Sunday, October 25, 2009

This climate change is different

Arctic Sediments Show That 20th Century Warming Is Unlike Natural Variation

"The possibility that climate change might simply be a natural variation like others that have occurred throughout geologic time is dimming, according to evidence in a Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences paper published October 19.

The research reveals that sediments retrieved by University at Buffalo geologists from a remote Arctic lake are unlike those seen during previous warming episodes."

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Private "Public" Option

The Washington Post reveals, in an article with this misleading headline: Prognosis improves for public insurance, that "public option" health insurance will be managed by a private corporation!

"The public option would effectively be just another insurance plan offered on the open market. It would likely be administered by a private insurance provider, charging premiums and copayments like any other policy. In an early estimate of the House bill, the Congressional Budget Office forecast that fewer than 12 million people would buy insurance through the government plan. "

Congress continues to ignore the distinction between health care and health insurance. The public option is not about government provided health insurance, it's about government provided medical care, on the model of the National Health Service in England. We don't want insurance companies involved. We don't want private corporations making profits from the misfortune of the ill and injured. We want quality medical care available for everyone, regardless of income or social circumstances.

Capitalism is based on the premise that the few should have more than the many, that some should be fed while others go hungry, that access to medical care is based on income rather than need.

Universal medical care is the basis for a strong, vibrant society in which all members enjoy equal access to necessary medical care.

Stop the charade in Congress. Pass a meaningful universal medical care bill now.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Shifting to Renewable Power

Shifting the world to 100 percent clean, renewable energy as early as 2030 -- here are the numbers

Most of the technology needed to shift the world from fossil fuel to clean, renewable energy already exists. Implementing that technology requires overcoming obstacles in planning and politics, but doing so could result in a 30 percent decrease in global power demand, say Stanford civil and environmental engineering Professor Mark Z. Jacobson and University of California-Davis researcher Mark Delucchi.

While this article appears to offer a pathway to a renewable energy future, it emphasizes centralized power fed into a central energy grid, with no mention of decentralized energy production (solar on every rooftop, local community wind generators). The article does not discuss the contribution of conservation, which can "produce" energy at no cost through reduction of wasted energy now consumed.

A renewable energy future will not be the non-renewable energy present we experience today. It must be accompanied by self-responsibility in energy use, backed up by changes in energy pricing and regulation.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Reality Check From the Brink of Extinction

While Chris Hedges is generally on the mark, this article: A Reality Check From the Brink of Extinction suffers from an over abundance of Derrick Jensen.

Jensen is at his feverish best, calling for everyone to take on vague, unachievable tasks, such as "We need to target and take down the industrial infrastructure that is systematically dismembering the planet." and "We need to do whatever is necessary to stop this."

Everyone has to be good at something and Jensen is a master of the non-specific demand. How does one, for instance, "take down the industrial infrastructure?" With an ax? A computer? A pithy quote?

Jensen is right, of course, that industrial capitalism is the source of climate change, species extinction and widespread pollution. He makes one statement that rings true and at least echoes a movement that is growing across the world. "We need to separate ourselves from the corporate government that is killing the planet,...”

More accurately, the only effective response to a central corporate oligarchy is to withdraw our support and permission for it to operate in our name. We do this not by marching shoulder to shoulder to Wall Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, not by taking apart the corporate infrastructure brick by brick.

We build the alternative by turning our backs on central authority (and its seductive benefits and protections) and building the local economy and social system among the ruins of the old system.

This is a facile socialist phrase. The reality is much more difficult. It means giving up all the "gimmes" of the paternalistic welfare state and taking care of ourselves and each other. It means rebuilding local democracy and solving our own problems with local resources. It means participating in growing our own food, building our own shelter, making our own clothes and providing for those who cannot provide for themselves.

Mutual Aid. Local economies.

It worked for 10,000 years before industrial capitalism. It will work for all life once again.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The world's future is being decided this weekend!

"We must agree to halt deforestation and curtail air travel now if the Copenhagen summit is to succeed." The Guardian:

It sounds so innocent seeing it lying there on the page in black and white.

Halt deforestation? Sure, why not? Just stop cutting down trees. Or plant more trees after we cut them down.

Curtail air travel? Sounds good to me. It's pretty inconvenient these days, anyway, what with all the security restrictions.

Think what this means. Think how much of "The Economy" is based on cutting trees and flying in airplanes.

Not just trees for building houses, but space where trees used to be for growing McCow burgers, sugar cane for ethanol, palm trees for oil.

Not just vacations to Grandma's house, but business travel, all those people in suits working on their laptops at 37,000 feet. And all the money those businesses spend for the seats, and all the money the airlines spend for those thousands of employees to keep those laptops at 37,000.

I'd call it a revolution, a forced change from "The (Global) Economy," to "Many Local Economies." Right here at home. Eating local food grown in local bioregions. Doing good work that doesn't require vacations to exotic locales. Visiting Grandma down the street, not thousands of frequent flyer miles away.

Why not start now and avoid the rush? Where do we sign up?

Does Flu Vaccine Matter?

My father was a doctor from the late 50s through the 80s, starting out as a GP in Broken Bow, Nebraska. I used to mow the front lawn of the neat white turn-of-the-Century two-story home that housed his office.

Although we did get our polio vaccines during those frightening polio summers, first as a shot, then as blue liquid dropped on sugar cubes, Dad didn't really believe in vaccines. He preferred natural immunity from exposure to the disease. We were exposed to mumps and measles at a young age, when our symptoms were brief and mild. When we came down with colds or flu, the treatment was: plenty of fluids, lots of rest and aspirin, if necessary. We learned not to rely on medications and to take care of our own immune systems.

In the United States, common sense response to disease has been replaced by fear and opportunism. The people are kept in a heightened state of fear through government propaganda inflamed by lurid media headlines. Pharmaceutical executives count their profits as the government orders exorbitant stockpiles of what amounts to expensive placebos, then generates fear to get the populace to line up for their vaccinations.

Now we learn in Does the Vaccine Matter? - The Atlantic (November 2009) that it really is a sham, an unwillingness on the part of the medical profession to test and analyize received wisdom and resist pressure from pharmaceutical industry lobbying,

Thank you, Dr. Dad, for your wise treatment and counsel.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Looking at nature makes you nicer - Behavior-

Looking at nature makes you nicer - Behavior-

"...the “naturally nice” effect doesn’t so much hinge on daily hikes through the woods as it does paying attention to the natural elements we encounter each day."

There you have it: MSNBC and the University of Rochester. It must be real.

Birds around our houses, squirrels in the trees, a spider hanging on her web on the carport uprights. Nature is all around us, even in the densest of urban neighborhoods.

It doesn't take a trip to a national park, a week long back pack in the wilderness, a kayak expedition in the fjords. Just go outside, look around and open yourself to the experience of Nature everywhere.

Then share your experience with your friends.

Nature Always Bats Last

In this article from the Santa Cruz (Scotts Valley/San Jose) Sentinel, Sandy Lydon relates the natural history of the Loma Prieta earthquake that shook the earth round these parts twenty years ago today.

On October 16, 1989, I was in recovery mode on the shores of Prince William Sound some 4,000 miles north of Loam Prieta. I remember hearing about it on the radio, and seeing a picture of Candlestick Park in the Anchorage Daily News.

One must realize that news of earthquakes is a very different thing in Alaska than elsewhere. The 1964 quake established a threshold against which all others are measured. And, in Alaska, earthquakes are almost literally an everyday affair. I can't remember how many times I stood in a doorway wondering when to make a break for outside, as the house shifted back and forth around me.

Now that I live here within sight of the epicenter of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, and having felt a couple of notable temblors myself, the effect of earthquakes in densely populated areas has a sobering reality. I know we'll be safe here, as this house survived the 1989 quake with almost no damage, and has been retrofitted since then. With all of the retelling of twenty year-old ground-shaking tales, I know that others will be less fortunate or prepared when the next one rolls around.

There is nothing that underscores human subservience to Nature more than that moment when the ground moves under your feet and you know there's absolutely nothing you can do about it.

As they discovered in Candlestick Park twenty years ago, Nature really does bat last!

Friday, October 16, 2009

On Things Facebookish (aka social networking)

OK, I give up! I don't get it.

I've worked for over thirty-five years in public radio. I always thought of it as ephemeral, there for the now, wafted across the air waves into oblivion.

Now, with podcasting, internet streams, on-demand downloading, radio has established a permanent presence, if anything in this world is permanent, which it isn't. Now you can get your radio on-demand, when and where you want it. It's not really radio anymore, it's cyber information purveyance.


I've dabbled in Facebook for the last few months, trying to figure out the draw of "Friends," "Pages," and all the streaming minutiae of "social networking." I've failed. I don't get it.

The individual contributions scroll down the screen and get lost off the bottom faster than I can read and keep track of them. There's a bewildering array of causes, groups, games, events, pictures, videos and other things I never did figure out. It's like sitting in the laundry room watching the front-loader go from agitate to the spin cycle.

Social networking is far more ephemeral than radio ever was.

And now they (you know who they are) want to combine radio with social networking, thus diluting and ephemoralizing both more than either was individually.

No wonder the young set spends hours walking, biking, driving down the street, staring into the limpid crystal screen of the hypnotic electronic communications device held before them.

We used to say, "never trust anyone over thirty!" Now we (you know who we are) say, never trust anyone under fifty!"

The world turns.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Arctic Seas Turn to Acid, Putting Vital Food Chain at Risk |

Arctic Seas Turn to Acid, Putting Vital Food Chain at Risk

This implies a lack of resilience in the world that is at odds with what we continue to learn about how our planet maintains homeostasis.

Yes, increasing ocean acidity is a challenge to existing ecologies. But ecologies are constantly changing, constantly adapting to new conditions. While the impending changes as a result of climate change and rising CO2 levels, I think there are other effects of human industrial actrocities that are more immediate and long lasting.