Extending the Glide

SUBHEAD: Extending the glide just gives you more time to find a safer place for the crash landing.

Jem Bendell interview by Douglas Hine published 21 March 2018 in Dark Mountain -

Image above: Photo of flooded intersection of Eagle and Charlotte Streets in Brisbane, Australia in 2011 by Andrew Kesper.zFrom original article.

I first met Professor Jem Bendell at a festival in the middle of a Swedish forest. This was back around the beginning of the 2010s, and he wasn’t a professor in those days, and to be honest we didn’t find that much in common.

The festival was called Future Perfect. The organizers had brought together sustainability thinkers, ecologically-minded designers, organic food entrepreneurs and a whole smorgasbord of buzzwords.

At several points, I was provoked into forceful interventions, which led to the invention of the role of ‘difficultator’ – a kind of anti-facilitator or heckler-in-residence – in which capacity they invited me back the following year.

My impression of Jem from that event was of a big NGO, sustainable development, Corporate Social Responsibility guy. He was living in Geneva, working as a consultant to the UN. He’d done things: the Marine Stewardship Council was one of his projects, and he’d been in at the beginning of the UN Global Compact.

He was all about getting big business to drive sustainability. He struck me as driven, ambitious, serious, but I didn’t get much sense of someone wrestling with the existential implications of the mess in which we find ourselves. And fair play, he was too busy for that.

So it came as a surprise when we crossed paths again last year and he told me that Dark Mountain had been much on his mind.

 I’d been aware of the ripples made by a keynote that he had given at a climate change conference in Australia, setting out an agenda for what he calls Deep Adaptation, based around the three ‘R’s of Resilience, Relinquishment and Restoration.

It’s been picked up in places like the Planet B festival in Peterborough last summer and a forthcoming season of events at the NewBridge Project in Newcastle – while Charlotte Du Cann wrote about it in the call for submissions for the next Dark Mountain book.

When I caught up with Jem over Skype a few weeks ago, I mentioned that I’d been struck by how far he had traveled since our first meeting, so I was curious to know what had set him on that journey.

JB: I gave my inaugural professorial talk in March 2014 at a big literary festival in Cumbria. I’d already become aware of some of the latest science on climate change, so I decided to frame sustainability as an adventure – to say that we have to let go of our incremental, non-ambitious, conformist approaches.

I gave a speech about that, because it was a frame that could be palatable to my colleagues, my employer, my academia and my audience. But I was coming down with the flu during the speech. And for the week after, I was in bed ill.

There’s something emotional about a conclusion – that’s what you do in an inaugural lecture, you try and synthesise twenty years of your work, and by summarizing, you’re also concluding it. So I spent that week in bed, with a fever, not doing much apart from reading scientific papers and watching traumatizing videos from the Arctic. And I actually went into despair.

It took years before I became more deliberate and public about this, and in a way it’s taken me until now to realize that I’ve been going through a professional catharsis which goes back to March 2014.

DH: I read a piece that you wrote for openDemocracy later that year, arguing that the mainstream debate around climate change had become detached from the facts that were now coming in from the science.

You highlight four different conversations going on around the edges which you say have more to do with the reality of where we find ourselves, one of which is a conversation you identify with the radical end of Transition Towns, the work of people like Charles Eisenstein, as well as with Dark Mountain.

JB: The reason I wrote that article was that after the experience I’d had that year, I couldn’t help but have conversations with friends about this topic, and I found that I just left people sort of staring into space with their jaws wide open.

So I wanted to give them something that would help them think things through, and then they could end up with whichever of those agendas that I mapped out in the piece – and working on any of those agendas would be better than the mainstream denial of how things are.

DH: That brings me to the speech where you presented what you call the Deep Adaptation agenda. Can you say a bit about how you arrived at that framing?

JB: Looking back over the last few years, I didn’t really know what to do about this realisation that we can’t fix climate change, that so much of the impact for our civilisation is already locked in. I didn’t know how to work on that.

And I realized that one of the reasons was the lack of a framework to get your head around all this.

So I thought it might be useful to come up with a map for people who are climate experts, policymakers, researchers about what this might mean. A map that would sound approachable, but would actually be the thin end of a wedge, in terms of where it would take them.

This coincided with an invitation to a place in Australia where I used to work, Griffith University. It was the tenth anniversary of their centre and they invited me to give the keynote.

They are at the center of the climate change adaptation network of Australia, so they had hundreds of climate change policymakers coming from across the country, and researchers and academics. And I couldn’t justify flying down there and just giving a speech about, you know, the latest great ideas about investment in solar, and so on.

I was a bit scared, because I knew the guy who was organizing the conference and I knew he’d want me to be dynamic. Everyone who’s organizing a conference wants to be upbeat – and suddenly the keynote person is going to give a speech about the end of the world, or that’s how it might come across, anyway.

It was a bit of a coming out. Standing in front of these climate experts who work with this all day and saying: well, this is my reality, this is what I’m struggling with, and this is a map that I have that I think we could use to work on it.

I called it Deep Adaptation. I introduced the three ‘R’s: Resilience, Relinquishment and Restoration.

DH: So this is where you’re trying to say, OK, what kind of stuff is worth working on, if you start from climate change as an unfolding tragedy, rather than as a problem that can be fixed and made to go away. Can you just elaborate on what falls within each of those three spheres?

JB: Sure, well the first one – Resilience – I chose because it’s so mainstream already in the adaptation field. Even in the business schools and the sustainability field, the term resilience had become popular.

Because businesses have been experiencing, through their supply chains in particular, disturbances and disruptions through weather events correlated with climate change.

But I talked about resilience in a deeper sense than just, ‘How do we diversify our suppliers so that if one gets knocked out by a hurricane, we’ve still got something else?’

So for example, I was talking in a hall which was next to the Brisbane River, which had had flood water lapping at its doors just a year previously – and I pointed out that the place had been refurbished with the electric sockets still near the ground.

We need to think again, to switch our mind-sets. These once-in-a-century events will be happening every five years, so resilience needs to wake up to that.

That brings you into Relinquishment which is about not just, how do we preserve what we want to preserve, but what do we need to let go of?

Because if we don’t let go of it, we’ll make matters worse. And I felt that the discourse of sustainability would have seen that previously as peculiar and defeatist – and I wanted to say that, we’re going to have to let a whole lot of things go, ways of life, cultural patterns.

You know, in that room we were all wearing suits with ironed shirts and ties, with blasting air con. There are patterns of behavior which we have to let go of – and I thought, give it a fancy name and you re-code it as something interesting, rather than defeatist.

Then the third one, Restoration – again, it exists already, with people talking about the restorative dimension of environmentalism, restoring ecosystems. Not just stopping the damage, but improving things.

But for me, I wasn’t saying that in terms of how we can fix everything, but that you rewild because it is going to happen anyway and you build that into your thinking.

But it’s also about restoration in terms of how did people have joy, fun and love, and wonder, celebration and meaning, prior to this hydrocarbon civilization?

So Resilience is ‘how do we keep what we really want to keep?’, Relinquishment is ‘what do we need to let go of?’ and Restoration is ‘what can we bring back to help us through this?’

 DH: So you said you were nervous in the run-up to that speech. What kind of reaction did you get?

JB: I was surprised and delighted at the warm round of applause and the things people were saying to me afterwards. I remember one lady came up to me and said she used to be a pilot in the Outback of Australia and in her training, they used to do quite a spooky exercise which was called ‘extend the glide’.

And it’s about, if the aircraft has a problem with the engines and they cut out, how do you then extend the glide to just give yourself more time to find yourself a safer place for the crash landing, but also on the off-chance that the engines might kick in again.

And she said, that’s what you’re inviting us to start working on: how do we extend the glide?

There were other people coming up to me and what I understood was that they had already been talking about these things in their own ways, making sense of it, but not really in their day-jobs, despite being paid to be environmental professionals.

DH: How has this changed the work you’re doing – that experience of despair and catharsis that you described, going back to 2014, and then creating a framework for those who want to work with this professionally – where has that taken you in the years since?

JB: Well, in 2017 it took me into politics, writing speeches for Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, because it seems to me that we need a cultural shift towards compassion and a spiritual awakening, an awakening from the delusion of materialism. We don’t see much of that in politics, but Corbyn was saying something similar in a secular way.

Meanwhile, I decided to approach education in a very different way, as a sort of emancipation from your received assumptions and received wisdom, as a preparation for people to be able to approach these very disturbing and troubling times.

But also to see it as an amazing – it’s kind of crazy to say, isn’t it – an amazing opportunity for reflection into the true meaning of being alive. Because climate change is holding up a severe mirror to our consciousness: it means we have to really ask why we are here. Because somehow, we delay that question, and now we can’t.

So on the one hand, I see that I’ve been doing quite a lot of stuff that I’m OK with that flows from that point in 2014, but I also realise that part of this has been getting busy in order to distract myself, because I didn’t have a good way of living with this knowledge.

My sense of self-worth as a good guy, working hard, becoming an expert, becoming a professor – along the way, I made sacrifices in order to achieve that, and then suddenly I had a loss of a sense of self-worth, my role, my identity in life.

 So I think quite a bit of what I’ve been doing over the past years has been reconstituting a sense of self.

So thank you for inviting me to talk about this, because it made me reflect in the last few days, and I realise that maybe it’s useful to share this.

Because this cathartic process that I went through, some of it conscious and some of it actually only making sense to me looking back, is perhaps something that other people will go through and need to go through. And maybe it’s something we can go through together and help each other.

I guess I’ve gone through a grieving process and now I realize that it was pretty damn obvious that I will die, everyone I know will die, any community or culture I could ever contribute to will die out, this human species will die out, and the Earth and everything on it will die – well, that’s just obvious, we all knew that, anyway.

DH: Yes, all of those things were true before the great hydrocarbon episode in humanity’s history. Arriving at that is an important part of the journey of making sense of what it means to be alive right now.

JB: I feel free of some forms of delusion, some forms of social pressure, and I am approaching things with fascination and playfulness.

And what I didn’t have over the past few years were fellow travelers and community, and now I’m realizing that I do need a community around this very realization that we’ve been talking about.

And what will emerge from that, I don’t know, but there will be love within it, there will be creativity within it, there will be a sense of wonder at being alive at this incredibly strange moment in human history.

• Jem Bendell is Professor of Sustainability Leadership at the University of Cumbria. He is now taking applications for full- and part-time PhD students to work on aspects of deep adaptation, to be located in Cumbria or remotely, with a start on 1 October, 2018.


Our troubled energy transition

SUBHEAD: Too little, too late. No longer are we faced with prevention so much as mitigation and management.

By Kurt Cob  on 18 March 2018 in Resilience -
(http://www.resilience.org/stories/2018-03-18/troubling-realities-original article.

Image above: In original article. Cartoon by Gerhard Mester (2013)  showing a race between renewable energy and fossil fuels. Speach bubble translation from German says "You are cheating by using an energy storage device". As if coal were not just a dirtier battery. From (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Energiewende-Rallye-Stromspeicher-Gerhard-Mester.gif).

I recently asked a group gathered to hear me speak what percentage of the world’s energy is provided by these six renewable sources: solar, wind, geothermal, wave, tidal, and ocean energy.

Then came the guesses: To my left, 25 percent; straight ahead, 30 percent; on my right, 20 percent and 15 percent; a pessimist sitting to the far right, 7 percent.

The group was astonished when I related the actual figure: 1.5 percent. The figure comes from the Paris-based International Energy Agency, a consortium of 30 countries that monitors energy developments worldwide.

The audience that evening had been under the gravely mistaken impression that human society was much further along in its transition to renewable energy. Even the pessimist in the audience was off by more than a factor of four.

I hadn’t included hydroelectricity in my list, I told the group, which would add another 2.5 percent to the renewable energy category. But hydro, I explained, would be growing only very slowly since most of the world’s best dam sites have been taken.

The category “Biofuels and waste,” which makes up 9.7 percent of the world total, includes small slivers of what we Americans call biofuels (ethanol and biodiesel), I said, but mostly represents the deforestation of the planet through the use of wood for daily fuel in many poor countries, hardly a sustainable practice that warrants vast expansion.

This percentage has been roughly the same since 1973 though the absolute consumption has more than doubled as population has climbed sharply.

The burden for renewable energy expansion, I concluded, would therefore remain on the six categories I mentioned at the outset of my presentation.

As if to underline this worrisome state of affairs, the MIT Technology Review just days later published a piece with a rather longish title: “At this rate, it’s going to take nearly 400 years to transform the energy system.”

In my presentation I had explained to my listeners that renewable energy is not currently displacing fossil fuel capacity, but rather supplementing it.

In fact, I related, the U.S. government’s own Department of Energy with no sense of alarm whatsoever projects that world fossil fuel consumption will actually rise through 2050. This would represent a climate catastrophe, I told my audience, and cannot be allowed to happen.

And yet, the MIT piece affirms that this is our destination on our current trajectory. The author writes that “even after decades of warnings, policy debates, and clean-energy campaigns—the world has barely even begun to confront the problem.”

All this merely serves to elicit the question: What would it take to do what scientists think we need to do to reduce greenhouse gases?

The MIT piece suggests that a total mobilization of society akin to what happened in World War II would have to occur and be maintained for decades to accomplish the energy transition we need to avoid catastrophic climate change.

Few people alive today were alive back then.

A somewhat larger group has parents who lived through World War II and so have some inkling of what such a mobilization would involve.

It’s hard enough to imagine this group agreeing that their household consumption should be curtailed significantly for decades (through taxes, higher prices and perhaps even rationing) to make way for huge societal investments in vast new wind and solar deployments; electricity storage for all that renewable electricity; mass transit; deep energy retrofits for buildings; energy-efficient vehicles; and even revised diets that are less meat-intensive and thereby less energy-intensive.

Even harder to image is the much larger group with a more tenuous or nonexistent connection to the World War II experience embracing such a path.

The trouble with waiting, of course, is that climate change does not wait for us, and also that it shows up with multi-decadal lags. The effects of greenhouse gases emitted decades ago are only now registering on the world’s thermometers.

That means that when climate conditions finally become so destructive as to move the public and the politicians to do something big enough to make a difference, it will likely be too late to avoid catastrophic climate change.

One scientist cited by the MIT piece believes that a rise of more than 2 degrees C in global temperature is all but inevitable and that human society would be “lucky” to avoid a rise of 4 degrees by 2100.

But since each increment of temperature rise will inflict more damage, the scientist says, we would be wise to seek to limit temperature rise as much as we are able (even though the odds are now overwhelmingly against staying below a 2 degree rise).

No longer are we faced with prevention so much as mitigation and management. That’s still something, and it provides a way forward that doesn’t rely on an increasingly unrealistic goal.

Image: Cartoon showing a race between renewable energy and fossil fuels. Text is in German. Gerhard Mester (2013). “Karikatur von Gerhard Mester zum Thema Energiespeicher und Konkurrenzbedingungen Erneuerbarer Energien.”  Via Wikimedia Commons.


The next chapter of the Fall

SUBHEAD: We love fires. We must quench them. It’s a very tall order, but nevertheless, here ends the industrial revolution. 

By Patrick Noble on 12 March 2018 for Feasta -

Image above: From original article. "Garden of Eden", by Izaak Van Oosten. See (https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/da/Izaak_van_Oosten_-_The_Garden_of_Eden.jpg).

Here’s my own picture.

I am a farmer and that is where my world begins. What is an agriculture? I say it is a culture of cities, towns and villages, bridges, roads, canals, harbours – of trades’ people and the trades, which have been created by the specialized cultivation of fields.

The industrial revolution was a revolution within agriculture – germinated by fossil fuels, so that today, nearly every culture on Earth is an agriculture.

\The farmer has a lot on her shoulders, because the greatest towering city, and all its goings-on, is utterly dependent on her crops – although in my Utopian picture, trades and pleasures of every kind bear their own egalitarian apportionment of the weight, so that the labors of fields gain new springs to their steps.

Farms disrupt natural systems. The more husbandries imitate and integrate with natural systems, so the less they disrupt – but still they will disrupt to some degree. Good husbandry reflects our ordered minds more than the complexities of nature. Nevertheless, it imitates, as best it can, the cyclic behaviors of organisms.

The highest crop yield will be achieved by the closest integration.

“You never enjoy the world aright, till you are clothed with the heavens and crowned with the stars”, wrote Thomas Traherne in the Seventeenth Century. To which the farmer pragmatically adds – and shod with soil fauna, shaded with green leaves, watered by clear springs and fed by lives we’ve fed in return.

I must note that true yield is output minus input – massive inputs massively reduce true yield, so that organic methods out-yield all others.

So, in attempting to do the best we can, we choose the least worst farming techniques. This is important to keep our humility and gratitude intact. It is also an important part of discussions on climate change.

There have been outrageous claims of carbon sequestration (so-called negative emissions) by a variety of farming techniques, such as grasslands, or organically-managed lands – or regularly-felled woodland, or coppice.

But the most these can achieve is a balance and that balance, given the flawed nature of all human practitioners is unlikely. As climate change accelerates and weather grows more unpredictable, so that balance will become still more unlikely.

Yet, we must grow food and timber. That is the dispensation – hunter-gatherers don’t need the dispensation, but we agriculturalists do. Claiming the dispensation, (for clearing natural forest) is a heavy responsibility.

We should call on it to the smallest degree we can. Some organic lobby groups claim that converting a lifeless cereal prairie to organic techniques will sequester tons of carbon as soil fauna returns. It is an arrogant claim and arrogance is a problem.

It is true that soil life will return – redressing a critical harm – but only to an optimum point, when the farmer can only do her best to maintain that near enough balance.

Organic, biodynamic, or perma-cultural methods do a fraction of the harm that so-called industrial techniques cause, but still, they disrupt natural systems – still, they create harm. Agriculture had disrupted for thousands of years before artificial fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and fungicides existed, but the atmospheric/terrestrial balance remained unaffected.

Some ancient cultures have carelessly mined their own good soils to the point when all that would grow were a few twisted olive trees… (That’s another tale of the pillage of empire.)

We gratefully accept the linear gift of sunlight to heal the wounds in our flawed agricultural cycles. We can claim the food/timber dispensation and continue without guilt as we’ve done for several thousand years, but we cannot claim to be reversing climate change We can only claim to be doing less to cause climate change than some others.

To end our contribution to climate change we must stop burning both fossil mass and living mass (biofuels) and also leave as much as we can of Earth, untouched by agriculture. Climate has been changed by fire. We can only heal it by quenching the fire. Personal sequestration claims, presented to excuse personal fire, do real harm.

An organic grower once claimed his (enclosed) carbon-rich soils pardoned his twice-annual holiday flights. Pshaw! Such self-help nonsense can be found in popular, monk-pardoner carbon footprint calculators. It was also delusively applied to the convenient projections of the Paris Accord.

The dispensation for farming is the growing of food. There is no dispensation for fire. Energy opulent ways of life will destroy themselves. Even an imagined and perfectly balanced farming system with a thriving soil fauna will do nothing in itself to mitigate climate change.

It will have minimized its agricultural disruption as a contribution to climate change, but it cannot go further – towards negative emissions. We must remove the cause – we must end the burning – for cultivation, processing, transport, electricity generation and heat.

If you are a grower or woodsman, would you be happy to shoulder those so-called negative emissions, which are the foundation of the Paris Agreement? That’s what’s expected of us – are you confident enough to accept them, when considering the happiness of your children?

Perhaps you boast the sequestration power of extensive grasslands? Are you sure? Who told you so? Was it a lobby group for pasture-fed beef, or an organic, consumer lifestyle magazine?

Farmers, growers and lumberjacks are supposed to recognize bullshit when they see it. The bullshit is everywhere – from green sources too. This is urgent. There is very little time.

The catalyst of climate change could ferment a new agricultural revolution as we leave those millions of years of sequestered photosynthesis to lie quietly in their strata. Negative emissions? – there they are. Leave them to sleep.

Instead, we can re-learn our parts in nature – a curious, inspiring, daunting, sobering, intoxicating, fearful, delightful, difficult, liberating and hopefully possible journey. Perhaps rage at what we’ve done, combined with humility at what we must do, may propel our first and diffident steps. Those first steps are not into the Garden. We remain outside in the Fall. Our steps imprint.

Only our hunter/gatherer cousins can walk lightly enough to stay in that original home. All great religions and philosophies narrate stories of the Fall and evolve codes to manage the journey – because, it seems, we are never properly settled. Agriculture is never quite at home.

Although our great resettlement can only come about by a mass personal change of all we personages, nevertheless we are social beings and need a vision of the greater moral of how and why we change. It is useful to have Utopia as a measure.

Of course, in turn, Utopia must have nature as its measure. The flaw in Utopia is myself. What’s more – Utopia is not the Garden – It is the best of all settlements of the Fall.

As we head towards the Utopian (unattainable) landfall, natural truths will be revealed by our natural mistakes – without the mistakes, we don’t find the truths, or the new methods. In that respect, I can consider my naturally-flawed nature to be useful. We learn because of our flaws.

Humility is also useful. “Ne never had the apple – the apple taken been – ne never would our lady – have been heaven’s queen – so blessed be the time – the apple taken was – therefor may we sing – Deo gracias”, people sang as they danced in the Fourteenth Century. Yes. People danced to religious songs then.

They were called carols… Of course, we could compose a dancing song for many aspects of the Fall – of passages from the ease of hunter/gathering to the labours of fields. We yearn for the ease of the Garden. Since that cannot be, we do our best to find a working happiness.

Natural truth will partially escape both myself and my Agricultural Utopia – that’s why scientific hypotheses are always wrong – overturned by new hypotheses.

Today’s accepted and peer-reviewed hypotheses will also be wrong. They will have emerged through cracks in our perception that allow the new light in. They remain useful and they remain flawed. Deeper commons – inherited moral truths are unchanged from pre-history.

The rule of return is one. We cannot take from soil which feeds us without feeding it in return. Deeper, both inherited and bequeathed commons contain contracts with nature as well as social contracts.

That’s why as a farmer I can take the sequestration claims of this or that research paper with a pinch of salt. I am outside the Garden. I am in Agriculture and its commons and I struggle to maintain something like a balance.

I know it daily. I see it in the deepening or paling green of my crops – the colours reveal the intensity – the rise and fall of the flow of life. They often reveal the flaws in my husbandry.

There is no perfect agriculture.

No agriculture – no food, or timber system can achieve “negative emissions”.

To pull back from catastrophic climate change we must remove the cause – we must remove fire from our culture. The linear gift of sunlight heals some cracks in agricultural cycles, but it can do no more – the flaws are intrinsic to practitioners – to me.

We love fires. We must quench them. It’s a very tall order, but nevertheless, here ends the industrial revolution. Machines replaced people. Now people can replace machines. That looks arduous, but it also looks liberating. Growers can take it to their hearts.

•  Authors note – I can find no peer reviewed research to consolidate my claim that these (peer reviewed) hypotheses are false –

First, that with unchanged practices, we can harvest a crop (none land-use change), burn it, return nothing to the soil, and yet still receive the same yield and photosynthetic power from subsequent harvests – that is from arable crops and from woodland destined for biofuels. Yet that hypothesis is the foundation of the Paris Accord. The author is a farmer and can say that all farmers presented with that same hypothesis would know it to be nonsense. Farmers test the hypothesis season by season. If we return nothing to a harvested field but gas and ashes, the subsequent harvest will prove smaller. It is plain that its photosynthetic power will also diminish. Biomass of soil fauna (sequestration) will similarly shrink. Energy from sunlight – sugars and then starch is plainly insufficient to compensate. I propose that we should regard solar energy as a part of an undisturbed system in balance – create dis-balance and expect consequence. Life has expanded from a small beginning only to its optimum point.

Second – Other peer reviewed papers calculate regenerated soil carbon on a continuous upward curve, if organic, or agroecological techniques are well-applied – as though the curve can eventually reach so called, negative emissions. As an organic farmer of over forty years’ experience, I can say that this is not the case. Optimum balances will be reached and then with the best husbandry, can be maintained. That “best husbandry” is critical – human weakness, bad weather and so on will intervene. A near-enough balance is our best hope.


The End of our Axial Age

SUBHEAD: The problems in the world today are so enormous they cannot be solved with the level of thinking that created them.

By David Anderson on 8 March 2018 for Counter Currents -

Image above: Illustration of a burning Earth. From original aarticle.

We are approaching the end of our Axial Age. Planet earth is warning us that our survival is conditional; that like any other organism alienating itself from the earth’s Biosphere, if we continue doing so, we will be rejected. Can we prevent this?

Yes, but only if we change the way we think. First we must fully accept a new reality: Planet and cosmos are one. We are not separate but are part of a rhythm that is in a sense “the mind” of that oneness.

The purpose of our lives must be redefined in this context by way of accepting new forms of thought that are concurrent with the forces of this planet and its rhythmic cosmic oneness.

We have reached a critical moment in human history. There is the possibility of a Sixth Extinction.

It is being caused by many of the Axial Age presuppositions that have been powering our thought process these last eight thousand years. We are now finding that they have come from the dark neurotic psychotic and self-destructive side of our human brain.

Past and recent history provide ample evidence of this. Today dysfunction societally within and between nations makes it obvious to the observer.

On the horizon is an even more ominous sign. It is the result of the ecological dysfunctionality of our world-wide economic system. In recent years it has become evident that this system is destroying our planet and is a threat to many forms of life on it, including our own.

The following essay will explore these issues. It will approach them by way of a discussion of the originating period from which we biologically emerged, the present Axial one and the one to come.

Here they are:
  • The period before our Axial Age
  • Our Axial Age
  • The period to come after our Axial Age
First a definition of the term “Axial Age.” Karl Jaspers, a German philosopher writing in the middle of the twentieth century gave us that expression.

It began during this period in Egypt along the Lower Nile (Alexandria to today’s Aswan in the South) and with the prophets of Israel in the Levant and with the philosophers Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle in Greece.

It also began in Asia with the age the Hindu and the Upanishad and the Buddha and Confucius and Lao-tzu, the philosopher whose ideas became Daoism, as well as with many others.

How critical today is it to have an examination of this change in human thought? It is very critical. It was more than just another biological evolutionary change. It was a philosophical/religious change that altered the thought process that had existed for over one million years.

It was a change that now in the twenty-first century could be spelling our end. Many of the most prominent scientists throughout the world are warning us that if we continue to think the way we think and live the way we live, there is a high probability we will be facing extinction.

These warnings go back to the early seventies when the World Bank warned of the possibility of a Methane Hydrate Feedback Loop occurring in the Arctic that would bring on another Permian Triassic kind of planetary extinction event. Scientists are now warning us of other possibilities.

The world refuses to acknowledge this. Yes, a few enlightened individuals here and there, but they with only limited influence. The general population lives in a cloud of optimism bias. Over past generations it has been our strength.

But now it has become our enemy. Because of this bias, few are able to grasp the fact that we humans have only limited control over Nature. For all our technological powers, we cannot escape the reality that we are subject to planetary forces beyond our control.

One reality we refuse to face is that we must reduce our population size. Earth’s supplies of habitable land, fresh water, arable soil, mineral resources at the present level are not able to satisfy our needs.

Another reality we refuse to face is that ocean acidification is threatening much of the marine food web. Rising carbon dioxide emissions since the Industrial Revolution have caused the oceans to become 30 percent more acidic. The estimate is 150 percent more by 2100.

Another reality we refuse to face is that Capital markets have grown to a size where they are energizing ecologically destructive forces of a magnitude never before seen in human history.

Negative externalities need to be measured and priced in up front so as to discourage, temper, or at the extreme eliminate trade.

Another reality we refuse to face is that religious extremism on a global scale is releasing deadly psychotic neurotic behavior with wide destructive social ramifications.

And we could go on with many others.

Where when do we begin? Far reaching changes must take place by the end of this century. They need to be of a magnitude like those that came with the beginning of our Axial Age.

All of human society has to change the way it thinks. The changes need to be political, social, religious, philosophical and economic.

And if there are no changes, what then? The suffering of future generations will be extreme. First, those billions of humans who are living on the edge of survival will perish. We are already seeing this die off in many parts of the world. Then, the pain will move onto the rest of society.

Planet Earth is saying to Homo sapiens, using its unforgiving evolutionary language of rejection; you must change the way you think and the way you live and you must do it now.

Is there a way for us to break out of this downward spiral? There is. First we must examine many of those existing Axial Age patterns of thought believed today to be “inherent truths” that have become our enemy.

The task will be daunting. It will require us to reinvent much of what we have believed to be sacred. We will have to change the way we think about everything; our lifestyles, our economics, our political systems, our social systems, our religions, ourselves.

Today’s patchwork of repairs and technological fixes will not suffice. A totally new societal design is called for; one leading to an entirely new societal structure, a structure designed whereby human activity can act in concert with nature itself. It will require a total metamorphosis of the twenty-first century human mind.

This new design cannot be implemented without first examining the core of our Axial Age weakness. It was a weakness that allowed us to alter our understanding of our relationship to Planet Earth and Planet Earth’s relationship to us.

The former horizontal transcendental relationship that had successfully guided our biological evolutionary development was abandoned. We moved away from an understanding of what we biologically and ecologically are.

We alienated ourselves from the Biosphere of this planet without recognizing that like any other organism within its Biosphere that alienates itself from the Biosphere, the end result is rejection.

So, here is the question: Can there emerge a higher level of human consciousness with voices saying that we are not separate from the cosmic realm but are a part of a rhythm that is in a sense “the mind” of the cosmic realm, voices redefining the cosmic and planetary purpose of the human species by way of this new form of thought?

Let me end this essay with a quote from Albert Einstein:

“The problems in the world today are so enormous they cannot be solved with the level of thinking that created them."

• David Anderson brings together a wide range of interests in his writings, namely; theology, history, evolutionary anthropology, philosophy, geopolitics, and economics. David is a graduate of Dartmouth College and the University of Hawaii (Harvard Asia Pacific) Advanced Management Program. Over his career he was an international risk manager and senior executive at several of America’s premier multinational institutions. During that period he became increasingly aware of the underlying cultural, institutional and religious causes of past and present civilizational dysfunction and conflict.
He has written three books. A fourth is near completion. It is about a necessary geo political, social, religious, economic paradigm shift for human survival.See:  http://www.inquiryabraham.com/new-book.html


Tepco Fukushima ice wall failing

SUBHEAD: The failure is bad news because the alternative is to release radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean.

By Tyler Durden on 8 March 2018 for Zero Hedge -

Image above: Diagram and plan of Tepco's Fukushima Daiichi ice wall plan to contain radioactivity. From original article.

It has been nearly two-and-a-half years since TEPCO decided to give its "Game of Thrones"-inspired frozen water wall a second chance, despite initially experiencing difficulty getting the temperature low enough to freeze the ground water. At the time, we questioned their sanity, but pointed out that "wasting" tens of billions of yen on the project would, at the very least, help out the region's badly damaged GDP...

...But today, with two years before the Tokyo Games, the Japanese utility company admitted to Reuters that the costly "ice wall" (more like an ice floor, it's essentially a ground barrier consisting of frozen soil) is failing to stop groundwater from seeping into the ruined nuclear reactors at the ruined Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant.

The wall's failure, among other factors, is preventing the company from removing all of the radioactive melted fuel at the site, where one of the world's worst-ever nuclear disasters unfolded seven years ago when a tsunami struck the area.

When the "ice wall" was announced in 2013, TEPCO assured skeptics that it would effectively limit the flow of groundwater into the plant's basement, where the water becomes contaminated with radioactive debris.

But since the wall became fully operational in August 2017, an average of 141 metric tonnes of groundwater has seeped into the reactor and turbines each day - worse than the 132 metric tonnes a day that seeped into the ruined plant during the nine months before the wall's completion.

That's far from the "nearly nothing" that TEPCO executives promised.

The unplanned groundwater seepage has delayed TEPCO’s clean-up at the site, the company said, and may undermine the entire decommissioning process for the plant, which the utility is tasked with cleaning up before the 2020 Olympics, though in reality, the process will likely take decades.

 The wall's failure, among other factors, is preventing the company from removing all of the radioactive melted fuel at the site, where one of the world's worst-ever nuclear disasters unfolded seven years ago when a tsunami struck the area.

When the "ice wall" was announced in 2013, TEPCO assured skeptics that it would effectively limit the flow of groundwater into the plant's basement, where the water becomes contaminated with radioactive debris.

But since the wall became fully operational in August 2017, an average of 141 metric tonnes of groundwater has seeped into the reactor and turbines each day - worse than the 132 metric tonnes a day that seeped into the ruined plant during the nine months before the wall's completion.

That's far from the "nearly nothing" that TEPCO executives promised.

The unplanned groundwater seepage has delayed TEPCO’s clean-up at the site, the company said, and may undermine the entire decommissioning process for the plant, which the utility is tasked with cleaning up before the 2020 Olympics, though in reality, the process will likely take decades.

What's worse, the continuing seepage has created more toxic water that Tepco must pump out and store in cumbersome containers. The company says it will run out of space for the water by early 2021.

One nuclear regulator who spoke with Reuters said he believed the wall had been oversold.
"I believe the ice wall was ‘oversold’ in that it would solve all the release and storage concerns," said Dale Klein, the former chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the head of an external committee advising Tepco on safety issues.
"The hydrology of the Fukushima site is very complicated and thus the exact water flow is hard to predict," he said, "especially during heavy rains."
Depending on the level of rain, the amount of water flowing into the ruined plant can fluctuate between 83 tons during a dry month to 866 during a typhoon.

A government panel blasted the ice wall on Wednesday, saying it was only partially effective. What's worse, the ice wall was supposed to be a crucial element of Japan's plan to show that it has the cleanup effort under control.

The failure is bad news for area fishermen, because the government's only other viable solution appears to be emptying tritium-laced water into the Pacific Ocean - which has angered locals, and probably should anger the international community as well.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Coverup 11/14/17
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Hot particle update 7/27/17
Ea O Ka Aina: E-Fukushima bosses on trial 6/25/17
Ea O Ka Aina: Tepco plan to dump tainted water 7/14/17
Ea O Ka Aina: Stop Fukushima as Olympic venue 5/10/17
Ea O Ka Aina: Continuing Fukushima danger 4/14/17
Ea O Ka Aina: Continuing Fukushima danger 4/14/17
Ea O Ka Aina: Stop Fukushima as Olympic venue 4/8/17 
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima worse than ever 2/5/17
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima radiation on West Coast 1/13/17
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima cleanup cost to double 12/9/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Tokyo damaged by nuclear pellet rain 9/24/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Nuclear Power and Climate Failure 8/24/16
Ea O Ka Aina: High radioactivity in Tokyo 8/22/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Nuclear Blinders 8/18/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima and Chernobyl 5/29/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima radiation damages Japan 4/14/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima's Nuclear Nightmare 3/13/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Fifth Fukushima Anniversary 3/11/16
Green Road Jounral: Balls filled with Uranium, Plutonium 2/19/16
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima impacts are ongoing 11/8/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Petroleum and Nuclear Coverups 10/21/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Radiation Contamination 10/13/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Radioactive floods damage Japan 9/22/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Fir trees damaged by Fukushima 8/30/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Japan restarts a nuclear plant 8/11/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima disaster will continue 7/21/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Too many fish in the sea? 6/22/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima prefecture uninhabitable 6/6/15
Ea O Ka Aina: In case you've forgotten Fukushima 5/27/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Radiation damages top predator bird 4/24/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukshima die-offs occurring 4/17/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Impact Update 4/13/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima - the end of atomic power 3/13/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Where is the Fukushima Data? 2/21/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Fuku-Undo 2/4/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima MOX fuel crossed Pacific 2/4/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima worst human disaster 1/26/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Japan to kill Pacific Ocean 1/23/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Japan's Environmental Catastrophe 8/25/14
ENE News: Nuclear fuel found 15 miles from Tokyo 8/10/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Earthday TPP Fukushima RIMPAC 4/22/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Daiichi hot particles 5/30/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Japanese radiation denial 5/12/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Entomb Fukushima Daiichi now 4/6/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Disaster 3 Years Old 4/3/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Tsunami, Fukushima and Kauai 3/9/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Japanese contamination 2/16/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Bill for Fukushima monitoring 2/9/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Tepco under reporting of radiation 2/9/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Fallout in Alaska 1/25/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima engineer against nukes 1/17/14
Ea O Ka Aina: California to monitor ocean radiation 1/14/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Demystifying Fukushima Reactor #3 1/1/14
Ea O Ka Aina: US & Japan know criticality brewing 12/29/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Forever 12/17/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Brief radiation spike on Kauai 12/27/13
Ea O Ka Aina: USS Ronald Reagan & Fukushima 12/15/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Pacific Impact 12/11/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Berkeley and Fukushima health risks 12/10/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Madness engulfs Japan 12/4/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Edo Japan and Fukushima Recovery 11/30/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Reaction to Fukushima is Fascism 11/30/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Radioisotopes in the Northern Pacific 11/22/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima cleanup in critical phase 11/18/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima fuel removal to start 11/14/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima, What me worry? 11/13/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Remove other Fukushina fuel 10/29/13
Ea O Ka Aina: End to Japanese Nuclear Power? 10/3/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima & Poisoned Fish 10/3/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fuel Danger at Fukushima 9/27/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Reactor #4 Spent Fuel Pool 9/16/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima is Not Going Away 9/9/13
Ea O Ka Aina: X-Men like Ice Wall for Fukushima 9/3/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima House of Horrors 8/21/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Apocalypse 8/21/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Radioactive Dust 8/20/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Cocooning Fukushima Daiichi 8/16/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima radiation coverup 8/12/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Leakage at Fukushima an emergency 8/5/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima burns on and on 7/26/13
Ea O Ka Aina: What the Fukashima? 7/24/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Spiking 7/15/13
Ea O Ka Aina: G20 Agenda Item #1 - Fix Fukushima 7/7/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima and hypothyroid in Hawaii 4/9/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Japan to release radioactive water 2/8/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima as Roshoman 1/14/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushia Radiation Report 10/24/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Fallout 9/14/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Unit 4 Danger 7/22/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima denial & extinction ethics 5/14/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima worse than Chernobyl 4/24/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima dangers continue 4/22/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima children condemned 3/8/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima fights chain reaction 2/7/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Tepco faking Fukushima fix 12/24/11
Ea O Ka Aina: The Non Battle for Fukushima 11/10/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Debris nears Midway 10/14/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Radiation Danger 7/10/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Abandoned 9/28/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Deadly Radiation at Fukushima 8/3/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima poisons Japanese food 7/25/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Black Rain in Japan 7/22/11
Ea O Ka Aina: UK PR downplays Fukushima 7/1/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima #2 & #3 meltdown 5/17/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima sustained chain reaction 5/3/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Ocean Radioactivity in Fukushima 4/16/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Japan raises nuclear disaster level 4/12/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima No Go Zone Expanding 4/11/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima to be Decommissioned 4/8/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Poisons Fish 4/6/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Learning from Fukushima 4/4/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Leak goes Unplugged 4/3/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Stick a fork in it - It's done! 4/2/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima reactors reach criticality 3/31/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Non-Containment 3/30/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Meltdown 3/29/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Fukushima Water Blessing & Curse 3/28/11 


Google aids Drone Assassinations

SUBHEAD: The "Don't be Evil" company is secretly aiding the Pentagon with AI technology for better killing.

By Jessica Corbett on 7 March 2018 for Common Dreams -

Image above: A mash-up of a US killer drone with the Google logo. From (http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/low_concept/features/2013/wargames/if_google_and_apple_went_to_war_what_side_would_obama_pick.html).

[IB Publisher's note: This website uses Google's Blogger software for posting and displaying articles. It has been free, uncensored, and stable for many years. It's too bad that software companies this widespread a line of products and so many users need to stoop to finding better ways to murder human beings. Is that what they must do to provide us with Google Search, GoogleEarth and Blogger?] 

Human rights advocates, tech experts, and critics of the United States' vast drone warfare program are outraged over the Google's secret agreement with the Pentagon—revealed in a pair of reports by Gizmodo and The Intercept—to develop artificial intelligence, or AI, that quickly analyzes drone footage.

Some critics pointed to Google's old motto, "Don't Be Evil," and the replacement, "Do the Right Thing," introduced in 2015 by Google's parent company, Alphabet.

The reports, published Tuesday, outline details of the partnership between Google and the U.S. Department of Defense's Project Maven that were recently disclosed on a company mailing list.

The internal discussion reportedly angered some Google employees, who Gizmodo reports "were outraged that the company would offer resources to the military for surveillance technology involved in drone operations" and pointed out that "the project raised important ethical questions about the development and use of machine learning."

The DOD's Project Maven—also known as the Algorithmic Warfare Cross-Functional Team (AWCFT)—launched last April, and "was tasked with using machine learning to identify vehicles and other objects in drone footage, taking that burden off analysts" who haven't been able to keep up with the amount of footage collected by U.S. drones.

A spokesperson for Google said the company provides the Pentagon with "open source TensorFlow APIs that can assist in object recognition on unclassified data," and insisted "the technology flags images for human review, and is for non-offensive uses only."

However, The Intercept noted—pointing to earlier reports about the project—that the purpose of the AI tech is "to help drone analysts interpret the vast image data vacuumed up from the military's fleet of 1,100 drones to better target bombing strikes against the Islamic State."

While Google's spokesperson added that the company is "actively discussing this important topic internally and with others as we continue to develop policies and safeguards around the development and use of our machine learning technologies," The Intercept also noted that "the military contract with Google is routed through a Northern Virginia technology staffing company called ECS Federal, obscuring the relationship from the public"—at least until it was revealed in Tuesday's reports.

Both reports also pointed out that Eric Schmidt, who recently stepped down as chairman of Alphabet, heads the Defense Innovation Board, a federal advisory committee established in 2016 "to encourage the military adoption of breakthrough technology," and which has developed recommendations for how the Department of Defense can better utilize tools from Silicon Valley to wage war abroad.

Gizmodo, citing meeting minutes, noted that "some members of the Board's teams are part of the executive steering group that is able to provide rapid input" on Project Maven, whose Pentagon director has expressed hope that the project will be "that spark that kindles the flame front of artificial intelligence across the rest of the [Defense] Department."


Getting Past Trump

SUBHEAD: Instead of spreading democracy, we were more concerned with protecting our global oil supplies.

By Richard Heinberg on 7 March 2017 in Resilience - 

Image above: "Democracy Now!.. Later" illustration. From original article.

Donald Trump’s 13-month tenure (so far) as president of the United States has been an exhausting sprint for onlookers concerned about the state of the global ecosystem and the fate of industrial civilization.

Nearly every day begins with a new outrage — whether Trump’s gutting of the Environmental Protection Agency, his announcement of the US exit from the Paris climate accord, his selling off of national parks, his opening of coastal waters for offshore drilling, his easing of regulations on fracking, or his seeking subsidies for coal mining and coal power plants.

 Among my environmentalist friends and colleagues, “Trump fatigue” is a real and common ailment.

But much the same could be said for millions of citizens who are only peripherally interested in environmental issues.

They awake each morning to read about the Stormy Daniels scandal, the Rob Porter scandal, the Anthony Scaramucci hiring/firing scandal, the Mike Flynn scandal, the James Comey firing scandal, the Tom Price scandal, the White House nepotism and security clearance scandal. The list could go on and on; who can possibly keep up?

The Tweeter-in-chief is monopolizing attention at a moment in history when there are plenty of other things we really should be attending to, including climate change, resource depletion, plastic pollution in the oceans, mass species extinction, the fate of US labor unions, racial and social injustice, and worsening economic inequality.

These are the sorts of unaddressed problems that could cause even history’s “greatest” civilization to crack up.

But the conversation never seems to get past Trump, who obdurately obstructs action on these issues while commanding everyone’s constant adoring or horrified attention through divisive words and actions.

Naturally, many people are speculating about how the Trump nightmare might end. Two possibilities include Democrats obtaining majorities in Congress in the 2018 elections and initiating impeachment proceedings, or a presidential resignation following indictments of staff and family.

But Trump may not be dislodged so easily: A war or terrorist incident could give him the pretext to at least partly shut down the apparatus of democracy (including the Mueller investigation).

An Italian friend reminds me that Trump shares many characteristics with Silvio Berlusconi — who, despite frequent scandals, has managed to dominate national politics in Italy for nearly 20 years.

While I’m not prepared to make a prediction about Trump’s fate (there are just too many variables and unknowns), I have come to an unpleasant conclusion: While Trump will certainly be gone at some point — whether next month or years from now — we’re never going to return to the pre-Trump status quo.

The system is irremediably broken. Trump is both a symptom and an agent of that brokenness. What we can do is begin to reconnoiter and assess our new, unstable, still-emerging reality.

To even begin to understand this new reality, it is first essential to recognize its context. The United States, and industrial societies generally, are approaching the end of a decades-long fiesta of rapid economic and population growth founded upon cheap fossil energy.

I’ve discussed this grand trajectory in several books, notably The Party’s Over and The End of Growth, so it’s unnecessary to go into much detail here, except to note that absolute production figures for oil, coal and natural gas (which have been rising in recent years) are less crucial than the accelerating decline in the amount of energy that society receives in return for each unit of energy it invests in procuring more energy.

This erosion of energy return on energy investment is unavoidable, given the method by which fossil fuels are harvested, with low-hanging fruit always being picked first.

Energy is the prime mover of civilization; therefore, as net energy declines, so does society’s capacity to build complex infrastructure, and increase production and consumption.

Everyone feels this diminishing systemic dynamism, but — since surprisingly few people pay attention to slow but decisive shifts in our energy economy — almost nobody understands it, including the most exalted economists.

So, feeling symptoms of malaise but unable to diagnose the cause, most people are driven simply to find someone to blame — whether Wall Street bankers, immigrants, international competitors (for the US, that would include China), “lazy” poor people, entrenched Washington lobbyists and bureaucrats, or “socialists” in the mainstream media.

The waning of the world’s energy return on investment isn’t a sudden development. Our energy regime grew, matured and weakened in stages. Back in the years when it was “great,” the US was the engine of the global fossil fuel power train.

Prior to World War II, it was the world’s top producer and exporter of petroleum; it was also the foremost producer of coal and natural gas. But that gradually changed.

In the 1970s, US oil and gas production began to decline (this was decades before the fracking boom — a subject to which we’ll return shortly); the nation was already importing more and more of its energy supplies.

In the 1980s, globalization began, and the amount of debt in the US economy started growing much faster than the economy itself. Real (inflation-adjusted) incomes of most US workers stagnated or declined.

Debt was effectively being used to purchase the services that energy provides, with the understanding that payment would be made later with interest.

The use of debt to mask flagging economic momentum is an old trick, and — as economists and historians have discovered — it works for only a relatively short time before precipitating financial collapse.

Parenthetically, some readers may be wondering whether renewable energy might shift the curve of falling energy profitability. Unfortunately, the energy return on energy invested for solar and wind energy systems, once energy storage to make up for intermittency is included, is probably no higher than that of shale gas or tight oil:

The energy return from commercial photovoltaic panels is estimated at 10:1 in most US locations (without factoring the energy cost of batteries), whereas during much of the 20th century, oil provided a 50:1 energy payback or better.

Further, according to one recent study, installation rates for renewable energy would need to be roughly 10-times current rates in order to accomplish the transition to solar and wind before fossil fuel depletion and climate change undermine the current global industrial system.

By the first decade of the new millennium, it was clear to quickly growing ideological groups on the further ends of the political spectrum that the US was headed off the rails.

An insulated and arrogant foreign policy establishment in Washington was initiating costly, disastrous, illegal and unwinnable wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (with later detours to Libya and Syria).

Government and private debt was accumulating to truly frightening levels, with entitlements like Social Security and Medicare on track to boost government deficits exponentially in decades ahead. Rates of annual GDP growth were slowly but surely dwindling.

Levels of economic inequality were approaching those of the fabled Gilded Age, when Marxists and anarchists riled the disgruntled masses. The nation’s manufacturing base continued to erode due to globalization.

Massive industrial and transport infrastructure, built mostly during the high-energy decades of the mid-to-late 20th century, was aging and rusting. Following the Vietnam War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, it became harder to feel pride in being an American.

Instead of bringing democracy to the world, we were more concerned with protecting our access to global oil supplies, distracting ourselves with comic book hero movies and exporting a culture of celebrity worship.

An empire, built on the extraction of nonrenewable energy resources and on domination of world trade, was losing its grip.

Understandably, blame for unmet expectations fell largely upon elites — whether in government, the media, academia, the financial sector, science or the arts. But resentment toward immigrants and other easily scapegoated minority groups was also increasing in some quarters.

Enter Donald J. Trump, real estate developer and reality-television star. According to later reporting by Michael Wolff and others, Trump — who lacked experience in electoral politics — had no realistic expectation of winning the presidential race of 2016; he mainly hoped to increase his visibility and the value of his brand.

This meant he was free to say anything, however politically incorrect or factually erroneous, to rouse his audiences.

Trump, with help from self-styled political theorist Steve Bannon, promised to destroy the “administrative state” — the human bureaucracy and mass of regulations that propped up the failing status quo.
  • He would “shake things up” by shredding global trade agreements and renegotiating bilateral trade treaties to the US’s advantage.
  • He would radically reduce taxes.
  • He would rebuild the nation’s fraying infrastructure.
  • He would reduce both undocumented and documented immigration.
  • He would prevent the US from getting involved in more needless, costly wars.
  • He would “drain the swamp” in Washington, DC. And by doing these things, he would “Make America Great Again.”
When, to nearly everyone’s surprise (reportedly including his own), Trump won the presidency, he found himself in a tough spot: His team did not include enough competent people to fill newly emptied positions in the various agencies of the executive branch of government.

The few available personnel consisted mostly of ideologues, hangers-on and fellow grifters — often evincing as little relevant job experience as Trump himself — as well as people avowedly dedicated to the destruction of the agencies to which they would be appointed.

Over time, the new president and his team generated more and more dysfunction, resulting in a string of firings and resignations. As government, it was a trainwreck; but as reality TV, it was as riveting.

Meanwhile, the status of the nation’s all-important energy economy was more hidden from view than ever due to the temporary spectacle of soaring US oil and gas production from fracking. Rates of domestic shale gas and tight oil production were soaring, leading the new president to speak of US “energy dominance.”

But companies specializing in producing these fuels were — and are — doing so at an overall financial loss, propped up by cheap debt and investor hype. Their inability to turn a profit is a clear symptom of eroding energy return on investment, but is rarely understood as such.

Inevitably, as interest rates rise and investors start demanding returns, the fracking bubble will pop even more quickly than it inflated.

What Trump has done politically is somewhat analogous to the country’s fracking frenzy. He spoke a politically forbidden truth — that the United States is headed toward the graveyard of empires; he then promised a return to “greatness.”

But just as fracking has failed to reverse the nation’s slide toward energy bankruptcy, Trump’s means of reviving its greatness (a budget-busting tax cut and divisive rhetoric) have only accelerated the US’s nosedive into economic, moral, social and political ruin.


Hawaiians removed from Wailua site

SUBHEAD: Sacred Kauai location to be re-developed as tourist resort despite Hawaiian claims.

By -

Image above: Three officers block access to the encampment at the former Coco Palms resort property last Thursday. From original article.

[IB Publisher's note:  "Authorities shut down a protest camp on the grounds of the famed Coco Palms Resort."That is the first sentence of this article and precisely represents the false premise of the American position on it's illegal takeover of the Hawaiian Islands in order to first achieve navel domination the Pacific Ocean and second, to make money anyway possible with the resources of the land. Some points to ponder - Number 1: tthe they state of Hawaii thinks it has authority over practices of Native Hawaiians on their sacred sites. Number 2: This site was been used for crass commercial tourism (built in part on the celebrity of Elvis Presley's movie "Blue Hawaii" until a hurricane Iniki destroyed the resort in 1992. The wreckage of the resort still stands at a choke point for traffic on Kauai. The con artists attempting to sell this project are pandering to unfounded nostalgia and greed.  Number 3: Thew site is low lying and will be a likely place to inundation as the oceans rise due to global warming. The best use of this land would be for native cultural practices (like growing taro) and to act as a natural wetland that might absorb future flooding and ocean rise... a state park comes to mind. Certainly, the last thing Kauai needs is more tourism jamming up the Eastside.]

Authorities shut down a protest camp on the grounds of the famed Coco Palms resort Thursday morning, ordering campers off the property and blocking entry by those who had lived at the site for weeks, months and in some cases almost a year.

Almost a month after a judge ordered the eviction in the case of two encampment leaders, 25 deputy state sheriffs arrived to clear the property. About a dozen Native Hawaiians claiming ancestral ties to the land had continued to live on the property, farming taro, keeping watch over ancient burials and hosting Hawaiian language classes.

Mahealani Hanie-Grace, 23, who had been living at the camp, was arrested Thursday on suspicion of trespass and booked at the Kauai Police Department, according to the Hawaii Department of Public Safety.

“We were under the assumption that the ejectment was pending,” said Ke’ala Lopez, 22, an anthropology student at Columbia University who has been sleeping at the camp since New Year’s Day. “So when you are under that assumption and dozens of police officers come in and block the road and take over your hale, it’s devastating.”

Lopez told Civil Beat she wasn’t sure what her next step would be.

“I truly believe this place is protected,” she said. “Coco Palms got destroyed by a hurricane and for 20 years that one hurricane kept it from functioning. Now there are developers wanting to start again and the kanaka have been called in to protect it.”

As a trio of law enforcement agents blocked access to the encampment, Noa Mau-Espirito, one of two defendants in a land ownership dispute with Coco Palms Hui, displayed a map of the former Coco Palms resort property and informed the authorities of his plans to relocate the protest camp outside the bounds of the land parcel that is subject to the court order.

“I’m just letting you guys know these two plots are considered unencumbered state lands so that’s where I’m going,” Espirito said.

Image above: Noa Mau-Espirito, a defendant in the land ownership dispute, displays a map of the resort property Thursday. He informed authorities that he plans to relocate the protest camp elsewhere on the property and outside the bounds of the land effected by a recent court order. From original article.

The dispute over the Wailua property’s ownership has lasted almost a year, stalling a planned redevelopment of the hotel where Elvis Presley’s “Blue Hawaii” was filmed in 1961.

Long before the resort popularized torch-lighting ceremonies as a mainstay of Hawaii hospitality, the property was the 19th century home of Kauai’s last queen, Deborah Kapule Kaumuali’i.

Chad Waters and Tyler Greene of the Honolulu-based redevelopment firm Coco Palms Hui say they are committed to reopening the site as the Coco Palms Resort by Hyatt with an estimated $135 million project that will pay tribute to the property’s storied heritage.

The resort has been closed since it was heavily damaged in 1992 by Hurricane Iniki.

“Coco Palms Hui LLC is grateful that this particular saga in the rebuild of the Coco Palms Resort is now history,” Waters said Thursday. “We look forward to the next steps with final designs, engineering, permitting and then starting construction.”

Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho issued this statement Thursday:
I empathize with our Hawaiian community in this very emotional dispute. As Mayor, I understand the cultural and spiritual significance of this property. But above all emotions, I understand that we must all follow and respect the law. The court’s recent decision is very clear, and I continue to encourage all involved to move forward in a peaceful and respectful manner.
See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Wailua Nui Update 2/2/18
Ea O Ka Aina: Okay given to destroy Paradise 6/10/17
Ea O Ka Aina: Coco Palms Good to Go 3/11/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Annals of pure bullshit - Coco Palms 6/22/14  
Ea O Ka Aina: Coco Palms Travesty 8/10/13
Ea O Ka Aina: Wailua Beach "Elephant Path" 12/22/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Wailua Bike Path Consideration  12/12/12
Ea O Ka Aina: Prehistory Wailua Ahupuaa 1/20/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Kauai Future 2020 - Part 1 1/18/10
Ea O Ka Aina: Hawaiian Ceremony for Wailua 11/11/09
Ea O Ka Aina: Preserve Wailua Beach 9/13/09
Island Breath: Annals of False Advertizing - Kauai Lagoons 3/18/08
Island Breath: Coco Palms Developers Break Promises 1/14/07
Island Breath: Coco Palms & Traffic Problem 3/1/06
Island Breath: Coco Palms Review 1/8/06
Island Breath: Kauai Coconut Coast Overdeveloped 11/12/05
Island Breath: Coco Palms Development 12/28/04


Dark America's Retro Future

SUBHEAD: Review of two books about the future of America by John Michael Greer.

By Fred Kaminski on 13 February 2018 in Resilience -

Image above: "Today" and "Tomorrow" maps of southern Florida illustrating a 10 meter rise in sea level modeled by NASA. From (https://www.inquisitr.com/4487834/florida-hurricane-map-sea-levels/).

Dark Age America: Climate Change, Cultural Collapse and the Hard Future Ahead
245 pp. New Society Publishers – Sept. 2016. $18.95.

John Michael Greer acknowledges that his aim with Dark Age America is an ambitious one. The book is his attempt to sketch out the likely course of industrial society over the next 500 years, with a particular emphasis on the United States.

Greer’s core premise is that our present civilization, like the late Roman Empire and the classic Lowland Maya before it (to name two examples), has overshot its resource base and is now in terminal decline.

Thus, it’s inevitable that in coming centuries, America, along with the world’s other developed nations, will descend into a dark age as harsh as any the human race has ever known.

What makes Greer confident in his ability to extrapolate out half a millennium is the wealth of information we now have about the fates of previous civilizations.

Greer is a historian, and one of his chief influences is the work of historical theorists like Oswald Spengler and Arnold Toynbee, who have demonstrated the existence of cycles in history.

Civilizations, these theorists have shown, move through a predictable cycle of emergence, growth, maturity, decline and death. What’s more, the latter stages of this progression are the most predictable.

While civilizations tend to be distinct from one another early on in their development, they become nearly indistinguishable as they fall.

As Greer eloquently puts it, “[C]ompare one post-collapse society to another—the societies of post-Roman Europe, let’s say, with those of post-Mycenean Greece—and it can be hard to believe that dark age societies so similar could have emerged out of the wreckage of civilizations so different.”

Greer’s portrait of dark age America begins with the legacy of extreme environmental degradation we’re leaving our descendants. Climate change, in particular, threatens to destroy enormous swaths of human habitat throughout North America.

Based on the available paleoclimate data, Greer predicts that the western half of America will eventually come to resemble the Sahara Desert, while the Gulf states will become increasingly tropical and the Gulf coast will retreat ever further inland. Most of Florida will become an uninhabitable saltwater swamp.

Regions that are currently centers of agricultural production will fail to produce sufficient quantities of food due to topsoil loss and unpredictable rainfall. And, as seawater floods the ruins of hastily abandoned chemical facilities, what few fish remain in waters off North American coasts will in many places become too toxic to eat.

Judging from the population declines seen in previous dark ages, Greer expects the present world population to fall by as much as 95 percent. However, he stresses that this won’t, contrary to popular imagination, take the form of a cataclysmic die-off.

Rather, it will be a gradual change that people will come to accept as the new normal. Industrial nations will find themselves in a situation in which their death rates persistently exceed their birth rates by small margins—say one to three percent per annum—and while this will add up over time, people will adjust.

“That’s the way population declines happen in history,” explains Greer, adding, “Vast catastrophes need not apply.”

In addition to depopulation, two other factors that will shape the demographics of dark age America are mass migrations and the formation of new ethnic groups.

Those migrating will be fleeing desertifying regions like the southern Great Plains and the Great Basin, as well as areas that are already desert today—and are inhabitable now only because of present-day technology—such as the Sonoran Desert. They’ll also be leaving flooded coastal cities and poisoned lands.

Greer sees the erasure of ethnic divisions occurring in stages, beginning with a period of heightened strife among various groups as the industrial economy moves through its death cycle and economic inequities worsen.

Beyond this phase, a chaotic melting pot will ensue as the institutions that maintain ethnic divisions fall away. The final stage will be one in which totally new ethnicities arise.

The politics of the coming dark age will be characterized by the disintegration of America’s current social hierarchies.

These hierarchies, argues Greer, are like any other form of social capital in that they have maintenance costs that must be met. Their maintenance costs consist of the minimum standard of living that the elites must provide to persuade the masses to continue going along with the existing order.

As a civilization’s resource base shrinks, it becomes increasingly difficult for the ruling class to provide members of the laboring class with a living wage. Eventually an uprising becomes inevitable, and the elites face a choice of going into exile or being murdered by bloodthirsty mobs.

This grisly cycle is, in Greer’s estimation, already under way in America. So far, the elites have responded to the growing unrest with a mixture of repression and complacency.

On the repressive end, Greer points to the excessive militarization of local police, together with the rampant civil rights violations being perpetrated by both mainstream political parties.

At the same time, the elites seem to have been lulled into a belief that nothing could ever unseat them from their privileged positions.

“They’re wrong,” admonishes Greer, “and at this point it’s probably a safe bet that a great many of them will die because of that mistake.”

Greer believes that as political leaders, members of the scientific community and other public figures grow more and more out of touch with the general population, people will increasingly gravitate toward strongmen in much the same way that the Huns revered the fearsome warlord Attila.

In the process, society will come to adopt a new, grittier worldview that does a better job of explaining people’s everyday experience than does the cheery narrative of perpetual progress.

The key takeaway from Greer’s chapter on economic collapse is that economic growth in late industrial America has passed the point of diminishing returns and entered the zone of negative returns. In making this case, Greer refers to a 2013 study sponsored by the United Nations Environmental Program.

This study concluded that the world’s top 20 industries would become unprofitable if they had to pay for the ecological harm they cause, rather than foisting it off onto the public as they do now. This damage may not appear on businesses’ balance sheets, but it still impacts the economy.

Greer cites the example of fracking firms that would rather dump their wastewater into the environment than safely dispose of it. Though this decision saves the companies money, it puts a drag on the economy elsewhere in the form of increased public health costs from disease clusters that spring up around dumping sites.

Eventually, negative externalities like these add up until they come to debilitate an economy. Greer believes that this is where we’re at now with today’s industrial economy.

But externalities are only half the story when it comes to explaining what ails the modern growth economy.

The other half has to do with the depletion of oil and other nonrenewable resources. We’ve now reached a point where many finite resources are in irreversible decline, and Greer sees this as spelling the demise of industrialization.

To support this conclusion, he cites a well-established principle of human ecology called White’s law, which says that a society’s level of development depends on how much per capita energy is available to it.

Greer’s term for the process of decline that sets in when a civilization lacks the energy it needs to sustain itself is catabolic collapse. The word catabolic refers to the way in which such a society begins feeding on (i.e., catabolizing) itself, just as an organism deprived of essential nutrients destroys itself by breaking down its own body tissues for energy.

A chapter trenchantly titled “The Suicide of Science” delves into the ways in which Greer sees the scientific profession sowing the seeds of its own undoing.

These include the profiteering machinations of the medical industry, the demonstrable lies that scientific experts regularly tell the public, the verbal abuse that outspoken atheists within the scientific community hurl at people of faith and the toxic legacy that industrialism is leaving for future generations.

Even without these considerable downsides to modern-day science, scientific research would still have a tough go of it, since the resources on which it depends will be desperately needed for necessities like food production and defense against barbarians.

In light of all this, predicts Greer, it will be a no-brainer for communities to decide to stop funding science altogether. Greer also sees laboratories and other scientific facilities being vandalized and burned down for the betrayal of public trust that they will have come to embody.

The book’s section on responses to the predicaments of early dark age America focuses on individualized, localized actions. This is in keeping with the conventional wisdom among collapse thinkers that large-scale institutions will be of no use, since it’s their vast scale that caused the crises in the first place.

Greer’s specific recommendations all speak to the need to proactively ratchet down our energy and resource consumption so as to be prepared for the lean future ahead.

Greer also encourages readers to learn all they can about the lived experience of Americans during other periods of crisis in our history, both by reading books and by talking with elderly relatives about their personal survival strategies.

As those familiar with Greer’s previous work are well aware, he’s now written numerous other books that cover much the same territory as this one does, but from differing angles. Given this thematic dovetailing, it’s impossible not to marvel at how fresh each new entry feels.

Nothing ever seems recycled in the least. Rather, each new book astounds anew with its erudition, literary panache and ideative exuberance.

Image above: Detail from cover art of the book " Dark Age America from the original article.

The Retro Future: Looking to the Past to Reinvent the Future
227 pp. New Society Publishers – Sept. 2017. $19.99.

These days, the word progress has come to mean deterioration far more often than improvement. This is the central tenet of The Retro Future, and it’s something that Greer believes we all sense at some level but aren’t yet willing to admit.

We can’t help noticing that each new software upgrade is more riddled with bugs and less user-friendly than the one before, or that consumer products across the board grow shoddier, less satisfactory and more dangerous every year.

Yet our faith in progress prevents us from coming to terms with these facts. It’s this faith that The Retro Futuresquarely confronts.

The book proposes that the world’s industrialized nations deliberately reverse course technologically as a matter of public policy. Greer reasons that this transition is bound to happen eventually anyway, as we lose access to the money, energy and other resources necessary to sustain our current level of technology.

Thus, it would behoove us to get ahead of the curve by bringing about the shift ourselves while we can still do so gracefully. The U.S. government could spur this change through simple revisions to the U.S. tax code, as well as laws that would limit our public infrastructure to technology from previous eras (say the 1950s or the 1880s).

This would drastically decrease the nation’s dependence on dwindling energy supplies, since ‘50s technology, for example, was far less energy-intensive than is today’s. It would also put scores of unemployed people back to work, as the technology of the ‘50s relied far more heavily on manual labor than does today’s.

The tax code revisions that Greer has in mind would, he believes, go a long way toward bringing about these changes. It’s currently more cost-effective for businesses to automate than to hire people, because automation comes with significant tax breaks, while human capital entails additional taxes in the form of Social Security, unemployment insurance, workers compensation and the like.

Meanwhile, as companies automate more and more, society bears the costs of caring for displaced workers through taxpayer-funded assistance, while the environment shoulders the burden of rising pollution from the machines.

The new tax that Greer envisions would transfer the responsibility for these latter costs back to the companies.

With humans increasingly replacing machines on assembly lines, the wage-earning class would return to something like its former prosperity, and nature would rebound as well.

A glimpse into how this might work out in practice can be gleaned by reading Greer’s 2016 novel Retrotopia (reviewed by me here).

Set five decades from now in a nation known as the Lakeland Republic—which is located in what is currently the American Upper Midwest—Retrotopia paints a picture of what life could be like if citizens were allowed to decide democratically what level of infrastructure they were willing to support with their taxes. This approach has yielded fantastic dividends for the Republic.

At a time when most other nations within the former contiguous United States are economic basket cases because of their continuing commitment to growth and innovation, the Republic is flourishing due to its decision to pursue “retrovation.”

If you’re thinking that this strategy amounts to depriving people of access to technology, you’re wrong.

Greer emphasizes that the type of public policy he has in mind would apply only to publicly funded infrastructure; individual citizens and privately held companies would be free to own and use more modern technologies, as long as they were able to pay for them out of their own pockets.

The biggest barrier to this sort of change is cultural; it has to do with what Greer calls “the heresy of technological choice.”

Our culture worships progress so absolutely that people harbor a deep-seated superstition against picking and choosing which technologies to use or not use. People are expected to embrace the entire gamut of modern-day technology, or else reject it just as completely.

Those who don’t fall in line with this expectation—by, for instance, refusing to own a TV or cell phone, while still making use of the Internet and electric lighting—face ridicule. Fortunately, the taboo against technological choice will eventually, Greer thinks, fall away as we begin to run short on the resources that make the industrial era’s signature technologies widely available.

For me, the most fascinating part of this book is one exploring the concept of “orphan technologies,” or those that outlive the civilizations that birthed them.

In the course of this discussion, Greer speculates that today’s hydroelectric dams could well become an orphan technology in much the same way that the ancient Roman aqueducts did during the post-Roman dark ages.

If this proves to be the case, the denizens of dark age America will, like the inhabitants of early medieval Europe before them who inherited the aqueducts, be the recipients of a great windfall. Despite lacking the resources or knowledge needed to construct it themselves, they will nonetheless be benefitting from a fully functional advanced technology left over from our time.

I have one minor criticism of both Dark Age America and The Retro Future, and it’s one I’ve leveled at previous books by Greer. Greer’s book material comes from his prolific output of blog posts, and his method is to write on a particular theme for an extended period, then weave the resulting posts into one longer work.

Though he does this masterfully overall, there are sometimes points in the finished books where the transitions between blog posts could be smoother.

For instance, in Dark Age America there’s a spot where he expresses the same idea twice, using similar wording each time, within the space of a couple of pages.

Before the shorter pieces became a book, a degree of repetition was appropriate, as not every reader of a given post would have read the one before. When translated into book form, however, this is problematic. Greer’s books also occasionally neglect to define terms introduced in his blog.

While his regular blog readers will have encountered these terms enough times to know their meaning, this doubtless isn’t the case for everyone who reads his books.

But the editing lapses described above are a faux pas of mere aesthetics, not of content. What really matter are the visionary perspectives on the future of humanity that Greer’s books offer in spades.

Image above: Detail of cover from "The Retro Future" from original article.