literally goes into meltdown.

Moreover, these dramatic temperatures were simply one of many major heat waves sweeping the planet in February. Temperatures in North Texas reached into the mid-90s by mid-February, and one area in Oklahoma nearly reached 100. At the same time, parts of Australia were baking in 115-degree heat.

February was so hot across much of the US that the Great Lakes' already weak ice cover was cut down to nearly nothing and ski conditions across the Northeast looked more like they usually do in April.

To give you an idea of how hot things have been in the US, according to Climate Central, "There have been 3,146 record highs set for the month-to-date compared to only 27 record lows, ensuring February will go down as the 27th month in a row with more highs than lows. The astonishing 116-to-1 ratio of highs to lows would easily set a record for the most lopsided monthly ratio in history. There have also been 248 monthly record highs and no monthly record lows."

Evidence of abrupt ACD abounds, including torrential downpours following record-setting drought. This sequence is precisely what we saw in California last month, when an extreme weather event that was referred to as a "bombogenesis" or "weather bomb" brought torrential rains and floods, killed four people, swallowed cars, disrupted flights, and knocked out power for more than 150,000 people.

Additionally, it seems that a previously unforeseen nightmare scenario may have already begun.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in its most recent summary, includes the fact that the carbon equivalent contained in Arctic permafrost is 1,400-1,700 gigatons, and the IPCC estimates that by 2100, between 800-1,400 gigatons of carbon will be released into the atmosphere.

Currently, humans are emitting roughly 40 Gigatons of CO2 into the atmosphere on an annual basis.
Amazingly, while the IPCC does note these amounts of terrestrial carbon in the Arctic from the melting permafrost, they do not include their release and the implications thereof into their modeling predictions.

The release of all this extra carbon from melting permafrost represents yet another ACD-driven positive feedback loop: The carbon released from the permafrost will add to atmospheric warming, which will only accelerate the feedback loop by melting more permafrost.

Denial and Reality
Given that we are in the country of Trumpistan, we can now safely assume we will be fed a steady diet of ACD denialism.

With the Trump administration full of ACD deniers, climate scientists are already facing threats, harassment and a very real fear of "McCarthyist attacks." Abusive and vulgar verbal attacks, and even death threats, have already become the norm.

In just the two months since he entered office, Trump has already undertaken the most ambitious regulatory rollback since the Reagan era and, of course, some of the most dramatic acts of deregulation have been happening on the environmental front. Trump's frontrunner for the role of science advisor is William Happer, a man who has described climate scientists as a "glassy-eyed cult."

Also in Trump's denial cabal is Scott Pruitt, the new head of the EPA (which means he's the person in charge of destroying that particular agency), who recently publicly questioned whether the EPA is even empowered to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

During a recent interview Pruitt was questioned as to whether he believed ACD was caused by humans, to which he replied: "I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do, and there's tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact, so, no, I would not agree that it's a primary contributor to the global warming that we see."

At this moment, it is worth harkening back to a 1991 film produced by the oil giant Shell, which warned that the climate was already changing "at a faster rate than at any time since the end of the ice age."

The film, titled Climate of Concern, went on to state that the rate of ACD even at that time, more than a quarter of a century ago, was "changing too fast perhaps for life to adapt, without severe dislocation."

It minced no words, stating that the world was warming and serious consequences could result. "Tropical islands barely afloat even now, first made inhabitable, and then obliterated beneath the waves … coastal lowlands everywhere suffering pollution of precious groundwater, on which so much farming and so many cities depend," the film narrates. "In a crowded world subject to such adverse shifts of climate, who would take care of such greenhouse refugees?"

Like Exxon, which knew, early on, of the dire consequences of runaway ACD and then covered up the facts, Shell is currently immersed in an elaborate charade, acting for the benefit of its bottom line.

Whether the denialists in Trump's cabinet are engaged in their own charade -- or whether they really believe their bizarre rhetoric -- no one truly knows, but there's no doubt that they are acting in the interest of the fossil fuel industry.

Once again, the oil giants have realized profits beyond their wildest dreams, while the consequences continue to be thrust upon every living being on Earth.

• Dahr Jamail, a Truthout staff reporter, is the author of The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan (Haymarket Books, 2009), and Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches From an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq (Haymarket Books, 2007). Jamail reported from Iraq for more than a year, as well as from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Turkey over the last 10 years, and has won the Martha Gellhorn Award for Investigative Journalism, among other awards.


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Robotic artificial intelligence is here

SUBHEAD: Beware of becoming dependent on robots and artificial intelligence supplying you what you need to survive.

By Kat Lonsdorf on 23 March 2017 for NPR Radio -
(http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2017/03/23/520848983/hungry-call-your-neighborhood-delivery-robot)


Image above: Starship Technologies' delivery robots, which can be found traveling the sidewalks of Washington, D.C., get smarter the more they drive. Photo by Meg Kelly. From original article.

Here's a classic big city dilemma (sorry suburban folks): It's late at night, the weather is bad, and you're hungry. Your favorite restaurant is less than a mile away, but you don't want to leave the house, and you don't want to pay a $5 delivery fee — plus tip — for a $10 meal.

So, what do you do?

Back in the old days, you would have braved the elements — or learned to plan ahead. But those days are coming to an end, at least in Washington, D.C.

A fleet of about 20 autonomous, knee-high robots recently has appeared on the sidewalks of the nation's capital, and they're out to revolutionize hyper-local delivery in big cities. Their mission? Bring takeout food from restaurants to hungry customers at home — while keeping the delivery cost to around a dollar.

The robots are European, created in Estonia by a company called Starship Technologies. The company is new, but its tech experience runs deep: It was founded by two of the co-founders of Skype, Janus Friis and Ahti Heinla.

https://www.washingtonian.com/2017/03/09/food-delivery-robots-postmates-officially-roll-out-in-dc-today/  xxx

Each 35-pound bot is essentially a medium-sized cooler on six wheels, and drives at an average speed of about 4 miles per hour. It has lights and a tall, bright orange flag to make it more visible to pedestrians on the sidewalk.

A smartphone app unlocks the shiny black lid to access the hollow, insulated holding area, and then automatically locks back into place.



Here in Washington, Starship has teamed up with Postmates, the online delivery service, and the robots already are completing deliveries around the city.

We wanted to see how they work, so we met up with Nick Handrick, the director of operations for Starship in the District, to go for a walk with one of the little bots.

"It's pretty small, pretty cute," he says, as we wait for the bot to get a new set of coordinates for the journey. This is just a test drive, but in an actual delivery, those coordinates would come after a consumer had placed a delivery through the Postmates app.

Suddenly, the robot begins to move, almost silently. It's electric, so there isn't much sound aside from the quiet hum of the wheels on the pavement.

The bot moves like a giant remote-control car, except there's no remote. It's driving entirely on its own, navigating the sidewalk using artificial intelligence technology that draws input from nine cameras all around the rim, GPS, and sensors that can help identify the speed of pedestrians in the immediate area.

The bot's cameras recognize a lot — including walk signals and traffic lights, crosswalks and stop signs, Handrick explains. And they get smarter the more they drive, learning more about the sidewalks and traffic patterns of busy streets with every trip they take.

And, Handrick says, if a bot finds itself in a situation it doesn't understand — an unfamiliar driveway, for instance, or next to a parked car with flashing lights — there's always a human operator monitoring things, so all the machine has to do is send a call for help. The human on the other side can look through the cameras and figure out the best action to take.

[IB Publisher's note: Imagine a chilly March night in Washington DC. as a Starship Technologies' food delivery robot is negotiating the sidewalk as it prepares to cross H Street where it meets Benning Road. It's task is to deliver dinner for two couples from a new Thai restaurant several blocks uptown in this recently gentrified neighborhood. A newly homeless and hungry couple spot the robot delay at the curb. They approach the 35 pound unit. The woman removes her overcoat and throws it over the foodbot. The coat blinds the robot's cameras and warning lights begin flashing as the bot's audio alarm starts up. The man tackles the robot and wrestles it over on its side. He reaches under the coat covering the bot and quickly pries open the lid latch with something from his pocket. This isn't the first time they've hijacked a foodbot. The couple disappears around the corner with four spicy hot entrees in an insulated package. Score one for the humans.]   


New Tech Despotism

SUBHEAD: AI, in its current state, is ripe for abuse by aspiring despots wanting centralized of power.

By Jeremy Leggtett on 25 March 2017 for JeremyLeggett.net-
(http://www.jeremyleggett.net/2017/03/appropriate-civilization-versus-new-despotism-month-2-20th-february-20th-march-2017-tech-for-good-and-truth-take-a-pounding/)


Image above: Promo for an Amazon Echo "assistant" Alexa is the artificial intelligence (AI) that will take your order and dispatch a robotic drone to deliver it to your door. A bit of text added by Juan Wilson. From (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Amazon-SK705DI-Echo-Black/dp/B01GAGVIE4).

This month evidence of the potential use of AI and robotics for social benefit continued to lag portentous developments. On the one hand, the prospects for improving healthcare systems continue to grow.

 Google plans a health record tracking system loosely based on the bitcoin concept and using its DeepMind AI, for example. It aims for real-time tracking of data by hospitals, health organisations and patients alike. Beneficiaries will have better treatment prospects. Lives will be saved.

On the other hand, a Microsoft researcher warned openly this month that AI, even in its current state, is ripe for abuse by aspiring despots: perfectly suited to the centralizing of power, tracking of populations down to the last individual, the demonizing of outsiders, all while radiating authority via a faux neutrality.

“This is a fascist’s dream,” said Microsoft’s Kate Crawford, pulling no punches. “Power without accountability.”

All this before quantum computers have arrived on the scene, which they will within five years, Google is now saying. These machines will be significantly faster and more powerful than current computers.

Ordinary mortals outside the campuses of Google, IBM and the like cannot imagine what will be possible with the algorithms that they will be using. “Artificial intelligence runs wild while humans dither”, read a headline in the Financial Times this month. It was a major understatement.

With the integration of AI and robotics, the threats to social coherence compound. Google-owned robotics firm Boston Dynamics unveiled a hybrid robot easily capable of inducing nightmares.

Though it is designed currently only for manual tasks, it resembles a Terminator riding on a hoverboard. This in a world where robots can be programmed, today, literally to read the minds of humans they interactive with, provided the latter wear electrodes on their heads.

Thus connected, the robot can correct simple mistakes in manipulating objects by translating electrical patterns from the human brain into code.

Warnings are proliferating of intelligent virtual helpers that would take away human jobs by default, in the near term, especially in customer-facing roles in banks and call centres. Large-scale deployment of such machines would quickly deepen the inequality gap, fuelling the very social divisiveness on which the new despotism feeds.

It is not as though practitioners of AI and robotics are blind to the dangers. This month, 40 experts convened at Arizona State University for a workshop to plot Doomsday scenarios, and how to counter them.

Tesla’s Elon Musk and Skype’s Jaan Tallinn funded the exercise. Bloomberg’s account of the meeting suggested that the experts were rather better at dreaming up the Doomsday scenarios than they were the countermeasures.

Other initiatives include the creation of AI Now, an online research community researching social impacts of AI, and the idea of a tax on robots, to help finance social adjustments, supported among others by Bill Gates.

Speaking of the Microsoft founder, clearly much will depend in this unfolding drama on the character and actions of the tech billionaires whose companies and technologies are located in the heart of the emerging drama. They will be increasingly unaccountable, on recent evidence.

This month Snap Inc, the parent of Snapchat, went public in one of the most successful IPOs ever. It’s shares soared, valuing the company at $28bn. And incredibly, Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel successfully persuaded a critical mass of shareholders to invest without their being given any voting rights at all.

This lack of governance and accountability – and investors’ willingness to tolerate it – sets a dangerous precendent in capitalism. If Snap rides on its IPO cash proceeds to rival Facebook, Google, and the others in scale, the world had better hope 26 year old Spiegel is a man with a heart and conscience.

That question mark will also apply to the founders of new companies that will inevitably try to emulate Snap. Worryingly, experts on a recent conference panel on tech leadership professed that psychopaths are rife in Silicon Valley.

Studies suggest that whereas the proportion of psychopaths in the general population is around 1%, it is 4-8% in the corporate environment.

To see how this can play out in the tech world, consider the recent chronicle of alleged malfeasance and definite gross unpleasantness at Uber. It makes ominous reading for those of us who hope that tech and tech and tech companies can be a transformative force for social progression.

And the whole saga is a manifestation of the leader’s character and values.

Which brings us to the theme of truth. In a world where your tech is drifting almost unopposed towards being perfect infrastructure for despots, wherein a new elite of breathtakingly wealthy leaders might be in danger of enhanced levels of psychopathy, the approach of the populist right to use of propaganda assumes critical importance.

And here too the news is bad. New research from Columbia University, analysing 1.3 million articles in the run up to the US election, has shown that the internet itself did not favour the creation and spread of fake news. Rather, it was deliberate use of the technology for this purpose by a Breitbart-led right-wing media ecosystem that created havoc with reporting of true facts.

More evidence of how this lie machine works comes out by the week. The Guardian dug deep into the origins of Cambridge Analytica, the controversial company that claims to use personal data to swing elections, and which may indeed have delivered on this claim in the US presidential election and the Brexit referendum.

More emerged on how it is funded, with big-data billionaire Robert Mercer, backer of Donald Trump, prominent in the story. The whole narrative raises profound questions about the state, and future, of our democracies.

Again, tech does not appear to be helping the defenders of democracy, but abetting the aspiring new despots. Accusations that Google has been spreading fake news have intensified. It has been found to be repeatedly sharing falsehoods and conspiracy theories through its “featured snippets and search” functionality.

There have also been major problems with its advertising this month, with organisations including the Guardian newspaper cancelling accounts because their ads had been placed next to extremist material.

Amid all this chaos, the founder of the internet, Tim Berners-Lee, called this month for tighter regulation of online political advertising. This, among many other responses by society, is clearly going to be needed. Perhaps the British government can lead the way, for the current US government certainly will not.

This is not as impossible a prospect as it may sound. The UK government was one of the organisations to pull its ads from Google because of proximity to inappropriate extremist content.

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Ecovillage Rescuing Los Angeles

SUBHEAD: They transformed it into a traffic-calmed and car-restricted promenade with fruit trees.

By Albert Bates on 26 March 2017 for The Great Change -
(http://peaksurfer.blogspot.com/2017/03/rescuing-los-angeles.html)


Image above: View from site of the Ecovillage in Los Angeles. From original article.

In the concrete desert that is downtown Los Angeles we were blessed to find a green oasis at the corner of Vermont and 1st Avenues known as Los Angeles Eco-Village (LAEV).

How we can use our hard wiring to communicate to the herd that it is time to veer off from a race towards the cliff’s edge which most don’t yet see?

LAEV has taken a two-block area of random residents and small storefront businesses, alleys and churches and transformed it into a traffic-calmed and car-restricted promenade with fruit trees, mosaic tables and cob benches built around larger canopy trees, verge gardens, interior courtyards and attractive outdoor classrooms.

It has created attractive residences affordable to lower income people, stores and kiosks selling products and services made or provided by neighbors.

It has converted large apartment complexes to low income, ethnically diverse cooperative housing, and is transforming four-plex garages to 3 or 4 story mixed use development with retail, offices, and super affordable “tiny” housing, with small ecological footprint and no parking.

It created California's first bicycle kitchen (starting literally from the kitchen in an apartment house) — a way of cooperatively building, sharing and maintaining bicycles and the skill-set that goes with that.

A recent purchase of an abandoned building and vacant lot on the corner of Vermont Avenue will allow them to create People Street Plaza with two parklets and an enclosed bike corral, a solar arbor for small electric neighborhood plug-in vehicles and pedal hybrids, plus metered parking and expanded city repair functions at two intersections.

Next year the ecovillage plans to eliminate sidewalks and parking lanes on north side of White House Place and install an urban organic working farm/food forest.

In the future they would like to acquire 5 four-plexed apartment houses on White House Place to ensure permanent affordability for 80 to 120% of poverty-level income if existing/future qualifying residents will commit to going car-free within a specified time, and providing convenient car share options.

They would power these new homes by installing neighborhood solar PV over the school parking lot. Beyond 2030, when the parking lot is no longer needed, they would create an urban farm.

More ambitious, and requiring more city approvals, are plans to acquire and retire the auto repair shops, raze them and reopen the concreted-over hot springs, Bimini Baths, that were overtaken by sprawl and pavement almost a century earlier.

They'd like to open a center for therapeutic and recreation and to offer affordable housing for healers (so they can charge lower rates for lower income residents).

They'd like to bring back the trolley service to the tracks that used to carry bath patrons to and from other parts of the city. For the immediate future, a vegan cafĂ© and outdoor garden is planned to replace the auto repair shops. 

Much of this will be accomplished by local residents, using a Cooperative Resources & Services Project (CRSP) Ecological Revolving Loan Fund (ELF) which has the potential to generate about $2.5 million every three to six month period.

Imagine, for a moment, all cities transformed from the bottom up in this fashion. LAEV does not plan to produce all its own food, water, power and other needs from within its two-block area, but it could. Instead, it encourages doing some of that while also participating in cooperatives that join together the products and services of other parts of the city.

Once upon a time the founder of permaculture, Bill Mollison, was asked how cities could become sustainable. He responded that it was only by providing for all their needs within their boundaries.

Los Angeles, even now, at 5000 persons per square mile, could do this. But then, like LAEV, it would need to take another step and begin the process of producing food, fiber and energy while progressively withdrawing carbon from the atmosphere.

Ecovillages similar to LAEV — The Farm, Earthaven, Findhorn, ZEGG and Seiben Linden — have already demonstrated their ability to net sequester more than their own carbon in order to reverse climate change, even while implementing the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, using a combination of for-profit and non-profit social enterprises and a holistic, deliberative approach.

Over the past few years they have risen still another step and are embarked, with Global Ecovillage Network, Gaia University and Gaia Education, upon a process of building curricula and the cadre of trained instructors that will carry the work to a global scale.

This core idea, brought by ecovillages at the cutting edge of an historic shift, is part of the British Commonwealth's new Regenerative Development to Reverse Climate Change strategy announced at COP-22. It is also allied with the Chinese Two Mountain Policy we described here last December.

Ecovillages are like a shadow world government. They are not top-down electoral, C3I or Deep State puppeteers; they are grass roots, spontaneous, semi-autonomous networked infiltrators. Their weapons are not Death Stars or enslaving financial schemes but viral memes spread by new media, art and gardening.

They run on the energy and creativity of youth. They are a bullet train on a return track back out of the Anthropocene.

What is needed now, today, is exactly that sort of low cost, rapidly deployed, hugely scalable approach to reversing human misery, ecological destruction and climate change that will find apolitical social acceptance, quickly, without the requirement of carbon taxes or offset markets that only serve to line the pockets of the obscenely obtuse.

Indeed, to scale quickly, it should use tested, off-the-shelf technology, be antifragile, employ lots of young entrepreneurs, and provide a sensible return benefit for those in the older generations who hazard their limited time and resources to assist.

The adoption process for carbon-sequestering economies could benefit from the ideas Malcolm Gladwell expressed in The Tipping Point: How Small Things Make a Difference (2000).

Gladwell argued that the ability of viruses (whether diseases or ideas) to spread quickly, and universally, depends on their ability to be attractive and sympathetic. They need to be able to cross cultures, genders, age groups, and races.

Gladwell pointed to three elements that cause epidemics to spread, and said these same elements are fundamental to any large-scale social change. They are:
  1. The Law of the Few — some people spread disease (and ideas) better than others.
  2. The Stickiness Factor — the potency of viruses (or ideas and actions) to become universal. Ideas and actions to reverse climate change need to continue evolving and draw in people from around the world. The greater context of our climate dilemma suggests that if a favorable human tipping point is to occur, it needs to be able to cross cultures and to be sticky across all those differences.
  3. The Power of Context — the conditions under which the change is considered tend to either reinforce the change or thwart its spread. Commitment is not enough. The committed have to act, and share their commitment with others.
If a cultural tipping point is required, the tools most associated with cultural evolution should be employed. These include artistic movements (visual arts, performance, music, etc.), fashion (attraction to styles), and celebrity endorsements, among others.

Humans evolved as herd animals and we constantly signal to each other our affiliations, tastes and choices. Tapping into this natural process allows memes to propagate when stickiness and context cohere.

This leads us to an examination of the concept of style. What is it in the human genome that makes us such dedicated followers of fashion? Likely it is hard wired by an evolutionary choice our species made several million years back.

We hairless apes are more like army ants, gray wolves, dolphins, lions, mongooses and spotted hyenas than jaguars, frogs and horse flies. We are pack hunters.

Herd behavior has a defensive purpose, too. Witness zebras crossing a river full of crocodiles or a young buffalo calf being stalked by wolves. Some will be picked off, but most will survive.

We continuously signal to others in our herd that we are with them. We are part. We are in this tribe. We seek tribe approval, acceptance, respect. We may do this the way birds do, with colorful plumage, or the way horses do, with speed and agility. A necktie or a pants suit are forms of that signaling. A sports car is another.

How can we use our hard wiring to communicate to the herd that it is time to veer off from a race towards the cliff’s edge that most of our group most don’t yet see?

We need to make the change in direction fashionable.

For many if not most, the need to survive is ever present. To Westerners captured by the meme of money, their fragility can be measured by the number of digits left of the decimal point in their bank accounts, real estate valuations or securities portfolios, or by the (thin) thread of an enduring job with health benefits.

Standing at the edge of the Seneca Cliff, all of those indica are profoundly perilous routes forward.

Is it possible to break the fantasy of citizens of industrialized countries — that our jobs can continue to provide a magic elixir to meet our needs and debts? Difficult. Not impossible, just difficult.

Greed and familiarity cushion against sensibility. In other cultures, survival is bound by the timing and amount of rains needed for good crops, or the attractiveness of a female to acquire a supportive mate, or the fighting skills and tools for a warrior to dominate. But these also have a dark side.

Given how essential to survival rain, a mate, or fighting skills may be, they are also powerful drivers of aberrant behavior, like the magical belief that if we dance and pray that rain will come, or that anyone who can act the part of ruthless, selfish seducer can attract wealth, power or handsome mates.

That is all going to change, and quickly. Either that or we will all be extinct, and soon. If you want to get in on the change sooner, and avoid the hardship of late adoption, look into joining an ecovillage.

There is one trend afoot that few have seemed to notice. In the two-thirds world trade and commerce have always been dominated by nimble opportunists who see niches, swoop in and exploit them, and move on when the niche is no longer productive.

This independent spirit runs against the grain of wage slavery and so harsh sanctions like the withholding of health care and the destruction of public education have been used like cudgels to beat “employees” back into their roles as cogs in the machine.

So it was that Columbus destroyed the unsuited-as-slaves Taino and Arawak, or Francisco de Toledo instituted the mita system to compel Quechua and Yanacona encomienda to work the silver mines of PotosĂ­.

Today, the tuned-in, spirited youth force of the world has undergone an evolutionary shift from encomiendista to free-agent. They want to be social impact entrepreneurs, not cubicle rats — blackmail-style benefits be damned. That instinctual shift provides the fuel to ignite the ecovillage revolution.

[Author's note: This post is part of an ongoing series we're calling The Power Zone Manifesto. We post to The Great Change on Sunday mornings and 24 to 48 hours earlier for the benefit of donors to our Patreon page.]

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Chemical farming is unsustainable

SUBHEAD: Why poison ourselves when pesticides don’t save more of our crops than in the past?

By Alice Friedman on 16 March 2017 for Energy Sceptic -
(http://energyskeptic.com/2017/chemical-industrial-farming-is-unsustainable-why-poison-ourselves-when-pesticides-dont-kill-more-pests-than-in-the-past/)


Image above: Photo of tractor applying pesticide by Sidsal - Bofarm Industries. From (http://www.sidsal.com/photogallery.php).


Pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides destroy soil, ecosystems, and a third of the crop is still lost to pests, just as in the many millennia of farming before chemicals.

[Auther's note: This is a book review of Andy Dyer’s “Chasing the Red Queen”, and I have added additional information and conclusions.  This book is not technical and could be read by both high school and undergraduate students as an introduction to soil ecosystems and the damage done by agricultural chemicals, and the science of why this is ultimately not sustainable.]

We hear a lot about how we’re running out of antibiotics.  But we are also doomed to run out of pesticides, because insects inevitably develop resistance, whether toxic chemicals are sprayed directly or genetically engineered into the plants.

Worse yet, weeds, insects, and fungus develop resistance in just 5 years on average, which has caused the chemicals to grow increasingly lethal over the past 60 years.  And it takes on average eight to ten years to identify, test, and develop a new pesticide, though that isn’t long enough to discover the long-term toxicity to humans and other organisms.

And this devil’s bargain hasn’t even provided most of the gains in crop yields, which is due to natural-gas and phosphate fertilizers plus soil-crushing tractors and harvesters that can do the work of millions of men and horses quickly on farms that grow only one crop on thousands of acres.

Yet before pesticides, farmers lost a third of their crops to pests, after pesticides, farmers still lose a third of their crops.

Even without pesticides, industrial agriculture is doomed to fail from extremely high rates of soil erosion and soil compaction at rates that far exceed losses in the past, since soil couldn’t wash or blow away as easily on small farms that grew many crops.

But pest killing chemicals are surely accelerating the day of reckoning sooner rather than later. Enormous amounts of toxic chemicals are dumped on land every year — over 1 billion pounds are used in the United State (US) every year and 5.6 billion pounds globally (Alavanja 2009).

This destroys the very ecosystems that used to help plants fight off pests, and is a major factor biodiversity loss and extinction.

Evidence also points to pesticides playing a key role in the loss of bees and their pollination services.  Although paleo-diet fanatics won’t mind eating mostly meat when fruit, vegetable, and nut crops are gone, they will not be so happy about having to eat more carbohydrates.

Wheat and other grains will still be around, since they are wind-pollinated.

Agricultural chemicals render land lifeless and toxic to beneficial creatures, also killing the food chain above — fish, amphibians, birds, and humans (from cancer, chronic disease, and suicide).
Surely a day is coming when pesticides stop working, resulting in massive famines.

But who is there to speak for the grandchildren? And those that do speak for them are mowed down by the logic of libertarian capitalism, which only cares about profits today.

Given that a political party is now in power in the U.S. that wants to get rid of the protections the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other agencies provide, may make matters worse if agricultural chemicals are allowed to be more toxic, long-lasting, and released earlier, before being fully tested for health effects.

Meanwhile chemical and genetic engineering companies are making a fortune, because the farmers have to pay full price, since the pests develop resistance long before a product is old enough to be made generically.  Except for glyphosate, but weeds have developed resistance. Predictably.

In fact, the inevitability of resistance has been known for nearly seven decades. In 1951, as the world began using synthetic chemicals, Dr. Reginald Painter at Kansas State University published “Insect Resistance in Crop Plants”.  He made a case that it would be better to understand how a crop plant fought off insects, since it was inevitable that insects would develop genetic or behavioral resistance.

At best, chemicals might be used as an emergency control measure.

Farmers will say that we simply must carry on like this, there’s no other choice.  But that’s simply not true.

Consider the corn rootworm, that costs farmers about $2 billion a year in lost crops despite spending hundreds of millions on chemicals and the hundreds of millions of dollars chemical companies spend developing new chemicals.

To lower the chances of corn pests developing resistance, corn crops were rotated with soybeans. Predictably, a few mutated to eat soybeans plus changed their behavior.  They used to only lay eggs on nearby corn plants, now they disperse to lay eggs on soybean crops as well. 

Worse yet, corn is more profitable than soy and many farmers began growing continuous corn.  Already the corn rootworm is developing resistance to the latest and greatest chemicals.

But the corn rootworm is not causing devastation in Europe, because farms are smaller and most farmers rotate not just soy, but wheat, alfalfa, sorghum and oats with corn (Nordhaus 2017).

Before planting, farmers try to get rid of pests that survived the winter and apply fumigants to kill fungi and nematodes, and pre-emergent chemicals to reduce weed seeds from emerging.

Even farmers practicing no-till farming douse the land with herbicides by using GMO herbicide-resistant crops.

Then over the course of crop growth, farmers may apply several rounds of additional pesticides to control different pests. For example, cotton growers apply chemicals from 12 to 30 times before harvest.

Currently, the potential harm is only assessed for 2 to 3 years before a permit is issued, even though the damage might occur up to 20 years later.

Although these chemicals appear to be just like antibiotics, that isn’t entirely true.  We develop some immunity to a disease after antibiotics help us recover, but a plant is still vulnerable to the pests and weeds with the genetics or behavior to survive and chemical assault.

Although there are thousands of chemical toxins, what matters is how they kill, their method of action (MOA).  For herbicides there are only 29 MOAs, for insecticides, just 28.  So if a pest develops resistance to one chemical within an MOA, it will be resistant to all of the thousands of chemicals within that MOA.

The demand for chemicals has also grown due the high level of bioinvasive species.  It takes a while to find native pests and make sure they won’t do more harm than good. 

In the 1950s there were just three main corn pests. By 1978 there were 40, and they vary regionally. For example, California has 30 arthropods and over 14 fungal diseases to cope with.

When I was learning how to grow food organically back in the 90s, I remember how outraged organic farmers were that Monsanto was going to genetically engineer plants to have the Bt bacteria in them.  This is because the only insecticide organic farmers can use is Bt bacteria, because it is found in the soil. It’s natural.

Organic farmers have been careful to spray only in emergencies so that insects didn’t develop resistance to their only remedy.

Since 1996, GMO plants have been engineered to have Bt in them, and predictably, insects have developed resistance.  For example, in 2015, 81% of all corn was planted with genetically engineered Bt.

But corn earworms have developed resistance, especially in North Carolina and Georgia, setting the stage for damage across the nation.  Five other insects have developed resistance to Bt as well.

GMO plants were also going to reduce pesticide use.  They did for a while, but not for long.  Chemical use has increased 7% to 202,000 tons a year in the past 10 years.

Resistance can come in other ways than mutations. Behavior can change. Cockroach bait is laced with glucose, so cockroaches that developed glucose-aversion now no longer take the bait.
It is worth repeating that chemicals and other practices are ruining the long-term viability of agriculture. Here is how author Dyer explains it:
“Ultimately the practice of modern farming is not sustainable” because “the damage to the soil and natural ecosystems is so great that farming becomes dependent not on the land but on the artificial inputs into the process, such as fertilizers and pesticides.

In many ways, our battle against the diverse array of pest species is a battle against the health of the system itself.  As we kill pest species, we also kill related species that may be beneficial. We kill predators that could assist our efforts. We reduce the ecosystem’s ability to recover due to reduced diversity, and we interfere with the organisms that affect the biogeochemical processes that maintain the soils in which the plants grow.

Soil is a complex, multifaceted living thing that is far more than the sum of the sand, silt, clay, fungi, microbes, nematodes, and other invertebrates. All biotic components interact as an ecosystem within the soil and at the surface, and in relation to the larger components such as herbivores that move across the land. Organisms grow and dig through the soil, aerate it, reorganize it, and add and subtract organic material.  Mature soil is structured and layered and, very importantly, it remains in place.

Plowing of the soil turns everything upside down.  What was hidden from light is exposed.  What was kept at a constant temperature is now varying with the day and night and seasons.  What cannot tolerate drying conditions at the surface is likely killed.  And very sensitive and delicate structures within the soil are disrupted and destroyed.

Conventional tillage disrupts the entire soil ecosystem. Tractors and farm equipment are large and heavy; they compact the soil, which removes air space and water-holding capacity. Wind and water erosion remove the smallest soil particles, which typically hold most of the micronutrients needed by plants.

Synthetic fertilizers are added to supplement the loss of oil nutrients but often are relatively toxic to many soil organisms.

And chemicals such as pre-emergents, fumigants, herbicides, insecticides, acaricides, fungicides, and defoliants eventually kill all but the most tolerant or resistant soil organisms.  It does not take long to reduce a native, living, dynamic soil to a relatively lifeless collection of inorganic particles with little of the natural structure and function of undisturbed soil”.
When I told my husband all the reasons we use agricultural chemicals and the harm done, my husband got angry and said “Farmers aren’t stupid, that can’t be right!”

I think there are a number of reasons why farmers don’t go back to sustainable organic farming.
First
There is far too much money to be made in the chemical herbicide, pesticide, and insecticide industry to stop this juggernaut.

After reading Lessig’s book “Republic, Lost”, one of the best, if not the best book on campaign finance reform, I despair of campaign financing ever happening.

So chemical lobbyists will continue to donate enough money to politicians to maintain the status quo.
Plus the chemical industry has infiltrated regulatory agencies via the revolving door for decades and is now in a position to assassinate the EPA, with newly appointed Scott Pruitt, who would like to get rid of the EPA.

Second
About half of farmers are hired guns.  They don’t own the land and care about passing it on in good health to their children.  They rent the land, and their goal, and the owner’s goal is for them to make as much profit as possible.

Third
Renters and farmers both would lose money, maybe go out of business in the years it would take to convert an industrial monoculture farm to multiple crops rotated, or an organic farm.

Fourth
It takes time to learn to farm organically properly.  So even if the farmer survives financially, mistakes will be made.  Hopefully made up for by the higher price of organic food, but as wealth grows increasingly more unevenly distributed, and the risk of another economic crash grows (not to mention lack of reforms, being in more debt now than 2008, etc).

Fifth
Industrial farming is what is taught at most universities.  There are only a handful of universities that offer programs in organic agriculture.

Sixth
Subsidies favor large farmers, who are also the only farmers who have the money to profit from economies of scale, and buy their own giant tractors to farm a thousand acres of monoculture crops.
Industrial farming has driven 5 million farmers off the land who couldn’t compete with the profits made by larger farms in the area.

But farmers will have to go organic whether they like it or not.

It’s hard to say whether this will happen because we’ve run out of pesticides, whether from resistance or a financial crash reducing new chemical research, or whether peak oil, peak coal, and peak natural gas will cause the decline of chemical farming.

Agriculture uses about 15 to 20% of fossil fuel energy, from natural gas fertilizer, oil-based chemicals, farm vehicle and equipment fuel,  the agricultural cold chain, distribution, packaging, refrigeration, and cooking to name a few of the uses.

At some point of fossil decline, there won’t be enough fuel or pesticides to continue business as usual.

Farmers will be forced to go organic at some point.  Wouldn’t it be easier to start the transition now?

Although steam engines could replace diesel and gasoline engines, steam engines are far less efficient, and biomass doesn’t grow quickly enough to be renewable for a steam engine economy.

By the civil war, vast regions of the U.S. east of the Mississippi were deforested for steam locomotives, factory steam engines, river boats, and for heating, cooking, and construction.

Nor can we return to muscle power to the extent we once did, because cars allowed us to build on top of land that used to graze horses.

What about electrifying farming?

It is unlikely we can electrify tractors – the weight of the battery needed would be about as much as the weight of the tractor, and further compact the soil.  Diesel is 500 times more energy dense pound for pound as a led acid battery, and 100 times as energy dense as lithium batteries.

Batteries also weigh a lot because half the weight of a battery is its management system, which uses half of the battery energy to keep the batteries from exploding or getting too hot or cold.

Nor can we string an overhead catenary wire system across hundreds of millions of acres of cropland.

What to do
We already know what to do.  There are hundreds, if not thousands of books and journal articles on how to convert an industrial farm to an organic one, such as:
  • Use pesticides less often, and only when absolutely necessary with integrated pest management guidelines to slow resistance down from 5 years to 8 years
  • Stop monoculture, or rotating just two crops, because insects can develop resistance.
  • Surround farms with wild land to increase biodiversity and provide more niches for birds, insects, and other natural predators of crop pests.
  • Restore the natural fertility of soil with manure, crop resides, compost, and cover crops.
  • Improve crop biodiversity and pest resistance by growing more varieties of corn, wheat, potatoes
  • Educate farmers like Ray Archuleta at the natural resources conservation service. He’s been teaching classes on how to restore soils in as little as two to three years.
  • Before fossil fuels, 90% of the population were farmers.  Provide meaningful jobs by breaking up large farms into smaller ones that grow many crops
And for some pests, like the green aphid, which has grown so resistant to so many chemicals that farmers are running out of options, a healthy ecosystem approach may be the only thing left to try.

Chasing the Red Queen. The Evolutionary Race between Agricultural Pests and Poisons
Published by Island Press. Link is to Amazon access to book.

References
Alavanja, M. 2009. Pesticides Use and Exposure Extensive Worldwide. Rev Environmental Health.

Benbrook, C. M. 2015. Trends in glyphosate herbicide use in the United States and globally. Environmental sciences Europe.

Nordhaus, H. March 2017. Cornboy vs. the billion-dollar bug. Technology to defeat the corn rootworm, scientists worry, will work only briefly against an inventive foe. Scientific American

Alice Friedemann   www.energyskeptic.com  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report
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Hawaii Universal Healthcare plan?

SOURCE: Koohan Paik (koohanpaik@gmail.com)
SUBHEAD: Hawaii bill considers possibility of universal healthcare coverage to residents.

By Jill N. Tokuda on 25 March 2017 in Island Breath -
(http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2017/03/hawaii-single-payer-plan.html)


Image above: Senator Lorraine Inouye in the Hawaii State Building in Honolulu. From (https://www.flickr.com/photos/134175784@N05/26056617971/).

[IB Publisher's note: This is time sensitive. Deadline tomorrow for comments.]

After witnessing the Republicans' tour-de-force fumbled attempt to rob Americans of healthcare, it occurred to me that *now* is the perfect "opening" to push for a healthcare system that truly serves us.

Unless you own an insurance company, that would be "universal healthcare," or "single-payer healthcare" -- basic medical coverage for all, for little or no money, with the opportunity to purchase additional coverage from a private insurance company.

Besides costing tax payers less money, universal healthcare is a great way to shift wealth back to the people from the 1%, and also from defense spending back to social services.

So I did a bit of research to find out how we can get back to the universal health care that Hawaii happened to have enjoyed a quarter-century ago. And guess what I found out?

There are folks in State government thinking along these same lines. Turns out, funding to investigate the viability of a universal healthcare system is being proposed this week!

Yep, there is a line-item in a budget bill to provide funding to the Hawaii Health Authority (they do healthcare planning for the state) to research how Hawaii can get universal healthcare -- health care for all! The item proposes to give a salary to two researchers, who would be helped by nine volunteers to draw up a plan. This is the first step in the right direction.

Of course, the health insurance companies are powerful and oppose such a plan that cuts their profit out of the equation of our healthcare. But if this bill gets enough testimonies sent in BY MONDAY NIGHT, and our senators vote to fund this research, we will be on our way to a system that would resemble Medicare for all ages. Wouldn't that be great?

The budget bill is HB100 in the Senate Ways and Means Committee. Here is the web site to submit testimony: (http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov)

(It's cumbersome at first, but you get the hang of it - just don't forget your password!)

Once you indicate HB100, there is a place for you to make a comment that you would like to see the Hawaii Health Authority funded so that those nine volunteers plus a couple of paid staff can design a Universal Health Care system for Hawaii.

AND... call the Hawaii State senator who represents you -- and tell them the same thing.

AND... if you are so inclined, call the other senators in the Ways and Means Committee. Here is the list of their names and numbers.

Ways and Means Committee
Chair: Jill N. Tokuda: 808-587-7220
Vice Chair: Donovan M. Dela Cruz: 808-586-6090
Lorraine Inouye: 808-586-7335
J. Kalani English: 808-587-7225
Brickwood Galuteria: 808-586-6740
Breene Harimoto: 808-586-6230
Kai Kahele: 808-586-6760
Gil Riviere: 808-586-7330
Maile Shimabukuro: 808-586-7793
Brian Taniguchi: 808-586-6460
Glenn Wakai: 808-586-8585

Hawaii State Senators
 On Kauai it is Ron Kouchi: 808-586-6030
For other districts find your Senator's phone number here:
(http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/members/legislators.aspx?chamber=S)
 
Please let's fund the Hawaii Health Authority's research on Universal Health Care. But testimony must be in by Monday evening. Here is an opportunity to make a difference!

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