Thursday, April 23, 2015

The solution to Our Environmental Ills

Some folks say that we are the source of the environmental crisis increasingly apparent to even the most hardened conservative.  The “we” are us, ”we” created the problem and “we” possess the solution.   

Hmmm... must be some other "we." I didn't create the problem. However, I do have the solution!

The problem was in full bore when I was born. It must have been my parents who created it. But wait! It was going well when they were born, too. And my 11th Great Grandfather brought it with him from England, where they had been practicing it for centuries, when he came to Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1634.

As population increased in Europe during the Medieval Warm Period, consumption of resources increased until the plagues of the 14th Century and the "wood crisis" of the 16th Century that limited further increase. Europeans expanded outward seeking news sources of wealth and energy, prompting another increase in population. The Industrial Revolution led to further increases in population and consumption.

No one created the problem and no one had the solution. The problem was endemic to human evolution and culture.

The "problem" is the per capita rate of human consumption of natural "resources" (the word says it all), multiplied by the total number of humans in any given ecosystem. Human culture has reduced the human death rate and culture has increased the per capita rate of consumption. Thus we find ourselves at the aforementioned precipice, toes dangling in the breeze over the edge.

The solution is simple: reduce human population and/or reduce human consumption, such that humans do not consume more than is naturally replenished nor produce wastes faster than they are naturally assimilated.

There are two ways to accomplish these goals:

    1) Do nothing and wait for Nature to take its course. Continued human growth in a world of finite resources is impossible. Things that can't go on forever, don't. Human economies based on continuous growth will collapse; disease and famine will accomplish the rest. There won't be sufficient resources left for a human culture to ever again regain its present state of development. The future is less not more.

    2) Decide to voluntarily reduce our population through serious birth control, emancipation and empowerment of women to control their own reproductive lives, and elimination of incentives for large families. And reduce per capita consumption and organize distribution such that everyone in the reduced population has sufficient resources to live a full and satisfying life. The future is less not more.

There's no reason to think that humans have the political will to pull off Option Number 2, certainly not before Option Number 1 begins to take effect. Humans are too much like the monkey with his fist stuck in the jar, unwilling to let go of the fruit in hand to save himself from the approaching tiger. Even those who take climate change seriously and bang on unsparingly about its dire effects are unwilling to change their own lives enough to make a difference. Millions of cars and trucks clog the highway every day beneath glaring billboards proclaiming climate doom and gloom.

This cannot, and will not, long continue.

As Jean has said many times, a thousand years from now everything will be OK.

As it must.

    “To aid and abet in the destruction of a single species or in the extermination of a single tribe is to commit a crime against God, a mortal sin against Mother Nature. Better by far to sacrifice in some degree the interests of mechanical civilization, curtail our gluttonous appetite for things, ever more things, learn to moderate our needs, and most important, and not difficult, learn to control, limit and gradually reduce our human numbers. We humans swarm over the planet like a plague of locusts, multiplying and devouring. There is no justice, sense or decency in this mindless global breeding spree, this obscene anthropoid fecundity, this industrialized mass production of babies and bodies, ever more bodies and babies. The man-centered view of the world is anti-Christian, anti-Buddhist, antinature, antilife, and--antihuman.”
― Edward Abbey, Beyond the Wall: Essays from the Outside

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

California Drought and Anasazi Transformation

    Lots of arm-waving, gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair on the Left Coast these days over The Drought. Of course, those whose interests are served, and pockets lined, by spreading fear of GLOBAL WARMING, and other myths, pound on about how climate change is the cause of The Drought, and, of course, humans are the cause of climate change.

    Rather than sorting through the rhetoric, I decided to ask someone who might know about these things, atmosphere, weather, climate, etc. Here's what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Climate Program 
Office has to say about the California drought:


    "The current drought is not part of a long-term change in California precipitation, which exhibits no appreciable trend since 1895. Key oceanic features that caused precipitation inhibiting atmospheric ridging off the West Coast during 2011-14 were symptomatic of natural internal atmosphere-ocean variability."

    So there we are.

    This doesn't let Homo sapiens californicus off the hook by any means. There's still plenty of growth maniacs running wildly about the place, ignoring natural limitations of resource availability, planning new housing developments, industrial parks, airport runway expansions, new dams on rivers, if there are any rivers and creeks left untrammeled. No matter what the human problem is, from poverty to urban crime to childhood obesity, growth is the first solution pulled out of the hat.

    It's time to stroll down to the local haberdashery and get a new hat.

    What's needed is a whole lot less growth and development and a whole lot more simple adaptation.

    
The Anasazi of 12th Century New Mexico figured it out. When times got tough and rain scarce in the Southwest, they abandoned their Great Houses in Chaco Canyon and vicinity and scattered into the uplands, where summer temperatures were cooler, rain more frequent and predictable. They reinvented themselves as Pueblo people and continued to live in place. They've lived there for 800 years or so, far longer than the upstart Europeans who repeatedly tried to drive them off or wipe them out, and failed.

   Now it's our turn to be the Anasazi, if we're smart enough, if we care enough. The imported European lifestyle just doesn't work on this coast or this continent. Natural cycles far outspan the puny timescale, unbounded hubris and unrealistic aspirations of American endeavor. If we are to continue as a culture, a prospect looking increasingly doubtful, it will have to be as a very different culture, one which lives as a part of the natural world, not apart from it.

    

    Not to worry. Those things that can't go on forever, don't. Mother Nature bats last. It's hard and it's fair.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Chicken Little Comes Home to Roost

Over-concentration on climate change as the greatest challenge to human civilization obscures the fact that humans have been operating unsustainably since fossil fuels were developed as the basis of human population increase and industrial production.

Fossil fuels are a temporary energy source, based on accumulations of millions of years of solar based photosynthesis. We are using up these energy reserves in hundreds of years, 10,000 times faster than were originally produced. We are now well into the end of the Age of Oil, the energy source of choice for Western civilization.

It’s just a coincidence that we are also discovering that our energy choices are influencing naturally occurring climate variation in ways that make our global environment less well suited to the patterns of development of Western Civilization. We are producing wastes, in this case carbon dioxide and other gases, faster than they can be assimilated in the biosphere through natural cycles.

This deadly, to humans, combination of borrowing energy from the past and limiting human energy choices in the future, in resulting in the unavoidable demise of our way of life, Western civilization. In order to significantly change the outcome we face, we would have to stop all greenhouse gas production, stop all burning of fossil fuels and reduce human population by a third. Even then, atmospheric and terrestrial processes already set in motion will continue on their present path.

As a result of our dominant social, political and economic systems, our governments do not have the will to change our way of being by taking the steps necessary to make a significant difference in the outcome. Like it or not, the future will have less energy availability, less food, less money and more and more strife and chaos.

The good news is that after human population and industrial activity decline, things will be better, for the remaining humans and the rest of the living world. Fortunately for all, there will be insufficient energy for our descendants to rebuild the same society we see crumbling about us today. Our ancestors will be forced to live within their means, unlike us, and will return to life as a part of Nature, not apart from Nature.

It’s hard and it’s fair.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Living in a natural soundscape

Noise pollution is making us oblivious to the sound of nature, says researcher | Science | The Guardian

It's happening here, even in Our Fair City.

Here in Santa Cruz, just a mile from the beach, we can hear the sound of the surf, at least at 2 AM when there's no automobile traffic on local streets.

Two hundred years ago, locals could hear the surf all the time, from anywhere in this area now inundated by roads, parking lots, houses, shopping centers and commercial buildings ... and the noise they generate.

Imagine the audio landscape experienced by the original human inhabitants of Coastal California throughout their daily life. Elk whistling on the mountain slopes, shorebirds calling and chuckling on the beaches, songbirds in every bush and tree, red-tailed hawks and bald eagles surfing the morning breeze, crows, scrub jays and mockingbirds filling the air with their critical observations on the human condition. The riffle of raven feathers as they fly by. The prehistoric clack of great blue herons seeking their roosts in the cypress.

In a natural sounsdcape, one can learn the time of day, the seasons and the weather on the mix and variety of sounds wafting on every breeze.

In our noisy world, this rich natural complexity of the soundscape has been greatly simplified, reduced to automobile noise, motorized leaf blowers, car sound systems set on stun, and the ubiquitous electronic technobabble plugged into most every pair of ears. The demanding jangle of modern sounds allows no respite for thought, contemplation or even quiet enjoyment of natural sounds, soothing to ears and brains that evolved in a meaningful audio environment. Even libraries are no longer a quiet place for reading and introspection.

It's no wonder that Santa Cruz City parks planners contemplated including a Quick Response (QR) Code on interpretive signs for the Arana Gulch Amusement Park so that children could listen to bird songs on their cell phones.

Let's use our ears for something other than auxiliary input jacks.

Let's listen to the natural world and learn its glad tidings.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

The Future is the Here and Now - Only More So


The future changes faster than we can keep up.

Here within the confines of our Coastal County, the future is changing so fast that local government officials and institutions haven't kept up with the way the future was, let alone with what the future is fast becoming.

City and County governments are still responding to the current economic implosion by promoting more and more economic and infrastructure growth, not realizing that it is growth that is creating the local economic implosion.

As I've said several times before, bureaucracy plans for the past, rarely for the future.

Our Coastal County has reached a state of permanent diminishing returns, in which continued investment in increasingly complex infrastructure results in an increasing inability of the County to maintain and pay for what it already has, let alone what it continues to build. As complexity increases, non-lineal returns take over, such that historic methods of responding to municipal crises no longer work; even worse, they are counterproductive, producing more problems than solutions.

For example, the recent $6.5 million permanent pink permeable pavement shortcut through Arana Gulch, rammed through the City Council as a Public Works make-work project, has resulted in an expanded physical infrastructure handed over to City Parks and Recreation, who have no funds, staff, resources nor even any desire to adequately maintain it. The two extravagant ("wandering beyond") bridges and their connecting cement umbilicus will remain a financial drain on County coffers until they crumble in well deserved decay and return to the earth from whence they came.

As William Howard Kuntsler tells us, eloquently: "The future is telling us very clearly: get smaller, get finer, get more local, get less complex, get less grandiose, do it now." (The Broken Template)

This means get off the growth wagon, tell AMBAG what they can do with their continued, unrealistic demands that the County accommodate growth in a world of finite resources. There's not enough water here for the people who live here now. "Water neutral development" is just a poor euphemism for increased efficiency and reduced per capita consumption, which is held hostage and ultimately overshadowed by population increase. We cannot optimize our way out of the reality of finite resources. Ocean water desalination is no answer either, as finite energy is as restrictive as water, in the long run more so. The post-fracking future bending toward us is the death knell of cheap energy and the inevitable long slide down the muddy slope of energy availability.

The future is less, not more.

And that's a good thing. Without the distractions of the new and bigger and glitzier, we can relearn to be content with the present, the adequate and sufficient, the resilient, the modest, the tried and true.

We can settle into our own and become indigenous to this place where we live. 


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

‘It is profitable to let the world go to hell’

    In a Guardian article, ‘It is profitable to let the world go to hell’, Jo Confino describes the 42 year frustrating struggle by Jørgen Randers to inject a note of sanity into government climate policies.
    "It is cost-effective to postpone global climate action. It is profitable to let the world go to hell.

    "I believe that the tyranny of the short term will prevail over the
decades to come. As a result, a number of long-term problems will not be
solved, even if they could have been, and even as they cause gradually
increasing difficulties for all voters."
    We see this inability to include a long term perspective down to the local government level.  City of Santa Cruz Water Department managers are unable to view future water supply challenges in terms of population growth, insisting that water neutral development, that is increased water use efficiency, will allow population growth indefinitely into the future.

    Of course, increases in efficiency are a short-term solution, since efficiency can only increase to a point of diminishing return. Population increases will inevitably overcome efficiency of use.

    But the bureaucratic mentality cannot embrace this viewpoint, because that means the entire capitalist consumer approach must be abandoned on the scrap heap of history. So the blinders remain fully in place as the opportunities for meaningful and effective change swoosh rapidly downstream to the ocean.

 



Sunday, January 11, 2015

Finding Balance Between Individualism and Society

One thing I learned studying anthropology is that all societies deal with the struggle between the needs of the individual and the needs of society. Society requires stability, knowledge of the rules, the consequences of ignoring the rules, and participation by all members of the society in its maintenance.

The core problem in modern “liberal” societies is the fact that the majority of their members are inadequately prepared to function as contributing members of the society, instead encouraged to act as individuals in pursuit of individual “rights” and “freedoms.”

We see this in daily social discourse here in Santa Cruz. At a recent County Commission meeting, public comment on the dogs off-leash issue was dominated by an unruly demand by a small group of dog owners that County government give them what they wanted, which was freedom to pursue their individual desires with no consideration for the broader public good. The meeting devolved into intimidating mob rule, rather than consideration for others and cooperative participation in the course of local government.

Organized religion once was the domain of family and societal values, a place where members of a society learned the rules and the means and methods of carrying out public life within those rules. Since the Enlightenment, religion has lost its place as the arbiter of public values, with nothing to take its place in a society dominated by science, with its lack of overt values, and industrial commercialism, with its overweening values of independence, individualism and consumption.

In addition, schools have been stripped of their responsibility to teach values, and therefore, young parents no longer have the skills to teach values to their children. And children, being the learning vacuums they are, pick up their values ad hoc from popular culture: their peers, popular music, film and television. 

We therefore live in a society that no longer knows how to conduct itself in its own interest. The desires of the individual are paramount, while the needs of society are left wanting. 

As we move into a time of increased societal stress, as a result of environmental changes piling up due to corporate structured, value-free society, this lack of social nurture will bode ill for the survival of our society. 

That which cannot go on forever, won’t.


Friday, January 09, 2015

Where can I take my dog off-leash on the beach in Santa Cruz?

It seems that everyone wants to come to Santa Cruz, California to let their dogs run off-leash at the beach!

Even during the winter, a percentage of visitors to the beaches of Santa  Cruz County are from out of town. It must be the sun... or something. A percentage of those visitors bring their canine charges with them as  well and can't wait to get their dogs sandy and smelly at the beach. Go figure!


How are they to know - before they get here - that their off leash dogs are not allowed  on Santa Cruz County beaches (except Mitchell's Cove before ten and  after four)? Or that there are five beaches (Main Beach, Cowell, Natural Bridges, Wilder Ranch and Scott Creek) that don't allow dogs at all?!

As it turns out, there's an app for that, or at least, a web site.

Click HERE for the answer to this and other questions at Santa Cruz Off-Leash Beach!

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Parks Commission Gives in to Bullying Dog Owners

   Late last year the off-leash dog controversy came to a head with the December 15 meeting of the Santa Cruz County Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission. Over a year ago, the Commission requested that County staff produce criteria for off-leash dog facilities and an inventory of County Parks properties suitable for fenced or unfenced off-leash dog parks. 

    The four Commissioners in attendance on December 15 listened to the Parks Department Staff Report, which concluded “County Parks does not recommend further consideration of unfenced shared use areas where dogs would be permitted off-leash.” 


    Following the Staff Report, the meeting was opened to public comment on this agenda item. Many comments from off-leash dog proponents were loud and peppered with foul language, as they demanded that the Commission “give them” an off-leash dog area on “their beach.”
The F-word was heard as often as in a modern motion picture.

    The atmosphere created by off-leash dog supporters turned ugly and intimidating. Members of the audience expressing support for the Staff Report were repeatedly interrupted by rude remarks. When the public comment was closed and the Commissioners began their discussion, the off-leash proponents continued their interruptions, moving forward toward the Commissioners, waving and gesticulating, and taking pictures with their cell phones. At times the gathering felt more like a religious revival than a Commission meeting.

    The process of careful government deliberation was destroyed by the unruly behavior of the off-leash proponents, replaced by
an escalating mob atmosphere by those intent on getting their own way.

  
Unfortunately, the Commission Chair failed to control the abusive outbursts, even beyond the public comment period and into the Commissioners’ discussion that followed. Even worse, two Parks Commissioners rewarded the off-leash proponents and gave them legitimacy by taking their demands seriously and proposing a motion to recommend that the Board of Supervisors look into a pilot program for off-leash dogs on a County beach.

    What message does this send to the public that looks to County Commissions to advise their Board of Supervisors on County policy? Is abusive and bullying behavior to be rewarded by obsiquious Commissioners? Is County policy to be determined by those who shout the loudest with the most foul language?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Enlightened Local Government

Local government today suffers from a crisis of ineptitude.

"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education."
― Thomas Jefferson

Participation in the process of government requires an educated, enlightened citizenry. In a society where rational discourse, critical thinking and evidence based decision-making is not taught in schools and is discouraged by popular culture, those who populate local commissions, committees, boards and councils are left with no basis for "wholesome discretion."

“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”
― Thomas Jefferson

Beyond those who actively participate in the process of government, the general public is uneducated in the day to day role of citizens in a democratic nation. Public meetings have become rowdy expressions of entitlement and unreasonable demands. Mob intimidation has replaced cogent comment and supportive participation. Individualism and personal consumption have displaced concern for the common good.

If we must have government, it should arise of itself from an educated populace, not be imposed from above by a powerful elite minority.

“Government should be weak, amateurish and ridiculous. At present, it fulfills only a third of the role.
― Edward Abbey

Sunday, October 05, 2014

The Nature of Humans


As I've commented before, I'm wary of distinguishing between "Nature" and "Not-Nature" with regard to human beings.

Humans are part of "Nature," that is, Homo sapiens is a species of animal that co-evolved with all other species. It’s important that we internalize this reality. 

When we deny the reality of our basic “Nature-ness,” we allow ourselves to engage in behavior that is destructive to the world of Nature. We ignore the fact that what harms Nature harms us as well. We give ourselves license to take from Nature without giving back, to take from Nature faster and in greater amounts than can be naturally replenished. We allow ourselves to create waste and “throw it away,” into Nature, faster and in greater quantities than can be naturally assimilated. We forget that there is no “away.”

It’s also important to understand that humans cannot bring about the “End of Nature.” Even if humans fail to end our profligate ways, resulting in global environmental “collapse,” Nature will abide. It may be that Nature will change to a form that does not support intelligent (sic) upright featherless bipeds, but it will still be Nature and natural systems will continue to operate as they have since the beginnings of life on this planet.

Nature Bats Last is not just a bumper sticker.

There’s no getting around the bitter fact that we can’t do anything we want and get away with it. We might as well get over it and get on with the task of becoming responsible members of the community of life on this tiny, much abused, whirling mudball we call Earth. Our friends and neighbors on the planet will welcome us with open arms, legs, wings, flippers and pseudopodia.

An article in Mother Earth News, Coming Home to Nature, speaks elegantly about the unity of humans and Nature.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Can humans survive themselves?

After decades of environmental activism and organization, I've come to the reluctant conclusion that nothing can be done to prevent, or even mitigate massive environmental disruption, habitat destruction, species loss, air and water pollution and modification of natural climate variation.

This may seem obvious to some, and, I suppose, it is. It doesn't make it stick in my craw any less.

Looking back, there have been victories: the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act. These legislative actions helped slow the rate of destruction, at least for a while.

Stacked up against the totalitarian hegemony of the global growth at any cost economy, and the failure of democracy as a form of enlightened government, these gains are insufficient to forestall inevitable environmental degradation and resulting economic collapse.

This startling revelation walks hand-in-hand with another: humans are basically stupid and uncaring. I don't mean ignorant; ignorance can be cured by the application of information. Stupid means unintelligent, even to the point of willful ignorance.

In the human world, Homo sapiens has removed itself from the natural process of evolution. In the natural world, intelligence, the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills, is a required attribute for evolutionary success. Since humans no longer respond to selection pressure, intelligence is not required for success as a human being.

While this is bad enough among the general population, unintelligence has become concentrated in one critical area of human society.

To paraphrase Mark Twain: Suppose you were an idiot and suppose you were a government bureaucrat. But I repeat myself.

Government bureaucracy has become the universal haven for all manner of unenlightened twits, worthless ninnies, mental feebs, recalcitrant do-nothings, corporate toadies, and status-quo apologists. They have perfected the Peter Principle and taken it to new heights of development.

Dealing with these obstructions to progress, in any sense of the word, is like trying to walk through a wall of marshmallows. Every effort to bring the light of day into the gloom of government offices is misdirected, mislaid, misfiled, obscured with coffee stains, glued into incomprehensibility with sticky-bun detritus, crumpled and basketballed into the round file of oblivion, benignly ignored or actively resisted.

As if that were insufficient, government bureaucrats (GBs) are unequaled in their ability to act as if they're doing something while all the while effectively emulating the Rock of Gibraltar. They've all gone to Bureaucrateze language school and each have the Official Bureaucrats Thesaurus (1875) close at hand for ready reference. Missives between and among GBs are replete with inaction phrases, weasel words (apologies to the genus Mustela), obscuratanisms and obfuscations. They excel in Concentric Bird logic (that which goes round and round in ever decreasing circles until it disappears into its own fundament).

The worst part of this appalling situation is that nothing can be done to change it. GBs are in control of the world and its social institutions. City Councils, Borough Assemblies, state legislatures and even that Great National Asylum for the Criminally Helpless in Washington, DC are all held in close thrall to the ministrations of the Government Bureaucrat Conspiracy.

"Is that a conspiracy theory?" whines the wag in the back row.

Yes, it is. GBs do indeed get together in conference rooms and plan how to build and maintain their throttle-hold on the reins of public process. Here is a web site, which, true to form, is slow to load, poorly organized and archaically non-interactive: Top 25 Government Conferences.

Back to my thesis: There's No Hope.

Any prospect for substantive change in the relationship between human societies and the natural world is dependent on an organized group of humans who don't care, don't know, and worse, know what they don't want to know about the effects of their actions on the broader biosphere, on which, ironically, their own future depends.

Thus, in answer to the title of this screed, the Cosmic Joke arrives at its inevitable punchline:

Homo sapiens will go to its long deserved grave laughing its empty head off.



Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Daniel Ellsberg Challenge

Jeff Morley, in his article: JFKfacts - The Ellsberg challenge, asks two questions posed to him by Daniel Ellsberg, liberator of "The Pentagon Papers":

"What do you want to happen as a result of your understanding of the JFK [assassination] story? What, if anything, does it require the American government to do in 2014?" 

Unfortunately, "the government" cannot and will not do anything regarding the Kennedy / King / Malcolm X assassinations, because the legitimacy of the United States government is held hostage to the truth. 

There will, of course, never be a grand reveal of the truth that strips away the fog of amnesia from the minds of the American public. This will not be allowed. While there may be startling revelations at some point in the future, they will be stage-managed by the mental manipulators, such that their effect on the perceptions of the public will be minimized, if not entirely negated. The Emperor's nudity must never be allowed to be revealed.

We already know, with little doubt, of the complicity and outright authorship of activities by United States government security agencies such as the FBI and CIA, in COINTELPRO-like programs to discredit the reputations of public figures, internationally and domestically. It is only a tiny step from disinformation (lying) and propaganda to averting the official eyes from more active interference, and yet a smaller step, once on the path, to participation. The result of the officially sanctioned oppression of the 60s is the prevailing surveillance state we experience in today's enemy-deficient world, where Terrorism has replaced Communism as justification for the recision of Constitutionally guaranteed civil rights. 

One can hope that if documentation of government complicity in the 60s assassinations were to be globally distributed, say, by a WikiLeaks type action, such widespread opening of the collective eye would indeed destroy the legitimacy of the United States government sufficiently to cause its downfall and replacement by a democratic parliamentary form of government. This would, unfortunately, require a degree of public participation in the process of government now sadly lacking. But let us not discount the ability of the American people to rise to an occasion when sufficiently motivated. We are long past due our responsibility to "water the tree of Liberty with the blood of tyrants."

Unless and until the documented truth is revealed, there is nothing the government need do, and nothing the awake and aware public can do about our ineluctably corrupt government. The corporate oligarchy controls access to information, inescapably surveils the public for signs of unrest and incipient rebellion, creates and maintains an atmosphere of fear of fictive external enemies, and maintains a monopoly of force against any potential or actual uprising.

In Oliver Stone's words, as Jim Garrison in his 1991 film, JFK

 It may become a generational
 affair, with questions passed down from
 father to son, mother to daughter, in the
 manner of the ancient runic bards.  Someday
 somewhere, someone might find out the
 damned Truth.  Or we might just build
 ourselves a new Government like the
 Declaration of Independence says we should
 do when the old one ain't working.

 An American naturalist wrote, "a patriot
 must always be ready to defend his
 country against its government."

That "American naturalist" was Edward Paul Abbey, author of Desert Solitaire, Fire on the Mountain, and The Monkey Wrench Gang, anarchist, gadlfy, curmudgeon, and inspiration to a generation of patriots who continue to defend this country, and its natural habitats and species, from an overweening government. 

There's plenty of work to do and time is on our side.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Signs of the Decline

In this critically important analysis, World Oil Production at 3/31/2014-Where are We Headed? Gail Tverberg points out the instability of global oil production leading to ultimate declines in oil availability and increases in prices.

"The fact that the selling price of oil remains flat tends to lead to political instability in oil exporters because they cannot collect the taxes required to provide programs needed to pacify their people (food and fuel subsidies, water provided by desalination, jobs programs, etc.) without very high oil prices."

The general trend is a global decline in oil production amidst unstable to declining production worldwide. The disparity between the cost of production and the price that consumers are able to pay increases the instability of global oil prices.

As I've said many times in the past, Peak Oil is far more immediately threatening to human societies than climate change. In fact, the economic results of Peak Oil will largely negate the contribution of human greenhouse gases to observed climate variation.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Two Realities, the choice is up to us

This article by Richard Heinberg, Two Realities, is so important I want to spread it liberally about cyberspace.

There exists a vast chasm betwixt the environmental reality of the biosphere on this planet, and the infinitely smaller but nonetheless overwhelming reality within the noosphere of economists, Chambers of Commerce promoters, property developers, corporate CEOs, legislators and their pet lobbyists, and government administrators.

Economic growth is viewed as the universal panacea for all human ills, from poverty to environmental destruction, even though it is obvious to all who care to see that economic growth is the ultimate cause of these problems. Anyone who dares rise in objection to the mantra of continued economic growth is met with withering stares, outraged expostulation, public obloquy, and social sequestration.

Unfortunately, all governmental bodies are ineluctably under the thrall of growth maniacs, such that economic growth is unquestioned and unquestionable in public discourse. What passes for media these days are filled with assurances that economic growth is increasing, or bemoaning a lack of sufficient economic growth in the past quarter, with not the slightest question as to whether said economic growth is a good thing for human societies, let alone for the natural world.

The political will does not exist to reassess our growth mania and turn it around, in large part because those who control the economy are the beneficiaries, at least for the moment, of its excess. The populace is largely unaware of the conundrum, concerned with jobs, family and the consumerism necessary to live up to social expectations. Economic growth is viewed as the Great American Dream, despite the looming Great Global Nightmare that will sweep it all away as Peak Oil and climate change begin to seriously erode the fabric of the economic fantasy.

Despite this pessimistic outlook, the incipient proto-mammals of steady state economy are nibbling away at the dinosaur eggs of the growth-at-any-cost status quo. Heinberg has here set out a program of public awareness and funding for study and promotion of alternative economies, that, at the very least, may lessen the shock of global economic collapse on the horizon.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Two Worlds... on one planet

In Two Worlds: #203 / A Two Worlds Analysis, Gary Patton states:
"My own belief is that global warming is 'real,' and is caused by human activity, and that global warming poses a major threat to human civilization."

It is true that climate variation (aka, Global Warming) is real. It is inaccurate to say that it is “caused” by human activity. Climate variation continues apace, as it has done for millennia. Human activity, particularly production of greenhouse gases and modifications of the landscape that affect atmospheric water vapor, modify, to a greater or lesser extent, this natural climate variation.

There are many factors that pose major threats to human civilization, in addition to climate variation. The most immediate threatening factor is Peak Oil, which will change human civilization much sooner and much more drastically than will climate variation.

It is certain that oil will soon become an uneconomical source of energy. It is certain that human civilization is unalterably based on abundant, inexpensive oil and other finite fossil fuels. It is certain that renewable energy sources are less energy dense, less portable and less reliable than fossil fuels. It is certain that no combination of renewable energy sources can replace the amount of energy now consumed by our civilization at present population levels, let alone with any future population growth.

The effects of present and future climate variation are uncertain. Beyond consideration of the accuracy and precision of numerical global climate models, which are only as good as their data inputs, climate variation is chaotic and nonlinear, and thus, virtually impossible to predict with less than hemispheric accuracy over a limited time period.
It seems to me that the one problem facing us, Peak Oil, will cancel out the other, human modified climate variation. Either we will find a way to lower our energy demands and switch to renewable energy sources, thus lowering our “carbon footprint,” or we won’t, thus lowering our “carbon footprint.” The former will allow some maximum cultural continuity, the latter will entail considerable cultural chaos and collapse.

Laid out thusly, in glowing black and white phosphors, the choice seems clear to me. We must do everything we can to lower our energy demands while at the same time using our remaining fossil fuel energy sources to develop as much renewable energy as possible… and here’s the catch: We must accomplish all this without laying waste to the natural biosphere that supports all life on this planet.

It’s a big prescription, to be sure. One way or the other, a thousand years from now, all will be well, as humans will have found a way to live within natural cycles of resource availability and waste assimilation, either by our own determination, or by Nature’s own resolute requirements.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act.


Wilderness and wild spaces, even not so wild open spaces in urban areas, are increasingly under attack by gearheads, young recreationists and self-centered entitlement aficionados. Their mantra is "antiquated laws," which they chant whilst lobbying policy makers to change or rescind regulations to allow them unfettered access to places that have been long protected for their unique natural values.

No one is surprised by this contradictory behavior. Humans have always been masters at straining at gnats and swallowing camels. Popular human culture is replete with self-defeating behavior by a populace in thrall to consumerism and corporate personhood.

It remains for us 60ish conservationists to trod heavily in our expensive hiking boots in the path of the unknowing, youthful recreational enthusiasts, while we still have the gumption, intestinal fortitude and energy left to defend the wild at every opportunity, stand in their faces and so to them, "No, you will not destroy this wild place.

These laws regulate behavior that is destructive to the very characteristics of wild lands that make them attractive to humans in the first place. Those screaming the loudest for access are lobbying for the right to destroy that which they profess to enjoy.

What they refuse to understand is that environmental laws and regulations do not exclude anyone from these areas. It is behavior that is excluded, not individuals or groups of humans.




This past week, my wife and I celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act by hiking into the Hoover Wilderness in the east Sierra above Mono Lake.

No toys, no gear, just us and our feet, eyes, ears, noses and skin. It was a healing walk, away from the din of what passes for civilization in the "developed" world.


"But love of the wilderness is more than a hunger for what is always beyond reach; it is also an expression of loyalty to the earth which bore us and sustains us, the only home we shall ever know, the only paradise we ever need - if only we had eyes to see." - Ed Abbey