Empire

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Lest We Forget

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
Lest We Forget

April 25th is ANZAC Day, a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand, so name for the men of the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who fought at Gallipoli, Turkey in World War I.

In 1915, Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of an Allied expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli Peninsula, under a plan by Winston Churchill to open the way to the Black Sea for the Allied navies. The ANZAC force landed at Gallipoli on 25 April, meeting fierce resistance from the Turkish Army. What had been planned as a bold strike to knock Turkey out of the war quickly became a stalemate, and the campaign dragged on for eight months. News of the landing at Gallipoli made a profound impact on Australians and New Zealanders at home and 25 April quickly became the day on which they remembered the sacrifice of those who had died in war.

Every year, all around the world Aussies (Australians) and Kiwis (New Zealanders) will pause for a day and remember the sacrifice made by those who have gone to war. Many people make something of a pilgrimage to the site of the original battle in Turkey. As suggested on Sam in Oz’s blog, it would be like the descendants of the Japanese pilots who bombed Pearl Harbor holding an emotional service beneath the Japanese flag in Hawaii each year.

For me, ANZAC day is profoundly sad. The dawn service is haunting, but meaningful. It is a day that people of all generations come together. You’ll see old diggers (soldiers) sharing a beer with younger people and later in the day, a rowdy game of two-up will begin. ANZAC day then becomes a celebration of mateship, something the Aussie culture values over most everything else.

Having lived in California for the last few years, I witness many of the cultural differences between America and Australia. One of the most obvious is how each country remembers war. American will remember the grand victories and the war heroes. Australians will commemorate a massive military defeat where mateship and courage are more important than the winning. One of Australia’s most remembered war heroes was Simpson, the man with a donkey. At Gallipoli he used a donkey to carry wounded soldiers to the dressing station and gained a reputation for being undaunted by enemy fire. On 19 May 1915 he was killed, and though he was mentioned in orders of the day and despatches, he received no bravery award. The myth-making began almost immediately after his death, and he soon became one of the best-known images of the ANZAC experience.

Here in San Diego we will be holding a service for ANZAC day and we will be heading to the pub for two-up afterwards. I will be giving my thanks to those men and women who died in the service of their country, and I will be hoping that we never have to witness the horrors of war again. Unfortunately, that is not how human nature is.

Photo by: State Library of Queensland

Links – Week 7, 2010

Photo by: Brandon Warren

Lot’s of gloomy stuff on the interwebs this week. I had quite a few links planned, but I decided to cut back to just a few for my own sanity. Be sure to check out the bloglinks at the bottom of this post. They are all a sure cure for gloominess.

Economy

What is Collapse, Anyway?

“collapse” is actually an extremely common phenomenon in nations and societies – societies rise to a particular level of function, they run into hard limits, often ecological limits, <…> and they fall to a much lower level of functioning. How low is up for grabs, and depends on the kind of response the society makes. At times this level can be extremely low – there’s Easter Island for example. More recently Rwanda and Burundi have collapsed into untenable violence and endless civil war, with horrifyingly bloody consequences for the people, ones that don’t look that far off of Mad Max.

On the other hand, we could look at the most recent society that has collapsed – Iceland. In 2008 and into 2009, Iceland which had become enormously wealthy and prosperous underwent an economic collapse, the effects of which are still playing out. The banking collapse in Iceland was the largest ever suffered, relative to the nation’s size, in economic history.

What happened in Iceland is probably very reassuring for people who are worried about collapse – the situation wasn’t at all pleasant for people, but compared to Rwanda, it was a walk in the park. There was rioting and the government was broadly speaking, changed, some suicides and emigrations. The costs of dealing with the crisis were enormous, there was widespread unemployment, interest rates shot up and imports stalled, there was a foreclosure crisis, many formerly high paying professionals had to go back to the fishing industry which promptly began to see fish stock collapses, imported goods became expensive, and people got a lot poorer. On the other hand, one’s pickled kale was comparatively safe.

So the first thing we can say about collapse is that it is highly variable – you can have economic collapse, you can have an energy supply related collapse, a political collapse, collapse into civil war – and that some collapses are better than others.

Environment

Is There Enough Food Out There For Nine Billion People ?

A threefold challenge now faces the world: Match the rapidly changing demand for food from a larger and more affluent population to its supply; do so in ways that are environmentally and socially sustainable; and ensure that the world’s poorest people are no longer hungry. This challenge requires changes in the way food is produced, stored, processed, distributed, and accessed that are as radical as those that occurred during the 18th- and 19th-century Industrial and Agricultural Revolutions and the 20th-century Green Revolution. Increases in production will have an important part to play, but they will be constrained as never before by the finite resources provided by Earth’s lands, oceans, and atmosphere. …

Recent studies suggest that the world will need 70 to 100% more food by 2050. In this article, major strategies for contributing to the challenge of feeding 9 billion people, including the most disadvantaged, are explored. Particular emphasis is given to sustainability, as well as to the combined role of the natural and social sciences in analyzing and addressing the challenge.

TED 2010: David Cameron Shows How All Electric Bills Should Be

Blogs

Here are a few blogs I love to read and imagine I am living an alternate life. Beautiful photos accompany these beautiful lifestyles. I hope you are as inspired as I am.

A House Called Nut

This blog is about the adventures of three urbanites (one American, one Finn, one dog of no fixed nationality) displaced to the Finnish countryside. In December 2008, we took up residence in Pähkinä (Finnish for “nut”) after a little joke about moving into our friend’s pretty, yellow cottage suddenly became a reality. If years of London living made our previous move to Helsinki seem like walking through a revolving door into a pasture of cows, what will become of this little walk in the woods? Join us as we explore the nature around us, attempt to grow our own vegetables on a steep, rocky hill in a northern climate, compost all our organic waste, go foraging for mushrooms, berries and other wild foods in the Finnish forest, bake pies, and knit our own socks.

FuoriBorgo

Family life at the edge of an ancient rural community near the Mediterranean.

Beauty that Moves

art; book talk; etsy; Handmade; Homeschooling; moments; morning and night; morning, Natural Goodness; simple green frugal; summer unschooling; Sweet Family; Taste; thrifted; Vermont; Yoga

Little Eco Footprints

I’m Tricia. I live on a small urban block in Newcastle (Australia). I once dreamed of living closer to nature; having space to grow food; having a teeny little ecological footprint; and being part of a community. I thought that meant leaving the city, but now I know I can try to live that dream right here. We don’t have Little eco footprints yet – but we’re having fun trying.

Links – Week 6, 2010

Photo by: Brandon Christopher Warren

Here are some of the articles around the internet that I found interesting this week.

Economy

Delusions of Finance: Where We are Headed

<In this presentation I> go back to my post from January 2008 called Peak Oil and the Financial Markets: A Forecast for 2008 and explain why my forecasts had turned out pretty close to correct, while many others widely missed the mark. My financial forecast really has implications for beyond 2008, so I added some more forecasting thoughts as well.

Becoming a Third World Country

<There’s> a very simple way to talk about the scope of the brutal economic contraction now sweeping through American society – a way, furthermore, that might just be able to sidestep both the obsessive belief in progress and the equally obsessive fascination with apocalyptic fantasy that, between them, make up much of what passes for thinking about the future these days. It’s to point out that, over the next decade or so, the United States is going to finish the process of becoming a Third World country.

Energy

The Peak Oil Crisis: Government in Transition

All it takes is a snowstorm or two to remind us how dependent we have become on government at all levels.

Sitting at home waiting for the plows should remind the more perceptive among us that we are no longer in the 18th century where nearly every family, equipped with an ax and a rifle, could provide for its own food, safety, shelter, and general well-being without the need for outside help. Today, when the lights go out, we rely on government to rush us to shelter where we are kept warm, fed, and even entertained until the lights come on again.

It is amazing how many among us still don’t grasp that we are an interdependent whole, needing many specialized skills and institutions to sustain life. In today’s America, only a miniscule percentage has the skills, knowledge, land, and lifestyle to survive without outside help. For most of us, it is the collective, in the form of government, that holds our civilization together – water, sewers, public health, roads, buses, and yes, even snow plows.

It’s Official: The Oil Export Crisis Has Arrived

Given the very modest increases from unconventional domestic production and Canada, the decline of imports from Mexico and Venezuela means the U.S. will be increasingly forced to depend on suppliers farther afield–the very same suppliers that China has been buying into in size. The “collision course with China” that I wrote about in July 2005 has nearly reached the point of impact.

It also means that when oil prices rise again, the pain will be far greater for the U.S. than it is for our top suppliers. Next time, the spear of declining oil exports will puncture a lung.

The oil export crisis has arrived. We just haven’t felt it yet.

Environment

How Do You Get Friends To Care?

Recently I received an email from Nicole with a very interesting question:

How do you come to terms with the fact that so many people in the world don’t seem to want to become educated about how their actions affect their world? For example, I am learning a lot about our food system lately and I really want my friends to become educated about it, too. I feel like if they just KNEW where their food was really coming from, they would make healthier and more environmentally-sound decisions. But I don’t want to see preachy or holier-than-thou. Another example: I have two friends who just don’t recycle. I can’t wrap my head around it. They CAN recycle in their neighborhoods, they just don’t. Again, I want to call them out on it, but I just don’t know how to do it without seeming judgmental – even though I AM!

This is something I think about a lot actually. I think about it when writing this blog, I think about it when I’m doing work for my clients, I think about it when I walk through the streets on my daily walk, … yes, I think about it a lot!

Environmental Implications Of The Food We Throw Away

Food waste is a huge issue in America, especially in light of the growing divide between the profligate rich and the hungry poor. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Loss Project, we throw away more than 25 percent—some 25.9 million tons—of all the food we produce for domestic sale and consumption. A 2004 University of Arizona study pegs the figure at closer to 50 percent, finding that Americans squander some $43 billion annually on wasted food. Lead researcher Timothy Jones reported that on average, U.S. households waste 14 percent of their food purchases. He estimates that a family of four tosses out $590 per year in meat, fruits, vegetables and grain products alone.

Blogs

I big thanks to those who dropped by and left a comment on my blog this week. I really appreciate knowing that there are people out there on the same page as me.

Greening of Gavin

An Ordinary Australian Man Who Has A Green Epiphany Whilst Watching A Documentary, Gets a Hybrid Car, Plants A Large Organic Vegetable Garden, Goes Totally Solar, Lowers Consumption, Feeds Composts Bins and Worms, Harvests Rainwater. All In The Effort To Reduce Our Family’s Carbon Footprint So We Can Start Making A Difference For Our Children & Future Generations To Come.

Eat at Dixiebelles

Make sure the things you do make you happy, keep you healthy and save you money. Be prepared, live frugally, and make the most of everything you have! Show kindness and gratitude to Earth and all it’s creatures!

Down and Out in a Brave New World

Most people should get the joke for at least half of the title of this blog. If you don’t then I won’t spoil it for you. Work that out and you a long way towards understanding me and how I see the world. This blog’s purpose is to let me comment on the things that I see happening in our world. Many of them I feel compelled to write about, if for no other reason than to be able to say that I didn’t sit idly by, fiddling while Rome burns.

Nevyn’s Place

The ramblings and meanerings of a wanna be greenie. nevyn is a character from a book; he is a powerful sorcerer who is trying to right a wrong from a previous life; this is not me; nevyn means no one; this is me.

A Piece of Wood

This blog follows us as we plan our move South to buy our forever house within the next few years. We’re also trying to live a more simple life which is leading to a more greener life, so I am often to be found wittering about that.  We (for one reason or another) also have an ever decreasing amount of debt, so life is focused towards getting rid of that once and for all as quickly as possible to enable us to lead the life we want to.

Crossroads

Here you can read about the challenges in our quest to change from consumers to conservers, about our drive to simplify life in as many ways possible. Our journey is about becoming less reliant upon any one system and more resilient in every way possible. Aspiring not to have more but to be more.

Ultimate Money Blog

We believe in a simple, natural lifestyle.  We strive to not only save money, but reduce our consumption and live a little more green at the same time.

Links – Week 5, 2010

Interesting reads from around the internet this week….

China or the U.S.: Which Will Be the Last Nation Standing?

Silly me. Here I had thought that world leaders would want to keep their nations from collapsing. They must be working hard to prevent currency collapse, financial system collapse, food system collapse, social collapse, environmental collapse, and the onset of general, overwhelming misery—right? But no, that’s not what the evidence suggests. Increasingly I am forced to conclude that the object of the game that world leaders are actually playing is not to avoid collapse; it’s simply to postpone it a while so as to be the last nation to go down, so yours can have the chance to pick the others’ carcasses before it meets the same fate.

I know, that sounds unbearably cynical. And in fact it may not accurately describe the conscious attitudes of leaders of some smaller nations. But for the U.S. and China, arguably the countries most likely to lead the way for the rest of the world, actions speak louder than words. (Mental health advisory: readers with a low tolerance for bad news should turn back now; there are lots of cheerier articles on the Internet and this might be a good time to find and enjoy one.)

For these two nations, avoiding collapse would require solving a range of enormous problems, of which at least four are non-negotiable: climate change; peak fossil fuels (in effect, stagnating and, soon, declining energy supplies); the inherent instability of growth-based financial systems; and the vulnerability of food systems to factors like fresh water scarcity and soil erosion (in addition to global warming and fuel scarcity). If they fail to address any one of these, societal collapse is inevitable—in a few decades certainly, but perhaps in just the next few years.

Endgame

What this means, if I’m right, is that we may have just moved into the endgame of America’s losing battle with the consequences of its own history. For many years now, people in the peak oil scene – and the wider community of those concerned about the future, to be sure – have had, or thought they had, the luxury of ample time to make plans and take action. Every so often books would be written and speeches made claiming that something had to be done right away, while there was still time, but most people took that as the rhetorical flourish it usually was, and went on with their lives in the confident expectation that the crisis was still a long ways off.

We may no longer have that option. If I read the signs correctly, America has finally reached the point where its economy is so deep into overshoot that catabolic collapse is beginning in earnest. If so, a great many of the things most of us in this country have treated as permanent fixtures are likely to go away over the years immediately before us, as the United States transforms itself into a Third World country. The changes involved won’t be sudden, and it seems unlikely that most of them will get much play in the domestic mass media; a decade from now, let’s say, when half the American workforce has no steady work, decaying suburbs have mutated into squalid shantytowns, and domestic insurgencies flare across the south and the mountain West, those who still have access to cable television will no doubt be able to watch talking heads explain how we’re all better off than we were in 2000.

Those of my readers who haven’t already been beggared by the unraveling of what’s left of the economy, and have some hope of keeping a roof over their heads for the foreseeable future, might be well advised to stock their pantries, clear their debts, and get to know their neighbors, if they haven’t taken these sensible steps already. Those of my readers who haven’t taken the time already to learn a practical skill or two, well enough that others might be willing to pay or barter for the results, had better get a move on. Those of my readers who want to see some part of the heritage of the present saved for the future, finally, may want to do something practical about that, and soon. I may be wrong – and to be frank, I hope that I’m wrong – but it looks increasingly to me as though we’re in for a very rough time in the very near future.

Does it Make Sense to Move to a New Location because of Peak Oil?

Some reasons one might want to move:

  1. To be closer to family. If times get tough, economically or otherwise, it is can be better to be near kin-folk.
  2. To own a piece of arable land in an area with good weather. If one actually plans to operate the farm by oneself, one would need the skills to use the land productively.
  3. To be closer to energy sources that are likely to continue. This could be as simple as being near wooded areas. It could also be to be near hydroelectric, or some other form of energy (coal, oil, geothermal, wind turbines, etc.).
  4. To leave an area with inadequate water supply. Los Vegas and Phoenix come to mind as examples.
  5. To be in a better place for long-term jobs. Different people will have different ideas as to where these locations might be.
  6. To be part of a Transition Town. Or perhaps some similar group, that is planning to deal creatively with peak oil issues.
  7. To be where public transportation is available. If one feels that the major issue will be a lack of cheap fuel, this might be an option.
  8. To leave an area that seems to be seriously overpopulated for its resources. This could be a city or a country.
  9. To leave an area where the weather is very severe. This might especially be the case if you believe heating is likely to be a problem in the future.
  10. To leave an area where obtaining enough fuel (or electricity) is a problem. I understand this is already an issue in parts of Alaska.

Some reasons not to move

  1. Have friends, family, and a job where you are now. It would be impossible to move everyone, and find jobs for everyone, in a new location.
  2. Not customary to move. In the USA, we think nothing of people moving to a new state every few years. But in many parts of the world, people customarily stay put. Moving is not really an option.
  3. Not welcome in the new area. If the new area is a close-knit community, it may be difficult to make new friends.
  4. Not enough money. It costs money to relocate. Buying several acres for a farm, plus equipment, is likely to be prohibitively expensive for most.
  5. Devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know. The new community may only appear to be better than what you have. Trying to farm without the skills will be very difficult.
  6. Can’t sell your house. Or the price you would get for it would leave your penniless.
  7. Too many sunk investments. If you have insulated your home, added solar hot water, and a garden, it will be hard to replace these elsewhere.
  8. Inertia. It takes a lot of work to research a new area, uproot family, and get settled in a new area.

Time Essay: The Nightmare Life Without Fuel (Written just after my birth in 1977!)

Americans are so used to limitless energy supplies that they can hardly imagine what life might be like when the fuel really starts to run out. So TIME asked Science Writer Isaac Asimov for his vision of an energy-poor society that might exist at the end of the 20th century. The following portrait, Asimov noted, “need not prove to be accurate. It is a picture of the worst, of waste continuing, of oil running out, of nothing in its place, of world population continuing to rise. But then, that could happen, couldn’t it?”

20 reasons Global Debt Time Bomb explodes soon: Which trigger will ignite the Great Depression II?

Retire? You can fuggetaboutit if the new Global Debt Time Bomb is detonated by any one of 20 made-in-America trigger mechanisms.

Yes, 20. And yes, any one can destroy your retirement because all 20 are inexorably linked, a house-of-cards, a circular firing squad destined to self-destruct, triggering the third great Wall Street meltdown of the 21st century, igniting the Great Depression II that George W. Bush, Ben Bernanke, Henry Paulson and now President Obama have simply delayed with their endless knee-jerk, debt-laden wars, stimulus bonanzas and bailouts.

Hoodwinked – A Book Review

Hoodwinked: An Economic Hit Man Reveals Why the World Financial Markets Imploded–and What We Need to Do to Remake Them by John Perkins

John Perkins has seen the signs of today’s economic meltdown before. The subprime mortgage fiascos, the banking industry collapse, the rising tide of unemployment, the shuttering of small businesses across the landscape are all too familiar symptoms of a far greater disease. In his former life as an economic hit man, he was on the front lines both as an observer and a perpetrator of events, once confined only to the third world, that have now sent the United States–and in fact the entire planet–spiraling toward disaster.

Here, Perkins pulls back the curtain on the real cause of the current global financial meltdown. He shows how we’ve been hoodwinked by the CEOs who run the corporatocracy–those few corporations that control the vast amounts of capital, land, and resources around the globe–and the politicians they manipulate. These corporate fat cats, Perkins explains, have sold us all on what he calls predatory capitalism, a misguided form of geopolitics and capitalism that encourages a widespread exploitation of the many to benefit a small number of the already very wealthy. Their arrogance, gluttony, and mismanagement have brought us to this perilous edge. The solution is not a “return to normal.”

But there is a way out. As Perkins makes clear, we can create a healthy economy that will encourage businesses to act responsibly, not only in the interests of their shareholders and corporate partners (and the lobbyists they have in their pockets), but in the interests of their employees, their customers, the environment, and society at large.

We can create a society that fosters a just, sustainable, and safe world for us and our children. Each one of us makes these choices every day, in ways that are clearly spelled out in this book.

“We hold the power,” he says, “if only we recognize it.” Hoodwinked is a powerful polemic that shows not only how we arrived at this precarious point in our history but also what we must do to stop the global tailspin.

I highly recommend this book to everyone. John Perkins does an exceptional job of guiding you through the troubles and atrocities that the corporatocracy has placed on the entire world through greed and deception. It is time to change the status quo if we are to provide a sustainable future for those generations to come.

In this book, Perkins tells of his experiences as an Economic Hitman.

Economic Hit Man – A highly paid professional who cheats countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars, funnelling money from the World Bank, the U.S. Agency for International Development and other foreign aid organizations into the coffers of huge corporations and the pockets of a few wealthy families who control the planet’s natural resources. Their tools include fraudulent financial reports, rigged elections, pay offs, extortion, sex and murder. ~ Urban Dictionary

Perkins also links the policies and philosophies of short-term (so-called ‘mutated’) capitalism to the negative economic effects currently unfolding in the American economy. This book is not all doom and gloom though. A substantial portion offers policy and philosophical advice aimed to stem the downturn.

Watch Speeches by John Perkins

Home

home1

Brendan and I watch a lot of documentaries, but last night we watched what I consider to be the best documentary I’ve ever seen. Home takes viewers on a ride around an Earth put in dire peril by its most adaptable life form, humanity.

The shot-from-above cinematography is simply stunning. French photographer Yann Arthus-Betrand has managed to turn the most dismally wasted landscapes into abstractions of color and form. One of the disturbing discoveries of “Home” is that there is beauty to be found even in environmental devastation, if you film it from far enough away. As a photographer I found the entire movie one of the most visually beautiful productions I’ve ever seen. The cinematography is second to none.

Anyone who appreciates beautiful and stirring music will also love the soundtrack. It’s extremely emotive. The script is exceptionally well written and powerful. It is narrated by Glenn Close.

Home2

A review from Change.org

Hopping quickly over the first four billion of the Earth’s Arcadian human-free early years, we arrive at the latter 200,000. Humans hunt and gather, discover agriculture, build cities, burn fossil fuels for energy, fill dismally dusty feedlots with corn-fattened beef cattle, over-consume resources, shatter the food chain with pesticides. They waste their minds on television, isolate themselves in suburbia, create sterile monuments to modernity, overfish the oceans, desertify the plains, deplete fresh water supplies, promote a wrongheaded “western model of development,” use up most of the oil, and refuse to own up to any of it.

And that’s just the first hour.

By the time we arrive at film’s end, where the narration exhorts us that “it’s too late to be a pessimist,” we’ve also depleted the soil, chopped down tropical forests for palm oil plantations, triggered the Sixth Great Extinction of animals and plants in the Earth’s history, hoarded wealth, built crowded megacities, left most of the swelling human population of six billion plus in poverty and environmental injustice, and tipped the climate’s delicate balance toward runaway global warming.

home3
Throughout the movie I had goosebumps and by the end I had tears in my eyes. Not just from the message but from the beautiful way it is portrayed. This movie is simply a masterpiece. Please set aside a quiet hour or two to watch it. You will not regret it.

This is the world we live in

I thought this short video was rather appropriate after spending a day yesterday living on the equivalent of UN World Food Fund daily rations. To be honest I didn’t find myself too hungry throughout the day, but the worst part was the cravings. I wanted sweet stuff and I desperately wanted coffee. Brendan cooking and eating some delicious smelling dinner in front of me did not help much either. Surprisingly, in the end, I couldn’t even eat all the rice. It almost became a chore. Perhaps if I tried to live on these rations for longer I would get hungry enough to get more of an appetite for it. Anyway, it was an interesting experiment for the day.

Strangely enough I felt really great this morning. I think my food intolerance’s are still at work and a day of eating bland food obviously agrees with me. I might even start doing this every so often just to give my body a break.