Hawaii Universal Healthcare plan?

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hawaii Dairy Farm permits revoked

SOURCE: Ken Taylor (littlewheel808@gmail.com)
SUBHEAD: Judge Randall Valenciano revokes all HDF permits and approvals for big dairy farm  in Mahaulepu.

By Bridget Hammerquist on 25 March 201 for Friends of Mahaulepu
(http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2017/03/hawaii-dairy-farm-permits-revoked.html)


Image above: Big Island Dairy in Ookala, Hawaii, has had trouble with brown manure smelling water in the village about a mile below site. From (http://hdoa.hawaii.gov/blog/main/bidairyopenhouse/).

It was not a good week for Hawaii Dairy Farms. On Monday, March 20, 2017, the Department of Health released its list of State water bodies that are identified as impaired pursuant to Federal Mandate.

Because of chronic high bacteria and turbidity, the State has included the Waiopili Stream on the 303 (D) impaired list.  As such, greater precautions must be taken to protect the Waiopili and avoid further contamination by additional pollutants.

On Tuesday afternoon, 3/21/2017, Judge Randall Valenciano, Presiding Judge of the State Environmental Law Court, granted the Motion for Summary Judgement filed by Kawailoa LLC, the owners of the Grand Hyatt Spa and Resort.

Judge Valenciano stated that his ruling was based on Hawaii Dairy Farms failure to comply with State Law and complete and Environmental Impact Assessment prior to seeking permits or approvals from Government agencies.

He cited to a number of Supreme Court decisions when he ruled that Hawaii Revised Statute Section 343 required HDF to obtain the information at the earliest possible date so that Officials could be properly informed before there were any approvals or permits issued.

The Judge explained that to provide Officials with information after the fact was nothing less than an after the fact rationalization for a decision made absent compliant with the Law.



In a recent letter to the editor, FOM presented strong evidence of why HDF's industrial dairy would cause irreparable harm and serious risks to our water quality if allowed to operate at Maha`ulepu.

Brown water plume indicator of trouble

By Bridget Hammerquist on 18 March 2017 in Garden Island News
(http://thegardenisland.com/news/opinion/guest/brown-water-plume-indicator-of-trouble/article_060e1f62-7276-5945-a775-0759b7ec0741.html)


Recent high fecal bacteria results detected by DOH at 12 locations, beginning at the top of HDF’s site, down to the ocean, confirm that adding cows and untreated manure cannot be good. As reported by TGI, an extensive ditch network drains HDF’s site to the ocean via the Waiopili.


Why were these test results so significant, because after millions of gallons of rainfall the dilution did not take care of the pollution? The greatest pollution was found in the center of the HDF property. There is little question about the severity of this pollution.

In July of 2016, the EPA told the Department of Health that warning signs “must” be posted because of significant health risks.

In comments to TGI, HDF suggests that community resources would be better spent to determine the cause of the pollution than objecting to HDF. The community does not have access to the dairy site and its resources do not compare to HDF billionaire owner, Pierre Omidyar.

Rather, why isn’t billionaire owner of Grove Farm, Steve Case and lessee, Omidyar and HDF, using their resources to determine the cause of the extreme pollution on their property?

HDF’s position that its dairy would improve water quality boggles the mind. How could a large animal operation, with untreated waste left where if falls or sprayed onto pastures from their effluent holding ponds, improve the quality of water?

Many observed and photographed the brown plume running from the Waiopili, traveling with the current to Shipwreck, Brenneke and onto Poipu Beach. View photos at friendsofmahaulepu.org. Imagine if that plume had been carrying bacteria from millions of pounds of wet manure.

Initially, HDF reported that their cows would weigh 1,210 pounds and produce 143 pouds of wet manure daily. In a recent “Update” to DOH, HDF revised each cow’s expected weight to 1,200 pounds and waste to 90 pounds daily.

HDF’s starting herd of 699 would produce 1.9 million pounds of wet manure monthly. If they expand the herd to 2,000, the waste would triple. HDF feels the public should look at their industrial dairy as beneficial. Really?

Is HDF’s dismay at public reaction real or feigned? Several recent letters to the editor reveal a clear objection to HDF’s industrial dairy, location. Nothing could have underscored this better than the recent winter storm.

According to NOAA, Mahaulepu weather station registered 4.85 inches, March 1-2. The USGS rainfall calculator shows this added at least 75,600,000 gallons of water to the Valley floor (75 times the capacity of HDF’s effluent ponds).

In speaking with their hydrologist, NOAA confirmed that the 75-plus million gallons did not include considerable runoff from the adjacent Haupu Ridge, which HDF admits drains onto their site (FEIS Vol. 2, pdf page 273-278).

HDF proposes an earthen containment berm with vegetation. What will that create? A pool of manure and urine on top of our aquifer? What doesn’t leach into the ground water will drain into the ocean as the recent storm clearly showed.

If HDF’s FEIS proved the safety of its operation, why was it withdrawn? FOM’s data confirms: It is unsafe and a critical risk to our drinking water and the ocean to add animal manure to this valley. The natural drainage of the valley, its springs, streams and high water table make containment of dairy waste impossible.



Note the following coverage
Tonight at 9:00 and 10:00 PM, Hawaii News Now, KGMB and KHNL, will report on the Big Island residents of O`okala now suffering from the very health and environmental risks predicted by FOM's scientific testing and research. Attached to this email is a two page compilation of the DOH inspection findings after multiple visits to O`okala between June 30, 2014 and December 2016.

Despite all the findings outlined in the attached, DOH has taken no action against the Big Island industrial dairy in O`okala, and instead, concluded that there was "no definitive evidence" that the Big Island Dairy was responsible for the brown manure smelling water in the village about a mile below.

Bridget Hammerquist, President
Friends of Maha’ulepu
P.O. Box: 1654
Koloa, HI 96756
friendsofmahaulepu.org
(808)742-1037
 

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Park City, Utah, is damned!

SUBHEAD: Park City cannot have a thriving world class tourist economy AND a livable planet.

By Will Falk on 24 March 207 for San Diego Free Press -
(http://sandiegofreepress.org/2017/03/park-city-damned-case-study-civilization/)


Image above: The ski slopes of Park City, Utah, is a favorite of tourists.  From original article.

[IB Publisher's note: Needless to say, this article pertains to here in Hawaii as it does to Utah. You cannot have a livable planet Earth and depend on jetting people from afar to enjoy your climate.] 

[Author's Note to My Readers: It has not been easy to write this essay and I am scared to see my name displayed publicly next to what follows. I am sure these ideas will win me few friends in Park City and the broader ski community. Nevertheless, what follows is the truth as it has been shown to me. My allegiance belongs, first and foremost, to life, to the land, to both the human and non-human victims of the insanity of the dominant system. I love to ski. I love to walk the aspen groves in the Wasatch Mountains above Park City. I love seeing moose cross Park Avenue almost weekly. In short, I love living here. But my desire to live here should not trump the land’s ability to survive.]

At the south end of Brown’s Canyon, about 6 miles northeast of Park City, Utah, there’s always an engine running. Usually, there are more than I can count.

If it’s not commuting car engines coughing to life in cold, winter air, it’s snowblowers blasting snow from driveways. If it’s not cars or snowblowers, its excavators flattening the next hill over, clawing out one bucketful of earth at a time. If it’s none of these, it’s diesel generators compressing air for nail guns popping boards together.

Standing on my small deck, sipping my morning coffee, I try to focus on the winds’ words. The winds speak a harsh tongue, full of curses. They are busy rattling aluminum drains on the roof’s edge, dragging loose gravel across a construction road, and navigating concrete right angles forming condominium building walls.

To the east, a red-tailed hawk is pinned against the wind above a snow-muddied expanse littered with cinder blocks, discarded hand tools, and a brown skid-steer ran off its rubber track. The sight of the crippled skid-steer brings half a wry smile to my face: a small if only momentary delay in the destruction.

Just a few months ago, this expanse was a ridge line washed in the bright turquoise light of morning sunshine seeping through sagebrush. There were a few healthy stands of pinyon pine and juniper trees. You’d see their branches jostle, first. Then, mule deer or elk would step into sunlight, grazing with blind confidence in the immortality of their basin home.

The hawk seeks the valley on the far side of the destruction where she might spot a mouse or vole. I often seek that valley, too. I love visiting late at night when rabbits with white winter coats wait for clouds to cross the moon so they may risk sprints across open spaces to the safety of shadows under gnarled rabbitbrush roots.

The sigh of a dump truck’s exhaust and the squeal of its brakes brings me back to the present. The engines resume each morning. This is daily life in Park City, a town expanding at a dizzying pace.
Eight new condo buildings have been built in my neighborhood in the last eighteen months. 

Just a few weeks ago, a large commercial and housing project proposal – part of the Promontory Development – was publicly unveiled. The proposal would destroy 666 acres with 190,000 square feet of commercial space, 350 hotel rooms, and 1,020 residential units. The proposal also includes plans to build yet another dam for yet another reservoir.

Over in Old Town, a group called the “Treasure Partnership” intends to force the Park City Planning Commission to vote on a project that would cut 1 million square feet out of the foothills above Park City to allow another 2000 people to stay in town. 

The project would involve parking space larger than a Super Wal-Mart, towers as much as 10 stories high, and the travel of 300 heavy trucks in and out of downtown Park City each day.

Park City is a damned town. Voices on the wind blowing in from the canyons whisper that this has always been true. Hollows groan with miners crushed in shafts long since collapsed, aspens still quake with memories of dynamite, and streams spit with tastes of mining waste. 

Mountains say nothing. They simply rise to the sky displaying their wounds. With shoulders flayed by roads and ski runs, their scars are reopened whenever forests threaten encroachment on skiers’ paths. First, these mountains had their guts ripped out by silver miners. Then, they had their skin peeled off by resorts. And, now they’re baking with climate change. 

What is happening to Park City is what is happening to the planet and what is happening is civilization. Derrick Jensen’s definition for civilization is best because it is defensible both linguistically and historically while accounting for physical reality. 

Jensen explains in his work, Endgame, the root word in “civilization” is “civil.” “Civil” derives from “civis” which comes from the Latin “civitatis” meaning “city-state.” 

From there, Jensen defines civilization as a “culture – that is a complex of stories, institutions, and artifacts – that both leads to and emerges from the growth of cities, with cities being defined – so as to distinguish them from camps, villages, and so on – as people living more or less permanently in one place in densities high enough to require the routine importation of food and other necessities of life.”

When people live in populations that exceed the carrying capacity of their land base, they strip their land of the necessities of life and must look to other lands for what they need. 

Many scholars date the beginning of civilization with the birth of agriculture close to 12,000 years ago. Despite agriculture’s favorable connotations in most circles, Lierre Keith describes what agriculture actually is: 
“In very brute terms, you take a piece of land, you clear every living thing off it, and then you plant it to human use. Instead of sharing that land with the other million creatures who need to live there, you’re only growing humans on it. It’s biotic cleansing.”
With its roots in agriculture, civilization has been destroying the planet from its beginning. Over thousands of years, civilized humans – with their native lands destroyed – sought out new lands to exploit. Park City was born from this process. 

The first European settlers to come to Park City en masse braved the harsh mountain environment for the silver that was discovered here.

When silver prices dropped, the mountains sighed with relief as mining significantly slowed. Park City’s human community would have deserted the area if the few remaining miners hadn’t come up with the idea to open the Treasure Mountain ski resort in 1963. 

 Park City miners traded one boom-or-bust industry for another.

Park City has no future. Either the snow or the industrial system allowing Park City’s human population to live here will fail. 

Park City’s human community relies on snow for its survival. First, snow is water. Park City sits on the eastern edge of the Great Basin with a permanent human population of about 8,000.  

The operation of the tourism industry means there are more than 8,000 humans in Park City at any given time – especially during the peak winter season.

These humans require water and the Great Basin is a desert. Snowpack is the area’s water source and serves as a natural reservoir collecting snow in winter and slowly releasing it to streams, soil, and plants as temperatures warm in spring and summer. 

Snow doesn’t just provide life-giving water, it gives tourists a reason to visit – and to spend money. 

While there are more humans in the area than the land can support the necessities of life must be imported. Importing these necessities costs money and the resort industry provides this money.

The snow that falls every winter on Park City is critically endangered by climate change. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) notes that Utah has warmed by two degrees (F) over the last century causing snowpack in Utah to be steadily decreasing since the 1950s. 

A 2009 report commissioned by Park City Municipal Corporation and The Park City Foundation predicts another two degrees average temperature rise in Park City by 2030, four degrees by 2050, and almost seven degrees by 2075. 

Porter Fox, author of Deep: The Story of Skiing and The Future of  Snow cites studies that show this seven degrees (F) warming will leave Park City with no snow by 2100.

 Physically speaking, climate change is caused by global greenhouse gas emissions. Greenhouse gasses trap the sun’s heat on the Earth’s surface causing the planet to warm. These greenhouse gasses include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, chlorofluorocarbons, and water vapor.

 Greenhouse gas emissions are integral to the basic functioning of civilized life. Carbon dioxide is released through deforestation, biomass burning, conversion of land to agriculture, and the burning of fossil fuels. 

Methane is produced by waste decomposition, agriculture (especially rice production), and by the digestive systems of domestic livestock.

 Nitrous oxide is produced through soil cultivation practices including the use of both organic and commercial fertilizers, nitric acid production, fossil fuel combustion, and biomass burning. 

Chlorofluorocarbons are inorganic, synthetic compounds entirely produced by industrial activities. Chlorofluorocarbons not only act as greenhouse gasses, they weaken the Earth’s ozone layer.
The EPA regularly publishes reports on total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by economic sector. 

Their latest report, based on emissions in 2014, attributes 30% of American greenhouse gas emissions to electricity generation, 26% to transportation which includes burning fossil fuel for trucks, ships, planes, trains, and personal automobiles, 21% to industry burning fossil fuel for energy and from chemical reactions involved in manufacturing, 12% to commercial and residential processes like burning fossil fuels for heat and the handling of waste, and, finally, 9% from agriculture including soil maintenance, fertilizer use, and livestock production. The EPA does not account for the other 2%.

If we look at the EPA’s numbers critically, we see that the vast majority of greenhouse gas emissions result from the same economic sectors supporting humans in Park City – electricity generation, transportation, manufacturing, and agriculture. 

If these sectors keep operating, the snow will fail. If the snow fails, Park City fails. For the snow to survive, these sectors must fail. If these sectors fail, Park City is left without the necessities of life. There’s no way out. 

Let’s take a closer look: Humans could not survive snowy and cold Park City winters at 7,000 feet above sea level without shelter and warmth.These shelters require wood. Harvesting wood requires deforestation and deforestation emits greenhouse gasses. The wood must be brought here. 
Transporting this wood requires ships, planes, and trucks. Ships, planes, and trucks burn fossil fuels. They also are manufactured. The manufacturing process requires a whole different list of building materials with their own associated extraction and transportation emissions.

Park City’s shelters must be heated, too. Most of these shelters are heated by electricity. 

In the United States, electricity generation emits the most greenhouse gasses. And again, the electricity must be transported. 

Electrical transportation requires the operation and maintenance of a power grid which, like we saw with ships, planes, and trucks, requires manufacturing processes with their own building materials, extraction, and transportation emissions.

The land surrounding Park City does not offer enough food to support 8,000 human residents plus thousands of visitors. Food, like building materials and energy, must be imported. Park City relies on the same greenhouse gas emitting transportation infrastructure that brings building materials to bring food. This food is produced through agriculture and industrial livestock. 

Agriculture requires deforestation and other land clearances that emit carbon dioxide and methane. It also requires soil cultivation and fertilization which emit nitrous oxide. And, the cows and sheep raised in industrial livestock operations emit significant amounts of methane.
 
Meanwhile, the general consensus amongst climate scientists is that developed nations must reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2050 to avoid runaway climate change.  

Based on the EPA’s numbers, even if every small-business and home in America reduced its emissions to zero (12% of total US emissions) and each American drove cars that emitted no greenhouse gas (much less than 26% of total US emissions), the United States wouldn’t even come close to the 80% goal.

It’s at this point that most commentators invoke so-called alternative energies as the solution to climate change. These people insist that we can maintain our lifestyles if we just switch to solar or build enough wind farms. 

In Park City, these people tell us that we can have a thriving tourist economy with visitors transported from all over the world AND a livable planet. 

We can do this, they claim if we just switch city buses to electric and install solar panels on city buildings. Unfortunately, these “green technologies” are neither green nor solutions.
I’ll start with the most popular: Solar power.

While it is true that the sun offers near-infinite energy, the problem is harnessing that energy. Harnessing this energy requires solar cells and solar cell production emits greenhouse gasses that are worse than carbon dioxide. 

Alternative energy scholar Ozzie Zehner explains that the solar cell manufacturing process is one of the largest emitters of hexafluoroethane, nitrogen trifluoride, and sulfur hexafluoride. 

Zehner writes,
“As a greenhouse gas hexafluoroethane is twelve thousand times more potent than carbon dioxide … nitrogen trifluoride is seventeen thousand times more virulent than carbon dioxide, and sulfur hexafluoride, the most treacherous greenhouse gas…is twenty-five thousand times more threatening (than carbon dioxide).”  
The Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition points out that as the solar industry expands, “The most widely used solar photovoltaic panels have the potential to create a huge new wave of electronic waste at the end of their useful lives, which is estimated to be 20 to 25 years.” 

And, many new solar photovoltaic technologies “use extremely toxic materials or materials with unknown health and environmental risks…”

Right now, the solar power industry is tiny. Zehner notes it supplies less than a hundredth of 1 percent of America’s electricity. As this industry grows, solar cell production will emit more of the most dangerous greenhouse gasses and create more toxic waste. 

Zehner says it best: “Considering the extreme risks and limitations of today’s solar technologies, the notion that they could create any sort of challenge to the fossil-fuel establishment starts to appear not merely optimistic, but delusional.”

Wind power is another alternative energy darling. Like the energy offered by the sun, wind is a renewable, abundant energy. Turbines used to harvest wind energy, however, require the entire fossil fuel infrastructure to manufacture them. 

When considering the ability of wind turbines to replace greenhouse gas emissions, we must account for mining, manufacturing, transporting, constructing, land-clearances, maintaining, decommissioning, and waste supporting wind turbines. 

To harvest wind turbines must be placed where wind blows. The best places for wind turbines are often in remote and fragile natural communities. To build wind farms, land must be cleared. This involves deforestation. To transport energy harnessed by turbines from wind farms requires roads, power lines, and transformers. The greenhouse gasses emitted by deforestation, alone, may cancel benefits wind farms provide. 

Zehner makes a very interesting case against wind power – and all alternative energies for that matter – while examining the popularly recited possibility that the US could attain 20% wind energy by 2030. 

He says this achievement might not remove a single fossil-fuel plant from the grid and explains, “There is a common misconception that building additional alternative-energy capacity will displace fossil-fuel use; however…producing more energy simply increases supply, lowers cost, and stimulates additional energy consumption.” 

To support his claim, Zehner cites analysts who argue that wind turbines in Europe “have not reduced the region’s carbon footprint by a single gram.” 

The classic example is Spain “which prided itself on being a solar and wind power leader over the last two decades only to see its greenhouse gas emission rise 40% over the same period.”

So, alternative energies aren’t really alternative energies, they’re additional energies.

I could go on with the other alternative energies, but they share the same problems. 

Namely, manufacturing, transportation, installation, maintenance, and decommissioning of the means for harvesting a renewable energy emit green house gases and involve their own deadly pollutions.
At day’s end, even if these so-called “green” technologies were employed, they would only add to this culture’s capacity to consume.

Local scientist, Dr. Tim Garrett, Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Utah studies the amount of energy required to sustain civilization.  

Garrett concludes that civilization must collapse if the planet is to have any chance of survival. Garrett states the obvious. Civilizations always collapse. They must because they are based on hyper-exploitation of the land.  

Park City is a microcosm for the problems facing the planet. It is a product of civilization. Like civilization, Park City has no future.

With a human population exceeding the land’s carrying capacity, Park City is wholly dependent on the industrial system to bring the necessities of life. To access this system, Park City relies on a constant flow of money brought by tourists who come for the snow. 

Sadly, the very process that brings the tourists and their money – the industrial system – is the process emitting greenhouse gases that are warming the world, destroying the snow, and destroying the planet. There are no alternatives within this system. It must be dismantled.

Back on my deck with my coffee, I watch the lifts carrying people up Park City Mountain Resort. I contemplate what I should do today. Should I sit down to write what I know is true? Or, should I head up those lifts to ski? 

The decision isn’t too different than the decision facing the whole community.
Park City has a choice. 

We can face the truth that our town has no future and work to remove humans, humanely as possible, from the area. 

Or, we can try to keep this insane party going for a little longer as we put on our ski goggles to blur reality, shed our jackets with the warming climate, and take one last suicidal run on disappearing snow.

• Will Falk moved to the West Coast from Milwaukee, WI where he was a public defender. His first passion is poetry and his work is an effort to record the way the land is speaking. He feels the largest and most pressing issue confronting us today is the destruction of natural communities. He received a Society of Professional Journalists, San Diego Chapter, 2016 Journalism award. He is currently living in Utah.

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The Deep State authority crumbles

SUBHEAD: The Deep State is fracturing because its narratives no longer align with the evidence.

By Charles Hugh Smith on 24 March 2017 for Of Two Minds -
(http://www.oftwominds.com/blogmar17/DS-dominance3-17.html)


Image above: Cartoon by Ben Garrison of NSA mugging Uncle Sam in front of wall of Deep State. From (https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/de/c5/87/dec587caa4556d5a2c43de0cced13f4f.jpg).

As data from Google Trends illustrates, interest in the Deep State has increased by a hundred fold in 2017. The term/topic has clearly moved from the specialist realm to the mainstream. I've been writing about the Deep State, and specifically, the fractures in the Deep State, for years.

Amusingly, now that "Progressives" have prostituted themselves to the Security Agencies and the Neocons/Neoliberals, they are busy denying the Deep State exists. For example, There is No Deep State (The New Yorker).

In this risible view, there is no Deep State "conspiracy" (the media's favorite term of dismissal/ridicule), just a bunch of "good German" bureaucrats industriously doing the Empire's essential work of undermining democracies that happen not to prostrate themselves at the feet of the Empire, murdering various civilians via drone strikes, surveilling the U.S. populace, planting bugs in new iPhones, issuing fake news while denouncing anything that questions the dominant narratives as "fake news," arranging sweetheart deals with dictators and corporations, and so on.

The New Yorker is right about one thing--the Deep State is not a "conspiracy:" it is a vast machine of control that is largely impervious to the views or demands of elected representatives or the American people.

The key to understanding this social-political-economic control is to grasp that control of the narratives, expertise and authority is control of everything. Allow me to illustrate how this works.

The typical politician has a busy daily schedule of speaking at the National Motherhood and Apple Pie Day celebration, listening to the "concerns" of important corporate constituents, attending a lunch campaign fundraiser, meeting with lobbyists and party committees, being briefed by senior staff, and so on.

Senior administrators share similarly crowded schedules, minus the fundraising but adding budget meetings, reviewing employee complaints and multiple meetings with senior managers and working groups.

Both senior elected officials and senior state administrators must rely on narratives, expertise and authority because they have insufficient time and experience to do original research and assessment.

Narratives create an instant context that "makes sense" of various data points and events. Narratives distill causal factors into an explanatory story with an implicit teleology--because of this and that, the future will be thus and so.

For example: because Iraq has weapons of mass destruction (WMD), the future promises the terrible likelihood (more than a possibility, given Iraqi deployment of poison gas in the Iraq-Iran War) that America or its allies will be devastated by Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

This teleology leads to the inescapable need to eliminate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction by any means necessary, and remove the political will to use them by removing Iraq's leader from power.

Politicos and senior administrators rely on expertise and authority as the basis of deciding whether something is accurate and actionable. Professional specialists are assumed to have the highest available levels of expertise, and their position in institutions that embody the highest authority give their conclusions the additional weight of being authoritative. The experts' conclusion doesn't just carry the weight of expertise, it has been reviewed by senior officials of the institution, and so it also carries the weight of institutional authority.

So when the C.I.A. briefing by its experts claims Iraq has WMD, and the briefing includes various threads of evidence that the institution declares definitive, who is a non-expert to challenge this conclusion and teleology? On what technical basis does the skeptic reject the expertise and authority of the institution?

We can now define the Deep State with some precision. The Deep State is fundamentally the public-private centralized nodes that collect, archive and curate dominant narratives and their supporting evidence, and disseminate these narratives (and their implicit teleologies) to the public via the media and to the state agencies via formal and informal inter-departmental communication channels.

By gaining control of the narratives, evidence, curation and teleology, each node concentrates power. the power to edit out whatever bits contradict the dominant narrative is the source of power, for once the contradictory evidence is buried or expunged, it ceases to exist.

For example, the contradictory evidence in the Pentagon Papers was buried by being declared Top Secret. The bureaucratic means to bury skeptical (i.e. heretical) views or evidence are many. Sending the authors to figurative Siberia is remarkably effective, as is burying the heretical claims in a veritable mountain of data that few if any will ever survey.

Curation is a critical factor in maintaining control of the narrative and thus of control; the evidence is constantly curated to best support the chosen narrative which in turn supports the desired teleology, which then sets the agenda and the end-game.

The senior apparatchiks of the old Soviet Union were masters of curation; when a Soviet leader fell from favor, he was literally excised from the picture--his image was erased from photos.

This is how narratives are adjusted to better fit the evidence. Thus the accusation that "the Russians hacked our election" has been tabled because it simply doesn't align with any plausible evidence. That narrative has been replaced with variants, such as "the Russians hacked the Democratic National Committee." Now that this claim has also been shown to be false, new variants are popping up weekly, with equally poor alignment with evidence.

The primary claim of each Deep State node is that its expertise and authority cannot be questioned. In other words, while the dominant narrative can be questioned (but only cursorily, of course), the expertise and authority of the institutional node cannot be questioned.

This is why the Deep State is fracturing: the expertise and authority of its nodes are delaminating because its narratives no longer align with the evidence.

If various Security Agencies sign off on the narrative that "Russia hacked our election" (a nonsense claim from the start, given the absurd imprecision of the "hacking"--hacking into what? Voting machines? Electoral tallies?), and that narrative is evidence-free and fact-free, i.e. false, then the expertise and authority of those agencies comes into legitimate question.

Once the legitimacy of the expertise and authority is questioned, control of the narrative is imperiled. The control of the narrative is control of the teleology, the agenda and the end-game--in other words, everything. If the institution loses control of the dominant narrative, it loses its hold on power.

This is why the Deep State is in turmoil--its narratives no longer make sense, or are in direct conflict with other nodes' narratives or have been delegitimized by widening gaps between "definitive" claims and actual evidence.

There is indeed a Deep State, but its control of dominant narratives, and thus its source of control and power, is crumbling. The gap between the narratives and the evidence that supports them has widened to the point of collapse.


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The future will be battery powered

SUBHEAD: New battery technologies are pushing ahead, quietly and without much fanfare. 

ByAmeria Urray on 21 March 2017 for Grist Magazine -
(http://grist.org/climate-energy/the-future-will-be-battery-powered/)


Image above: Illustration of a common 1.5volt appliance battery. From original article.

The battery might be the least sexy piece of technology ever invented. The lack of glamour is especially conspicuous on the lower floors of MIT’s materials science department, where one lab devoted to building and testing the next world-changing energy storage device could easily be mistaken for a storage closet.

At the back of the cramped room, Donald Sadoway, a silver-haired electrochemist in a trim black-striped suit and expensive-looking shoes, rummages through a plastic tub of parts like a kid in search of a particular Lego. He sets a pair of objects on the table, each about the size and shape of a can of soup with all the inherent drama of a paperweight.

No wonder it’s so hard to get anyone excited about batteries. But these paperweights — er, battery cells — could be the technology that revolutionizes our energy system.

Because batteries aren’t just boring. Frankly, they kinda suck. At best, the batteries that power our daily lives are merely invisible — easily drained reservoirs of power packed into smartphones and computers and cars.

At worst, they are expensive, heavy, combustible, complicated to dispose of properly, and prone to dying in the cold or oozing corrosive fluid. Even as the devices they power become slimmer and smarter, batteries are still waiting for their next upgrade.

Computer processors famously double their capacity every two years; batteries may scrounge only a few percentage points of improvement in the same amount of time.

Nevertheless, the future will be battery-powered. It has to be. From electric cars to industrial-scale solar farms, batteries are the key to a cleaner, more efficient energy system — and the sooner we get there, the sooner we can stop contributing to potentially catastrophic climate change.

But the batteries we’ve got — mostly lithium-ion — aren’t good enough. There’s been some progress: The cost of storing energy has fallen by half over the last five years, and big companies are increasingly making marquee investments in the technology, like Tesla’s ‘gigafactory.’

 
Image above: Chart of reduction in cost of batteries (including those for electric cars.  From original article and (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-01-30/tesla-s-battery-revolution-just-reached-critical-mass).

But in terms of wholesale economic transformation, lithium-ion batteries remain too expensive. They are powerful in our devices, but when you scale them up they are liable to overheat and even, occasionally, explode.

Perhaps the biggest problem with lithium-ion batteries is that they wear out. Think of your phone battery after it’s spent a few years draining to 1 percent then charging back up to 100. That kind of deep discharge and recharge takes a physical toll and damages a battery’s performance over time.

 So we’re overdue for a brand new battery, and researchers around the world are racing to give us one, with competing approaches and technologies vying for top spot.

Some of their ideas are like nothing we’ve ever plugged into the grid — still not sexy, exactly, but definitely surprising. Liquid batteries. Batteries of molten metal that run as hot as a car engine. Batteries whose secret ingredient is saltwater.

It’s all part of a brand new space race — if less flashy than, you know, outer space.

Just add batteries

There are a few things you want in a good battery, but two are essential: It needs to be reliable, and it needs to be cheap.

“The biggest problem is still cost,” says Eric Rohlfing, deputy director of technology for ARPA-E, a division of the Department of Energy that identifies and funds cutting-edge research and development.

A 2012 study in Nature found that the average American would only be willing to pay about $13 more each month to ensure that the entire U.S. electrical supply ran on renewables. So batteries can’t add much to electrical bills.

For utilities, that means providing grid-level energy storage that would cost them less than $100 per kilowatt hour. Since it was established by President Obama in 2009, ARPA-E has put $85 million toward developing new batteries that can meet that goal.

“People called us crazy,” says Rohlfing. That number was absurdly low for an industry that hadn’t yet seen the near side of $700 per kilowatt hours when they started, according to one study of electric vehicle batteries published in Nature.

Now, though still unattained, $100 per kWh is the standard target across the industry, Rohlfing says. Get below that, it seems, and you can not only compete — you can win.

And here’s what a better battery stands to win: a cleaner, more reliable power system, which doesn’t rely on fossil fuels and is more robust to boot.

Every time you flip a light switch, you tap into a gigantic invisible web, the electrical grid. Somewhere, at the other end of the high-voltage transmission lines carrying power to your house, there’s a power plant (likely burning coal or, increasingly, natural gas) churning out the electricity that you and everyone else are draining at that moment.

The amount of power in our grid at any one time is carefully maintained — too much or too little and things start to break. Grid operators make careful observations and predictions to determine how much electricity power plants should produce, minute by minute, hour by hour.

But sometimes they’re wrong, and a plant has to power up in a hurry to make up the difference.

Lucky for us, it’s a big, interconnected system, so we rarely notice changes in the quality or quantity of electricity. Imagine the difference between stepping into a bucket of water versus stepping into the ocean. In a small system, any change in the balance between supply and demand is obvious — the bucket overflows.

But because the grid is so big — ocean-like — fluctuations are usually imperceptible. Only when something goes very wrong do we notice, because the lights go out.

Renewable energy is less obedient than a coal- or gas-fired power plant — you can’t just fire up a solar farm if demand spikes suddenly. Solar power peaks during the day, varies as clouds move across the sun, and disappears at night, while wind power is even less predictable.

Too much of that kind of intermittency on the grid could make it more difficult to balance supply and demand, which could lead to more blackouts.

Storing energy is a safety valve. If you could dump extra energy somewhere, then draw from it when supply gets low again, you can power a whole lot more stuff with renewable energy, even when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing.

What’s more, the grid itself becomes more stable and efficient, as batteries would allow communities and regions to manage their own power supply.

Our aging and overtaxed power infrastructure would go a lot further. Instead of installing new transmission lines in places where existing lines are near capacity, you could draw power during off-peak times and stash it in batteries until you need it.

Just like that, the bucket can behave a lot more like the ocean. That would mean — at least in theory — more distributed power generation and storage, more renewables, and less reliance on giant fossil-fueled power plants.

So that’s why this battery thing is kind of A Big Deal.

Heating up

“A battery will do for the electricity supply chain what refrigeration did to our food supply chain,” Sadoway says from his office in MIT, a good deal more spacious than the battery lab.


Those canisters he showed me were early prototypes of cells for a “liquid metal battery” he started researching a decade ago.

“I started working on batteries just because I was crazy about cars,” Sadoway tells me. (His desktop background is a 1961 Studebaker Avanti he sold a few years ago. He keeps the picture around the way one would memorialize a family pet.)

In 1995, he took a test drive in an early Ford electric vehicle and fell in love. “I realized the only reason we don’t have electric cars is because we don’t have batteries.”

So Sadoway started thinking. He had some experience with the process of refining aluminum, and he wondered if that could be a model for a new, unorthodox kind of battery. Aluminum smelting is a dirt-cheap, energy-intensive process by which purified metal is boiled out of ore.

But if that one-way process could be doubled up and looped back on itself, maybe the huge amount of energy fed into the molten metal could be stored there.

In some ways, that’s insane — the molten battery would have to run around of 880 degrees F, only slightly cooler than the combustion chamber of a car engine.

But it’s also a bizarrely simple concept, at least to an electrochemist. It turns out assembling a cell of a liquid metal battery cell is as easy as dropping a plug of metal, made up of two alloys of different densities, into a vessel and pouring some salt on top.

When the cell is powered up, the two metals melt and divide into two layers automatically, like salad oil floating on vinegar. The molten salt forms a layer between them, conducting electrons back and forth.

But even with a promising start, developing a new battery is a glacially slow process, Sadoway says. Early funding from ARPA-E and the French oil giant Total helped him get the idea off the ground, but sustaining research for the years needed to build any brand new technology is expensive.

Venture capitalists are shy about drawn-out engineering projects when there are so many software startups promising fast profits.

“In any capital-intensive industry, industry will stand in the way of innovation,” Sadoway says. Existing battery companies have too much invested in the status quo to be much help, he says. Lithium-ion came from outside the established battery industry of its time, he points out; the next battery will have to do the same.

The molten metal battery has long since moved out of the basement lab. In 2010, Sadoway started the battery company Ambri with several of his former students, then moved HQ into a manufacturing facility 30 miles west of Cambridge to the town of Marlborough.

Now, Ambri employs about 40 people and is busy building prototype battery packs out of hundreds of the molten metal cells.

Sadoway says Ambri is less than a year away from deploying its first commercial models. All signs have been hopeful so far, he says. At the manufacturing facility, some test cells have been up and running for almost four years without showing any signs of wear and tear.

Getting the assembled battery packs, each consisting of 432 individual cells, to work was trickier. But after ironing out some pesky issues with the heat seals, the battery packs can reach a self-sustaining operating temperature, hot enough to charge and discharge without any extra energy input.

Now Ambri is in the middle of raising another round of funding, enough to reach market-ready production mode.

On my way out the door, I say that, for all the difficulty and delay, it seems like this battery could really be close. “I hope so,” Sadoway says, looking almost wistful. “Maybe this is it. I’d like to see that.”

A crowded field

The molten metal battery isn’t the only moonshot battery. It’s not even the obvious front-runner. Other technologies are pushing ahead, quietly and without fanfare, from “iron flow batteries” to zinc- and lithium-air varieties.

Like Sadoway’s project, many of these untested technologies are funded initially by grants from ARPA-E. “These are very early stage, high-risk technologies,” says Rohlfing, the agency’s deputy director. “We take a lot of shots on goal.”

One especially promising contender in the better battery battle is the Pittsburgh-based company Aquion, whose founder, Carnegie Mellon professor Jay Whitacre, set out in 2008 to design the cheapest, most reliable battery you could make.

The result is something colloquially called a “saltwater battery.” It looks, more or less, like a Rubbermaid bin full of seawater. All of the materials in the Aquion batteries are abundant and easily obtained elements, from salt to stainless steel to cotton. What’s more, none of those materials carry the risks of a lithium-ion battery.

“Our chemistry is very simple,” says Matt Maroon, Aquion’s vice president of product management. “There’s nothing in our battery that is flammable, toxic, or caustic.”


Image above: Battery storage array. From original article.

It’s also stupidly easy to assemble. “Our main piece of manufacturing assembly equipment comes out of the food packaging industry,” Maroon says. “It’s a simple pick-and-place robot that you’d find at Nabisco, putting crackers inside of blister packs.”

Aquion batteries have been on the market for nearly three years, installed in both homes and utility-scale facilities.

Overall, Aquion has 35 megawatt hours of storage deployed around the world in 250 different installations. One in Hawaii has been up and running for two years; last year, the battery-plus-solar system powered several buildings for six months without ever falling back on a diesel generator.

“We need to get more of these things out into the field,” says Rohlfing. “Right now, if I’m a utility or a grid operator and I want to buy storage, I want to buy something that comes with a 20-year warranty. The technologies we’re talking about aren’t at that stage yet.”

But they’re getting close. Another ARPA-E-funded project, Energy Storage Systems, or ESS, announced last November that it would install one of its iron-flow batteries as part of an Army Corps of Engineers microgrid experiment on a military base in Missouri.

ESS has also installed batteries to help power an off-grid organic winery in Napa Valley — for that matter, so has Aquion. As more and more of these one-off experiments prove successful — and more of these new kinds of batteries prove their worth — the possibility of a battery-powered energy system comes a little closer.

But will batteries ever be, well, cool? That’s a harder question. Aquion’s Matt Maroon has been working in the field since 2002, soon after he left college. At conferences, Maroon was often the youngest person in the room by 30 years. He was sure he wouldn’t be “a battery guy” for his whole career.

Fifteen years later, he’s still a battery guy — but he’s no longer the youngest person in the room.

More students are starting to get involved with batteries, and people are starting to take notice. “It’s still not as a cool as working at Apple,” he says. “But I think people recognize its importance and that kind of makes it cool.”

“Or I hope so,” he laughs. “I’ve got a 9-year-old daughter. So I’d like to work on something that she thinks is cool someday. That’s my ultimate goal.”




Arctic Methane "May be apocalyptic"

SUBHEAD: Increases in methane emissions are likely, and catastrophic emissions cannot be ruled out.

By Dahr Jamail on 23 March 2017 for Truth Out -
(http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/39957-release-of-arctic-methane-may-be-apocalyptic-study-warns)


Image above: Likely methane off-gassing from the breakdown of carbon in sediments below the lake, keeps the water from freezing in spots, outside Fairbanks, Alaska, October 21, 2011. From original article. Photo by Josh Haner.

A scientific study published in the prestigious journal Palaeoworld in December issued a dire -- and possibly prophetic -- warning, though it garnered little attention in the media.

"Global warming triggered by the massive release of carbon dioxide may be catastrophic," reads the study's abstract. "But the release of methane from hydrate may be apocalyptic."

The study, titled "Methane Hydrate: Killer Cause of Earth's Greatest Mass Extinction," highlights the fact that the most significant variable in the Permian Mass Extinction event, which occurred 250 million years ago and annihilated 90 percent of all the species on the planet, was methane hydrate.
To see more stories like this, visit "Planet or Profit?"

In the wake of that mass extinction event, less than 5 percent of the animal species in the seas lived, and less than one-third of the large land animal species made it. Nearly all the trees died.

Methane hydrate, according to the US Office of Fossil Energy, "is a cage-like lattice of ice inside of which are trapped molecules of methane, the chief constituent of natural gas."

While there is not a scientific consensus around the cause of the Permian Mass Extinction, it is widely believed that massive volcanism along the Siberian Traps in Russia led to tremendous amounts of CO2 being added to the atmosphere.

This then created enough warming to cause the sudden release of methane from the Arctic sea floor, which kicked off a runaway greenhouse effect that led to sea-level increase, de-oxygenation, major oceanic circulation shifts and increased acidification of the oceans, as well as worldwide aridity on land.

The scenario that humans have created by way of the industrial growth society is already mimicking these eventualities, which are certain to worsen.

"The end Permian holds an important lesson for humanity regarding the issue it faces today with greenhouse gas emissions, global warming, and climate change," the abstract of the recent study concludes.

As the global CO2 concentration continues to climb each year, the threat of even more abrupt methane additions continues to escalate along with it.

The Methane Time Bomb
The methane hydrate situation has, for years now, been referred to as the Arctic Methane Time Bomb, and as been studied intensely.

A 2010 scientific analysis led by the UK's Met Office, published in the journal Review of Geophysics, states clearly that the time scale for the release of methane in the Arctic would be "much shorter for hydrates below shallow waters, such as in the Arctic Ocean," adding that 
"significant increases in methane emissions are likely, and catastrophic emissions cannot be ruled out.… The risk of rapid increase in [methane] emissions is real."
A 2011 study of the Eastern Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS), conducted by more than 20 Arctic experts and published in the Proceedings of the Russian Academy of Sciences, concluded that the shelf was already a powerful supplier of methane to the atmosphere.

The conclusion of this study stated that the methane concentration in the atmosphere was at levels capable of causing "a considerable and even catastrophic warming on the Earth."

Scientists have been warning us for a number of years about the dire consequences of methane hydrates in the Arctic, and how the methane being released poses a potentially disastrous threat to the planet. There has even been a study showing that methane released in the Arctic could trigger "catastrophic climate change" that would cost the global economy $60 trillion.

Of course, that level of planetary heating would likely extinguish most life on the planet, so whatever the economic costs might be would be irrelevant.

"Highly Possible at Any Time"
The ESAS is the largest ice shelf in the world, encompassing more than 2 million square kilometers, or 8 percent of the world's total area of continental shelf.

In 2015, Truthout spoke with Natalia Shakhova, a research associate professor at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks' International Arctic Research Center, about the ESAS's methane emissions.
"These emissions are prone to be non-gradual (massive, abrupt) for a variety of reasons," she told Truthout. "The main reason is that the nature of major processes associated with methane releases from subsea permafrost is non-gradual."

Shakhova warned that a 50-gigaton -- that is, 50-billion-ton -- "burp" of methane from thawing Arctic permafrost beneath the ESAS is "highly possible at any time."

This, Shakhova said, means that methane releases from decaying frozen hydrates could result in emission rates that "could change in order of magnitude in a matter of minutes," and that there would be nothing "smooth, gradual or controlled" about it. She described it as a "kind of a release [that] is like the unsealing of an over-pressurized pipeline."

In other words, we could be looking at non-linear releases of methane in amounts that are difficult to fathom.

A study published in the prestigious journal Nature in July 2013 confirmed what Shakhova had been warning us about for years: A 50-gigaton "burp" of methane from thawing Arctic permafrost beneath the East Siberian sea is highly possible.

Such a "burp" would be the equivalent of at least 1,000 gigatons of carbon dioxide. (For perspective, humans have released approximately 1,475 gigatons in total carbon dioxide since the year 1850.)

The UK's Met Office considers the 50-gigaton release "plausible," and in a paper on the subject added, "That may cause ∼12-times increase of modern atmospheric methane burden, with consequent catastrophic greenhouse warming."

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Climate Change activists' failure 8/2/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Is it time to switch to climate panic? 3/15/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Seascape with Methane Plumes 4/25/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Arctic seabed methane unstable 3/5/10
Island Breath: Worsening Climate Forecast 4/17/08
Island Breath: Permafrost Methane Threat 9/6/06
Island Breath: Climate Change 1/10/06

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Climate Change does not care

SUBHEAD: Our opinions are immaterial to Nature. How do we learn the value of reciprocity with Nature.

By Adrian Ayres Fisher on 24 March 2017 for Ecological Gardening -
(http://www.ecologicalgardening.net/2017/03/climate-change-doesnt-care-about.html)


Image above: Bison grazing in the Black Hills of South Dakota. From original article.

As the Delphic oracle laconically informed the Spartans, Erasmus paraphrased in Latin, and someone later rendered into English, “bidden or unbidden, God is present.”

Regardless of one’s ideas about what is signified by the word “God,” the statement could be broadly interpreted to mean that the universe in general and the earth in particular function the way they do as a result of structure and laws—“God,” if you like—that are always operational, regardless of what anyone thinks about the matter.

On Earth, these operations, governed by the laws of chemistry and physics (among others), include both the behavior of the atmosphere when its greenhouse gas proportions are altered and the subsequent cascading effects on the functioning of the biosphere: our home.

No longer do I think that anyone doesn’t “believe” in climate change, particularly the money-fueled “deniers” and “skeptics.” The disastrous effects already are too much with us.

Everything is more or less as usual, only more—or less—so, sometimes unbearably more or less. There are the generally intensified floods and droughts, new warmth, and new extremes of weather, sometimes unseasonable, often deadly.

To my mind, at the terrible center of the refusal to take serious action regarding global warming stand the orphaned children of Aleppo. They are victims of a war caused in part, some say, by an unprecedented, climate-change-fueled drought.

Those children have the misfortune to live in an already climatically fragile, over-populated country and region that would benefit by people working together to help improve resilience, but that instead has become enmeshed in nihilistic, zero-sum conflict.

Even where there is not war, along the Atlantic seaboard, in the “global south,” and the American heartland—lives are becoming increasingly uneasy due to climate change’s effects.

This is true even in places where the changes continue to be denied, a stance satirized by a recent New Yorker cartoon caption: “Dad, your basement is flooded with over ten inches of left-wing hoax.”

The language we use to describe things is important. It is how we construct reality and make sense of the world.

What the deniers are doing, really, is not only denying reality, but also denying people’s ability to describe that reality and take appropriate action.

But all this has been written, tweeted, filmed, and spoken about before, on and on, while the atmosphere keeps on getting loaded up like a giant piƱata full of unusual surprises to be released in the future when a few more childish hits break the structure.

The real question could be what to do about it. Actually, that’s not even a real question any longer, either.

Answers are to be had, ascending in levels of complexity from the very simple, such as that those of us who own cars could drive less and walk or bike more, to the most complex of technological, social and political structures and processes.

And this, too, has been endlessly discussed—and in some places, appropriate actions taken.

To me, there are other, related questions I would love to see at least beginning to be answered, that maybe are beginning to be answered:

How can we make important the idea of sacrifice as something desirable, in the old sense of making something sacred, of giving something up or away for the sake of continued health of the community?

How do we revalorize the idea that the community, from which we are not separate, though we are an individual species within it, is “Nature,” aka the biosphere, and every aspect and part thereof?

And finally, how do we re-learn the value of reciprocity in our relations with the natural world, our community?

These are big questions, big enough to be pondered for a lifetime and more, and I have no answers.

I’m trying to figure it out for myself, and mostly, writing helps me figure out what I think.

What would we give our lives to protect? 
A recurring theme of Tana French’s brilliant series of detective novels focused on the Murder Squad of the Irish city of Dublin is the question posed by Detective Frank Mackey’s father in "Faithful Place": “What would you die to protect?”

Different characters in the series reflect on, act upon, and through events and actions come to answer some version of that question for themselves.

Sometimes they die. Sometimes they figure out who perpetrated a crime. Sometimes simply parsing the question causes a realignment of fundamental relationships in their lives.

One could ask this question in slightly less dramatic terms. Many of us in the US mostly don’t encounter the kind of life and death situations giving murder mysteries their heightened drama.

So: what are you willing to at least risk your life to save; or, what are you willing to sacrifice, to give up or give away—make sacred to god—in order to protect something dear to you? This question, really, is about love.

What is it that you love so much, is worth so much to you that you would give your life in order to make sure it survives? Sometimes the answer is so self-evident it goes without saying. For me, images of my children and husband immediately come to mind, though further reflection offers other ideas as well.

Often, though, it’s easy to avoid even considering this question, especially in a wider sense, unless forced by circumstance.

To have thought about it—or not—and to take decisions and follow a course of action based on whatever one’s answer is—or not—brings one face to face with what is most important in one’s life.

And the answer is often discovered through action rather than cogitation. Sometimes it is the threat of losing something taken for granted that forces a person—or a community—into this kind of self-discovery.

Sometimes the self-discovery leads to new discoveries about the world and about relations with it.

Often the answer is not only about family, but also about our home, our land, about that which gives us sustenance, material and spiritual.

It is in this light that I think about the water protectors who gathered last fall to defend, non-violently, the Standing Rock Sioux’ sacred sites and the Missouri River, sacred in and of itself, as all rivers are sacred, because of their life-giving benefits to all living things within their watersheds.

I do not put that title "water protectors"  in quotes, as so many in the media did, marking it out as a new, not quite legitimized version of the term protesters.

To me the epithet is brilliantly accurate, emblematic of the action they were taking and sacrifices making.

They were not protesting against something, but were, in truth, protecting, in service to their personal values, and the larger set of values and beliefs that leads a person, a group, a tribe, a people, to honor the earth for what it is and what it does, to value and protect those things, perhaps intangible, that are of inestimable value, and on which their lives depend.

The water protectors were making a sacrifice, a chosen sacrifice. They were voluntarily giving up comforts, livelihoods, and certain kinds of social and legal standing while risking their lives to protect what they love, in service to a reciprocal relationship with the earth.

Sacrifice and reciprocity mean giving gifts 
The word “sacrifice” is sometimes suspect nomenclature denoting a troubled, complicated history. At root, the word means making an offering—making something sacred—to god(s).

That idea has had wildly differing interpretations and applications in different times and places, ranging from the Aztecs’ habits of daily human sacrifice to the sun, to Mother Teresa giving her whole life in service to the poor, to parents making sacrifices in their own lives so their children may succeed, to the current president’s claim of having made sacrifices as he avoided duty, obligation to family and society, and integrity in his wealth-fueled quest for greater riches and adulation.

In early days, making something sacred to god often did involve killing some living thing, human or animal.

The Aztecs and Mayans may seem like poster cultures for human sacrifice, but in fact, prior to modern times, wherever humans practiced nature-centered fertility religions, the custom was pretty usual.

This includes South and Meso-American cultures, the ancient Celts, Scandinavians and other pre-Christian European cultures, and others.

The understanding that human sacrifice was not necessary to appease various gods, assure luck in a dangerous venture, or restore the fertility of the earth prior to planting season must have marked a major turning point for many cultures. (Though of course most have invented other, equally spurious religious or ideological excuses for killing people).

This realization by, among others, the ancient Greeks, Old Testament Jews, Buddhists, and North American Indian tribes, is a great invention.

The idea and practice then had room to enlarge into something less literal and transactional; it could become symbolic, as in such different religious realms as the Christian custom of communion, representing Christ’s eternal sacrifice, and certain old North American Indian rites in which pretend “arrows” were “shot” at “victims” during adoption and renewal ceremonies.

It also became personal—regardless of belief, adherents have often made—and make—physical self-sacrifices of various kinds, including living lives of poverty and service, and putting their lives on the line to carry out non-violent resistance in the face of oppression.

And sacrifice and reciprocity do exist in a gift-giving context. On a basic, transactional level, something is given in order to get something back.

A more mature person, group or culture will think in terms of reciprocity, that subtler and more complex concept that has moved beyond the transactional to include altruism, mutual benefit, and love.

We give back because we understand what great gifts we have been given, or how others have sacrificed so we might thrive, and to make the family or community stronger and healthier.

Regardless of the particular elements in a given case, reciprocity involves true relationship that benefits all involved, and respects, rather than attempts to exploit, other parties.

Our friends have us over for dinner. If we wish to continue a strong relationship, we subsequently have them back to our house, or we buy them a meal at a restaurant, or we do something else that lets them know we appreciate them and want to continue the relationship in a way that strengthens the love and support we provide one another.

By contrast, if we buy dinner from a restaurant, we are under no obligation to do so again, nor is the restaurant under any obligation to us.

The distinction might seem painfully obvious, yet our culture has confused these two kinds of relationships, and in too many cases substitutes the transactional for the reciprocal.

“Ecosystem services,” a term that has come into vogue in recent years, along with the idea of putting a dollar value to those “services,” takes us along the transactional path. I understand the concept, and why monetary terms are used, as though to appeal to capitalists in language they can understand, in an effort to save ecosystems.

To me it’s a little like calling “parental services” those things loving parents do for their children—providing love, discipline, food, clothing, housing—and then putting a dollar value to them.

Who will pay? Why do not parents get a salary—from some large corporation—for their trouble?

How does this explain the essential nature of a parent-child relationship, especially the love part?

It is mysterious and complex, the parent-child bond, and when it goes right, is a relationship not transactional, but reciprocal, in a way that grows in reciprocity and mutual benefit over time, and further, benefits the community of which the parents and children—the family—are part.

Thus our relationship with nature, with the biosphere of which we are a part. It is not true that “Nature,” that entity over there, separate from us, provides services either because somehow subjected to us, and there for the exploitation, or because we could somehow pay Nature a salary.

We ought not to say to nature, “We’re going to plant five or a thousand native trees in this city or along this rural stream bank for you, Nature, so you’d better pay us back with cleaner air and stream water” (and meanwhile, the city or farmer might expect payment from some government entity for doing this). We are all familiar with this way of looking at things.

The trees of New York City, for example, are considered to provide 22 million dollars a year worth of carbon sequestration and air pollution filtering; but that is missing the point, as might be expected, given the transactional nature of our culture’s dominant ethos.

We are misunderstanding the actual relationship and in so doing, making a grave mistake.

The crucial point is that Nature, or the biosphere as a whole (the global, interconnected community of which our species is one in possibly eight or nine million), which is subject to the laws underpinning the functioning of the entire universe, though impersonal in its actions, offers us gifts, a livelihood, if we are smart enough to recognize this; and at the same time, lays on us the obligation to give back for the benefit of the whole.

 In a context of reciprocity, more questions abound: What can and should we humans offer of ourselves, or that is precious to us to ensure the continued health of the biosphere?

What actions can we take to maintain the reciprocal relationships so necessary to the proper functioning of ecosystems local, regional, continental and planetary?

How can we best use our talents, to benefit the whole enterprise, especially those, whether in kind or degree, that make us uniquely human?

Getting to choose is important 
Another important thing about sacrifice and reciprocity is the element of choice. These days, a prevailing ethic seems to be that if sacrifice is to be required, better that others should be made to sacrifice for the personal gain of those who are better off.

This attitude pinpoints the difference between willing and unwilling sacrifice and the importance of the context of reciprocity. Not for nothing are the environmentally damaged places where poor people, often of color, live called “sacrifice zones.”

Not by choice, these people lose freedom, health, livelihoods and communities, family bonds, and often their lives to the grinding demands of an economic system and society run by powerful entities and people that prize transactional, exploitive relationships above all else.

There is no reciprocity involved. Nothing is being made sacred.

These places ought to be called “scapegoat zones,” in the sense of the Ursula Le Guin parable, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.” And what happens when a civilization makes pretty much the whole planet a scapegoat zone?

In the question of the DAPL, the investors, the pipeline company and the mostly white citizens of Bismarck avoided making a potentially dangerous environmental tradeoff that would disadvantage their community by “sacrificing,” or scapegoating, the poorer people downriver and, with the collusion of the Federal Government, denying them the right to choose what tradeoffs and sacrifices they, themselves, were willing to make.

And none of these corporate and governmental entities were willing to give the Missouri River (including the watershed and all living denizens thereof) any “say” in the matter.

This, the water protectors turned on its head by rejecting imposed sacrifices and embracing others in alignment with their own values—and the river’s requirement that it be able to fulfill its life giving role in the landscape.

Any successful mitigation of climate change and environmental degradation on the necessary planetary scale will require a similar flip in societal values—and actions—from the merely transactional and exploitive to the reciprocal and regenerative. It will require millions, actually billions, of humans to change aspects of their lives, to become earth protectors, ecosystem protectors, and biosphere protectors.

This change will look very different in different parts of the world and will require very different kinds of sacrifices, from different groups of people, some of which actions might not be obvious or evident to the affluent westerner. It will also require certain kinds of social and environmental justice to take place that the wealthy and powerful will resist, are already resisting, mightily.

The reader will, I’m sure, immediately call to mind individuals, governments and corporations engaged in this last-ditch, retrograde resistance. Yet even they need clean air and water as a condition of life.

Besides choice, a further crucial component of sacrificial, reciprocal relationship is a social milieu in which group social values uphold the practices, and in which all members are in good standing of the group. What is defined as sacrifice will depend on attitudes, individual and societal. Long ago I gave up eating meat.

Vegetarianism, in the context of our industrialized agricultural system, is the quickest way for a relatively affluent American such as myself to lower her carbon footprint. I suppose it is a sacrifice in keeping with my social and cultural identity as an ecosystem protector. Other people have other reasons, beliefs and habits.

For some, meatless Mondays, or, for Catholics, not eating meat on Fridays, or for others, giving up meat for a certain holiday is a chosen sacrifice.

But this is a sacrifice relatively affluent people who can afford to buy meat get to decide to make. It is not a sacrifice malnourished people necessarily can choose, since it might be a condition imposed by poverty and politics, to deleterious results.

Successful vegetarianism, while better for the planet, and good for religious practice, depends nutritionally on having both enough to eat and access to plenty of other healthful foods, and these, in turn, require agency in society; for it is not true that there is not enough food to feed everyone, rather it is that poor people cannot afford to buy much food, healthy food least of all. Their economic—and social—standing bars access.

Sacrifice and reciprocity are not easy, either to talk about or to do, particularly in this America in which the idea of the public good is in such disrepute. Getting to choose means many won’t choose. For one thing, there is required an acknowledgement of privilege, and the need for imposing restraint on a comfortable way of life, a step many are not prepared to take.

For example, climate scientists are among the privileged members of society, and among the global top ten percent of carbon emitters, in part owing to their propensity to fly around the globe attending conferences.

Only recently have a few come out and publicly stated that they, themselves, perhaps ought to be part of the solution in a material way. It has been estimated that if the top ten percent of carbon emitters, including elite climate scientists, Davos attendees, members of the US House and Senate, billionaire cabinet members and all the others, including your average frequent fliers and, not least, the denizens of any middle to upper-middle class American enclave, were to reduce their personal carbon footprints to the European average, planetary carbon emissions would be reduced by as much as 30%.

What kinds of “sacrifices” would this entail?

Unfortunately, at the moment, it seems that having enough wealth means never having to exercise carbon restraint, or if one does, it means one’s house can be that much larger. Al Gore could have avoided a lot of trolling had he opted to build a smaller house.

Peter Thiel and certain other members of the global financial elite are in a position to benefit the public good enormously, yet they abdicate any idea of social and biosphere-related reciprocity by indulging apocalyptic fantasies with real-world bolt holes.

The people and the bison 
Recently, I went to see a film, “Little Wound’s Warriors,” by a colleague of mine. It is composed of a series of interviews with residents of Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota, a curtailed remnant of the homeland of the Lakota people.

The main interviewees were the high school students at Little Wound School, which educates grades kindergarten through high school. An affecting portrait is built up, as they, and others from the community, describe life on “the rez” and their efforts to strengthen the community after a series of suicides by young people.

The miserable history of the US Government’s genocide and double-dealing, and Anglo culture’s attempt to obliterate native culture by actively suppressing language, religion, and ways of life, is not a matter for history books for the Lakota, who are living with both the direct experience and its pervasive after effects.

While honest in its portrayal of the devastation caused by poverty, drug and alcohol use, there was hope in social engagement and a renewed emphasis on traditional culture. Besides the renewal of ceremonies, beliefs and the study of Lakota language, the people have embarked on the project of bringing bison back to the reservation.

This last is significant. George Apple, a leader at Pine Ridge, was there with several others for a post-film panel discussion, during which the subject of the tribe’s relationship with the bison came up. He said the Lakota have always believed that the strength of the tribe is dependent on the strength of the bison.

The Lakota people are bonded with the buffalo in a relationship of deep reciprocity. As the fortunes of the bison herds go, so go the fortunes of the tribe.

Afterwards I asked George to explain more, and he told me this creation story: long ago, before time began, the people were living underground. Life was good, and they lived happy lives.

At some point they were tricked—how, he didn’t say—into emerging into the land we now call America. The people promptly began to suffer, because they didn’t know how to live here where life is so hard. Not knowing how to get along, they were starving, and had no homes or way of living.

The buffalo came to them and taught them, and in fact sacrificed themselves so the people could live.

The people learned ceremony, to help them stay healthy and keep in good agreement with the spirits—the forces—that govern the world, and they learned how to use every part of the bison—meat for food, hides for warmth and shelter, and bones from which to craft tools. No part was wasted. George then told me that so close is the physical and spiritual bond that Lakota people say that they and the buffalo share DNA.

Now, the herd is increasing. As part of tribal renewal, they have a buffalo hunt each year, during which one animal is killed and the young people are taught the old ways regarding the bison and its uses.

 A lesson I drew from that story is that with reciprocity comes responsibility. In the terms of the story, the buffalo sacrifice themselves, but the terms of that sacrifice entail the human responsibility to live on the land so that the bison might thrive, and this requires ceremony, as well as practical actions in the material world, such as careful stewardship —and sacrifice of our own greed, arrogance and lawless behavior vis a vis what we call the natural world.

Giving our lives, rebuilding relationships 
Sacrifice is another word for giving. We give so that all might benefit. We give to improve the public good. We give because we are given so much and want to continue a relationship of reciprocity. We talk about helping biodiversity increase, about creating habitat for wildlife, for bees and butterflies, for birds.

When we do that, aren’t we also creating habitat for humans? What do we most need to thrive?

Our and other living things’ habitat needs really are one and the same. Saving butterflies and bumblebees, mangroves and seagrass, mountain lions and prairie chickens—and bison—means saving ourselves.

Humans need what all other living things need, including space to live according to the ways of our species, appropriate food, clean water, clean air and a stable climate regime.

If we only focus on what we imagine to be strictly human needs without cultivating reciprocity, there is no productive way forward.

All other species suffer the consequences of over-success and overpopulation, and endure natural correction in one way or another, often tailored to the particular way the species inhabits its niche. Too many deer browsing a woodland understory in the absence of predators will encounter certain starvation, disease and death until some kind of equilibrium is achieved.

A virus too efficient at killing its host will itself will die out over time.

You could say climate change is our own special corrective, tailored to the particular traits that mark us as the species Homo sapiens.

Unfortunately, every other living thing—all our plant and animal relations—will be caught up in the dreadful consequences.

 “Nature,” as we personify the planetary biosphere, is not kind, nor merciful (nor malevolent); but nature will allow our species to live and thrive if we practice reciprocity, which, among species, we are uniquely able to consciously do.

In the long run, we do not get to bargain, nor to we get to choose the conditions for continued survival. We do get to choose to find ways to live in accordance with the laws nature sets.

Millions of people are already engaged in this work, in multiple realms, from the religious to the most steadfastly pragmatic.

At present, ecocentric ideas are reappearing in some religions, monotheistic or not, without also bringing back the idea that we must kill some people in order to ensure the earth’s continued health and fertility.

Old, nature-centered religions have been resurrected, morphed into gentler versions of their blood-soaked prior incarnations.

And quite a few Americans who do not subscribe to any religion, who may in fact not merely be secular but actively anti-religion because they adhere so strongly to the ideology and methods of scientific materialism, nevertheless have embraced a conservation ethic because that is where the weight of evidence moves the scale.

Though there has been progress—world emissions have been flat for three years now—help is mostly not coming from the powerful and rich, the politically connected.

There is no Deus ex Machina. It is up to all of us to do what can and must be done. There is hope, but the time is growing short.
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