Environment

More content now on Facebook

 

I’m finding lately that I’m doing more reading than writing, and I’m not updating this blog as often as I’d like. I do however, have lots of great links to share and this blog just doesn’t seem to be the right platform for it. I’ve therefore decided to create a new Facebook page. Here’s what it’s about:

Energy depletion, environmental destruction and economic crises are the biggest three issues of our time and they are converging to a point where the next two decades are unlikely to be anything like the last.Here I’ll discuss the great challenges we can expect to experience over the coming decades and provide links to relevant news articles which discuss these issues. I’ll also link to people and organisations doing the good work of moving us towards a more resilient, sustainable and just society.

If you are on Facebook and would like to receive daily links please ‘Like’ this new page. I’d love to create a parallel community over there.

Becoming A Good Human 

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Australia’s first female Prime Minister

Photo from news.com.au

Thank goodness for live steaming TV on the internet. I’ve been glued to the Australian news all afternoon, waiting to see if Australia was going to get it’s first female Prime Minister. Sure enough, we did. Julia Gillard was sworn into office sometime after noon local time and is now attending her first question time in Parliament.

They don’t lie when they say things move fast in politics. I first got wind on Facebook this morning that something was up with the leadership of Australia. In less than twelve hours we have history in the making. A female Monarch, female Governor General and female Prime Minister. I certainly wasn’t expecting that in my lifetime.

After the excitement of today’s politics it will be interesting to see what happens in the coming weeks and months. It seems that Kevin Rudd lost the leadership because the Australian people weren’t happy with the way he handled his promises to tackle climate change and the mining ‘super tax’. Will Julia be able to turn it around in time for the next election due within six months?

Aussie politics just got interesting. I suppose I better enroll to vote.

The Gulf Deepwater Oil Spill

I haven’t written about it until now, becuase it’s been too horrible to think about. I still have no words to articulate how I feel about this massive disaster.

The news out of the Gulf continues to range from grim to grimmer. Recently, it was revealed that the spill has created an undersea plume of oil ten miles long, and that some of the oil has already entered the loop current and is being carried toward Florida. Then the federal government doubled the area of the Gulf that had been closed to fishing. On Friday, the government increased that area again, to forty-eight thousand square miles. President Barack Obama has called the spill a “massive and potentially unprecedented environmental disaster,” a characterization that, if anything, probably understates the case. ~ The New Yorker

I think the pictures say it all.

Here is the feed showing oil gushing from the bottom of the ocean:

http://mfile.akamai.com/97892/live/reflector:46245.asx?bkup=46260

But the following should be an even clearer conclusion from all that has happened, and that is still unfolding: This is what the end of the oil age looks like. The cheap, easy petroleum is gone; from now on, we will pay steadily more and more for what we put in our gas tanks—more not just in dollars, but in lives and health, in a failed foreign policy that spawns foreign wars and military occupations, and in the lost integrity of the biological systems that sustain life on this planet.

The only solution is to do proactively, and sooner, what we will end up doing anyway as a result of resource depletion and economic, environmental, and military ruin: end our dependence on the stuff. Everybody knows we must do this. Even a recent American president (an oil man, it should be noted) admitted that “America is addicted to oil.” Will we let this addiction destroy us, or will we overcome it? Good intentions are not enough. Now is the moment for the President, other elected officials at all levels of government, and ordinary citizens to make this our central priority as a nation. We have hard choices to make, and an enormous amount of work to do. ~ Post Carbon Institute

The Perfect Storm: Six Trends Converging on Collapse

I have an uneasy feeling lately. Everywhere I look I see signs that all is not well. Of course, I’ve been seeing those signs for a couple of years, but things seem to be speeding up and now more and more people appear to be noticing. What interesting times we live in.

There are dark clouds gathering on the horizon. They are the clouds of six hugely troubling global trends, climate change being just one of the six. Individually, each of these trends is a potential civilization buster. Collectively, they are converging to form the perfect storm–a storm of such magnitude that it will dwarf anything that mankind has ever seen. If we are unsuccessful in our attempts to calm this storm, without a doubt it will destroy life as we know it on Planet Earth!

There is a popular saying that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result.” If we keep doing business in the same way as we have for the past century, each of these six trends will continue their steep rates of decline, collapsing the natural systems that form the foundation for our civilization and the lifeblood of the global economy. Perhaps the current Gulf oil spill is the wake up call that mankind needs to snap us out of our complacency, realize that we are soiling our nest and that continuation of “business as usual” will destroy the world as we know it? Time will tell whether we heed this warning, go back sleep once the oil spill is contained, or simply tire of the endless media coverage, numb ourselves, and set these critical issues to the side.

We already have the technology and the means to turn this dark tide, but we lack the commitment to make the hard choices and sweeping changes that are necessary for shifting the future of our world from its current course of collapse to a new course of sustainability.

The following six trends are converging to form the perfect storm for global destruction, each of which is a potential civilization buster in its own right, if left unchecked:

1. Climate Change

2. Peak Oil

3. Collapse of the World’s Oceans

4. Deforestation

5. The Global Food Crisis

6. Over Population

Read more from Matthew Stein

Photo by: Madeira

Has Peak Oil Hit the Mainstream?

Could this be the first time the Peak Oil discussion has occurred on mainstream media?

Maybe I am being sensitive, but lots of things do seem to be going wrong lately…. slowly, and then all at once.

Let’s take stock: we are on the brink of the Second Great Depression, there is sovereign debt chaos in Europe and considerable social unrest in Greece; on top of all that, it turns out that honeybees are dying in the United States, the volcano in Iceland has started spewing ash again and there is a hole in the bottom of the ocean in the Gulf of Mexico spewing 5000 barrels of oil per day, dooming the local economies that rely on a reasonably healthy coastline for their livelihood.

Is this an epic run of bad luck or am I just being sensitive? If you were to put this stuff in a movie the audience would complain that the plot is wildly implausible.

<Read more at GoldSubject.com>

Where in the World? Eagle River, Alaska, USA

Last winter Brendan, my Sister-In-Law and I went to Alaska to visit long-time friends. Having come from Southern California (or Australia in my SIL’s case) the cold was a shock, but everything was just so beautiful blanketed in perfect snow.

A highlight of our week was visiting Eagle River, named for the bald eagles which are abundant in the area.

These are truly magnificent birds and it was a real honour to see them in the wild.

They are also quite massive, something these photos can’t really depict.

Once a week in winter, one of the local ladies throws out some salmon, and a feeding frenzy ensues. There were literally hundreds of bald eagles waiting in the trees for the weekly ritual.

Check out more photos from my travels

A Farm for the Future

I thought I was getting better, but alas I was fooled. I’m still down with this illness, which seems to have progressed to a rotten headache and deep lethargy. I can’t find the energy to write any posts so instead, here is a video I found today at the Simple, Green, Frugal Co-op. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

A Farm for the Future

This BBC show features Rebecca Hosking returning to her family farm in Devon. After the petrol price shocks of 2008, she confronts the challenge of reducing the farm’s dependence on oil in order to keep it running and viable in a future of increasingly scarce energy. She explores the history of British agriculture and considers what other British farms have done to wean themselves off fossil fuels.

Links – Week 9, 2010

Photo by: Papalars

Blogs

This week I thought I’d feature a couple of blogs which are actually cooperatives. i.e. they are written by a community of different writers. Each writer brings their own point of view to the conversation and I’ve found some great new blogs in the process.

The Simple, Green, Frugal Co-op

A writers cooperative: Simple Living, Self Reliance, Organic Gardening, Sustainability and so much more.

The Green Phone Booth

Where ordinary women become eco-heroes

Economy

This article by Richard Heinberg is well worth reading. In fact, everything Richard writes is worth reading but this article is a turning point in his discourse. No longer is he just about warning the world of the Limits to Growth and the likely outcomes of Peak Oil. He now says we’ve already turned the corner and society as we know it is collapsing. It’s now time to focus on how we transition.

Life After Growth

In 2008 the U.S. economy tripped down a steep, rocky slope. Employment levels plummeted; so did purchases of autos and other consumer goods. Property values crashed; foreclosure and bankruptcy rates bled. For states, counties, cities, and towns; for manufacturers, retailers, and middle- and low-income families, the consequences were—and continue to be—catastrophic. Other nations were soon caught up in the undertow.The world has entered a new era. The project of awakening and warning policy makers and the general public was worthy of the investment of all the effort we could muster. In fact, it would have been negligent of the Limits to Growth authors, Colin Campbell, Jean Laherrère, and thousands of climate and environmental scientists and activists (myself included) not to give it our best shot. But it is now too late to avert a collapse of the existing system. The collapse has begun.

It is time for a different strategy.

By saying this, I am not suggesting that we should all simply give up and accept an inevitable, awful fate. Even though the collapse of the world’s financial and industrial systems has started, effort now at minimizing further dire consequences is essential. Collapse does not mean extinction. A new way of life will almost certainly emerge from the wreckage of the fossil-fueled growth era. It is up to those of us who have some understanding of what is happening, and why, to help design that new way of life so that it will be sustainable, equitable, and fulfilling for all concerned. We all need practical strategies and tools to weather the collapse and to build the foundation of whatever is to come after.

In late 2009 and early 2010, the economy showed some signs of renewed vigor. Understandably, everyone wants it to get “back to normal.” But here’s a disturbing thought: What if that is not possible? What if the goalposts have been moved, the rules rewritten, the game changed? What if the decades-long era of economic growth based on ever-increasing rates of resource extraction, manufacturing, and consumption is over, finished, and done? What if the economic conditions that all of us grew up expecting to continue practically forever were merely a blip on history’s timeline?

It’s an uncomfortable idea, but one that cannot be ignored: The “normal” late-20th century economy of seemingly endless growth actually emerged from an aberrant set of conditions that cannot be perpetuated.

That “normal” is gone. One way or another, a “new normal” will emerge to replace it. Can we build a different, more sustainable economy to replace the one now in tatters?-

Getting Out of Debt – And the Debt System

Indebtedness pushes us into a form of servitude, and in extreme cases, can leave us imprisoned. Consider, for example, current rates of interest, usurious compared to what savers earn on their savings in the same banks that charge that interest.

How do we convince people they definitely cannot afford to take out loans to buy things? More impact will be realized by targeting luxuries such as houses, cars, and appliances than small “goods.” The Obama administration recognizes this, and has therefore rewarded people for purchasing houses, cars, and — most recently – appliances, by giving them huge financial incentives (i.e., taxes on other Americans who might not even be tempted to play the “consumer” game).  All of this has operated to keep us indebted – and to serve the stock market at the expense of the people.

Loans are required for most people to purchase these “durable goods” (which are often no longer durable or good). Loans traditionally are seen as safety nets, but it has become clear as our incomes decline  and as we can no longer count on the myth of endless economic growth, that they really represent traps.  Never mind the psychological or ecological implications of consumerism — there exists no evidence suggests anybody has minded them so far — the focus here is on the trap into which each potential consumer falls by taking out a loan that require us to pay many times the value of what we receive. Most loans are a bad deal for the borrower, although credit cards represent the largest trap (even with the new rules).

The system needs you to keep borrowing. If you stop borrowing, then who knows what could happen.  What can you do to get out of debt, and to help others get out?

Environment

You CAN Shop For Happiness…But The Purchases Aren’t “Stuff”

You can’t buy happiness. Or can you? One new study shows that you actually can – but it doesn’t come in the form of things. It comes in the form of buying experiences. It’s not necessarily news – we already know that happier societies than the US exist, and they’re societies that put far less emphasis on owning stuff. The latest study by Thomas Gilovich, Cornell University professor of psychology and Travis J. Carter, Cornell Ph.D.  points a shining light on how dematerialization can, and does, make us happier people. We just need to shift where we spend our money (if we need to spend it at all…).

What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know About Capitalism

For those concerned with the fate of the earth, the time has come to face facts: not simply the dire reality of climate change but also the pressing need for social-system change. The failure to arrive at a world climate agreement in Copenhagen in December 2009 was not simply an abdication of world leadership, as is often suggested, but had deeper roots in the inability of the capitalist system to address the accelerating threat to life on the planet. Knowledge of the nature and limits of capitalism, and the means of transcending it, has therefore become a matter of survival. In the words of Fidel Castro in December 2009: “Until very recently, the discussion [on the future of world society] revolved around the kind of society we would have. Today, the discussion centers on whether human society will survive.”