Around the web

Sea level “jumps” 5 inches. Probably nothing to worry about…


From Grist

Climate change is a disaster in slow-motion: The global temperature creeps up by fractions-of-a-degree each year, the seas rise inches every decade. Except, apparently, when they do much more.

Exhibit A: In just two years, 2009 and 2010, sea levels along the Atlantic coast north of New York City jumped up by more than 5 inches, according to a paper published this week in the journal Nature Communications. That might not seem like much on its own, but consider that, according to the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, global sea levels are rising at a rate of less than a half an inch each year, and that’s causing all sorts of havoc.

Transfusion by Nervous Norvus…


Written By Women…


On the eve of Vela’s launch in September 2011, Sarah Menkedick sat down and wrote out her vision for the magazine. Vela has grown and evolved tremendously since then, but the fundamental purpose and spirit of the publication have remained unchanged. As Sarah hoped, we are still and will continue to be “a space to maneuver freely without having to either set one’s work apart as distinctly female or suck it up trying to prove that women can do what men do and that what men do is the best and the norm.”

Try this with The Best Magazine Articles Ever: Go down the list, and say out loud to yourself the gender of each writer as you go. You’ll say: man, man, man, man, man, man, man, man, man, woman, man, man, man, man, man, man, man, man, man, man, man, man, man, man, man.

A Wilderness of Waiting…


From Vela

In the eighth month of my nine-month human pregnancy, I go on a binge-Googling of animal gestation periods. Frilled sharks, I discover, gestate for 42 months. Elephants take 22 months. Sperm whales: 16. Walruses: 15. Rhinos: 14. Horses: 11. I am seeking solidarity and comparative comfort in the realm of beasts, seeking to place my experience on a spectrum of waiting. I think of going on into month eleven, twelve, twenty, thirty-five: days into months into years of pregnancy. I find a kind of horror in it, and fascination, and reverence, and ultimately a question: what does it mean to exist in waiting, to wait so long that the line between life and waiting blurs?I am 32 and living in a 19th-century cabin on my parents’ Ohio farm. The cabin is approximately 40 feet wide, with walls and floors of sturdy wood planks, a wood-burning stove, and a pioneer feel. “Is there anything in here that’s not ancient?” my nine-year-old niece asks with mild distaste when she visits. Everywhere are the artifacts of antiquated domesticity: baskets, hand-painted serving platters, crocks. The cabin has been decorated and prepared for weekend visitors to the farm, not full-time living, but when I finish grad school my husband and I move in, setting mousetraps and putting up storm windows as we navigate this murky penniless period before our next move.

Lies and Fabrications: The Propaganda Campaign in Support of Genetically Modified Crops (GMO)…


From Global Research

According to Mathew Holehouse in the UK’s Telegraph newspaper (here), former UK Environment Minister Owen Paterson will this week accuse the European Union and Greenpeace of condemning people in the developing world to death by refusing to accept genetically modified crops. Speaking in Pretoria, South Africa, on Tuesday, Paterson will warn that a food revolution that could save Africa from hunger is being held back and that the world is on the cusp of a green revolution, of the kind that fed a billion people in the 1960s and 1970s as the world’s population soared.

After talking about a growing global population and the pivotal role of GMOs in feeding it, Paterson will assert:

Vanishing water, fewer jobs, but still hope in the Central Valley…


Joe Del Bosque of Firebaugh shows an organic field at his farm last month. Central Valley residents are dealing with the results of a multiyear drought that has caused many farmers to stop planting row crops in favor of almonds and pistachios.

From Sacramento Bee
Thanks to Ron

MENDOTA In this region that calls itself “The Cantaloupe Center of the World,” vast fields that once annually yielded millions of melons lie fallow. And, for some farmers, planting tomatoes and other traditional row crops may now constitute acts of courage.

America’s largest agriculture economy is changing because of a lack of water. Amid a prolonged drought and an anticipated third straight year of cutbacks in federal water supplies, the one assured constant is stress.

Farmers who can afford them are sinking wells, extracting groundwater that works for groves of almonds and pistachios. But the groundwater is generally too salty for crops of vegetables and grains that have made the Central Valley the nation’s food basket. And questions persist over how long the groundwater supplies will last – and whether growers will get enough of the reservoir water they crave.

In California’s $40 billion agricultural sector, farmers face hard choices on what to plant and how much. They weigh crop losses and the costs of acquiring new ground or surface water supplies against cutting labor or selling off their farms.

9 Surprising Industries Getting Filthy Rich From Mass Incarceration…


From Alternet

Private prison companies aren’t the only ones benefiting from America’s prison-industrial complex

It’s no coincidence that the United States now imprisons more of its people than any other country in the world: mass incarceration has become a giant industry in the U.S., resulting in huge profits not only for private prison companies, but also, for everything from food companies and telecoms to all the businesses that are using prison labor to cut their manufacturing costs. The prison-industrial complex even has its own lobbyists: according to a 2011 report from the Justice Policy Institute (JPI), the U.S.’ largest private prison company, the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), and their competitor the GEO Group have both spent hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying for longer prison sentences. And the American Bail Coalition has been lobbying for the bail bond industry for 23 years.

Sucking Beer out of the Carpet: We’re going to contract and simplify whether we like it or not…

From The Automatic Earth

[Start at about the 33-minute mark for Nicole’s talk. She speaks for just over 10 minutes.]

A few days before I arrived in Melbourne, The Automatic Earth’s Nicole Foss was one of the key speakers in The Great Debate, which this year took place on February 13. It’s sort of the main event in Melbourne’s annual Sustainable Living Festival, which in 2015 runs from February 7 to March 1. Apart from Nicole, other speakers included George Monbiot and David Holmgren.

In an impressive ‘take no prisoners’ speech, Nicole makes short shrift of the vast majority of idea(l)s about ‘softly transitioning’ into the world that lies beyond the dual credit ponzi and cheap energy bubbles. Everybody who harbors such idea(l)s should take note, lest they end up finding themselves in any one of a large variety of dead end alleyways.

Something along the vein of what my buddy Scott used to say: ‘it’s a good idea but it’s wrong’. People need to think about how much energy use and how much complexity is involved in what they would like to see as their way forward. If there’s too much of either, let alone of both, that way is simply not viable, and it’s back to the drawing board.

I’m not going to transcribe too much of her talk, it’s well worth watching the few minutes she talks. Still, here’s one quote from Nicole:

Our society will be forced to simplify. The paradox with low-energy-profit-ratio energy sources is they cannot sustain the level of complexity necessary to produce them. [..] If your solution rests on complexity, it’s not going to work. We’re going to contract and simplify, like it or not.

A Gallery of Mad Magazine’s Rollicking Fake Advertisements from the 1960s…


From OpenCulture

I can well remember the first time I read Mad Magazine. I was probably around Bart Simpson’s age, but nowhere near his degree of wiseass-ness. I found the humor of the adult world mostly mystifying and also pretty tame, given my rather sheltered existence. It was my discovery of Mad—stacks and stacks of old Mads, to be precise, in the rec room of a family acquaintance—that cracked the shell, one of those formative loss-of-innocence moments that are ultimately edifying. At the time, I couldn’t tell sophisticated satire from puerile parody, and the average issue of Mad was no Gulliver’s Travels. Nonetheless, its gleeful skewering of the American civil religion of politics, celebrity, professional sports, commerce, and middle class comfort hooked me instantly, and taught me about the value of freethought before I’d ever heard the name Jonathan Swift.

How to Memorize Music and Lyrics and…


From Guitar Habits

Memorizing song lyrics hasn’t always been my strongest asset.

Learning chords, chord progressions, scales and guitar solos were always the easy part.

I’d go through them once or twice and they were stored in my brain for ages. But those nasty lyrics didn’t seem to get further than my short term memory.

I ultimately tackled this problem by using a learning technique called spaced repetition.

Creativity: Hypnagogic Naps…

eEdison & Ford Winter Estates, Fort Myers, Florida, USA. The full statue of Thomas Edison is located under the banyan tree given to Edison by Harvey Firestone.
Why does Edison have a steel ball in his hand?

Edison was among the creative geniuses that used the state of conciousness between wakefulness and sleep to stimulate creative insight. When confronted with a very difficult problem, he catnapped in the chair in his office. To insure that he could record any insights gained during the interval between wakefulness and sleep, he placed metal pans beside his chair and held a steel ball in each hand. When he started to enter genuine sleep, his hands relaxed, dropping the steel balls in the pans. Awakened, he immediately recorded any insights gained during the period between wakefulness and sleep. So the statue conjures up this idiosyncratic behavior of Edison. Coincidentally, a number of Edison’s inventions also involved stainless steel balls.

From  Art of Manliness

Eccentric artist Salvador Dali believed that one of the secrets to becoming a great painter was what he called “slumber with a key.” “Slumber with a key” was an afternoon siesta designed to last less than a single second.

To Make Hope Possible Rather Than Despair Convincing…

From David Bollier

Last week I gave an opening lecture at Hampshire College at the launch of its new center for civic activism, the Leadership and Ethical Engagement Project. It was a wonderful opportunity to reflect on how colleges and universities could engage more directly with changing the world — and how the commons could help open up some new fields of thought and action.  Scholarship has an important place, of course, but I also think the Academy needs to develop a more hands-on, activist-style engagement with the problems of our time. 

Below, my talk, “To Make Hope Possible Rather Than Despair Convincing,” a line borrowed from the British critic Raymond Williams.  My talk introduced the commons and explained why its concerns ought to be of interest to the new Hampshire College center.

Thank you for giving me the honor of reflecting on the significance of this moment and this initiative.  It is not every day that an academic institution takes such a bold, experimental leap into the unknown on behalf of social action and the common good.

I come to you as a dedicated activist who for the past forty years wishes there had been something like this when I was an undergraduate at Amherst College in the 1970s. I have always admired the image of what the French call l’homme engagé. I guess the closest American equivalent is “public intellectual.”  But neither of those terms quite get it right – because they don’t really express the idea of fierce intellectual engagement combined with practical action motivated by a passion for the common good. That’s the archetype that we need to cultivate today.

Extinct — Extincter — Extinctest…


From Dmitry Orlov

This blog is dedicated to the idea of presenting the big picture—the biggest possible—of what is going on in the world. The abiding areas of interest that make up the big picture have included the following:

1. The terminal decay and eventual collapse of industrial civilization as the fossil fuels that power it become more and more expensive to produce in the needed quantities, of lower and lower resource quality and net energy and, eventually, in ever-shorter supply.

The first guess by Hubbert that the all-time peak of oil production in the US would be back in the 1970s was accurate, but later prediction of a global peak, followed by a swift collapse, around the year 2000 was rather off, because here we are 15 years later and global oil production has never been higher. Oil prices, which were high for a time, have temporarily moderated. However, zooming in on the oil picture just a little bit, we see that conventional oil production peaked in 2005—just 5 years late—and has been declining ever since, and the shortfall has been made up by oil that is difficult and expensive to get at (deep offshore, fracking) and by things that aren’t exactly oil (tar sands).

A Wonderful Story — Hippies On A Houseboat…



William Catton’s warning…


From Kurt Cobb

William Catton Jr., author of the seminal volume about our human destiny, Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change, died last month at age 88.

Catton believed that industrial civilization had sown the seeds of its own demise and that humanity’s seeming dominance of the biosphere is only a prelude to decline. His work foreshadowed later works such as Joseph Tainter’s The Collapse of Complex Societies, Richard Heinberg’s The Party’s Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies, and Jared Diamond’s Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive.

In Overshoot Catton wrote: “We must learn to relate personally to what may be called ‘the ecological facts of life.’ We must see that those facts are affecting our lives far more importantly and permanently than the events that make the headlines.”

The bottleneck century…

bFrom Kurt Cobb

In his documentary What a Way to Go: Life at the End of Empire filmmaker Tim Bennett notes that many of the book authors now writing about peak oil, climate change, species extinction and myriad other urgent environmental and resource topics usually end their otherwise grim analyses with what he calls “the happy chapter,” a chapter with solutions and responses which will supposedly help us to avert catastrophe.

In a new book, Bottleneck: Humanity’s Impending Impasse, William Catton, Jr. dispenses with “the happy chapter” altogether and simply gives us the grim prognosis. Human society is now on an unstoppable trajectory for a significant die-off. Catton, author of the well-known classic of human ecology, Overshoot, expects that by 2100 the world population will be smaller, perhaps much smaller, than it is today. We are in what he calls “the bottleneck century.” He likens our situation to that of an airplane taking off at nighttime with a crew that is unaware that the runway is too short. The pilot will accelerate the plane as usual expecting a normal takeoff. Unless the pilot somehow receives and believes a warning to brake and reverse the engines quickly, by the time he or she actually sees the end of the runway, it will be too late and the plane will crash.

Some Thoughts on Hope, Cynicism, and the Stories We Tell Ourselves…

From Maria Popova

To live with sincerity in our culture of cynicism is a difficult dance — one that comes easily only to the very young and the very old. The rest of us are left to tussle with two polarizing forces ripping the psyche asunder by beckoning to it from opposite directions — critical thinking and hope.

Critical thinking without hope is cynicism. Hope without critical thinking is naïveté.

Finding fault and feeling hopeless about improving the situation produces resignation — cynicism is both resignation’s symptom and a futile self-protection mechanism against it. Blindly believing that everything will work out just fine also produces resignation, for we have no motive to apply ourselves toward making things better. But in order to survive — both as individuals and as a civilization — and especially in order to thrive, we need the right balance of critical thinking and hope.

A plant needs water in order to survive, and needs the right amount of water in order to thrive. Overwater it and it rots with excess. Underwater it and it dries up inside.

People Are Animals, Too…

From Buzzfeed

The human brain is special — just not that special. To understand animal minds, and our own place in the living world, we should remove ourselves from center stage.

Tommy the chimpanzee got his day in court on Oct. 8, 2014. He was unable to attend the hearing in “person” — spending the day, like any other, in a cage at a used trailer sales lot in Gloversville, New York. But an hour’s drive away, in a courtroom in the state capital of Albany, Steven Wise of the Nonhuman Rights Project argued that Tommy should indeed be considered a person under New York state law. If so, Patrick and Diane Lavery of Circle L Trailer Sales could be summoned to determine whether they are imprisoning him illegally.

Central to Wise’s arguments in Tommy’s case, and to similar suits his organization has filed on behalf of other captive chimpanzees, is the assertion that apes are highly intelligent and self-aware beings with complex emotional lives. “The uncontroverted facts demonstrate that chimpanzees possess the autonomy and self-determination that are supreme common law values,” Wise told the five judges hearing the case.

It is a bold legal move — and so far unsuccessful. The court in Albany, like a lower court before it, rejected the idea that Tommy has legal rights of personhood. But Wise intends to fight on, taking Tommy’s case to the state’s ultimate arbiter, the New York Court of Appeals.

Egyptian Journalist: Nobody Dares Admit that ISIS Terrorism is the Islamic Way…



What nobody told me about small farming: I can’t make a living…


From Jaclyn Moyer 

People say we’re “rich in other ways,” but that doesn’t fix the ugly fact that most farms are unsustainable…

On the radio this morning I heard a story about the growing number of young people choosing to become farmers. The farmers in the story sounded a lot like me — in their late 20s to mid-30s, committed to organic practices, holding college degrees, and from middle-class non-farming backgrounds. Some raise animals or tend orchards. Others, like me, grow vegetables. The farmers’ days sounded long but fulfilling, drenched in sun and dirt. The story was uplifting, a nice antidote to the constant reports of industrial ag gone wrong, of pink slime and herbicide-resistant super-weeds.

What the reporter didn’t ask the young farmers was: Do you make a living? Can you afford rent, healthcare? Can you pay your labor a living wage? If the reporter had asked me these questions, I would have said no.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,592 other followers