Home » Survival

Category Archives: Survival

Olduvai
Click on image to purchase

Olduvai III: Catacylsm
Click on image to purchase

Post categories

Why Apocalyptic Claims About Climate Change Are Wrong

Why Apocalyptic Claims About Climate Change Are Wrong 

Bill McKibben, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Greta Thunberg, and Zion Lights of Extinction Rebellion
Climate scientists are speaking out against grossly exaggerated claims about global warming.GETTY

Environmental journalists and advocates have in recent weeks made a number of apocalyptic predictions about the impact of climate change. Bill McKibben suggested climate-driven fires in Australia had made koalas “functionally extinct.” Extinction Rebellion said “Billions will die” and “Life on Earth is dying.” Vice claimed the “collapse of civilization may have already begun.” 

Few have underscored the threat more than student climate activist Greta Thunberg and Green New Deal sponsor Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The latter said, “The world is going to end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change.” Says Thunberg in her new book, “Around 2030 we will be in a position to set off an irreversible chain reaction beyond human control that will lead to the end of our civilization as we know it.” 

Sometimes, scientists themselves make apocalyptic claims. “It’s difficult to see how we could accommodate a billion people or even half of that,” if Earth warms four degrees, said one earlier this year. “The potential for multi-breadbasket failure is increasing,” saidanother. If sea levels rise as much as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts, another scientist said, “It will be an unmanageable problem.” Today In: Business

Apocalyptic statements like these have real-world impacts. In September, a group of British psychologists said children are increasingly suffering from anxiety from the frightening discourse around climate change. In October, an activist with Extinction Rebellion (”XR”) — an environmental group founded in 2018 to commit civil disobedience to draw awareness to the threat its founders and supporters say climate change poses to human existence — and a videographer, were kicked and beaten in a London Tube station by angry commuters. And last week, an XR co-founder said a genocide like the Holocaust was “happening again, on a far greater scale, and in plain sight” from climate change.

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

Development: a failed project

Development: a failed project

It’s time to abandon development and think about postdevelopment instead.

Deforestation in the name of development | Image: crustmania, CC by 2.0

“They talk to me about progress, about ‘achievements,’ diseases cured, improved standards of living. I am talking about societies drained of their essence, cultures trampled underfoot, institutions undermined, lands confiscated, religions smashed, magnificent artistic creations destroyed, extraordinary possibilities wiped out. They throw facts at my head, statistics, mileages of roads, canals, and railroad tracks. […] I am talking about natural economies that have been disrupted – harmonious and viable economies adapted to the indigenous population – about food crops destroyed, malnutrition permanently introduced, agricultural development oriented solely toward the benefit of the metropolitan countries, about the looting of products, the looting of raw materials.”

– Aime Césaire (1950): ‘Discourse on Colonialism’

Let’s not beat around the bush: to understand the problems with current ‘development’ discourse and practice there is no alternative other than situating ‘development’ as a construct that has resulted from colonialism and that continues to perpetuate itself within this legacy. Nothing illustrates this better than the above quote from Aime Césaire’s powerful essay on the ‘Discourse on Colonialism’. It almost reads like a contemporary critique of failed development interventions, sharply dissecting extractivism, fetishism of economic growth, the global division of labour and the marginalisation of non-Western worldviews, cosmovisions, imaginaries. The text is almost 70 years old, yet its relevance today could not be clearer.

What are the problems with ‘development’?

I only write about ‘development’ in inverted commas. The word, the concept, the practice has been (ab)used for such a broad variety of specific agendas, all of them structured by power hierarchies and asymmetries. Depending on fashionable fads, ‘development’ has come to be conceptualised as development-as-growth, development-as-progress, development-as-empowerment and many more. Fundamentally, ‘development’ has become what Gustavo Esteva calls an ‘amoeba’ term – one lacking any real meaning.

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

Power, the Acceleration of Cultural Evolution, and Our Best Hope for Survival

Power, the Acceleration of Cultural Evolution, and Our Best Hope for Survival

These days I’m deep in the process of writing a book on power—both physical power (humanity’s power over nature) and social power (the power of some people over others). The book’s first few chapters explore the historical process by which we developed our currently awesome powers, starting with control of fire, simple stone tools, and language. Once we had these, the pace of human empowerment picked up dramatically. We didn’t have to wait for biological evolution to slowly deliver improved organs; cultural evolution could rapidly supply new ideas, behaviors, and tools—which often took the forms of prosthetic organs (such as clothing and weapons) that enabled us to take over habitat from other creatures.

While the pace of cultural evolution was much faster than that of biological evolution, major cultural innovations like the domestication of plants and animals, the creation of the first states, and the emergence of the earliest empires were still spaced thousands of years apart. However, our sudden access to the storable, portable, and concentrated energy of fossil fuels, starting roughly in the 19th century, sped up cultural evolution to the point where disruptive cultural innovations began to be separated by mere decades, sometimes just years.

One of the factors driving cultural evolution is the rebounding interaction of technology and language. Writing, the alphabet, printing, the telegraph, telephone, radio, television, internet, and social media have sped up and spatially expanded human interaction, giving us the ability to cooperate in ever larger groups, in effect granting us expanding power over space and time.

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

Crunchtime: When Events Outrun Plan B

Crunchtime: When Events Outrun Plan B

Not only will events outrun Plan B, they’ll also outrun Plans C and D. 

We all know what Plan B is: our pre-planned response to the emergence of risk. Plan B is for risks that can be anticipated, regular but unpredictable events such tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, etc. In the human sphere, risks that can be anticipated include temporary loss of a job, stock market down turns, recession, disruption of energy supplies, etc.

Hidden in most Plan B’s are a host of assumptions that all the systems running in the background of the economy will remain stable. Even if electrical and cell-phone service go down, for example, we assume the outage will be temporary. We assume delivery of energy and food will resume shortly, we assume medical care will be available somewhere nearby, roadways will soon be cleared and so on.

In other words, we assume emergencies will be short-lived and that these non-linear events will leave the rest of our social and economic orders as fully intact linear systems, that is, predictable because the outputs (results) will continue to be proportional to the inputs.

If one road crew can clear five roads of debris, then if ten roads are blocked, we reckon adding another crew will generate a proportional result: two crews will clear all ten blocked roads. This is a linear system and response.

But if for some reason the second crew can’t clear even a single road, and adding a third crew also fails to make progress, the situation becomes non-linear: increasing inputs doesn’t generate proportional outputs.

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

What’s Possible?The key question to ask when looking to replace the status quo

What’s Possible?The key question to ask when looking to replace the status quo

As we look at the multiplying signs of failure across our economy and the environment, society is slowly realizing that we need to start doing things very differently.  At least if we want a positive future in which we can believe. Those awakening to this are asking: What should we do?

I think a better question to ask is: What’s possible?

That’s the question that has been waking me up early in the morning for the past few weeks.

It springs from Ben Falk’s book on whole systems design and permaculture entitled The Resilient Farm and Homestead.  It’s a great book, packed with lots of useful ideas and systems to consider.

It’s opening line reads:

“Regeneration involves seeing things as they could be, while resiliency requires dealing with things as they are.”

I like that pairing a lot.  It’s ‘what is’ AND ‘what could be’  Resilient AND regenerative.  It’s combining what you already have with what’s possible.

Why Regeneration Matters

Regeneration is about the future.  In working with living systems, the soil, the microclimate, the sun and a dozen other major variables all come into play.   To be of a regenerative mindset, one must be able to see both what’s there AND what isn’t there yet, but could be.

Each acre of land or water source is more capable of doing certain things than others.  The same is true with people, communities and cultures.

Where Joel Salatin found a farm with ruined soils (listen to our podcasts with Joel on regenerative farming and on ‘rogue farming’), he knew it was possible to rebuild the soils to incredible depth and abundance without using any outside inputs.  He showed that a whole new approach could yield results that had entirely escaped the previous owners of that land.  He saw what they didn’t, or perhaps, couldn’t (all hail the blinding power of belief systems!).

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

Dalio & Tudor Jones Warn: “We Will Kill Each Other” If Our Broken Economic System Isn’t Fixed

Dalio & Tudor Jones Warn: “We Will Kill Each Other” If Our Broken Economic System Isn’t Fixed

Two hedge fund icons – Bridgewater founder Ray Dalio and Paul Tudor Jones – joined Yahoo Finance for the 2nd annual Greenwich Investment Forum earlier this month. Speaking directly after Connecticut Gov. New Lamont, with whom Dalio is working to bolster Connecticut’s schools via a $100 million gift  – the largest charitable gift the state has ever received, PTJ and Dalio focused their “Fireside Chat” on the flaws of Fed policy, the dangers of America’s ballooning budget deficit, and the steps that must be take to “stop us from killing each other” in a violent revolution, as Dalio warned. 

PTJ spoke first, starting with a few words about President Trump, praising him as “the greatest salesman” to ever enter the American political arena. After all, didn’t Trump convince the Republican Party – once the party of fiscal piety – that 5% budget deficits 10 years into an economic rebound are necessary to protect the economy. Similarly, didn’t he also convince the Fed – “through great moral suasion” – that returning to real negative rates with unemployment at 50-year lows was a necessity?

Both Dalio and PTJ agree that, while clearly stimulative in the short-term (obviously just take a look at the S&P 500), these decisions will set up the US economy for one of the most punishing downturns in history, which is why PTJ always laughs when Jerome Powell is quizzed about financial conditions and whether he sees bubbles anywhere. Because at this point, the whole market is a bubble.

“Clearly, the low interest rate policy we’re pursuing is creating an excess and that excess is in our public deficits. Which, at the current pace, in less than ten years we will have exceeded the threshold where Greece had its issues,” PTJ said.

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

Scientists on where to be in the 21st century based on sustainability

Scientists on where to be in the 21st century based on sustainability

Preface. The article below is based on Hall & Day’s book “America’s Most Sustainable Cities and Regions: Surviving the 21st Century Megatrends”. Related articles:

Day, J. W., et al. Oct 2013. Sustainability and place: How emerging mega-trends of the 21st century will affect humans and nature at the landscape level.  Ecological Engineering.

Five scientists have written a peer-reviewed article about where the best and worst places will be in the future in America based on how sustainable a region is when you take into account climate change, energy reserves, population, sea-level rise, increasingly strong hurricanes, and other factors.  Three of the scientists, John W. Day, David Pimentel, and Charles Hall, are “rock stars” in  ecology. Below are some excerpts from this 16 page paper that I found of interest (select the title above to see the full original paper).

Best places to be

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

Like Stalingrad: Italy’s Concrete Infrastructure is Melting in the Rain

Like Stalingrad: Italy’s Concrete Infrastructure is Melting in the Rain

The region of Liguria, within the red circle, is a narrow strip of land stuck between the Appennini Mountains and the Tyrrhenian Sea. It is also a critical element of the transportation system that connects France and the Po valley to the rest of Italy. As you may imagine, this heavily urbanized region is subjected to disastrous floods. The situation became so bad, recently, that the president of the Liguria region declared it was like the siege of Stalingrad, during WWII. The image above is from a presentation by Massimo Lanfranco, highly recommended!

When you have a fame of being a catastrophist or a Cassandra, reading that some of your prophecies turned out to be true may be a little unsettling. But it seems that I understood something correctly with the chapter of my recent book “Before the Collapse,” where I described how the world’s concrete infrastructure was getting old and decaying and how the situation was going to get worse with time.

In my take of the situation, I was inspired by the collapse of the Morandi Bridge in Genova, Italy, in 2018, but I was sure that worse things were going to happen. And it seems that I was right: the recent disasters in Southern Europe (France, Greece, and Italy) show how roads, railways, and buildings, are fragile, often on the edge of collapse. Rains heavier than usual are sufficient to create disasters, in part because of landslides and floods, in part because of the aged and weakened concrete structures. And, with climate change pressing forward, heavy rains are going to be more and more common.

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

Defending degrowth is not Malthusian

Defending degrowth is not Malthusian

 Jenny Downing

Self-limitation is not about constraining, but about defining collectively as societies our limits.

Political ecology ‘has made strong arguments against natural limits’ and is in friction with ‘degrowth’s .. urgency of less’, writes Paul Robbins. Indeed, political ecologists developed the field as a response to 1970s neo-Malthusianism. Nancy PelusoLyla Mehta or Betsy Hartmann have exposed the racist, classist and patriarchal underpinnings of neo-Malthusian discourses of environmental degradation, overpopulation, or scarcity.

I am a political ecologist. I love these books. How do I square then this with my defense of limits and degrowth?

It took me sixteen years after my PhD to figure it out. We should distinguish, I always felt, reactionary notions of limits, like the ‘coming anarchy’ of prophets of doom like Robert Kaplan or Garett Hardin; and limits like those defended from activists at places like Standing Rock. Lumping all defenses of limits as Malthusian is analytically sloppy and politically wrong.

I felt this in my skin when, as a late-night twitter intellectual, I was told by fellow travelers that I am a baby-killer and a Malthusian (Me, a Malthusian?!). But the catalyst that got me going was an essay by Gareth Dale, in which I learned that Malthus was actually in favour of growth, not limits.

Malthus’s An Essay on the Principle of Population is one of those classic works that academics feel comfortable citing without taking the trouble to read. I followed Gareth’s lead and sat down to read it again – line by line. And here is the story I have to tell.

First, Malthus was not a Malthusian, he was an economist. Second, radical environmentalism has always been romantic – and romantics were the fiercest critics of Malthus.

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

No Power, No Running Water, No Toilets: Millions of Americans Are Living in Third-World Conditions

No Power, No Running Water, No Toilets: Millions of Americans Are Living in Third-World Conditions

Scattered around the nation, there are parts of the country in which millions of Americans are living without the basic amenities that most of us take for granted.

I’m not talking about high-speed internet or frivolous things. I’m talking about electricity, flushing toilets, and clean running water.

But this isn’t a problem that only exists in one state or to one demographic. It’s happening across the nation more and more. Let’s take a look.

Millions are living without running water.

new report says that more than 2 million Americans in West Virginia, Alabama, Texas and the Navajo Nation Reservation in the Southwest are living without clean running water or indoor plumbing. They’re drinking from polluted streams. They’re carrying buckets of the same water home for washing. They’re urinating and defecating outside with no wastewater treatment.

Race and poverty are the strongest predictors of water and sanitation access, according to the study. Native American families are 19 times more likely than white households to lack indoor plumbing, while black and Latino homes are nearly twice as likely. Meanwhile, federal funding for water infrastructure is just a small percentage of what it used to be, the authors wrote.

“Access to clean, reliable running water and safe sanitation are baseline conditions for health, prosperity, and well-being,” DigDeep CEO George McGraw and US Water Alliance CEO Radhika Fox said in a statement. “However, they remain out of reach for some of the most vulnerable people in the United States.”

The 2 million figure includes 1.4 million people with homes who lack access to hot and cold running water, as well as a sink, shower, bath or flushing toilet. (source)

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

How learning to share again cuts waste, and makes more resilient communities

How learning to share again cuts waste, and makes more resilient communities 

 See lessons

Sharing is one of the very first things we are taught to do as children, it’s almost the defining difference between being ‘good’ or seen as selfish. But from the moment we become adults the focus quickly shifts in modern economies to everyone having their own things and protecting ‘private property’. Not only does this exclude people with little money, it leads to a lot of environmentally wasteful over-consumption as households duplicate often underused items. If we shared more in modern life it could cut waste and bring us together. Now a movement is emerging to rediscover the benefits of sharing.

The Share Shed is a library of things in the town of Totnes in the southwest of the UK (also home to the Transition Town network). People can donate useful items to the library – like ladders, drills, carpet cleaners, camping, cooking and gardening equipment, and sewing machines – and others can borrow them for an affordable fee. This enables locals to borrow items rather than buy them for themselves and then leave them unused in a shed or cupboard for years. The aim is to build a more resourceful community, allowing people to connect with each other and share things they may need just once in a while, helping people to save money, space and resources.

Share Shed was set up in Totnes in April 2017 by the Network of Wellbeing, with the help of Totnes town council and Lottery Fund support. It was inspired by a similar initiative in the UK West country town of Frome, where the sharers had helpfully designed a kit to encourage others to set up sharing schemes.

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

[Episode #108] – Will Energy Transition Be Rapid or Gradual?

[Episode #108] – Will Energy Transition Be Rapid or Gradual?

Champions of energy transition see it happening relatively quickly, emphasizing the advances that are being made in technologies, policy, and projects. While fossil fuel incumbents see a long, gradual process of energy transition, assuring us that demand for their products will remain strong for decades to come. So who’s right? Is energy transition going to be rapid, or gradual?

A new paper co-authored by Carbon Tracker, Bloomberg New Energy Finance, and the Rocky Mountain Institute contrasts these narratives and scenarios, and identifies some key distinguishing characteristics that can help us understand where they differ, as well as clarifying their underlying assumptions and perspectives, using those insights to inform our outlooks. In this episode, one of the authors from Carbon Tracker explains the analytical framework applied to these contrasting narratives, and shares his insights about the impact of the energy transition on financial markets, domestic politics and geopolitics, and how incumbents will have to navigate the new reality of climate change.Guest:

Kingsmill Bond is the Energy Strategist for Carbon Tracker, a London-based clean energy think tank. He believes that the energy transition is the most important driver of financial markets and geopolitics in the modern era. Over a 25 year career as an equity analyst and strategist at institutions such as Deutsche Bank, Sberbank and Citibank, he has researched emerging markets, the shale revolution and the impact of US energy independence. At Carbon Tracker, he has written about the impact of the energy transition on financial markets, domestic politics and geopolitics, and authored a series of reports on the myths of the energy transition, looking at the many arguments made by incumbents to deny the reality of change.

On Twitter: @KingsmillBond

On the Web:  Kingsmill’s page at Carbon Tracker

Imagination, STEM and Reading Lolita in Tehran

Imagination, STEM and Reading Lolita in Tehran

Azar Nafisi, author of the international bestseller, Reading Lolita in Tehran, explains that the title of her book came from her diary in which she kept track of activities that were no longer allowed in post-revolutionary Iran, but which people engaged in as a form of resistance. One of those activities was reading Vladimir Nabokov’s 1955 novel, Lolita, about a middle-aged professor of literature who finds himself sexually pursuing a 12-year-old girl—a tale that is not exactly consistent with Islamic revolutionary clerical sensibilities.

Nafisi spoke recently to a small gathering I attended at the home of a friend about her life, her writings and her fears for American democracy. She shared her concerns that warning signs are all around signaling the decline of democratic life in her adopted country. She did so in part by invoking a recurrent theme in the academic world to which she belongs. That world contains two cultures which seem forever split, the sciences and the humanities.

The craze over so-called STEM—science, technology, engineering and math—in education policy and practice has devalued the development of individual imagination which Nafisi regards as the cornerstone of an educated mind. Instead, cultivation of the imagination is replaced with the notion of a “race” against the Chinese and other commercial rivals to dominate world markets with new, domestically developed technologies.

No thought is given to whether those technologies will enhance our individual lives. More likely, those technologies—the cellphone was much on her mind—are designed to do our imagining for us. You might say that the STEM crowd is substituting their imagination for ours. (Here and below I mix in my own reactions to Nafisi’s presentation.)

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

The Decline & Fall of Civilization is Upon Us

The Decline & Fall of Civilization is Upon Us 

COMMENT:

Good afternoon

I would like to share a testimony to Marty:

I am french and have attended a conference of technology in Germany last weekend, in which Barack Obama attended as a guest speaker.
Though I am not American nor Republican, I was really surprised by the tonality and the comments different American speakers voiced during the speeches about Republicans and Donald Trump : uneducated, in denial, egocentric, dumb,… a speaker even said she regretted not having offered a “Dump Trump” sweater to President Obama (quote). I was really surprised to see the level of undisclosed hatred being displayed in a business/public event..

You are absolutely right, the gloves are dropped now, and 2020 will be hectic in the USA…
Thanks a million for your blog and your insights, you are a true teacher to me

CQ

REPLY: I have never seen a worse political divide. There is no going back. The 2020 election is going to be the most violent and nasty election in American history. There is just no way to return to civility. The hatred is brewing and that will erupt into violence.

From my study of history, it appears that this is just part of the cycle in how empires, nations, & city-states collapse. The very purpose of civilization is that there emerges a synergy that is greater than an individual can create alone. You no longer need to bake bread because someone started a bakery.

However, when society turns in upon itself, that is the end. It is no longer beneficial to remain in a collective group. We are rapidly approaching this point and that erupts into separatism, which you are witnessing everywhere around the globe.

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

10-Plus Edibles That Make Great Houseplants

House Plants
 Image by donterase from Pixabay

10-Plus Edibles That Make Great Houseplants

Herbs, Hibiscus, Citrus and more

To be completely honest, I’m not usually that high on house plants. It’s for simple reasons really. I’ve done my share of babysitting them, and they tend to be high maintenance, requiring regular watering regardless of the weather, prime positioning around the windows, and a periodic supply of imported fertility. I like to maintain that, for those of us not living in urban settings, there is plenty of room outside to grow stuff in the earth, where these plants are part of—even when cultivated—thriving ecosystems.

However, as I settle into life in North Carolina, USDA Zone 7, and in particular with autumn fully upon us, I can feel myself rethinking things a little. Earlier this week, with the first frost forecasted, I found myself out in the garden digging up two habanero pepper plants to pot and put inside. They’ve been fruiting beautifully for the last month or two, and it just feels wrong to see them perish in lieu of such production, with so much life on the horizon. They still have half a dozen peppers growing on them. So far, the transplant seems successful.

With that in mind, I decided to revisit ideas on plants I’d like to, at the very least, grow indoors during the winter. Unlike growing a typical garden of greens, green beans, and so on inside, these are perennial plants that can’t survive the winter here, so our house would then become a greenhouse for them. In turn, we’d get to enjoy, even if minimally, some crops we might not otherwise have the capacity to grow here. In other words, the trade-off feels justified and in the summer, we could stick them outside and treat them like the other plants: special but not better than the apple trees or tomatoes.

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

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
Click on image to purchase