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.”