Deep thought - Mar 8
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Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage
The New Green Deal of 2009
David Room, Stardust Localizing
The incoming US Federal administration of 2009 will have an important opportunity to launch a New Green Deal that promotes locally directed efforts to solve many of our urgent problems. This is a time of economic and environmental crisis, and we need to demonstrate authentic leadership in pursuit of a vibrant, healthy society that is sustainable and equitable. A New Green Deal can address domestic economic, social and ecological problems in a way that also has a positive impact on foreign policy and relations.
The New Green Deal focuses on developing basic requirements for moving towards sustainability such as green collar jobs, regional ecological restoration, and inclusion of under-represented communities. Its mission is to enable comprehensive long-lasting social, economic and natural resource policies. The New Green Deal can become the foundation for healthy, productive domestic programs that reduce our nation’s oil dependence and provide proactive responses to global warming.
The New Green Deal’s founding principle is there needs to be regional improvements to local conditions and carried out by local people, businesses, and communities. This means the overall approach to accomplishing programs will vary according to the places where applied: New York City will have a different emphasis than Los Angeles, and Puget Sound from Chesapeake Bay. The New Green Deal should then be applied in five general directions:
1. Survey, inventory and evaluation of local/regional renewable and non-renewable assets. These include but are not limited to food, water, energy sources, building materials and methods, open space, and transportation alternatives with an emphasis on a North American, inter-regional railway system.
2. Public participation in designating and implementing priorities for projects and activities.
3. “True cost” analysis to evaluate and select the most sustainable alternatives.
4. Green Collar employment programs in the following areas:
a) Ecosystem restoration,
b) Remanufacturing that maximizes use of recyclable and/or post-consumer materials,
c) Renewable energy production and use,
d) Regionally-based sustainable agriculture,
e) Converting all wastes into resources,
f) Water conservation and reuse,
g) Energy efficiency,
h) Green building, living roofs, and landscaping,
i) Ecology and conservation education,
j) And special Green Collar job training programs in vulnerable communities.
5. Create or transform governmental institutions and agencies with policies that promote localization and embody principles of sustainability.
*A genuine “stimulus package”, on the scale of the 1930’s New Deal, for the present day. The New Green Deal promotes positive programs to replace catastrophic activities that underlie climate change, economic inequities, water and food shortages, habitat destruction, and species extinction.
(3 March 2008)
"The Localizing Conversation in the Bay Area"
Can We Survive? (Part 1)
The Challenges Required to Deal Effectively with Global Warming
Stephen Paley, George K. Oister, and Richard T. Hull; Council for Secular Humanism
Stephen Paley is a physicist, and George K. Oister, who died while this article was being prepared, was an electronics engineer. They spent most of their professional careers in research, development, and technical management for multinational corporations, defense contractors, and small high-tech companies, at which they contributed to the development of several important new technologies. Richard Hull, trained as a philosopher, has participated in the development of some technologies with Paley and Oister, chiefly as an investor.
Four significant and interconnected physical problems are likely to reach critical stages over the next two decades. They are:
* Global warming and environmental degradation
* Depletion of key resources including oil, gas and potable water
* Pollution caused by use of fossil fuels with current technologies
* A world population that has grown beyond Earth’s carrying capacity (which exacerbates the first three problems)
Keeping these problems within tolerable limits will require defining the actions that must be taken and the sequence in which they must be taken, followed by rapid deployment of the largest set of integrated, knowledge-based changes the world has ever seen. Included in these changes is the deployment of certain “survival” technologies. Much of this article will discuss fundamental impediments to their creation, adoption, and deployment.
The compartmentalization of knowledge, along with various cultural, economic, and business realities, has created a severely limited understanding of the changes necessary for our survival, and has also delayed implementation of those changes. These realities are:
* Economic self-interest
* Profit motive as the sole determinant of action
* Lack of appropriate institutions to promote and manage the required changes
* Limitations on the range of practical solutions that experts can create, often imposed by their own specializations
* Limitations associated with (nonexpert) decision makers who formulate decisions that require expert knowledge
We suggest that an institution be created and designed to orchestrate solutions to the first three of the four problems above. The institution’s role regarding the fourth, overpopulation, would be to promote understanding of the need for population reduction as necessary for human survival and to help create improved birth-control technology that might make that possible.
(4 March 2008)
The Elephant In The Room
Norman. J. Church, Counter Currents
... we have a spectrum for the use of the term "sustainable." At one end of the spectrum, the term is used with precision by people who are introducing new concepts as a consequence of thinking profoundly about the long-term future of the human race. In the middle of the spectrum, the term is simply added as a modifier to the names and titles of very beneficial studies in efficiency, etc. that have been in progress for years. In some cases the term may be used mindlessly (or possibly with the intent to deceive) in order to try to shed a favourable light on continuing activities that may or may not be capable of continuing for long periods of time.
... If the population does exceed the carrying capacity, the death rate will increase until the population numbers are stable. Using these criteria it is obvious that the current human population is not sustainable.
In the entire environmental-related discussion taking place, population is a word we seldom dare to speak and it is conspicuous by its absence: Population is the elephant in the room.
... Each of the global problems we face today is the result of too many people using too much of our planet's finite, non-renewable resources and filling its waste repositories of land, water and air to overflowing.
... UK population growth is environmentally unsustainable, and if it is environmentally unsustainable it is also economically unsustainable, for without ecologically healthy land our economy will not be able to support its own people without causing damage to the environment.
Today, the UK population is about 62 million and is one of the most crowded areas in the world. In 1750, when the Industrial Revolution was beginning, it was about 6 million. It had never exceeded this figure, although during the Dark Ages and after the Black Death it fell to one or two million.
Most people lived and died in poverty. Pre-industrial farmers were pushed to the limit to feed so many. The population increased slightly in years with good harvests, but starvation and malnutrition cut it back to the 6 million norm when harvests were bad.
... The UK has until recently been one of the most resilient economies in the world. Over the last 100 years, it has survived two world wars, staged spectacular economic recoveries, been blessed with energy resources, and evolved from manufacturer to the world into a service economy. But the position in which it now finds itself looks bleaker.
The UK is no longer a net exporter of oil and gas, and though rising prices will in the short term mitigate the impact of this reversal, its trade deficit in goods and services continues to widen. Domestic energy substitutes are unlikely to be able to support current levels of economic activity, and the insecurity of energy imports and import prices is already evident.
Of all the problems that we have to face right now the convergence of Peak Oil, Climate Change and economic instability are probably the most crucial issues we face.
(6 March 2008)
Contribuor Norman Church has written for Energy Bulletin. He covers most of the bases in this long article.
I find that there are two limitations to the ecological concept of carrying capacity when applied to humans. Human beings, unlike frogs or paramecium, have the ability to change their technology and sociology. Thus the carrying capacity for humans is a fluid notion. The classical example of technology is that a much greater number of humans can be supported in an agricultural society as opposed to a hunter-gatherer society.
As for sociology, much of the wealth produced by society is consumed in war, and in luxuries for the upper strata of society. Different organizations of society will mean different carrying capacities. -BA
Review: Path Through Infinity's Rainbow
Personal Survival In A World Gone Mad
Carolyn Baker, Truth to Power
The Path Through Infinity's Rainbow: Your Guide To Personal Survival and Spiritual Transformation In A World Gone Mad
... Lest the reader erroneously infer from the words "infinity's rainbow" that either of these books are pieces of abstract, airy-fairy fluff, I hasten to assure you that they are not. Mike Byron is a professor of political science and history and in my opinion, has critically analyzed the complex relationships between the monumental issues of our time: Peak Oil, climate chaos, and the economic sea changes that "a world gone mad" is forcing us to address. In his words, The Path Through Infinity's Rainbow offers a guide to: "Navigating the coming years of crisis; surviving and transforming our world; and participating in the creation of a new, sustainable economy."
... In Chapter 2, Byron states that "While learning is always continuing on an incremental basis, it is existential crisis alone that actually compels fundamental change if collapse is to be avoided." (20) I would argue, as does Byron in a later chapter, that collapse cannot be avoided because it is well underway
... Memes lead to a common view of reality that results in a common culture. Thus, it seems to me that one of the basic causes of the collapse of Western civilization lies in the commonly accepted memes which have engendered stories that have brought us to where we are: that humans are superior to the other-than human world; that our survival depends on unrestricted, indiscriminate growth; that profit is more important than people and the earth community; that nature's abundance-which we have come to call "resources" are infinite and that humans have a fundamental right to privatize, use, control, and squander them. Collapse will unequivocally alter these assumptions and cause humans to create very different stories from the ones that have formed the underpinnings of empire.
But not only must the stories be changed, according to Byron, so must how we do things, and most importantly, "we must also fundamentally change ourselves." (23) Out of the ashes, he believes, could rise a sustainable civilization. While I agree, I also cannot imagine this happening in the short span of a few decades but rather requiring at least centuries.
... Consistent with similar advice offered by Dmitry Orlov in his new book Re-Inventing Collapse, recently reviewed by me at this site, Byron suggests residing in an intermediate-sized community that has adequate resources for food and water and that is detached from large urban centers. Although extreme isolation in a rural area may at first feel safer, both Byron and Orlov note the "safety in numbers" factor of which those attempting to navigate collapse must be aware.
A fabulous "Be Prepared" section (149-151) offers specific advice for survival and sustainability in real time, life-threatening situations. This section is a no-nonsense regimen that would make any seasoned Boy Scout proud and that one would want to post on one's refrigerator prior to collapse and carry in one's pocket afterward.
(6 March 2008)