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.  

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