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A roundup of news, views and ideas from the main stream press and the blogosphere.  Click on the headline link to see the full article.


Recession rather than shale gas caused US carbon cuts – study

Simon Evans, The Carbon Brief
It is a truth almost universally acknowledged that the shale gas revolution has led to a fall in US emissions. But what if that wasn’t true?

New research published in Nature Communications suggests it was the global financial crisis, not fracking, that has done most to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the US.

The paper concludes:

"After 2007, decreasing emissions were largely a result of economic recession…substitution of gas for coal has had a relatively minor role."

Carbon Brief looks at the findings, and why they could be politically significant…

Link to report abstract


Study shows more hospital stays in three fracking counties

Brendan Gibbons, The Times-Tribune, Scranton
Researchers comparing hospital visits in three rural Northeast Pennsylvania counties found a higher rate of hospital visits in counties with a heavy gas industry presence.

Residents of heavily drilled Bradford and Susquehanna counties were admitted to hospitals at higher rates than in neighboring Wayne County where drilling is banned, University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University researchers stated in a paper published in the peer-reviewed PLOS One scientific journal last week.

The researchers used hospital-reported inpatient data from 2007, when drilling began, to 2011, the latest year available, said Penn Medicine researcher Dr. Reynold Panettieri Jr., one of the study’s authors…

Link to press release


Earth’s Most Famous Climate Scientist Issues Bombshell Sea Level Warning

Eric Holthaus, Slate
In what may prove to be a turning point for political action on climate change, a breathtaking new study casts extreme doubt about the near-term stability of global sea levels.

The study—written by James Hansen, NASA’s former lead climate scientist, and 16 co-authors, many of whom are considered among the top in their fields—concludes that glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica will melt 10 times faster than previous consensus estimates, resulting in sea level rise of at least 10 feet in as little as 50 years. The study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, brings new importance to a feedback loop in the ocean near Antarctica that results in cooler freshwater from melting glaciers forcing warmer, saltier water underneath the ice sheets, speeding up the melting rate. Hansen, who is known for being alarmist and also right, acknowledges that his study implies change far beyond previous consensus estimates. In a conference call with reporters, he said he hoped the new findings would be “substantially more persuasive than anything previously published.” I certainly find them to be…


NOAA State of the Climate report: Which seven records were broken in 2014?

Robert McSweeney, Carbon Brief
From greenhouse gas levels to ocean heat content, 2014 was a record-breaking year for the Earth system in many different ways. That’s the finding of the latest State of the Climate report from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) published today.

Now in its 25th year, the report provides a checkup of global climate using data collected from land, sea, ice and space. We take a look at seven of the records that tumbled last year…


Capitalism, Green or Otherwise, Is ”Ecological Suicide”

David Klein, Truthout
Green Capitalism: The God that Failed, by Richard Smith,
World Economics Association eBooks, April 30, 2015
The climate crisis is the greatest threat humanity has ever faced. At the current rate of global greenhouse gas emissions, warming of the planet will shoot past two degrees Celsius by mid-century and reach 4°C to 6°C beyond pre-industrial averages by 2100. The magnitude of the impending catastrophe was eloquently described by Hans Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, when he said, "the difference between two and four degrees is human civilization …" Adding to that, the biosphere faces massive pollution, resource depletion, species extinctions, ocean acidification, among other looming dangers.

But can we save ourselves? In his new book, Green Capitalism: The God that Failed, Richard Smith argues compellingly that "sustainable production is certainly possible but not under capitalism" and even more forcefully, "capitalism and saving the planet are fundamentally and irreconcilably at odds." To this central question, Smith brings an impressive command of economics and an engaging conversational style of writing. He explains and illustrates with devastating clarity the key mechanisms of capitalism that force it to grow unendingly, and these explanations are supported with a broad array of examples of corporate and national economic practices from around the world…


Are Hospital Farms the Next Big Thing in Healthcare Reform?

Jodi Helmer, Civil Eats
This summer, St. Luke’s Hospital started sending all new moms home from the hospital with a basket of fresh produce, recipes and literature about the importance of a healthy diet.

All of the produce in the basket was grown on an organic farm on the hospital’s Anderson campus in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The hospital—part of a six-campus network—has been running a farm on the 500-acre grounds since 2014.

“Our mission is to provide great healthcare and part of that is educating patients about the benefits of a plant-based, organic diet,” explains Ed Nawrocki, president of the Anderson campus. “One of the best ways to do that is to lead by example and show them how delicious produce grown on our farm tastes…


Buying the Farm

Dean Kuipers, Orion Magazine
ross wilken, twenty-three, and his father, Harold Wilken, don’t look much like starry-eyed radicals as they inspect their fields of black beans just west of Danforth, Illinois. The hot, wet afternoon sun beats down on their greasy jeans and tired eyes like it does on any other farmer. But their twenty-three hundred acres of organic crops, surrounded by millions of acres of genetically modified corn and soybeans, are nothing short of an insurgency.

“These look really good,” says Ross, examining plants heavy with purplish pods. “I wish I had more acres in these.”

The black beans in this eighty-acre patch, just one of the Wilkens’ many nonadjacent fields scattered around the area, will fetch eighty cents per pound when sold in Munger, Michigan, and afterward might end up in your Chipotle burrito. That’s a tall premium compared to conventional beans, which fetch about fifty cents. The Wilkens get similarly good prices for their organic wheat, corn, pumpkins, soybeans, and alfalfa hay. So it’s no surprise this family enterprise is steadily expanding its operation in every way possible—building barns and grain bins, buying heavy equipment, experimenting with software, and taking in a son-in-law, a nephew, and a neighbor down the road as partners.

The challenge is finding the land. Like most farmers in Central Illinois, the Wilkens lease the majority of the land they farm. Now they need to buy or lease new fields to take through the three-year transition to organic. And they need to get there before Wall Street does…


Living With The Land Part 2 – Natural Building

Permaculture People, Permaculture Magazine

Kevin McCloud, presenter of Channel 4’s ‘Grand Designs’, introduces us to a world of beautiful, practical and natural buildings.

From clay and cob, to straw bale and timber framing, learn how using natural and local materials is not only economical, but creates a unique home that is strong and durable…

More from the series here.


The end of capitalism has begun

Paul Mason, The Guardian
The red flags and marching songs of Syriza during the Greek crisis, plus the expectation that the banks would be nationalised, revived briefly a 20th-century dream: the forced destruction of the market from above. For much of the 20th century this was how the left conceived the first stage of an economy beyond capitalism. The force would be applied by the working class, either at the ballot box or on the barricades. The lever would be the state. The opportunity would come through frequent episodes of economic collapse.

Instead over the past 25 years it has been the left’s project that has collapsed. The market destroyed the plan; individualism replaced collectivism and solidarity; the hugely expanded workforce of the world looks like a “proletariat”, but no longer thinks or behaves as it once did.

If you lived through all this, and disliked capitalism, it was traumatic. But in the process technology has created a new route out, which the remnants of the old left – and all other forces influenced by it – have either to embrace or die. Capitalism, it turns out, will not be abolished by forced-march techniques. It will be abolished by creating something more dynamic that exists, at first, almost unseen within the old system, but which will break through, reshaping the economy around new values and behaviours. I call this postcapitalism…

Guardian debate on the book

News clippings image via shutterstock. Reproduced at Resilience.org with permission.