Thursday, April 29, 2010

If you drill it, it will spill


Officials: Leaks Spewing More Oil Into Gulf

Just as the Exxon Valdez oil spill put a stop to attempts to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the explosion and leak at the off-shore well in the Gulf of Mexico will stop Obama administration efforts to revive off-shore drilling.

We have said this all along, since the disastrous oil leak off Santa Barbara, that off-shore drilling will result in unmitigatable oil spills, and that the results will be massive environmental damage.

Continuous reassurances from oil executives belied the lobbying behind the scenes to reduce regulations on off-shore drilling, just as the Alyeska consortium reduced oversight of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and the oil tanker fleet in the 80s in Alaska.

Whenever there are billions of dollars of profit to be made, corners will be cut, politicians will be bribed, safety measures ignored and the public continuously duped into thinking that all is well.

None of the trillions of dollars of profit extorted by the oil industry can put the oil back in the ground beneath the Gulf of Mexico. The damage is done, and increasing every minute.

The only way to prevent massive oil spills is to leave the oil in the ground where it belongs.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Glimmerings of Democracy and Environmental Action


The Open Veins of Climate Change

A New Climate Movement in Bolivia

Whether or not human activity influences climate change to any measurable degree, the movement toward democracy and environmental action in Bolivia is encouraging. They have correctly identified the source of global pollution and greenhouse gases in corporate industrial capitalism and they have recognized that democracy is the response to confront the capitalist totalitarian state.

Those of us in the United States concerned with such things could do worse than joining our brothers and sisters in resistance!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day Suffers from Gang-Green


Reclaiming Earth Day, an excellent essay by Brian Tokar, ecosocialist and long-time critic of corporate domination of the Green movement.

In 2000, I was shocked to attend a Sierra Club meeting to find that, while my back was turned, the organization had become top-down, centralized and corporatized. That's what I get for not paying attention. It's happened to all the Big Greens, who have adopted the corporate model for their internal organization, so they can get big bucks from Big Business to do the Big Work.

So they say.

Nature doesn't know compromise, only loss. When Green organizations go to bed with Big Business, the resulting offspring is Big and no longer Green. Ecowarriors have become ecowhores, chasing the dollar, ignoring the fact that the bottom line for corporations is profit for shareholders and they'll do anything to get it.

Anything.

Fortunately, there are many principled environmentalists among us still working at the grass roots, using the few dregs of environmental laws that still have some teeth in them.

"Never doubt that a small dedicated group of people can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has." Margaret Mead

Monday, April 19, 2010

Economic growth is the Problem, Not the Cure



European Activists Against Economic Growth

Europe has suffered under unbridled capitalism far longer than the United States. Here's what they've learned:

"…degrowth emerges as the only economically viable formula, not just in benefit of nature but also "to restore a minimum of social justice, without which the world is condemned to destruction."

Here in the United States, the growth maniacs are still in control, and economic growth is the elephant in the living room. And it's billed as the main attraction, the only attraction. Stand up in a city council meeting anywhere in the country and question the concept of economic growth and count the uncomprehending stares. You'll be branded as a crank, as unrealistic, as an idealist.

Growth is the water that our economy swims in. We can't see it and we can't know that it is drowning us.

Coming to Grips with a Finite World

Bolivia Climate Change Talks to Give Poor a Voice
Indigenous peoples gather in public talks in Cochabamba to deal with the effects of economic colonialism, disguised as Climate Change.

Meanwhile:

Governments Starting to Worry About Peak Oil
Oil Company executives and government officials gather in secret to figure out how to profit from Peak Oil.

This is the way we accommodate Reality

This beautiful essay Ash Cloud’s Silver Lining Is Leisure Time demonstrates how we (that is, ordinary people other than economists and oil company executives) accommodate day to day reality, and make the best of it.

Despite popular impressions, humans strive for stability, humanity, family and community. Ultra-consumers are highly visible and loudly touted in the media, because the media is supported by the capitalist status quo that thrives on continued economic growth fueled by hyper-consumerism.

Notice how 9/11 and the recent Icelandic volcanic ash cloud resulted in thousands of people released from obligations to rush about in mad consumption, gave them an excuse to relax, read a book, smell the flowers, interact with the neighborhood.

Deep down, we're all family folks, communitarians, true socialists all.

I think it's neckties that do it, choking off blood supplies to the heads of corporate executives and government lackies. Maybe a ban on neckties would release a flood of creative energy, revive our neighborhoods, clear the skies and, once and for all, drive a spike in the hearts of growth maniacs everywhere.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Coming to the wrong conclusions about Peak Oil


This article from Australia Demand for oil to outstrip supply within two years conflates Peak Oil with energy demand, assuming that Peak Oil means oil demand exceeds supply. Peak Oil actually means that point at which oil production irreversibly declines. Current projections, based on rather iffey reserve estimates, suggest that global Peak Oil will be realized some time in the next five years.

The article in "Perth Now" reaches the following conclusions:

"Energy will be king in the coming decades, and we must exploit our (bountiful) resources wisely, while preparing ourselves for much higher prices and potentially lower domestic economic activity (aside from coal and LNG exports)."

Energy has always been king in human societies, whether it was for hunting mammoths, domesticating animals, building steam engines or flying across the Atlantic. Our major human "revolutions:" agricultural, industrial and informational have all revolved around and been inspired by energy concerns.

As to exploiting "our" bountiful resources, it seems there's been too much of that going on around our poor beleaguered planet of late. Who says they're our resources to exploit in the first place, anyway? Seems like us Johnny-Come-Latelys on the evolutionary scene owe a bit of forbearance to those species who preceded us and made it possible for us to keep on evolving, if indeed, we ever did.

Economic activity and prices are inventions of this one particular species egotistically called Homo sapiens. They're not real, at least in the same way that air and water and sun and photosynthesis are real, important and essential. We got along quite well for 100,000 years or so without economics and prices. Seems like the neighborhood has gone rapidly downhill since their invention.

Can we get along with "much higher prices and potentially lower domestic economic activity?" Sure we can. We did quite well during World War II. Prospered even. Well, some of us did anyway. That's part of the problem.

The whole idea of steadily increasing domestic activity is oversold, and a bad deal to begin with that never got any better. It may have temporarily lined the pockets of a few, while others, including furred and feathered and scaled others, two-legged, four legged and finned, have done rather poorly. Their prospects don't look any better for the future.

Unless, of course, we get off this obsession with growth for growth sake and devolve back to some semblance of balance, real balance, not the right-wing "I get more balance than you do" concept. "Much higher prices and potentially lower domestic economic activity" will help considerably in that regard, of course, encouraging folks to consume less, stay at home, walk and bicycle more, work fewer hours, grow gardens full of good food and flowers, increasingly contemplate the natural scenery of their neighborhoods with sublime satisfaction. Gather up all the growth maniacs and put them on a secluded island somewhere, ringed with all of our excess military hardware so they cant' escape. Let 'em grow there, in isolation.

Energy will indeed become king in coming decades, but in terms of saving it rather than expending it. The relaxing "clop,clop" of horses hooves will replace the mind-altering roar of captive automotive horses, with sound systems set on stun. Our streets will return to the commons, where we will meet with our neighbors for convivial conversation, where our dogs will bask undisturbed in the sun, where trees will provide welcome shade, moisture and beauty, where the edges will be marked with flowers and grass rather than hard concrete curbing.

With the End of the Age of Oil we will also come to the End of the Age of Automomotive Oppression.

A world without planes


This BBC News - Today - A world without planes is a great essay on our certain future. Just replace every instance of the word "would" with "will."

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Portents of Things to Come

Ash may hover for days over uncertain Europe

Yes, it may indeed, just a hint of things to come as Peak Oil becomes a reality and airline travel becomes ever more expensive. I'll bet none of the surface transportation in Europe and on the Atlantic have been curtailed due to the ash.

Imagine 28,000 flights a day across northern Europe, all gulping petrol at 3,600 gallons per hour, spewing out nitrous oxide and other greenhouse gases, altering the stratosphere in ways we don't understand.

Now imagine it cut in half, or a third, as it is today. Less fuel consumption, less greenhouse gas emissions, less global warming, if there is any such thing at all. Also, less economic stimulation, fewer jobs in the airline and travel industry, less growth, less waste.

It's a win, win situation!

Energy Trumps Economy


In this article: The Future of Capitalism - Profits and Growth George Mobus describes, in systems language, why continued growth is impossible in a world of finite resources, that is, our world.

It seems logical and self-evident, but in a world dominated by the totalitarian philosophy of capitalism, that logic gets washed away in a barrage of propaganda, advertising and sleight of mouth. Consumerism is the norm, the expected reality. Any attempt to point out the illogic of unlimited consumerism is met with disbelief and open hostility.

One would think that Peak Oil and Climate Change (aka, Global Warming) would bring a note of reality to popular awareness. But the Capitalism propaganda machine is incredibly efficient at gobbling up realities and shitting false promises. Peak Oil is discredited with promises of Tar Sands, Oil Shale and deep ocean oil discoveries, ignoring the rapidly increasing energy costs of these marginal sources. The realities of climate change are obfuscated with the imposition quasi-scientific governmental organizations such as the IPCC, who fix the data around politically determined policy.

The public lack of understanding of the science and reality of global and cosmic energy and their effects on energy availability here on Earth, results in a political inability to come to turns with societal profligacy and waste. Mobus points out an important distinction between efficiency and waste. Efficiency is the reduction in the loss of energy in the process of conversion from source to useable work. Waste is the depletion of energy without producing useable work. We can eliminate waste with no effect on our physical environment. Efficiency has a steep diminishing return result: we are rapidly approaching the limits of efficiency in conversion of fossil fuels into useable energy.

Despite their promise, there is a limit to the amount of renewable energy that can be put to use for human consumption. Renewable sources have a much lower ratio of energy return on energy invested (EROEI), meaning we get less energy out of them for the same energy invested in their development. The result is that we are entering into a future with less energy available for human use than we have enjoyed in the past.

The upshot is that we must cut back somewhere, and that somewhere is growth. We no longer have the excess energy availabile to permit continued economic and consumption growth. We have two pathways open to us, one desirable, the other inevitable: a steady state society and economy, or decline and ultimate collapse.

Unless we can somehow take control over the political process and make these economic and physical realities a critical part of the political decision-making process, we will be very soon left with just the one future - economic decline and collapse.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Democracy, climate change and other strange bedfellows

Only 'Global Democracy' Can Prevent 'Climate Tragedy', says Bolivian Ambassador

Yes, democracy's a good thing when it comes to organizing social systems, providing a means of decision-making, keeping greedy corporate types at bay. That is, real democracy, not the faux democracy-light of the United States corporate oligarchy.

Democracy, even real democracy, is not appropriate when applied to science. We don't vote on climate change. We make observations, formulate theories, test them with hypotheses and verify the adequacy of the theory. We hold our conclusions up to the real world and see how they fit.

We don't ask millions of people if they believe in climate change and then act on that concensus belief.

Oh, wait a minute, I guess they do, in the media, in blogs, in popular culture, in the White House and other seats of power and greed.

So what would happen if this Bolivian brand of democracy, that is, rule by the people, caught on? Would we pull power back from corporate interests and re-establish local self-governance and self-reliance? Would we stop this insane and unsustainable consumer society that's laying waste to the natural world. Would we break up the global economy and bring our economies back under local control?

Maybe.

Would that stop climate change? No, certainly not.

Would it make a better world for millions of people everywhere.

Maybe.

Hmmmmm...

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Peak Oil: Another Imperialist Opportunity?


After Peak Oil, Are We Heading Towards Social Collapse?

US military warns oil output may dip causing massive shortages by 2015

It's the old "Mad Max/Water World" scenario: social collapse, followed closely by ranging gangs of thugs with anachronistic technology wreaking havoc across the countryside. Just the sort of picture the military would like to get their creepy claws into.

But first, a couple of reality moments, those banes of Republican visionaries.

First: Peak Oil does not mean the moment when oil demand exceeds oil supply. That may come and go. Peak Oil means the moment when world oil production begins irreversible decline. It will do so when supply still exceeds demand and may continue to exceed demand for some time, especially if demand drops in response to oil prices., as it did at the beginning of the current recession.

Secondly: despite the popularity of disaster movies, it is not a given that Peak Oil will cause social collapse, at least not as envisioned in Hollywood. That depends on many other factors, chief among which is the response of the military and the public constabulary to perceived threats, coupled with the speed and extent of economic decline due to oil decline shocks.

Demand reduction will certainly do much to mitigate the effects of Peak Oil, as will substitution of renewable energy sources, which, admittedly, cannot hope to replace oil kilowatt for kilowatt. Nevertheless, it need not be a sudden and absolute collapse. A gentle slide to a stable, steady state is possible.

If allowed.

It is certainly to the advantage of those who strive for power to...well, welcome, shall we say, any breakdown in popular control, requiring the imposition of centralized control to "keep the peace." Security staters since J. Edgar Hoover have slathered over the possibility of long term Martial Law in this country. Plans are afoot, no doubt, for some form of pre-emptive martial law, just in case things look like they just might, with a little nudge perhaps, get out of control.

All the more reason to localize control of our energy and food sources, solidify our own local support systems, take care of ourselves and our neighbors. Then, if nothing happens, at least we're better off than before we started.

Self-sufficiency is its own reward.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Thug in Chief Orders Up a Murder

Obama Administration Authorizes CIA to Kill US Citizen

Murder, Inc. has moved its headquarters to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Now the united States government has donned the mantle of Chief Executioner, taking on the jobs of Judge, Jury, defense and prosecution attorneys, court recorder and attending pliant press.

It's easy: decide who they want to murder, send a memo to the CIA, who dispatch a hired thug or a pilotless drone, and BOOM, the "terrorist" is dead, along with half of the neighborhood of innocent men, women and children. No messy trial to confuse the issues, no due process. No appeals. The President has his finger on the trigger. Fire at will.

The united States has sold its honor for a gallon of gas.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Rescind Obama's Peace Prize


Obama Expands Military Involvement in Africa

The Nobel Peace Prize has been rendered meaningless with its presumptive award to US President Barak Obama, who has clearly demonstrated a dedication to the imperialist policies of his predecessor, George II.

The current regime continues to expand arms sales to African nations, ostensibly to stop Al Qa'ida expansion. However, one cannot expect the locals to use their new weapons only on the "enemies of my friends." More guns and ammunition means more indiscriminate killing for purposes having nothing to do with US pretensions of empire.

The only way to stop war is to stop the obscene corporate profits in international arms sales to every local thug who's embezzled a few million dollars from the neighbors. The United States government places private profit above any and all moral principles and standards of decency, and backs up its support of business interests with clandestine intervention and outright military incursion. The almighty dollar walks loudly across the earth, carrying the big stick of violence.

Rather than awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to anyone, withhold it indefinitely, until peace, at long last, prevails.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

The Tyranny of Oil

Mohamed ElBaradei Hits Out at West's Support for Repressive Regimes:

"Western policy towards this part of the world has been a total failure, in my view. It has not been based on dialogue, understanding, supporting civil society and empowering people, but rather it's been based on supporting authoritarian systems as long as the oil keeps pumping."

Twas ever thus. Banana Republics have been replaced by Oil Republics, as US Imperialism makes the world safe for capitalism, our capitalism, that is: black gold, Iraqi tea.

Where oil flows, money grows.

Going Trash-Free

While no one living in the material world can avoid producing any waste, these folks: Going Trash-Free for One Year made a stab at it.

But why only one year? Why not always?

Life isn't a media event, a blog or a book proposal. Live simply and free. When you lower your standard of living, you raise your quality of life.

Consume thoughtfully and purposefully. Make every decision count.

Here at Bwthyn Lleuad Bai, we've been reducing our landfill contributions for over ten years. Nowadays, the grey wheely bin languishes neglected, rarely going out to visit its neighbors more than once every six weeks or so, and then only partially filled with vacuum cleaner dust, unavoidable unrecyclables and the odd bit of flotsam that washes up in our neighborhood on the street. Even the recycling bin goes out at three week intervals, starved for want of contents.

Meanwhile, the compost bins and the worm farm are doing well, carrying on their ancient alchemy, magically turning kitchen leavings into rich dark soil for the garden.

Folding ourselves back into the earth…