Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Today is the last day of 2008. I believe history will look back at this year as the last year of the Golden Age. Or maybe that was 2007.

Last night, I spent some time surfing the internet, reading predictions for the year to come. And those who 'get it' are predicting that 2009 will be the year when our house of cards comes tumbling down. I thought we had more time. I thought we had years still -- I wasn't sure I would even live to see it. I thought wrong.

Howard Kunstler has published his predictions and if they are anywhere near as accurate as his predictions for 2008, 2009 is going to be a rough year -- one of many to come:

A consensus in the blogosphere says that the stock markets will rebound strongly during the first Obama months. This is possible just on the basis of pure "animal spirits," but the Obama Bounce will occur against a background of continued dismal business and financial news. It will appear to defy that news. By May of 2009, the stock markets will resume crashing with the ultimate destination of a Dow 4000 before the end of the year. Meanwhile, jobs will vanish by the millions and companies will go bankrupt by the thousands, especially in the so-called service sector, and in all the suppliers of such, along with the landlords in all the malls and strip malls. The desolation will mount quickly and will be obvious in the empty storefronts and trash-filled parking lagoons. In the event, two things will become increasingly clear to the nation: that the consumer economy is dead, and that there is no more available credit of the kind that Americans are in the habit of enjoying.

We'll turn around early in 2009 and discover that we are a much poorer nation than we thought because from now on credit will be extremely hard to get for anyone for anything.
as many other people have noted, the recent plunge in oil prices strongly implies future supply destruction, since so many planned oil projects have been suspended or cancelled because they are economic losers at $40-a-barrel (or even $70). Even projects well underway, such as Canadian tar sand production, have been scaled back or shut down because they don't make sense at current prices. Some of these other newer projects will now never get underway -- they have missed their window of opportunity with so much capital leaving the system -- and so the hope of offsetting very-near-future depletions in old giant oil fields looks dimmer and dimmer.Those depletions are very serious. For instance, Mexico's super-giant Cantarell oil field, the second-largest ever discovered after Saudi Arabia's Ghawar field, has shown a 30 percent depletion rate in the past year alone. (Pemex had forecast a 15 percent rate entering the year.) Cantarell provides over 60 percent of Mexico's total production, and Mexico is America's third largest source of imports -- just after Saudi Arabia (#2) and Canada (#1). Obviously, Mexico soon will lose its ability to export oil, and as that occurs, America is going to feel more than pinch -- more like a two-by-four upside the head. In short, remorseless depletion is underway and we are less likely now than even a year ago, to make up for it.

At some point, then, demand, even if slightly lower, will catch up with declining supply. My prediction for 2009 is that we will see two things occur, possibly at the same time: a resumption of rising prices, and spot shortages. I say this because the global economic fiasco is sure to produce geopolitical friction, and inasmuch as America has to import almost three-quarters of the oil we use, the prospect for trouble is great.
I'll only venture to guess that we could see the start of serious inflation sometime in 2009. To some extent, all currencies are now free-falling together, some at slightly faster rates than others, but the situation of the US dollar is so grotesquely dire, and our structural imbalances so monumental, that it is hard to imagine that our currency will not win the international race to the bottom. Gold resumed its movement upward against the dollar a week before Christmas, and that may be an early sign. The government -- and anyone badly in debt -- benefits much more from inflation than deflation, so every effort will be made to avert the latter. The trouble lies in the government's dumb incapacity to control dangerous things that it sets in motion, so that an inflationary campaign to avoid compressive deflation can so easily lead to a fiasco of super or hyper inflation -- the kind that kills governments and turns societies into murderous monsters. I'll forecast the that the US dollar is worth 40 percent of its current value by next Christmas.


The big theme for 2009 economically will be contraction. The end of the cheap energy era will announce itself as the end of conventional "growth" and the shrinking back of activity, wealth, and populations. Contraction will come as a great shock to a world of conventionally programmed economists. They will toil and sweat to account for it, and they will probably be wrong. Unfortunately, this contraction will do its work in unpleasant ways, driving down standards of living, shearing away hopes and expectations for a particular life of comfort, and introducing disorder to so many of the systems we have depended on for so long. People will starve, lose their homes, lose incomes and status, and lose the security of living in peaceful societies. It will become clear that the Long Emergency is underway.

My hope for the year, at least for my own society, is that we will transition away from being a nation of complacent, distracted, over-fed clowns, to become a purposeful and responsible people willing to put their shoulders to the wheel to get some things done. My motto for the new year: "no more crybabies!"

Even the more upbeat Rob Hopkins thinks we have turned the corner:

Thank you so much for all your support, comments and hard work during 2008, the year that, I think, will go down in history as the point when the Great Unravelling really began, and when the seeds of the Great Turning began to grow with phenomenal speed. What an extraordinary time to be alive. Sharon Astyk has made her predictions for 2009, my only prediction to add is that by the end of 2009, very few people, especially those in positions of authority, will still be talking about “when things get back to normal”.

And if that weren't bad enough, scientists the world over are saying that global warming is happening much faster than anyone thought possible. If we don't act now to curb emissions drastically, we will leave future generations a cooked planet:

Climate change is happening more rapidly than anyone thought possible, the German government’s expert, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, warned in an interview. . . Schellnhuber warns that previous predictions about climate change and its catastrophic effects were too cautious and optimistic.

“In nearly all areas, the developments are occurring more quickly than it has been assumed up until now,” Schellnhuber told the Saarbruecker Zeitung newspaper in an interview published Monday, Dec. 29. “We are on our way to a destabilization of the world climate that has advanced much further than most people or their governments realize.”

This isn’t news to top climate scientists around the world (see Hadley Center: “Catastrophic” 5-7°C warming by 2100 on current emissions path) or even to top climate scientists in this country (see US Geological Survey stunner: Sea-level rise in 2100 will likely “substantially exceed” IPCC projections, SW faces “permanent drying”) and certainly not to people who follow the scientific literature, like Climate Progress readers (see Study: Water-vapor feedback is “strong and positive,” so we face “warming of several degrees Celsius”).

"For the Arctic, the global warming which has already occurred of 0.8 degrees Celsius has already stepped over the line, Schellnhuber said. If Greenland’s ice cap ice melts completely, water levels will rise by seven meters (23 feet).

“The current coastline will no longer exist, and that includes in Germany,” he said.

In order to stop global warming, global CO2 emissions would need to be halved by 2050. For industrial countries, that would mean a decrease of 80 to 90 percent. By 2020, this process has to be well underway."

As an antidote for all the pessimism, I do recommend Rob Hopkins. Rob offers a vision of how life could be -- happier, cleaner, more connected, more resilient -- but only if we begin now to design our descent from energy -- if we are proactive instead of reactive. So here's to a proactive new year -- Prost!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Story of Stuff

Annie Leonard's twenty minute film, The Story of Stuff, says what I've been trying to say but much more comprehensively and articulately than I ever could. One of the points she brought home quite well is that the true cost of an item is not paid by its purchaser.

I was thinking about this the other day. I was walking to work and I wanted to listen to the news so I popped into this Radio Shack to buy a radio. I found this cute little green radio for 4 dollars and 99 cents. I was standing there in line to buy this radio and I wondering how $4.99 could possibly capture the costs of making this radio and getting it to my hands. The metal was probably mined in South Africa, the petroleum was probably drilled in Iraq, the plastics were probably produced in China, and maybe the whole thing was assembled by some 15 year old in a maquiladora in Mexico. $4.99 wouldn’t even pay the rent for the shelf space it occupied until I came along, let alone part of the staff guy’s salary that helped me pick it out, or the multiple ocean cruises and truck rides pieces of this radio went on. That’s how I realized, I didn’t pay for the radio.

So, who did pay?

Well, these people paid with the loss of their natural resource base. These people paid with the loss of their clean air, with increasing asthma and cancer rates. Kids in the Congo paid with their future—30% of the kids in parts of the Congo now have had to drop out of school to mine coltan, a metal we need for our disposable electronics. These people even paid, by having to cover their own health insurance. All along this system, people pitched in so I could get this radio for $4.99. And none of these contributions are recorded in any accounts book. That is what I mean by the company owners externalize the true costs of production.

So how do we rectify this injustice? And if we do rectify this injustice, how would that affect our economy?

The second question is easier to answer than the first. If the price tags of goods on the shelf were to reflect their true cost to the earth, to the environment, and to the humans involved in their production, consumption would plummet. We would be forced to do as previous generations have done. We would have to plan and save and budget our hard-earned money before we made a major purchase. We wouldn't throw things away while they still had use in them. We would reuse, repair, and do without. We would take better care of our possessions and pass them down from generation to generation. We would be faced with 'hard times' and find that hard times weren't so hard after all.

The question remains -- how to get there. The public isn't going to clamour for higher prices. The government isn't going to force them upon unwilling voters. And corporations are the source of the inequity to begin with. Those who pay the real price -- the earth, the environment, the poor, the unborn generations -- are without voice.

I am but one person. I cannot change the world, but I can change myself. I can buy only that which I really need and when I do buy, buy that which is locally made whenever possible. I may not succeed in changing my bad habits overnight, but I can begin.

Friday, December 5, 2008

These are a Few of My Favorite Things

Too good not to share!

Old Fat Naked Women at The Righteous Mothers. Now you can eat those Christmas cookies with a clear conscience. You are not expanding your waist line, you are increasing your politicial clout!

And Playing for Change

Part of what is right with this world!!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Hell Bent

I spent the wee hours of the morning slogging through the backlog on my email account. Most of it was messages from various organizations bringing my attention to yet another ill wind -- herds of bison on the verge of slaughter simply because they are bison -- packs of wolves in danger of extermination simply because they are wolves -- millions of acres of old growth forest being slated for clear cut. Isn't our inadvertent damage bad enough? Do we have to deliberately, with malice aforethought, annihilate everything that is wild, everything that is beautiful and free?

While I was fretting, exasperated with the powers that be and their seemingly insatiable need to rape, plunder and exterminate, another day dawned. A dazzling, wonderful, day -- wild in its own way, and free. I walked out to my neighbor's dock. I was in my pajamas and it was cold. The air smelled of salt and fish. A lone seagull flew silently overhead. And the sun came up as it always does. My camera couldn't capture the beauty, but I made an attempt all the same.

We have been given such an incredibly magnificent world on which to spend our lives. Why are we so hell bent on its destruction??

Saturday, November 22, 2008

It's What Should be on the News but Isn't

Okay, so the American economy is on a roller coaster ride. Palin is still making speeches. Madonna is getting divorced. But did you know that:

Over the past six months, China, South Korea, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other nations have been buying and leasing huge quantities of foreign land for the production of food or biofuels for domestic consumption. It's a modern day version of the 19th-century scramble for Africa.

This year's bubble in food prices – driven by financial speculators, biofuels and compounded when some countries halted food exports to ensure their own supplies – led to pain for nations dependent on imports.

Alarm bells rang, with many governments alerted to what might lie ahead as climate change and soil destruction reduce the supply of food on the world market. The result, a huge international land grab, raises many troublesome issues.

So what? Well --

The investors will want a quick return. They will practise an industrial model of agriculture that in many parts of the world has already produced poverty and environmental destruction, as well as farm-chemical pollution.

Furthermore, many local communities will be evicted to make way for the foreign takeover. The governments and investors will argue that jobs will be created and some of the food produced will be made available for local communities, but this does not disguise what is essentially a process of dispossession. Lands will be taken away from smallholders or forest dwellers and converted into large industrial estates connected to distant markets.

Ironically, these very small communities may have a key role to play in helping the world confront the interlinked climate and food crises. Many such communities have a profound knowledge of local biodiversity and often cultivate little-known varieties of crops that can survive drought and other weather extremes.

Scientific studies have shown that farming methods that are not based on fossil-fuel inputs and are under the control of local farmers can be more productive than industrial farming and are almost always more sustainable.

More articles on the land grabs here, and if you're into graphics, there is a map here.

Okay, now what about all that piracy in the news? Want to hear the side that isn't getting told? 'We consider ourselves heroes' - a Somali pirate speaks:

I am 42 years old and have nine children. I am a boss with boats operating in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.

I finished high school and wanted to go to university but there was no money. So I became a fisherman in Eyl in Puntland like my father, even though I still dreamed of working for a company. That never happened as the Somali government was destroyed [in 1991] and the country became unstable.

At sea foreign fishing vessels often confronted us. Some had no licence, others had permission from the Puntland authorities but did not want us there to compete. They would destroy our boats and force us to flee for our lives.

I started to hijack these fishing boats in 1998. I did not have any special training but was not afraid. For our first captured ship we got $300,000. With the money we bought AK-47s and small speedboats. I don't know exactly how many ships I have captured since then but I think it is about 60. Sometimes when we are going to hijack a ship we face rough winds, and some of us get sick and some die.

We give priority to ships from Europe because we get bigger ransoms. To get their attention we shoot near the ship. If it does not stop we use a rope ladder to get on board. We count the crew and find out their nationalities. After checking the cargo we ask the captain to phone the owner and say that have seized the ship and will keep it until the ransom is paid.

We make friends with the hostages, telling them that we only want money, not to kill them. Sometimes we even eat rice, fish, pasta with them. When the money is delivered to our ship we count the dollars and let the hostages go.

Then our friends come to welcome us back in Eyl and we go to Garowe in Land Cruisers. We split the money. For example, if we get $1.8m, we would send $380,000 to the investment man who gives us cash to fund the missions, and then divide the rest between us.

Our community thinks we are pirates getting illegal money. But we consider ourselves heroes running away from poverty. We don't see the hijacking as a criminal act but as a road tax because we have no central government to control our sea. With foreign warships now on patrol we have difficulties.

But we are getting new boats and weapons. We will not stop until we have a central government that can control our sea.

Or how about what we are doing to the foodchain in our oceans?

For decades the Soviet Union was the only country to harvest krill. Krill mince became a Polish and German speciality in the 1970s, and in the Far East krill is still eaten, with a premium paid for females carrying extra fat. But the biggest krill market has always been as animal feeds and aquaculture.

“If ever evidence were needed that we’ve fished our way down the food chain, then here it is,” said Willie Mackenzie, of Greenpeace’s oceans campaign. “Krill is the basis of the Antarctic food web, on which fish, seals, penguins and whales all rely.”

He added: “It’s simplistic short-termist spin to refer to krill fishing as sustainable when there are huge gaps in knowledge of the species’ life history, population dynamics, and the impacts that climate change is having on its abundance.”

Is there any part of this world that is safe from human greed? Do we not understand that what we are doing is unsustainable and that we must change our ways or die, taking much of the world down with us? How are we going to find the answers when we aren't even asking the right questions?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Significance of Color

Barack Obama is a black man who has just been elected President of the United States. I did not realize the significance of this until yesterday as I was watching the election coverage. Of course, I had been aware of his skin color all along, but it had never mattered. I saw Obama as America's best hope to address the many grave problems that face us. That, and nothing more.

But yesterday, his color suddenly mattered. I saw him through the eyes of the black Americans who had lined up for hours to cast a vote for one of their own, something many of them never thought they would live long enough to do. I saw him through the eyes of the young, black male who said that Obama is an inspiration to him and who seemed to realize that while race and poverty may still matter, they are no longer excuses. I saw him through Reverend Jesse Jackson's eyes as he stood in stunned silence amidst the tumult of Grant Park, tears rolling unchecked down his face. I saw him through the eyes of Reverend Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King, Jr. as the joyous celebration at Ebenezer Baptist Church surged around her. I saw him through the eyes of the black pundit on CNN who choked up when he said that the words, "You could grow up to be President one day," are now true for all Americans.

And I saw him as the new face of America and how that will resonate in countries where people do not have lily white skin. I saw him as the new face of America and how that will resonate in countries where people, despite their lily white skin, have been distressed by a consistent display of American arrogance and by America's broken promise. I saw him as a symbol of unity both within America and across the world.

The final count as of this morning is Obama 52%, McCain 46%. Obama was not elected by minorities, but without them, he could not have won. Obama was not elected by college kids and first-time voters, but without them, he could not have won. Obama was not elected by soccer moms and NASCAR dads or by retirees living in Florida, but without them, he could not have won. It took all of us. We stood together and we elected a President we can be proud of.

But this President has more challenges ahead of him than any other President in history. He acknowledged them himself in his acceptance speech, "For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime - two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century. Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us. There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after their children fall asleep and wonder how they'll make the mortgage, or pay their doctor's bills, or save enough for college. There is new energy to harness and new jobs to be created; new schools to build and threats to meet and alliances to repair."

And close to half a nation that voted, some with passion, fear, and hatred, against him.

Long live President Obama.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


And now we begin, not just a new chapter, but a whole new book of American history.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Doo doo doo-doo, doo doo doo-doo

I'm going to go out on a limb here. First of all, I will confess that I can be credulous. I believe too easily. I am not skeptical enough for my own good. But I am trying to reform. In my effort at self-reformation, I have been attempting to think things through more carefully, to examine my assumptions as well as my reasoning, and to live by the mantra, "check it out." I think I've been doing a pretty good job of it. Well, I was, anyhow.

Secondly, I hold to the belief that science still has much to discover. Science hasn't always known about microbes or photons or ultraviolet rays. Just because science hasn't discovered something doesn't mean it doesn't exist. And even science says there are other dimensions than the ones we experience with our senses. Science also says that we are beings of energy -- energy that is measured by EKG's and lie detectors, for example. Psychics and mediums of various ilk claim that they have learned to 'see' not only our energy fields but also beings, or 'spirits,' that inhabit the other dimensions. These mediums claim that some of these spirits are friendly and some are not. I have personally known people who both see and communicate with these beings. I cannot verify their experiences, but I am convinced that while they could be mistaken, they are not deliberately lying. I don't know if what they claim is real, but I admit to the possibility that it is. I just don't know.

Now when my sister sent me an email link to Blossom Goodchild's channeled message from extraterrestrials announcing their impending arrival on 14 October 2008, I was deeply skeptical. Anyone who would call herself "Blossom Goodchild" . . . Still, the message intrigued me . . . could it be true? Are we the only intelligent beings in the universe? I think not. Are we the most highly evolved beings in the universe? I hope not!! Is it impossible that more highly evolved beings would take an interest in our planet and even come to our aid at such a critical juncture in the history of Earth? Not impossible. Unlikely, but not impossible. I gave it one chance in a hundred.

But there was more. Other mediums were confirming Blossom's channeled message. I read some of their previous readings and my disbelief monitor started humming. These mediums are truly weird. For one thing, they see conspiracies in everything. One channeled being, "Matthew," goes so far as to claim that hurricanes Ike and Gustav were empowered by an evil cabal of power-hungry space aliens, the Illuminati -- an organization which includes Hillary Clinton, GW Bush and John Kerry. Okay, maybe GW Bush . . . . but really!!! So, the odds of 'First Contact' dropped to one in a million. But still, it was one in a million. There was a chance. . . and I oh so wanted it to be true.

October 14 came and went. Nothing. Nada. No gigantic spaceships hovering over American cities. Dang!! I really wanted to meet those guys and see if they really had answers to the mess we've created. Would have been cool. Major cool.

So what happened to Blossom Goodchild? She had nothing to gain and everything to lose with the predictions she had made. On October 16, she posted a video on YouTube explaining that she had no explanation. She did not try to make excuses. She was obviously confused and hurt by what she saw as a betrayal. The comments posted to her video were ugly, vicious, and nasty in the extreme. So why? Why did she say the things she did?

Well, I can think of several explanations. One is that she is a woman with an overactive imagination whose mind played tricks on her and led her to believe she was in contact with other beings when she really wasn't. Another is that she really was in contact with extraterrestrials who either lied to her or used her for their own purposes -- in which case they are not the beings of love and light that they claim to be. And the last is that malicious spirits took advantage of a susceptible mind. In the last case, they could have done as they did to play a sadistic prank, or it could have been to impugn the reputation of the real extraterrestrials. In the last case, the very last case, we could still have help on the way.

I guess it speaks to how badly I think we need help as to the size of the straws I am now grasping. I give it a one in five million chance. But still, it is one in five million!

On the news today, multiple individuals from a small town in Texas reported seeing what appeared to be a spaceship in the night sky . . . Doo doo doo-doo, doo doo doo-doo. (For those of you who don't recognize the lyrics, that's the theme from "The Twilight Zone.")

Thursday, October 23, 2008

I Love the Internet!!

Lots of good stuff on the internet these days. Here are some of my favorite visuals:

Coal is not the answer -- a short video that explains why 'clean coal' is a myth we need to bust. Or go to for a series of videos on endangered mountains and more reasons why coal is not the answer.

THROBGOBLINS INTERNATIONAL : CANTANKEROUS FRANK is a great comic dedicated to the follies of the status quo.

Short, pithy videos on all the hot topics (check out Palin on her bearskin!) at Zaproot. Their newest video spoofs a plan to bottle glacier melt from Greenland and sell it for big bucks.

By the way, according to Joe Romm the Greenland ice sheet is now melting at a rate of 267 ± 38 Gt/yr of water as of 2007. "How much is 267 billion metric tons of water? It’s enough to supply the city of Los Angeles with fresh water for more than 50 years."

The Way Things Break featured a Herman Daly video spot explaining why it is insanity to speak of 'growing the economy.' And on the lighter side, some videos of dolphins playing with bubbles.

Lots of buzz about the Frontline special, Heat. I recorded it but haven't had the time to watch it yet. Two hours. Not a shorty.

Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund exposes Sarah Palin's indifference to wildlife in ads here and here (Not for the faint at heart!)

And to end on a fun note, one of my all-time favorite book series is coming to your living rooms on November 1 or 2. Check out The Legend of the Seeker (aka Wizard's First Rule or The Sword of Truth).

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day 2008: Poverty

No one talks much about poverty anymore. Not the Presidential candidates (with the exception of Ralph Nader, and I'm not sure he counts). Not the environmentalists. Not the economists. Not the cocktail party set. The perception nowadays seems to be that if you are poor in America, it is because you are either on drugs or just too lazy to work. There is an assumption that we have filled all the cracks with our aid programs and that if one is truly unable to provide for oneself, there is a government agency one can turn to. Not true, not true, and not true.

The good news is that the solution to poverty is the exact same solution I've proposed for global climate change, peak oil, crime, violence, war, over-population and depletion of natural resources. And it is so simple, it can be said in two words. GROW UP. That's it!

Next problem . . . ?

Okay, so maybe my solution needs a bit more explanation.

There is no need for poverty or war or depletion of resources or drug-addiction or any of the long laundry-list of today's ills. Those are all stupid in the extreme. So if we stop being stupid, in other words, GROW UP, we won't have those problems anymore. I repeat myself, but it is an idea that has not yet gained global acceptance, so I'll say it again: If we stop seeing Other as something separate from ourselves, something to be conquered and controlled, and start seeing Other as an extension of ourselves and as necessary to our own well-being as the heart is to the brain, then all forms of exploitation will be replaced with new relationships based on partnership and cooperation. Now, poverty won't be eradicated over-night. The energy conundrum won't be solved next week. The effects of climate change that have already been put in motion won't cease to plague us for years to come. But if we GROW UP and recognize our true relationship to Other, abuse, neglect, violence, waste and degradation of the environment will be seen for what they truly are: unthinkably stupid.

The End.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Good News Bears Repeating

Joe Romm has a couple of great posts this week. One references a "Green Path out of the Red" discussion on the PBS program "Living on the Earth:"

JONES: We've gotta make this bailout bail out the people and the planet, not just the people who want their platinum parachutes. The bottom line is that we got ourselves into trouble because we started building our economy based on consumption, based on debt, and based on environmental destruction. The way forward is to recreate the U.S. economy so it's based on production, savings, and environmental restoration. That's the way forward. And any help that anybody gets now should have green strings on it to pull us into the only part of the economy that's going to grow, which is the green part.
YOUNG: Hendricks helped bring business, labor, and environmental groups together in the Apollo Alliance. He's now a senior fellow at the progressive policy think tank Center for American Progress. Hendricks thinks Congress will try another economic stimulus package to bring the country out of recession. The last stimulus, you might remember, came in the form of checks straight to taxpayers. Hendricks says a CAP study shows a green stimulus package creates more jobs than just encouraging consumption.

HENDRICKS: That money stays locally—you can't outsource jobs retrofitting buildings for efficiency or building transit systems. Put aside the environmental benefits. Investing in a green recovery is better economic policy and it puts us on a faster road to recovery.

The other summarizes a proposal put forth by Google for revolutionizing our energy sector while reducing greenhouse emissions. Of note, Google proposes "Replacing all coal and oil electricity generation, and about half of that from natural gas, with renewable electricity." In light of the destructive manner in which coal is being mined and the problems associated with CCS, a coalless future is highly desirable! Way to go, Google!!!

And last night on Jim Lehrer, there was a segment on the Barefoot College -- a program in India that educates village women and employs them in the installation and maintenance of solar panels. The solar panels provide clean power to nearby villages creating a win-win-win situation. In addition to the solar project, "The College addresses problems of drinking water, girl education, health & sanitation, rural unemployment, income generation, electricity and power, as well as social awareness and the conservation of ecological systems in rural communities."

And for a bit of fun, this SNL spoof of the Vice-presidential debate pretty well says it all.

Does one's heart good . . .

Sunday, October 5, 2008

And the Beat Goes On

McCain made it to the debate after all. Palin did better than many (including myself) expected and with her folksy charm and engaging smile may have a brilliant future ahead of her . . . as a game show host. Congress passed a $700 billion dollar bail-out/rescue/recovery bill despite strong reservations from many House Republicans. California has asked for help in meeting it's payroll obligations. I fail to see why intelligent people don't connect the dots . . . Even without global climate change, peak oil and a weak economy are bringing us to the brink of another Great Depression. And yet, optimisim reigns.

But the Titanic is not, after all, unsinkable. Matt Simmons tells it like it is:

Matt Simmons is as perplexed as anyone that it has fallen to him to take on OPEC, Exxon, the Saudis, and all the other misguided defenders of conventional wisdom in the oil patch. Why should one investment banker with a penchant for research be required to point out what he regards as the obvious - that from here on out, oil supplies can't meet demand, and if we don't act soon to solve this crisis, World War III could be looming?

Why should a man who scorns most environmentalists have to argue that locally grown produce and wind power are the way of the future? Why should a lifelong Republican need to be the one to point out that his party's new mantra - "Drill, baby, drill!" - won't really fix anything and that his party's presidential candidate is clueless about energy? That the spike in oil prices earlier this year wasn't a temporary market anomaly and the recent retreat in prices is just a misleading calm before a calamitous storm? That we're headed toward $500-a-barrel oil?
Indeed, Simmons isn't the obvious candidate to be the bearer of bad news about oil. He's spent his career working in the business, has lived in Houston for decades, and is such an industry insider that he helped edit the Bush campaign's comprehensive energy plan in the 2000 election - the document that was ultimately more or less rubber-stamped by Vice President Dick Cheney's infamous secret Energy Task Force. Over the past 35 years, his boutique investment bank, Simmons & Co., has helped finance and shape much of the country's existing oil-services business. With profits gushing, you might expect him to be celebrating.
During a trip to Saudi Arabia in February 2003 with his friend Herbert Hunt (yes, the son of H.L. Hunt who, with his brother Bunker, almost cornered the silver market in 1980), Simmons had become suspicious of the Saudis' claims about the vastness of their oil supply. In his four decades of working in the oil and gas industry, everyone he had ever talked to had taken it as gospel that the Saudis had enough oil to bail the world out when other supplies ran short. If that wasn't true, Simmons believed, the era of cheap oil was over. Demand for crude was on the rise worldwide, and supplies were getting tighter all the time. If the Saudis were pushing up against the limits of their oil production, the world needed to know.

In his typically analytical fashion, Simmons went hunting for data. He found it in the form of hundreds of technical papers submitted by Saudi oil geologists to the Society of Petroleum Engineers over the past 50 years. Simmons spent the month of August 2003 sitting on his porch in Maine and grinding his way through the minutiae of technical accounts of, for instance, reservoir pressure and water-cut percentages, trying to piece together the challenges that the Saudi geologists had encountered in managing their precious oilfields. In the end, his conclusion was clear. "I finished reading the last paper on a Sunday afternoon," says Simmons, "and I sat back and I thought, Holy crap, this is unbelievable. I've just discovered the biggest energy illusion ever in the world. We're in big trouble. I'm going to write a book."

And so he did. But writing the book didn't exhaust his passion. Today he is more convinced than ever that we've reached peak oil. If he's right, current world oil production- 86 million barrels a day- is about as high as we're going to go.

No one disputes that oil production will top out some day. It is, after all, a finite resource. The argument is about how far off the peak is. As Simmons and others point out, many of the world's largest oilfields - Prudhoe Bay, the North Sea - have already gone into decline. The most optimistic estimate for the average depletion rate of the world's currently producing oilfields is between 4% and 5% annually, or about four million barrels per day at our current rate of production. That means that each year we must find enough new oil to first replace those four million barrels of lost daily production before we even add enough to meet new demand. This is all the more worrisome because world oil discovery of new reserves has been slowing since the mid-20th century.
Simmons believes that a radical change in the way we live is inevitable. "We should basically be going back to creating a village economy, so that we really reduce the energy intensity of how we live," he says. "We need bigtime conservation, not feel-good conservation. Make things where they're used. You'll end long-distance commuting, and we have the tools to do that now with webcams. Grow food locally. Grow food in your backyard. If they're not commuting, people will have time to do that."
The day after the CNBC interview, Simmons and Hart drove up to the University of Maine to visit the Advanced Engineered Wood Composites Center (AEWC), a 60,000-square-foot structural testing facility. The lab's director, Habib Dagher, is one of the world's leading experts in composite materials. He's working with Simmons and Hart to develop new windmill-blade technology.

The AEWC guys gave a presentation showing how the project could be ready by 2020. Simmons then donned a hardhat and safety glasses and got a tour of the testing floor. As it happens, the lab had already been hired by a large wind-power company to fatigue-test a prototype for a 55-meter turbine blade. A ten-meter segment of the blade was locked in a device called a hydraulic actuator - what looked like two massive steel vise grips - receiving 38,000 pounds of pressure up and down every second. "This is really incredible," Simmons announced. "I'm going to come back up here with two or three investor types I know."

On the way out, I asked Simmons if seeing the lab made his virtual institute feel more real. "Oh, yeah, very impressive," he said. "But we need to compress the time frame - 2020 is way too far out. That plan is fine assuming that we go along like we are now, and everything is okay in the world. But it's not going to be okay. We're going to need this stuff much sooner."

Friday, September 26, 2008

Best of Times, Worst of Times

Google made a stunning announcement yesterday. They are sponsoring a contest called 10 to the 100th power. They are asking for ideas on how to make the world a better place -- and they have committed $10 million to implement the top five ideas. Incredible!!

On the other hand, Joe Romm posted an article on the latest CO2 figures. We are now emitting at a record rate in spite of the economic turn-down, thanks primarily to increased activity in India and China. Our carbon sinks are becoming ever more saturated and absorbing less. We have accelerated to adding 2.2 parts per million per year to the atmospheric concentrations of CO2 -- we have gone from 380 to 383 just in the past year or two. We are far exceeding the IPCC's worst case scenarios for emissions.

On the political/economic scene, the U. S. government is about to institute the biggest bail-out ever to keep our financial systems from going under, Obama has regained the lead in the Presidential race, and McCain has side-stepped the first debate because he is 'needed in Washington' to deal with the economic crisis facing America.

I'm beginning to think that extraterrestrial intervention may be the only thing that can save us at this point. The next couple of months may well determine our future one way or the other.

These are indeed the best of times and the worst of times.

Monday, September 22, 2008

I am a Gaiaist!

When did capitalism become our God? When did the free market become sacrosanct? When did we sell our souls for an energy fix? And when did capitalism become the end all and be all? Are we still fighting the Cold War? Don't people realize that communism has morphed into capitalism? Everything in Wal-Mart is made in China. Are there any people on the earth more capitalistic than the Chinese, for god's sake?

I grew up with 'better dead than red.' I never quite understood that. If one were alive, one could work for change. If one were dead, it was all over. But better dead than red it was. Had to be. Communists were the worst evil the world had ever seen and if one became Communist, one would be Communist for eternity. Or until The Wall came down. But that was in the future and totally unforeseen.

I am not a capitalist. I have seen what unrestrained capitalism can do and it is as ugly as it gets. Capitalism rapes the earth. Capitalism enslaves the poor. Capitalism is sending us into purgatory. Strong words -- words I would not have written two days ago. It is a conclusion that was slow in coming.

This is not a black and white world. Just because I am not a capitalist, it does not mean I am a communist. I am a gaiaist. New word. New concept. New paradigm.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Bumper Cars

My brain, of late, must resemble the bumper cars at the amusement park -- all these thoughts race around and around, crashing into one another. They wake me up at night and have me writing letters to the Obama campaign at 4:30 in the morning. I keep trying to distill a bit of wisdom from all the chaos, and once in a while, I think I succeed. But more often than not, the chaos reigns.

"Chaos is good," I tell myself. "It is a first step." I'm ready for step two. I could use a good night's sleep!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Speaking Out

During the 2000 Presidential campaign, Al Gore made the dubious statement, "I invented the internet." If you remember nothing else said during that campaign, you probably remember that. One could only conclude that Al Gore was either delusional or a liar. I was a staunch supporter at the time, but even I was left speechless. Why would he say such an obviously untrue thing? I couldn't defend him to all the naysayers who mocked my choice for President. Even today, when I mention global climate change, people say to me, "Oh yeah, well after Al Gore invented the internet, he invented global warming. It's just a ploy to get in the White House."

But what if that's not exactly what he did say. And what if what he did say was absolutely true? Recently, I discovered the whole story and the whole story makes me sick. The media knew the truth and yet chose to ignore it. Instead, they kept repeating biased distortions, otherwise known as lies. If there had not been such a campaign of lies against Gore, the last eight years might have been quite different.

But this is not about Democrats vs Republicans. This has to do with lies and inuendo corrupting the foundations of democracy. In a democracy, the public deserves to know the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth and it is the sacred duty of the media to be as impartial as humanly possible in delivering that truth. But that's not what we got then and not what we're getting now.

Maybe I am being naive, as some suggest, to think that 'the truth' is out there and can be reported without bias. Granted, each of us has our own perspective and each of us sees 'the truth' differently. But to publish lies when you know they are lies is to break the public trust. Others have said that I am mistaken to believe there is a mandate for such a trust and that to maintain a free press, we must let them be free to report as they wish. Government regulation would be the death of the free press. True. But who is advocating government regulation?

If we are to have a media that is dedicated to reporting the real news (as opposed to Hollywood gossip) as completely and truthfully as possible, then we need to hold the media to that standard. If we excuse their lies and biases as business-as-usual or as an exercise in freedom, then we will never get anything better. It isn't this way everywhere, it hasn't always been this way here and it doesn't have to be this way forevermore. In the end, the public gets what it is willing to settle for.

I can't speak for America. I can only speak for myself. But the voice of America is the chorus that emerges from the cacaphony of individual voices. And that doesn't happen when we just shrug and walk away.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Rewriting the Dictionary

I've recently come across an intriguing concept -- that of zero waste. In a zero waste society, everything is made to be reused, repaired or recycled. Nothing is thrown away. Sounds fantastic in theory, but what effect would that have on business? If we reuse, repair and recycle items, then who is going to buy all the new goods being produced? Most businesses are based on the idea of continuing consumption. If we don't continue to consume at current, if not higher, levels, won't businesses go under?


The bottom line of business is currently "maximize profit." No matter the cost to the environment. No matter the depletion of resources. No matter the waste. No matter job loss. Profit -- first, last, and always. And as long as we define business as a means to maximize profit, businesses would, in a zero waste economy, go under. But who determined that profit would be the bottom line? Who is defining us and the institutions of our lives? Why do we let them do it? Why can't we redefine business, not as profit machines, but as the means to produce quality goods or provide needed service? Isn't it time to rewrite the dictionary?

The truth of the matter is that we cannot continue to consume at current levels, much less higher. We are going to have to change our ways sooner or later. Why not now?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Doom and Gloom. Can't help it.

If you really want the bejeebers scared out of you, take a look at the video:

and then look at the poll stats:

Wow! And here all I've been worrying about is that McCain would lead us into a climate catastrophe. I don't get it. Democrats have allowed the Republicans to define them for years and years. Democrats are for tax and spend. Soft on defense. Soft on terrorism. Soft on family values. Republicans tell us so over and over. Elect a Democrat and you will have empty pockets; Iraqi terrorists will be abducting your children on their way to soccer practice. Any idiot can compare the Clinton years to those of Bush. During which administration did the American people enjoy the higher degree of peace and prosperity? If the Democratic party does not dispel the myths, we are all doomed. Literally.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Annoucing a Merger

"Be the change that you want to see in the world."
Mohandas Gandhi

All along I've thought I had two plans. Plan A: save the world. Plan B: save yourself and your loved ones. Now I realize that they are but two aspects of the same mission. To save the world is to create a safe haven -- to live in harmony with myself, my fellow humans, and with Mother Gaia. My mission is to be the change I want in this world.

I began with a vision of how the world could be if we were to stop seeing 'other' as something separate from ourselves, something to be conquered, exploited, and controlled and started seeing 'other' as an extension of ourselves and as necessary to our own survival as the heart is to the brain. What would our communities look like in such a world? What would our lives be like? I imagined such a place and then wondered if such a place already exists.

It does. It is called Earthaven and it is in the mountains of North Carolina. I'm not sure how I can get there from here, from this place in my life, but I hereby set it as my intention to someday join Earthaven and finish out my days living the future I want for the world. In the meantime, I give thanks for people whose dreams I share and for the hard work they are doing to make our shared vision a reality. Keep my place open. I am coming.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Catalysts for Change

Global climate destabilization/peak oil/overpopulation and the destruction of the environment. The triple threat. So, are they crises, challenges, or catalysts for much needed change? More and more, I am seeing them as catalysts for change. This change is not even about carbon emissions, alternative fuels, or environmentalism and population control. This change is more fundamental -- it has to do with how we view power and wealth, with who we are as human beings, and with our place in the greater scheme of things. Maybe this is the Revelations of the Bible. Maybe this is about creating heaven on earth at long last. Maybe it will take all the horrors of the Biblical apocalypse to get us there. And maybe not. I've never believed destiny is one path, pre-determined.

If we are to have the future we want, then we must choose it consciously and with all the wisdom we can muster. In the past, we have viewed power as a control issue. How many movies and books and animated cartoons have featured nefarious villains who want to rule the world? How many times in history have real-life nefarious villains have attempted to rule the world? I always ask myself, "Why?!?" Why would anyone want that burden? Power means control. Control means decisions. Decisions are tiresome. The bigger the decision, the more tiresome. I don't like to decide what we're having for dinner, much less how to rule the lives of others. But neither do I want others making my decisions for me. I cherish my freedom and I will fight to defend it. And so I choose a future in which people have more personal freedom, a future where the power of governments and corporations has been strictly limited. In it's place, I choose power stemming from cooperation. I choose rule by consensus, compromise and direct democracy.

As for wealth, I choose a future in which wealth is measured by needs fulfilled. The basics will still apply -- food, water, clothing, and shelter -- if those needs are not met, survival itself is threatened. But beyond those needs are the more intangibles -- love, respect, community, health. In the world I choose, love is given freely. Respect, including self-respect, is earned. Community is a way of life. Health is more a by-product of right living than doctors and drugs. We return to our tribal roots, living in villages where work and responsibility are shared, from each according to his or her ability. This does not preclude personal responsibility but rather enhances it. Each is responsible to himself, his family, and to the community, in that order. Where conflicts arise, the wisdom of the elders is sought and unique solutions for unique individuals are devised. It is not a one-size-fits-all world.

I choose an overriding paradigm that has shifted from exploitation to partnership -- whether it be our relationship to the earth, our relationship to governance, or our relationship to each other. It is no longer a world of domination but a world of balance.

If you want change in this world, you must be the change. So that is where I begin.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Feeling a Bit Quotatious

Some odd quotes -- laugh, cry, or bury your head in a blankie and hope for a good, long nap.

As seen on This from an interview in Newsweek with J. Robinson West "chairman of the oil and gas consulting firm PFC Energy, a former U.S. assistant secretary of the interior under President Reagan, and a [buckshot-free] friend of Dick Cheney’s . . .

Welcome to the age of energy insecurity. Worldwide production will peak. The result will be skyrocketing prices, with a huge, sustained economic shock. Jobs will be lost. Without action, the crisis will certainly bring energy rivalries, if not energy wars. Vast wealth will be shifted, probably away from the U.S. For the last 20 years, U.S. policy has discouraged production and encouraged consumption. If we dither any more, we will pay a terrible price, the economic equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane. Katrina was Category 4

This from a NY Times interview with Bjorn Lomborg, who is, according to Times Magazine, one of the 100 most influential people in the world:

"But the best strategy [to combat global warming], he says, is to make the rest of the world as rich as New York, so that people elsewhere can afford to do things like shore up their coastlines and buy air conditioners."

Geez, why didn't I think of that!!

Also from quoting UK's The Sentinel:

"The American leader, who has been condemned throughout his presidency for failing to tackle climate change, ended a private meeting with the words: "Goodbye from the world's biggest polluter."

He then punched the air while grinning widely, as the rest of those present including Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy looked on in shock

This from

Vonnegut wrote this in 1988, as a letter to people in 2088:

“Now that we can discuss the mess we are in with some precision, I hope you have stopped choosing abysmally ignorant optimists for positions of leadership. They were useful only so long as nobody had a clue as to what was really going on--during the past seven mission years or so. In my time, they have been catastrophic as heads of sophisticated institutions with real work to do.

“The sort of leaders we need now are not those who promise ultimate victory over Nature through perseverance in living as we do right now, but those with the courage and intelligence to present to the world what appear to be Nature’s stern but reasonable surrender terms:
1. Reduce and stabilize your population.
2. Stop poisoning the air, the water, and the topsoil.
3. Stop preparing for war and start dealing with your real problems.
4. Teach your kids, and yourselves, too, while you’re at it, how to inhabit a small planet without helping to kill it.
5. Stop thinking science can fix anything if you give it a trillion dollars.
6. Stop thinking your grandchildren will be OK no matter how wasteful or destructive you may be, since they can go to a nice new planet on a spaceship. That is really mean and stupid.
7. And so on. Or else.”

It really is hard not to call someone a pessimist who wrote that he quit lecturing when he found himself saying to his audiences “that one day fairly soon we would all go belly-up like guppies in a neglected fishbowl. I suggested an epitaph for the whole planet, which was: ‘We could have saved it, but we were too darn cheap and lazy. . . .’ My Lord, I think I even said--in fact I know I said--that humanity itself had become an unstoppable glacier made of hot meat, which ate up everything in sight and then made love, and then doubled in size again

as seen on Our Pueblo

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Call Me Irresponsible

I am flying blind. I don't like to admit it, even to myself, but it's true. I'm not a climatologist. I'm not a nuclear scientist. I'm not a geologist or an economist or any other 'ist' that I can thing of. I know jack s**t . I rant and rave and carry on, but it's all bluster.

My husband, in one of the rare moments in which he was actually right, called me 'irresponsible' for posting a comment on I had cited a news article describing the problems French nuclear power plants encountered during the heat wave of 2003 with the implication that future heat waves might interfere with the generation of nuclear power, something to consider in a warming world. He reminded me that I know nothing of the advances in nuclear technology or how heat might affect generation in the future. I guess it was an irresponsible post -- product of a silly urge to be part of something bigger than myself. I did take comfort in the thought that I am not alone in my irresponsibility -- a trait I share with the President and Vice President at the very least. At least I only posted a comment -- I didn't take the world down a path of death and destruction, so I'll allow myself a pass on this one.

I'm supposed to be smart . . . but I don't feel smart. I listen to financial advisors and politicians and scientists and it seems like they're speaking foreign languages. But what's a girl to do? I can either put blind faith in what I am told to believe or I can take my limited knowledge, my limited understanding, and try to make some sense of it all.

Call me irresponsible.

Why Not?

Last night as I was falling asleep, I started trying to imagine a better world -- the world as it could be. Change, good change, always begins with a vision.

I started with the assumption that Obama gets elected President and that he takes global warming seriously and puts policies in motion that actually save us from our own folly. We will still have at least twenty more years of weather getting worse and another twenty or so to get back to where we are today. Assuming. Hey, this is my fantasy, I can assume what I will! As far as I can tell, that is the very best we can hope for at this point.

So we assume that, thanks to timely action, global warming is minimized and peak oil is moot. Does life really change or does the future look like today but with wind turbines instead of coal plants, electric cars instead of gas?

Well, we are in for economic hard times. Almost guaranteed. The current cost of oil is going to have prolonged effects and even if we start switching to other forms of energy seven months from now, that conversion will take time. So recession at best, economic collapse at worst. Let's go with the middle ground -- depression, which is, in all probability, the most likely.

Let's assume it goes like this: With prices up, discretionary spending is down. Businesses go bankrupt. People lose jobs. Dow Jones begins sliding and picks up speed as former millionaires find themselves selling Bentleys at auction. At the same time we are in an economic hole, we are being hit by more floods, more fires, more droughts, more tornadoes, more hurricanes. Insurance costs go through the roof. The housing market reaches even lower lows and we see even more foreclosures. The number of homeless is staggering. Houses sit empty and squatters move in, sometimes multiple families occupying a mansion which, in it's former life, was a vacation home for the super-wealthy. Authorities look the other way. America is gasping for breath, but it survives the storm.

What has happened to Average Joe in all of this? Remember, we're working on the optimist's version of the future, here. Assuming Average Joe still has his house, still has a job, still has his car -- how has his lifestyle changed? He has learned to conserve -- doesn't drive the kids across town to soccer practice and ballet lessons anymore. Doesn't use an electric can opener when a manual one will do. Doesn't keep the house as cool in the summer or as warm in the winter. He has even found ways to generate his own electricity -- from windmills and solar panels to power-generating seesaws and stationery bikes. He puts in cisterns and uses his roof and gutters to collect rain water which he uses to grow vegetables where his lawn used to be. It's the rage anyway -- the new act of patriotism. He spends more time outside and finally gets to know his neighbors After All These Years. His kids, bored now that they're home and Dad won't let them play video games nearly as much, start hanging out with the kids down the street. They make themselves a clubhouse in a neighbor's tree and drop water bombs on the unsuspecting. Mom has converted the garage to a workshop. She makes quilts from old clothes on her foot pedaled sewing machine, which she then barters for clay pots and pine needle baskets made by people down the block. As communities become more and more self-sustaining, people learn that co-operation is the key to survival; crime and poverty all but disappear.

Now this is all fine and good for small-towns and suburbs, but what about downtowns? What about cities? They go through a slightly different transformation. Think of all the space that will be freed up if our malls, shopping centers, and big office buildings go bankrupt and are abandoned. All those buildings can be reinvented. Imagine living spaces interspersed with shops, churches, schools, and medical facilities, all in one building. Imagine rooftops and former parking lots planted with vegetables, and parks landscaped with fruit trees. Imagine streets with bicycles and pedestrians instead of fume-spewing automobiles. Imagine gardens tucked into every available niche and window boxes with herbs on every store front.

But even this rose-colored vision is doomed unless the world at large realizes at long last:

Resources are finite.
Population growth is inimical to quality of life.
We either live sustainably or die.

We can get there from here. Maybe we will. Why not?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Abysmal Ignorance and the Broken Trust

Until a few days ago, I had never heard of Angela Merkel. I had never heard that she is the first female Chancellor of Germany. I had never heard that she was named the most powerful woman in the world two years running. I had never heard that she is leading her country and the EU towards clean, renewable energy while the US continues to wallow in its oil addiction.

She is the most powerful woman in the world and I have never heard of her! What is wrong with me? Where have I been?

So, if I don't know that Germany, with its conservative older generation, has elected a female Chancellor, what else don't I know? Who are the leaders of the rest of the G8? If I think a while, I come up with Brown -- he's the prime minister of the UK. And I remember the hotly contested election in France last year (only because we were in Europe and watching European news at the time); if I saw the French President's name, I would recognize it -- but I can't quite pull it out of my brain. Canada, our next-door neighbor? I have no idea. What about Mexico, our neighbor to the south? Again, no idea. Japan -- one of the most influential countries in the world? Must be something Japanese-sounding. China -- the volatile giant and exporter of almost everything in WalMart? Nope. Surely I know Russia. Everyone knows Russia. Not anymore. Italy? Not the slightest.

Even if I don't know, my mother must. She watches television almost all day long. She watches CSPAN and Christian news broadcasts that deal with more real news than the networks do. So I ask her how many world leaders she can name. Zero. Okay, how about my husband? He pays more attention than I to these kinds of things and has a better memory. He is able, after some thought, to come up with four or five names -- Merkel, Castro, Chavez, Brown, and Mugabe of Zimbabwe whose election is in question. But not Canada, Mexico, Russia, Japan, China, France, Italy . . .

What is wrong with us? We are relatively intelligent, relatively well-informed people. We watch the news every day -- sometimes several times a day. But when do we ever hear real news? When do we hear about the woman who has broken the glass ceiling in Germany and been named the most powerful woman in the world? When do we hear about the smoking hot election of the French President? When do we hear about the urgent statement of the joint academies of science? Is it before the dirt on Brittany Spears or after the hot-dog eating contest in New Jersey? Maybe it was slipped in between stories on child sex and Madonna's divorce.

It can be said that the networks are just giving us what we want. We don't really want news; we want entertainment. So entertainment is what we get. News is passé. News is old hat. News is as out-moded as the clichés I've been using. But what about the sacred trust? The press is supposed to tell us what is going on in the world at large, not just the gossip from next door. The press has a sacred trust to bring us the news, the real news. And they do know the difference. I've watched CNN in America and I've watched CNN in Europe and they are no way comparable. One is entertainment and one is news.

The sacred trust is broken and I don't know if it will ever be fixed.

Crimes Against Humanity

In 1999, the US Congress held impeachment hearings on then President William Clinton for having lied under oath about his sexual relations with a White House intern, a relationship which caused a great deal of embarrassment to his wife, his daughter, and the American public at large. I have no intention of either supporting or opposing that process. My intention is to question how it is, then, that President George W. Bush has gotten off scott-free for his many lies -- lies which have cost, not temporary embarrassment, but lives -- thousands of lives -- both present and future. This is no ill-advised peccadillo we are talking about, this is meddling with the truth in ways that affect our basic rights to survival.

I won't go into George W's personal vendetta against Saddam Hussein and the thousands of lives, both American and Iraqi, his bungling has cost. If you are interested in that travesty of the truth, you can watch the documentary No End in Sight. What galls me even more is that he seems to have sold our inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for forty barrels of oil (forgive the mixed metaphor -- nothing else seems quite as fitting!) His transgressions are so egregious, I find myself wordless. I will let his actions speak for themselves.

The Bush administration attempts to muzzle scientists, most notably James Hansen, who are speaking out about global warming. Read the article here.

The White House Office of Business and Management edits a multi-million dollar, two-year study by the EPA and removes references to the potentially harmful effects of carbon emissions, as well as suggestions for cutting such emissions and costs involved. Rather than follow the Supreme Court ruling that The Clean Air Act applies to carbon emissions as well as particulates, the OBM suggests that the Clean Air Act itself is flawed and needs to be revoked. Read articles here, here, and here.

While promoting oil exploration in environmentally sensitive areas, Bush calls for a two-year moratorium on solar arrays on public lands so that "environmental impact" can be studied. Read the article here. Thankfully, he later rescinds the moratorium (see here) but still continues to mislead the American public with specious promises of an oil-rich future (see here)

And while George twiddles, the earth burns. Sometimes literally. If you live in California or Georgia or Florida, you know whereof I speak. I'm still looking for that good lawyer -- the one who is willing to try GW for crimes against humanity. And for the lies he has told.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Focus on the solution, not the problem

One of my favorite books is Wizard's First Rule by Terry Goodkind. It's kind of strange as, philosophically, we are light-years apart, but his books have probably done more to change who I am than all the mystical, New Age books I've read put together. Goodkind taught me that's it is okay to fight for yourself and for the things you believe in. Strangely enough, I have found that I rather like fighting. It is empowering to fearlessly speak my truth even if to deaf ears. And Goodkind reminds me to focus on the solution, not the problem. I have taken his advice.

It's incredible to me that there's anyone on this earth who still believes global climate disruption is not happening or who can deny that human beings are responsible. It all comes down to this -- anthropogenic global warming is here. We need to make significant changes now or civilization, if not the earth itself, is in peril. That's it, pure and simple.

And yet, there is a solution, there is hope. In seven months, the United States, the world's biggest offender, will have a new administration. If Barack Obama is elected President, one can hope that he will put men the likes of James Hansen, Joseph Romm and Al Gore in positions of power over the energy sector. With the price of oil going up, we may see policies not just espoused but actually implemented. Greg's book will be coming out at a critical juncture -- the new administration will be poised to move forward and heightened public concern could be the extra push needed. We will still have to deal with the climactic changes that have already been set in motion, but if we can cut emissions soon enough and deeply enough, we may avoid the worst case scenarios.

And then perhaps, just perhaps, mankind will awaken to the fragile perfection of the world on which we live. Perhaps then we will realize that the earth is not ours to be relentlessly exploited and that we either learn to live in concert with nature or destroy the only home we have. Perhaps then we will make a voluntary effort to bring our numbers down, replant the forests, renew the seas, and encourage the wild things to return once again.

It sounds like a fairy tale when I write it all out, but it could happen that way. Global climate change and peak oil might be the twin catalysts for a shift to a whole new paradigm. With that hope, I fight on.

Monday, June 16, 2008

An Insurance Policy

There is much to be said for modern civilization. The very best part, as far as I am concerned, is the internet. With the internet, my daughter-in-law has direct access to customers for her hand-etched glassware, while I have direct access to like minds from every corner of our blue planet. With the internet, a library's worth of information is available with the touch of a few keys. With the internet, I can order water-soluble stabilizer from Canada or discuss the weather with a friend in Germany, all the while I sit in my easy chair and watch the sun rise.

I love DVR and television and Netflix. I love that my husband can watch Tiger Woods play golf on Father's Day and that we can rewind to watch any spectacular plays that were missed. I love that we can watch, in the comfort of our living room, birds who imitate car alarms and old movies and new classics and documentaries that tell us about the mess we have made in Iraq. I love going to the store and finding avocadoes any time I want. I love my digital photo frame that continuously cycles the best of my memories. I love the coolness of my air conditioning on a hot, humid day. I love the warmth of my heating system on a cold, windy day. I love the music, the art, the literature and how very easy it is to share those with the world. I love Harry Potter books and movies and "The Sword of Truth" series. I love the comfort and convenience of automobiles, the miracle of hot, clean water at the turn of a tap, the labor-saving marvels of washing machine, dryer, stove and refrigerator. I love modern medicine and the role it has played in making lives healthier, more comfortable, and more productive. I love telephones and being able to hear our children's voices virtually any time we want. I love '"helping hand" pendants and knowing that we can leave Mother and not have to worry if she is all right.

So why am I in a panic, running around saying the sky is falling? I guess it comes down to this: I'm not saying civilization is going to collapse. I'm saying it might. And if it does, I want an insurance policy, a fall-back position, a Plan B. There are days when I think it would take improbably catastrophic changes to cause the downfall I fear, and there are days when I fear that's exactly what we're in for. We seem to seem to be at a point of convergence, of all our problems coming to maturity at once. It's global warming and peak oil and overpopulation and the over-exploitation and destruction of Earth's resources. It's huge cities where millions of people have grown too dependent on power grids, piped-in water, piped-out sewage, and trucked-in food from mega-farms. It's too many people in the world who hate us and wish us harm. It's too many people in our economic ghettos who hate us and wish us harm. It's our insular lives that revolve around electronic devices and have become detached from the real world. It's our selfish greed and our abysmal ignorance and our preoccupied indifference. And I know that I, too, am part of it all -- the good, the bad, and the ugly. Those are our crows and sooner or later, they are coming home to roost.

In my lifetime? Maybe. That's why I want an insurance policy.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Counting My Blessings - for a change!

Blesséd am I, my dearest Sophia.

I have enjoyed an extraordinarily wonderful life. I have never known a day of hunger, despair, or grief. Never. Not one. I have always had what I needed and more. I have always had good health and continue to do so at 58 years of age. I have had the privilege of living in incredibly beautiful places from the palisades of Santa Monica to the mountain rimmed plains of Colorado to the green forests of Virginia to the quaint towns of Germany to the sugar white sands of the Gulf of Mexico. I have had wonderful friends and wonderful family. I like who I am. I like my husband and the relationship we have developed over the years. I like my children and their spouses. Liking is more difficult than loving. Loving comes with the territory. Liking is finding common ground and mutual respect.

As I sit in my easy chair typing on my laptop, I watch the sun rise over the intracoastal. The fronds of a palm tree flicker with the orange light of dawn, looking so much like fire that I cross the room for a closer look. My tall, strong husband and our next-door neighbor cast their fishing lines from a dock across the way. Boats glide silently by, leaving dark streamers in the glittering waters of early morning. Herons and pelicans dip lazily on invisible currents of air. The rapidly changing light plays a tune of blues across sky and water. The golden hues of morning mellow the greens of scrub and palm. There is a sliver of white on the horizon that is the sands of our island. There is a forest of pine silhouettes that is the state park. It is the beginning of a new day.

What I make of this day is up to me and me alone. I am the star of my life and loving every minute.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

My Crystal Ball

Today is a beautiful blue and white day fringed with green. It is much the same as it was yesterday and much the same as it will likely be tomorrow. I cannot imagine it any different. So why am I spending my time writing doomsday predictions when I could be engaging in life as we know it?

Because I know that change is guaranteed. No two days are exactly the same, no two moments in time. And I know how quickly life can be irrevocably altered. Pick up the newspaper and you see examples of it everyday. Two boys are sitting on their bed watching TV and a car comes crashing through the wall, killing one. A teenager is playing basketball with his friends and falls over dead. A senator from Massachusetts has a seizure and finds out that it is brain cancer. A famous actor goes for a horseback ride and spends the rest of his life as a paraplegic. No one sees it coming. The moment before, all is well. The moment after, all is changed. There may have been warning signs, but they were unheeded.

Despite life's uncertainty, I keep gazing into my crystal ball, trying to see where we are headed, trying to understand so that I can make sane choices in my own life. I've taken the two best case scenarios currently being bandied about and attempted to follow them a mere fifty to a hundred years in the future. A hundred years in the history of the world is a very short time after all.

First best case scenario -- we continue with business as usual but it's okay because global warming turned out to be a false alarm. We continue our oil addiction, finding new sources to meet the growing need, and we go another fifty years before we run out (I'm being generous here!) In the meantime, the world's population has continued to grow. We are even more reliant upon petro-chemical fertilizers to feed all the mouths (well, not all -- starvation is a way of life in third world countries, but that is nothing new. We in the US can still buy oranges from Brazil at our local Wal-Mart.) We've continued to scrape the deep oceans for fish while destroying their habitat, burn the Amazon for farmland, dig ever deeper to extract essential metals from the earth, and suck our aquifers dry. Cities are even more crowded, life is more tense, and we continue to rob from the poor to give to the rich. What happens then? What happens fifty years from now?

I'll be gone by then. But my children and grandchildren may not be. Their lives would become unrelenting nightmares. There just wouldn't be enough food and clean water in the world to go around. We would see mass emigrations to those countries where food was still available. Resources in the well-to-do countries would be stretched beyond the limit and violence would become the norm. We would either see anarchy with the strong preying on the weak, or we would see martial law and soldiers enforcing a strained peace. Food would become more and more scarce for any but the very rich, and the very rich would be targets of the starving masses. With people weakened by malnutrition and lack of clean water, there would be epidemics that could decimate entire populations as the Black Plague once did. There would be uprisings. There would be wars.

Second best case scenario. We start now to wean ourselves off oil. We build wind farms and solar arrays and nuclear power plants and near-zero emission coal plants. We have to find places to stash all the radioactive waste and the sequestered CO2, but we pull it off somehow. We have energy efficient homes and businesses, electric cars, and rooftop gardens. But if the world's population continues to grow, we continue to consume metals, water, forests and fish at an ever increasing rate, we still end up where we would have been had we continued our reliance upon oil. Maybe we will have gained a few more years, but we will have burdened our grandchildren with the price of our unbridled greed and blind devotion to growth.

Okay, so what if the world's population doesn't grow? What if we manage zero population growth? We would still continue to consume the world's resources at the current rate, and the current rate is unsustainable. In order to ensure that our children and grandchildren will have the same quality of life we have enjoyed, we will have to do even better, we will have to achieve a negative population growth. China has managed to do just that. It is not impossible. With diminished numbers, it might be possible to feed the world without chemical fertilizers, to fish the oceans without depleting them, to live in the world without destroying it.

So our challenges are many. We must reduce our impact on the earth by reducing our numbers and by changing our patterns of consumption. If we don't, I can see nothing but hardship ahead. But maybe my crystal ball is just a bit cracked. Maybe what I'm seeing is horribly distorted. On the other hand, maybe global warming is the wake-up call to change, not just how we procure energy, but how we live in the world.

Friday, May 30, 2008

A Golden Opportunity

What's a body to believe? Every day the debate rages on -- it's global warming. No, it's not. We're running out of oil. No, we're not. The price of gas is going up. No, it's not. Oh, wait, that one's true for sure. The answer is, it doesn't matter who is right and who is wrong. We have a golden economic opportunity here, my friends.

T. Boone Pickens, Jr., the Texas oil billionaire, recently announced that he was investing in wind farms, not because he has suddenly turned green, but because that is where the money is to be made. Oil is passé. The future is alternative power -- solar arrays, wind farms, wave turbines. The future is hybrid cars that get 350 mpg. The future is buildings that are designed to stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter thereby slashing power bills to a shred of their former selves. The future is no more dependence on foreign oil and foreign oil prices!

But what about all those dire predictions that our economy would be hurt by a conversion to alternative fuels? Well, I've scoured the internet looking for a credible source for those dire predictions, and I can't find any! What I do find is more and more businesses, including oil companies like Shell, BP and ConocoPhillips, more and more economists, more and more experts of every kind and ilk saying that moving away from oil to cleaner, healthier, renewable sources of energy will only make our economy stronger.

So it's win-win-win-win. We strengthen our economy and create thousands of new jobs. We tell Iraq and Saudi Arabia, thank you very much but we don't want any more of your blankety blank oil. We lower our energy bills. We leave our children a cleaner, healthier, world. And, just in case the doomsayers were right after all, we avert doom.

There is a bill being debated in the senate right now that addresses this very opportunity. That bill is The Climate Security Act. It has already been endorsed by 800 entrepreneurs and investors who believe it will create whole new industries and thousands of new jobs. But don't take my word for it. Check it out for yourself. If you believe, as I do, that this is where our future lies, then please take the time to let your senator know where you stand. It's time we gave American ingenuity the incentive it needs to usher in a bright, new age.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Price of Oil and Life as We Know It

I've been trying to understand why the cost of oil is skyrocketing. A year ago, economists were warning that if oil prices rose to a consistent $80 a barrel, it would spell disaster for our economy. And here we are at close to $130 per barrel and still climbing. I wanted to know, is this the new norm or is this a temporary spike? So, I decided to do some investigating. I went to the US Department of Energy for most of my statistics, and here is what I found.

First of all, we are currently maxed out. Worldwide production and demand are pretty much equal at present -- at around 85-86 million barrels a day. Not only that, but we are at our max in terms of refining capacity. Any increase in production would require building new refineries, and refineries cannot be built overnight. No wonder oil prices are going up! Now, with prices so high, demand may fall off a bit, and that could bring prices down a notch -- at least in the short run. But if demand continues to grow, so will prices. Up and up.

Secondly, we have an estimated 1317 billion barrels of oil left in known reserves. If we take the number 85.5 million barrels per day and multiply it by 365 days per year, we get an annual consumption rate of a little more than 31 billion barrels per year. At our current rate of consumption, we have about 42.5 years left of known oil reserves. But we are unlikely to stay at current rates of consumption. If the rate rises, we will have somewhere between 30 to 40 years left. At the historic rate of increase, 1.76% per year (average rate from 1994-2006), we will double our usage in 40 years. At the rate we have experienced in recent years (2003-2004), 3.4% per year, we will double in 20.5 years. So, to make it easier on ourselves, let's go with the middle ground -- let's say we have 35 years of oil left and at the end of the 35 years, our consumption will have doubled. That means that 35 years from now, we will need to have discovered and be ready to pump, refine and transport an amount of oil equal to twice the amount of oil consumed throughout the entire history of mankind! Now there may be undiscovered oil fields out there, but that many and that much??

The bottom line is this: life as we know it is about to change. Forever. With vision and aforesight, we can shape our future into something cleaner, healthier, and more at peace with the natural world. Or we can blindly stumble into the future, helpless victims of the coming change. The choices you and I make today will decide the future for thousands of generations to come. It's on us. There is no escape clause.

Saturday, May 17, 2008


This morning, I have been browsing the internet, following links which led, this time, to a discussion of permaculture -- which is basically a way of living in the world with emphasis on sustainable agriculture. Permaculture, Peak Oil, Global Climate Destabilization, Over Population, Over Exploitation of the World's Resources, Deforestation, Pollution: there is a lot of concern out there about the world and its problems, a lot of predictions, a lot of speculation, but the underlying agreement seems to be that we cannot continue the way we are for much longer. Eventually, we will run out of fossil fuels. Eventually, climate change will force our hands. Eventually, we will reach the maximum population the world can sustain. Growth cannot go unchecked forever and a day. The disagreement centers around the questions 'how soon will we reach the tipping point,' 'how fast will change occur,' and 'how extreme will the change be'? All seem to agree that, eventually, human beings are going to have to adapt or die.

So, what does the adaptation look like? Does it look like dolphinesque cars powered by electricity, sleek, modern buildings with rooftop gardens, solar panels and windmills, and suburban lots converted to mini-farms, garages converted to businesses, and communities becoming even closer? Or does the future look like Mad Max with the strong preying on the weak and everyone struggling to survive? Probably both and neither.

There seems to be at least one wild card in every deck - the one thing no one saw coming: AIDS, the fall of the Soviet empire, the Americanization of China, 9/11. This time, too, I believe the unexpected will occur and will change everything, but how that will play out, I cannot begin to guess. I hate to say it, but maybe we need a Pearl Harbor to set things in motion before we reach free fall.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Come Hell and High Water

It's one of those mornings. I put on my grunge clothes, made a list of all the things that needed done in the garden, and fully intended to take advantage of a cool, overcast day to do the dirty work. But before I got out the door, something I had read yesterday started niggling at my mind, and I knew I would have to see it onscreen before I could go forward with my day. So here it is.

In August of 2005, a storm named Katrina struck the Gulf coast of the USA leaving a legacy of death and destruction. In Pass Christian, Mississippi, a 30 foot high wall of water with waves up to 55 feet obliterated the once charming, southern town, including the home of one Mr. Romm and family. Now Mr. Romm lived one mile inland. He did not have waterfront property. Was this storm a freak of nature or something likely to repeat, he wondered. Temporarily relocated in Atlanta, he contacted his brother, Joseph, and said, "Hey, Bro. This is your area of expertise. Tell me, should I rebuild in Pass Christian or get a new life?"1

Now his brother, Joseph, was highly qualified to answer that very question. After all, he had a doctorate in physics from MIT, had done his dissertation on physical oceanography, and had served as head of the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy during the Clinton administration. But Joseph knew this was a question that deserved careful analysis. So he did some research. He asked top scientists in the field. What he found out was that "the climate situation was far more dire than most people -- even many scientists, myself included -- realized. Almost every major climate impact was occurring faster than the computer models had suggested. Arctic sea ice was shrinking far faster than every single model had projected. And the great ice sheets of Greenland and West Antarctica were shedding ice decades earlier than the models said. Ecosystems appeared to be losing their ability to take up carbon dioxide faster than expected. At the same time, global carbon dioxide emissions and concentrations were rising faster than most had expected."2

In Romm's estimation, and in that of many climatologists, hurricane seasons like those of 2004 and 2005 may become commonplace in the very near future. 2006 was a lucky year -- most of the hurricanes headed out into the Atlantic. 2007 was not so lucky.

Aha, my friends would say. 2007 was a dud so far as hurricanes go. The US hardly got hit at all. Well, despite what some of my friends seem to think, we are not the only country in world. According to Wikipedia, 2007 was a record-breaking year in many unfortunate ways:

On August 18, Hurricane Dean was upgraded to category 5 status and eventually made landfall at that strength on the Mexican Yucatán Peninsula. When Hurricane Felix reached category 5 status, 2007 became one of four recorded Atlantic seasons that have had more than one category 5 storm — the others being 1960, 1961 and 2005 — and the only time two Atlantic hurricanes have ever made landfall at Category 5 strength in the same season. Dean and Felix also both reached Category 5 strength more than once, the first such occurrence in an Atlantic hurricane season. Also, the 2007 season was the second season on record that an Atlantic hurricane and an eastern Pacific hurricane made landfall on the same day (Felix and Henriette). Hurricane Humberto also became the fastest developing storm on record to be so close to land; it strengthened from a 35 mph (55 km/h) tropical depression to a 90 mph (150 km/h) hurricane in 14 hours while 15 miles (24 km) off the coast of Texas. September had a record tying 8 storms, but the strengths and durations of most of the storms were low. Hurricane Noel was the deadliest storm of the season, killing 169 people. The post season Tropical Storm Olga caused 40 deaths in the northern Caribbean, primarily in the Dominican Republic.

Unfortunately, hurricanes are not all we have to worry about. In August of 2003, a heat wave caused 35,000 deaths across Europe. That's a lot of dead people, People. And global climate destabilization is a contributing factor to a host of weather extremes, many of which the US of A is experiencing almost daily -- droughts, floods, tornadoes, wildfires to name the most popular.

I know I harp on this a lot. Sometimes my high horse gets so high even I get a nose-bleed. But I challenge everyone to read Romm's book. Prove it wrong. Prove me wrong. If you can't, then at least care enough to care.


1 Okay, I took liberties. This might not be an exact quote.

2 Joseph Romm, Hell and High Water: Global Warming -- the Solution and the Politics -- and What We Should Do, p. 29