IBI Watch 11/25/12

25 11 2012


Pick Your Metaphor  /

What’s your preference? Nero fiddling amid fire? Rearranging the Titanic’s deck chairs? Maybe it is David Suzuki’s image of a giant car heading towards a brick wall and everyone arguing over where they’re going to sit. Comparing the massively accumulating climate crisis evidence with the general level of knowledge, let alone commitment, any one of those metaphors could fit.

For some time, projections of warming have offered a range of possibilities, sort of like those hurricane path forecast cones.  According to newly updated predictions, the upper end of the projections looks more and more likely. If that one is not extreme enough for you, here is an even gloomier prospect – 7 degrees C. by 2060. Now consider – all the chaotic changes in Arctic ice that melts, hurricanes that develop late in the season, supercharge and then and turn in unexpected directions, monsoons that fail and droughts that won’t quit – have needed only one degree increase for startup. This piece from the Boomer Warrior site has it about right – we are entering the “non-linearity zone.” So what are we doing about it? Incredibly, planning to build many, many more coal plants. And as for conversation about fixes, this short animation about tells it all.


For those of us who have been following this issue for a long time – in my case back to the late 80s – the lack of alarm and political will is by turns disappointing and shocking. Of course, powerful interests have bent public opinion to their do-nothing will.  But even some who should (and possibly do) know better continue to pooh-pooh the forecasts, and ridicule activists as chicken littles.  Just read this recent treatise by Bjorn Lomborg, who at least has a scientific credential and certainly can’t be consigned to the ignominious club of the Inhofes, Tillersons and Limbaughs. But his sin, in my book, is to argue that because reducing carbon emissions has thus far been pretty much a futile endeavor. The only chance we have of averting catastrophe over the next several decades is ‘all of the above.’ In other words, invest in clean energy, protect and harden infrastructure, and figure out a way to reduce those carbon emissions.

What is needed is commitment on the part of citizens and government to do all those right things.  Meanwhile, we are making it harder on ourselves. Look at this Heidi Cullen article from a few months back, detailing problems with the satellite system essential to gathering timely and accurate weather data. But there is evidence that industry is “getting it,” as this piece on insurance shows. And listen to this NPR story on what climate change is doing to cranberry producers. If you listen carefully, you will hear one of the farmers laugh off the idea of human-made climate change, even as he is clearly dealing with consequences himself. A ditto head, maybe?

Virtually all experts agree that the only hope we have of halting the greenhouse forces we have unleashed is drastically reducing our carbon emissions.  The best idea I have seen for achieving that goal is taxing carbon through what NASA meteorologist James Hansen calls “fee and dividend.” Sign a petition at the Climate Lobby website. You will be glad you did.

If you want to learn lots more about the issue and the best ideas for mitigating the damage already done, and getting us on a sustainable path, here is one tremendous resource.  It’s the archive for last week’s “24 Hours of Reality” event presented by the Climate Reality Project. Scroll down and you can pick an hour covering a region you would like to investigate.  For a light touch, try the new Symphony of Science entry or the Science Girl – a science project the likes of which we need to see more!


Needed: An End to Chemical War

Forget anthrax, mustard gas and phosgene. Think pesticides and oil-based fertilizers. The agricultural revolution over the past seven decades – led by Norman Borlaug – dramatically ramped up grain harvests, but at a great cost. It has led to today’s factory farms and monocultures of corn and soybeans, which deplete soil and require application of massive quantities of toxic, oil-based chemicals to keep the production coming. Monsanto is making a killing in so many ways.

Here are just a few looks at today’s agriculture situation. First, a look at the war between insect pests and chemical insecticides. Next, you no doubt have heard about “colony collapse disorder,” which has been plaguing beekeepers across the country.  Natural phenomenon? Don’t bet your lunch on it. Then there is the absolute madness of growing corn for biofuel.

The factory farm boosters say this is the way it has to be.  Larger is cheaper, more efficient, inevitable. A growing chorus of dissenters says there is another way. Prominent among that crowd is activist Bill McKibben. I recently finished his excellent book Eaarth, which I strongly recommend. One factoid from the book – in 1940, we extracted 2.3 calories of food energy from a single calorie of fossil fuel energy. In 2008, that morphed into 10 calories of fossil fuel energy for a single calorie of food energy.

We vote with our purchases. Those “low, low prices” from the factory food industry have their own costs. Here are a few sources for smarter alternatives. Find and join a CSA (community-supported agriculture) farm, as I did many years ago. Or grow your own.


Shoot, Trap, Hang from a Tree . . .

Many things make me proud to be a Minnesotan by choice.  Our recent rejection of two constitutional amendments in the face of well-funded propaganda is a good example. The ongoing wolf hunt is NOT. I am not alone in that sentiment. I can’t escape the conclusion that hunters and trappers are slaughtering these canines mainly for fun, for the trophy value.  Oh, and as some hunters have explained in the media – they are killing too many deer.  Hmm. Hunting for deer is one thing – people eat the venison.  But hunting the wild cousins of our best friends for the “sport” of it?  And worse yet, using cruel traps to bag your catch?  Barbaric.

Here are a few recent opinion pieces that I like. First, a thoughtful essay by Cheryll Ostrom.  Next, Paul John Scott gets to the heart of the matter. And finally, Howard Goldman declares the truth about the hunt – it is all for “fun” and betrays a compromise.

The hunt has caused my wife and me to cancel our paid membership in the International Wolf Center.  Incredibly, the center is not opposing the hunt, instead officially congratulating themselves that a hunt is “possible” because of expanded numbers and range.  To be fair, I am sure that many staffers there are just as opposed to the hunt as I am. We are switching our support to this organization.


A Nation of Many Nations

Looking at the rise of fundamentalist Christianity as a right-wing political force over the past 30 years, plus the prevalence of blatantly anti-scientific views, I have often wondered whether the South was actually the victor in the Civil War.  At other times, I have wished those so inclined would just go and have their own country, ruled by a sort of Bible-thumping sharia. This is why two recent articles caught my eye and in one case, got me laughing out loud.

First – what I saw as original analysis, going well beyond the accepted red/blue divide. Colin Woodard’s piece 11 Nations, Divisible sheds much light on regional differences, voting patterns and long history.

And then – you want divisible?  We have divisible for you. Commentator and author Paul VanDevelder throws down the gauntlet to the passel of red states that have recently threatened secession.  Sounds like a pretty good deal to me. Hilarious to boot.


The Twinkie Offense

It’s a question on the minds of so many today. Who killed the Twinkie? Was it greedy bosses? Was it recalcitrant unions? Who better to opine on such a weighty topic than Nobel-winning economist Paul Krugman?  Here is a quote: “the success of the postwar American economy demonstrates that, contrary to today’s conservative orthodoxy, you can have prosperity without demeaning workers and coddling the rich. Along the way, however, we’ve forgotten something important — namely, that economic justice and economic growth aren’t incompatible. America in the 1950s made the rich pay their fair share; it gave workers the power to bargain for decent wages and benefits; yet contrary to right-wing propaganda then and now, it prospered. And we can do that again.”


None of the Above

While we are on the topic of fundamentalist religion, here is a trend for you.  Turns out that the setbacks for fundies in the recent election may be just the beginning.  We can only hope.


Terrified Creatures: Who Could Blame Them?

About 1.5 acres of Amazon rainforest are cut down every second.  No wonder these new discoveries – as reported by the Onion – are cowering in mortal fear.


Holiday Shopping, Anyone?

There is no better time of year to check in on Reverend Billy and his Church of Stop Shopping. And my favorite holiday song is nearly out of season.  Watch its author perform before its shelf life runs out.


“Some day the earth will weep, she will beg for her life, she will cry with tears of blood. You will make a choice, if you will help her or let her die, and when she dies, you will die too.” – John Hollow Horn, Oglala Lakota


Blogger – Michael Murphy, St. Paul MN


Contributed links to this posting – Jeff Carlson, Allyson Harper


Week of March 13, 2011

21 03 2011

Cut the Regulations and Do ‘Tort Reform’ – Corporations Strong Enough for Ya?
Just Wait.
Take a moment and think about the modern Republican credo.  The problem is
government regulation.  The Milton Friedman-inspired solution is to gut
regulations – the almighty market, you see, will take care of everything.  After
all, it sure worked well for the banking industry, didn’t it?! But then think
about the flip side.  At every turn in recent years, those same Republicans have
been fighting to restrict people’s right to sue a corporation that has harmed
them.  So what does this add up to?  Freed from ‘restrictive regulation,’
companies may engage in riskier activity.  Then, if the Republicans have their
way, you will find it much harder to sue for damages if injured.  Paying
attention to what’s going on in Japan right now? Several related links.  First,
in any rational setting, the bright, tough-minded and caring Elizabeth Warren
would be a shoo-in for the director spot in the new consumer protection agency
she played the chief role in creating.  Rational, you say?  How about
corporatist?  See a Charlie Rose interview, and a story on an apparent Wall
Street Journal editorial campaign trying to take Warren down.  Next, get up on
what gives with ‘tort reform.’  This approach reminds me of an astonishing
achievement of modern greed-driven Republicans.  That would be to get the ‘death
tax,’ actually the estate tax on multimillion dollar states, suspended (with
hope of elimination), with broad support from the American public.  Besides
hoodwinking millions of people into supporting this move, here is the other
achievement – beat the estate tax down largely with the argument that it’s
‘unfair to tax that money twice,’ while at the same time working like the
dickens to cut those ‘first-time’ income and capital gains taxes down to
nothing, or next to nothing. Thus is plutocracy built, friends.  Finally, a
Japan-related cartoon commenting on the deregulation mania. (It’s the March 18



Reactions to Japan Tragedy
Many of us are paying close attention to the nuclear side of the ongoing
earthquake and tsunami disaster in Japan.  And indeed, the latest expert opinion
puts that crisis at least on a par with Three Mile Island – and possibly
trending toward Chernobyl.  But that can divert attention from the immediate
human tragedy – an expected toll of more than 10,000, with many bodies never
recovered as they were swept out to sea.  It’s easy to find ignorant, mean,
cruel responses.  In a video interview, Bill O’Reilly was actually the saner
party involved – by a long shot.  Ann Coulter was arguing that radiation is no
big deal – the scientists are exaggerating.  And Rush Limbaugh had a good old
time ridiculing the Japanese for being environmentally conscious (home of the
Prius after all) but being thrashed by Mother Nature.  And then there is the
linked video, and a commentary by NPR’s Scott Simon.  Inspiration from, of all
places, the realm of canine friendship.  Also – despite Japan’s relative wealth,
they can use our help.


The Shock Doctrine – in Action and Summarized
First link – the emergency powers now held by the governor of Michigan.  Second
– this has to be one of the cruelest cuts being contemplated.  Third – I have
been recommending Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine for some time.  A friend
recently noted that it has also been a movie for over three years.  Highly
recommended . . . though not by Dick Cheney.

“In Mah State, I Bin Cuttin’ Taxes!”
Whoa, who was that southern boy with the smooth drawl?  Is Bill Clinton back on
the campaign trail?  Lamar Alexander?  No, it’s that tough-talkin’, tax-cuttin’,
face-changin’ boy from the south (of the Twin Cities), ex-governor Tim
Pawlenty.  Proving there ain’t nuthin’ he won’ do to be the president of y’all,
our boy has now started talking the part.  That is, he’s adopted a faux southern
accent.  Just listen to the story at the first link and see if you don’t agree.
Heck, it worked for ol’ George!  (Born a New England blueblood)  I wonder if our
boy Tim is soon to take brush-cuttin’ lessons.  Maybe a chimpish smirk would
help him pull some thunder back from the show-stealing Tea Partier Michele
Bachmann.  Well, in at least one way, Pawlenty has made something like the big
time.  Stephen Colbert’s hilarious satire of our panderer-in chief proves that.
Sort of.  Gawd, I love mah state!

“Facts?  No Thanks.  I’m Pretty, Loudmouthed and Loved by Tea Partiers.”
In the interest of equal time, our other Minnesota-grown prez wannabe must be
heard to be believed.
You can’t make this stuff up.


A Species Truly Endangered – and not by Accident
It’s the American middle class.  Here are several perspectives.  For the
snapshot version, look at the first link – it’s a chart that tells the sad tale
of increasing middle class hardship – while the wealthy thrive.  Second link
takes you to Jim Hightower’s latest writing on the issue.  Third link is a
longish article from Chris Hedges, author of Death of the Liberal Class.  He
points out what is at stake in the Wisconsin struggle, and how it connects with
populist struggles past.


Environmental Risks:  In the Unlikely Event that . . .
The linked interview from All Things Considered provided a fascinating look at
how we manage technical and environmental risks – ‘low-probability disasters.’
It’s interesting to connect these ideas with the promises being doled out by
natural gas drillers, who are assuring all that ‘fracking’ presents little or no
risk to drinking water supplies.



Grow Your Own, or Buy Healthy
Gardeners are gearing up for planting season.  If that doesn’t work for you for
whatever reason, how about a community-supported agriculture farm membership?
Good for you and the local farmer, and if you choose a farm with sustainable
practices, you are helping the natural world as well.
Each year the nonprofit Land Stewardship Project (LSP) publishes a guide and
listing of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms.

CSA farms provide weekly deliveries of their locally-grown produce to their
customers throughout the growing season, with the customers paying the farmers a
subscription fee. In some ways the CSA customers become partners with the
farmers, and the subscribers benefit by helping to build community and a more
personal connection with the source of some of their food.
The 2011 edition of the CSA directory is available online and for free
downloading at the web site above. This year’s directory for the first time
lists not only farms that deliver to subscribers in the Twin Cities, but also
includes farms delivering to customers in Greater Minnesota and western
Farmers pay a fee to be listed in this directory, and LSP does not certify
these farms.
There are descriptions of about 80 CSA farms in the directory, along with links
to the farms’ web sites in many cases. The directory is a great way for those
considering CSA membership to check out the wide variety of options that exist.
“The greatest danger to our future is apathy.”
– Jane Goodall

Contributed links to this posting – Jeff Carlson, Allyson Harper, Linda Kriel