In Around the web on March 11, 2014 at 8:40 am
The California Democratic Party’s convention in Los Angeles just wrapped up. It was a great gathering as usual, with activists up and down the state getting energized to expand and defend the Congressional map, as well as retain and make gains in the statehouse. While all of that is extremely important, of course, it’s not exactly newsworthy. Two things of greater interest to the general public did happen, though: first, the state Democratic Party expressly voted to put marijuana legalization into the party platform, validating the forward thinking of activists on that front.
[See Don't Frack California Rally March 15th Sacramento here]
But there was a second, even bigger story of more bleeding edge activism involving fracking. California has a lot of oil deep underground. More…
In Around the web on March 11, 2014 at 6:00 am
From Yale Environment 360
For six decades, writer Wendell Berry has spoken out in defense of local agriculture, rural communities, and the importance of caring for the land. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, he talks about his Kentucky farm, his activism, and why he remains hopeful for the future.
Wendell Berry wrote about and practiced “sustainable agriculture” long before the term was widely used. His 1977 book, The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture, in which he argued against industrial agriculture and for small-scale, local-based farming, had a strong influence
Berry has long balanced the diverse roles of writer, activist, teacher, and farmer. At age 79, he still lives on the farm near Port Royal, Kentucky, where he grew up, and uses traditional methods to work the land there. And he still speaks eloquently about the importance of local communities and of caring for the land, while warning of the destructive potential of industrialization and technology.
In an interview with Yale Environment 360 editor Roger Cohn, Berry talked about his Kentucky farm and why he has remained there, why he would risk arrest to protest mountaintop removal mining, why the sustainable agriculture movement faces an uphill battle More…
In Around the web on March 10, 2014 at 8:45 am
From David Bromwich
Like many days, March 3rd saw the delivery of a stern opinion by President Obama. To judge by recent developments in Ukraine, he said, Russia was putting itself “on the wrong side of history.” This might seem a surprising thing for an American president to say. The fate of Soviet Communism taught many people to be wary of invoking History as if it were one’s special friend or teammate. But Obama doubtless felt comfortable because he was quoting himself. “To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent,” he said in his 2009 inaugural address, “know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.” In January 2009 and again in March 2014, Obama was speaking to the world as its uncrowned leader.
For some time now, observers – a surprisingly wide range of them — have been saying that Barack Obama seems more like a king than a president. Leave aside the fanatics who think he is a “tyrant” of unparalleled powers and malignant purpose. Notions of that sort come easily to those who look for them; they are predigested and can safely be dismissed. But the germ of a similar conclusion may be found in a perception shared by many others. Obama, it is said, takes himself to be something like a benevolent monarch More…
In Around the web on March 7, 2014 at 7:00 am
Django on Marcia’s Lap
From TODD WALTON
Under The Table
“The story of cats is the story of meat, and begins with the end of the dinosaurs.” Elizabeth Marshall Thomas
Our cat Django is a very large and handsome gray cat, or as our veterinarian said politely, “Shall we call him obese?”
“But he hasn’t gained any weight for several years,” we hastened to explain. “He’s holding steady at twenty pounds and a little.”
The good doctor of cats and dogs was not greatly impressed by our feat of maintaining the status quo of Django’s enormity. We had rushed our twelve-year-old kitty to the one and only veterinarian office in the village of Mendocino because he was in severe distress, which turned out to be the result of urinary tract and kidney difficulties that could, sooner than later, lead to his death if we don’t start feeding him special expensive food or unless, as our vet explained, Django undergoes an operation to eliminate the problem entirely by turning him into a female in regard to how he urinates. More…
In Around the web on March 4, 2014 at 10:44 am
Globe and Mail, Feb. 27, 2014: Mystery surrounds massive die-off of oysters and scallops off B.C. coast [...] Something is killing oysters and scallops in dramatic numbers [...] The cause is unknown, but ocean acidification is the main suspect. [...] last year, nearby Pendrell Sound had a massive die-off of wild oysters. [...] [Rob Saunders, CEO of Island Scallops] has lost 10 million scallops over the past two years, and smaller companies have had similar problems. Mr. Saunders is pushing for a research project to find out what’s happening. [...] one of BC’s biggest suppliers of fresh seafood, said the scallop die-off has rung alarm bells.
CBC, Feb. 25, 2014: The deteriorating health of B.C.’s oceans [...] Millions of shellfish are dying off before they can be harvested at Island Scallops [...] researchers will try to determine if acidification is to blame or if other factors are at play.
In Around the web on March 3, 2014 at 9:01 am
From JAMES KUNSTLER
So, now we are threatening to start World War Three because Russia is trying to control the chaos in a failed state on its border — a state that our own government spooks provoked into failure? The last time I checked, there was a list of countries that the USA had sent troops, armed ships, and aircraft into recently, and for reasons similar to Russia’s in Crimea: the former Yugoslavia, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, none of them even anywhere close to American soil. I don’t remember Russia threatening confrontations with the USA over these adventures.
The phones at the White House and the congressional offices ought to be ringing off the hook with angry US citizens objecting to the posturing of our elected officials. There ought to be crowds with bobbing placards in Farragut Square reminding the occupant of 1400 Pennsylvania Avenue how ridiculous this makes us look.
The saber-rattlers at The New York Times were sounding like the promoters of a World Wrestling Federation stunt Monday morning when they said in a Page One story:
“The Russian occupation of Crimea has challenged Mr. Obama as has no other international crisis, and at its heart, the advice seemed to pose the same question: Is Mr. Obama tough enough to take on the former K.G.B. colonel in the Kremlin?” More…
In Around the web on February 27, 2014 at 10:30 am
Science advances by discovering new things and developing new ideas. Few truly new ideas are developed without abandoning old ones first. As theoretical physicist Max Planck (1858-1947) noted, “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” In other words, science advances by a series of funerals. Why wait that long?
WHAT SCIENTIFIC IDEA IS READY FOR RETIREMENT?
Ideas change, and the times we live in change. Perhaps the biggest change today is the rate of change. What established scientific idea is ready to be moved aside so that science can advance?
Our Narrow Definition of “Science”
Search your mind, or pay attention to the conversations you have with other people, and you will discover that there are no real boundaries between science and philosophy—or between those disciplines and any other that attempts to make valid claims about the world on the basis of evidence and logic. When such claims and their methods of verification admit of experiment and/or mathematical description, we tend to say that our concerns are “scientific”; when they relate to matters more abstract, or to the consistency of our thinking itself, we often say that we are being “philosophical” More…
In Around the web on February 27, 2014 at 9:56 am
From Schumacher Center
For many years my walks have taken me down an old fencerow in a wooded hollow on what was once my grandfather’s farm. A battered galvanized bucket is hanging on a fence post near the head of the hollow, and I never go by it without stopping to look inside. For what is going on in that bucket is the most momentous thing I know, the greatest miracle that I have ever heard of: it is making earth. The old bucket has hung there through many autumns, and the leaves have fallen around it and some have fallen into it. Rain and snow have fallen into it, and the fallen leaves have held the moisture and so have rotted. Nuts have fallen into it, or been carried into it by squirrels; mice and squirrels have eaten the meat of the nuts and left the shells; they and other animals have left their droppings; insects have flown into the bucket and died and decayed; birds have scratched in it and left their droppings or perhaps a feather or two. This slow work of growth and death, gravity and decay, which is the chief work of the world, has by now produced in the bottom of the bucket several inches of black humus. I look into that bucket with fascination because I am a farmer of sorts and an artist of sorts, and I recognize there an artistry and a farming far superior to mine, or to that of any human. I have seen the same process at work on the tops of boulders in a forest, and it has been at work immemorially over most of the land-surface of the world. All creatures die into it, and they live by it. More…
In Around the web on February 27, 2014 at 7:40 am
A stunning new report indicates the U.S. Navy knew that sailors from the nuclear-powered USS Ronald Reagan took major radiation hits from the Fukushima atomic power plant after its meltdowns and explosions nearly three years ago.
If true, the revelations cast new light on the $1 billion lawsuit filed by the sailors against Tokyo Electric Power. Many of the sailors are already suffering devastating health impacts, but are being stonewalled by Tepco and the Navy.
The Reagan had joined several other U.S. ships in Operation Tomodachi (“Friendship”) to aid victims of the March 11, 2011 quake and tsunami. Photographic evidence and first-person testimony confirms that on March 12, 2011 the ship was within two miles of Fukushima Dai’ichi as the reactors there began to melt and explode.
In the midst of a snow storm, deck hands were enveloped in a warm cloud that came with a metallic taste. Sailors testify that the Reagan’s 5,500-member crew was told over the ship’s intercom to avoid drinking or bathing in desalinized water drawn from a radioactive sea. The huge carrier quickly ceased its humanitarian efforts and sailed 100 miles out to sea, where newly published internal Navy communications confirm it was still taking serious doses of radioactive fallout. More…
In Around the web on February 25, 2014 at 10:11 am
The recent advanced in networked mobile computing has made it rather unnecessary for a large class of people—ones who use computers for work—to maintain a fixed abode: it is now possible to do all the same things, via the Internet, from any place in the world that has a wifi signal.
If your work involves designing, writing and testing, or simply running software, then all you really need is a laptop, with a way to charge it. (In a sunny place, 200W of solar panels plus a couple of 6V golf cart batteries, a charge controller, and an inverter are all you need.) If you are doing research, then it turns out that a lot of libraries have gone electronic too, and that there is less and less reason to clamber around the dusty stacks, looking for a call number that of course isn’t there because the book is either checked out, misplaced, or lost altogether. In short, showing up is no longer important; all that matters is being able to get online.
What’s more, such mobility has become a definite plus, as more and more businesses have become virtual, relying on contractors that do their work remotely. Most such employers hardly ever have reason to see you in person; however, most of them really, truly, deeply care where you are physically. They want you to be nearby, just in case. In case of what, exactly? Nobody can tell you that, except that it is important. I only mention this because it’s true: it’s something I know from experience.
Suppose you have a job that involve banging away at a laptop for 8-10 hours a day for some company whose offices are located in a major urban center. More…
In Around the web on February 24, 2014 at 10:56 am
From United Nations
Developing and developed countries alike need a paradigm shift in agricultural development: from a “green revolution” to a “truly ecological intensification” approach. This implies a rapid and significant shift from conventional, monoculture-based and high external-input-dependent industrial production towards mosaics of sustainable, regenerative production systems that also considerably improve the productivity of small-scale farmers. We need to see a move from a linear to a holistic approach in agricultural management, which recognizes that a farmer is not only a producer of agricultural goods, but also a manager of an agro-ecological system that provides quite a number of public goods and services (e.g. water, soil, landscape, energy, biodiversity, and recreation) UNCTAD’s Trade and Environment Review 2013 (TER13) contends.
TER13 highlights that the required transformation is much more profound than simply tweaking the existing industrial agricultural system. Rather, what is called for is a better understanding of the multi-functionality of agriculture, its pivotal importance for pro-poor rural development and the significant role it can play in dealing with resource scarcities and in mitigating and adapting to climate change. However, the sheer scale at which modified production methods would have to be adopted, the significant governance issues, the power asymmetries’ problems in food input and output markets as well as the current trade rules for agriculture pose considerable challenges.
In Around the web on February 22, 2014 at 8:46 am
Catherine Higley, professor and head of Oregon State University’s Department of Nuclear Engineering: There’s been a very intensive effort to sample fish along the coastlines and even students in my research group are participating in studies sampling fish that are coming into market.
Molly Seder, host. What are you learning?
Higley: We can see very low levels of cesium in some of the bigger fish that have been caught in the ocean, fish that have typically traveled along the Japanese coast that were in the plume early on and then migrated over to the west, where they’ve been captured. […] The levels of cesium from Fukushima that we’re seeing in fish over here are really similar to levels from the [atomic bomb testing] fallout that we can still actually detect. So they’re there, but they’re very, very small.
Seder: So this is fish that’s being caught and taken to market for consumption in Japan or in the United States?
Higley: Some of the fish that we see here for consumption in the United States […] we can still see this, a little bit of fallout as well as some of the Fukushima radionuclides. So it’s not a level that’s hazardous. It’s a level at or below the natural complement… More…
In Around the web on February 21, 2014 at 9:55 am
In 2008, launching a search engine seemed like a crazy idea. DuckDuckGo proved the critics wrong… with hardcore privacy…
When Gabriel Weinberg launched a search engine in 2008, plenty of people thought he was insane. How could DuckDuckGo, a tiny, Philadelphia-based startup, go up against Google? One way, he wagered, was by respecting user privacy. Six years later, we’re living in the post-Snowden era, and the idea doesn’t seem so crazy.
In fact, DuckDuckGo is exploding.
Looking at the chart of DuckDuckGo’s daily search queries above, the milestones are obvious. A $3 million investment from Union Square Ventures in 2011. Just prior to that, a San Francisco billboard campaign. Inclusion in Time‘s 50 Best Websites of 2011. Each of these things moved the traffic needle for DuckDuckGo, but none of them came close to sparking anything like the massive spike in queries the company saw last July. That’s when Edward Snowden first revealed the NSA’s extensive digital surveillance program to the world. The line on the chart hasn’t stopped climbing north since.
“Every year, we’ve grown 200-500%,” Weinberg says. “The numbers keep getting bigger.” As of early February, DuckDuckGo was seeing more than 4 million search queries per day. One year ago, that number had just barely broken 1 million.
Surprisingly, the sudden success didn’t send the site crashing down. More…
In Around the web on February 14, 2014 at 8:04 am
USS Reagan sailors on deck trying to clean up radiation during Operation Tomadachi, their humanitarian aid mission to Fukushima immediately after the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami. (Note the lack of protective gear.)
Charles Bonner, attorney representing US sailors exposed to Fukushima radioactive releases during Operation Tomodachi: We intend to put the nuclear industry on trial here, because it is the misrepresentation from the nuclear industry that nuclear energy is safe that has allowed this particular incident to occur. There’s this false sense of security that these for-profit energy companies such as Tepco, created in the public. The public believes that these power plants are totally safe; in fact Tepco guaranteed the Japanese public that this particular power plant was safe. […] These nuclear power plants threaten the world, the entire planet is threatened.
Bonner: [Radiation-contaminated water] undoubtedly is going to hit the northern coast of California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska — probably by the end of this year or the beginning of next year. This kind of contamination threatens the entire planet More…
In Around the web on February 13, 2014 at 7:33 am
From New Republic
Has there ever been a political reversal of fortune as rapid and as absolute as the one just experienced by Chris Christie? At warp speed, the governor of New Jersey has gone from the most popular politician in the country to the most embattled; from the Republicans’ brightest hope for 2016 to a man with an FBI target on his back. One minute, he was releasing jokey vanity videos starring Alec Baldwin and assorted celebrity pals; the next, he was being ridiculed by his lifelong idol, Bruce Springsteen. Mere weeks ago, Christie was a straight-talking, corruption-busting everyman. Now, he is a liar, a bully, a buffoon.
What is remarkable about this meltdown is that it isn’t the result of some deep secret that has been exposed to the world, revealing a previously unimagined side to the candidate. Many of the scandals and mini-scandals and scandals-within-scandals that the national media is salivating over have been in full view for years. Even the now-infamous Bridgegate was percolating for months before it exploded into the first major story of the next presidential race. More…
In Around the web on February 13, 2014 at 6:00 am
From Sydney Morning Herald
A British professor’s 1972 book about the dangers of sugar is now seen as prophetic. Then why did it lead to the end of his career?
A couple of years ago, an out-of-print book published in 1972 by a long-dead British professor suddenly became a collector’s item.
Copies that had been lying dusty on bookshelves were selling for hundreds of pounds, while copies were also being pirated online.
Alongside such rarities as Madonna’s Sex, Stephen King’s Rage (written as Richard Bachman) and Promise Me Tomorrow by Nora Roberts; Pure, White and Deadly by John Yudkin, a book widely derided at the time of publication, was listed as one of the most coveted out-of-print works in the world.
How exactly did a long-forgotten book suddenly become so prized? The cause was a ground-breaking lecture called Sugar: the Bitter Truth by Robert Lustig, professor of paediatric endocrinology at the University of California, in which Lustig hailed Yudkin’s work as ”prophetic”. More
In Around the web on February 12, 2014 at 11:11 am
5 Messed-Up Things That Are In Your Food
Many of these ingredients are banned in Europe, but here in the good old USA you’ll find them on your dinner plate.
Two years ago, the nation’s collective stomach churned when people learned they were eating a meat product called “pink slime.” Lean, finely textured beef as the industry wanted to call it, was meat scraps that were once earmarked for pet food repurposed for the human dinner table, especially the National School Lunch Program. While the product looked like human intestines, what caused the national revulsion was that pink slime was treated with puffs of ammonia to kill the bacterium E. coli. Yum.
Soon after the hoopla began, the main supplier of pink slime, Beef Products, Inc., announced it was closing its production facilities. But since then, other products the public doesn’t know it’s consuming or want to consume have surfaced, and the manufacturers have not necessarily been as forthcoming. There’s a good chance you are eating some of the following products and byproducts.
1. Azodicarbonamide in Bread
Until a month ago, few had heard More…
In Around the web on February 12, 2014 at 8:56 am
From the forested hillside above us, a bulldozer sends giant rocks and tree limbs sailing down onto the hundreds-of-years-old footpath leading us from the Paro Valley floor to Dra Lhakhang, a cliffside temple where the six of us plan to sleep on the first night of our three-day hike to, Dragipangtsho, a lake considered holy. Karma Wangchuk, the leader of our hiking party, blows his pocket whistle and screams along with the rest of us, hoping our distressed voices will penetrate the roar of the machine. Finally, the bulldozer stops and the road crew hollers and waves down to us in acknowledgement, oblivious to our peril.
It is the week before final exams at the Paro College of Education, and Karma, a teacher of Shakespeare and advisor to the drama club, is guiding five of us—my partner and me and three students—to the holy lake whose name, translated into English from Dzongkha, the official language of Bhutan, means “in the lap of the mountain,” or “in the lap of the guru,” the guru being Guru Rinpoche, who brought Buddhism to Bhutan in the eighth century.
As a visitor here, teaching for nine months on a Fulbright fellowship, so much of this country is surprising to me. But this is a surprise even to my Bhutanese friends: on our way to this very holy site, where ordinary Bhutanese, let alone Westerners, seldom tread, More…
In Around the web on February 12, 2014 at 8:41 am
It was a small cooperative store on a little known island off the coast of South Carolina. During the harshest days of the civil rights struggle, embattled black leaders came through its doors seeking inspiration. Among the legendary leaders who visited the co-op were: Ralph Abernathy, Dorothy Cotton, Conrad Brown, Fannie Lou Hamer, Martin Luther King Jr, John Lewis, Bernice Reagon, Cleveland Sellers, Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael), Andrew Young, Hosea Williams and many others.
What began in that co-op was a Citizenship School to teach blacks on Johns Island, South Carolina how to qualify to vote. Later, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) spread that program throughout the South. That one class in the co-op became thousands of classes in churches, schools and homes. In 1962, the SCLC brought in other groups who then formed the Voter Education Project (VEP). Between 1962 and 1966 VEP trained 10,000 teachers for Citizenship Schools and 700,000 black voters registered throughout the South. By 1970, another million black voters had registered.
Aldon Morris in his book, “Origins of the Civil Rights Movement,” wrote: “…the Citizenship Schools were one of the most effective tools of the movement.” That class at the co-op led to millions of blacks voting for the first time and as a result the South and US history were changed. More…
In Around the web on February 10, 2014 at 8:07 am
Largest protest in the South since Selma in ’65.
It was a proud day for this Raleigh native. On Saturday, a crowd of riled-up citizens the North Carolina NAACP estimated to be upwards of 80,000—the largest such gathering in the South since the 1965 Selma to Montgomery march—headed to the state capitol to protest the extremist policies of North Carolina’s GOP-controlled legislature.
Black and white, young and old, gay and straight, the people gave voice to a full roster of outrages, from racist attacks on voting rights to the state government’s refusal to expand Medicaid to half a million vulnerable Tar Heels to limitations on women’s reproductive freedom. From a four-year-old girl carrying a sign that read “Nope to Pope!” (referring to Art Pope, the state’s multimillionaire budget director and Koch ally) to the indomitable Rosa Nell Eaton, a 92-year-old veteran of the Civil Rights movement, they were united with one message: “Forward together, not one step back.”
The Moral March on Raleigh, organized by the North Carolina NAACP, was the eighth annual march of what is known as the Historic Thousands on Jones Street (HKonJ) People’s Coalition More…
In Around the web on February 8, 2014 at 12:00 pm
Who Won? According to Christian Today website, Nye by 92% to 8%…
In Around the web on February 8, 2014 at 11:03 am
Kevin Kelly is Senior Maverick at Wired magazine. He helped launch Wired in 1993, and served as its Executive Editor until January 1999. He is currently editor and publisher of the popular Cool Tools, True Films, and Street Use websites. His most recent books are Cool Tools, and What Technology Wants.
A few weeks ago David Carr profiled Kevin Kelly on page 1 of theNew York Times Business section. He wrote that Kelly’s pronouncements were “often both grandiose and correct.” That’s a pretty good summary of Kevin Kelly’s style and his prescience.
For the thirty years I’ve known him, Kelly has been making bold declarations about the world we are crafting with new technologies. He first began to attract notice when he helped found Wired as the first executive editor. “The culture of technology,” he notes, “was the prime beat of Wired. When we started the magazine 20 years ago, we had no intentions to write about hardware—bits and bauds. We wrote about the consequences of new inventions and the meaning of new stuff in our lives. At first, few believed us, and dismissed my claim that technology would become the central driver of our culture. Now everyone sees this centrality, but some are worried this means the end of civilization.” More…
In Around the web on February 7, 2014 at 10:23 am
We receive quite a few stories from Wal-Mart employees about what life is like inside America’s largest employer. But this one comes from a remarkable point of view: a longtime Walmart store manager, who vents in detail about how Walmart has systematically screwed employees over two decades.
Like all of our emails from Walmart employees, this one is anonymous, and represents one person’s opinion. But the wealth of detail it contains about the company’s management policies is remarkable. In particular, he discusses exactly how compensation and benefit policies have changed to the detriment of employees. We’ve bolded some of the parts we find most notable:
“I was recently on your site and was reading several of the stories from former and current Walmart associates. I would like to give you my experience. I write to you with a new email and will not give my real name; retaliation is alive at Walmart. I’ve been with Walmart for over twenty years beginning in the early 1990s. I’ve work at more than 9 walmarts and held various positions. I’m currently a salary assistant store manager and been one for nearly a decade. More…
In Around the web on February 6, 2014 at 8:55 am
Keeping the world safe from America…
As the year 2013 drew to an end, the BBC reported on the results of the WIN/Gallup International poll on the question: “Which country do you think is the greatest threat to peace in the world today?”
The United States was the champion by a substantial margin, winning three times the votes of second-place Pakistan.
By contrast, the debate in American scholarly and media circles is about whether Iran can be contained, and whether the huge NSA surveillance system is needed to protect U.S. security.
In view of the poll, it would seem that there are more pertinent questions: Can the United States be contained and other nations secured in the face of the U.S. threat?
In some parts of the world the United States ranks even higher as a perceived menace to world peace, notably in the Middle East, where overwhelming majorities regard the U.S. and its close ally Israel as the major threats they face, not the U.S.-Israeli favorite: Iran. More…
In Around the web on February 3, 2014 at 8:58 am
Fukushima’s missing melted cores and radioactive gushers continue to fester in secret.
Japan’s harsh dictatorial censorship has been matched by a global corporate media blackout aimed—successfully—at keeping Fukushima out of the public eye.
But that doesn’t keep the actual radiation out of our ecosystem, our markets … or our bodies.
Speculation on the ultimate impact ranges from the utterly harmless to the intensely apocalyptic .
But the basic reality is simple: for seven decades, government Bomb factories and privately-owned reactors have spewed massive quantities of unmonitored radiation into the biosphere.
The impacts of these emissions on human and ecological health are unknown primarily because the nuclear industry has resolutely refused to study them.
Indeed, the official presumption has always been that showing proof of damage from nuclear Bomb tests and commercial reactors falls to the victims, not the perpetrators. More…
In Around the web on February 2, 2014 at 12:08 pm
From Earth Island Institute
On July 21, Earth Island Journal hosted a debate here at the David Brower Center about how technological advancements can be balanced with environmental protection. On one side we had Stewart Brand, publisher of the iconic Whole Earth Catalog and author of the book, Whole Earth Discipline, which argues – in sometimes strident tones – that environmentalists need to reconsider their opposition to nuclear power, genetically modified foods, and geoengineering of the planet’s atmosphere. On the other side we had prominent Indigenous leader Winona LaDuke, who has been an eloquent spokeswoman (and tireless activist) for the importance of traditional knowledge, especially when it comes to food production…
Highlights from the debate on Technology and the Environment available here…
In Around the web on January 30, 2014 at 7:06 am
From JOHN MICHAEL GREER
None of the things I’ve just suggested will save industrial civilization. You know that, of course, and so do I. That said, any steps in the direction of conservation, decentralization, and rehumanization that get taken will make the descent less disruptive and increase the chances that communities, localities, and whole regions may be able to escape the worst impacts of the industrial system’s unraveling. That’s worth doing, and if it takes their panicked efforts to bargain with an implacable fate to get those things under way, I’m good with that.
My anomalous position as a writer and speaker on the future of industrial society who holds down a day job as an archdruid has its share of drawbacks, no question, but it also has significant advantages. One of the most important of those is that I don’t have to worry about maintaining a reputation as a serious public figure. That may not sound like an advantage, but believe me, it is one.
Most of the other leading figures in the peak oil scene have at least some claim to respectability, and that pins them down in subtle and no-so-subtle ways. Like it or not, they have to know that being right about peak oil means that they might just pick up the phone one of these days and field an invitation to testify before a Senate subcommittee or a worried panel of long-range planners from the Pentagon. The possibility of being yanked out of their current role as social critics and being called on to tell a failing industrial society how it can save itself has got to hover in front of them in the night now and then. Such reflections tend to inspire a craving for consensus, or at least for neatly labeled positions within the accepted parameters of the peak oil scene. More…
In Around the web on January 30, 2014 at 6:30 am
From The Guardian
Why are we told a broken system that creates vast inequality is the only choice? Spain’s amazing co-op is living proof otherwise…
There is no alternative to capitalism?
Really? We are to believe that an economic system with endlessly repeated cycles, costly bailouts for financiers and now austerity for most people is the best human beings can do? Capitalism’s recurring tendencies toward extreme and deepening inequalities of income, wealth, and political and cultural power require resignation and acceptance – because there is no alternative?
Of course, alternatives exist; they always do. Every society chooses – consciously or not, democratically or not – among alternative ways to organize the production and distribution of the goods and services that make individual and social life possible.
Modern societies have mostly chosen a capitalist organization of production. In capitalism, private owners establish enterprises and select their directors who decide what, how and where to produce and what to do with the net revenues from selling the output. This small handful of people makes all those economic decisions for the majority of people – who do most of the actual productive work. The majority must accept and live with the results of all the directorial decisions made by the major shareholders and the boards of directors they select. This latter also select their own replacements.
Capitalism thus entails and reproduces a highly undemocratic organization of production inside enterprises. Tina believers insist that no alternatives to such capitalist organizations of production exist or could work nearly so well, in terms of outputs, efficiency, and labor processes. The falsity of that claim is easily shown. Indeed, I was shown it a few weeks ago and would like to sketch it for you here. More…
In Around the web on January 28, 2014 at 9:47 am
From CHRIS HEDGES
Editor’s note: The following is the transcript of a speech that Chris Hedges gave in Santa Monica, Calif., on Oct. 13, 2013. To purchase a DVD of Hedges’ address and the Q-and-A that followed, click here.
The most prescient portrait of the American character and our ultimate fate as a species is found in Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick.” Melville makes our murderous obsessions, our hubris, violent impulses, moral weakness and inevitable self-destruction visible in his chronicle of a whaling voyage. He is our foremost oracle. He is to us what William Shakespeare was to Elizabethan England or Fyodor Dostoyevsky to czarist Russia.
Our country is given shape in the form of the ship, the Pequod, named after the Indian tribe exterminated in 1638 by the Puritans and their Native American allies. The ship’s 30-man crew—there were 30 states in the Union when Melville wrote the novel—is a mixture of races and creeds. The object of the hunt is a massive white whale, Moby Dick, which in a previous encounter maimed the ship’s captain, Ahab, by dismembering one of his legs. The self-destructive fury of the quest, much like that of the one we are on, assures the Pequod’s destruction. And those on the ship, on some level, know they are doomed—just as many of us know that a consumer culture based on corporate profit, limitless exploitation and the continued extraction of fossil fuels is doomed.
“If I had been downright honest with myself,” More…
In Around the web on January 28, 2014 at 8:46 am
From Mother Jones
Pete Seeger has passed. The obits will call him a legend. But many won’t capture an essential quality of the Seeger tale: as he fought for decades to advance political values and an artistic vision, he was hounded for much of that time by fierce enemies (most notably, the FBI and McCarthyites in the 1950s), and he whipped them. He persevered—and he won. He was never silenced. He played his music, protested wrongs, cleaned up the Hudson River, lived his ideas, and came to be celebrated for his devotion to music and principles. His revenge was simple: he kept on singing and, perhaps most important, encouraging others to do so. Seeger triumphed over his foes, not just because he outlived so many but because his voice was more powerful. More…
In Around the web on January 28, 2014 at 7:00 am
Local Environmental Observers (LEO) Network, Updated Dec. 12, 2013 (emphasis added): Unusual growth observed in salmon tissue — Hydaburg, Alaska, August 12, 2013 (salmon) We have found strange growths in the flesh or meat of salmon. We were fishing for cohos (silver salmon) at the mouth of the Hydaburg River with line and reel. I caught about thirty fish. Most were fine but eight [...] were filled up inside with strange growths that were either white or pink in color. On the outside the fish looked fine. The growths looked kind of like individual little salmon eggs, and about the same size. Other people were seeing the same kind of growths in their fish as well. We have only seen this in the cohos and not with the other fish (pink salmon, dog salmon, steel head or trout). We are seeing many coho salmon with these growths, and we are concerned about the health of the fish and the safety of the food. Brian Holter Jr, LEO [...] says: this observation has been forwarded to the Fish Pathology Lab at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. According to lab staff, they may be able to determine the condition of the fish with a photograph. Lab staff are available for consultation.
Local Environmental Observers (LEO) Network, Nov 21, 2013: Skin illness on white fish raise concerns — Nuiqsut, Alaska, October 13, 2013 (fish) For the past week we been catching sick fish on Nigliq Channel and today upstream from Nigliq Channel to the Colville River. In all the years I’ve been fishing More…
In Around the web on January 27, 2014 at 9:35 am
From DAVE POLLARD (2005)
[A followup to Dave Pollard's book review from last week, Climate Change: Basically, We're F***ed, an earlier post of his... -DS]
One of my readers asked me recently for a short list of the books from my Save the World Reading List that were most influential in forming my natural/environmental philosophy. Here’s what I answered:
|In logical reading order:
- Full House — Stephen Jay Gould
- When Elephants Weep — Jeff Masson
- Freeman Dyson’s Brain — Wired Magazine
- The Story of B — Daniel Quinn
- A Language Older Than Words — Derrick Jensen
- The World We Want — Mark Kingwell
- The Spell of the Sensuous — David Abram
- The Truth About Stories — Thomas King
- Humans in the Wilderness — Glenn Parton
- Against the Grain — Richard Manning
- The Commonwealth of Life – Peter Brown
- A Short History of Progress — Ronald Wright
- (Haven’t found it yet — will report when I have)
Well, the missing and perhaps final slot on this list has now been filled, by London School of Economics Philosophy professor John Gray’s Straw Dogs. More…
In Around the web on January 21, 2014 at 6:00 am
From JOHN MICHAEL GREER
Last week’s post on the contemporary culture of apocalypse fandom was also, more broadly, about the increasingly frantic attempts being made to ignore the future that’s looming ahead of us. Believing that the world as we know it is about to crash into ruin, popular as it is, is only one of several strategies put to work in those attempts. There’s also the claim that we can keep industrial civilization going on renewable energy sources, the claim that a finite planet can somehow contain an infinite supply of cheap fossil fuel—well, those of my readers who know their way around today’s nonconversation about energy and the future will be all too familiar with the thirty-one flavors of denial.
It’s ironic, though predictable, that these claims have been repeated ever more loudly as the evidence for a less comfortable view of things has mounted up. Most recently, for example, a thorough study of the Spanish solar energy program by Pedro Prieto and Charles A.S. Hall has worked out the net energy of large-scale solar photovoltaic systems on the basis of real-world data. It’s not pleasant reading if you happen to believe that today’s lifestyles can be supported on sunlight; they calculate that the energy return on energy invested (EROEI) of Spain’s solar energy sector works out to 2.48—about a third of the figure suggested by less comprehensive estimates. More…
In Around the web on January 20, 2014 at 10:26 am
Image published by embassy in Japan shows Fukushima melted fuel deep underground…
A “critical mass” doesn’t have a “half life”. It’s not getting cooler, it’s getting hotter. It would have a rate of accretion, meaning a rate at which it’s converting it’s environment into more and more uranium and plutonium. As it grows in mass, it grows in density and gets hotter. When it first melted down it was about 230 tons of nuclear fuel at about 9000 degrees Fahrenheit. It melted about 100 feet down in 5 months. By now it’s got to be about 1000 feet down if not further, I don’t know exactly what it’s rate of accretion is. But they apparently drilled a channel from the ocean to it and installed a pipe and since August 20th 2013, they’ve been boiling the ocean with it. There’s a report available on ENE news, find it with Fukushima boiling ocean. Just about the whole ocean is dead now. If there’s anything left alive it’s dying fast.
In Around the web on January 20, 2014 at 9:01 am
In my last year on Wall Street my bonus was $3.6 million — and I was angry because it wasn’t big enough. I was 30 years old, had no children to raise, no debts to pay, no philanthropic goal in mind. I wanted more money for exactly the same reason an alcoholic needs another drink: I was addicted.
Eight years earlier, I’d walked onto the trading floor at Credit Suisse First Boston to begin my summer internship. I already knew I wanted to be rich, but when I started out I had a different idea about what wealth meant. I’d come to Wall Street after reading in the book “Liar’s Poker” how Michael Lewis earned a $225,000 bonus after just two years of work on a trading floor. That seemed like a fortune. Every January and February, I think about that time, because these are the months when bonuses are decided and distributed, when fortunes are made.
I’d learned about the importance of being rich from my dad. He was a modern-day Willy Loman, a salesman with huge dreams that never seemed to materialize. “Imagine what life will be like,” he’d say, “when I make a million dollars.” While he dreamed of selling a screenplay, in reality he sold kitchen cabinets. And not that well. We sometimes lived paycheck to paycheck off my mom’s nurse-practitioner salary.
Dad believed money would solve all his problems. At 22, so did I. More…
In Around the web on January 17, 2014 at 12:44 pm
From Democracy Now
On our final day of our special broadcast from Tokyo, we speak with a Japanese resident from the town that housed part of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant who is participating in weekly protests against the resumption of nuclear power in her country. “We couldn’t bring anything from our houses. We didn’t have a toothbrush. We didn’t have a blanket. More…
In Around the web on January 16, 2014 at 7:35 am
From The New Yorker
Thanks to Janie Sheppard
It’s been nearly eleven years since the U.S. invasion of Iraq, which, almost since it began, proved to be the historically fatal element in the war on terror launched by George W. Bush’s White House. His Administration, and its sundry neoconservative wingmen, went so far as to tout the war in Iraq as a means to promote democracy across the Muslim lands. At the same time, there was a growing unease that things might not turn out well. In a 2005 conversation I had with the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq at the time, Zalmay Khalilzad, he spoke of his fears: “I shudder to think what we could face if we don’t fix Iraq.” He foresaw the possibility that an Iraqi civil war between Sunnis and Shiites could infect the entire Middle East.
Where are we today? It seems a good time to take stock.
In Iraq, two years after President Barack Obama made good on his word and pulled U.S. troops out—forty-five hundred American lives later, and God knows how many Iraqi lives later—the slumbering sectarian war has reignited. At least eight thousand Iraqis were killed in the violence in 2013, a majority of them Shiite civilians targeted for murder or killed in bomb blasts set by the reascendant Sunni extremists of Al Qaeda. That’s right: they’re back. Now calling themselves More…
In Around the web on January 12, 2014 at 9:26 am
From The Onion
While watching the NFL playoffs Saturday, local man Steve Gordon, who barely moved for five straight hours as he slouched on his couch, reportedly announced that the defense needed to be more physical and deliver punishing hits. “Come on, get up, move—just smack ’em,” said the man who hadn’t even gotten up to use the bathroom since the early game. “They should be flying around out there and slamming into the ball carrier at full speed. Let’s see a little effort. The linebacker just has to shove blockers out of his way, rush up the field, grab the quarterback, and whip him to the turf.” According to living room sources, Gordon expressed frustration with the lack of hustle by defenders and with the excruciating pain in his back, which he twisted awkwardly at halftime while attempting to adjust a cushion.
In Around the web on January 10, 2014 at 8:00 am
How small could you go when it comes to home? 500 square feet? 250 feet? 100 feet? For Jay Shafer, less is definitely more. Tiny house advocate and founder of Four Lights Tiny House Company, Shafer says that, unlike sprawling houses, tiny houses demand that their dwellers downsize to the essentials. He talks about tiny houses as being undiluted reflections of the people who live in them.
“A small space really is a condensed self portrait of the person living there,” he says. “But if they start putting in a lot of extras that don’t relate to their real, assessed needs, then it becomes a diluted self-portrait.”
In addition to simplifying one’s home, there are other benefits to going small: tiny houses are inexpensive to buy and maintain; they require less energy and have a smaller carbon footprints; and they naturally encourage sharing and consuming less.
While some define a tiny home as being 100 square feet, Shafer prefers to think of it more organically.
“A tiny house is any house in which all the space is being used well,” he says. “When my friends and I founded the Small House Society…that was our definition and we’re sticking to it.” More…
In Around the web on January 9, 2014 at 9:03 am
Google is using its popular Gmail service to build profiles on the hundreds of millions of people who use it.
“We know where you are. We know where you’ve been. We can more or less know what you’re thinking about.”“Your digital identity will live forever… because there’s no delete button.” —Eric Schmidt
Some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley recently announced that they had gotten together to form a new forward-thinking organization dedicated to promoting government surveillance reform in the name of “free expression” and “privacy.”
The charade should have been laughed at and mocked — after all, these same companies feed on privacy for profit, and unfettered surveillance is their stock and trade. Instead, it was met with cheers and fanfare from reporters and privacy and tech experts alike. “Finally!” people cried, Silicon Valley has grown up and matured enough to help society tackle the biggest problem of our age: the runaway power of the modern surveillance state.
The Guardian described the tech companies’ plan as “radical,” and predicted it would “end many of the current programs through which governments spy on citizens at home and abroad.” Laura W. Murphy, Director of ACLU’s DC Legislative Office, published an impassioned blog post praising tech giants for urging President Barack Obama and Congress to enact comprehensive reform of government surveillance. Silicon Valley booster Jeff Jarvis could hardly contain his glee. “Bravo,” he yelped. “The companies came down at last on the side of citizens over spies.” And then added: More…
In Around the web on January 8, 2014 at 9:25 am
The 50th anniversary of Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty” has prompted a bout of national soul-searching about how much progress we’ve really made. If we’re actually interested in helping the poor, we should look even farther back in history, and resurrect the WPA.
The Works Progress Administration started in 1935 and ran all the way until the WWII jobs boom rendered it unnecessary. It was essentially a huge national jobs program. It covered the entire nation. It focused on public works projects, but also put tons of needy artists and writers on the public payroll. It was meant primarily to relieve unemployment (and it did), but the legacy of the artwork and writing and countless construction projects that were completed under its auspices lives on today.
A great time to resurrect such a national jobs program would have been in 2009, in the very depths of The Great Recession. Instead, the government chose to pour most of its money directly into the banking system. Five years later, Wall Street is booming, but the “real economy” has not completely kept pace with the rising stock market. Long term unemployment, particularly among minorities and young people, persists. The Obama administration, and the Fed, have provided many forms of economic stimulus—but they have not tried a large-scale, nationwide employment program that comes close to the WPA.
The initial funding for the WPA was 6.7% of the U.S. GDP. Today, that would be just over $1 trillion. Sounds steep, until you consider the amount that we spent on bank bailouts. More…
In Around the web on January 7, 2014 at 10:10 am
[Sandburg, Orwell, London...]
There are writers who are likely to be better understood or more beloved by readers who have occupied the same corner of the world where the author came from or based most of his or her work. I don’t necessarily mean that if you come from Mississippi, you automatically appreciate Eudora Welty more than somebody from Kansas, or that someone from the East Coast couldn’t possibly comprehend John Fante’s haunted Los Angeles. But reading something and being able to immediately envision its setting and milieu is a powerful advantage.
The writer who I tend to think of first in relation to my own hometown is Carl Sandburg (who was born on this day in 1878), whose poem “Chicago” includes that memorable “City of the Big Shoulders” line. I became acquainted with the works of Sandburg at an early age, introduced by teachers who called him the greatest Chicago poet, to the point that hearing his name today conjures up visions of smokestacks towering over the old brick buildings where workers in newsboy caps toil all day, and other opening sequence of Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven type of stuff. The first book of poetry I ever recall pulling off a library shelf was a volume that included the collection of his Chicago Poems.
In Around the web on January 7, 2014 at 9:53 am
From The Nation
Across the United States this week, new mayors and city council members are being sworn in as the leaders of the cities that elected them in November. The inaugurations of mayors draw local attention—and, in cases like that of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, a good measure of national attention—but there is generally less focus on the city council members.
Except in Seattle.
Monday afternoon’s inauguration of City Council member Kshama Sawant, arguably the most prominent socialist elected to local office since Bernie Sanders became mayor of Burlington, Vermont, thirty-three years ago, has inspired a striking level of excitement. Officials moved the swearing in for Sawant and Mayor Ed Murray—Seattle’s first openly gay mayor—from the city council chambers to the much larger lobby of the city hall, and local media described “the largest turnout ever for a Seattle inauguration ceremony.”
Reporters from around the country and around the world were interviewing Sawant, who in November upset a veteran council member with a campaign that promise to fight for a $15-an-hour minimum wage. They also interviewed other socialists, including Irish parliamentarian Joe Higgins, who was in Seattle to celebrate the event and to tell reporters, “Kshama’s election has been a major event internationally. This has been a huge encouragement because the United States is the citadel of world capitalism.”
It’s a heady circumstance for Sawant, who embraced her new position with a declaration that: “I wear the badge of socialist with honor.” More…
In Around the web on January 4, 2014 at 7:26 am
with comments here
Half Moon Bay Review, Jan. 3, 2014 at 8:21p ET: [San Mateo] County health officials first learned of the radiation levels last week, and they sent their own inspector on Dec. 28 to Pacifica [...] the county inspector measured the beach to have a radiation level of about 100 micro-REM per hour [1 microsievert per hour], or about five times the normal amount. [...] Although the radiation levels were clearly higher than is typical, [San Mateo County environmental health director Dean Peterson] emphasized that it was still not unsafe for humans. [...] Peterson admitted he was “befuddled” as to why radiation levels were higher than normal, but he was skeptical that the Fukushima meltdown could be the cause. He noted that many innocuous items could spike the radiation levels in an area, including red-painted disposable eating utensils. [...] Peterson forwarded the matter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state Department of Public Health [...]
Dean Peterson, San Mateo County environmental health director: “It’s not something that we feel is an immediate public health concern [...] We’re not even close to the point of saying that any of this is from Fukushima. [...] I honestly think the end result of this is that it’s just higher levels of background radiation.”
The Half Moon Bay Review article provides details on the YouTube video that spurred local officials into action: More…
In Around the web on January 3, 2014 at 9:05 am
January 2, 2014
George W. Bush
George W. Bush Presidential Center
PO Box 560887
Dallas, Texas, 57356
Dear Mr. Bush:
A few days ago I received a personalized letter from your Presidential Center which included a solicitation card for donations that actually provided words for my reply. They included “I’m honored to help tell the story of the Bush Presidency” and “I’m thrilled that the Bush Institute is advancing timeless principles and practical solutions to the challenges facing our world.” (Below were categories of “tax-deductible contributions” starting with $25 and going upward.)
Did you mean the “timeless principles” that drove you and Mr. Cheney to invade the country of Iraq which, contrary to your fabrications, deceptions and cover-ups, never threatened the United States? Nor could Iraq [under its dictator and his dilapidated military] threaten its far more powerful neighbors, even if the Iraqi regime wanted to do so.
Today, Iraq remains a country (roughly the size and population of Texas) you destroyed, a country where over a million Iraqis, including many children and infants (remember Fallujah?) lost their lives, millions more were sickened or injured, and millions more were forced to become refugees, including most of the Iraqi Christians. Iraq is a country rife with sectarian strife that your prolonged invasion provoked into what is now open warfare. Iraq is a country where al-Qaeda is spreading with explosions taking 20, 30, 40, 50 or 60 lives per day. Just this week, it was reported that the U.S. has sent Hellfire air-to-ground missiles to Iraq’s air force to be used against encampments of “the country’s branch of al-Qaeda.” There was no al-Qaeda in Iraq before your invasion. Al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein were mortal enemies. More…
In Around the web on January 2, 2014 at 7:00 am
From Women of Fukushima
Six Japanese women offer brutally honest views on the state of the clean-up, the cover-ups and untruths since the nuclear accident in Fukushima, and how it has affected their lives, homes and families… Since three reactors went into meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, a broad, disparate anti-nuclear movement is growing in Japan. Nowhere is that more apparent, perhaps, than in Fukushima prefecture, where a group of local women boldly protest the deafening silence of the Japanese government over the worst nuclear accident of this century. Largely ignored by their own media, these brave women brush aside their cultural shyness and share their brutally honest views on the state of the cleanup, the cover-ups, the untruths and the stagnant political climate in today’s Japan. Supported with rare footage from inside the exclusion zone, as well as from abandoned neighboring towns, the Women of Fukushima (“Fukushima no Onnatachi”) offers startlingly candid insights, in the women’s own voices, about what has become of their lives, homes, and families in the aftermath of 3/11. More…