Monday, January 20, 2014

Some January reading

Here are a few articles I've found interesting over the last few weeks.  Two trends: writers and activists are getting increasingly disturbed by the increasingly bad scenarios from climate change science, none of which makes its way into mainstream media coverage.  However, there are still many useful things that can be done to buffer impacts, control damage and inspire hope.  

David Holmgren, the co-originator of permaculture, touched off a very vigorous discussion in the climate change / peak oil blogsphere with a new article in which he said some quite surprising things.  "Crash on Demand: Welcome to the Brown Tech Future."

In his reply, Albert Bates came up with a grid on which he placed various writers and their viewpoints, with the vertical axis measuring optimism and pessimism about the future, and the horizontal axis tracking peaceful or non-peaceful transformation.  The debate about which messages can be effective, and whose predictions will be most accurate continue...but this discussion is not one that will be relevant or useful for the vast majority of New Yorkers, even those concerned about sustainability and resilience.  What to tell those folks is a whole 'nother question, which I'm grappling with through the film screenings and facilitated discussion events I'm setting up in various locations.


Hidden funding from billionaires to climate change denialists.  A Drexel University study shows the biggest funding streams to 118 climate change denial groups come from a few conservative foundations that use concealed, untraceable donations.  

Some post-Christmas satire from John Michael Greer. Conservative republicans are fond of citing the Bible, but there really isn't that much Biblical support for cutting benefits to the poor, making as much money as you can, etc.  Greer suggests they may be more aligned with an obscure religion that enthusiastically endorses sociopathic greed: Satanism. 

Eight graphs on climate and energy issues from 2013:  global temps going way up, carbon dioxide levels passes 400 PPM for first time; record number of climate deniers in Congress; arctic ice and the price of solar power both decline; renewable power keeps growing...yada yada.  

A review of
 recent climate science contains some increasingly dire near-term scenarios. One degree C is equal to 1.8 degrees F, and we're already .85 C above the average pre-industrial planetary temperature.   New reports project higher temperatures sooner than those from just a few years ago - such as a 3.5 to 4C (6.3 - 7.2F) rise by mid-century or sooner.  IPCC reports are very conservative and don't include feedback loops that could accelerate warming, such as a release of methane as the floor of the Arctic Ocean warms up or the Siberian permafrost melts.  

[Thom Hartmann has an
 effective ten minute video called Last Hours.  I used it in the January screening of climate change videos in Long Island City, along with Climate Change 101 from Al Gore's Climate Reality Project and "Do the Math," from]

Arctic ice melting ahead of schedule.  An ongoing US Department of Energy-backed research project led by a US Navy scientist predicts that the Arctic could lose its summer sea ice cover as early as 2016 - 84 years ahead of conventional model projections.

7 things everyone knows about energy that just ain't so.   Mark Twain once said, "It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so." And, there are many, many things that the public and policymakers know for sure about energy that just ain't so.  Kurt Cobb goes through a long listof fossil fuel industry deceptions picked up by a gullible media.  


But you know, we might get lucky, so keep struggling!  "The Arc of Justice and the Long Run: Hope, History and Unpredictability." This article from Rebecca Solnit makes the case for hope.  "The past explodes from time to time, and many events that once seemed to have achieved nothing turn out to do their work slowly. Much of what has been most beautifully transformative in recent years has also been branded a failure by people who want instant results." 

There are ways to put the carbon back in the ground! 
A new book, Grass, Soil,Hope: a Journey through Carbon Country, offers scientifically backed hope that greenhouse gases can be removed from the atmosphere on a massive scale by increasing the carbon content of soil.  Practices include: no-till farming, climate-friendly livestock practices, restoring degraded watersheds and rangelands, fixing creeks, growing grass, and producing local food.


More hope, if we figure out new ways to run the economy.Stopping climate change requires that we make drastic reductions in our fossil fuel use, and move from the illusion of unlimited growth to a steady state economy. The Prosperous Way Down website offers guidelines for how we can reorganize communities for energy descent, to fit with the natural processes of land and water that sustain us.  It's summarized here.  


Okay, the entire corporate-commercial-industrial complex is kind of opposed to this, so it's not like it will be easy.  But most of the writers and activists in this space believe it's just a question of time before the economy - artificially levitating with galactic quantities of made-up money through quantitative easing - is bound to crash.  The more that locally focused businesses and commercial systems can be set up in advance of that, the better off we'll be.  

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Monthly Resilience Film Screenings in LIC Start on Jan. 13

Monthly Green Film Screenings in LIC to Promote
Resilience and Neighborhood Action

A unique series of monthly free film screening events is taking place this year at eco-cafe Coffeed in LIC.  Films about our interwoven environmental, energy and economic challenges will be followed by facilitated discussion among audience members.  It follows a successful initial run of threefilms in September 2013

The events are organized by Dan Miner, familiar to the Queens business community as the former SVP of Long Island City Partnership - but also a longtime environmental activist. 
Now working as District Manager at Manhattan Community Board 6, Miner's volunteer projects are Resilience NYC Meetup,, and

Miner invites neighbors and western Queens civic leaders to Coffeed on the second Mondays of the month from January to June at 7 PM.   Coffeed, at 37-18 Northern Blvd., LIC, NY 11101, downstairs from the Brooklyn Grange rooftop farm, is providing free coffee and home-baked pastries for the events. Following the free video screenings, neighbors can explore sustainability and resilience responses in a facilitated group discussion. A resource guide with existing programs will be provided.

"NYC has to adapt to long-term climate change while working to slow it down, and at the same time build resilience for increasingly frequent extreme weather events.  This is not just a job for the de Blasio Administration.  Many initiatives can build resilience, cut carbon emissions, save money and create local jobs, all at the same time. Raising public awareness about our environmental, energy and economic challenges can tap into the creativity of all New Yorkers, and especially our business community and civic groups," said Miner. 

January 13 - Do The Math. Climate scientists have measured the carbon in fossil fuel supplies still to be burned and the consequences if it is all used.  This film features the movement to change the terrifying math of the climate crisis, and promote a global power shift to clean energy. (42 minutes)

February 10 - The Crash Course.
Our economy, energy systems and environment are interdependent and will face increasing challenges as we meet limits of finite natural resources.  Presented in a clear and factual way.   (45 minutes)

April 14 - Crisis of Civilization.
This dark comedy documentary connects the dots between global crises. It combines archival film clips and animations with detailed analysis and specific positive options to transform systems. Watch it free online. (80 minutes)

May 12 - Passive House Revolution. Much of our energy is used to heat and cool buildings
.   Those designed with the new Passive House standard use 80% less energy than average, compared to 15-40% reductions with Energy Star & LEED standards.  We have 116 million existing homes to retrofit.  (45 minutes)

June 9 - In Transition 2.0. Inspiring stories of Transition initiatives around the world, responding to uncertain times with creativity, solutions and engaged optimism. Projects include growing food, localizing economies and setting up community power stations.
(50 minutes)