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Environmentalist Suzuki to quit spotlight for simple life

James Regan, Reuters via Yahoo!News
SYDNEY – Environmentalist David Suzuki, best known for his television programs on nature and the environment, is ready to step out of spotlight and live the simple life, lamenting that he has not had a greater impact.

Releasing what he insists is his “very last book,” a second installment to his autobiography, the 70-year-old Japanese-Canadian says he is looking forward to spending more time in the Canadian wilderness, carving wood and fishing.

He regrets that after decades of campaigning for everything from cleaner air to sustainable farming, his work has not had more impact.

“Nobody any longer knows what a sustainable future is,” the bearded, bespectacled environmentalist told Reuters in a recent interview in Australia to promote his book, “David Suzuki: The Autobiography.”

“I feel like we are in a giant car heading for a brick wall at 100 miles an hour and everyone in the car is arguing where they want to sit. For God’s sake, someone has to say put the brakes on and turn the wheel.”

Suzuki is no less passionate about preserving the planet than when his first series, “Suzuki on Science,” aired in 1969 but he wants more time for himself.

Over his career he has written more than 40 books, including the best-selling “Looking At” series of children’s science titles, and set up the David Suzuki Foundation.
(25 Oct 2006)
After decades of research, writing and speaking, Dr. Suzuki certainly deserves some time off. Burnout is a huge problem among activists – no matter how much you do, it’s never enough. One sees it already in the peak oil movement. Needed: patience, balance and a sense of humility. -BA.

Coping with Climate Dread

Bryan Zandberg, The Tyee
Enviro experts battle despair as doom scenarios roll in.
It’s not just crazy people with the sandwich boards anymore: a lot of level-headed professionals believe the end of our world is nigh. Some top scientists see global warming making much of the planet barely habitable within a few generations. Or sooner.

How then do experts who believe such dire findings, yet plug away at eco-sustainable practices, still find purpose in their work? What keeps them from succumbing to climate despair? Especially after yesterday’s much panned announcement by the Conservatives that Canada will wait at least 13 years before imposing “hard caps” on global warming emissions, and won’t see significant cuts before 2050?

“We’ve overshot,” sighs William Rees into the receiver at the other end of the line. “We’ve overshot the long-term carrying capacity of the planet to support human life.”

Rees is the father of the “ecological footprint” and a world famous professor at UBC. We’ve been talking about new studies that suggest that because of global warming, methane gas previously frozen under the Arctic permafrost is bubbling up and escaping into the atmosphere, forcing us into the arms of global meltdown faster than you can say the Book of Revelations.
(20 Oct 2006)
How activists keep going day after day – no easy answers. -BA

Solving the Problem of Mutually-Exclusive Overlap in Iraq

Jeff Vail, Theory of Power
…There are other problems with trying to translate the very limited success of erasing mutually-exclusive overlap in the former Yugoslavia to Iraq. But perhaps the one most worth mentioning is that much of the former Yugolsavia is locally self-sufficient. The Serbs and Slovenes and Croats generally have their own localized industry. Their own localized agriculture. Their own localized tourist revenue. They, for the most part, don’t rely on the dole. They are a geography of small cities, local markets, domestic production, and localized agriculture. Iraq is not. Iraqi population has exploded over the past decades on their oil wealth. They are fundamentally reliant on it. They are not agriculturally self-sufficient. They have virtually no export product beyond oil. So whatever region does not receive the share of oil revenue that they have come to rely on (and the Sunni Arab regions have traditionally received the vast majority), they no longer have the surplus necessary to maintain the standards that they expect. That they demand.

This is why, without an even distribution of oil wealth, there cannot be peace in Iraq–it is the classic problem of the “Arab Street.” Many young men on the dole who have no legitimate prospects to support themselves or their families. But with the lengthy history of oppression of the Kurds and Shi’a, these newly empowered groups will not accept their traditional, disproportionately small share of oil revenues. This is one source–probably the key source–of mutually-exclusive overlap in Iraq. And the Balkan model does not provide a solution here. This problem is only solved by moving the Iraqi economy away from its dependence on oil.

Can this be done? I think that it can, and I think that it is informative to look at why the former Yugoslavia was more successful in erasing mutually-exclusive overlap: its higher degree of localized self reliance. If Iraq is to ever erase this mutually-exclusive overlap, it will require a focus on creating localized self-reliance, not on some dream of establishing Iraq as a tourist center or manufacturing center–the solution must be possible within the zero-security environment that currently exists.

Anything that depends on first solving that security problem is getting the cart before the horse. Localized self-reliance–the ability to create a quality life on your own–is something that CAN be done in the current environment, and that CAN then pave the way to remove the reliance on oil and reduce the criticality of the existing oil-based mutually exclusive overlap.

I have only seen one example of this actually taking place: Geoff Lawton’s excellent, Middle East permaculture initiatives. With his wife Nadia he has worked to create local self-reliance in Jordan.
(25 Oct 2006)
Jeff Vail has a talent for bringing together seemingly unrelated ideas: military strategy, permaculture, rhizomes… The result is always stimulating. -BA

Sail Transport Network’s presentation at Bioneers By The Bay

Dmitry Orlov, Culture Change
Culture Change Editor’s note: The Marion Institute held its well-attended Bioneers By The Bay conference at the University of Massachusetts – Dartmouth from October 20-22, 2006. As part of Jan Lundberg’s workshop “Petrocollapse and Mitigations for the U.S. Northeast,” Dimitry Orlov presented the fast-advancing concept of sail power as a practical system for offering coastal and global travel when fuel prices and supplies are prohibitive for land and air transportation.

Under sail, the volume of travel would be vastly decreased compared to today, as would trade-transport volume. But sail power can provide some minimum basis for travel, cultural exchange and trade, using renewable energy and, eventually, using all renewable materials. Here is Orlov’s talk, which was accompanied by a slide show of tables, talking points and photographs, incorporated herein:

Hello everyone! My name is Dmitry Orlov. You may have run across some of my articles if you have visited Web sites such as,,, or

A couple of years ago, I published an article on FromTheWilderness titled “Post-Soviet Lessons for a Post-American Century.” It made some predictions about the United States based on my experience of the Soviet Collapse. I hadn’t set out any particular timeline for these predictions, but some of them have already started coming true. Contrary to what you might expect, this doesn’t make me particularly happy. I’d much prefer to be proven wrong, but I suppose that’s too much to ask. But, in essence, if you’ve seen one blundering superpower, you’ve seen them all, and I prefer to move on to more positive things.

And so, I am here to talk about our plans for the Sail Transport Network, which Jan Lundberg tried to launch some years ago, and which we would like to re-launch now. Right now, it’s still very much in the drawing board stage, but we do have a concept that seems promising. I will present an outline of this concept later on in this talk, but, to start with, I’d like to say a few words about sailing and sailboats in general. As you will see, sailboats have been very much marginalized, but this will have to change.

About a year ago, I decided to try to make some positive changes in my life, and, if possible, around me as well. And so I became interested in sailboats. Sailboats, of the serious, ocean-going variety, are either a very extravagant hobby or a really cheap way to live and travel. Few people can afford to own real estate free and clear, but most people can afford to own a boat, provided they live on it.
(2x Oct 2006)

CSIRO Sustainability Network Newsletter
(494-KB PDF)
Elizabeth Heij editor, CSIRO
Contents of this issue:

  • Sustainable infrastructure: transport, energy & water – doing more with less by applying eco-efficiency principles;

  • Crude assumptions – the state of the ‘peak oil’ debate;
  • Climate change: scarier than we thought?;
  • Flexibility – the key to our energy future;
  • Too many people – the topic everyone runs from;
  • The wicked waste of war machines;
  • Trend alert – “contraction & convergence”;
  • Feedback on natural resource management in agriculture.

(30 Oct 2006)