Saturday, October 09, 2010

Creating a new class of packaging material

Eben Boyer, product designer, talks about creating a new class of packaging material by using a living organism called mycelium. The idea is to reduce petroleum-based packaging and the toxic waste building up across the planet. One of the most important outcomes may be the ability to use local materials or feedstocks.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

What is the 'best' climate for us?

For the past couple of years or so a number of articles have appeared about how people make decisions and process information. Many of the articles were written because of the seeming inability of a large number of Americans to grasp a basic understanding of climate change, let alone believe it's “real.”

Of course the deliberate misinformation by the fossil fuel industry and its assorted front groups has made it difficult, perhaps starting with a particular White House consultant in the first George Bush administration.

Frank Luntz, the consultant, was quoted in a memo back in 2003 as saying, “A compelling story, even if factually inaccurate, can be more emotionally compelling than a dry recitation of the truth.” He was the person that told the Bush administration that they should not use the phrase “global warming.” It would only scare the public and not be helpful to George Bush' presidency Luntz said.
The reality has been, however, that scientists, journalists, and environmentalists in general have not done a very good job explaining climate change in a clear, concise manner, thus many of the articles on the manner of “climate” thinking.

A particularly good article published in Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society covers in some detail how humans make judgments and decisions when contemplating complex and uncertain problems. The paper is divided into (1) sampling, (2) framing, (3)comprehension, and (4) consensus building. The article provides illustrations and suggestions for those individuals responsible for explaining to non-scientists about global warming, climate change, and why it matters a great deal. See The Psychology of Global Warming.

An excellent, just released, presentation entitled “Climate Change Science” and sponsored by the American Chemical Society is well worth watching. The presenters, Michael McElroy, Professor of Environmental Science, James McCarthy, Professor of Biological Oceanography, John Christy, Professor of Atmospheric Science, and Robert Socolow, Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering ought not to be missed. It's an audio presentation with accompanying slides.

The presentation is not for the casual observer, but well worth the time of anyone responsible for explaining the complexity of climate change to the public in general—and probably to a great many politicians. Go to
Climate Change Science (Michael McElroy)

James McCarthy

John Christy

Robert Socolow

Forum on Climate Change Science and Consequences (to download material if Flash not available)


Thirteen municipalities and Kansas City

Photo credit: Molecular Model/jscreationzs/

Sunday, September 26, 2010

What's the target climate

Rob Dunbar, oceanographer and biogeochemist, has been involved in drilling into the sea beds, corals, and ice sheets. He wants to determine real baselines for fixing our current climate.

He points out in his presentation that we have to go back some 15 million years to find CO2 levels equal to what they are today. He also states that even for climate skeptics, there is no denying that the amount of CO2 dissolving in the ocean is leading to an increase in acidification.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Creating a healthy feudalism in America

A segment of what passed for the Southern intelligentsia in the 1840s and 1850s wanted to create European feudalism in America. But as the historian Louis Hartz said more than fifty years ago in his classic The Liberal Tradition in America, “When we penetrate beneath the feudal and reactionary surface of Southern thought, we do not find feudalism; we find slavery.” He went on to say, “Fraud, alas, was the inevitable fate of Southern social thought.”

A new feudal America

Yet, after 150 years from the start of the American Civil War, is it possible that a unique American feudal society is taking shape, not just in the South but throughout the country?

Will we create a distinct American peasantry (while naturally denying its existence) protected by the self-proclaimed lord of the manor … who may be an investment banker, a coal magnate or possibly an arms dealer. As we've already invented our own Magna Carta—U.S. Constitution—we'd need an assembly of lords. The collection of empty vessels called the U.S. Congress will likely suffice for the time being. This potpourri of feudalism and the early nation state will be our teachable moment.

The Census Bureau reported last week that million of Americans are racing into poverty, in many cases people having no place to live and needing food banks to avoid real hunger. A report by the International Monetary Fund and the International Labour Organization state that nearly half of unemployed workers in the U.S. have been out of work for more than six months and the average duration is nine months. The trends are not encouraging.

The report, Projection of Jobs and Education Requirements Through 2018, offers a glimpse of America's decaying educational system in an increasingly competitive world. The report claims that the U.S. will fall short of the needed number of people requiring postsecondary degrees by 2018, state-by-state.

At the same time, as the article Infrastructure, Deficits, and Global Recovery points outs, the global economy will require high levels of infrastructural spending for economic growth, at a time when governments are calling for deficit reductions and reduced spending.

A year or so ago the American Society of Civil Engineers estimated that $2.2 trillion will be needed over the next 5 years in the United States to get our infrastructure up to “acceptable” standards.

Creating dynasty trusts

For a basic primer on wealth and power in America read Wealth, Income and Power. The lord of the manor is waiting for its peasants, and for all intent and purpose we Americans are dutifully shuffling up the hill waiting for instructions in a gloomy, less democratic economic scenario--which leads finally to the people's representatives in Washington, DC.

The degree of irrelevancy of the U.S. Congress can be debated, but while the feckless Democratic party is largely a nuisance the Republican party has turned into a bizarre cult, where seemingly its combined brain power couldn't light a broom closet.

Not even a good novelist could have created a cast of character like the Republican senators and their stand on climate change. See Grand Old Deniers-Nearly All GOP Senate Candidates Deny Global Warming. In fact, as we have learned, Representative Mike Castle, who was running for the senate in the Republican primary in Delaware and who was one of the few Republicans that publicly stated his belief in the science of climate change, was defeated by a strange woman that wandered out of an old Monty Python sketch.

And finally, an op-ed piece by Tom Friedman of the New York Times.

We're lucky to be working for such a good master....

We could hang the bastard once and for all and start over again....

Some Sources:

The Challenges of Growth, Employment and Social Cohesion

The Angry Rich

Photo credit: Ruined Castle by Simon Howden/

Friday, September 17, 2010

How does consciousness change in history

Jeremy Rifkin, author and President of the Foundation on Economic Trends, gives a fascinating talk on what he calls empathic civilization.There may be a sliver of hope for the human race if we can manage to not repress our universal potential.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Searching for a sustainable American aristocracy

The article is entitled Ultra-Rich in Finance Are Meaner Than Rest of Us. On one level the piece is moderately amusing, but on a deeper level it may say something about who actually has a genuine function to perform in society. After all, some historians believe the 18th century French revolution occurred because the aristocracy no longer had a “role” to play. What did I do Monsieur Executioner? I am but a mere, benighted parasite, a very rich one.

Capitalism to the rescue

The New York Times ran an article recently on a fellow by the name of Paul Singer, the wealthy head of a $17 billion hedge fund. Mr. Singer is complaining about too much government regulation and interference today.

Singer has informed the nation, at least the part of the nation that he's familiar with, that he is going to support Republican politicians, who are presumably against government regulation and interference. After all, all these pampered Wall Street suits were doing just fine a few years back “not” being regulated.

And finally, as the New Yorker magazine expose reminded us, there are the boys from Kansas—the fossils from the Koch fossil fuel family--funders of climate denial and assorted front groups not fond of either science in general or the 21st century.

The next step

It may be time to seriously consider that much of America's current ersatz aristocracy is a dreary collection of losers with no real role to play. They and their camp followers are really an impediment to America's revitalization and prosperity.

No matter how hard we want to deny it, skirt around it, cover it up or talk about the "good" rich, class warfare is hardening in America. Our current aristocracy has no role to play. Sadly, they are not perceptive enough themselves to understand their irrelevancy.

Some Information:

The United States of Inequality

New cities: off the grid and thinking locally

Photo credit: corda strappata/Francesco

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Global warming study in Antarctica

Robert Lee Hotz, science columnist for The Wall Street Journal, discusses a global warming study being conducted in Antarctica. The study is analyzing ice more than 15,000 years old. Hotz presents the question that the scientists are asking: What is the exact relationship between levels of greenhouse gases and planetary temperatures? The relationship is extremely important as he points out.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

What and where is the sustainable future

Nick Marks, a statistician with the New Economics Foundation, asks us to consider another vision of the future besides one of fear and environmental degradation, a vision, according to Marks, environmentalists have been preaching far too long and which really doesn't work very well if repeated over and over again.

Happiness as a measurement of sustainability

Nick Marks also thinks that using the Gross Domestic Product or GDP as the dominant measurement of progress is one that measures everything except that which makes life worthwhile. He introduces the Happy Planet Index 2.0. Substitute the word “efficiency” for “happy” and you can begin to see that the Index is far more than some feel-good gimmick. The Index is well worth perusing and can be downloaded.

The word sustainable is used a lot today and its definition changeable, but one of the better explanations may be one offered by Paul Raskin of Harvard University and President of Tellus Institute: “It is the passing on of an undiminished world.”

Sunday, August 29, 2010

History of oil and gas on the Gulf Coast

What destination does our society want to reach, and how will it get there?
(Natural Capitalism, by Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, L. Hunter Lovins)

At the present time there are about 4,000 gas platforms in the Gulf. For 40 plus years the oil industry has been in the region and is closely intertwined with the economy, the culture, and the politics of the region.

Numerous judges have had to recuse themselves from numerous cases involving the oil and gas industry because of their close ties to the industry. Eco-systems have been in serious trouble for years. Marsh grasses are disappearing and dead zones are expanding. Of course the question can be legitimately asked about who makes public policy in the region? Who in fact is in charge of the people's business? Who should be held accountable?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Clean coal and its reality

COAL POWER PLANT:'s photostream/Bruno & Ligia Rodrigues
Clean coal is like dry water
(Appalachian Voices)

A friend asked me why I say CCS isn't practical. Answer: it isn't.
(a tweet from Don Blakenship, CEO Massey Energy)

The letter I received this past May from Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri regarding the clean energy and climate change legislation was fairly typical among a portion of the U.S. Senate. While she acknowledged that climate change science is “real,” she then went on to offer a number of caveats about not hurting “Missouri families” while we address the real problem of climate change. Above all, according to the senator, America must invest in clean coal technology, such as carbon capture and sequestration, sometimes referred to as CCS.

Clean coal technology

At the present time there is no such thing as clean coal, in the United States nor anywhere else in the world. We can not “capture” carbon nor do we have the technology at the present time to bury it, in the United States nor anywhere else in the world, certainly on a commercial scale that would be required.

The optimists say we're ten to twenty years away from developing the technology … maybe. The pessimists say we ought to put our effort and our money into something more promising—which is? Meanwhile global warming is increasing, according to the scientists that actually study the issue, because of the burning of fossil fuels.

The U.S. Department of Energy recently released the breakdown of its $3.4 billion stimulus money for Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). Some $1 billion is to be used for actual development programs. CCS.

Where does reality lead

The question has come up about “shifting liability” from industry to the taxpayer. Obama's Task Force on Carbon Capture and Storage has raised the point about industry's reluctance to spend its own money until the question of liability is clearly determined. Companies see big up-front costs associated with the development of carbon sequestration facilities.

The skeptics have said—certainly in reference to the oil and nuclear industry—that if these industries are so safe as is oftentimes claimed, why do they seem to want to invest in insurance, paid for by the taxpayer instead of the industry. The phrase "limit on claims" is one heard often in the oil industry, as well as in the nuclear power industry.

Finally, Don Blakenship, who runs Massey Energy, has stated publicly, more than once, that he doesn't believe in climate change, yet his company is investing a lot of money in CCS research. The truth may yet set us free, maybe.

Some Sources:

Appalachian Voices

CCSReg Project

Coal Tattoo

Monday, August 09, 2010

Decreasing Marine Phytoplankton and Survival

Eelgrass, Allison King, F.M.A.P.

Phytoplankton, microscopic marine algae, is the foundation of the marine food chain, from zooplankton to the largest sea mammals on the planet – and ultimately humankind. Science News has reported on a study, published in the journal Nature, that states that phytoplankton may have declined by some 40% since 1950.

Phytoplankton produces something like one-half of the oxygen we need as well as reduces surface CO2. This is not insignificant, as scientists report that global warming is likely changing the fundamentals of marine ecology, along with the very real problems of pollution, overfishing, and the possibility of increased ocean acidification as carbon dioxide levels rise.

New Study of Phytoplankton

Michael Behrenfeld, botany professor at Oregon State University, conducted a recent study challenging the prevailing theory on how phytoplankton blooms in the ocean. The new theory Behrenfeld calls the dilution-recoupling hypothesis.

Professor Behrenfeld's hypothesis suggests—unlike the prevailing view first proposed back in 1953—that global warming will decrease ocean productivity. Behrenfeld believes oceanographers will now have to conduct a lot more research on the complexity of how oceans actually work.

Phytoplankton and Extinction

Related to the study on the decreased marine phytoplankton in the world's oceans, the Keiser Report of August 6, 2010 talked to Captain Paul Watson the founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and host of "Whale Wars" on the Animal Planet. Watson claimed that Japan and Norway, using large commercial drag trawlers, are pulling up huge amounts of phytoplankton to be used as cheap protein meal for livestock.

Unity of Knowledge

Edward O. Wilson, the well known biologist, more than ten years ago, coined the word consilience. He was telling humankind that they had to create a common framework of understanding and explanation, especially in the natural sciences but ultimately in the humanities as well.

Will we ultimately be able to see the connections, the linkages, and the cause and effect of our actions?


Findings Overturn Old Theory of Phytoplankton Growth, Raise Concerns for Ocean Productivity

Keiser Report Episode 66

Phytoplankton in Retreat

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

A View on Energy

Burton Richter, physicist,Nobel Prize recipient, and author of Beyond Smoke and Mirrors, offers a view on energy between what he calls the climate deniers and the climate exaggerators. While he clearly believes that common sense shows that global warming is occuring,he asks us to look at what we can accomplish right now. See
Energy Efficiency.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Developing Climate Alternatives

While the “developed” world appears to be unable, at the present time, to address climate change in a serious way, some countries in the developing world have decided to not wait for enlightenment from the industrialized nations. They want to address global warming now. The problem is, as has been demonstrated by the recent conference in Bolivia, this particular global issue will require much more than rhetoric and moral passion. This excellent video presentation looks at some of the difficult issues.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

People, People Everywhere

Dr. Hans Rosling, researcher and scientist, asks us to consider how we might get to a sustainable population. Rosling believes we can maintain a sustainable world population of nine billion people, which is likely to occur by 2050. There are however a few important requirements if we wish to succeed. Go to

Friday, July 09, 2010

We Have No Water

Thailand, one of the major world exporter's of rice,has severe water shortages, thus preventing the planting of rice. Is it merely a natural anomaly? See

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A Vanishing Ocean

Brian Skerry, photojournalist, with National Geographic, gives a presentation on the world's oceans. The story is both awe-inspiring and sad. The glimmer of hope for the preservation of our oceans is that scientists know what needs to be done in order to preserve and protect our ocean ecosystems.

The problem of course is ignorance, greed, and simple human short-sightedness. See

Monday, June 14, 2010

Deviant Globalization Has Arrived

Nils Gilman, historian, gives a presentation at the Long Now Foundation about the development of an alternative global system. Gilman refers to it as deviant globalization.

It is real and it is growing, pushed along by the "hollowing out" of the traditional nation-state, at the moment most noticeable in the developing world, but gradually impacting the developed world. According to Gilman, money laundering alone accounts for some $1.5 to $5 trillion annually in the global economy.

Moral Arbitrage

Friday, June 04, 2010

Drill Baby Drill

Pictures from the New York Times: See

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Fearing Great Thoughts and Some Reasons Why

Charles Darwin's 200th anniversary was celebrated on February 12th of this year. His book Origin of Species is arguably the most influential scientific text of all times, yet even in the 21st century the fury directed against evolutionary theory, especially among certain religious groups, continues unabated. Listen to

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

125 Light Bulbs

David Mackay, physicist at Cambridge University, breaks down our energy consumption into small, measurable units, and then indirectly asks us what are we willing to do. Will we actually do something while we have choices or end up reacting when it may be, well, too late? Go to
Light Bulbs.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

It's a New Bubble (Part 2)

This is a continuation on food speculation from the Real News Network.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

It's a New Bubble

The beginning of a new bubble--in food?

From the Real News Network comes a report on the possible surge in food prices, not from supply and demand but because of the financial involvement in the commodities futures market. Once again it appears that the origin of the nonsense started several years ago in the U.S. with deregulation,making it easier for speculators to manipulate prices, frequently with slight risks to themselves.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Warming has Stopped!

From Climate Crock of the Week we sadly learn the GLOBAL WARMING is very much alive.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Lowest Common Denominator

The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.
(John Kenneth Galbraith, economist 1908-2006)

It was vile beyond all vileness.
(Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada)

This was not our accident.
(Tony Hayward, CEO British Petroleum)

Impossible things (like unending economic growth) won't happen just because people want them to.
(Richard Heinberg, author, energy consultant, senior Fellow-in-Residence at Post Carbon Institute)

No mitigation measures other than those required by regulation and BP policy will be employed to avoid, diminish or eliminate potential impacts on environmental resources.
(BP submission to U.S. Minerals Management Service, prior to drilling in region of current oil catastrophe)

As the Gulf Coast oil disaster continues to unfold, it is patently clear that the only truly safe way to extract oil is not to drill for it, hardly likely in the foreseeable future. At this point we can but merely hope for the “best” in a very bad situation.

But beyond the immediate disaster lies our real problem, America's lowest common denominator. It is now guiding our corporate life, our political life, and seemingly our moral life.

From the worst of the climate deniers, to the banality of drill-baby-drill, to adept street hustlers like a Glenn Beck or a Sarah Palin a large segment of the American public and its elected representatives have chosen ignorance and simple greed over reason and logic when it comes to climate change and energy ... among other things.

As has been stated often enough, we need an “energy” Marshall Plan in order to develop far more diverse energy sources. We need a carbon tax to push us in new directions. We need a climate and energy policy not written by the fossil fuel industry. Yes we need a genuine conservation policy in the U.S. Most important we need a citizenry that ultimately understands that living “smart” is not a lifestyle choice. Finally, we need a sense of economic fairness in America and a determination to flush down the toilet free market zealotry. It's as ludicrous as the divine right of kings

Will all this come to pass? There's a good chance it won't anytime soon. But if you're ready to give up, just imagine the devastation that is now occurring in the Gulf to marine and wildlife, to entire ecosystems, and to ordinary humans trying to make a living. That should be incentive enough to keep going on and not give up.
Largest Oil Donors to U.S. Senate

Chevron, Koch Industries, Exxon, Valero Energy, Marathon Oil

Largest Recipients in U.S. Senate

Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), David Vitter (R-LA), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Robert Bennett (R-UT), John Cornyn R-TX

Largest Oil Donors to U.S. House

Koch Industries, Exxon Mobil, Valero Energy, Chevron Corp., Williams Companies

Largest Recipients in U.S. House

Joe Barton (R-TX), Chet Edwards (D-TX), Michael Conway (R-TX), Eric Cantor (R-VA), Peter Olson (R-TX)

Source: Follow the Oil Money ( )


Resource Database for Gulf of Mexico

Monday, May 03, 2010

Drilling to Hell

Ricki Ott, marine toxicologist and author of Not One Drop, who lived in Alaska during the Exxon Valdez oil spill, was interviewed on Democracy Now. She talks about the fossol fuel industry and its power to avoid responsibility in major environmental disasters. See
Oil Slick.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

History Not Repeated?

David Eagleman, neuroscientist, discusses his book Six Easy Steps to Avert the Collapse of Civilization.
He believes the internet may be the "key to our survival." His contention clearly raises a lot of intriguing questions, not the least of which is his 6th step: try not to run out of energy. It is an extremely interesting presentation sponsored by The Long Now Foundation. See
The Net.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Authentic American Traitors

The financial crisis of 2007-2009 has made Jefferson [Thomas] a little less out of fashion.
(13 Bankers by Simon Johnson and James Kwak)

Ira Glass' This American Life on National Public Radio is one of the best listening experiences you'll likely have. Glass takes specific American themes on each of his segments and usually provides a compelling story, one that often lingers long after the program is over.

In particular is the one on the creation of a hedge fund that contributed to our global financial disaster and caused considerable pain for a great number of ordinary Americans.

While the program provides a "clear" explanation of the arcane world of credit default swaps, bundling, shorting, and equity tranch it is much more about astonishing greed, stupidity and, yes, betting against America itself. Those nasty terrorists couldn't have done it better. Is the system dysfunctional?

As well, while not discussed on the program, the question easily comes to mind whether or not our present political system is capable of making radical changes. No, markets are not self-correcting ... nor are they "efficient."

We Americans are angry in a general sense but clearly many of us are not really certain in a specific way about what exactly we are angry about. We may "throw the bums out," but we may also regret what we have created. This 40 minute segment is well worth listening to. Go to
Eat My Shorts

Friday, April 23, 2010

Red Herrings & MacGuffins

It's more than a game. It's an institution.

(Thomas Hughes, 1822-1896)

President Ronald Reagan, the “Gipper,” took his lines seriously. It was just like a movie script, when he told Americans that trickle-down economics would be the secret of America's success. Let the markets be free!

Of course this gibberish has been uttered periodically throughout our history. It wasn't Reagan's idea, but he apparently believed it with all his heart in the 1980s, when he mouthed every cliché that was handed to him. It's been a great movie ever since.

William J. Astore's article, “Democratic Kleptocracy,” in Asia Times is worth the read. See Imitation.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Snake-Oil Show (1)

For a great many people facts, especially the scientific kind with peer reviewed studies and extensive analysis, will never get in the way of dearly held beliefs, especially if the facts might foreshadow significant change and of course inconvenience.

Climate change is one of those complex issues that befuddles and confuses a lot of us. Add a large dose of deliberate confusion by the fossil fuel industry and a broad lack of scientific understanding by the public in general and you get climate denial.

Lord Monckton, a character out of a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta or a Monte Python sketch, is a popular figure on the climate denial circuit. It is worth revisiting his road show periodically to understand that climate change is not comedy. See Pure Imagination.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Ask the Weatherman

Some things are worth repeating over and over again. As we have learned lately from various polls and surveys, most Americans get their "understanding" of climate change (or not) from their local weatherperson. Climate science and meteorolgy are not the same thing. It becomes even more confusing for most people when denialists deliberately attempt to mislead. Once again:
Raining in Mutchkin Land.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Climate for All

All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well
(Julian of Norwich, English mystic, 1342-1416)

Dear, Mr. President,

So, we're going to start drilling for oil and gas along some of our coastlines or at least seriously examine the possibility. Just what is your “grand” climate and energy policy to be? Will it actually be an authentic policy? Is America at this point capable of producing a climate and energy policy?

I have read a lot of the views from assorted pundits, “experts,” and interested observers as to why you're implementing this policy. It's to provide political cover, some have suggested, if peak oil really slams into us within the next few years.

You bet those old Chinese communists and ambitious technocrats in the politburo don't want angry peasants coming after them. Kill a rain forest for job security. India's one billion plus just wants its day in the sun. Brazil is merely tired of the gringos and, well, Japan wants to continue killing whales and dolphins, and who needs tuna anyway. It's only cultural cuisine, you meat eaters you. Did you know that it sometimes takes more than an hour for a whale to die a horrible death after being harpooned by one of those state-of-the-art spears?

Yeah, no one wants to contemplate a barrel of oil closing in on $200. It's going to be hard though to reduce our foreign oil import of 12 million barrels a day, even if we dig up America extracting shale oil. Michael Lynch, an energy consultant, said if you were “really” serious you'd open up the entire California coast. Hell, let's just drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Someone once said there's nothing in Alaska anyway but deadbeat fathers escaping child support payments.

We understand you have to give the opposition something if you want a genuine climate bill within the next few years. But I bet in your heart-of-hearts you know we ain't going to drill our way out of this, even if the cowboy plunderers that run the western states start drilling under Brigham Young University. Well, that's a thought....

A sort of a problem is that there is no rational opposition political party, Mr. President. There is a nasty, not very bright political cult. I know you want to break bread with Senator Lindsey Graham, who passes for an enlightened member of the Republican cult these days. Seemingly he believes climate change may be genuine. That's a dangerous position to take. Truly he's demonstrated a profile in courage.

I'm glad we now have some fuel efficiency standards, better late than never, maybe. I've heard that this could reduce oil consumption by 1.2 million barrels per day by 2020. But then, why does Senator Murkowski from Alaska want to roll back those fuel efficiency standards? Well her father, a former governor, was not terribly bright either. Maybe Senator Landrieu from the progressive state of Louisiana told her that fuel efficiency was encroaching on state rights. And who the devil is the National Automobile Dealers Association? They want to block the government's ability to regulate global warming emissions. Are they fronting for Islamic terrorists?

This naturally brings us to the U.S. Congress, specifically the United State Senate, little more than a dysfunctional debating society. Now if we ignore the members of the Republican cult, boot out a dozen or so Democratic senators, we may just have a quorum to begin debating climate change legislation and some energy issues.

I know, I know many environmentalists have said no drilling, no nukes, no biofuels, just get that alternative energy on line right now. Yup, better hitch up old Ned to the buckboard and head into town for some kerosene. In the meantime I'll be working hard at creating my resilient community.

No, I don't want us to drill in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas off the northern coast of Alaska, and I don't trust the fossil fuel industry, the night crawlers that have funded the climate deniers, and I'm well aware of the deep confusion among perhaps the majority of the electorate, and I'm angry at what I think is you having wasted more than a year screwing around with bipartisanship and a lot of timid incrementalism, but you're it right now.

You clearly have a lot of educating to do. Convincing Americans that it's never going back to the good ol' days won't be easy. Telling Americans that tearing up the planet and killing all life on it won't get them economic prosperity, job security or a future for their children is not something they want to hear. After all, we Americans are exceptional. Best hire some very smart behavioral science specialists and get on with the business of talking to average Americans, the sooner the better. Just maybe we've a 50-50 chance.


A Citizen

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Antichrist is Among Us

Ignorance breeds monsters to fill up the vacancies of the soul that are unoccupied by the verities of knowledge.
(Horace Mann, 19th-century educator)

How well informed are you? Which state has proposed the following changes to its school textbooks: (1) remove any reference to the “Age of Enlightenment,” (2) demonstrate the positive contributions to America of the late senator Joe McCarthy and the enlightened leader of the confederacy Jefferson Davis and (c) take Thomas Jefferson off the list of revolutionary 18th century thinkers. Jefferson of course made the profound mistake of talking and writing about the separation of church and state.

If you said the Texas Board of Education you are clearly well informed. You'll still get some points if you said Mississippi, Alabama or even Utah. Shame on you Texas, not for not knowing that a collection of fruit flies took over the Board of Education, but letting it stand now that you do know the fifteenth century is in charge of your state's education. For the rest of us … how Texas textbooks go, frequently goes the rest of the country.

Perhaps the city of Austin, Texas will secede from the state and declare itself an independent city-state like ancient Athens. Of course it will need to acquire solid alliances in order to avoid being overrun by barbarians. Perhaps Germany would be interested or even China. Of course the United States could declare war on Texas and send in the Special Forces to round up all the white primitives and lock them up in the FEMA concentration camps, even though my militia informants within the Department of Homeland Security cannot determine the exact location of these camps.

Tom Friedman wrote an interesting piece in the NYT on 21 March entitled “America's Real Dream Team.” In his piece he mentioned names like Sunanda Sharma, Yale Wang Fan, and Otana Agape Jakpor. Yes, of course ex-political hacks like Tom Tancredo might declare that these aren't American names. But of course they are.

These are some of the American high school students who were among the 40 finalists in the 2010 Intel Talent Search, which identifies some of the best math and science high school students in America. Thank goodness we still have immigration.

A recent Harris poll declared that 24% of Republicans believe President Obama may be the Antichrist. Oh well, that's better than the 57% who believe our president is a Muslim or the 75% that believe he's one of “dem” socialists.

Dear Progressives, there is no sideline for you to stand on and hope it will all go away. Nor can you merely wait for the Democratic party to possibly turn itself into an instrument of enlightenment. Get busy. Demographic changes are slow and plenty of damage can be done in a short period of time. Do you really want the Texas Board of Education running the country?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Exploring the Word

What are the sounds that words make? How do they all tie together? Where will this journey ultimately lead us? I have no idea. But that's the fun in trying. Not that sustainability and the environment have become any less important, if anything, they loom even larger in significance, especially with the depth of denial and apathy that has spread across our planet.

So are there words to get us to think in other ways? Do you have something you want to say? We're exploring radio dramas, podcasts, interviews, videos and of course the written word. Come visit us at and tell us what you think. Better yet, what do you have to contribute?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Little Pollution

Can't stop progress ... the price you have to pay ... corporations are people too ... job growth ... it's not my problem ... the government would collapse ... you want to be poor ... children will adapt ... environmentalists don't understand how business works ... national pride ... the best economic system in the world .. and, a planet of fools....

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Considering a Rational Morality

This interview with Bertrand Russell, philosopher and mathematician, took place in 1959.

Monday, January 18, 2010

A Dying River

No fresh water means no oxygen.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Gathering the Pieces

Of course there are reasons to be skeptical whether or not the traditional nation-state, at least the structure we've had for the past 200 years or so, will be with us by the end of the 21st century.

Climate change, resource scarcity, population increase, economic decay, superstition and ignorance, along with the growing influence of non-state actors across the planet are likely going to place huge strains on all nations, even the most powerful. The question of “legitimacy” could very well gather momentum among more and more people. But what could replace the traditional state?

The short answer is that we don't know at this point, but resilient communities, transition towns, tribal networks were, until quite recently, ideas espoused by only a handful of people, often on the fringe of society, but which is now no longer the case. The transition movement, for example is spreading across the globe. In the U.S. go to Transition United States.

John Robb of Global Guerrillas, who has written a lot on asymmetrical warfare and “system disruption,” has a couple of interesting pieces on resiliency. See Why a Resilient Community Network? As well read Journal: Tribal Opportunity Space.

As we slowly get beyond abstract ideas and put together specific proposals and detailed plans for a particular community or region, we will likely see a widespread interest in the development of alternative “states” of various types.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Why Create Resilient Communities

Chris Hedges, journalist, offered a bleak, personal critique of the American “empire” back on December 28th in New York. His view is that the current system can not be reformed no matter the degree of tentative tinkering we undertake.
The question still remains how we begin the serious creation of new resilient communities, which likely means we will have to confront at some point an increasingly undemocratic status quo. See Empire of Illusion.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Five Centimeters of Life

We are using up our dirt across the planet, which means we are threatening all life on Earth. In the U.S. alone two acres of dirt disappears every minute of every day. It is not sustainable.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Sleeping with Bots

Daniel Suarez, software engineer and author, gives a fascinating presentation on what is referred to as “Bot-Mediated Reality.”

Bots are software applications that search, retrieve, and act on information. It has a great deal to do with the seemingly inexorable drive to efficiency, which likely means fewer people making decisions. Will we humans lose more and more control?

The implications are significant. There are plenty of reasons to believe that our traditional institutional structures are not capable of adapting to the changes? See Changing Reality

Monday, January 04, 2010

So What Follows

No I don't think things will be quite the same, even when the global recession “shakes out.” I believe the discussion of resilient communities will shortly go beyond a debate among the few to the necessity of the many.

Barring some as yet undiscovered technological breakthrough or a remarkable change in how Homo sapiens have acted, at least since the beginning of the Neolithic era 10,000 years ago, we are going to have to address just how we live and how we govern ourselves in a radically changing world. I don't think there will be a choice.

While what is likely to happen is perhaps speculative fiction at this point, the pieces are moving closer together. Climate change, resource scarcity, populations increase, non-state power and influence, changing geopolitical alignment are all factors that will affect us individually and collectively.

The fact that there is no 100 percent certainty doesn't mean we don't buy insurance, have our cars tuned up periodically or get an annual physical. The Oil Drum ran a series of articles back in early November 2008 on a changing suburbia. Is it viable or isn't it? How might it change? Since November 2008 a great deal has happened. The comments following the article are equally worthwhile. Go to A Resilient Suburbia

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Peer Review 101

An easily understood explanation on how scientific peer review works. It also addresses the stolen e-mails that allegedly expose, among the climate denialists, that there is a widespread scientific conspiracy or fraud is lurking about or global warming is now debunked or other feverish fantasies thought up by denialists.