The Gestapo Food Act

SUBHEAD: Another so-called food safety bill that must be stopped at all costs. H.R. 2749, Must Be Stopped By The Pen (activist.thepen@gmail.com) on 30 January 2009 - Here we have yet another phony food safety bill, which does NOTHING but grant the FDA massive new police powers without actual policy oversight. And it would do NOTHING to solve the actual problem, the stinking cesspools which call themselves "modern" factory farms, the SOLE source of whatever filth there is in our food supply. We don't need burdensome new tracing regimes to drive small farmers out of business, we already know exactly where the problem is. H.R. 2749 would give some FDA administrator (read self-serving corporate lobbyist) the power to dictate what farming practices must and must not be used nationwide (read enforced GMOs, growth hormones, and weird chemicals in our food). How can Congress make sane policy without identifying the specific problem and its source before empowering 10 year criminal sentences and $100,000 fines? It can't. image above: Detail of photo from http://theiratedog.blogspot.com/2009_06_01_archive.html But only if we stop them from doing it, by speaking out now. Stop HR 2749 Action Page: http://www.peaceteam.net/action/pnum996.php This hideously ill-conceived bill (unless you are a chemical food conglomerate) is so terminally vague about what its PURPOSE is, it can only do massive harm and no good whatsoever. Aren't bills in Congress supposed to start with some kind of preamble, something like, "This is the problem we have identified, and this is what has to be done to fix it and WHY." No such forethought in HR 2749, just unlimited and unaccountable new police state powers, while President Obama continues to appoint the WORST possible nominees for just about every administrative position. It's time to wake up folks. It's just one corporate power grab hand over fist out there. Not ONE major bill has Congress passed yet since the last election that did ANYTHING to confront the actual real problem. Credit card so-called reform was some kind of sick joke on the American people, rejecting the only provision that actually mattered, constraining usurous interest rates. Has anybody seen any BIG savings on their credit card bills yet? Did we have to ask? And they TRYING to do the same thing with health care reform, to do nothing to disturb the existing corporate medical industry gravy train. It is ONLY because of the alerts we have done on this already that single payer is actually getting a hearing. What kind of lunacy is it when the plan supported by a majority of the American people is not even allowed in the room? It's the lunacy that happens when more of us do not speak out more often. And we'll have another alert on that later in the week. Stop HR 2749 Action Page: http://www.peaceteam.net/action/pnum996.php But for today, please speak out against HR 2749. Tell Congress to directly regulate factory farms and them ONLY. That's all that has to be done. And anything else they do that does NOT do that by definition will only make the problem worse, by punishing those who are NOT huge, filthy, factory farms. And when you submit the action page you will have an opportunity from the return page to request a free gift with your donation of any amount to help help support our progressive activist work. Not only are the very popular "CONVICT DICK & W" caps available there, we are making available AGAIN, both the Impeachment Play dvds from the production in San Francisco last summer, and also the special Dennis Kucinich pocket constitutions, commemorative of his heroic presidential candidacy in 2008. Or you can request any of those items directly from this page Progressive Activist Gift Page: http://www.peaceteam.net/all_gifts.php And yes, you can also respond to this action through the new Twitter gateway. Just send the following Twitter reply, and add any personal comment you like. @cxs #p996 And if you want a step by step explanation of how to set up the Twitter thing here is the link for that. Twitter Activism Step-By-Step: http://tcxs.net/step_by_step.php Please take action NOW, so we can win all victories that are supposed to be ours, and forward this alert as widely as possible. If you would like to get alerts like these, you can do so at http://www.peaceteam.net/in.htm Or if you want to cease receiving our messages, just use the function at http://www.peaceteam.net/out.htm

Backing off web censorship

SUBHEAD: China postpones web-filtering software amid protests.

By Mark Lee on 30 June 2009 in Bloomberg News - http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=afznMNIlt0XQ

Image above: Chinese using computers to access the internet. From http://chinadigitaltimes.net/china/censorship/

[Editor's Note: Only computers using Microsoft Windows operating system are targeted. Macintosh OSX and Linux systems are not currently affected by Green Dam Youth Escort software.]

China postponed tomorrow’s deadline for personal-computer makers to include a state-backed anti- pornography software on new PCs after U.S. officials and business groups urged it to scrap the rule.

The government is delaying mandatory installation of the Green Dam Youth Escort software after PC makers demanded more time, the Beijing-based Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said in a statement on its Web site today.

Business groups representing U.S. technology companies including Hewlett-Packard Co., Dell Inc. and Microsoft Corp. told Premier Wen Jiabao last week that Green Dam may undermine computer security. The software, which the Chinese government said is designed to block pornographic sites, also limits access to political content, tightening censorship of the world’s biggest Web market by users, university researchers said.

“The worry is it could compromise the user experience, if it really does create an unstable system, and raise concerns about security,” Bryan Ma, vice-president at research company IDC in Singapore, said before the announcement. “There will be a few hiccups along the way as PC vendors struggle to adjust their logistics and production processes.”

The ministry is soliciting opinions to improve the pre- installation plan, and didn’t say if it had set a new deadline. The ministry will keep providing a free version of the software and install it in PCs in schools and Internet cafes.

‘Barrier to Trade’

The Information Technology Industry Council, whose members include Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Microsoft, was among 22 industry groups in North America, Europe and Japan that signed a letter to Wen urging the government to review the software requirement, citing concerns on freedom of information and computer performance.

China should revoke its mandate for the software, which poses a “possible barrier to trade,” U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said June 24. Kirk and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said in a joint letter to Chinese officials last week the software adoption may violate World Trade Organization rules.

The Green Dam program blocks anti-government Web sites, in addition to pornographic material, and will impair computer performance by making machines more prone to security breaches, according to a June 11 report by researchers at the University of Michigan.

Largest Web Market

Government control of the Internet will be increased through the implementation of Green Dam, a “substandard product” developed by companies with little experience in such software, according to a June 12 report by OpenNet Initiative, which includes researchers at the University of Cambridge, University of Oxford and University of Toronto.

The industry ministry said in its statement today that the software is for the public good and doesn’t infringe on trade, technology or privacy issues and complies with WTO regulations. The program doesn’t obstruct the free flow of information, it said.

China, which passed the U.S. last year as the world’s biggest Internet market, had 316 million Web users at the end of March, the state-owned Xinhua News Agency reported in April, citing Xi Guohua, vice minister of industry and information technology.

Lenovo Group Ltd. and Acer Inc. are among vendors which have agreed to ship the software. Palo Alto, California-based Hewlett-Packard and Dell, the world’s two biggest PC makers, have said they are reviewing the requirement.

“We’ll continue to advise customers worldwide about widely available Web-filtering software that has been thoroughly tested and we know performs well on Dell computers,” Round Rock, Texas-based Dell said in an e-mailed statement today.

Hewlett-Packard said in an e-mail it is working with the ITI trade group “to seek additional information, clarify open questions and monitor developments on this matter.”

Peak Oil and Food Supplies

SUBHEAD: Today there are about 470 people per square kilometer of arable land.
By Peter Goodchild on 29 June 2009 in Countercurrents.org http://www.countercurrents.org/goodchild290609.htm Image above: Farm family on fertile land. From http://www.ers.usda.gov/Publications/eib24/ Only about 10 percent of the world’s land surface is arable, whereas the other 90 percent is just rock, sand, or swamp, which can never be made to produce crops, whether we use “high” or “low” technology or something in the middle. In an age with diminishing supplies of oil and other fossil fuels, this 10:90 ratio may be creating two gigantic problems that have been largely ignored. The first is that humans are not living only on that 10 percent of arable land, they are living everywhere, while trucks, trains, ships, and airplanes bring the food to where those people are living. What will happen when the vehicles are no longer operating? Will everyone move into those “10 percent” lands where the crops can be grown? The other problem with the 10:90 ratio is that with “low technology,” i.e. technology that does not use petroleum or other fossil fuels, crop yields diminish considerably. As David Pimentel showed in 1984 in his “Food and Energy Resources,” with non-mechanized agriculture, corn (maize) production is only about 2,000 kilograms per hectare, about a third of the yield that a farmer would get with modern machinery and chemical fertilizer. If that is the case, then not only will 100 percent of the people be living on 10 percent of the land, but there will be less food available for that 100 percent. Incidentally, my use of Pimentel’s study of corn is mainly due to the fact that, although his analysis is only a small and limited one, it provides a handy baseline for other studies of population and food supply. In general, a vegetarian diet requires far less of the world’s resources than a carnivorous one, although I have my doubts about the dietary wisdom of avoiding meat entirely. More specifically, corn is one of the most useful grains for supporting human life; the native people of the Americas lived on it for thousands of years. Corn is high-yielding and needs little in the way of equipment, and the more ancient varieties are largely trouble-free in terms of diseases, pests, and soil depletion. If it can’t be done with corn, it can’t be done with anything. Actually, of course, there is a third problem that arises from the first two. This is the fact that if 100 percent of the people are living on 10 percent of the land, then the land may have so many people, roads, and buildings on it that a good deal of that land will be unavailable for farming. This problem of disappearing farmland is certainly not a new one; for centuries it seemed only common sense to build our cities in the midst of our paradises. Let us play with some of these numbers and see what happens. These are only rough figures, admittedly, but greater accuracy is impossible because of the question of how one defines one’s terms, and even more by the fact that everything on this poor planet is rapidly changing. The present population of the Earth is about 7 billion, but there is no point in being more specific, since the number is increasing daily. Nevertheless, 7 billion should be a large enough number to make us seriously consider the consequences. (What other large mammal can be found in such numbers?) When I was born, in 1949, there were less than 3 billion, and it amazes me that this jump is rarely regarded as significant. These 7 billion people in turn live on only about 29 percent of the surface of the Earth, i.e. on dry land, which is about 148 million square kilometers. Of that 148 million square kilometers, the arable portion, as I said, is only about 10 percent, or 15 million square kilometers. If we divide that 15 million square kilometers into the present figure for human population, we arrive at a ratio of about 470 people per square kilometer of arable land. Is that last ratio a matter for concern? I would think so. A hard-working (i.e. farming) adult burns about 2 million kilocalories (“calories”) per year. The food energy from Pimentel’s hectare of corn is about 7 million kilocalories. Under primitive conditions, then, 1 hectare of corn would support only 3 or 4 people — or, in other words, 1 square kilometer would support 300 or 400 people. And all of these are ideal numbers; we are assuming that all resources are distributed rationally and equitably. (We are also assuming no increase in population, but famine and the attendant decrease in fertility will take care of that matter very soon.) Even if every inch of our planet’s “arable portion” were devoted to the raising of corn or other useful crops, we would have trouble squeezing in those 470 people mentioned above. Given such figures, I have little patience with writers who sprinkle the words “alternative,” “sustainable,” and “transition” over every page. Simple arithmetic is all that is needed to show that such a lexicon is unsuitable.
Nor can I do anything but shake my head when my “organic gardener” friends tell me that they can grow unlimited amounts of food merely by the liberal application of cow manure. Eliot Coleman, Andrew W. Lee, and other recent writers on “low-tech” agriculture (not to mention any farmers of the old school) agree that if cow manure is used on a hectare of farmland, for the first year of crop production at least 100 metric tons are necessary, and after that about 20 tons per year might be adequate. However, cows take up land. Another older but valuable book is Frances Mooore Lappe’s “Diet for a Small Planet,” in which she points out that one cow requires over a hectare in pasturage; that is in addition to the hay, grain, and other foods that the animal is given. How many cows are needed for all that manure? I neither know nor care. All that is certain is that the use of cows to keep a garden in production would multiply the necessary land area enormously. There would also be no mechanized equipment to deliver the manure. The knowledge of animal husbandry, under primitive conditions, could certainly not be learned overnight. But I can say from experience that reality hits when the sun is going down and the shovel is getting heavy. Many of the false figures that appear in discussions of the future are the result of armchair gardening of the worst sort. Growing a tiny patch of lettuce and tomatoes is not subsistence gardening. To support human life one must be growing grains and similar crops high in carbohydrates and protein, and these foods must be in quantities large enough to supply three full meals a day, every day, for every person in the household. We must also consider that in apocalyptic times it will certainly not be possible to stroll over to the tap and use a hose to pour unlimited amounts of water over one’s plants; on a large garden, the water is whatever the sky decides to send.
There may be an odd solution or two. There are parts of the Earth where population is actually decreasing in absolute numbers, as people mistakenly come to believe that country living is too hard. Well, yes, being squeezed out by multinationals is definitely too hard, but I’m talking about subsistence agriculture, not trying to survive by picking beans for a dollar an hour. Another partial solution may be a return to foraging, especially for those who choose to live in that non-arable 90 percent. Hunting and fishing have become unfashionable hobbies, but for the physically fit these skills could be a lifesaver; over-harvesting is certainly a concern, but the great majority of westerners are far too weak to spend a day plowing through underbrush. The seacoast has possibilities that intrigue me. In various coastal areas it is traditional to grow potatoes by placing them on bare rock and covering them with seaweed. Even without a boat it is possible to get a meal by gathering shellfish. Nor should we totally discount the practicality of animal husbandry. There are many parts of the world that are not suitable for agriculture, but the same land might produce wild grasses or other vegetation that in turn could feed domesticated animals. Under primitive conditions the density of human population in such areas would have to be very low, and the danger of over-grazing would always be there, but the truth is that there are large parts of the world that supported a pastoral life for centuries. I don’t have much patience with cobbled-together happy endings, but I think there are answers for those who are single-minded enough to go after them. Remember that you can’t save the whole human race, you can only save a few people; learn to use a gun and an ax; head for the country. Oh, yes, and get yourself a reputation as a good neighbor; they may not actually adopt you, but they might help you out when there’s trouble.

Towards "war socialism"

SUBHEAD: A violent scramble for the world's remaining resources. By Kurt Cobb on 28 June 2009 in Resource Insights http://resourceinsights.blogspot.com/
Image above: Detail of socialist poster against imperialist-capitalism.From http://socialismtheoryandpractice.blogspot.com/2009/05/may-day-brings-thoughts-of-socialist.html Jay Hansen is a well-known voice on issues of peak oil and sustainability. A systems analyst by trade, he established one of the first web sites (dieoff.org) to discuss these issues in depth in the mid-1990s. His latest web venture is a site called War Socialism on which he describes a form of governance which might become the only viable one in the coming age of scarcity unless we can muster unprecedented global cooperation to manage the decline. By discussing "war socialism" I am not endorsing it. In fact, Hansen proposes an alternative, a global government that severely restricts human use of the global commons, that is, the natural resources upon which all of us depend. But Hansen is no lightweight. He has thought very deeply about our ecological predicament. He has tried to square what he knows about human behavior with what he believes needs to be done in the world we now face. It is clear from the organization and emphasis of his new site that he does not believe it is probable that the kind of global cooperation he would prefer will actually emerge.
To understand "war socialism" one needs first to understand that Hansen believes that the most likely (though certainly not preferable) trajectory for humanity is a massive dieoff that will claim the lives of 90 percent of the human inhabitants of the Earth. Absent the kind of cooperation Hansen would like to see in managing the coming decline, the only rational strategy may be for one's own country to work to outcompete other countries. The picture he paints is not an appealing one. But when you are trying to be one of the 10 percent who will survive the coming collapse, there is little room for sentimentality.
So, let's look at the war socialism society Hansen describes, and let's see if some of its building blocks are already in place in the United States. Here are the basic principles: 1. Increase our fraction of global net energy (divert energy from competitors) directly by military action. Comment: There is little room to deny that the United States has long engaged in military action to increase and secure its access to resources, especially energy. With U. S. troops all over the Middle East that pattern continues. 2. Increase our fraction of global net energy economically by increasing asset values (e.g., pumping up the stock market and real estate prices). Comment: This has rather successfully been done during the last 25 years though clearly it was not sustainable. We are trying to do it all over again. 3. Reduce energy demand by eliminating unnecessary economic activity. Comment: Nothing has been done in this regard unless you count the shipping of jobs overseas. 4. Reduce energy demand by reducing human population levels (e.g., closing our borders, deporting as many as possible and discouraging births). Comment: There are periodic calls for immigration restrictions but little has been done. Deportations are currently focused on people thought to be likely threats to the country and as such are part of the so-called "War on Terror." While birthrates had been declining for a long time, they have now resumed an upward trend due in part to the influx of immigrants who tend to have larger families. 5. Plant “Victory Gardens” throughout the country. Comment: The local food movement has become surprisingly vibrant in the United States. While home and community gardens still make up only a small fraction of the food supply, their popularity is expanding rapidly. 6. Heavy funding for basic energy research. Comment: While funding is large for basic energy research, much of it is directed at fossil fuels instead of renewable energy sources. 7. Pollution control rollback, streamline permitting (no Environmental Impact Statements, etc.) for alternate energy. No more permits for fossil fuel power plants. No more funding for roads. No more building permits except in special cases. Comment: While President George W. Bush did his level best to roll back environmental rules for power plants and industry and to streamline permitting, he did it primarily on behalf of fossil fuel installations instead of alternative energy projects. Road building continues apace; but the recession (depression?) has slowed new building permits to a crawl. 8. Full-on conservation, local energy production to minimize grid vulnerabilities, and a crash alternate energy production program. (Conservation will help under a government that limits economic activity). Comment: Marginal efforts have been made here and there (e.g. weatherization programs, renewable energy portfolio standards), but nothing that could be characterized as "full-on." 9. Free mass transit. Comment: While mass transit ridership has been rising as the fuel costs of owning an automobile have increased, only marginal efforts have been made to expand the availability of mass transit. In addition, fares for mass transit users have actually been rising. The report card for the United States as a war socialist society is decidedly mixed. We seem to have the war part down. But the socialist part is lacking. The current administration wants to redistribute benefits in American society, most notably through new health care spending meant to bring all people under some kind of coverage. It has enacted funding for a plethora of public works projects, but many of them are simply more road building. The administration seeks to expand renewable energy, but has a keen interest in the coal industry through such doubtful technologies as carbon sequestration. But one might ask why the socialism part of Hansen's war socialism society is so important? The answer is social cohesion. In the coming crisis if people don't feel they have a stake in the system, then they will be much less likely to work or fight or submit to the rules for the common good. Hansen believes that without substantial internal cooperation, no society will weather the coming storm. Instead, we may simply devolve into a lawless anarchy. War socialist ideas are also in the news in Great Britain where the British National Party won seats in the European Parliament. This case is interesting because the BNP is explicit about the danger of peak oil and the world of shrinking resources we can expect. Some of its prescriptions sound harsh, and others seem enlightened. The party has been trying to repackage itself with difficulty because of its racist, right-wing heritage.
The basic BNP response is increased self-sufficiency and isolation: 1) a military which defends Great Britain and doesn't seek foreign adventures, 2) a halt to immigration, 3) deportation of illegals and noncitizen criminals, 4) a devolution of power to local governments, 5) a reversal of the privatization of British rails and new investment to expand public transportation, 6) a selective withdrawal from the global economy and increased local manufacturing, 7) food self-sufficiency based on organic methods, and 8) cooperative ownership of power production (with wind given as a primary example). The BNP website no longer makes it sound like a party that fits neatly within the reactionary right (though in practice its emphasis on a "white" Britain remains central). Still, some of its ideas are actually quite close to those described by Hansen as war socialism. What's not in view is an aggressive foreign and military policy designed to extract resources from competing nations, something that Britain's major parties clearly embrace. The BNP, which is a minor party, is relevant to British politics because major parties often neutralize minor ones by co-opting their ideas. And, Britain is actually further along the war socialism path than the United States. We and Hansen can still hope for unprecedented cooperation to manage the coming decline. But he may be right that if that cooperation doesn't emerge, we may be faced with a decision about making preparations for an all-out and probably violent scramble for the world's remaining resources--a contest in which a disciplined, cohesive and militarized society has the best chance of survival. Is he missing a viable third or fourth way? Even more important, is there time to implement a different path as nations successively awaken to the realities of peak oil and resource stringency and increasingly focus on self-preservation rather than cooperation?

The Slope of Dysfunction

SUBHEAD: One must assume that Earthling oil production will be be saved by aliens from outer space.  By Dmitry Orlov on 25 June 2009 in ClubOrlov http://cluborlov.blogspot.com/2009/06/slope-of-dysfunction.html Perhaps you have heard of the Peak Oil theory? Most people have by now, even the people whose job used to involve denying the possibility that global crude oil production would peak any time soon. Now that everybody seems a bit more comfortable with the idea, perhaps it is time to reexamine it. Is the scenario Peak Oil theoreticians paint indeed realistic, or is it firmly grounded in wishful thinking?
image above: Detail of chart in original article.
Here is a typical, slightly outdated Peak Oil chart. I chose it because it looks pretty and conveys the typical Peak Oil message, which is that global crude oil (and natural gas condensate) production will rise to a lofty peak sometime soon, and then drift down gently, over several decades, until, by the year 2050 or some other distant date, less than half as much oil will be produced globally. 
Since this would still be a very impressive number, and since we have decades to adjust to living with half as much oil, this would not necessarily pose a major problem. Some combination of new energy from wind, solar, biomass and nuclear sources, coupled with efficiency improvements such as light rail and electric cars, better-insulated buildings and so on, would allow us to plug up the gap. Peak Oil theorists base their calculations on data from the many oil-producing provinces that have already peaked, such as the United States, which peaked in 1970. The majority of oil-producing provinces and countries are past peak now, providing the theorists with a wealth of precise data. But they seem to have overlooked one little detail, which, I believe, is rather important. 
What do countries do when they reach their peak and can no longer supply themselves with sufficient quantities of oil from their depleting domestic sources? They turn to imports, of course. They can do so if their local peak comes before the global peak; they cannot do so if it comes after. This makes local peaks poor analogies for the global peak. And what happens if a country cannot import oil to make up for the production deficit? It just so happens that we have a convenient example of just such a scenario unfolding: post-Soviet oil production after the collapse of the USSR. There, production declined 43% between 1987 and 1996. The decline was arrested and reversed by the introduction of foreign investment and technology (Source: Marek Kolodziej and Doug Reynolds, ASPO Workshop, Lisbon, Portugal, May 19. 2005). Note how just around the time of the collapse oil production goes into free-fall, which is only arrested in mid-1990s. Had the Former Soviet Union remained economically isolated, the free-fall would have continued. Kolodziej and Reynolds drew some interesting conclusions based on these data. Firstly, the crash in oil production preceded collapse in USSR's Gross Domestic Product. The lag time between the two, and the severity of the collapse are clear enough to ascribe causality: to say that the oil crash caused the economic collapse. On the other hand, coal and natural gas production, which also crashed, did so after the GDP collapsed, again, with a significant enough lag time to say with confidence that it was economic collapse that caused coal and gas production to crash. What actually happens to an economy and a society under such circumstances? With oil in short supply, industrial production plummets, the economy stalls, there is a financial crisis because of debts going bad, followed by a commercial crisis because of falling demand and lack of credit, followed by political collapse caused by dwindling government revenues, followed by social collapse as unemployment rises and crime becomes rampant. After a while of this, the idea of you and your friends going out to the oil field and pumping some more oil starts to seem rather odd, and so oil production heads to zero. The global oil peak is different from all the little localized peaks in that the planet as a whole cannot import its way out of an oil shortage, resulting in a global economic collapse. The economic collapse will, in turn, cause global oil production to crash even faster, extinguishing the industrial economy. It seems possible that certain countries which are currently oil exporters might be able to keep the oil flowing, provided they have nationalized their oil production and are sufficiently authoritarian and militarized to quell any unrest. But modern oil production is a technically complicated business (the easy-to-get-at oil is all gone) while the field service equipment and parts delivery system is fully globalized and exceedingly complex. Shocks to any part of the global economy are very likely to disrupt the whole before too long. Nevertheless, it seems likely that some countries will be able to keep their military supplied with fuel, until enough of their equipment wears out. What, then, of our canonical Peak Oil scenario, which is that global crude oil (and natural gas condensate) production will rise to a lofty peak sometime soon, and then gently waft down, over several decades, until, by the year 2050 or some other distant date, less than half as much oil will be produced globally? 
Ever eager to present a hopeful vision, I will say here and now that I believe this scenario to be entirely plausible... but it requires alien intervention. As Russian oil production was saved by foreigners, so Earthling oil production must be be saved by aliens from outer space. Here's an updated Peak Oil slide: Although we have absolutely zero data on which to base this assumption, we must assume that oil production throughout the rest of the universe has not peaked yet. Further, we must assume that interstellar vessels will deliver this oil to Earth in a timely manner, making up for any planetary production shortfall before Earth's economy collapses. 
Further, since Earth has few resources to trade for this oil, let us assume that the aliens will be happy to give us their oil in exchange for a truly excellent recipe for brioche à tête which (for reasons we should find intuitively obvious) no-one in the rest of the universe has been able to perfect.

The Information Age is over...

SUBHEAD: The Climate Age will define the next age of humanity.

By Ashaman on 27 June 2009 in the Daily Kos
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2009/6/27/747440/-The-Information-Age-is-over
image above: Detail of sign for Space Station Gas & Liquor. From http://www.flickr.com/photos/23019891@N00/865748675 

 Human history is best thought of in Ages. An Age is somewhat tied to the prevailing technology of the day, but also defined by how that technology is used, where our attention is focused. We started with the Stone Age, where our first pieces of technology were stone blades.

We then followed with a series of ages named after the best metal we could produce, Copper, Bronze, Iron, Steel. The early part of the 20th century is often considered the Industrial Age, and the late 20th century marked the beginning of the Information Age, based on computer technology.

But I can see the future, and the Information Age just ended. When historians look back at the beginning of the 21st century, they'll draw a line and say: "Here lies the beginning of the Climate Age." But 'climate' isn't a technology, you can't name an age after it! Ok, fine, give me a better name then. I'm serious. 
 
But what else are we going to call it? For the next century or so, mankind is going to be increasingly focused on two simple tasks: preventing additional climate change, and dealing with the damage to our society caused by climate change. Those tasks will dominate our lives, and the lives of our children. 
 
We are going to essentially rebuild everything, and it's not going to be just shinier and more expensive. Our entire energy infrastructure is going to be replaced. By the end of the century, the very idea of burning coal or oil for power will seem absurd, given the dozens of clean alternatives. Solar and wind farms will pop up everywhere, geothermal wells will get dug, and the movements of rivers and oceans will all be tapped for their energy. Not a single power line standing today will exist by mid-century, they'll be replaced with a high-efficiency smart grid. But we won't stop there, we can't.
 
 Our homes will also get rebuilt, refurbished, or replaced. Building codes will demand much higher levels of insulation. We'll all have inert-gas filled, reflective-film covered, triple-pane windows. Building designs will all contain passive solar heating and cooling, and our roof lines will host a variety of active solar and wind driven generators. 
 
Our plumbing will be re-worked, you won't have just 'clean' water and 'sewage', but there will also be pipes for greywater and captured rainwater, and cisterns for both. Water drained from your shower will flush your toilet, and nobody will waste purified drinkable water on something as mundane as watering flowers.

Industry will rework itself as well. Heavy industry will capture not only polluting gasses, but waste heat from their processes. The materials we use today, concrete and steel, will either be reformed to take less energy to create, or replaced with new materials entirely. Agriculture will completely change, and this is where it starts to get ugly. There will be stronger movements for organic processes and local food, so the nature of the crops planted, and the methods for tending those crops, will adjust. 
 
But more importantly will be dealing with the constantly changing climate. Higher temperatures will cause drier soils, requiring more hardy plants or irrigation. But frequent droughts will make irrigation increasingly expensive, and total regional crop failures will become far more common. Heavy rainfalls will interrupt those droughts, causing erosion of increasingly scarce topsoil.

It will become too hot to grow wheat or corn anywhere in the United States, so the breadbasket of North America will move into Canada, where the glaciers left all those big rocks behind. Invasive species of plant and insect will migrate to brand new regions, and farmers will constantly be worried about the newest unexpected threat. 
 
Low lying regions that are used for rice crops will begin to see rising oceans invade their fields, making them useless for anything but salt-tolerant species. Overall, agriculture will be hit with so many different problems that it can't keep up, and total food production will probably have peaked just after peak oil. In the wake of decreasing agriculture, people will turn to the seas. 
 
Already over-fished regions will be decimated, and entire populations of fish will disappear. But basic chemistry will also be working in the oceans: increased CO2 levels in the air will translate into more absorption by the oceans, and carbonic acid will form. This is probably as big a threat to the biosphere as simple warming, and it's called ocean acidification. The direct consequence is that many ocean creatures won't be able to fix the calcium they need to create their shells.
 
Fundamental pieces of the food chain will collapse, further reducing the availability of fish for human consumption. Rising oceans and storms will begin destroying coastal real-estate. We'll start by trying to protect big cities, like New Orleans and New York, with increasingly larger walls and dams. By the end of the century, every large city on the coastline will have a massive engineering effort to defend the expensive areas, while smaller cities or suburban zones will simply be moved or abandoned. 
 
Once a decade, a major engineering effort will fail, flooding a city and causing great loss of life and property. Insurance rates will climb everywhere, and there will be multiple trillion-dollar bailouts of the entire insurance industry. Populations will begin to move. The areas we once considered to be hospitable to our civilization will have changed. 
 
People will have to move away from the coastlines, but they'll also have to go to places where agriculture is still functioning. Immigration battles will become a nightmare as hundreds of millions of people try to relocate across the globe, and local populations will resist the arrival of outsiders, especially as resources get scarce. Both sides will have guns. 
 
By the end of the century, I don't think overpopulation will be an issue anymore. There will be starvation, there will be wars, there will be pandemics, there will be genocides, there will be yet more wars, and there will be fewer people wanting children in an increasingly harsh world. The human population on this planet will have decreased by the end of the century. 
 
While I can see the future dimly, I can't quite tell how painful this population decrease will be, how fast or how violent. This transition is inevitable, it can't be stopped. Planetary climates have massive inertia, and we've gotten ours moving. It'll take multiple centuries of hard work to bring it back to the comfortable levels that we experienced in the 20th century. 
 
But we still have some control over how bad it'll get, and how fast it'll get there, and how long it takes to fix the damage. We can act sooner and it'll be easier, or we can act later and the cost will be a hundred times higher. But we have no choice, we have to deal with both prevention and damage for the next century or so, to one degree or another, and this will essentially define the next Age of Humanity. The Climate Age has arrived. Are you ready?

Save Kokee Meeting

SOURCE: Ken Taylor (taylork021@Hawaii.rr.com)
SUBHEAD: Kokee Advisory Council meeting on Thursday, July 2, 2009 at County Council Chambers at 5:30 pm.  

By Pumehana on June 26 2009 for Save Kokee -


 
Image above: Sign at entrance to Kanaloahuluhulu Meadow in Kokee. From http://www.hawaiiweb.com/kauai/html/sites/kokee_lodge.html

 If you can't attend a meeting, please send in a testimony to www.kokeeadvisory.org. Even if it is only one line that states your feelings. mahalo. E`O People of Kaua`i! Koke`e and Waimea Canyon State Parks needs you to listen to your hearts and speak your mind! The next Koke`e Advisory Council meeting will be held on Thursday, July 2, 2009 at the Kaua`i County Council Chambers at 5:30 pm. It is time to give public testimony AGAIN because the DLNR’s final version of the Master Plan does not reflect the majority consensus of the people (see below). This meeting is very important-- the Koke`e Advisory Council needs to hear from the community as the Council is our voice. If you are unable to attend, please let the Koke`e Advisory Council members know your thoughts at kokeeadvisory@gmail.com. More information is at their website at www.KokeeAdvisory.org

When the DLNR starts paving and infringing on the natural landscape, we can never go back to the simple beauty of these beloved places. The Final Master Plan for Koke`e and Waimea Canyon State Parks, entitled the Enhanced Park Facilities Development Plan,” as proposed by DLNR and its consultant, R. M. Towill, includes in its vision and stated objectives: Objectives: “Creating a destination” that “enhances the wildland experience”;  “Enhancing park identity” through signage;  “Optimizing” recreational opportunities;

“Focusing development at lookouts and along the roadway corridor between Pu`u ka Pele and Kanaloahuluhulu Meadow”;  “Constructing a visitors center”;  “Developing ‘satellite’ interpretive facilities at lookouts and trail hubs”;  “Developing tours around themes”;  “Expanding concession and management leases”;  “Developing the lodge area as a ‘main street’.. with new [and separate] Park HQ, Lodge and Education Center buildings... served by storefront parking”;  “Establishing a revenue enhancement program including entry fee and improved concession facilities at lookouts and [at] Kanaloahuluhulu [meadow];”  Achieving “sustainable operations with 35% of park revenues.” Some of the specific plans include:  

Kanaloahuluhulu Meadow: 
 (Referred to in plan as “Revenue Generation Center”)  Overall, probable demolition of all existing buildings at the meadow and replacement;  Development of a “lodge complex” with additional short-term rentals “to meet existing demand” (-- also suggests new short-term rental rooms may be incorporated into existing park buildings at the meadow);  Development of the lodge area as a “main street” layout  Removal of the historic park headquarters building at the entrance to the meadow and development of new park headquarters located closer to the lodge;  Development of a new “Park Visitor Service Center” at the meadow area, along with a new or renovated lodge and museum (part of the main street complex), and “improved” parking;  Development of interpretive program for new Visitor Service Center;  Realignment of road entrance to direct cars to the commercial area, lodge and museum;  The current lodge manager’s house (“Ranger Station”) to be used by Division of State Parks staff.  

Waimea Canyon:
 Lookout “provides the setting for visitor amenities”;  Development of new, permanent Visitor Information and Concession building at the lookout viewpoint, to include: o Souvenir and snack concession o interpretive displays o information center o restrooms  Development of new, “highly developed” parking lot and bus staging area below existing parking lot using “robust” materials to “signal to the visitor the character of the experience they are entering.”

Kalalau Lookout:
Redesign lookout (to take “full advantage of the sweeping views along the cliff face”) and lookout guardrails (currently underway);  Develop gateway feature with signage;  Expand parking lot (currently underway)  Interpretive program  Note that in the 2004 master plan, the road from the meadow to Kalalau lookout was to be widened to accommodate full-size tour buses. This language has been removed from the 2009 version of the master plan, but the widening of the road to 20’ is currently underway.  

Lower Elevation Lookouts:
The plan provides for transfer of Waimea Canyon Road (and portions of Koke`e Road) from Department of Transportation to Division of State Parks from Koke`e down to Waimea town, to permit collection of a fee as well as development of lookouts. Division of State Parks will assume responsibility for maintaining the entire length of the roadway.  Nine (9) sites are identified between mile marker 1.1 and 6.4 along Waimea Canyon Road as “promising” for development.  Development of these new lower elevation lookouts (from Waimea town up to mile 6.4) are to feature “typical” amenities such as restrooms, ADA accessible pathways, turnout, interpretive signage, etc.  

Trails:
Informational and interpretive signage throughout the trail system to orient and educate hikers, including ‘satellite’ interpretive facilities at trail hubs;  New facilities at Water Tank and Kaluapuhi trailheads with parking lots with capacity for 45 and 50 cars, respectively, directional signage and toilets.  Suggests that “elevated canopy trails in the forest” be considered.

 Entry Fee Station:
 Considered “essential component” of master plan;
Additional stated purpose (added in 2009 master plan): the fee station will “remind visitors they are entering sacred ground”;   Located at the 6.9 mile mark at the junction of Koke`e Road (from Kekaha) and Waimea Canyon Road (from Waimea);  Fee station is positioned between one incoming and two exiting travel lanes; Additional development on and within the roadway to accommodate the fee station: o One lane exiting downhill; o A raised median with crash barriers to accommodate station; o Entry Fee Station of a minimum of 100 sf (10’ x 10’); o Two incoming lanes heading uphill, one with card-activated gate for residents and park staff; o Development of an additional 550 sf building at roadside; o Parking lot with a minimum of 4 parking spaces at roadside, including ADA van-accessible space and adequate distance for vehicles backing out; o Staffed by one uniformed DSP staff; o Hours TBD, daylight hours  Master Plan executive summary shows that the revenue generated by Koke`e currently exceeds its operating expenses without additional fees;  Fee collected at Koke`e entry fee station will go to DLNR for statewide purposes;

 For State Parks to collect a fee, the Department of Transportation (currently maintaining the road) must transfer Waimea Canyon Road to the Division of State Parks. o Transfer of the road is a prerequisite to park entry fee station and entry fee program as DOT does not permit DSP to collect a fee on a state road. o Division of State Parks must then take over maintenance and control of the road from Waimea town all the way up the mountain.

See also:

The Transition Initiative

SUBHEAD: We’re facing a historical moment of choice—our actions now are affecting the future.
By Jay Griffiths on 24 June 2009 in Orion Magazine - (http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/article/4792) Image above: Totnes, the first Transition Town in Devon, England. From http://www.devonbuildingcontrol.gov.uk/html/totnes.html A while ago, I heard an American scientist address an audience in Oxford, England, about his work on the climate crisis. He was precise, unemotional, rigorous, and impersonal: all strengths of a scientist. The next day, talking informally to a small group, he pulled out of his wallet a much-loved photo of his thirteen-year-old son. He spoke as carefully as he had before, but this time his voice was sad, worried, and fatherly. His son, he said, had become so frightened about climate change that he was debilitated, depressed, and disturbed. Some might have suggested therapy, Prozac, or baseball for the child. But in this group one voice said gently, “What about the Transition Initiative?” If the Transition Initiative were a person, you’d say he or she was charismatic, wise, practical, positive, resourceful, and very, very popular. Starting with the town of Totnes in Devon, England, in September 2006, the movement has spread like wildfire across the U.K. (delightfully wriggling its way into The Archers, Britain’s longest-running and most popular radio soap opera), and on to the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. The core purpose of the Transition Initiative is to address, at the community level, the twin issues of climate change and peak oil—the declining availability of “ancient sunlight,” as fossil fuels have been called. The initiative is set up to enable towns or neighborhoods to plan for, and move toward, a post-oil and low-carbon future: what Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition Initiative, has termed “the great transition of our time, away from fossil fuels.” Part of the genius of the movement rests in its acute and kind psychology. It acknowledges the emotional effect of these issues, from that thirteen-year-old’s sense of fear and despair, to common feelings of anger, impotence, and denial, and it uses insights from the psychology of addiction to address some reasons why it is hard for people to detoxify themselves from an addiction to (or dependence on) oil. It acknowledges that healthy psychological functioning depends on a belief that one’s needs will be met in the future; for an entire generation, that belief is now corroded by anxiety over climate change. Many people feel that individual action on climate change is too trivial to be effective but that they are unable to influence anything at a national, governmental level. They find themselves paralyzed between the apparent futility of the small-scale and impotence in the large-scale. The Transition Initiative works right in the middle, at the scale of the community, where actions are significant, visible, and effective. “What it takes is a scale at which one can feel a degree of control over the processes of life, at which individuals become neighbors and lovers instead of just acquaintances and ciphers. . . participants and protagonists instead of just voters and taxpayers. That scale is the human scale,” wrote author and secessionist Kirkpatrick Sale in his 1980 book, Human Scale. How big am I? As an individual, five foot two and whistling. At a government level, I find I’ve shrunk, smaller than the X on my ballot paper. But at a community level, I can breathe in five river-sources and breathe out three miles of green valleys. Scale matters. We speak of economies of scale, and I would suggest that there are also moralities of scale. At the individual scale, morality is capricious: people can be heroes or mass murderers, but the individual is usually constrained by inner conscience and always constrained by size. While a nation-state can at best offer a meager welfare system, at worst—as the history of nations in the twentieth century showed so brutally—morality need not be constrained by any conscience, and through its enormity a state can engineer a genocide. At the community level, though, morality is complex: certainly communities can be jealous and spiteful and less given to heroism than an individual, yet a community’s power to harm is far less than that of a state, simply because of its size. Further, because there are more niche reasons for people to identify with their community, and simply because there is a greater per-capita responsibility, a community is more susceptible to a sense of shame. Community morality involves a sense of fellow-feeling, is attuned to the common good, far steadier than individual morality, far kinder than the State: its moral range reaches neither heaven nor hell but is grounded, well-rooted in the level of Earth. STARTING WITH a steering group of just a handful of people in one locality, the motivation to become a Transition community spreads, often through many months of preparation, information-giving, and awareness-raising of the issues of climate change and peak oil. In those months, there are talks and film screenings, and a deliberate attempt to encourage a sense of a community’s resilience in the face of stresses. When members of the steering group judge that there is enough support and momentum for the project, it is launched, or “unleashed.” Keeping an eye on the prize (reducing carbon emissions and oil dependence), Transition communities have then looked at their own situation in various practical frames—for example, food production, energy use, building, waste, and transport—seeking to move toward a situation where a community could be self-reliant. At this stage, the steering group steps back, and various subgroups can form around specific aspects of transitioning. Strategies have included the promotion of local food production, planting fruit trees in public spaces, community gardening, and community composting. In terms of energy use, some communities have begun “oil vulnerability auditing” for local businesses, and some have sought to re-plan local transport for “life beyond the car.” In one Transition Town there are plans to make local, renewable energy a resource owned by the community, in another there are plans to bulk-buy solar panels as a cooperative and sell them locally without profit. There are projects of seed saving, seed swapping, and creating allotments—small parcels of land on which individuals can grow fruit and vegetables. “The people who see the value of changing the system are ordinary people, doing it for their children,” says Naresh Giangrande, who was involved in setting up the first Transition Town. “The political process is corrupted by money, power, and vested interests. I’m not writing off large corporations and government, but because they have such an investment in this system, they haven’t got an incentive to change. I can only see us getting sustainable societies from the grassroots, bottom-up, and only that way can we get governments to change.” In the States, the “350” project (the international effort to underscore the need to decrease atmospheric carbon dioxide to 350 parts per million) is similarly asking ordinary people to signal to those in power. If change doesn’t come from above, it must come from below, and politicians would be unwise to ignore the concern about peak oil and climate change coming from the grassroots. The grassroots. Both metaphorically and literally. Transition Initiative founder Rob Hopkins used to be a permaculture teacher, and permaculture’s influence is wide and deep. As permaculture works with, rather than against, nature, so the Transition Initiative works with, rather than against, human nature; it is as collaborative and cooperative in social tone as permaculture is in its attitude toward plants and, like permaculture, is prepared to observe and think, slowly. One of the subgroups that Transition communities typically use is called “Heart and Soul,” which focuses on the psychological and emotional aspects of climate crisis, of change, of community. Importantly, people are encouraged to be participants in the conversation, not just passive spectators: it is a nurturant process, involving anyone who wants to be a part. Good conversation involves quality listening, for an open-minded, attentive listener can elicit the best thoughts of a speaker. Giangrande says that the Transition Initiative—which has used keynote speakers—is also exploring the idea of keynote listeners as “a collaborative way of learning how to use knowledge.” When I asked exactly what that would involve, he couldn’t be specific, because it was still only an idea, which is revealing of the Transition process, very much a work-in-progress. The fact that they were trying out an idea without being able to predict the results has a vitality to it, an intellectually energetic quality, a profound liveliness. The Transition Initiative describes itself as a catalyst, with no fixed answers, unlike traditional environmentalism, which is more prescriptive, advocating certain responses. Again unlike conventional environmentalism, it emphasizes the role of hope and proactiveness, rather than guilt and fear as motivators. Whether intentionally or not, environmentalism can seem exclusive, and the Transition Initiative is whole-heartedly inclusive.
While in many ways the Transition Initiative is new, it often finds its roots in the past, in a practical make-do-and-mend attitude. There is an interesting emphasis on “re-skilling” communities in traditional building and organic gardening, for example: crafts that were taken for granted two generations ago but are now often forgotten. Mandy Dean, who helped set up a Transition Initiative in her community in Wales, describes how her group bought root stocks of fruit trees and then organized grafting workshops; it was practical, but also “it was about weaving some ideas back into culture.” In the British context, the memory of World War II is crucial, for during the war people experienced long fuel shortages and needed to increase local food production—digging for victory. In both the U.K. and the U.S., the shadow of the Depression years now looms uncomfortably close, encouraging an attitude of mending rather than buying new; tending one’s own garden; restoring the old. To mend, to tend, and to restore all expand beautifully from textiles, vegetables, and furniture into those most quiet of qualities; to restore is restorative, to tend involves tenderness, to mend hints at amends. There is restitution here of community itself. FOR ALL OF HUMAN HISTORY, people have engaged with the world through some form of community, and this is part of our social evolution. Somewhere deep inside us all is an archived treasure, the knowledge of what it is to be part of a community via extended families, locality, village, a shared fidelity to common land, unions, faith communities, language communities, co-operatives, gay communities, even virtual communities, which, for all their unreality, still reflect a yearning for a wider home for the collective soul. The nineteenth-century artist William Morris spoke of the gentle social-ism that he called fellowship: “Fellowship is life, and lack of fellowship is death.” People never need communities more than when there are threats to security, food, and lives. The Transition Initiative recognizes how much we need this scale now, because of peak oil and climate change. But beyond this concrete need, the lack of a sense of community has negative psychological impacts on individuals across the “developed” world, as people report persistent and widespread feelings of loneliness, isolation, dispossession, alienation, and depression. Beyond a certain threshold, increased income does not create increased happiness, and the false promise of consumerism (buy this: be happy) sets the individual on a quest for a constantly receding goal of their own private fulfillment, while sober evidence repeatedly suggests that happiness is more surely found in contributing toward a community endeavor. (The Buddha smiles a tired, patient smile: “I’ve been telling you that for years.”) Community endeavor increases “social capital,” that captivating idea expressing the value of local relationships, networks, help, and friendships. A rise in social capital could be the positive concomitant of a fall in financial capital that a low-carbon future may entail. Many people today experience a strange hollow in the psyche, a hole the size of a village. Mandy Dean alludes to this when she explains why she was drawn to the Transition Initiative: “One of the awful things about modern culture is separation and isolation; we’ve broken down almost every social bond, so the one bond left is between parent and child. In this extreme isolation, we don’t interact except with the television and the computer. We’ve lost something, and we don’t know what it is, and we try to fill it with food and alcohol and shopping but it’s never filled—what we’ve lost is our connection to our community, our place, and nature. Stepping back away from that isolation is very healing for people; getting people into groups where they can do things together starts to reverse that isolation.” FOR HUNDREDS OF YEARS, nation-states have attacked communities. Earliest and most emblematic were the enclosures: when governments passed laws to privatize common land, the spirit of collectivity was undermined as surely as the site of it. The vicious system of reservations for Native Americans robbed people of communities of land and stole from them the communal autonomy central to their cultural survival. Indigenous people all over the world have found their language communities assaulted, fracturing even their ability to speak. From the monster-enclosures of colonialism to the subtle but strangulating enclosures of Time, through which people ceased to “own” their own time, instead being corralled into the factory-time of industrial capitalism, the idea and the actuality of community has been eroded in countless ways. “There is no such thing as society”—the most sociopathic lie ever uttered by a British prime minister—was Thatcher’s summing up as she and Reagan broke the unions, and for decades agribusiness has destroyed the lives and dignity of campesinos in South America, while neo-liberalism has wreaked havoc on communities across the world. And there are seemingly trivial examples that nonetheless are cumulatively important; in contemporary Britain the mass closures of pubs tear the fabric that knits communities together. The colonial powers practiced the policy of “divide and rule,” usually dividing one community from another, but in contemporary society there is a more insidious policy of “atomize and rule.” The world of mass media fragments real societies into solitary individuals, passive recipients of information, consuming the faked-up society that television, in particular, provides, and one result of this is that the public, political injustices that communities have habitually analyzed and acted upon (food-poverty, housing-poverty, fuel-poverty, or time-poverty) have been rendered as merely an individual’s private problems. It’s interesting (and not a little sad) that although the French Revolution announced that it stood for three things, only two of these (Liberty and Equality) have survived in political parlance while the third, Fraternity, has been made to sound both quaint and unnecessary. For decades, the voice of the State has declared that community solidarity is occasionally dangerous (unions are “too powerful and need to be destroyed”) or, like fraternity, rather parochial. What, though, could be more parochial than the voice of the mass media? Rejecting the rainbow of pluralism (the magnificent myriad Other upon Other upon Other, the Pan-Otherness by which all communities are Other to someone), the mass media broadcasts itself in mono. Narrow. Singular. Very, very parochial in its tight and exclusive remit. In the long fetch of the wave, the Transition Initiative should be seen as a new formulation of a very old idea. We are ineluctably and gloriously social animals. We want fellowship. We flock, we gather, we chirp, we howl, we sing, we call, and we listen. If the Transition Initiative is empowering for communities, that is because there is an enormous latent energy there to be tapped, so that communities may be authors of their own story, hopeful, active, and belonging, rather than despairing, passive, and cynical. Naresh Giangrande, in Totnes, tells me about a session they are designing on the theme of Belonging. Belonging, of course, is a lovely boomerang of an idea—where do you belong? Can that place belong to you? “Through the Transition Initiative,” says Giangrande, “we can talk about things in public which are normally only talked about privately. We all have a deep wound about belonging to the Earth.” The Transition Initiative, says Giangrande, is “a movement that could be world-changing. And it is heartwarming to see how good-natured and good most people are—it revives my sense of community. It completely contradicts the image of human nature in the media, portraying it as greedy and selfish, competitive, nasty, and unsocial. That’s a self-reinforcing prophecy. We’re setting up the reverse. And we’re asking: will you join us?” People have flocked to do so. At the time of this writing, there are 146 Transition Initiatives, and by the time you read this there will be far more. One of its techniques is in strengthening all that is associative, and attempting to democratize power, with a fine understanding of that particular social grace which seeks to create what Martin Buber called The Between.
What is it, The Between? Fertile, delicious, and powerful, it is the edge of meeting. The cocreated place of pure potential, a coevocation of possibility. The delicate point of meeting between you and him. Between them. Between us. What is the geometry of The Between? I could explain best if we went down to the pub, you and I (mine’s a glass of red wine, anything as long as it’s not Merlot, yeuch, that’s like drinking cold steel), and the geometry of The Between is as simple and direct as the line of our eyes across the table. It’s horizontal, equal, fraternal. We might have a chat with a couple of the old farmers, and my pal the vicar might be there with his guitar and best of all is when the harpist plays, which he does, very occasionally. Warm with conviviality and wine, I might wander home and switch on the television (except for the fact that I gave it away some years ago), and Sky News would be showing me a parade of celebrities, each making me feel that little bit more insignificant. Celebrity culture is an opposite of community, informing us that these few nonsense-heads matter but that the rest of us do not. Insidiously, the television tells me I am no one. If I was Someone, I’d be on telly. In this way, television dis-esteems its viewers, and celebrity culture is both a cause and a consequence of the low self-esteem that mars so many people’s lives. So, the unacknowledged individual is manipulated into a jealousy of acknowledgment, which is why it is so telling that huge numbers of young people insist that when they grow up they want to be a celebrity. They are quite right. (Almost.) That is nothing less than they deserve, for we all need acknowledgment (but not fame). We all need recognition (but not to be “spotted” out shopping). We all need to be known, we need our selves confirmed by others, fluidly, naturally. A sense of community has always provided these familiar, unshowy acts of ordinary recognition, and the Transition Initiative, like any wise community, offers simple acknowledgment, telling us we are all players. “Mistaken, appalling and dangerous” is how the Transition Initiative has been described, which is the kind of criticism you covet, knowing that the speaker is an oil industry professional and author of The Myth of the Oil Crisis. Others have criticized it for being insufficiently confrontational. There are also criticisms from within: a tension between those who prefer fast action and those who prefer slow consideration, for the movement is both urgent and slow. It is transformatively sudden, and yet uses the subtle, tentative questioning of long dialogues within communities, a very slow process of building a network of relationships within the whole community. In the language of climate change science, there are many tipping points, where slow causations are suddenly expressed in dramatic, negative consequences. The conference I attended when I met the scientist speaking of his unhappy son was called Tipping Point, and in a sense the Transition Initiative places itself as a social tipping point, with dramatic and positive consequences where the sudden wisdom of communities breaks through the stolid unwisdom of national government. “We’re doing work for generations to come,” says Giangrande. You can’t change a place overnight, he says, but you have to begin now in the necessary urgency of our time. “We’re facing a historical moment of choice—our actions now [are] affecting the future. Now’s the time. The system we know is breaking down. Yet out of this breakdown, there are always new possibilities.” It’s catagenesis, the birth of the new from the death of the old. The process is “so creative and so chaotic,” says Giangrande. “Let it unfold—allow it—the key is not to direct it but to encourage it. We’ve developed the A to C of transition. The D to Z is still to come.” Brave, this, and very attractive. It is catalytic, emergent, and dynamic, facing forward with a vivid vitality but backlit with another kind of ancient sunlight: human, social energy.

Saving Ourselves

SUBHEAD: Consuming within recharge rates to ensure our long-range existence on this world.
By Randall Amster on26 June 2009 in Common Dreams http://www.commondreams.org/view/2009/06/26-5 In bygone days, the environmental movement would often cast its lot with a "Save the [blank]" ideology that generally included non-human components such as "world" or "whales" or "spotted owls" in its formulation. Unsurprisingly, many people scoffed at the suggestion that human opportunities and progress should be foregone in the name of saving other entities. In the end, the notion that our existence might somehow be dependent upon the existence of those "other" things -- or that we ought to learn to get by with less of the stuff we wanted -- was a hard sell to a public used to thinking in Cartesian terms of separation and one that is deeply inculcated with a cultural mythos of human superiority. Simply put, this way of getting at the issue actually fostered the very sense of a "humans versus nature" rift that underlain the problem in the first place. image above: Is this what it will come to? From http://www.jpgmag.com/photos/563504 Today, however, the rhetorical tide has shifted even as the oceanic one has threatened to rise. Now the pitch is more akin to "Save the Humans," since it's our own vulnerable and somewhat maladapted arses that are on the line at this point. It was sheer hubris to believe that the world itself needed saving from human interventions; the Earth and its life-giving capacities are resilient and will almost certainly (at least on a geological time scale) survive whatever we throw at it short of total nuclear pulverization. In fact, many other life forms would flourish without us here, with Nature rapidly re-wilding even the concrete jungles we've created. So it's really about saving ourselves these days, which is a more realistic aim and one that is consistent with our actual place in the web of life. It's also an easier sell for most people. Advocating for the preservation of a seemingly unimportant animal species as against many human jobs and their families' wellbeing is not particularly persuasive, as spotted owl advocates found out some years ago (even today, I still see faded bumper stickers saying "Spotted Owl Tastes Like Chicken"). A much more potent argument is that those same loggers would be put out of work by deforestation and the clear-cutting of old growth stands, since they rely on the renewal of the resource in order to have continuous employment in their region. Indeed, this logic -- human engagement with the environment in the context of renewal capacities -- can be a powerful avenue for sustainability advocacy to address both human and nonhuman needs. Let me illustrate the point clearly, and briefly. I recently asked some of my students whether water was a scarce or abundant resource. Being good environmentalists, they mostly reflected upon the hard-to-deny fact that water is scarce and getting scarcer -- it's the "new oil" and "blue gold" as various outlets continually suggest. There's a truth in this perspective, and yet water can also be seen as an abundant resource in which the planet's evaporation-rainfall cycle continually renews it. We can actually quantify the amount of water it takes to maintain a local aquifer or the flow of a river at healthy levels, and this is sometimes known as the "recharge rate" of how much it would be necessary to put back in to keep the water flowing. Swimming pool owners in hot climates, for example, often fill their pools a little bit each morning to compensate for evaporation, and thus perform a low-tech version of recharging their water levels in this manner. In fact, every resource has an inherent recharge rate , in the sense that the "balance of a system can be expressed as a relationship relating all of the inputs and outputs into or out of the system." Water is perhaps the easiest to measure, as in the swimming pool example, although in the real world variables such as soil moisture levels and the location of stormwater basins can make the calculations somewhat more complex. Still, rates are estimable if not outright calculable in most locales, suggesting that in practice we can find the balance point between output (i.e., what we consume) and input (i.e., what gets replaced) for any given resource. Using this framework, the distinction between renewable and nonrenewable resources become blurred, since everything has an inherent (or at least potential) rate of renewal and can thus be sustained over time. This may seem counterintuitive, since we've been accustomed to viewing resources like oil and minerals as nonrenewable, but that's only because we've applied a human time scale to such commodities. The planet might in fact produce more of them, although it could take millions or even billions of years. The resources that take the longest time to replenish are also among the most costly to extract and likewise oftentimes contribute most directly to the problems of pollution and climate change that we presently face; furthermore, we can't claim to fully understand what the consequences would be if they were completely depleted in rapid fashion as we are seemingly aiming toward. Resources like air and water that have faster recharge rates are among the most basic for survival and are also the most vulnerable to disruptions in their renewal cycles. Food sources recharge fairly quickly as well, as do soils for growing, although less so than air and water; timber resources take a bit longer but can still renew within human time spans. So here's my recommendation for sustaining the planet's fecundity, and for saving ourselves in the process: consumption within recharge rates, but no more. Air, water, and food are abundant and renew quickly, and thus can be consumed at significant levels. Coal, oil, uranium, and natural gas recharge very slowly and therefore should only be consumed at very small levels (if at all) consistent with how long it would likely take to replace them. Trees might still be used for human purposes, but only as fast as they will grow back or can be replanted. Solar radiation, geothermal energy, wind power, and tidal cycles renew continually, and their recharge rates are internally driven, so they can be utilized widely and abundantly. Thich Nhat Hanh refers to something very much like this as "mindful consumption," which he contrasts with the unmindful practices that are "doing violence to our home" and have led the world to the doorstep of "catastrophic climate changes," yielding a pervasive sense of "violence, hate, discrimination, and despair." In his moving book The World We Have, Hanh illustrates the potential for positive alternatives with the story of "the vessel of appropriate measure": "Since the bowl is exactly the right size, we always know just how much to eat. We never overeat, because overeating brings sickness to our bodies.... We see that people who consume less are healthier and more joyful, and that those who consume a lot may suffer very deeply.... Mindful consumption brings about health and healing, for ourselves and for our planet." Obviously we must consume in order to survive, but if we do so outside the bounds of an "appropriate measure" our survival is placed in grave jeopardy. If someone who is cold burns down an orchard to stay warm for a night, they will likely have to cope with hunger the next day; in this manner humanity often seems to find itself cascading from one crisis to the next, as each quick-fix intervention leads to a new (and perhaps more intractable) problem. People inclined to get rankled over any sentiment that encourages us to do with a bit less of some particular item might consider what it would be like if we were forced to try and survive with less (or none at all) of everything, which may be in store if we fail to act. Consuming within recharge rates is a way to ensure not only our short-term but also our long-range existence on this remarkable, self-renewing world that sustains us. Randall Amster, J.D., Ph.D., teaches Peace Studies at Prescott College, and is the Executive Director of the Peace & Justice Studies Association. His most recent book is Lost In Space: The Criminalization, Globalization, and Urban Ecology of Homelessness (LFB Scholarly 2008).

Getting a Camel

SUBHEAD: What do you get when you design a horse by committee?
Answer: You should at least get a camel, but with this situation you won't even get an ungulate.

By George Mobus on 17 June 2009 in Question Everything http://questioneverything.typepad.com/


Image above: Arabian camel from http://bsnyderblog.blogspot.com/2009/02/do-you-need-integration-patterns-you.html

 Today the Obama administration unveils its 'plan' for regulating the financial industry. This looks like the classical closing of the barn door after the horse is out. They are assuming that the economy, and hence the financial basis of that economy, will recover and we will be once again on the borrow-so-we-can-consume track to Nowheresville.

Then, once the economy is running again, these regulations will kick in and all will be rosy thereafter.

Perhaps I should smoke what they are smoking in the White house so that I could stop worrying about outcomes and reality. The proposed regulations look a lot (to me anyway) like what we call a kluge in engineering.

You throw together a bunch of reactive solutions to a set of problems in the hope that they will somehow all work together to keep the 'device' working. Complex systems have all these little pesky variables that need to be 'controlled', so you look at each one individually, figure out how to apply some local 'fix', and then go on to the next problem.

Only what too often happens is that the fix for one problem variable causes something else to go haywire. After all, the whole thing is a system. Things are connected. A local fix to one variable doesn't mean you are fixing the whole system. This is what we know as unintended consequences. 

The system that was already in place was a huge kluge. So many different agencies with different authorities and different jurisdictions (except that many overlapped in ways making it hard to know who should do what and to whom!)

Now the proposal is to 'patch it up'. Fix it incrementally. Once again I wonder when wisdom will prevail in these decisions. I have been writing for nearly two years about the need for a more naturalistic approach to governance, one based on hierarchical management with strategic, coordination (tactical and logistical), and operations controls suitably designed and placed, and I still think that is the only feasible way to approach these problems.

Instead we limp along trying desperately to make an already proven failed system work.

And it is even the wrong system! I have also been writing about the idiocy of our current approach to financial management, banking, liquidity markets, and the like.

So now, what I see is that we are going to try to make a bad system work better at being bad for mankind's long-term good! I need a drink!

Detainees to Hawaii?

SUBHEAD: Big Island County Councilman - Release Guantanamo detainees in Hawaii.
By Andrew Walden on 26 June 2009 in Canada Free Press

http://www.canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/12356

Image above: Duane "Dog " Chapmen, the bounty hunter, and wife Beth at home in Hawaii has been detained himself.

Bermuda and Palau may not be the only beautiful tropical islands to host illegal Islamist combatants being released from US custody at Guantanamo Bay Naval Station. If a Hawaii County Councilman and a Kauai County activist get their way, some would get a new home—and complete freedom--on two of Hawaii’s most beautiful islands.
Robert Greenwell represents the North Kona district where activists recently protested against training US military personnel at Pohakuloa Training Area. They may not want US soldiers and marines, but al-Qaeda fighters are welcome. According to a flattering article in West Hawaii Today June 25: Greenwell recently sent a letter to President Barack Obama, asking the Hawaii-born commander-in-chief to consider sending prisoners to be released from the prison at the naval base in Guantanamo Bay to the Big Island. The idea isn’t to incarcerate the prisoners here, the councilman said, but to release them and begin a process of healing and forgiveness.… “I think if we want to be known as a place of love and aloha, this is a place to express it.” Hawaii has a substantial Chinese community. A Uighur detainee named Abdulghappar says: “I have one point: a billion Chinese enemies, that is enough for me. Why would I get more enemies?"
Another detainee, Abdul Nasser, explains: “I don’t know if it was an AK-47. It was an old rifle, and I trained for a couple of days (at Tora Bora)." Abdul Semet says, “The reason we went to Afghanistan doesn’t mean we have a relationship with al-Qaeda or some other organization; we went there for peace...." Another claimed he was in a cave at Tora Bora waiting for a visa to Iran--even though the nearest Iranian embassies were far away in Kabul or Islamabad.
In spite of this, Greenwell is not alone. The Kauai Alliance for Peace and Social Justice sent letters to President Obama and Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle requesting that Islamists from western China being offered a new home on Palau be brought to settle on Kauai instead. Wrote spokesperson Ed Coll: “...the Kaua‘i Alliance for Peace and Social Justice calls for you, as Hawai‘i state officials, to extend an invitation to the Uighur national former detainees to come and settle on the Hawaiian Islands....We presume that you all are moved by aloha to extend welcome to the mistreated individuals and help them resettle and become useful members of the Hawaiian society... After more than six years of illegal (sic) confinement, the United States owes these men more than their freedom, it owes them an apology and we can offer them the aloha spirit. “What better aloha than this humanitarian gesture from Hawai‘i already known for its rich and diverse ethnic population? Hawai‘i can much more easily absorb these men than our Pacific Island neighbors in Palau. By helping these innocent men rebuild their shattered lives you, the elected representatives of the State of Hawai‘i will confirm your belief in serving justice and supporting valuable Hawaiian traditions of aloha with action.”
Coll is not alone in thinking that Palau is not good enough for the Islamist head-choppers. AP reports that most of the detainees still at Guantanamo are rejecting the resettlement proposal. Citing their attorney, AP reported June 17 that “(GTMO detainees) Dawut Abdurehim and Anwar Assan, both 34, are ‘very open’ to the idea and asked for more information regarding their future legal status and living arrangements...."
Like the protesters in Greenwell’s district, Coll’s group has also worked to drive the US Armed Forces out of Hawaii. The Kauai Alliance was involved in anti-Superferry protests which kept Honolulu ferry passengers off of Kauai. After rejecting both military personnel and Honolulu residents, the Alliance extends an “invitation to the Uighur national former detainees to come and settle on the Hawaiian Islands….”
The Uighur detainees were among the illegal Islamist combatants captured during the December, 2001 battle of Tora Bora as Osama bin-Laden fled from Afghanistan into Pakistan avoiding US forces advancing south.
They were training with the al-Qaeda allied “East Turkmenistan Islamic Movement” under the supervision of the group’s leader Abdul Haq. In a video statement, Haq explains: “...until we make Allah’s religion supreme…and we live a precious life in the shadow of Islamic Shariah law, or else be rewarded with martyrdom in the cause of Allah…We are plotting for the Chinese to suffer the torture of Allah, or else by our hands….” But the Uighurs are only the beginning. As the Kauai Alliance letter explains: “Inspired by this action, other countries such as Australia, Germany, and others may reconsider and accept other former detainees once it has been determined they are not enemy combatants. The Kaua‘i Alliance for Peace and Social Justice urges other progressive, peace, justice, religious and sovereignty groups and organizations to support our efforts in serving true justice.” Greenwell told West Hawaii Today: “We can’t continue to live in a culture of fear that has been perpetuated because of political reasons.” Ironically his proposal exists only because some Americans have been made fearful of defending themselves by decades of politically-motivated political correctness. Ignorant of history, they believe that a show of submission will bring peace with Islamists.
The Hawaii Legislature voted in May to designate September 24, 2009 “Islam Day”. September 24, 2009 is September 11, 2009 on the Julian calendar. Kauai’s State Senator, Democrat Gary Hooser--now a candidate for his party’s Lt Governor nomination--launched his campaign website with the anti-Semitic 9-11 troother site www.WhatReallyHappened.com listed as part of Hooser’s “Regular Reading Regime.”
Muslims involved in promoting the September 24/September 11 Islam Day resolution threatened this writer with a lawsuit after allegations of fraud were exposed concerning an abortive effort to construct a mosque in North Kona. The article is still up and no lawsuit has been filed.
According to West Hawaii Today Greenwell, “acknowledged that some Americans might be unhappy with his offer to accept the detainees, but said that he anticipated negative reactions to be only about 10 percent of the total responses.”
In spite of Greenwell’s anticipation of support, reaction on the two islands is decidedly negative. Kona residents are planning a protest Friday morning to demand Greenwell’s resignation.
Neither Coll nor Greenwell responded for a request for comment from Hawaii Free Press, but one Hilo resident offered an analogy: “You go into a dark room and turn on the light – what do the cockroaches do? They run. The cockroaches run because they have an instinct for self-preservation.
“Clearly these guys offering our island to al-Qaeda terrorists have no instinct for self-preservation. I know that many of them consider themselves revolutionaries. They want to rise up.
“I agree. They should rise up. They should rise up and elevate themselves to the level of cockroaches.” According to West Hawaii Today, “Greenwell admits that the idea ‘may sound insane.’”
Hawaii Revised Statute 334-60.2 explains that: “A person may be committed to a psychiatric facility for involuntary hospitalization...(if)...the person is imminently dangerous to self or others....”