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The Urgent Case for Shrinking the Economy

The Urgent Case for Shrinking the Economy

Endless growth is destroying the planet. We know how to stop it.

In July 1979, shortly after installing a set of solar panels over the West Wing, Jimmy Carter did something peculiar for a peacetime president. He asked Americans to sacrifice: to consume less, take public transit more, value community over material things, and buy bonds to fund domestic energy development, including solar. From our vantage, this may sound very farsighted and bold. But any prescient, planet-saving leadership seen shimmering through hindsight is a mirage. The speech and the panels advanced a program with the narrow goal of energy independence, not decarbonization. Carter wanted to expand and secure the nation’s economic wheel beyond OPEC’s reach, not question it, shrink it, slow it, or “green” it. “We have more oil in our shale alone than several Saudi Arabias [and] more coal than any nation on earth,” he boasted in the speech. “We have the national will to win this war.”

It’s a different event, buried in the Carter record, that offers a flash of the ecological vision often falsely ascribed to the ’79 energy plan. On the afternoon of March 22, 1977, between meetings with the prime minister of Japan and the National Security Council, Carter sat down in the Oval Office with a British-German economist named E.F. Schumacher. Four years earlier, Schumacher had achieved international fame as the author of Small Is Beautiful, a trenchant critique of the spiritual poverty and delusional frameworks of mainstream economics. His White House visit made him the most radical guest of a sitting president since Warren G. Harding requested an audience with Eugene V. Debs.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

The Shame of Global Hunger

The Shame of Global Hunger

We live in a world of plenty, resource rich, financially wealthy, but despite this abundance an estimated 700 million people go hungry every day. Millions more are food insecure, meaning they may have food today, but have no idea if they will have any tomorrow or next week. Additional millions can only afford nutritionally barren, poor quality food laced with salt and sugar, increasing the risk of illness and obesity.

According to a detailed report published by the Global Hunger Index (GHI) in September 2020 if rich countries doubled “their aid commitments” to $330 billion, and supported poor countries to improve “agricultural R&D, technology, innovation, education, social protection and trade facilitation,” the world could be free of hunger by 2030. In fact with effective food distribution under the stewardship of the UN World Food Programme hunger could be eradicated long before then; there is an abundance of produce and foodstuff in the world.

Hunger and malnutrition statistics are disturbing and shameful; the GHI lists 11 countries with ‘alarming levels of hunger’, eight of which are in Sub-Saharan Africa; two are war zones: Yemen and Syria. A further 31 nations (26 are in Africa) are listed as having ‘serious levels of hunger’. Since 2015, after years of decline, the number of undernourished people has been increasing yearly: from 2018 to 2019 it grew by 10 million, and Covid has intensified this trend. Hunger is a violent act, a shameful scar on our collective consciousness that now affects 9% of the world population – 60% of whom are women and children. The World Health Organization (WHO) state that around 45% of deaths among children under 5 years of age are linked to under-nutrition.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Farming for Change

Farming for Change

This new research that addresses the big questions: How do we feed a growing population, healthily? Respond to a changing climate? Create a resilient, secure and fair farming system? Tackle the nature and health crises?

Farming for Change: mapping a route to 2030 explores these questions in detail and reveals the research that shows that, with the right enabling conditions, we can grow enough healthy food for a future population while

  • eliminating synthetic fertilisers and pesticides
  • nearly doubling amount of land available for green and ecological infrastructure (ponds, hedges, meadows etc.)
  • releasing 7.5% of current agricultural area for more flexible use
  • reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from agriculture by at least 38% by 2050 (with potential to offset 60%+ of remaining emissions through an afforestation scenario)
  • all without compromising food security or offshoring food production and the associated environmental impacts.

This initial paper explores how the model challenges and develops our thinking about agroecology in this country and focuses on five critical areas: diet, carbon, livestock, productivity and nature. By focusing on these areas, the report starts to answer some key questions of our time: is it possible to provide enough nutritious food for people through agroecological farming alone? What impact would this have on land use, nature, biodiversity, livestock, farming enterprises, food security? What about health and wellbeing and meeting net zero carbon targets? The report suggests changes that can be made now (with ‘no regrets’) and explores where further analysis and discussion is needed in order to balance different interests and hear a wider range of voices.

The report can be downloaded above.

Is Covid-19 providing cover for Jay Hanson’s Society of Sloth?

Is Covid-19 providing cover for Jay Hanson’s Society of Sloth?

Gail Tverberg made a comment today that rings true and motivated me to write about something I’ve been mulling for a while…

https://ourfiniteworld.com/2020/12/23/2020-the-year-things-started-going-badly-wrong/comment-page-24/#comment-274042

I think the reaction to COVID-19 is part of how a self-organizing system works. People were looking for a reason to cut back/shut down. The illness provided this.

I do not believe in most conspiracy theories, but I do believe that crises are frequently used to implement plans that would be impossible without a crisis. The responses to Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, 9/11, and the 2008 GFC are good modern examples.

Perhaps the virus has provided (mostly subconscious) cover for:

  • citizens tired of commuting 2 hours a day to a stressful job so they could keep up with their neighbor’s latest unnecessary status symbol purchase
  • citizens who intuited they should reduce discretionary spending and pay down credit card debt, which interestingly declined in 2020, rather than increasing as it did during the 2008 GFC
  • leaders that sensed we should voluntarily throttle back, because we’d soon be forced by limits to growth
  • leaders that understood we needed to rapidly reduce CO2 emissions, and the only way to achieve this is by contracting the economy
  • leaders that needed an excuse to restrict freedoms to maintain civil order in preparation for a significant contraction of our energy/economic system
  • central banks that understood we had hit limits to growth and that needed an excuse for massive corporate bailouts to prevent a catastrophic economic collapse, and for MMT to keep citizens fed

Perhaps this helps to explain why our responses to the virus have not been intelligent or optimal:

  • effective means of containing the spread were ignored or procrastinated in the crucial early days

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Geomagnetic Storm Expected To Strike Earth’s Magnetic Field Today

Geomagnetic Storm Expected To Strike Earth’s Magnetic Field Today

A minor (G1-class) geomagnetic storm watch is in effect for Jan. 6 as a coronal mass ejection (CME) is expected to strike Earth’s magnetic field, according to SpaceWeather.

On Jan. 2, the Sun released a blast of energy that has taken at least four days to reach Earth.

“The fact that it has taken at least four days to reach Earth marks the CME as a slow-mover; the longer it takes to arrive, the weaker its impact will be,” SpaceWeather.com said. 

NASA’s Space Weather Prediction Center shows the Planetary K-index, used to characterize the magnitude of geomagnetic storms, is already showing the Earth’s magnetic field is being disrupted at the moment.

The Sun’s highly-charged particles slamming into the Earth’s atmosphere should produce auroras.

How Solar Storms Disrupt Technology On Earth 

Last month researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research discovered that the Sun is about to wake up into a new solar cycle that could make solar storms a regular occurrence, something that may jeopardize the digital economy.

 

Three Major Threats to Life on Earth That We Must Address in 2021

Three Major Threats to Life on Earth That We Must Address in 2021

Pulp Mills on a December night, Wauna, Oregon. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Large parts of the world—outside of China and a few other countries—face a runaway virus, which has not been stopped because of criminal incompetence by governments. That these governments in wealthy countries cynically set aside the basic scientific protocols released by the World Health Organization and by scientific organizations reveals their malicious practice. Anything less than focused attention to managing the virus by testing, contact tracing, and isolation—and if this does not suffice, then imposing a temporary lockdown—is foolhardy. It is equally distressing that these richer countries have pursued a policy of “vaccine nationalism” by stockpiling vaccine candidates rather than a policy for the creation of a “people’s vaccine.” For the sake of humanity, it would be prudent to suspend intellectual property rules and develop a procedure to create universal vaccines for all people.

Although the pandemic is the principal issue on all of our minds, other major issues threaten the longevity of our species and of our planet. These include:

Nuclear Annihilation

In January 2020, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists set the Doomsday Clock to 100 seconds to midnight, too close for comfort. The clock, created two years after the first atomic weapons were developed in 1945, is evaluated annually by the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board, who decide whether to move the minute hand or keep it in place. By the time they set the clock again, it may well be closer to annihilation. Already limited arms control treaties are being shredded as the major powers sit on close to 13,500 nuclear weapons (more than 90 percent of which are held by Russia and the United States alone)…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Extreme ocean-effect snow buries parts of Japan beneath seven feet, with more coming

The nation was sandwiched in between record-breaking weather systems.

The American GFS model simulates heavy snow targeting Japan during the next week. (WeatherBell)

Barely two weeks after a prolific ocean-effect snowstorm dropped seven feet of snow and stranded thousands of motorists, the new year in Japan kicked off with another severe snowstorm. Up to another 85 inches fell through Saturday amid strong winds and record cold temperatures.

Photos emerged on social media of a landscape plastered in white as heavy snow covered the mountains of Japan. One shot captured a roughly five-foot block of snow balanced precariously on a phone booth, while another showed what appeared as a white blanket presumably cloaking trees, structures and vehicles.

The mind-boggling snowfall is linked to a pair of record-breaking weather systems that induced a prolonged period of westerly to northwesterly winds, the ideal wind fetch needed to yield the factory-like production and dumping of heavy snow.

Mountainous areas of Japan are bracing for yet another dump of heavy snow over the next five days.

The second extreme snowfall in two weeks’ time

Japanese news agency NHK reported that Okura Village in Yamagata Prefecture, a mountain community a little more than 200 miles north of Tokyo, had received 85 inches of snow by late Friday. The seven feet of snow matched what came down the week of Dec. 18 just to the south in the community of Fujiwara.

That snowstorm stranded more than a thousand motorists on the Kan-Etsu Expressway for more than 24 hours, with drivers forced to melt snow for drinking water during the overnight debacle.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Unplugged: Abandoned oil and gas wells leave the ocean floor spewing methane

Unplugged: Abandoned oil and gas wells leave the ocean floor spewing methane

The Gulf of Mexico is littered with tens of thousands of abandoned oil and gas wells, and toothless regulation leaves climate warming gas emissions unchecked.

Out on the deck of a research boat, Tara Yacovitch looked out to the water. In the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, the seascape is peppered with lights. And every light is part of an offshore oil or gas platform.

Offshore platforms can vary greatly in size—some are as big as multi-storied buildings, while others resemble small but very tall rooms. The boat carrying Yacovitch and her team also housed a variety of science equipment: methane isotope readers, spectrometers, and other tools to measure methane levels in the air around these sites.

Yacovitch, an instrument scientist at Aerodyne Research, is trying to understand the scope of what some scientists say is a massive environmental issue lurking below our seas. Wells are routinely drilled into the sea floor for oil and gas production, and abandoned when they stop being economically viable—sometimes this is after years of oil or gas extraction, sometimes it’s part way through drilling before the well is even finished. But not all of these wells are plugged and properly maintained before being left behind. The result: methane and other gases leaking in unknown quantities for years on end from tens of thousands of holes in the ocean floor.

The harms for the ocean and its inhabitants, and the atmosphere above, are largely unknown. But we do know that methane is about 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas, measured over a 20-year period, according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Saving Farmland, Supporting Young Farmers

Zero Input Agriculture

Zero Input Agriculture

On Tuesday afternoon, 24th November, Evita and I ventured to meet Shane at his 40 acres near Pomona. I first heard Shane on an Abundant Edge podcast in July 2020. It was his first podcast and it was incredible to hear him talk about growing food without using inputs such as irrigation, fertiliser, and imported nutrients. It’s the first podcast I have heard in the permaculture space where this approach has been seriously taken and where results are very encouraging. I messaged Shane after checking out his blog enquiring about getting some of his seeds to try. While we are in a cool temperate climate about 400km away and he is the subtropics I was keen to try seeds from plants grown without irrigation as water is often our limiting factor. Shane was very responsive to my message and we communicated many times about seed saving, plant breeding, and goats. He did send me some seeds and cuttings and I promised to return the exchange by gathering and sending our local bunya nuts in February to contribute diversity to his breeding program. So, it was somewhat serendipitous that we were able to have a holiday nearby and visit in person.

A smiley Shane greeted us and we enthusiastically went for a walk within minutes. Shane’s philosophy of zero input is immediately evident as there are weeds everywhere. “The weeds are repairing the paddocks from decades of cattle overgrazing and cutting them or removing them
around trees will make little real difference in their long life.” “It’s just not worth the time and effort. If the weeds do outcompete the tree for light, water, nutrients, then so be it, we want strong trees.” So Shane has various widely spaced rows of trees that are densely planted with as many genetics of each type as possible…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

EU can shut off power supplies if UK tries to seize control of fish stocks, small print of deal reveals

EU can shut off power supplies if UK tries to seize control of fish stocks, small print of deal reveals

Cables under Channel meet 8 per cent of demand – raising threat of higher prices and possible blackouts.

The EU has secured the ability to shut off gas and electricity supplies if the UK tries to seize control of disputed fish stocks in future, experts are warning.

The sanction – which would hike prices and possibly trigger blackouts – makes a mockery of the prime minister’s claim to have “taken control” of British waters in his trade agreement, they say.

The little-noticed clause in the vast 1,255-page text allows Brussels to kick the UK out of its electricity and gas markets in June 2026, unless a fresh deal is agreed.

The date set is – deliberately – the same as for the review of fishing rights, when Mr Johnson has insisted the UK will finally grab a large share of stocks, having failed to do that in his agreement.

The Institute for Government said Brussels had been determined to secure a connection “between energy and fish” in the negotiations that finally concluded on Christmas Eve.

“It seems that, in the weeds of the deal, they’ve succeeded,” Maddy Thimont Jack, the IfG’s associate director, told The Independent:

“By including annual negotiations on energy from 2026, it would be very easy to leverage access to the EU’s energy market in the annual talks on fish – also starting in 2026.

“This is just another reason why the UK will likely struggle to take back control of any more of its waters in the years to come.”

Losing power supplies could have a significant impact on the UK, which brings in about 8 per cent of its demand through huge power cables under the Channel.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Welcome to the New Terrorist Movement – Ecoterrorists

In London, we had the Extinction Rebellion becoming very violent. Now we have people blowing up gas lines on a coordinated basis and deliberately trying to create havoc leaving people without heat. This will indeed be part of the rise in Civil Unrest and we should expect this to become much more common.

Bill Gates is fully behind the lockdowns and wants society to be locked down for years. This has been to reduce people-driving and that he thought would reduce CO2. He clearly has more money than brains and is obviously not very smart. He is funding putting particles in the air to reduce sunlight to stop global warming. His entire beliefs are linear and void of any historical analysis. This guy can really hurt the planet and end up killing far more people than all the madmen of the past – COMBINED!

Irreversible Collapse: Accepting Reality, Avoiding Evil

Irreversible Collapse: Accepting Reality, Avoiding Evil

Extreme flooding from slow hurricanes a danger to farms

Extreme flooding from slow hurricanes a danger to farms

Preface. Yet another danger from climate change for agriculture will be slow hurricanes and cyclones dumping a foot or more of rain over a few days such as the recent hurricanes Harvey (2017), Florence (2018), and Dorian (2019).

Journal reference: Zhang G, et al. 2020. Tropical cyclone motion in a changing climate. Science Advances.

***

Le Page M. 2020. Slower-moving hurricanes will cause more devastation as world warms. NewScientist.

Hurricane Harvey caused catastrophic flooding in 2017, killing 68 people and costing $125 billion in damages. One reason it was so destructive is that it moved unusually slowly and remained over the same area for days – and as the world warms, there are going to be a lot more slow-moving tropical cyclones like Harvey, according to high-resolution climate models.

A slow-moving tropical cyclone dumps far more rain in one place than a fast-moving storm of a similar size and strength. The winds can also do more damage, because they batter structures for longer.

Harvey, for instance, dumped more than a metre of rain in parts of the Houston area. “Imagine that much water falling in one spot,” says Gan Zhang at Princeton University. “It is too much for the infrastructure to handle.”

Other recent storms, including Hurricane Florence in 2018 and Hurricane Dorian in 2019 have also been slow-moving, leading to suggestions that climate change is increasing the odds of slow-moving storms.

Now Zhang and his colleagues have run about 100 high-resolution simulations of how tropical cyclones behave in three types of conditions: those between 1950 and 2000, those similar to the present and also various future scenarios.

They saw a marked slowdown as the world warms, due to a poleward shift of the mid-latitude westerly winds. It is these prevailing winds that push cyclones along and determine how fast they travel.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Bill Vitek: In Pursuit of Better Agriculture (and a Better Society)

Bill Vitek: In Pursuit of Better Agriculture (and a Better Society)

“The way we farm and the way we think are connected—that’s our premise.”


O
n December 16th, Olivia Malloy was joined by Bill Vitek for a conversation about his work with perennial agriculture. Among his many other roles, Mr. Vitek, a philosopher, educator, and scholar, is the editor of New Perennials Publishing. New Perennials Publishing recently released The Perennial Turn: Contemporary Essays from the Field, a collection of works that emphasizes the importance of perennial agriculture in a larger societal context. Mr. Vitek shares both the finer details of the industry and the broader implications of our collective disconnect from how farming is practiced.

Let’s start with some context. Can you briefly explain the idea of perennials and the current state of the agriculture industry? 

Sure, let’s do a little background. Ten or 12 thousand years ago—so, we have to go way back—humans around the globe, for reasons we don’t really understand, started to experiment with growing their own food rather than hunting and gathering. They didn’t know it, but the plants they selected were annual plants. The ones that emerged generations later are the ones we still primarily consume today: wheat, corn, and rice. Those annual plants require a certain kind of human activity—clearing land every year, keeping weeds out because these plants have to come up from seeds, So, annual plants have fed us for ten or 12 thousand years. They’ve also required an enormous amount of human labor and, now, fossil energy. They actually encourage weed growth, so there is a lot of energy put into weeding. They’ve done a lot of damage to the climate and have been a major contributor to species extinction.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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