IBI Watch 11/6/11

6 11 2011

Three Vast Experiments – Uncontrolled but Interrelated  //

To be fair, traditional media do help us stay up on events.  Pick your issue, and stay informed – energy consumption, world poverty, economic development, climate change.  But how often do we get the big picture?  How all those issues and so many others are connected?


This post will be entirely dedicated to updates, connections and action steps on three important issues.  I suggest that each represents an uncontrolled experiment that we continue at our own peril, and that each has remedies that we can start creating if only we have the political will.


This post will also include a book giveaway related to one of the issues.  Interested?  Good!  Read on.


Uncontrolled Experiment Number One:
How Many Humans can We add to World Population?

This is one issue that seems to defy understanding and consensus to act.  It also is no small source of controversy in environmental circles.  The controversy is this – is the raw population number so important, or is the relative sustainability of lifestyles – especially in the developed world – more important?  I believe the raw number is hugely important, and that sustainability is also key.  And arguing about relative seriousness is just a waste of time.

Continued population growth is an issue few want to talk about.  But there it was in the news a few days ago – the seven billionth human was born.  Just to clarify, that is 7,000,000,000.  And the projections are not so rosy on the numbers.  Most experts project nine to ten billion souls by the end of 2100 – if we don’t cause some environmental catastrophe that drastically reduces population by then.  If you look at how nearly a third of people around the world today live in dire poverty, while we are straining the capacity of the world’s resources that sustain life, it is easy to see that that huge number is hugely important.  Also, everything that helps contain and eventually reverse that growth, plus build and maintain sustainable practices, is ALL potentially part of the solution.

First three links – coverage of the 7 billion event, plus commentary.  Ted Turner writes about progress in educating women about managing their family size – which is widely regarded as the best way, hands-down, to get hold of population growth.  Fred Pearce does admirable work showing how managing population growth is important, but only one part of the solution – he compares the ‘population bomb’ (largely a developing world phenomenon) with the ‘consumption bomb’ (mainly – for now – an industrial world phenomenon).  And, this is also a good time to link once again to National Geographic, which has been running an in-depth series this year on population.  The final three links in this set are for organizations working to educate and lead policy change on this important issue.  Each does great work, has a site with lots of thought-provoking links, and is worthy of support.









And – Experiment #1 in a song

Warning: Satire ahead!




Uncontrolled Experiment Number Two:

How Much Carbon Can We Emit into the Atmosphere?

Despite what fossil-fuel-funded denialists say, the science is settled.  For hundreds of thousands of years, atmospheric carbon dioxide fluctuated between 180 and 280 parts per million.  Since industrialization, our activities – burning fossil fuels and clearing land for agriculture – have relentlessly raised that CO2 level.  Today it stands at 390 parts per million – a level widely thought to be unsustainable.  Atmospheric and ocean temperatures are on the rise, and predicted destabilization of the climate has already begun.  Our choice is clear – keep this experiment going to see how long we can play with fire before we are burned up, or figure out some way to muster the political will to tackle the problem.

This past week, two news items – one major and one more of a side show – caught much attention.  First – new studies show that – surprise – global greenhouse gas emissions are higher than ever and growing fast.  Second – a longtime denialist has admitted that yes, manmade global warming is indeed happening.  That is, his opposition to the science was wrong all along.  Uh huh.  And – wonder of wonders – Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) delivered an impassioned speech to the Senate that made me want to cheer.  The video is worth every minute.  Listen to the projections he presents – CO2 at 688 ppm by 2095, and 1097 ppm 2195.  Those are inconceivably dangerous numbers – and are not off-the wall predictions, but projections based on current trajectories.  As he clearly points out, we have known the science underlying manmade global warming for a very long time.  It is only the pignorant pundits that have held back progress.  His call to action, employing a medical comparison, would be inspiring to a rational, non-propagandized public.  Bravo, Senator Whitehouse!






The mainstream media love an extreme weather event.  It’s sensational, it makes great video, it puts eyes on the screen (and the ads of course).  But have you noticed in recent years how often the word ‘unprecedented’ appears in the accounts?  The latest obvious example is the October snowstorm that dumped up to three feet on autumnal New England.  Here in the allegedly cold Twin Cities, we are still waiting – on November 6 – for a killing freeze.  Insects – beneficial and destructive – love this change for the warmer.  And then you have the massive floods in Thailand, the long, slow-moving flood this year in the Missouri River basin, the ten-year drought in the American Southwest, and on and on.  How much more proof of climate destabilization do we need?  Some of this – the New England snowstorm being a prime example – represents an erosion of longstanding seasonal patterns.  That is, winter is no longer winter as we knew it, nor are any of the other seasons.  I call this SBD – seasonal border disintegration.  It is easy to predict more of this – out of season weather events that bring misery and destruction.  Here is one for my adopted home region.  Some deep winter soon, we will have a lot of snow on the ground, and the temperature will suddenly soar to the 50s. A mess of melted snow soup.  If the heat lingers, trees bud out.  Then, within a few days, back to the deep freeze.  You want misery?








Want more predictions?  How about Hurricane Gulliver?  The second link contains a wealth of comments from several sources, posted by climate activist Alder Stone.  The third link is a well-produced video about humanity’s cavalier attitude toward the planet.  Once you get past the force metaphor of Mother Earth breathing, you will see a very affecting four-minute video with impressive footage of wildlife and, sadly, wildlife destruction.  Stay for the end – a gallery of environmental heroes who were killed in retribution for the good work they did in preserving habitat for animals.  Posted by the Sanctuary Asia Network.





What to do?  First – build your own knowledge.  This book giveaway can help.  I have two virtually new copies of an excellent book that brings together all of the issues around climate change.  Peter Ward’s Under a Green Sky looks at research on climate change and extinction over millions of years – and applies that knowledge to interpret and predict what we are doing today, and the possible consequences of business as usual.  Read about the book here:


I will send each of two random winners a copy of the book.  If you would like to be considered, all you have to do is ‘like’ IBI Watch on Facebook.  No need for contact information – I will contact winners by email or Facebook after the deadline of 11/10/11/

What to do?  Read more and support organizations working to inform and influence policy.






And of course . . . do your part to reduce your own carbon footprint.  Bicycling and taking transit instead of driving can help. And hey – it’s healthy, too!





And – Experiment #2 in a song:




Uncontrolled Experiment Number Three:

Can the World’s Largest Economy Run on Greed Alone?

This experiment has had a 30-year run.  Ever since the Reagan administration let the ‘government is the problem’ genie out of the bottle, setting the stage for the rise of Grover Norquist and his bathtub-drowning boast and pledge, Americans have been propagandized to ignore or devalue the common good.  We are reaping that harvest right now.  Wealth disparity is making the US look more and more like a third-world country, a banana republic.  The rich are getting richer, while everyone else stagnates.


Want the big picture?  Check in with Bill Moyers, the longtime PBS source.  This article is an excerpt from a recent speech about how money has totally taken over American politics.  Next, Paul Krugman weighs in on our own home-grown flavor of oligarchy.  Next – a shameful reality.  That is, how rapidly the ranks of the very poor are growing in the US.





Wealth and income inequality is catching more people’s attention – even Republicans.  Of course, for them it is class warfare.  Listen to Congressman Paul Ryan push the lie about people really having the chance to move up.  Suggesting that the growing income gap might have something to do with tax changes that have dramatically favored the wealthy is, of course ‘class warfare.  And any reasonable solution to the long-term debt crisis has to include a mix of spending cuts and tax increases.  But then there is that Republican dogma – no new taxes.  And all the Republicans on the supercommittee subscribe to that religion.  And I think Thom Hartmann is right on – allowing Bush tax cuts to expire is not ‘raising taxes.’  It is restoring. ‘Trickle down’ did not work in the 80s, and it clearly is not working now.





Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi argues that Wall Street has gamed the system – and he lists the ways.  And finally – this AlterNet piece brings things full circle by connecting the 99 percent vs. 1 percent comparison to environmental issues.




And – Experiment #3 in a song:




Natural Wonders

Here are two pictures of the natural world, plus perspectives from an eminent scientist.  First – a recent slide show of planet Earth as seen from space.  Second – a video from NPR Science Friday, showing the moves of a hawk moth.  Since we have created native gardens on our property, we have been visited by these startling insects.  Third – some food for the deepest kind of thought.  In the current Atlantic, you will find a thorough profile of the latest work by biologist E.O. Wilson.  He has spent his life studying the smallest earth creatures that form sophisticated societies – ants.  He has some very provocative and hopeful thoughts on the future of mankind.  I have read his books and can’t wait for this next one to come out – it will include his promised ‘theory of everything.’






“To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead.”  – Thomas Paine


Contributed links to this posting – Jeff Carlson, Allyson Harper, Brendan Murphy, Jeff Syme




2 responses

6 11 2011
Dave Finnigan

The “Carbon Cartel” is the enemy. Coal, oil, natural gas and the chemical industry work together and speak with one voice. The Carbon Cartel wholly owns the loyalty of all Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats in the House and Senate, and they have bought several Supreme Court Justices as well. They are evil incarnate. They sell us the drugs to which they keep us addicted. They are doing everything in their power to destroy alternative energy. They even led the fight against sensible population policies.

Thanks to the Citizens United decision of the Supreme Court they have created a propaganda system that would be impossible to beat without the internet. You can see their power in the current TV ads cropping up for fracking for natural gas, and against alternative energy. These ads are peppered with thoughts crystalized by the evil wordsmith, Frank Luntz and those who understand his concepts. They have framed the political discussion with pithy phrases like “Death Panels” or “Government Takeover of Health Care.” “Drill Baby Drill” and the idea that it is a choice between “Jobs or the Environment.” People believe these misleading catch phrases.

Frank, the author of Words that Work, spends his time and energy creating Right-wing catch-phrases that get repeated endlessly through the Main-Stream media, which are generally now all in thrall of the money and power of Big Oil. Even PBS with its alliances with the Carbon Cartel can no longer be counted on to be fair and balanced.

So what are we to do to reduce the power of the Carbon Cartel? We are talking about ruthless corporations that are the most profitable businesses ever created on this planet. They do not care who they kill, directly or indirectly, to retain power.

There is no easy solution. But here are a few steps we could take, none of which will work alone:

1. We need to gather signatures for the Constitutional Amendment which will reverse the Citizens United decision and take corporate money out of politics.

2. We need to let every Democrat know that they are now, like it or not, part of a new “Green Team,” dedicated to leaving a healthy planet to our descendants. We must pledge to defend every Democrat in every seat if they will join the Green Team, which means the team that will lead us to a Clean and Green future. There is no time to create a new political party. Like the Tea Party, we must work hard to take over one of the existing parties.

3. We need to get into the schools with messages and with actions that permit young people to see that there are alternative futures. They are all Neo now, and part of the 99% that has been shafted by the Carbon Cartel. They must know that there is a team that is there for them. Don’t let them become dispirited.

4. We need to get out the vote even though they have made it a crime to register voters, and have found many ways to discourage those already registered. The 2012 election is the test of their power. If they manage to steal the Presidency, the House, and the Senate they will have created an untenable situation where armed revolt is eventually inevitable. They will win in the short term and lose in the long term.

5. We need to each change our lifestyles as much as we can to Transition Town thinking and survivalism. Get off the grid as a household or as a community. Work locally and think globally. Identify one another and team up with neighbors and with the rest of the 99%.

6. We must never give up against the Evil Empire of Carbon. This is the fight of a lifetime, the WW2 of this generation. It is serious business for them and it should be serious for us as well. We will have a clean and green planet again, either with humans aboard or without. We cannot kill mother nature off entirely, but we can kill each other. If we want to see human life still here in 1,000 years, the use of carbon as a fuel must be completely stopped. The sooner the better.

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