Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What's Wrong with This Picture?

A large insurance company in Germany says: "Global losses linked to climate change mounting"

"Linked to climate change?" What is the link between insurance company payouts and climate change?

Does this mean more natural disasters are causing insurance companies to pay out more money? No, they admit that 2009 was a light year for hurricanes (they seem to worry a lot about hurricanes), so it can't be that.

Does it mean that higher global temperatures are causing... something unspecified... to encourage more people to make more insurance claims? No, they don't say that.

What they do say is: "Climate change likely has accounted for a significant share of the roughly $1.6 trillion in worldwide weather-related losses since 1980..."

Losses. That means money the insurance company has to pay out. That means more people affected by natural disasters. That means more expensive damage suffered by more people in natural disasters.

That means insurance companies want to blame their losses on climate change so they can blame the government for not doing something about it. That means they want their share of government bailouts.

Climate change... ?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

What's So Green About Green Technology?

This just in from the As We Suspected Department:

The New York Times reports: Earth-Friendly Elements Are Mined Destructively

That would be rare Earth metals required to build large wind turbines and other efficient forms of electricity usage. Not only are they dug from open pit mines in China (not known for the greenest of green practices) but they're traded around the world in illegal, unregulated markets.

Fossil fuels are declining, as well as polluting the planet, in order to support profligate lifestyles among a minority of far too many people on Earth consuming too much of the planet.

What's the simplest solution to the above over balanced equation? Reduce consumption? Conservation? Live simply?

No, no, that won't do. How are trans-national corporations going to survive if we stop making and buying ever more stuff? Nope, gotta build more wind generators to generate more electricity to power all the WallMarts to sell all the goods to make all the profits for corporate executives and stock holders everywhere.

That means more fossil fuels burned to dig more holes in the ground to extract more minerals to make all the stuff.

What's green about that?

Can the Government Force You to Buy Health Insurance?

Can the United States government force its citizens to buy a product from a for profit corporation and fine them if they refuse? David Swanson discusses the implications in Constitutional Challenges to Health Care Reform.

When this question goes to the Supreme Court, they will decide whether or not the United States is run by a fascist government.

It is one thing for a government to support business with tariffs, subsidies and outright pay-offs. This can always be passed off as corporate socialism. Legislating a requirement that its citizens purchase a specific product from for-profit corporations is the final step to the merger of business and government, the hallmark of fascism.

Government may provide services, such as as free medical care, and tax citizens to pay for it. This supports the greater good. But mandatory purchase of a service, especially a service not needed by a large percentage of the populace, those who are healthy and not in need of medical care, disparately supports private corporations lobbying for mandated health insurance.

This is the point where Democracy, rule by the people, passes from our grasp forever, or until the next revolution.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas, Pigs!

Merry Christmas, Pigs!

By Edward Abbey, from Abbey's Road

Scrooge was right. What I like best about Christmas in the desert is the conspicuous absence of Christmas. By late December the cone-nosed humbugs are gone and all the horny elf toads retired into their burrows for the season. When somebody asks me what I think of Christmas (nobody ever does), I reply, "Not much." Easy to avoid it our here in the rocks.

Think about Ebeneezer Scrooge and Bobby Riggs, the twin patron saints of us middle-aged cryptoliberals. Cryptoliberal? Well, sure, why not? I have been called other names even worse. Misanthrope. Sexist. Elitist. Crank. Barbarian. Anarcho-syndicalist. Wild conservative. And my favorite, from a Maoist lady in New York--she called me a creeping Fascist hyena. Quite true, so far as it goes (you can't please everybody), but they forget to add that I am a pig lover too.

The pig I'm talking about is the one known also as a peccary or javelina, the wild pig of the Arizona desert; not a true pig exactly, according to zoologists, but a good approximation--a close relation. Close enough for me, and the javelina, commonly defined as a "wild pig-like animal," is the best kind of pig. Though that definition, come to think of it, is a shade too broad. Some of my best friends qualify as wild pig-like animals without half trying. But that's another issue. The fault of the permissive social atmosphere, the Bill of Rights, the general weakening of moral fibers everywhere you look.

Back to my topic: Christmas and pigs. Have you ever stood alone under the full moon in the prickly cholla-mesquite desert on the night before Christmas and found yourself surrounded by a herd of hungry, snuffling, anxiety-ridden javelinas? I have, and it's a problematic situation: some of those little fifty pound beasts carry tusks and have been known to charge a full-grown man right up the hairy trunk of a saguaro cactus. That's the story I've been told by old-timers around here.

In any case, this part is true: I was surrounded by javelinas while O'Ryan [sic] chased the Seven Sisters around the Big Bear and the moon looked kindly down. To say that I was nervous would have been an overexaggeration. Though unarmed and on foot, I was happy, at ease, and comfortably drunk.

The herd of javelinas was aware of my presence. The mind of a wild pig is unpredictable. These couldn't make up their minds whether to run or stay. After a while, since I made no move, they stayed. I could see them plain in the bright moonshine: parody pigs with oversized heads and undersized hams; each one bristly as a wire brush. They trotted from bush to bush and cactus to cactus, anxious restive fellows, all fits and starts, busy, busy, busy. I was accepted, but not welcome; they hoped I wouldn't stay. As I watched, I heard the sound of their vigorous jaws at work--a crunching of jojoba nuts, the munching of prickly pear. In all nature there's no sound more pleasing than a hungry animal at its feed. Ask any cattleman or farmboy.

Down by Aravaipa Creek I heard the barking of a fox. An owl called. Everybody out shopping for supper.

There was a good strong odor in the air, the rank and racy musk of half-alarmed javelinas. I like that smell, just as I enjoy the smell (at a comfortable distance) of skunk out looking for trouble. Associations: the wild tang of skunk brings back October nights, raccoons and baying hounds, the big woods and foggy hills of Old Pennsylvania. That smell means Arizona too; a border wolf, a desert bighorn, a mountain lion crouched on a ledge above the deer path in the chapparal. Good smells, good things, important, hard to find on Speedway in Tucson or Central Avenue up in Phoenix.

Now and then one of the larger javelinas, suffering from curiosity, would come close to me, sniff, advance, and retreat, trying to figure out exactly what this thing is that stands there like a bush that breathes but smells like Jim Beam, moves a little. Suspicious; from time to time, a ripple of panic passed through the herd like a wave through water. They knew something was wrong, but didn't know what. One minute they're on the point of exploding in all directions, pig fashion. A minute later they forget the danger, start feeding again.

Then what happened? An angel came down from the stars in a long white robe to give us a lecture on the meaning of Christmas? No. I'll admit I have a weakness for simple fact, even if it spoils the story. Maybe that's the main difference between a serious literary artist like me and one of your ordinary sports columnists, say, who writes for the newspaper. But I don't want to make any harsh judgments here; this is supposed to be the season of goodwill toward people. Sports columnists too. And wild pigs.

As my hero Ebeneezer says, if the spirit of Christmas is more than humbug then we're obliged to extend it to all creatures great and small including men, women, children, foreigners, Mexicans, coyotes, scorpions Gila monsters, snakes, centipedes, millipedes, termites and the wild pigs of the Arizona desert. That's the reason the Arizona Game and Fish Department puts off javelina season until January. Out of a decent respect for that annual outburst of love and goodwill we call Christmas.

As for the herd of javelinas snorting around me, the truth is, nothing much of anything happened. In fact, I got bored first, tired of simulating a saguaro cactus. I picked up a couple of rocks, in case one of those husky beasts with the tusks came at me, and tiptoed off through the prickly pear. I did not wish to disturb my friends, but they took alarm anyway, erupting in various directions. Would take them an hour to reassemble. None charged me. Despite many meetings with javelinas, I have yet to come eyeball to eyeball with one. Even though I've charged them a few times, out of meanness, just to see them run.

If I were good and hungry, would I eat a javelina? Yes. I'd roast its head in a pit of mesquite coals and scramble my eggs with its brains. I have no quarrel with any man who kills one of God's creatures in order to feed his women and children and old folks. Nothing could be more right and honorable, when the need is really there. I believe humanity made a serious mistake when our ancestors gave up the hunting and gathering life for agriculture and towns. That's when they invented the slave, the serf, the master, the commissar, the bureaucrat, the capitalist, and the five-star general. Wasn't it farming made a murderer of Cain? Nothing but trouble and grief ever since, with a few comforts thrown here and there, now and then, like bourbon and ice cubes and free beer on the Fourth of July, mainly to stretch out the misery.

Sermons aside, the javelinas and I parted company that moonlight night with no hard feelings, I hope, on either part. They had the whole east slope of Brandenburg Mountain to ramble over, and I had my cabin to crawl back into, where I keep my bearskin and this neurotic typewriter with a mind of its own. Christmas or no Christmas, it does my chilly Calvinist heart a lot of good to know those javelinas are still out there in the brush, pursuing happiness in their ancient piglike manner. What would Arizona be without a Game and Fish Department? Without a Sportsmen's Association? Hard to say. I wonder. But what would Arizona be without wild pigs? Why, no wonder at all. Arizona would be another poor, puny, poverty-struck antheap like California, not fit for man or his dog.

Happy Christmas, brothers and sisters.
Long live the weeds and the wilderness.
Merry New Year, pigs!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Our Nobel Peace Prize Winning War President

As we learn in Salon.com of Cruise Missile Attacks in Yemen launched by our Nobel Peace Prize winning President, we enter the topsy world of NEWSSPEAK.

WAR IS PEACE. FREEDOM IS SLAVERY. Imperialism is democracy.

Forty-nine civilians were killed in air strikes in Yemen, unsuspecting people going about their quiet lives, unaware of the cross hairs painted on their grandparents, husbands, wives and children by technology beyond their ken.

Oh, you didn't read about this in your local newspaper, your state publication of record, the New York Times? Odd, that. One would think such glorious victories would be plastered in garish headlines across the nation.

But then, these would have to be actions about which we are proud, not cowardly acts to be hidden away in secret documents moldering in dark archives, stamped Top Secret. Fortunately freedom of the press still exists in other countries outside the borders of the United States Empire.

Myths die hard in the human imagination, and the myth of American benevolence dies hardest of all. The united States of America have become a mockery of the avowed ideals of their founders. Substituting an imperialist corporate oligarchy for even nominal rule by their people, the United States of America now stands as the world's foremost oppressor, striking at will, anywhere in the world, killing innocents with abandon and forethought, each attack followed by a barrage of lies. Where once we brought food and shelter to hands reaching out for aid, now we bring death and destruction.

One would hope that Nobel Prizes can be rescinded, with prejudice.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Smoke and Mirrors

Disregard, for the moment, the reality of climate change science. Yes, climate on this dynamic planet is changing, has always changed and will always change until it is consumed in the fires of an expanding sun, the ultimate global warming.

Meanwhile, hysteria over perceived man-made global warming is being used to mask the very real causes of global air and water pollution, global soil reduction, global fresh water depletion, global habitat loss and global species extinction.

The destructive effects of man's industrial activities are not restricted to Greenhouse Gases. They include billions of tons of toxic materials, the byproducts of our wasteful, industrialized consumer society, that are cast off into the local and global environment. They include the commandeering of the public commons for private profit, the paving and development of natural lands, incessant gobbling-up of critical habitat that supports the biodiversity of all life on earth.

The media-magnified events in Copenhagen have succeeded in diverting attention from business as usual on this poor, beleaguered planet, concentrating the world's attention on "undeveloped" countries (largely over-exploited ex-colonies of larger imperialist nations), who are encouraged to use the excuse of global warming oppression to support "environmentally responsible" development.

Note carefully that last word, "development."

Military and economic imperialism petered out in the failed wars of Viet Nam, Afghanistan and Iraq. It has become clear that international adventurism is no longer to be tolerated in a world of 6 billion people, a large chunk of whom are paying more attention to world events through the Internet, bypassing the traditional stenographers of power in the world's corporate press.

A new "enemy" must be identified against which the world can mobilize.

That enemy is climate change.

The fight against climate change opens up a new world of industrial and economic expansion. Think of the possibilities: miles and miles of solar panels, wind farms stretching to the horizon, highways chucky-jammed full of sleek electric cars, networks of battery charging stations, the Arctic opened up to oil and mineral exploration. It's enough to make a corporate CEO's heart go pitter-pat.

But wait a minute. Where do all the rare minerals and metals come from to build this wondrous new future? Where does the energy come from to build the new energy infrastructure? How does all this technology get transported from source to site? And who controls access to the raw materials and who profits from its mining, distribution, manufacture and use. Those people in small, colonized countries suffering from "global warming?"

What happened to conservation, recycling, reuse, doing without? What happened to self-responsibility, self-reliance, mutual aid?

Seeing our way to a truly sustainable human future means clearing away the smoke of media obfuscation and shading our eyes from the reflected glare of technological promise.

When one is standing on the precipice, with toes hanging over the edge, progress consists of turning around and taking a step forward.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Climate Change is the New Terrorism

It's 2009, eight years after international criminals slammed airplanes into World Trade Center towers, and there have been no more attacks on United States cultural icons. Fear has subsided.

What's a self-respecting totalitarian government to do? Ratchet up the fear of a new threat to humanity - Global Warming!

Totalitarian control doesn't work well in countries where the populace is at ease, complacent, happy and self-reliant. Something must be done to shake us out of our smug self-satisfaction and turn to the government for protection. What better vehicle than images of our coastal cities awash, glaciers melting and splashing majestically into a rising ocean, desert sands inundating our croplands, wild fires ravaging our forests. And the best images: hoards of dark-skinned foreigners pouring over our borders.

Climate change has something for everyone to fear. The military must be prepared for civil unrest. The Department of Agriculture must prepare for food shortages. Economists must guard against the decline of neoclassical economics. Homeland Security must strengthen our borders. And business magnates everywhere rub their hands in glee over the prospects for new marketing opportunities.

If I didn't know better, I'd say it was a conspiracy.

And it is! The Conspiracy of Perpetual Growth. The totalitarian agenda that economic growth must continue in the face of a finite world already exploited beyond the limits of replenishment. The new terrorism must be met with new Green Technologies, brought to you by Green Exxon, Beyond Petroleum, smiling Chevron. Wind generators in every village. Pocket nukes in every garage, sleek electric cars clogged in gridlock on highways demanding expansion.

It's status quo with a Green Smiley Face, the benign MacDonalds of the energy industry, promising Happy Meals for all.

Be afraid, be very afraid. Global Warming is coming.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Right for all the wrong reasons

The hue and cry in Copenhagen is emotional, largely sincere, opportunistic and political. Science is but a shrinking handmaiden in service to more powerful forces. Protesters are demanding changes in the way humans organize their economic efforts throughout the world and especially in developing nations. Though they are demanding positive change, they may be doing so for all the wrong reasons.

There are two basic camps in the discussion. On the one hand are the Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) proponents, claiming that climate change is caused by anthropogenic CO2 production, and we must reduce atmospheric CO2 in order to avoid a climate catastrophe. On the other hand are the climate change deniers, who claim that climate change does not exist, and is a conspiracy of environmental groups, developing nations and one-world government supporters. Somewhere in the wilderness between these two camps are climate change skeptics, those who examine the data, methodology and conclusions of climate change research and dare to cast doubt on the "consensus" reality of both camps.

In fact, these are only the black and white extremes of a multicolored reality that masks the true nature of the political, economic and social forces at work in the climate change debate.

The AGW side claims we must act quickly to reduce atmospheric CO2 in order to reduce anthropogenic CO2 forcing of global warming. Yet, we do not understand the complex interaction of greenhouse gases of all flavors (methane, water vapor, CFCs, etc) and their relative contributions to global positive energy imbalance. Nor do we understand
the role of solar magnetic fluctuations, cosmic rays, global cloud formation and oceanic heat in long term cycles of climate fluctuation. We don't even know what causes ice ages, let alone decadal temperature fluctuations.

It is premature to assume that anthropogenic CO2 is solely responsible for the observed upward trend in global average temperatures, if indeed such a concept as global average temperature has any meaning at all. And it could be a grave mistake to assume that by lowering CO2 levels in the atmosphere to a certain arbitrarily determined level that we are safe from climate fluctuation for ever and ever, Amen.

The danger is that we are proposing to put all of our climate mitigating eggs in one CO2 basket, while ignoring all the other factors involved in climate fluctuation evident throughout geologic history, and failing to prepare for the effects of climate change on our societies, regardless of its ultimate cause. We are proposing to commit our economic effort to one end, assuming that will be the solution to our problems.

What happens if we are wrong? We have cast our fate to the winds of of CO2 reduction, and abandoned any other approach to dealing with climate change.

If instead, we work to reduce ALL human economic activity in ALL societies in the world, we would then reduce all factors in human society that are contributing to environmental imbalance. We would reduce CO2 production, as well as production of all greenhouse gases and pollutants. We would reduce habitat loss, deforestation, desertification, resource depletion, topsoil loss, salt water intrusion, fresh water depletion, ocean dead zones, species extinction. We would begin to degrow our societies to fit within the carrying capacity various bioregions of the earth in a gradual, designed decline, rather than a precipitous crash.

It is not CO2 production alone that threatens human societies across the
globe, as well as all other life. It is the unrealistic and unsustainable neoclassical economic concept of perpetual economic growth that is driving human societies to social and perhaps even species extinction.

Without abandonment of the concept of economic growth, it doesn't matter what level we reduce atmospheric CO2 to, even if that were possible. The human economic growth juggernaut will overcome any such simplistic band-aid approach.

Degrowth, economic contraction to a steady state economy, is the only viable solution to the natural environmental constraints on human economic activity.

If we don't choose to do it ourselves, Mother Nature will do it for us.
And we won't be happy with the outcome.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Degrowth Time Has Come

In his speech to Klimaforum 09, the People's Climate Conference in Copenhagen:
Degrowth Seminar, Copenhagen Klimaforum09, Miguel Valencia lays bare the basic dichotomy in modern human societies. It is not North vs. South, or East vs. West, it is traditional village life versus modern, centralized, hierarchical, industrial, consumerist society.

"Liberating the social imagination means revitalizing the village by producing for local needs and consuming local produce; organizing micro- cooperatives and micro-syndicates; reducing work-time voluntarily and cutting consumption, and constructing new ecological communities with rigorous rules. It also means growing vegetables by our own dwellings or nearby in the eco-region; to walk and bicycle for everyday mobility; to modify toilets and water facilities; to separate residues for reuse and recycling; to support local money, savings and loans, and to use or produce hand-made products. Abandon the use of automobile, bottled water and red meat consumption."

The purpose of the mainstream Copenhagen climate conference is a desperate attempt to maintain the human economic status quo in the face of clear evidence of its destructive effects on non-industrial societies and the non-human world. The Klimaforum 09 gathering throws the social and environmental contrasts between the industrialized and non-industrialized world into sharp focus and reveals the ultimate futility of attempting to prop up an unsustainable world view.

Valencia's speech should be plastered on the front page of every newspaper in the world, distributed as broadsheets on every street corner, read aloud at peace, environmental and social justice gatherings everywhere. This is the voice of the future and the dying wail of "Civilization" brought to account for its profligate ways.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

The Facts Are Fixed Around the Policy

Pentagon's War Pitch Belied by Taliban-Qaeda Conflict

"U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen argued in Senate Testimony Wednesday that the 30,000-troop increase is necessary to prevent the Taliban from giving new safe havens to al Qaeda terrorists.

But that argument is flatly contradicted by the evidence of fundamental conflicts between the interests of the Taliban and those of al Qaeda that has emerged in recent years, according to counterterrorism and intelligence analysts specializing in Afghanistan."

Just as we saw a surge of lies leading up to the invasion and subjugation of Iraq and occupation of Iraqi oil fields, now we see The War for Oil, Act II, a carpet of lies, half-truths and obfuscation justifying escalation of the Battle for Our Pipeline in Afghanistan.

One need not look to the future for wars over scarce resources. It's happening right now and Our President is in charge.

Tell him to stop!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Warning: Do not take this picture - Home News, UK - The Independent

Warning: Do not take this picture

What's going on here? Photographers in London and Aptos, California are being warned by uniformed police officers to stop taking pictures of public places.

There must be some new Homeland Security/International Constabulary training program on terrorist photography.

Remind me again - Why are we at war in Afghanistan?

President Obama's Afghanistan Election Speech:

"He [Obama] ignored the fact that none of the hijackers were Afghans, none lived in Afghanistan (they lived in Hamburg), none trained in Afghanistan (they trained in Florida), and none went to flight school in Afghanistan (that was in Minnesota)."

This must be the old grade school teacher ploy: when a student acts up, you smack the one sitting next to him, as a warning.

Since we can't attack Saudi Arabia, the source of Bin Laden's wealth (not to mention "our" oil), and the "Homeland" of the hijackers, we attack Afghanistan for providing a bolt hole for Bin Laden. Someone must be attacked and forced to pay for the Twin Towers and the people who died. So the innocent people of Afghanistan (not to mention Iraq) are visited by death and misery so the people of the United States can assuage their anguish and grief over 9/11?

But wait a minute, what about the oil pipeline from the Caspian Sea region? Remember, when George W, Bush invited the Taliban representatives to The Ranch, and whined and dined them to get concessions for a pipeline corridor. Where was that in Obama's speech?

Remind me again - Why are we at war in Afghanistan?

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

21st Century Minute Men

The United States is sending 30,000 fresh troops to Afghanistan, equipped with the very latest war technology, to fight against... this?

What is it about Afghanistan that brings great empires to their knees, with only a motley disorganized militia to defend its borders? Is it the rocky, mountainous landscape? Is it the cold and windy winter? Is it an entrenched insurgency familiar with the terrain and supported by the local population?

Let's turn the telescope of history around. How did a rag-tag insurgency of farmers, shop-keepers, lawyers and landed gentry defeat the mightiest army of 18th Century and send them limping back to England in disgrace?

Could it be that the people of Afghanistan are dedicated to protecting their home from invasion by foreigners at any cost? A people honed in hardship in an unforgiving landscape. A people determined to protect their way of life. A people who just happen to be in the way of an oil and gas pipeline corridor at the moment of Peak Oil.

We elected a promising new President to put an end to this nonsense. What happened? And what do we do now?