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California’s Drought — Who’s Really Using all the Water?

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From One Green Planet
Thanks to Ron Epstein

Governor Jerry Brown has declared a drought emergency for the state of California. 2013 was the driest year in the state’s history – since records started being kept about 100 years ago. State water reservoirs are critically low and farmers, lawmakers, and environmentalists’ growing concerns have gone from a slow drip to a raging storm. Activists and farmers recently joined forces and came in droves from the Central Valley to rally on the capitol steps in Sacramento, demanding action as water levels drop and anxiety levels rise.

California residents have been asked to be vigilant and cut back on household water use, but only about 4 percent of California’s water footprint is individual, personal use. A stunning 80 percent goes to agriculture, according to a recent report from the NRDC and Pacific Institute, so if we really want to talk about drastic conservation, perhaps we should look at our food choices.

Who’s Really Using all the Water?

Dark Age America: The Population Implosion…

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From John Michael Greer

The three environmental shifts discussed in earlier posts in this sequence—the ecological impacts of a sharply warmer and dryer climate, the flooding of coastal regions due to rising sea levels, and the long-term consequences of industrial America’s frankly brainless dumping of persistent radiological and chemical poisons—all involve changes to the North American continent that will endure straight through the deindustrial dark age ahead, and will help shape the history of the successor cultures that will rise amid our ruins. For millennia to come, the peoples of North America will have to contend with drastically expanded deserts, coastlines that in some regions will be many miles further inland than they are today, and the presence of dead zones where nuclear or chemical wastes in the soil and water make human settlement impossible.

All these factors mean, among other things, that deindustrial North America will support many fewer people than it did in 1880 or so, before new agricultural technologies dependent on fossil fuels launched the population boom that is peaking in our time. Now of course this also implies that deindustrial North America will support many, many fewer people than it does today. For obvious reasons, it’s worth talking about the processes by which today’s seriously overpopulated North America will become the sparsely populated continent of the coming dark age—but that’s going to involve a confrontation with a certain kind of petrified irrelevancy all too common in our time.

There was no first human…


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The Fall and Rise of Investigative Journalism…

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From TomGram

From Asia to Africa to Latin America, Muckrakers Have Corrupt Officials and Corporate Cronies on the Run

In our world, the news about the news is often grim. Newspapers areshrinkingfolding up, or being cut loose by their parent companies.Layoffs are up and staffs are down. That investigative reporter who covered the state capitol — she’s not there anymore. Newspapers like the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, and the Chicago Tribune have suffered from multiple rounds of layoffs over the years. You know the story and it would be easy enough to imagine that it was the world’s story as well. But despite a long run of journalistic tough times, the loss of advertising dollars, and the challenge of the Internet, there’s been a blossoming of investigative journalism across the globe from Honduras to Myanmar, New Zealand to Indonesia.

Woodward and Bernstein may be a fading memory in this country, but journalists with names largely unknown in the U.S. like Khadija Ismayilova, Rafael Marques, and Gianina Segnina are breaking one blockbuster story after another, exposing corrupt government officials and their crony corporate pals in Azerbaijan, Angola, and Costa Rica. As I travel the world, I’m energized by the journalists I meet who are taking great risks to shine much needed light on shadowy wrongdoing.

The Best Reporting on California’s Drought…

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From ProPublica

This year may be the driest in California in half a millennium. These reports explore how the drought is affecting agriculture, business and living conditions in the nation’s most populous state.

After a decade of relatively little rain, California is facing its third year of debilitating drought, and 2014 may be the driest in 500 years. The drought has placed a $44.7-billion-a-year agriculture industry, drinking water for millions of people, and some 204 cities located in high-risk fire zones in jeopardy. In January, California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency and in July the California Department of Public Health said at least eightcommunities could run out of drinking water without state action. The State Water Project also shut off its supply to major urban and agricultural water districts for the first time in its history.California is the nation’s largest state economy and agricultural producer, and so the state’s well-being affects the entire country. ProPublica has rounded up some of the best reporting on California’s drought, from fallowed farms to “zombie” water projects.

10 George Orwell Quotes That Predicted Life In 2014 America…

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From Zero Hedge

George Orwell ranks among the most profound social critics of the modern era. Some of his quotations, more than a half a century old, show the depth of understanding an enlightened mind can have about the future.

1)  “In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics.’ All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia.”

Though many in the modern age have the will to bury their head in the sand when it comes to political matters, nobody can only concern themselves with the proverbial pebble in their shoe. If one is successful in avoiding politics, at some point the effects of the political decisions they abstained from participating in will reach their front door. More often than not, by that time the person has already whatever whisper of a voice the government has allowed them.

Why We Hurt Each Other: Tolstoy’s Letters to Gandhi on Love, Violence, and the Truth of the Human Spirit…

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From Brain Pickings

“Love is the only way to rescue humanity from all ills.”

In 1908, Indian revolutionary Taraknath Das wrote to Leo Tolstoy, by then one of the most famous public figures in the world, asking for the author’s support in India’s independence from British colonial rule. On December 14, Tolstoy, who had spent the last twenty yearsseeking the answers to life’s greatest moral questions, was moved to reply in a long letter, which Das published in the Indian newspaperFree Hindustan. Passed from hand to hand, the missive finally made its way to the young Mahatma Gandhi, whose career as a peace leader was just beginning in South Africa. He wrote to Tolstoy asking for permission to republish it in his own South African newspaper, Indian Opinion. Tolstoy’s letter was later published in English under the title A Letter to a Hindu (free downloadpublic library).

The exchange sparked an ongoing correspondence between the two that lasted until Tolstoy’s death — a meeting of two great minds and spirits, eventually collected in Letters from One: Correspondence (and more) of Leo Tolstoy and Mohandas Gandhi and rivaled only by Einstein’s correspondence with Freud on violence and human nature.

Tolstoy’s letters issue a clarion call for nonviolent resistance — he admonishes against false ideologies, both religious and pseudo-scientific, that promote violence, an act he sees as unnatural for the human spirit, and advocates for a return to our most natural, basic state, which is the law of love. Evil, Tolstoy argues with passionate conviction, is restrained not with violence but with love — something Maya Angelou would come to echo beautifully decades later.

If you have ever wondered why the Right Wing is always so down on a liberal arts degree, wonder no more….

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From The Immoral Minority

The other day I happened to see a description of exactly what the Liberal Art teaches us from UCLA, and I thought I would share a portion of it here with you:

Among the intellectual skills that are at the core of a liberal arts education are the following: 1) ability to speak and write effectively in more than one language; 2) ability to think critically, and to form one’s own opinions by critically evaluating arguments and evidence rationally, and without prejudice; 3) enhanced ability in mathematics, and in scientific reasoning ; 4) ability to analyze literature and art to appreciate beauty and artistic creativity, for both pleasure and intellectual enrichment; 5) ability to engage questions of ethics and morality and to recognize responsibility for oneself and society; 6) ability to apply acquired knowledge and analytical skills to new situations, so as to find solutions to new problems that arise in an increasingly globalized and fast-changing world. In today’s economy, employers desire transferable skills – skills that employees take with them to any job, such as written and verbal communication skills, the ability to solve complex problems, to work well with others, and to adapt in a changing workplace — all hallmarks of a liberal arts education. 

The nuclear industry today: declining, but not (yet) dying…

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From The Ecologist

The World Nuclear Industry Status Report provides an account of an industry in decline, writes Jonathon Porritt – with rising operating costs and an ever-shrinking share of world energy production, while the sector loses the race for investment and new generating capacity to fast growing renewable energy technologies.

The 388 operating reactors are 50 fewer than the peak in 2002, while the total installed capacity peaked in 2010 at 367 GW before declining to the current level, which is comparable to levels last seen two decades ago.

Every year, the World Nuclear Industry Status Report reminds me why those in the Green movement who think nuclear has a major role to play in securing a low-carbon world are completely, dangerously off their collective trollies.

God is with us, unfortunately…

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From Sydney Morning Herald

Is there any point being an atheist when believers of God are prepared to kill you in His name? It’s rather like walking in a bomb-blasted No Man’s Land with a witty placard protesting against war, instead of digging yourself a nice deep trench to hide in.

We may argue whether the Lord is a lass or an “it” and if this magnificent entity lives in one holy city or another but He undoubtedly resides in the hearts of believers, hundreds of thousands of whom think it’s quite reasonable to rape, execute, bomb, shoot and torture to spread His word.

God may be just an idea, a human construct like time or money, but if enough big-brained bipeds legislate or murder based upon this idea, are not the objections of unbelievers moot?

It must be frustrating worshipping an all-seeing, all-knowing, all-powerful being and He does nothing to smite, humiliate or deter those who do not. Violence or discrimination in God’s name thus seems to be the ultimate redundancy because surely the point of divine omnipotence is setting the chessboard just as you’d like it?

Sending your followers to kill unbelievers reeks of poor planning on the Almighty’s part.

ISIS Caliphate Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the Theory and Practice of Jihad…

aFrom Gary Anderson
Small Wars Journal

Now that Americans are dropping bombs on the forces of al Baghdadi’s Caliphate, it may be appropriate to examine his warfighting style.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is not a formally trained military commander. However, he is not illiterate or a common thug such as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi who led al Qaeda in Iraq until his death in 2006. Al-Baghdadi holds a doctorate in theology from a theological seminary and appears to be a keen student of American tactics as they were passed on to the Iraqi Army, as well as the military practices of his Syrian Baathist opponents. Whether he is a military prodigy or merely a very talented student and practitioner of military art is irrelevant. To date, he has shown himself to be a very effective commander.

Like the prophet Mohammed from whom he claims descent, al-Baghdadi sees himself as a soldier-Imam and recognizes no difference between fighting, governing, and religion. This allows him to flow seamlessly between mediums. If we write him off as a mere terrorist, we make the mistake of underestimating him. He is generally considered to be a crackpot by serious Islamic scholars, but he controls a tract of land that includes most of al-Anbar province, much of eastern Syria, and Iraq’s second largest city; that makes him a serious player in the region. However, we should also beware of making him out to be ten feet tall. If we are going to deal with him, we need to understand how he fights and governs as well as his strengths and weaknesses.

The Strange and Curious Tale of the Last True Hermit…

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From GQ

For nearly thirty years, a phantom haunted the woods of Central Maine. Unseen and unknown, he lived in secret, creeping into homes in the dead of night and surviving on what he could steal. To the spooked locals, he became a legend—or maybe a myth. They wondered how he could possibly be real. Until one day last year, the hermit came out of the forest…

The hermit set out of camp at midnight, carrying his backpack and his bag of break-in tools, and threaded through the forest, rock to root to rock, every step memorized. Not a boot print left behind. It was cold and nearly moonless, a fine night for a raid, so he hiked about an hour to the Pine Tree summer camp, a few dozen cabins spread along the shoreline of North Pond in central Maine. With an expert twist of a screwdriver, he popped open a door of the dining hall and slipped inside, scanning the pantry shelves with his penlight.

Candy! Always good. Ten rolls of Smarties, stuffed in a pocket. Then, into his backpack, a bag of marshmallows, two tubs of ground coffee, some Humpty Dumpty potato chips. Burgers and bacon were in the locked freezer. On a previous raid at Pine Tree, he’d stolen a key to the walk-in, and now he used it to open the stainless-steel door. The key was attached to a plastic four-leaf-clover key chain, with one of the leaves partially broken off. A three-and-a-half-leaf clover.

He could’ve used a little more luck. Newly installed in the Pine Tree kitchen, hidden behind the ice machine, was a military-grade motion detector. The device remained silent in the kitchen but sounded an alarm in the home of Sergeant Terry Hughes, a game warden who’d become obsessed with catching the thief. Hughes lived a mile away. He raced to the camp in his pickup truck and sprinted to the rear of the dining hall. He peeked in a window.

Thom Hartmann: The Ferguson Effect On Our Great Grand Children…

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From Thom Hartmann

A few weeks ago, Congressman Paul Ryan released his latest proposal for tackling America’s poverty epidemic. Unfortunately, the plan does very little to combat poverty in our country, and instead, continues the devastating austerity policies that Ryan himself helped to create. Thanks to those policies, entire communities across America are underwater, and struggling to survive in tough economic times.

One of those communities is Ferguson, Missouri. While that community continues to protest the police shooting death of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown, it’s also dealing with crippling poverty. An analysis by Elizabeth Kneebone, an economic scholar with the Brookings Institution, found that unemployment in Ferguson more than doubled between 2000 and 2012. The analysis also found that more than a quarter of Ferguson households had incomes below the federal poverty line of $23,492 in 2012.So, not only are the people of Ferguson dealing with the traumatic death of Michael Brown and the resulting violent reactions to that death, they’re also dealing with debilitating poverty. And unfortunately, both of those experiences are likely to stick with the Ferguson community for decades to come, thanks to something called epigenetics.

The Carnage of Capitalism…

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From PressTV

Capitalism is expanding like a tumor in the body of American society, spreading further into vital areas of human need like health and education.

Milton Friedman said in 1980: “The free market system distributes the fruits of economic progress among all people.” The father of the modern neoliberal movement couldn’t have been more wrong. Inequality has been growing for 35 years, worsening since the 2008 recession, as a few well-positioned Americans have made millions while the rest of us have gained almost nothing. Now, our college students and medicine-dependent seniors have become the source of new riches for the profitseeking free-marketers.

Higher Education: Administrators get most of the money

How “Giftivism” Helped Turn a Tough Oakland Street Into a Close-Knit Community…

From KarmaTube

The Fruitvale district of East Oakland, California, is the turf of three major gangs. Yet the residents of Casa de Paz never lock their doors. Anchored by Pancho Ramos Stierle and Adelaja Simon, Casa de Paz is part of a group of homes that form an intentional community of peace and nonviolence in an area rife with structural and physical violence.

In order to serve their community, they live with the people—laugh with them, cry with them, and eat with them. They embody “giftivism,” practicing radical acts of generosity that change the world, one heart, one home, one block at a time.
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How Would Socialism Work? And How Could It Help Stop Climate Change?…

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From Socialist Alternative

Humanity is at one of the most important crossroads in its 200,000 year history. Having spread across the globe about 30,000 years ago, we advanced through various stages of hunting and gathering to develop agriculture and animal husbandry 20,000 years later. This began a shift from human muscle power to animal muscle power as our primary source of energy. But it is only in the last 300 years that another massive shift has taken place: from animal power to fossil fuels – coal, oil, and gas – which dovetails precisely with the rise of industrial capitalism.

This period has seen an explosion of technological progress, economic output, and world population. Yet the carbon-emitting basis of this impressive run, combined with the rapacious individualism of competitive (and later monopoly) capitalism, now clearly threaten all advances made with an impending and ever-more palpable environmental catastrophe. For many, this ominous threat calls into question whether ‘industrialization’ was ever such a good thing in the first place.

We Don’t Need No Education…

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From Outside Magazine

At least not of the traditional, compulsory, watch-the-clock-until-the-bell-rings kind. As a growing movement of unschoolers believe, a steady diet of standardized testing and indoor inactivity is choking the creativity right out of our kids. The alternative: set ‘em free.

In early September, in a clapboard house situated on 43 acres just outside a small town in northern Vermont, two boys awaken. They are brothers; the older is 12, the younger 9, and they rise to a day that has barely emerged from the clutches of dark. It is not yet autumn, but already the air has begun to change, the soft nights of late summer lengthening and chilling into the season to come. Outside the boys’ bedroom window, the leaves on the maples are just starting to turn.

School is back in session and has been for two weeks or more, but the boys are unhurried. They dress slowly, quietly. Faded and frayed thrift-store camo pants. Flannel shirts. Rubber barn boots. Around their waists, leather belts with knife sheaths. In each sheath, a fixed-blade knife.

By 6:30, with the first rays of sun burning through the ground-level fog, the boys are outside. At some point in the next hour, a yellow school bus will rumble past the end of the driveway that connects the farm to the town road. The bus will be full of children the boys’ age, their foreheads pressed against the glass, gazing at the unfurling landscape, the fields and hills and forests of the small working-class community they call home…

There’s a name for the kind of education Fin and Rye are getting. It’s called unschooling, though Penny and I have never been fond of the term. But “self-directed, adult-facilitated life learning in the context of their own unique interests” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, so unschooling it is.

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It is already obvious that unschooling is radically different from institutionalized classroom learning, but how does it differ from more common homeschooling? Perhaps the best way to explain it is that all unschooling is homeschooling, but not all homeschooling is unschooling. While most homeschooled children follow a structured curriculum, unschoolers like Fin and Rye have almost total autonomy over their days. At ages that would likely see them in seventh and fourth grades, I generously estimate that my boys spend no more than two hours per month sitting and studying the subjects, such as science and math, that are universal to mainstream education. Not two hours per day or even per week. Two hours per month. Comparatively speaking, by now Fin would have spent approximately 5,600 hours in the classroom. Rye, nearly three years younger, would have clocked about half that time.

If this sounds radical, it’s only because you’re not taking a long enough view, for the notion that children should spend the majority of their waking hours confined to a classroom enjoys scant historical precedent…

Complete story here
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Life With Legal Weed…

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From The Atlantic

A conversation with middle-aged moms, homeless men, and college kids about post-prohibition in Boulder, Colorado

The most eclectic gathering spot in Boulder, Colorado, is the Pearl Street Mall, a pedestrian thoroughfare at the heart of downtown. Alongside its relatively pricey stores and restaurants, there is an outdoor concert venue, a children’s play area, and the seat of county government. Activists stand on Pearl Street seeking signatures; street performers treat its sidewalks as a stage; drunk collegians spill from bars to sit drunk on its planters; homeless people sleep nearby. Amid it all I spotted Texas Fred, a 68-year-old on a late-night stroll. A thin man with aviator eyeglasses and shoulder-length gray hair, he wore a floral-print shirt and held a guitar case like it was his most valued possession. It was almost 11 p.m. when I approached asking if I could talk with him about cannabis. Fred wasn’t surprised. “Everything about me screams, ‘He smokes marijuana!’” he said.

For more than a decade, Colorado residents have been able to buy or grow a limited amount of marijuana for medicinal purposes. More recently, the state’s voters sanctioned an entire marijuana industry, complete with licensed pot farms, retail stores, and a wave of tourist patrons. Fred was visiting from Chicago. Once a year, his wife lets him go off on the road to scrape by as a bohemian musician. He’d left home three weeks earlier with $100, stopped in St. Louis where he played on the street for tips, and finally made it to Boulder, coasting into town on fumes. By the time I met him, he’d earned enough for several visits to marijuana dispensaries. Before we parted, he helped me understand why legalization matters more than a casual visitor might realize…

Complete story here
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