Our tangled web - March 26
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Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage.
Obama administration announces massive coal mining expansion
Glenn Hurowitz, Grist5
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced yesterday an enormous expansion in coal mining that threatens to increase U.S. climate pollution by an amount equivalent to more than half of what the United States currently emits in a year. A statement from Wild Earth Guardians, Sierra Club, and Defenders of Wildlife put the announcement in perspective:
When burned, the coal threatens to release more than 3.9 billion tons of heat-trapping carbon dioxide, equal to the annual emissions from 300 coal-fired power plants, further cementing the United States as a leading contributor to climate disruption ... Salazar’s announcement is a stark contrast to his call for clean energy. Interior, for example, touted that in 2010, 4,000 megawatts of renewable energy development were authorized. And in today’s press conference, Secretary Salazar announced Interior’s intent to authorize more than 12,000 megawatts of renewable energy by the end of next year ... Yet in opening the door for 2.35 billion tons of coal mining, Salazar’s announcement effectively enables more than 300,000 megawatts of coal-fired energy -- 30 times more dirty energy development than renewable energy.
In other words, despite his administration's rhetorical embrace of clean energy, Obama is effectively using modest wind and solar investments as cover for a broader embrace of dirty fuels. It's the same strategy BP, Chevron, and other major polluters use: tout modest environmental investments in multi-million dollar PR campaigns, while putting the real money into fossil fuel development.
(23 March 2011)
Leading Climatologist on Fukushima (Germany)
Katrin Elger and Christian Schwägerl, Der Spiegel online
'We Are Looting the Past and Future to Feed the Present'
Leading German climate scientist Hans Joachim Schellnhuber talks to SPIEGEL about the lessons of the Fukushima disaster, the future of nuclear energy in Germany and why our society needs to be transformed. "We consume as much oil in one year as was created in 5.3 million years," he warns.
SPIEGEL: Who or what is to blame for the nuclear catastrophe in Fukushima?
Hans Joachim Schellnhuber: The earthquake was merely the trigger. The crazy logic we apply in dealing with technical risks is to blame. We only protect ourselves against hazards to the extent that it's economically feasible at a given time, and to the extent to which they can be controlled within the normal operations of a company. But the Richter scale has no upper limit. Why is a Japanese nuclear power plant only designed to withstand a magnitude 8.2 earthquake, not to mention tsunamis?
SPIEGEL: Presumably because otherwise electricity from nuclear power would have been too expensive.
Schellnhuber: The entire affluence-based economic model of the postwar era, be it in Japan or here in Germany, is based on the idea that cheap energy and rising material consumption are supposed to make us happier and happier. This is why nuclear power plants are now being built in areas that are highly active geologically, and why we consume as much oil in one year as was created in 5.3 million years. We are looting both the past and the future to feed the excess of the present. It's the dictatorship of the here and now.
SPIEGEL: What's your alternative?
Schellnhuber: We have to stop constantly ignoring the things that are truly harmful to our society. This includes nuclear accidents, but also the prospect of the Earth becoming between 6 and 8 degrees Celsius (11 to 14 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer by the year 2200. Only when we have taken the possibility of maximum losses fully into account can we decide whether we even want a specific technology.
SPIEGEL: Up until now, you haven't been one of the vocal opponents of nuclear power.
Schellnhuber: But neither was I a supporter of nuclear power. My position was: Let's take advantage of the cost benefits of the existing nuclear plants to quickly develop renewable energy systems. It was my hope that something good would emerge from something bad.
(23 March 2011)
How to Boil a Frog excerpt - "Exponential Curves"
Jon Cooksey, YouTube
An excerpt from the comedy documentary "How to Boil a Frog". This is the intro to the 5 Big Problems section, with Jon Cooksey playing the Embittered Engineer Guy, one of many characters he plays in the movie. The 5 Big Problems are followed by the 5 Big Solutions and a big steaming side dish o' satire.
(23 March 2011)
Carolyn Baker interview (audio and transcript)
Alex Smith, Radio Ecoshock
Navigating the Chaos - Now More Than Ever
... Eight years ago when Carolyn Baker started talking about a developing crisis in civilization, she was criticized, even rejected by some, as a fringe personality. Why would an adjunct professor of history and psychology and a former psychotherapist start talking like that?
Now Carolyn Baker is at the center of the Transition movement in America, people seek her out to help them understand a bankrupt economy, rising oil and food prices, and a crazy climate. They want to know what to do and how to cope personally. She’s a tireless teacher, news organizer, analyst, and communicator. Radio Eco-Shock talked with Carolyn Baker about a year ago in March, 2010. Now she’s back with a helpful new book called "Navigating The Coming Chaos: A Handbook For Inner Transition".
CB: ... we can never prepare ourselves fully, but if we now start tuning in to how this collapse feels right now, it’s going to help us in the future to navigate these things emotionally and spiritually as well as intellectually.
AS: Boy you stimulated a lot of thinking me right now. I’m thinking of people digging out from the extreme precipitation events in the Northeast with all that snow. They’re angry. You’ve got people who may be 48 years old. They had a good career, good house, now they’re out of work, and nobody wants them anymore, so the American way of life is just something in the past for them. They’re moving into a motor home, maybe, if that. There’s going to be, and there already are, a lot of upset people. It’s going to be, even for those of us who are hanging on, who have a job still, it’s going to be painful to see this happen to our society.
CB: Absolutely, and I’m not a person who says, “Well, let’s never have any fun” because I’m a great advocate for joy and fun and play, and I love that as much as anyone else, AND this culture has become addicted to feeling good. Well, a lot of things are happening around us right now that do not feel good, and as those things intensify in the future, it’s going to feel even worse. And I have a section in my new book Navigating The Coming Chaos on dealing with the dark emotions.
There’s a wonderful psychologist who lives in the Northeast, her name is Miriam Greenspan, and she has written a wonderful book called "Healing Through The Dark Emotions". How do we befriend our grief, anger, despair, fear and other emotions in this coming chaos? How do we manage our anger, fear, terror, and despair? And how do we cultivate compassion and also cultivate courage in the face of all these events?
You know, Americans haven’t wanted to look at unpleasant emotions, but now we’re being forced to. And along side that, I strongly advocate implementing ways in our lives of creating joy, creating beauty. I’ve talked with some people recently who’ve said, 'Yeah, it takes a lot of work to prepare for the future, but it’s also sometimes a lot of fun because we do this with our community, and we develop a sense of camaraderie and taking care of each other, and in the process sometimes, we just downright have fun.'
CB: I perceive this transition as a cultural initiatory experience such as we see in traditional, indigenous societies where there’s a rite of passage for young people from childhood to adulthood, and I see that as what is happening externally in our world with this huge transition.
We are going through an initiatory experience as human beings. We don’t know what the other side is going to look like, but we know from initiations that we’ve studied in other cultures that the person going through the initiation is profoundly transformed, and something in them shifts to a place of maturity and adulthood where they never see the world the same again. So as they go through that process, the whole situation is created for them and guarded for them, and they are protected as they go through this by tribal elders.
And so I see us as a culture going through this initiatory experience, and we need to have people who have been around for awhile studying this transition and have been preparing on deeper levels who can hold the space for the culture as it goes through this. So whether you’re 28 or 58 or 88, you can be an elder in this process for the rest of the culture.
(22 March 2011)