Techno-Utopianism's Fate

SOURCE: Koohan Paik (
SUBHEAD: In order to dominate, our language relating to nature and wilderness is disassociated and possessive.

By Tom Butler on  25 October 2014 for International Forum on Globalization -

Image above: Detail Sci-Fi illustrator Robert McCall's "The Prologue and the Promise" mural from the now-defunct Epcot Horizons pavilion. See also: ( From (

[IB Publisher's note: The website ( has audio of all the presentations at this "Techno-Utopianism and the Fate of the Earth" series, including one by former Kauai resident Koohan Paik.]

Tom Butler was one of 45 leading scholars, authors and activists who convened at The Great Hall of Cooper Union, New York City, on October 25-26, 2014, for the public presentation: "Techno-Utopianism and the Fate of the Earth".

Speakers discussed the profound impacts—environmental, economic and social—of runaway technological expansionism and cyber immersion; the tendency to see technology as the savior for all problems. For more info, see

Video above: Presentation of FRED talk "The Language of Dominion" by Tom Butler. From (

Tom Butler is the editorial projects director of the Foundation for Deep Ecology and the volunteer board president of the Northeast Wilderness Trust, the only regional land trust in the northeastern U.S. focused exclusively on preserving forever-wild landscapes.

As author or editor his books include Monte León National Park, Corcovado National Park: Chile’s Wilderness Jewel, Plundering Appalachia, ENERGY: Overdevelopment and the Delusion of Endless Growth, and the award-winning Wildlands Philanthropy: The Great American Tradition, a collaboration with photographer Antonio Vizcaíno, which celebrates forty extraordinary natural areas around the globe protected through private initiative.

His latest book, co-edited with Eileen Crist and George Wuerthner, is Keeping the Wild: Against Domestication of the Earth (Island Press 2014), an anthology of writings that considers how the “Anthropocene”-oriented vision for the future of conservation is strategically and ethically dubious.

Butler’s forthcoming book, Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot (2015) is a large-format work that visually depicts the way the human numbers and behavior have transformed the Earth.


Last Gap of Global Economy

SUBHEAD: The coming economic storm is engineered to achieve a fearful and panicked populace.

By Brandon Smith on 5 November 2014 for Alt-Market -

Image above: Sculpture of a last gasp. This statue resides in National Harbor in Prince George's County, Maryland, just outside of Washington, D.C. From original article.

It is difficult to find the motivation to write about the state of the global economy these days, if only because there is not much left to say. I feel like I am composing multiple obituaries for the same long dead corpse.

Most of the Liberty Movement and I suspect a small portion of the mainstream market understand that there is no tangible or legitimate recovery, let alone a stable fiscal ladder to rest our feet upon. There is literally nothing left to the financial system but rigged statistics, false promises, and ever expanding debt. In fact, the concept of debt creation is the only thing holding our facade of an economy together.
You and I probably find this rather strange. We come from a long forgotten school of economics, in which demand, supply, and savings actually mean something in terms of our fiscal health. I have come across many mainstream economic acolytes and cultists in recent months who disregard ALL logic and reason, forsaking the realities of demand based trade and immersing themselves in a grand delusion in which central bank generated debt and inflation are the real source of “prosperity”.

I feel sorry for them in a way, because the truth is right in front of their faces, and yet, they will never see it, not until they are buried alive in it.

Nothing makes this problem more apparent than the behavior of equities in the past month.

Stocks are, of course, a sham of the highest magnitude, but they do still say something about the greater truth behind our financial condition. The fact that many market traders clearly KNOW that it's all a farce, and are actually banking and betting on the scam, tells me exactly how close we are to the end of the line.

The recent near 10% drop in the Dow at the beginning of Fall must have certainly been a shock for the day trading community as well as mainstream pundits. The assumption for the past few years has been that central bank stimulus guarantees a constantly growing bull market, and to experience a considerable decline in equities even while QE was still in action was at least a noticeable wake up call.

I suspect that this decline in markets was not necessarily planned by the central banks, and was a stumble in their scheme to keep stocks elevated until after the QE taper had settled. It was also a stumble I expected a little earlier, around the end of Summer to be exact.

Since the drop, central banks and the mainstream media have reacted forcefully to manipulate public perception as well as investor optimism, but this cannot go on for much longer.

In almost every instance of market decline, financial news group Reuters has injected false rumors of more stimulus from the European Central Bank. This was also the case in October as markets began to crash. These rumors were later dashed by the Financial Times, but not before the mere mention of more fiat stimulus from any central bank sent stocks soaring yet again.

This also occurred when middle management Federal Reserve member John Williams hinted in interviews of the possibility of “QE4” if the economy began to show signs of regression. Williams, of course, has no say in the decision to reintroduce QE, but this did not matter to investors, who immediately latched onto the meaningless news like anxious children, and threw their money back into stocks again.

And, most recently, Japan's central bank announced a sudden and surprising re-ignition of stimulus measures to the tune of 80 Trillion Yen a year. This announcement, once again, sent global stocks skyrocketing, even though it was a stark admission by Japan's financial elite that all their inflationary printing efforts for the past several years have failed miserably.

As I have warned in the past, when bad news becomes good news because bad news promises more central bank intervention, the economy is truly on the verge of a reckoning.

Hopefully, we can all see the trend taking place here. With the end of the Federal Reserve taper now complete, and questions circling as to when interest rates will be raised, a market volatility not seen since 2008-2009 is returning.

The ONLY measure that has slowed the crash is the use of false news stories hinting at further stimulus, as well as futile efforts by other central banks to pick up where the Federal Reserve left off. This shows that the investment world is so thoroughly addicted to QE that even the

They know that the entire system is rigged by central banks, and they don't care. In fact, they revel in it. The only goal of your average day trader now is to profit on the scam for as long as humanly possible, even though the ultimate conclusion of the scam will mean the utter destruction of their profits and the end of their way of life.

I hate to use a cinema analogy for a very real threat, but investors today remind me of Joe Pantoliano's character in 'The Matrix'; the guy who is fully aware that the Matrix is an illusion, but wants to experience the pleasure of the illusion all the same. So much so that he doesn't mind being exploited like a slave by the system, and is willing to sacrifice all measure of truth and even the future just to get a taste of the fantasy again.

But what is the reality that the central banks are trying to hide, and why? This I have written about in detail on literally hundreds of occasions, so I will only cover the very latest news briefly here, and why I think the overall dynamic is about to change for the worse.

Global exports, and thus consumer demand, are plunging. Germany, the only pillar left to prop up the failing European Union, has experienced a severe decline in exports not seen since 2009.

China, the largest exporter and importer in the world, and Chinese companies, have been caught in a number of instances using fraudulent invoices to artificially inflate their own export numbers, in some cases reporting 50% more exported goods than had actually existed.

China's manufacturing has also declined for the past five months, exposing the nature of its inflated export stats and indicating a global slowdown.

The Baltic Dry Index, a measure of global shipping rates for raw goods, and thus a measure of demand for shipping, continues to drag along near historic lows.

The U.S. consumer (the only economic asset the U.S. has besides the dollar's world reserve status), has seen declines in spending as well as wages.

In the meantime, long term jobless Americans continue to fall off welfare rolls by the millions, making unemployment numbers look good, but the overall future picture look terrible as participation rates dissolve into the ether of government statistics.

How is such poverty being hidden? Foodstamps. Plain and simple. Nearly 50 million Americans now subsist on food stamp programs today, and this number shows no signs of dropping. In states like Illinois, two people sign up for food assistance for every citizen that happens to find a job.

But this is all rudimentary. Most analysts in the Liberty Movement agree that our fiscal structure is on the edge of collapse; what they tend to bicker about is HOW and WHEN the structure will collapse.

Guessing market declines has been extremely difficult in the midst of a fiat soaked fiscal environment.  Nothing is ever quite what it seems.  My predictions of a 10% drop by the end of Summer were off by three weeks.

Because of the nature of QE stimulus manipulation of the Dow, our only real guide has been the timeline of the Fed taper, and the fact that major banks have been relying on fed fiat to continually cycle capital into equities through the use of low interest loans to corporations and the stock buyback scam. Company buybacks have given steady boosts to the markets at least since 2008, and many corporations are using up to 50% of their “profits” just to continue buying their own stocks.

This strategy, however, is reaching a point of diminishing returns as many companies are issuing too much debt in the process. IBM is a perfect example of a company that has hit the ceiling on stock buybacks.

This odd coordinated attempt by corporations and central banks to keep markets propped up even as companies sacrifice whatever debt stability they had left indicates a state of collusion between such institutions that goes far beyond the mere idea of "mutually assured greed".  Since at least 2008, there has indeed been a "conspiracy" amongst banks and international companies to generate a massive stock bubble designed to keep the masses calm and placated.

However, these groups understand, better than many give them credit for, that such measures will have to end, or be revealed.

With the taper finished and QE money drying up, it is important to ask a few questions. For example, how are companies going to continue to accumulate capital to dump into their own stocks if fed money is becoming scarce and consumer spending is in decline? And, if they can't continue stock buybacks because of a lack of funds or an overburden of debt, how are equities markets going to stay afloat?

And what about government debt? As it stands now, foreign interest in U.S. treasury bonds is waning. The vast majority of new bonds sold are short term. Until now, the Fed has been the primary buyer of long term debt, snapping up 10 year bonds from the market while other investors lose confidence in America's ability to pay off liabilities in the future.

Now that QE is over, who is going to buy the ever expanding U.S. government debt? I aimed this question recently at a Fed cultist and his response was “Well...obviously somebody will buy it...”, though he couldn't specify.
The spike in short term debt purchases after the end of QE3 was also predictable, but it can only be sustained IF stocks begin to fall considerably yet again.  Think about it; interest in U.S. debt has been on the decline for years, not just because foreign banks are shifting away from the dollar, but also because stocks have been a much more attractive investment with greater returns guaranteed by Fed QE.  The taper announces a violent change in circumstances.

The only way for interest in U.S. debt to be energized, even for a short time, is for stocks to crash, leaving bonds as the only safe haven left.  I discussed this development in detail in my article 'The Final Swindle Of Private American Wealth Has Begun' at the beginning of this year.

All other investment avenues seem to be in decline, from foreign markets and forex, to commodities like oil.  Even gold and silver have taken a hit.  For the average investor, if a rout in stocks occurs, they will immediately jump into bonds.  This plays into my theory on the coming financial end game, which I will be discussing in my next article.

Investor's are counting on an eventual QE4, but I think this might also be wishful thinking.

At the end of 2013, I predicted the Fed would indeed follow through with the taper of QE3, and that they would drastically reduce stimulus measures. I believe this is in preparation for a major implosion of U.S. markets in particular.

The whole point of the taper is to support the illusion that the U.S. economy has recovered, and that the Fed has “accomplished its mission”. When a crash does take place, I think it will be ALLOWED to move freely and that new QE intervention will not be taken.  I have no doubt this crash will be blamed on an outside force or act of fate (the ebola outbreak, which is doubling in cases every three weeks, is a perfect possible catalyst), and that banks will be absolved of all blame in the mainstream.

A coming crash is not only my personal view.  It is important to note that behind the background noise of the recovery party, international bankers are sending a very different message about economic health.

On the same day as the Federal Reserve announced the end of QE3, former chairman Alan Greenspan gave a speech to the Council On Foreign Relations in which he lamented that the QE unwind would be painful, that stimulus measures had not achieved their goals in the past, and that gold might be a good investment today.

The International Monetary Fund and the ECB also released statements warning that “accommodative stimulus policies” could contribute to economic volatility. That is to say, stimulus might be setting the stage for fiscal instability. The IMF claims that “bold action” is required to “reset” the global system.

And, the ever present overlords at the Bank Of International Settlements have posted a stark warning about our financial future, predicting a “violent reversal” in markets. The last time the BIS made such a prediction was in the summer of 2007, just before the derivatives crash. But this is the M.O. of the central banks, to warn of coming calamity just before the event, but not long enough before the event to make any difference. They present themselves as prognosticators of economic future, but in reality, they are the instigators of every disaster they predict.

I do not know how the markets will react to the likely landslide "victory" by Republicans in mid-term elections (can one ever be "victorious" in a rigged contest?), but what I do know is that a Republican majority offers an even greater opportunity for further collapse.  Negative movements in markets that have been obstructed through manipulation can now be unleashed and then blamed on "government gridlock", or the inability of conservatives to "compromise" fiscally.  A Republican shift in government only offers more cover for a collapse that is slated to occur regardless.

I believe that the admissions of financial danger by internationalists, the sharp drop in stocks at the beginning of fall, the reversal of the political theater, and the fact that mainstream investors now recognize the illegitimacy of the markets yet continue with the scam anyway, signals the last gasp of the global economy.

I expect increasing market instability from this point on, as well as numerous geopolitical distractions which will be blamed for the fiscal chaos. I have left out my explanation of the final end game so that I can cover it more fully in my next article.

Needless to say, the coming storm is a deliberately engineered one, meant to achieve very specific goals, including a fearful and panicked populace, easy to manipulate as the system goes off the rails for the last time.


End of US Market Economy

SUBHEAD:Why land is still referred to as “real property,” as though others are somehow unreal.

By John Michael Greer on 5 November 2014 for the Archdruid Report -

Image above: Peter Bruegel the Elder painting of "The Peasant Wedding, 1566-69. From (

One of the factors that makes it difficult to think through the economic consequences of the end of the industrial age is that we’ve all grown up in a world where every form of economic activity has been channeled through certain familiar forms for so long that very few people remember that things could be any other way.

Another of the factors that make the same effort of thinking difficult is that the conventional economic thought of our time has invested immense effort and oceans of verbiage into obscuring the fact that things could be any other way.

Those are formidable obstacles. We’re going to have to confront them, though, because one of the core features of the decline and fall of civilizations is that most of the habits of everyday life that are standard practice when civilizations are at zenith get chucked promptly into the recycle bin as decline picks up speed.

That’s true across the whole spectrum of cultural phenomena, and it’s especially true of economics, for a reason discussed in last week’s post: the economic institutions and habits of a civilization in full flower are too complex for the same civilization to support once it’s gone to seed.

The institutions and habits that contemporary industrial civilization uses to structure its economic life comprise that tangled realm of supposedly voluntary exchanges we call “the market.”

Back when the United States was still contending with the Soviet Union for global hegemony, that almost always got rephrased as “the free market;” the adjective still gets some use among ideologues, but by and large it’s dropped out of use elsewhere.

This is a good thing, at least from the perspective of honest speaking, because the “free” market is of course nothing of the kind. It’s unfree in at least two crucial senses: first, in that it’s compulsory; second, in that it’s expensive.

“The law in its majestic equality,” Anatole France once noted drolly, “forbids rich and poor alike to urinate in public, sleep under bridges, or beg for bread.” In much the same sense, no one is actually forced to participate in the market economy in the modern industrial world.

Those who want to abstain are perfectly free to go looking for some other way to keep themselves fed, clothed, housed, and supplied with the other necessities of life, and the fact that every option outside of the market has been hedged around with impenetrable legal prohibitions if it hasn’t simply been annihilated by legal fiat or brute force is just one of those minor details that make life so interesting.

Historically speaking, there are a vast number of ways to handle exchanges of goods and services between people. In modern industrial societies, on the other hand, outside of the occasional vestige of an older tradition here and there, there’s only one.

Exchanging some form of labor for money, on whatever terms an employer chooses to offer, and then exchanging money for goods and services, on whatever terms the seller chooses to offer, is the only game in town. There’s nothing free about either exchange, other than the aforesaid freedom to starve in the gutter.

The further up you go in the social hierarchy, to be sure, the less burdensome the conditions on the exchanges generally turn out to be—here as elsewhere, privilege has its advantages—but unless you happen to have inherited wealth or can find some other way to parasitize the market economy without having to sell your own labor, you’re going to participate if you like to eat.

Your participation in the market, furthermore, doesn’t come cheap. Every exchange you make, whether it’s selling your labor or buying goods and services with the proceeds, takes place within a system that has been subjected to the process of intermediation discussed in last week’s post.

Thus, in most cases, you can’t simply sell your labor directly to individuals who want to buy it or its products; instead, you are expected to sell your labor to an employer, who then sells it or its product to others, gives you part of the proceeds, and pockets the rest.

Plenty of other people are lined up for their share of the value of your labor: bankers, landlords, government officials, and the list goes on. When you go to exchange money for goods and services, the same principle applies; how much of the value of your labor you get to keep for your own purposes varies from case to case, but it’s always less than the whole sum, and sometimes a great deal less.

Karl Marx performed a valuable service to political economy by pointing out these facts and giving them the stress they deserve, in the teeth of savage opposition from the cheerleaders of the status quo who, then as now, dominated economic thought. His proposed solution to the pervasive problems of the (un)free market was another matter.

Like most of his generation of European intellectuals, Marx was dazzled by the swamp-gas luminescence of Hegelian philosophy, and followed Hegel’s verbose and vaporous trail into a morass of circular reasoning and false prophecy from which few of his remaining followers have yet managed to extract themselves.

It’s from Hegel that Marx got the enticing but mistaken notion that history consists of a sequence of stages that move in a predetermined direction toward some as-perfect-as-possible state: the same idea, please note, that Francis Fukuyama used to justify his risible vision of the first Bush administration as the glorious fulfillment of human history. (To borrow a bit of old-fashioned European political jargon, there are right-Hegelians and left-Hegelians; Fukuyama was an example of the former, Marx of the latter.)

I’ll leave such claims and the theories founded on them to the true believers, alongside such equally plausible claims as the Singularity, the Rapture, and the lemonade oceans of Charles Fourier; what history itself shows is something rather different.

What history shows, as already noted, is that the complex systems that emerge during the heyday of a civilization are inevitably scrapped on the way back down. Market economies are among those complex systems.

Not all civilizations have market economies—some develop other ways to handle the complicated process of allocating goods and services in a society with many different social classes and occupational specialties—but those that do set up market economies inevitably load them with as many intermediaries as the overall complexity of their economies can support.

It’s when decline sets in and maintaining the existing level of complexity becomes a problem that the trouble begins. Under some conditions, intermediation can benefit the productive economy, but in a complex economy, more and more of the intermediation over time amounts to finding ways to game the system, profiting off economic activity without actually providing any benefit to anyone else.

A complex society at or after its zenith thus typically ends up with a huge burden of unproductive economic activity supported by an increasingly fragile foundation of productive activity.

All the intermediaries, the parasitic as well as the productive, expect to be maintained in the style to which they’re accustomed, and since they typically have more wealth and influence than the producers and consumers who support them, they can usually stop moves to block their access to the feed trough. Economic contraction, however, makes it hard to support business as usual on the shrinking supply of real wealth.

The intermediaries thus end up competing with the actual producers and consumers of goods and services, and since the intermediaries typically have the support of governments and institutional forms, more often than not it’s the intermediaries who win that competition.

It’s not at all hard to see that process at work; all it takes is a stroll down the main street of the old red brick mill town where I live, or any of thousands of other towns and cities in today’s America.

Here in Cumberland, there are empty storefronts all through downtown, and empty buildings well suited to any other kind of economic activity you care to name there and elsewhere in town. There are plenty of people who want to work, wage and benefit expectations are modest, and there are plenty of goods and services that people would buy if they had the chance.

Yet the storefronts stay empty, the workers stay unemployed, the goods and services remain unavailable. Why?

The reason is intermediation. Start a business in this town, or anywhere else in America, and the intermediaries all come running to line up in front of you with their hands out. Local, state, and federal bureaucrats all want their cut; so do the bankers, the landlords, the construction firms, and so on down the long list of businesses that feed on other businesses, and can’t be dispensed with because this or that law or regulation requires them to be paid their share. The resulting burden is far too large for most businesses to meet.

Thus businesses don’t get started, and those that do start up generally go under in short order. It’s the same problem faced by every parasite that becomes too successful: it kills the host on which its own survival depends.

That’s the usual outcome when a heavily intermediated market economy slams face first into the hard realities of decline. Theoretically, it would be possible to respond to the resulting crisis by forcing disintermediation, and thus salvaging the market economy. Practically, that’s usually not an option, because the disintermediation requires dragging a great many influential economic and political sectors away from their accustomed feeding trough.

Far more often than not, declining societies with heavily intermediated market economies respond to the crisis just described by trying to force the buyers and sellers of goods and services to participate in the market even at the cost of their own economic survival, so that some semblance of business as usual can proceed.

That’s why the late Roman Empire, for example, passed laws requiring that each male Roman citizen take up the same profession as his father, whether he could survive that way or not. That’s also why, as noted last week, so many American jurisdictions are cracking down on people who try to buy and sell food, medical care, and the like outside the corporate economy.

In the Roman case, the attempt to keep the market economy fully intermediated ended up killing the market economy altogether, and in most of the post-Roman world—interestingly, this was as true across much of the Byzantine empire as it was in the barbarian west—the complex money-mediated market economy of the old Roman world went away, and centuries passed before anything of the kind reappeared.

What replaced it is what always replaces the complex economic systems of fallen civilizations: a system that systematically chucks the intermediaries out of economic activity and replaces them with personal commitments set up to block any attempt to game the system: that is to say, feudalism.

There’s enough confusion around that last word these days that a concrete example is probably needed here. I’ll borrow a minor character from a favorite book of my childhood, therefore, and introduce you to Higg son of Snell.

His name could just as well be Michio, Chung-Wan, Devadatta, Hafiz, Diocles, Bel-Nasir-Apal, or Mentu-hetep, because the feudalisms that evolve in the wake of societal collapse are remarkably similar around the world and throughout time, but we’ll stick with Higg for now.

On the off chance that the name hasn’t clued you in, Higg is a peasant—a free peasant, he’ll tell you with some pride, and not a mere serf; his father died a little while back of what people call “elf-stroke” in his time and we’ve shortened to “stroke” in ours, and he’s come in the best of his two woolen tunics to the court of the local baron to take part in the ceremony at the heart of the feudal system.

It’s a verbal contract performed in the presence of witnesses: in this case, the baron, the village priest, a couple of elderly knights who serve the baron as advisers, and a gaggle of village elders who remember every detail of the local customary law with the verbal exactness common to learned people among the illiterate. Higg places his hands between the baron’s and repeats the traditional pledge of loyalty, coached as needed by the priest; the baron replies in equally formal words, and the two of them are bound for life in the relationship of liegeman to liege lord.

What this means in practice is anything but vague.

As the baron’s man, Higg has the lifelong right to dwell in his father’s house and make use of the garden and pigpen; to farm a certain specified portion of the village farmland; to pasture one milch cow and its calf, one ox, and twelve sheep on the village commons; to gather, on fourteen specified saint’s days, as much wood as he can carry on his back in a single trip from the forest north of the village, but only limbwood and fallen wood; to catch two dozen adult rabbits from the warren on the near side of the stream, being strictly forbidden to catch any from the warren on the far side of the millpond.

And, as a reward for a service his great-grandfather once performed for the baron’s great-grandfather during a boar hunt, to take anything that washes up on the weir across the stream between the first sound of the matin bell and the last of the vespers bell on the day of St. Ethelfrith each year.

In exchange for these benefits, Higg is bound to an equally specific set of duties.

He will labor in the baron’s fields, as well as his own and his neighbors, at seedtime and harvest; his son will help tend the baron’s cattle and sheep along with the rest of the village herd; he will give a tenth of his crop at harvest each year for the support of the village church; he will provide the baron with unpaid labor in the fields or on the great stone keep rising next to the old manorial hall for three weeks each year.

If the baron goes to war, whether he’s staging a raid on the next barony over or answering the summons of that half-mythical being, the king, in the distant town of London, Higg will put on a leather jerkin and an old iron helmet, take a stout knife and the billhook he normally uses to harvest wood on those fourteen saint’s days, and follow the baron in the field for up to forty days.

None of these benefits and duties are negotiable; all Higg’s paternal ancestors have held their land on these terms since time out of mind; each of his neighbors holds some equivalent set of feudal rights from the baron for some similar set of duties.

Higg has heard of markets. One is held annually every St. Audrey’s day at the king’s town of Norbury, twenty-seven miles away, but he’s never been there and may well never travel that far from home in his life. He also knows about money, and has even seen a silver penny once, but he will live out his entire life without ever buying or selling something for money, or engaging in any economic transaction governed by the law of supply and demand.

Not until centuries later, when the feudal economy begins to break down and intermediaries once again begin to insert themselves between producer and consumer, will that change—and that’s precisely the point, because feudal economics is what emerges in a society that has learned about the dangers of intermediation the hard way and sets out to build an economy where that doesn’t happen.

There are good reasons, in other words, why medieval European economic theory focused on the concept of the just price, which is not set by supply and demand, and why medieval European economic practice included a galaxy of carefully designed measures meant to prevent supply and demand from influencing prices, wages, or anything else.

There are equally good reasons why lending money at interest was considered a sufficiently heinous sin in the Middle Ages that Dante, in The Inferno, put lenders at the bottom of the seventh circle of hell, below mass murderers, heretics, and fallen angels.

The only sinners who go further down than lenders were the practitioners of fraud, in the eighth circle, and traitors, in the ninth: here again, this was a straightforward literary reflection of everyday reality in a society that depended on the sanctity of verbal contracts and the mutual personal obligations that structure feudal relationships.

(It’s probably necessary at this point to note that yes, I’m quite aware that European feudalism had its downsides—that it was rigidly caste-bound, brutally violent, and generally unjust. So is the system under which you live, dear reader, and it’s worth noting that the average medieval peasant worked fewer hours and had more days off than you do.

Medieval societies also valued stability or, as today’s economists like to call it, stagnation, rather than economic growth and technological progress; whether that’s a good thing or not probably ought to be left to be decided in the far future, when the long-term consequences of our system can be judged against the long-term consequences of Higg’s.)

A fully developed feudal system takes several centuries to emerge. The first stirrings of one, however, begin to take shape as soon as people in a declining civilization start to realize that the economic system under which they live is stacked against them, and benefits, at their expense, whatever class of parasitic intermediaries their society happens to have spawned. That’s when people begin looking for ways to meet their own economic needs outside the existing system, and certain things reliably follow.

The replacement of temporary economic transactions with enduring personal relationships is one of these; so is the primacy of farmland and other productive property to the economic system—this is why land and the like are still referred to legally as “real property,” as though all other forms of property are somehow unreal; in a feudal economy, that’s more or less the case.

A third consequence of the shift of economic activity away from the institutions and forms of a failing civilization has already been mentioned: the abandonment of money as an abstract intermediary in economic activity.

That’s a crucial element of the process, and it has even more crucial implications, but those are sweeping enough that the end of money will require a post of its own. We’ll discuss that next week.


Farm tuna won't fly

SUBHEAD: Here are some sources of alternate opinions on advocacy of raising farmed bluefin tuna.

By Juan Wilson on 6 November 2014 for Island Breath -

Image above: An aquapod designed by Ocean Farm Technologies being prepared for deployment. From (

Wild tuna are being fished into extinction by modern commercial fishing technology. The increasing demand for the fish is creating increasing competition between Japan, America and other Pacific nations.

It sure would be nice if Hawaii could grow large commercial fish like blue fin and yellow fin tuna in offshore farms? Some think so. The technical problems of raising large predators in densely populated cages are many. To name a few - food sources, waste management and healthcare are complicated and have not been solved in such a way as to be sustainable.

But advocates of tuna fish farming are moving forward in Hawaii. See the article at the bottom of this post that we got Lyn McNutt ( It certainly puts the best face on a business model (farmed seafood) that has proved in most cases to be damaging to the ocean ecosystem and and unhealthy to consumers.

Fish Farm Feed
In general, the feed for farmed fish fall into two categories. For non predators, like tilapia, much of the feed is made up of GMO corn. For carnivorous fish like tuna the feed are small fish that taken in large quantities from wild sea creatures like seabirds, seals and whales.

Fish Farm Fix
The solution is to treat the fish with antibiotics and other medications. The tuna also get supplements like sex hormones to help with procreation in captivity. These chemicals not only affect the farmed tuna but nearby wild fish.

Fish Farm Feces
Farmed fish live in cages. This containment creates a concentrated waste stream that is toxic to the fish that produce it. This impairs the fish and creates health problems. It also pollutes the ocean bottom creatures.
Here are some sources of alternate opinions on advocacy of raising farmed bluefin tuna:

Farm-raised bluefin tuna spawn controversy

Bluefin Tuna And The Trouble With Fish Farms

Farming The Bluefin Tuna Is Not Without A Price

Farm-Raised Tuna May Not Be the Answer to Overfishing


This does not mean that fish farming cannot be done correctly. has said:
We promote one brand of farm-raised Atlantic salmon, HiddenFjord premium salmon which is raised in the Faroe Islands (between Scotland and Iceland) and one brand of king salmon, Ora King Salmon which is raised in New Zealand.

But most "farmed" salmon can be dangerous to one's health. Just one meal a month can pose a high cancer risk.

For more see (

Here's the article about tuna fish farming are moving forward in Hawaii.

Sustainably farmed tuna to become reality

By Tim Siddons on 27 October 2014 for Fish Update 

According to the United Nations Food Agriculture Organisation, most of the world’s tuna stocks are over-exploited and on the verge of collapse.

Modern fishing methods used to catch tuna for canning increasingly catch juvenile yellow fin and big eye tuna before they have a chance to spawn, exacerbating the problem.

Poor and simply disregarded conservation management efforts and high levels of illegal, unregulated and pirate fishing have further decimated wild caught tuna populations.

Even the famed oceanographer, Sylvia Earl, no longer eats fish of any kind, stating that ‘We should think of fish primarily as wildlife, not food.’

Since 2006, Hawaii Oceanic Technology, Inc., has been on a mission to save tuna, or Ahi, as it is becoming known worldwide.

The company’s goal is to demonstrate that deep ocean mariculture can help meet the world’s voracious demand for tuna, in an environmentally responsible and sustainable manner.

After several years of compliance with an extensive array of regulatory requirements, the company is ready to fulfill its mission.

Bill Spencer, co-founder of the company, with the help of a handful of investors, is committed to finding a way to prevent the disappearance of tuna in our lifetime.

‘Farming rather than hunting for seafood is the solution’, Spencer believes. ‘Mankind can no longer ignore the need to domesticate seafood production, and the open ocean is the best place for this to happen.’

He is further committed to farming tuna in the most environmentally sustainable manner possible. Fish farming has evolved to the point where most of the problems have been addressed.

Recent evidence has shown that farming seafood in deep ocean settings results in lower food conversion ratios, faster growth, negligible environmental impact and no need for antibiotics because of reduced parasite loads and high water volumes.

Spencer is intent on proving these tenets of sustainable fish farming at his company’s 250 acre (11 million square foot) ocean lease site, the largest fully permitted mariculture site in the United States.

The depth at the site is almost 1,500 feet, assuring that no fish feed or other effluent from the farming activity will ever touch the ocean floor.

The massive volume of water within the ocean column combined with a gentle current assures that effluent will be quickly mineralised and serve as nutrient for organisms such as phytoplankton and zooplanktons that make up the lowest level of the ocean food chain.

The company is permitted to raise yellow fin and big eye tuna grown from eggs spawned in captivity and raised to fingerling size before being put in the company’s patented Oceansphere grow-out cages.

Research conducted by the company over the last five years has demonstrated that yellow fin tuna can readily be spawned in captivity and that a consistent supply of fingerlings is possible to achieve.

Eventually the company will grow its own tuna feed stock and formulate feed supplemented with omegas and protein from algae and other locally sourced nutrients.

Assuring sustainable feed for fish farming is the company’s highest priority. ‘The misinformation on the topic of food conversion in fish farming is so pervasive that the general public is seriously confused about how efficient egg-to-plate fish farming actually is,’ Spencer contends.

‘Farmers of Atlantic Salmon, the predominant ocean farmed species, have achieved a 1:1 food conversion ratio, that is one pound of feed for every pound of growth.

‘This is because fish raised in a hatchery from eggs are weaned on highly nutritious formulated feed and do not have to scavenge for their meals.’

The same principle will be applied to Spencer’s tuna, branded as King Ahi. The tuna will be weaned on and trained to consume a highly nutritious diet that will contain some fish from sustainable stocks, but a very low amount compared to what is fed to fattened Blue Fin tuna or even wild caught tuna.

Bill Spencer

‘In the wild, carnivorous species like tuna eat fish that have eaten fish all the way down the food chain, resulting in a massive food conversion ratio in terms of energy transfer’, Spencer explains.

‘This is also how mercury, PCBs and other toxins get concentrated into carnivorous species. The resulting food conversion ratio of a wild carnivorous fish can be as high as 100:1.

‘Even if one argues that it takes five pounds of baitfish for every one pound of farmed fish, it is still 20 times more efficient than in the wild.

‘To create a 10 lb mahi mahi in the wild it takes 1000 pounds of baitfish. To create a 10 lb. mahi mahi on a farm, it takes less than 50 lbs.

‘That comparison is still fairly conservative, as it does not include the by-catch involved in fishing or the higher efficiencies we see on modern fish farms.

'The implications should be clear, Spencer continues: ‘farming leaves far more baitfish remaining in the ocean ecosystem. Simply stated, farming seafood is the most efficient way to produce seafood protein.

‘Our ambition is to achieve a 1:1 food conversion ratio, which is even better than any land based protein production including chickens, pigs and cattle.’

Between Hawaii Oceanic Technology’s use of its highly efficient, high-tech Oceanspheres and operation in its 250 acre, 1,500 foot ocean column, the company is ready to prove that domesticating tuna farming is possible, practical and an imperative that must be embraced by the seafood industry.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Governor Wrong on Aquaculture 7/29/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Kauai Shrimp Waste Dump 3/19/10
Ea O Ka Aina: Shrimp Effluent Permit 3/12/10
Island Breath: Something Fishy 7/12/08
Island Breath: Kauai Shrimp to dump in ocean 8/21/06
Island Breath: Kauai's Crustacean Crisis 4/23/04 .


Japan's revenge on its people

SUBHEAD: The people don’t trust the government, and the government doesn’t trust the people.

By Raul Ilargi Meijer on 5 November 2014 for the Automatic Earth -

Image above: Detail of photo from typical Pachinko gambling arcade. Not unlike the one-armed-bandits of Las Vegas. From (

I know I’ve written a lot about Japan lately, and that for some it’s been enough for a while, but still, what happens today under the no longer rising sun is going to have such repercussions worldwide that it would be foolish not to pay attention. Moreover, there’s something about what Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said this morning that both perfectly and painfully illustrates to what depths, economically as well as morally, the country has sunk.
BOJ’s Kuroda Vows To Hit Price Goal, Stands Ready To Do More

Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda, who last week stunned global financial markets by expanding a massive monetary stimulus program, said the central bank is ready to do more to hit its 2% price goal and recharge a tottering economy. Kuroda stressed the BOJ is determined to do whatever it takes to hit the inflation target in two years and vanquish nearly two decades of grinding deflation.
“There’s no change to our policy of trying to achieve 2% inflation at the earliest date possible, with a roughly two-year time horizon in mind,” the central bank chief said in a speech at a seminar on Wednesday. “There are no limits to our policy tools, including purchases of Japanese government bonds .. “The BOJ shocked global financial markets last week by expanding its massive stimulus spending in a stark admission that economic growth and inflation have not picked up as much as expected after a sales tax hike in April.

Kuroda said while inflation expectations have been rising as a trend, the BOJ decided to ease to pre-empt risks that slumping oil prices will slow consumer inflation and delay progress in shaking off the public’s deflationary mind-set.
“In order to completely overcome the chronic disease of deflation, you need to take all your medicine. Half-baked medical treatment will only worsen the symptoms ..” While he stressed that Japan’s economy continued to recover moderately, Kuroda said falling commodity prices could be risks to the outlook if they reflected weakness in global growth.
The Japanese economy was hit hard in Q2, suffering its biggest slump since the global financial crisis after an April sales tax hike dented consumption, and is expected to rebound only moderately in the third quarter as the effects of the higher tax take time to wear off.

Kuroda stuck to his view that the pain from the tax hike will gradually subside, but warned that the BOJ must be mindful of how the higher levy could affect companies’ pricing power, particularly if household spending stagnates. On the yen’s plunge against the dollar after last week’s monetary expansion, Kuroda reiterated his view that overall, a weak yen was positive for Japan’s economy.
You would expect falling oil prices to provide the Japanese, like Americans, with some very welcome, even necessary, financial breathing room. But PM Abe and BoJ’s Kuroda will have none of it. And no matter how you look at it, there’s something at best curious about a central bank that decides to throw ‘free money’ at an economy BECAUSE it sees falling resource prices, which would supposedly make money available already.

What Kuroda in effect says is that he won’t allow the Japanese to profit from, or even feel the relief of, lower oil prices, because they can’t be trusted to spend it. The Japanese government and central bank have no confidence at all – anymore? – that people will spend the money which they save on gas, on something else. They expect for people to, exclusively, sit on those savings. And they’re probably right, which says plenty about how the Japanese people feel about their economy: there is no confidence left whatsoever, not in Abe, not in Kuroda.

Moreover, of course, many, the poorest, the indebted, simply won’t have any extra spending cash even if they do save a few yen on gas. For them, Kuroda’s policies are very damaging. Which further undermines their confidence, and makes more people sit on more money. This goes way beyond a central bank pushing on a string. This is the picture of the trust between a government and its people having been irrevocably broken. And Abenomics doesn’t repair that trust, it only damages it further.

The people don’t trust the government, and the government doesn’t trust the people. Neither thinks the other will deliver what it desires. And since it’s ultimately the government which hold the reins of power, it’s using those reins to throw the people under the bus.

Abe and Kuroda’s ‘logic’ is ‘if the people don’t do what I want them to do, why should I take them into account, or care about them’? The line of thinking is borderline psychopath.

Adding insult to injury, a beggar thy neighbor fall in the yen is supposed to be good for exports, even though that hardly pans out at all so far. It also, and more importantly, makes imported goods more expensive. In Abe and Kuroda’s twisted logic that should drive up prices, but in reality it means people buy even less than before, which accentuates deflation instead of ‘solving’ it. Who do you think Abe blames for this?

And the psychopaths are not done with their people. They not only control the monetary base through what is by now QE9 (not of which, just like in the US, reaches main street), they have also seized control of Japan’s pensions. The rationale is: we’re going to take their pensions and spend them in the casino disguised as the global stock markets, because that MIGHT give a better return that sovereign bonds, especially Japanese ones.

If there’s one thing that’s kept Japan more or less standing upright over the past 25 years, it’s that the vast majority of its wealth was invested domestically. No more. And you might argue this is Japan exporting its deflation across the globe, but at the very least that’s not what pension beneficiaries will experience. They will simply, when markets tumble, see their pensions vanish into thin air.
US Will Benefit Most From Japan’s Pension Fund Reform
U.S. assets will be the biggest benefactor of the Japanese Government Investment Pension Fund’s (GPIF) decision to more than double its target allocation of foreign stocks to 25%, analysts say. The changes to the $1.1 trillion pension fund coincided with the Bank of Japan’s shocking decision to ramp up stimulus on Friday, which sent global equity markets soaring.
“The shift for international equities going to 25% of pension fund holdings is fairly big news,” said Tobias Levkovich, chief equities strategist at Citigroup. “It establishes a new incremental buyer of shares and the U.S. should be a significant beneficiary,” he said. The overall contribution to non-Japanese stocks could approach $60 billion of new purchases, half of which could go to the U.S. by the end of 2015, said Levkovich, noting that stocks on Wall Street should start to feel the benefit this year.

“Foreign investors typically buy large cap stocks which have greater index impact,” he said. “Thus, one cannot ignore the possibility that stock prices jump above our year-end 2014 S&P 500 target on this news.” Other analysts agree. “It’s pretty realistic [that the U.S. will receive most of the benefit] if you look at where the Japanese feel comfortable investing their money,” Uwe Parpart, managing director and head of research at Reorient Financial Markets told CNBC.

“This is a pension fund making the investment they are not going to punt into small caps or anything of that sort, they need large, liquid stocks that over decades have had a reliable return,” he said. But Parpart is not convinced the inflows would make a huge difference to stock market performance. “$30 billion sounds like a lot of money, but stretched over a period of time it’s not going to move markets,” he said. “But obviously it’s a nice shot in the arm.”

Furthermore, an increase in the pension fund’s international bond allocation to 15% from 11% should boost demand for Treasurys, driving further inflows into the U.S., analysts at HSBC said in a note published Tuesday. Meanwhile, the GPIF will reduce its domestic bond allocation to 35% from 60%. “The BoJ’s increase in asset purchases should be more than enough to cover the aggressive reduction in Japanese Government Bond (JGB) holdings planned by the GPIF, allowing JGB yields to stay pinned down,” said Andre de Silva at HSBC.

“Ultra-low JGB yields imply that the relative valuations for other core rates ie. U.S. Treasuries and other bond substitutes have been further enhanced,” he said. “Demand for yield-grabbing would intensify amongst Japanese investors, boosting overseas investments.”

De Silva estimates that over $100 billion could be reallocated into foreign bonds as part of this trend and highlighted U.S. Treasurys as the most attractive for Japanese investors. France, Australia, India and Indonesia government bond markets are attractive alternatives, he said. Japan’s pension fund is under pressure from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to shift funds to riskier, higher yielding investments to help boost returns, at a time when his Abenomics agenda appears to be running out of steam.
So tell me, what do you think, is this still an attempt to fight – domestic – deflation, or has it become a revenge on the Japanese people for not doing what Abe ‘ordered’ them to do? Note that early this year, he said Abenomics would work if only the people believed it would.

In his view, they let him down. In their view, he’s an abject failure. He is. Unless the Japanese people get rid of Abe and Kuroda real fast, they’re going to cause a lot more destruction. We need to see this in the context of a society in which obedience is considered much more important than in the west.

In Abe and Kuroda’s eyes, the people fail, because they fail to obey their edict of increased spending. The people, too, have a hard time not obeying, but after 20 years of deflation, they find it too risky to go out and spend. That’s not just a deflationary ‘mindset’, as the powers that be would have you believe, it’s something much more real than that.

If the global markets start leaning on Japan, something that may happen any moment now because of its behemoth debt levels, the entire country could start going up in smoke. Abe has given signs of seeking to take the blame for his failures out on China, and the nationalist streak in the population may follow him to an extent, but it doesn’t look like there’s enough trust left.

In that regard, it’s undoubtedly for the better (though we don’t know who will succeed Abe). But it’s still a highly volatile situation that Japan finds itself in, with huge potential downside effects for the whole world because it’s such a large economy that’s failing here.


Japan's disfunctional nuke program

SUBHEAD: Some countries could view Japan as a country aiming to use the plutonium for military purposes.

By Toshio Kawada on 3 November 2014 for Asahi Shimbun -

Image above: Monju MOX fast breeder reactor in 2010. Note proximity to ocean, and retainment of hillside. Fukushima Daiichi #3 reactor was using MOX when it experienced nuclear chain reaction in 2011. From (

The main components of the government’s nuclear fuel recycling project have all been sidelined. But the program was already in a state of collapse even before the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster led to a shift in Japan’s energy policy.

After the meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, the Democratic Party of Japan-led government considered reviewing the recycling program. However, the current Liberal Democratic Party-led government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has clearly said in its basic energy plan that it will maintain the recycling program.

Abe is now stuck with a recycling project that shows no signs of functioning properly. Completion of a facility that will create mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel consisting of plutonium and uranium has been postponed.

Problems have continued at the Monju prototype fast-breeder reactor (pictured above) . And for the 21st time, work has been delayed on building a facility that will reprocess spent nuclear fuel.

The Abe government’s policies on nuclear power generation are based on the assumption that the recycling program will be maintained. If the government decides to scrap the rickety program, it could be forced to abolish nuclear power plants.

Image above: Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd.'s reprocessing plant in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, is seen in June 2012. From (

In 1998, Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. (JNFL), which was set up by major electric power companies and is currently constructing the spent nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, concluded a memorandum with the Aomori prefectural government and the Rokkasho village government.

Under the memorandum, if it becomes difficult to implement the reprocessing program, JNFL must remove the spent nuclear fuel that has accumulated at the still-incomplete reprocessing plant.

The logical places to transfer that spent nuclear fuel are the nuclear plants where the fuel was originally used. But spent fuel storage pools at these plants are already nearing capacity, and the plants could be forced to shut down to avoid creating additional nuclear waste.

Even if all nuclear power plants are abolished, Japan would still own more than 47 tons of plutonium.

If the plutonium stockpile cannot be reduced through the recycling program, Japan could find itself in violation of an international accord on the possession of surplus plutonium.

Some countries could view Japan as a country aiming to use the plutonium for military purposes.

A Japan-U.S. nuclear power agreement that allows Japan to reprocess spent nuclear fuel as an exceptional case is scheduled for review in 2018. The agreement is based on the assumption that plutonium removed through reprocessing would again be used in nuclear power generation. If the prospects for the use of plutonium remain unclear, the bilateral negotiations on the agreement could be affected.

The nuclear fuel recycling program’s construction and maintenance costs will continue to increase. Following the liberalization of retail sales of electricity in Japan, it is becoming clearer that the recycling program will bring only a higher financial burden on electric power companies.
The motive for continuing the recycling program has been lost.


2014 Election Hangover

SUBHEAD: Not all is lost. We can be thankful for Maui's passing its GMO Moratorium Initiative.

By Juan Wilson on 5 November 2014 for Island Breath -

Image above: A grocery store employee wipes down a soup bar with a display informing customers of organic, GMO-free oils, in Boulder, Colorado Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014. From

After the millions of dollars spent by Monsanto and DOW to snuff the GMO Moratorium Initiative on the Maui County ballot we can be cheered. But this national election has bitter taste and acrid stink to it.

As examples, the voters in Colorado and Oregon did not support their GMO labeling legislation. See  ( Republican peak energy and climate change deniers now control the US House and Senate. See (

In general America has finally made some real progress on legislation on gay rights and the  decriminalization of marijuana. But we really are in denial about the near future regarding to our  economy, energy, food security and environment.

The 2014 election could be compared with the 1980 election when Ronald Reagan led a wide reactionary victory. At the end of the Jimmy Carter presidency America was in deep denial about the energy crisis that had emerged in the 1970s and the stagflation that had become a symptom of an America passed its peak.

Reagan's slogan "It's morning in America" was a rejection of the initial steps to conserve energy and live within the means of the environment that was identifed with hippie and alternative social movements. Reagan's neoconservative agenda and has had lasting negative ramifications to this day. It's advocates like Rumsfeld, Bush, and Cheney have left still festering wounds.

The 2014 election's shift to the "right" is again a reactionary rejection symptomatic of self denial and self delusion. Our closest allies, the European Union and Japan are in the same boat. The ponzi schemes of paying off debt with more debt is over. Now the transfer of wealth from the bottom of the social pyramid is well under way.   

Kauai County Voting
To see a full accounting of the fourth count of votes on Kauai click on this link (

Kauai Mayor
Here on Kauai the mayoral election was not surprisingly won by the incumbent Bernard Carvalho with 14,688 votes. His challenger was Dustin Barca, a retired professional surfer and martial arts practitioner. He did better than many thought. He got more than half of Carvalho's numbers with 8,195 votes. Barca's most important qualification for the office was his rejection of GMOs on Kauai and in your diet.

Kauai Council
The top vote-getters were three who will strongly support GMO corporate interests. The top two who were incumbents, Mel Rapozo and Ross Kagawa, who already have a bill in motion to overturn the Bill 2491 that set down regulations on GMO company pesticide experimentation. Kaneshiro will follow that effort.

If you look at this list of seven council winners from highest to lowest vote-getters it looks a gradient from most conservative to most liberal. In the middle is Kipukai Kualii. He has stumbled politically in the past. As the swing vote on the council he has a great responsibility to tip the balance of power to the greater long term interest of Kauai.

Names of winning candidates Votes Percent
RAPOZO, Mel 13,147 7.8%
KAGAWA, Ross K. 12,387 7.4%
KANESHIRO, Arryl 11,971 7.1%
KUALII, KipuKai 9,985 5.9%
YUKIMURA, JoAnn 8,941 5.3%
CHOCK, Mason 8,730 5.2%
HOOSER, Gary 8,257 4.9%

I'm sorry incumbent Jay Furfaro lost his Chairmanship of the Council to Mel Rapozo. I did not always agree with Jay, but I he did a heroic job leading the council through the controversial 2492 testimony and voting. He calmed what may have turned into violence when it mattered.

I'm also sorry that incumbent Tim Bynum lost to someone like Ross Kagawa. Tim became a better councilman over time . He strongly supported 2491 and other environmental issues. Ross Kagawa often seems confused and uninformed.

It is too bad that Felicia Cowden did not get enough votes to displace establishment shill Arryl Kaneshiro. She would have been a breath of fresh air on the council. But Furfaro, Bynum and Cowden lost... and Kauai will be a different and nastier place because of it.

Names of losing candidates     Votes Percent
FURFARO, Jay   8,165 4.9%
BRUN, Arthur 8,120 4.8%
PERRY, Darryl 8,076 4.8%
COWDEN, Felicia      7,917 4.7%
BYNUM, Tim 7,602 4.5%
DeCOSTA, Billy 7,243 4.3%
LARANIO, Tiana  5,665 3.4%


Syngenta's problem with GMO corn

SUBHEAD: Syngenta facing legal blitz in several states over GMO MIR162 corn contaminating exports to China.

By Crey L. Biron on 27 October 2014 for Mint Press News -

Image above: syngenta Spanish language technical manual for Agrisure Viptera MIR162 GMO corn. From (

An unusual cluster of legal filings in recent weeks has capped a tumultuous year for the Swiss biotechnology giant Syngenta Corp., and highlights ongoing concerns over the inability of the United States to keep genetically modified crops separate from conventional crops.

This month, three class action proposals were filed on behalf of farmers in Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska, with the potential to include almost anyone who grew or sold corn commercially across the country over the past year. The moves came just weeks after similar lawsuits were filed by two of the country’s largest grain exporters, Cargill and Trans Coastal Supply.

All of these legal actions revolve around genetically modified corn hybrids that Syngenta began selling in 2009. While those products have been approved for general use in the U.S., they have not been approved in China, and there is no formal indication as to whether they will be.

The problem for U.S. corn farmers and exporters is that the current commodities system in this country makes it almost impossible to compartmentalize the country’s massive corn production. Instead, corn from different farmers, fields and states is all consolidated as a single product.

Last November, Chinese authorities found traces of Syngenta’s hybrid – known as MIR162, under the brand name Agrisure Viptera – in massive shipments from the U.S. So, they rejected the entire sale, and have taken similar actions since then.

It remains unclear why the Chinese government made this decision. The Beijing government has approved the cultivation of several genetically modified products, notably cotton, and has even given a preliminary nod to hybrid food staples such as rice. It also imports large amounts of genetically modified soybeans each year.

Yet analysts say there exists a distinct tension between the government’s clear desire for greater use of genetically modified agricultural crops and the public’s ongoing suspicion of these products. Last month, the Beijing government reportedly launched a public relations campaign to try to sway public opinion on the issue.

Whatever the reason for China’s refusal to green-light MIR162 products, U.S. farmers, grower associations and trade analysts say the recent rejections have hollowed out the lucrative U.S. corn trade with China. In turn, this has also depressed prices across this country.

“These class actions seek to represent nationwide and statewide classes of growers or exporters relating to the economic losses arising out of the Chinese rejection of U.S. corn as a result of Syngenta’s MIR162 presence in that corn,” Adam Levitt, a partner with Grant & Eisenhofer in Chicago and a lead attorney on the class action out of Illinois, told MintPress News.

“The complainants are asking for monetary damages and other relief for growers and others harmed as a result of what we allege is Syngenta’s improper conduct with respect to the marketing and sale of MIR162 corn seed.”

Billions in losses

MIR162 hybrids have been genetically modified to make corn seeds resistant to several pests. These seeds are currently planted on only around 3 percent of U.S. fields, according to the Illinois complaint, but their impact is being felt across the country.

Levitt’s client, Hadden Farms, says it buys only seeds that have not been genetically modified, but alleges that it has been harmed by this year’s devastated corn market – resulting, Hadden Farms says, from Syngenta’s release of its MIR162 products and the Chinese reaction.

Levitt, who is also the head of Grant & Eisenhofer’s Consumer Practice Group, says the cases are being transferred to a single court for pretrial arrangements, and he is hoping they will all go forward together following a hearing in early December.

While the monetary damages alleged to have been incurred by the plaintiffs have not yet been defined, estimates have been staggeringly high. According to analyses released by the National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA), by April of this year China’s decision had likely already resulted in $2.9 billion in losses across U.S. corn, distillers grains and soy sectors.

The association, which represents companies handling almost three-quarters of U.S. grains, further estimated that losses for the coming fiscal year could be far higher, reaching up to $3.4 billion. This is due to Syngenta’s controversial decision this summer to release a second generation of its MIR162 technology, known as Duracade.

“Following … widespread harm, Syngenta’s decision to release Duracade … again illustrates that Syngenta has acted in reckless disregard of the consequences of inflicting widespread harm to the U.S. corn market,” the Illinois complaint states.

The NGFA, which declined to comment for this story, citing the ongoing legal actions, is quick to note that it is a firm supporter of genetically modified organisms. Indeed, several of the plaintiffs in the new lawsuits are well known for their support of GMOs in industrial agriculture, with Cargill being a notable example. Yet this is also what makes the new cases unique and, for Syngenta, potentially troubling.

“The NGFA stressed that it strongly supports agricultural biotechnology and other scientific and technological innovations,” a release from the association stated when it released its analyses in April.

“However … the impacts of the trade disruptions resulting from the detection of unapproved Agrisure Viptera MIR 162 provides a ‘case study’ on the ramifications of commercializing crop biotechnology before securing import approvals from major U.S. export markets.”

For its part, Syngenta is adamant that it has fulfilled its responsibilities to regulators and farmers. It also appears to dispute the significance of the Chinese market for U.S. corn producers.

“Syngenta believes that the lawsuits are without merit and strongly upholds the right of growers to have access to approved new technologies that can increase both their productivity and their profitability,” a spokesperson for the company told MintPress in a statement.

“Syngenta commercialized the [MIR162] trait in full compliance with regulatory and legal requirements. Syngenta also obtained import approval from major corn importing countries. Syngenta has been fully transparent in commercializing the trait over the last four years.”

The spokesperson noted that since Agrisure Viptera’s approval in the U.S. in 2010, the product has demonstrated “major benefits” for farmers in preventing pest-related losses. Indeed, it is important to note that the new class actions have not been joined by major corn-grower groups.

“The plaintiffs to the lawsuit are individual farmers acting on their own behalf and are in no way representative of the position of state or national corn growers associations,” Jennifer Myers, of the National Corn Growers Association, told MintPress.

China’s significance
Yet the new complaints do not only accuse Syngenta of disregard for its products’ potential impact on the U.S. corn market. Instead, as Levitt, the attorney, notes, they also allege that the company has engaged in misrepresentation around the marketing of its MIR162 products.
“[A]lthough it knew that it lacked approval from Chinese authorities,” the Illinois complaint states, “Syngenta has misinformed farmers, grain elevators, grain exporters, and the general public into believing that regulatory approval of MIR162 corn from China was imminent and that the lack of Chinese approval would not impact the corn market prices.”

In part, these allegations revolve around a fact sheet that Syngenta offers on Agrisure Viptera. Critics say the document, addressed to farmers, plays down the importance of the Chinese market for U.S. corn.

Noting “the recent market noise regarding Chinese import acceptance of corn,” the fact sheet states that “The vast majority of corn produced in the U.S. is used domestically.” It also points to a “misconception that China imports more grain than it actually does from the U.S.”

Citing unreferenced figures from the analyst Informa Economics, Syngenta reports that over the past five years China has imported only around 0.5 percent of all U.S. corn.

“Given that traditional major markets are legally able to accept Agrisure Viptera grain, farmers can have confidence in planting this innovative technology for its potential to increase yield and grain quality,” the fact sheet continues. “Since very few U.S. grain outlets actually export to China, most have no reason to restrict your right to plant the latest technologies.”

Yet the complaint cites U.S. Department of Agriculture data that the U.S. exports up to a fifth of its corn production and that China has rapidly become the country’s third-largest market for this commodity. According to this analysis, Chinese imports were “on track to meet or exceed these numbers” this past fiscal year.

Still, the USDA does acknowledge that China has been a “significant source of uncertainty in world corn trade.” Neither the USDA nor the office of the U.S. Trade Representative agreed to comment for this story.

Contentious commingling
While the recent spike in legal action around Syngenta’s MIR162 products is notable, this is not the first time that GMO-related regulations in other countries have negatively impacted on U.S. agricultural exports. Last year, for instance, the European Union temporarily froze its approvals process for new genetically modified foods, and dozens of other countries have similarly moved to more tightly regulate their markets.
Meanwhile, airborne “contamination” of traditional crops by the pollen of genetically modified hybrids has been officially confirmed repeatedly in recent years. In a survey released earlier this year, a third of U.S. organic farmers reported having experienced problems in their fields due to the nearby use of genetically modified crops, and over half of those growers have had loads of grain rejected because of unwitting GMO contamination.

The USDA is currently studying whether genetically modified and traditional crops can “coexist.” But others say that conflicts such as the one around Syngenta will continue.

“The broader issue here is around biotech companies introducing products before governments and consumers have accepted them,” Ben Lilliston, the vice president of programs at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, a Minneapolis think tank, told MintPress.

“The current push for GMO labeling is related to this, too, as it’s concerned with products being pushed onto the market that haven’t adequately been through the regulatory structure that most people think is needed.”

Meanwhile, Cargill and other major grain groups, including Bunge and Archer Daniels Midland, currently refuse to accept any Agrisure Viptera corn. Lilliston says that the new legal actions, particularly by Cargill and Trans Coastal Supply, underscore a broader, though little-discussed, trend in the industry to move back toward non-GMO ingredients, particularly for food products.

“There is today fairly significant growth in the non-GMO market in the United States. Cargill and others recognize that and are trying to figure out how to set up the infrastructure needed to segregate traditional and genetically modified crops,” Lilliston said.

“More and more food companies are rebelling against GMOs because they don’t really get any benefit from using these ingredients. In a sense, they’ve been carrying water for the biotech companies for a long time, and this is now costing them a lot of money to fight the GMO-labeling campaigns. So you’re seeing a lot of fraying.”


Drought threat to food supply

SUBHEAD: NASA warns California dought could threaten food supply: “There will be some definite changes”.

By Mark Slavo on 4 November 29014 for -

Image above: The ongoing California drought is evident in these maps of dry season (September–November) total water storage anomalies (in mm equivalent water height; anomalies with respect to 2005–2010) in the western United States. . From (

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has sounded a stark warning over California’s sustained drought, publishing its latest findings where satellite surveys show a rapidly depleting groundwater supply.

And with California as the United States’ most valuable agricultural state, and thus key to America’s food supply (and much of the world’s as well) that could mean drastic consequences for food commodity prices and potential shortages.

The Nature Climate Change journal carried the report, which Think Progress summarized:
A new Nature Climate Change piece, “The global groundwater crisis,” by James Famiglietti, a leading hydrologist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, warns that “most of the major aquifers in the world’s arid and semi-arid zones, that is, in the dry parts of the world that rely most heavily on groundwater, are experiencing rapid rates of groundwater depletion.”
The groundwater at some of the world’s largest aquifers — in the U.S. High Plains, California’s Central Valley, China, India, and elsewhere — is being pumped out “at far greater rates than it can be naturally replenished.”
The most worrisome fact: “nearly all of these underlie the word’s great agricultural regions and are primarily responsible for their high productivity.”
NASA’s satellite map shows the loss of weight height just in the past three years:

According to NASA:
“California’s Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins have lost roughly 15 km3 of total water per year since 2011 — more water than all 38 million Californians use for domestic and municipal supplies annually — over half of which is due to groundwater pumping in the Central Valley.”
Yes, of course, California is a desert. So, that isn’t helping things. But it was reformed into a thriving economy by controversial and historically corrupt irrigation scheme, and is now vital to U.S. food security.

The result of these dangerous conditions is, not surprisingly, higher commodity prices – including food and water – creating higher profits for the companies that provide these services. Privatized water could drive prices even higher.

There are storm clouds gathering, so to speak, but they aren’t bringing rain.

In July, California’s state government economic report was already warning of losses in the billions for farmers feeling the weight of drought conditions, though it claimed the national food system would be little impacted.

However, time has made that claim ring hollow. In August, Bloomberg reported on the “global reverberations” occurring because of the drought in California:
“It’s a really big deal,” Sumner said. “Some crops simply grow better here than anyplace else, and our location gives us access to markets you don’t have elsewhere.”
The success of California agriculture was built in large part on advances in irrigation that allowed the state to expand beyond wheat, which flourishes in dry climates. It’s now the U.S.’s top dairy producer and grows half the country’s fruits, vegetables and nuts.
“Water has allowed us to grow more valuable crops,” Sumner said. “Now, we have fruits and vegetables and North Dakota grows our wheat. Without irrigation, we’d be North Dakota.”
“There will be some definite changes, probably structural changes, to the entire industry” as drought persists, said American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman. “Farmers have made changes. They’ve shifted. This is what farmers do.”
Locals in California are now reporting everything from reduced availability of produce, to higher prices in restaurants and reduced hours and activity at farmer’s markets and local stores.

Most farmers have cutback on what they are growing. In many cases, that means chopping down trees, orchards and not planting as many fields:
“I was just talking to a farmer today who grows olives and almonds. Expect prices of almonds to skyrocket because they’re cutting the trees down because they don’t have enough water to keep them alive,” said Helstrom.

California is by no means the only place facing life threatening shortages. There are similarly alarming trends having all across the globe, particularly in arid and semi-arid places.

Texas ranchers and farmers have been dealing with returning dust bowl conditions in the panhandle and surrounding regions, with very difficult drought conditions and conflicting urban competition for water which strain supply.

Elsewhere, too. The 20 million people in Brazil’s Sao Paulo are facing a stark 5 percent reserves in their municipal water reservoir, with Brazil’s Public Ministry recently acknowledging that the Sao Paulo water supply might last only another 100 days.

Image above: This map of South American rainfall in the summer of 2014 shows the Amazon Basin is in drought. Particularly hit hard is Brazil. The legend is in percentage of what would be normal. 

The information is from NOAA's Climate Prediction Center based on preliminary data. From (

Further shortages in rain could easily be the makings of a disaster that could deprive its residents of the basic necessities of life, particularly the swelling poor populations. Already, rationing has crept in, and water used for cooking, bathing and cleaning has been restricted.
“Suffering from its worst drought in over 84 years, the city of Sao Paulo is in the midst of a crisis. For as of this weekend the city’s primary reservoir — the Cantareira — had dropped to just 5 percent capacity putting millions at risk of losing access to water.”
“The fall prompted the city’s governor — Geraldo Alckmin — to again ask for permission to draw emergency water supplies from below flood gates to alleviate catastrophic losses from the Cantareira and ensure water supplies to the region’s 20 million residents. The move would tap a river system that feeds two other states also facing water shortages — Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais. But the draw is only a temporary stop gap and, without rain, the Cantareira will continue to fall — bottoming out sometime this November.”
Large swaths of the immense Amazon region are enduring drought, while various hotspots across South America are also drastically below average precipitation levels.

NASA has also tracked serious aquifer depletion in “the North China Plain, Australia’s Canning Basin, the Northwest Sahara Aquifer System, the Guarani Aquifer in South America … and the aquifers beneath northwestern India and the Middle East,” as Think Progress notes. Parts of Northern China are also seeing their worst drought in 60 years.

That’s pretty harsh news, and the long term impact could be pretty serious, and just one more reason to prepare a reserve food supply and prepare a plan to  deal with anything that may come.
There have been many other warning signs about the food supply and commodities markets – not the least of which include the billions in losses that corn farmers are facing due to market rejection in China and other countries as a result of GMO contamination.