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."