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Deep thought - May 15

Click on the headline (link) for the full text.

Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage


Kunstler and Orlov interview

KMO, C-Realm Broadcast (audio)
KMO talks first with James Howard Kunstler about his new novel, World Made By Hand. Next he speaks with Dmitry Orlov about the 5 stages of collapse and about his book, Reinventing Collapse: The Soviet Example and American Prospects, which has just been released. KMO closes the podcast with a reading on the difference between "breakdown" and "collapse" from Thomas Homer-Dixon's excellent book The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity, and the Renewal of Civilization.

Show notes: kmo.livejournal.com/351387.html
(14 May 2008)


Climate Change and Public Health

Brian S. Schwartz, MD, MS; Medscape Today
... At this year's APHA conference, presentations highlighting global environmental health issues included not only climate change, which has implications for temperature and the hydrologic cycle, but also elated issues occurring worldwide with health implications that are global in scale. These include land use (ie, the built environment, urbanization and sprawl), food production and distribution, water use, energy use (and the implications of entering the era of "after peak oil"), ecosystem degradation (eg, deforestation, desertification, declining coral reefs), and species extinctions. This report will summarize and build on 12 oral presentations presented in 3 sessions devoted to global environmental health issues.[1-3]

The Main Drivers Are Interconnected

Many presenters highlighted the interconnectedness among land use (the built environment), water use, food production and distribution, and energy issues, and how these have contributed -- alone and in combination -- to climate change, ecosystem degradation, and species extinctions. For example, increased land use over the past 3-4 decades has vastly outstripped population growth in the United States. This has resulted in a built environment characterized by suburbs that consist of low-density, single-use developments, with high-speed roadways and without walkable, highly connected street networks -- an environment centered on automobiles and requiring cheap and plentiful petroleum to keep the system moving.[4]
(May 2008)
UPDATE (May 15): You can register with the site for free.

The original is behind a paywall. Can be accessed by going through Google News.

Contributor Bill Henderson writes:
Somebody gets it: catastrophic climate change; interconnectedness among land use (the built environment), water use, food production and distribution, and energy issues, and how these have contributed -- alone and in combination -- to climate change, ecosystem degradation, and species extinctions; the "green revolution" in agriculture over the last 50 years was really about the increasing use of fossil-fuel energy to produce food energy; If we attempt to solve the energy problem by using oil sands from Canada, or oil shale from Colorado, climate-change-associated problems will most likely accelerate; It is crucial to help citizens "reconnect the disconnect" between current lifestyles and potential environmental effects in order to meet future challenges.


Our Tails Get In the Way: The Problems and Principles of Energy Descent

Sharon Astyk, Casaubon's Book
Let us imagine ourselves climbing up a rather steep and precarious tree, boosted up by fossil energies into a place we simply could never get to without them. The problems we are facing right now all originate in our fundamental inability to voluntarily set limits - that is, at no point did most of us even recognize the basic necessity of stopping at a point at which we could get down on our own, without our petrocarbon helpers. So right now we look like Tiggers high in the trees - we can climb up but we can’t climb down. Is the problem our fear or that our tails (our structural addictions to energy) get in the way? It can be hard to tell. But what is not terribly hard to tell is that one way or another, we have to come down - and probably quite rapidly. The goal is to avoid a painful “thud” upon descent.

Why do we have to come down? Well, there are two compelling reasons, which will be entirely familiar to my regular readers, but perhaps are worth rehashing. The first is this. We can’t keep burning fossil fuels - period. And we have very, very little time to make our choices. The evidence for this has been building up steadily over the last two years, but the paper that James Hansen presented a few weeks ago pretty much put the final nail in the coffin (and, for the record, confirmed the arguments that this writer has been making for a year or more) - the old targets for carbon reduction are far too high, and we are going to essentially have to reduce industrial emissions to near 0, and very, very soon.
(12 May 2008)


Navigating The Great Turning From Empire To Earth Community

David Korten, YES Magazine

Presentation at the Seattle Green Festival, April 2008

... When I was a student in business school my professors always told us. Go for the Big Picture. If you find a problem, don’t just treat the symptoms. Look up stream to find and deal with the cause. Although we face a daunting variety of problems, the big picture of the human confrontation with the reality of our Mother Earth becomes crystal clear once we step back and take a look upstream. This big picture has three critical elements.

The first element is environmental collapse driven by our relentless growth in consumption and population. From the perspective of our Earth Mother our human excesses have for millennia been little more than the normal nuisance one expects from children.

... The second piece of the big picture is an unraveling of the social fabric of civilization that is a consequence of extreme and growing inequality. A world divided between the profligate and the desperate cannot long endure. It intensifies competition for Earth’s resources and drives an unraveling of the social fabric of mutual trust and caring essential to healthy social function.

... We cannot grow our way out of poverty. The only way to end poverty and heal our social divisions on an already over stressed planet is through a redistribution of resources from rich to poor and from nonessential to essential uses. Ooops. Can’t you just hear the right wing wind bags? Hey, that Korten guy, he’s talking about equity. He must be a communist.

Actually I’m a proud American patriot. I grew up with the patriotic story that the United States is a middle class democracy without the extremes of class division that characterize other societies. That story once made us the envy of the world. Of course it was never quite accurate, but it expressed a beautiful widely shared human ideal that we must now reclaim.

... This brings us to the third element of the big picture: the governing institutions to which we give the power to set our priorities and our collective course. We might wonder how such injustice could happen in a world governed by democratically elected governments. The answer is simple and alarming. Our world is not governed by democratically elected governments. ...

David Korten is author of The Great Turning and When Corporations Rule to World. He is chair of YES! Magazine, where he writes frequently on issues of corporations and creating a living economy.

This is the transcript of his presentation on The Great Turning to the Seattle Green Festival, April 13, 2008.
(14 May 2008)


Looking for the Mouse in Media:
Clay Shirky on Deploying the Cognitive Surplus for Public Good

Jay Rosen, PressThink
Ever wondered: where’s the time going to come from for all these nifty open source ventures that people are planning? Well, Clay Shirky says we got plenty. He just gave an extremely useful and imaginative speech to Web heads about where we are in media time.

Shirky, who teaches at NYU but in a different program, has a new book out: Here Comes Everybody (“The Power of Organizing Without Organizations.”) This speech stands alone. You can read it here, but you should really watch him here- after absorbing this post. The clip is less than 15 minutes. It lets you think along with Shirky as he explains “the cognitive surplus” we developed during the age of TV.

This is a huge deposit of waking hours lived in front of the tube, a vast expanse of free time occupied for 40 years by commercial television. We’re at least starting to find the architecture of participation (Tim O’Reilly’s phrase) that would turn some of those couch-born hours into sentient activity, followed naturally by inter-activity, as in massively multiplayer games, which can lead (for some) to public works and social goods, as with “the online encyclopedia anyone can edit.”
(6 May 2008)
See next item.


Cognitive surplus now available for problem solving?

Clay Shirky, Web2Expo via blip.tv
(April 25 2008)
Text version at WorldChanging: Gin, Television, and Social Surplus .

Jay Ackroyd at Eschaton says
Amusing and insightful stuff from a guy with a shaved head named Clay. It's about the idea of a cognitive surplus that's been spent on watching the teevee as people adapted to an increase in leisure time. The time Clay and I spent in our youth watching Gilligan's Island and Green Acres can now be used to make wikis and lolcat bible translations.

Or commenting.

via Jay Rosen, pointed out by commenter J.J. at TIME's Swampland.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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