R.I.P. Hummer 2

May 25, 2007 at 6:28 am
Contributed by:

Check out this article on the impending demise of the Hummer, by the ever-opinionated and unapologetic hardcore leftist, Mark Morford of the San Francisco Chronicle. It’s a fun read and might even signal a turning of the American sentiment toward their precious cars.

Rejoice, The Hummer Is Dead

Visualize Consumption

May 15, 2007 at 1:36 pm
Contributed by:

Folks,

Here’s a very cool art project I came across, which uses visual art to demonstrate the volumes of stuff that Americans consume every day. It’s pretty stunning!

In the author’s words:

This new series looks at contemporary American culture through the austere lens of statistics. Each image portrays a specific quantity of something: fifteen million sheets of office paper (five minutes of paper use); 106,000 aluminum cans (thirty seconds of can consumption) and so on. My hope is that images representing these quantities might have a different effect than the raw numbers alone, such as we find daily in articles and books. Statistics can feel abstract and anesthetizing, making it difficult to connect with and make meaning of 3.6 million SUV sales in one year, for example, or 2.3 million Americans in prison, or 426,000 cell phones retired every day. This project visually examines these vast and bizarre measures of our society, in large intricately detailed prints assembled from thousands of smaller photographs.

Check it out!

Running the Numbers

An American Self-Portrait

By Chris Jordan

Humor: the "Minty Clean Air Act"

May 4, 2007 at 7:44 am
Contributed by:

Ahh, it’s about time I posted some humor here eh?

Minty Clean Air Act

–C

War Costs Update

May 3, 2007 at 10:02 am
Contributed by: Chris

Folks,

I have been meaning to revisit the cost of the Iraq war for some time, but this snippet from yesterday’s Progress Report did a suitable job of it, so I’m just pasting it here.

Back in 2003-4, I had numerous email conversations that went on for days with some of my readers about the expected cost of the war. Somehow, they believed the Administration’s lowball estimates, claiming that the $200 billion figure cited by White House economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey was way over the top, that it was the result of “double counting” and a whole lot of other nonsense.

I, for one, never bought that. I thought $200 billion and several years was itself extremely lowball…and so far, I’ve been right.

Not that any of the aforementioned readers have had the decency to admit it.

This war isn’t going away any time soon. Not even if the Congress votes to de-fund it. The Saudis have said recently and publicly that our occupation of Iraq is illegal and unjustified, but I think that’s just a requisite CYA for domestic assuagement. They know better than anyone that if the U.S. military wasn’t in Iraq right now quelling the Shi’ites, that Saudi forces would have to step into the breach–which they no-how want to do. They need us there to fight a proxy war for them.

Especially now that a recent Woods-Mackenzie study has reviewed Iraq’s oil reserves and concluded that they were much larger than previously thought–second only to Saudi Arabia’s–there’s no way we can leave Iraq. Not now, and probably not ever.

So what does this do for the accounting on the War on Terror War for Energy?

I’m now raising my estimate: Half a trillion is still lowballing it. Big time.

The U.S. military has spent an average of $44 billion a year to protect oil operations in the Persian Gulf, and they’ve been doing that for years. Here’s a sneak preview from a new article I just finished, which will go out later this week:

We import about 800 million barrels per year of black gold from the Persian Gulf. Divided into $44 billion, that works out to slightly less than $55 a barrel. When oil is trading on the open market around $65!

If those protection costs weren’t externalized onto the U.S. military (your tax dollars at work!) but priced into the world market, I reckon that would put oil at around $120 a barrel.

Does anybody still think renewable energy is too expensive compared to oil?

This administration has lied pretty much every time it has opened its mouth about the Iraq war. From the missing WMDs to the purported connections between Saddam and al Qaeda; from the alleged attempt to purchase Nigerian yellowcake to the outing of Valerie Plame; from the assertion that Iraq could fund its own reconstruction to the firing of the guy who provided the (lowball) $200 billion estimate; from the promise that we would be greeted as liberators, to the denial that Iraq has descended into a civil war that we cannot win; from the completely fabricated stories about Pat Tillman and Jessica Lynch, to the persistent under-reporting of casualties, woundings and long-term illnesses suffered by soldiers; from the “they hate us because we’re free” pabulum to the secretive attempt to privatize Iraq’s oil wealth and put it into the hands of U.S. oil companies…it has been one, big, fat, cynical, outrageous, and unforgiveable lie.

And speaking of shamless liars, check out the latest bit of “revisionist history” visited upon us by none other than Mr. “Global Warming is a Hoax” himself:

“The whole idea of weapons of mass destruction was never the issue, yet they keep trying to bring this up.”

— Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), 4/27/07, criticizing Congress and the media for “mischaracterizing” the reasons for U.S. involvement in Iraq

VERSUS

“Our intelligence system has said that we know that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction — I believe including nuclear.”

— Inhofe, 8/18/02

Ugh. I mean…??? How dumb (or forgetful) do these guys think we are?

When I think about how that half a trillion plus has been and will be spent, with hardly any serious debate on the alternatives…and then think about how far half a trillion would take us in developing renewables and weaning ourselves off of foreign oil…I just shake my head. It just seems too brain-dead to be true. Is there nobody driving this bus?

But that discussion is for another time…

Until then,

–C
(more…)

Admirals, Generals Worried About Climate Change

April 20, 2007 at 10:01 am
Contributed by: Chris

Folks,

Here is my latest for Wealth Daily, about a new report by retired military brass about the national security implications of climate change, and what should be done about it.
(more…)

Google Earth brings Darfur crisis to life

April 12, 2007 at 5:19 pm
Contributed by:

Folks,

This is interesting: a collaboration between Google Earth and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM). The latter’s Genocide Prevention Mapping Initiative “seeks to collect, share and visually present to the world critical information on emerging crises that may lead to genocide or related crimes against humanity” and has used Google Earth as a platform to present their information.

This first effort is a very effective display about the genocide that is happening in Darfur. Using Google Earth, you can zoom in, find villages that are burning or destroyed, find photos, videos, and other media about each trouble spot, and find links to related information. It also features high-resolution imagery that “allows any user to see the systematic destruction of tens of thousands of homes, schools, mosques and other structures. It also reveals the sprawling refugee and displaced person camps, often identified by thousands of white tents strewn across the desert.”


More such presentations are planned. You can also use the platform to make your own presentations.

That’s how you make a war real, and generate public support for stopping the genocide. This is the kind of work that the mainstream media used to do, and that I wish they still did. Kudos to the USHMM and to Google for this compelling presentation!

Get started here: http://www.ushmm.org/googleearth/projects/darfur/

–C

Bee Concerned

April 6, 2007 at 5:56 pm
Contributed by:

Folks,

I’m taking a brief break here from my energy journalism to post this story about a subject that has been popping up on my radar pretty frequently lately: the mysterious disappearances of bees, all around the world. In addition to the news clip below, see these:

In
India, whole colonies are missing:

http://dnaindia.com/report.asp?NewsID=1083356

 

And in
Colorado and 23 other states, same thing…possibly a 40% loss rate:

http://www.coloradoan.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070305/BUSINESS/703050313

http://www.dailyherald.com/opinion/constable.asp?id=288067

 

But in
Florida, they just killed a huge swarm that had taken over a tree:

http://cbs4.com/topstories/local_story_064160034.html

 

And in
Oregon, the population is up 18% and the honey harvest up 35%.

http://portland.bizjournals.com/portland/stories/2007/03/05/daily2.html

If anybody out there has additional info on this story, please send it to me.

–C

 


Excerpted from Solar Living Institute Newsletter, Vol. V, No. 3 — March 13, 2007

U.S. honeybees are suffering from “colony collapse
disorder.” Beekeepers in 24 states say these
essential pollinators are simply disappearing, with
losses of 30% to 60% on the West Coast and, in
some cases, more than 70% on the East Coast and
in Texas. “I have never seen anything like it,” says
California keeper David Bradshaw. “Box after box after
box are just empty.” Perplexed scientists are testing
theories including stress, toxins, and viruses. It’s not
the first time bees have met a mystery fate, “but it’s
never been on a scale like this,” says bee specialist
Dennis van Engelsdorp. With bees pollinating more
than $14 billion of U.S. seeds and crops a year —
every third bite we eat, according to industry buzz —
those with full hives stand to benefit. “It’s supply and
demand,” says a keeper who expects to earn
$520,000 for a month in California’s almond orchards.

For more information:

U.S. Government Admits Peak Oil Threat

April 5, 2007 at 9:16 pm
Contributed by:

Folks,

Last week’s release of a new GAO study on peak oil was a watershed event. Here’s my report on it for Wealth Daily

–C

U.S. Government Admits Peak Oil Threat

By Chris Nelder

April 5, 2007

At long last, the U.S. Government admitted last week that peak oil is a reality.

Thanks to the relentless efforts of Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett (R-MD) and Rep. Tom Udall (D-NM) and their Congressional Peak Oil Caucus, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has performed a comprehensive study of the peak oil issue.

Their report, titled “Uncertainty about Future Oil Supply Makes It Important to Develop a Strategy for Addressing a Peak and Decline in Oil Production,” pulls no punches, either.

It warns that the U.S. is unprepared to deal with the decline of conventional oil, and is likely facing price shocks. “The consequences of a peak and permanent decline in oil production could be even more prolonged and severe than those of past oil supply shocks,” it says, and adds that the decline “would be neither temporary nor reversible.”

Anybody want a marker on $100 per barrel? $200?

As the title of the report implies, the U.S. is late in developing its response to the problem, partly because of uncertainty about the available data on oil reserves and production. “There is no coordinated federal strategy for reducing uncertainty about the peak’s timing or mitigating its consequences,” it says.

No, there is no coordinated federal strategy, because up until just recently, there were plenty of voices in the federal government denying that peak oil was even an issue.

But those days are behind us now, and this report is really a watershed moment in the debate. It comes from one of the most sober and respected agencies in the world, one right at the heart of the U.S. government.

What this means is that now we may be able to move beyond the political, often uninformed debate that has prevailed on the peak oil issue, and start focusing on facts and probable outcomes.

The authors of the report surveyed 21 previous peak oil studies, from the sublime (Bartlett, Deffeyes, Bakhtiari, Campbell) to the ridiculous (IEA, CERA, Exxon, Lynch) and observed that most studies project the peak to occur some time between 2000 and 2040, noting the many factors and unreliable data that make such projections difficult.

For the record, I have read many of these authors’ studies, and the ones I most respect all project a peak somewhere between 2005 and 2020, with 2015 a good median of consensus.

The report also noted that liquid fuel alternatives now in development–everything from biofuels to alternative transportation technologies–are not a panacea, because they could be limited by several factors, including the increasing cost of corn, the immense expense of adding ethanol-compatible infrastructure (pipelines, tanker trucks, storage tanks, and filling stations), and the sky-high cost of alternative engines such as hydrogen-burning fuel cells.

Consequently, a conservative but probably realistic projection is that alternative technologies could offset about 4% of U.S. petroleum consumption by 2015, up from 1% today.

Under that scenario, the study notes that “an imminent peak and sharp decline in oil production could cause a worldwide recession.”

It takes a lot of guts for a governmental office to use the R-word like that, especially in an administration that’s hostile to that message.

On the more optimistic end of their projections, they note that if the peak comes significantly later, we may have the time to overcome some of the technical challenges, and could potentially displace up to 35% of U.S. petroleum consumption by 2025 or 2030. (One observer made the wry comment that the word “could” appears in the report 84 times, and “uncertain” appears 87 times.)

So this report wasn’t your usual EIA- or IEA-style “don’t worry, be happy” pabulum, and the GAO isn’t offering any pie-in-the-sky alternatives. It’s realistic, and provides a rational basis for our national dialog about energy.

I give it two thumbs up–way up.

I also give the conclusion of the report top marks for honesty:

The consequences would be most dire if a peak occurred soon, without warning, and were followed by a sharp decline in oil production because alternative energy sources, particularly for transportation, are not yet available in large quantities. Such a peak would require sharp reductions in oil consumption, and the competition for increasingly scarce energy would drive up prices, possibly to unprecedented levels, causing severe economic damage. While these consequences would be felt globally, the United States, as the largest consumer of oil and one of the nations most heavily dependent on oil for transportation, may be especially vulnerable among the industrialized nations of the world.

The authors recommend that the Secretary of Energy develop a strategy for addressing peak oil, and make it a priority. They specifically call for better monitoring of oil supply and demand, and improved information on oil reserves, projected production, and the realistic capacity of alternatives.

Wow. I have long waited for this day, but little did I expect that it would be so satisfying!

The mainstream media, for its part, managed once again to summon the courage to run out and shoot the wounded. The very day after the GAO report was released, CNBC interviewed the world’s top oil banker, Matthew Simmons, about peak oil. And for once, they let him get the straight story out.

“I believe–and I have for some time–that we are on the verge of actually replacing ‘global warming’ by this term ‘peak oil,’” he said. “It’s not a kook issue, it’s a reality, it’s a physical reality. We have demand roaring ahead and supply is faltering.”

Commenting further on the extremely tight balance between supply and demand, he continued, “There is a likelihood that by this summer, demand will start to fast outstrip supply, and we can tolerate that for a few weeks, but then actually that spells ‘shortage’ as opposed to high prices.”

Noting that Saudi Arabia has only a glut of heavy sour crude, which the world doesn’t need any more of than it now consumes, and that Mexico’s oil fields are in irreversible decline, “a disaster happening before our eyes,” with a depletion rate that might be as high as 25%, he warned, “That is so dangerous to the United States economy, you cannot believe it.”

Speaking alongside Simmons on the program, energy analyst John Kilduff admitted that we are “tremendously vulnerable” and lamented that oil prices have come down from last year’s highs, because that has caused us to “take our eye off the ball.” “We are absolutely held hostage” to unfriendly countries that still have significant amounts of oil, he said.

Simmons concluded: “The fossil fuel era is basically waning, as far as meeting the unbelievable, insatiable demand, and we don’t have any solutions. The best new oil basin we will ever find is called ‘conservation.”

And there you have it. The top oil industry banker in the world–a guy who makes his living financing oil projects–says that our salvation is in conservation.

Any further questions?

Until next time,

Chris Signature

–Chris

Blog madness…check out my shared articles

April 4, 2007 at 4:23 pm
Contributed by:

Folks,

I was recently turned on to a blog and Web reader tool by Google, called Google Reader. It’s a type of reader for RSS feeds. It’s pretty cool, doesn’t require any installation, and has a lot of features.

Not only does it integrate the blogs and sites you add to its list, but you can publish your collection as an RSS feed also, which in turn can get incorporated into other readers, which could also be published as feeds… it gets deep after awhile!

It’s a great way to stay up on your favorite blogs & Web sites. Check it: http://www.google.com/reader

You can mark articles as “shared” will show up on a page for others to see. Mine is
here. Those articles are also listed in the right-hand column of the home page.

That page also has an RSS feed of its own, so you can subscribe to that in your own reader.

It’s a very cool way to stay abreast of GRL, articles I read, and other blogs and sites you may read. Give it a whirl.

–C

Oblivion – A Photo Essay of Los Angeles

February 15, 2007 at 1:59 pm
Contributed by:

Folks,

Here’s a photo essay in Orion magazine, which features aerial photos of Los Angeles as art, exploring the nature of the built environment. I think it’s a fascinating way to look at things, and an interesting counterpoint to the back-to-the-land movement. Check it out…and make sure to read the essay, it’s worthwhile.

Oblivion by David Maisel

–C

Relearning How to Live as Voluntary Peasants

February 15, 2007 at 11:51 am
Contributed by:

Folks,

I thought this was a fascinating read. Taken from Jan Lundberg’s excellent Culture Change newsletter, it’s an essay about one man’s journey around the country, in search of solutions to a post-peak oil society. Over the last six months, he has visited numerous intentional communities, particularly The Farm in Tennessee, and interviewed the like-minded from coast to coast, looking for people and communities who are trying to find ways toward self-sufficiency. It’s an eye-opener.

–CJOHN’S PEAK OIL ODYSSEY – SIX MONTHS INTO IT

“Part of The Farm’s original vision was to build a village for a thousand people using alternative energy systems that were economically and ecologically responsible. We believed that we could design a graceful standard of living which would be attractive to large numbers of First World people, while also being within reach of all Third World people.”
– Gary Rhine on living as voluntary peasants, “So Close Yet So Far”, from Voices from the Farm (1998)

Just before the Fourth of July, I left my life as a tennis-playing, wine-drinking, spoiled rich white guy to begin this radical eco-odyssey. And in the six months which have ensued, I have watched the sun rise over the Atlantic and set over the Pacific, joined Peak Oil groups in three time zones, and visited ecovillages as far apart as North Carolina and Oregon. Plus I spent a couple of months training with the Permaculture Army in Berkeley. But it is to The Farm, the thirty-six-year-old intentional community in Tennessee, that I keep returning.

I didn’t hear good things about The Farm when I was on my way to visit. I had participated in the Earth First! Rendezvous in the Appalachian Mountains. There I saw former mountains apocalyptically sliced down to nothing to yield up coal which will be called “clean” to perhaps be liquefied for toxic methanol — marketed as something disingenuous to shut Americans up about Peak Oil and Global Climate Chaos. The Farm was beckoning as a bastion of back-to-the-land activism in one of the mountain-top removal states.

At the Rendezvous I had met a young farmer who lives at The Farm. Her old VW van had broken down somewhere east of The Farm and west of the Appalachians, and she needed a ride back to it. I had still not yet given away my car (I would do so soon enough — to firm up my eco-cred), so I was glad to help her out. “At The Farm,” she told me on the way, as the big-box-bound tractor-trailers and the super-sized SUVs whooshed past, “there is no farming.”

I would hear similar reports about The Farm as far away as the Left Coast. “It’s a gated community now,” a teacher of urban gardening in Oakland said. “It’s like the suburbs now” said a permaculturist in Oregon, “and nobody wants to get their hands dirty by farming.” “It’s a retirement community for old hippies,” said a rich young hippie in Berkeley, on his way to India.

And, well, there is no farming being done on The Farm. As I drove in, I saw thirty-year-old apple trees and thirty-year-old horses. Hundreds of acres of fields lay fallow. It turns out that a lot of Farmies drive the seventy-some miles up to Nashville to buy hyper-priced U.S.D.A.-certified organic goodies at Wild Oats (a Corporate Clone of Whole Foods, where the PR.-savvy system does not allow the cashiers to unionize, but does encourage them to wear tie-dye).

By the same token, however, there is no farming being done in the United States of America — not on a local, sustainable scale, that is, not to any degree worthy of official attention. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of the Census stopped counting farming as an occupation in 1986 — the number of actual, self-employed, traditional farmers had become statistically insignificant. To be sure, there are some non-corporatized farmers still around, but they exist only because they have either a reliable source of non-farm income (as I had), or because they are willing to live in real poverty (the Farmies of the 1970s lived on the equivalent of a dollar fifty per day per person).

But the bottom line is that our corporatized, industrialized, government-subsidized mega-scale methods of petro-food production have made small-scale farming virtually impossible.

And that is the heartbreaking story of American agriculture in the twentieth century, whether you’re talking about grandma and grandpa’s forgotten old farm or whether you’re talking about The Farm. And so if you come to The Farm today looking for a working model for a sustainable, post-petroleum, ecovillaging future, you are going to be disappointed. But then again, where are you going to find such a model in the U.S.?

Back in the 1970s, when there really was subsistence-level farming being done on The Farm, Stephen Gaskin, the founder, coined the terms “Technicolor Amish” and “voluntary peasants” to make it plain how these hippies proudly and idealistically toiled in poverty. But that original hippie energy – that original vision — was not sustainable, and after the big Changeover (as the Farmies still call it) took place in 1982-83, The Farm ceased to be a commune. Private property has been the rule here for a quarter of a century now. Subsistence-level farming is just a collective memory, though the spirit of voluntary peasantry still thrives in the souls of some of the more uncompromising old Farmies.

Albert Bates, for example, who first came to the Farm in 1972, runs what is called the Ecovillage Training Center here, and he has just published a book called The Post-Petroleum Survival Guide and Cookbook. But for the time being Bates is something of a prophet without honor in his own country. Few of the Farmies share his sense of urgency about ecological crisis. And this is a real problem. For from what I’ve seen over these past six months, the Farmies represent the best of what’s being done by the very few Americans who are idealistic enough to want to live in intentional communities and ecovillages.

The fact that so much ecological work remains undone and even unattempted at The Farm is frightening, not because it reflects badly on the Farmies, but because it begins to bring into focus just how horrible a place the vast majority of Americans are in now, as we see daffodils blooming in January and our government’s endgame of other people’s depleted-uranium-infected-blood-for-our-oil enters its fourth year.

The Farmies have not yet built an ecovillage — this is unhappily true — but they do know how to live in peace and kindness with their neighbors – and they can remind us that it is possible to live as voluntary peasants. When they lived on the equivalent of a dollar fifty a day, they really did abide by the founding principle which they had taken verbatim from the book of Acts: “And all that believed were together and had all things in common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all as every man had need.”

Their experience of voluntary peasantry puts the Farmies on a totally different planet from the rest of America, where the mainstream still, every day, every minute, is made more addicted to their energy-scarfing hyper-consumerism. So when the time comes and the rest of America, having been denied its right to shop, convulses and sickens in the pangs of withdrawal, the planet of voluntary peasantry may well survive Peak Oil and Global Climate Chaos, because the people on it have had some real preparation for life as involuntary peasants.

And, like it or not, that’s what our future seems to hold, and that’s what will force culture change (no matter how much we pray for techno-fixes): the shock of sudden poverty.
So let us go back to Gary Rhine’s words quoted in the epigraph above, from his account of the founding vision of The Farm. It was about:

“… a village for a thousand people using alternative energy systems that were economically and ecologically responsible. We believed that we could design a graceful standard of living which would be attractive to large numbers of First World people, while also being within reach of all Third World people. We hoped to build the model village, live in it, and then get funding to help build similar towns in Third World countries. We also hoped to inspire other First World groups to build similar villages for themselves.”

“During those years we had people living on The Farm who were at the forefront in fields such as architectural design, solar heating, and photovoltaics. We had the know-how and the manpower to build the town we envisioned. But we didn’t build it.

“After a decade of struggling Third World-style in the woods of Tennessee, we were still living in a skeleton of our dream. Instead of building our town, we had been sending many of our most talented and energetic people to do relief work in Guatemala, Bangladesh, Haiti, the South Bronx, and on American Indian reservations….

“By the early 1980s, many of the people who had been in on the original vision were tired of living in a crisis-management state of mind, with systems constantly breaking down because they weren’t built right in the first place. It was frustrating because we knew how to do it right; we just didn’t have the resources. So a large number of people left. I think that if at that time we had been able to build the town and been able to live within the graceful standard of living that we had envisioned as ‘voluntary peasants,’ a lot of us would not have left. We were so close yet so far” (from Rupert Fike, ed., Voices from the Farm).

Rhine, a documentary filmmaker whose special interest was American Indians, disappeared in a plane crash about a year ago – he wasn’t all that old – and so we are led to consider the fact that just as much of the original vision for The Farm has been lost, so have many of the men and women who lived here during the 1970s already died. Yet it is out of the sadness of unrealized and never-to-be-realized dreams that we can learn from The Farm.

And so I am at The Farm as I write this. I am at The Farm to learn, and I am here to share with you what I have learned so far. My girlfriend Betsy is sitting next to me, looking over my shoulder. Betsy’s a close friend of that young woman farmer whose VW van broke down on the way to the Earth First! Rendezvous last July — whom I helped get home to The Farm — one good turn leads to another! Betsy’s been at The Farm, in one way or the other, since 1975. She was born in a teepee in Colorado in 1972– her mother Marilyn had made it during the pregnancy — and when Betsy was two-and-a-half, Marilyn moved to The Farm and began living the life of a voluntary peasant. For the first ten years of Betsy’s life Marilyn did not even own a wallet. Right now Betsy and I are house-sitting for her — she’s gone to Washington, D.C. in a Greyhound Bus with about forty other Farmies to protest our so-called war in Iraq. (Like Betsy and me, Albert’s also stayed behind; he’s entertaining a reporter from Vanity Fair who’s writing a story about the history of The Farm — how odd a topic for Vanity Fair!)

And so, as Betsy looks over my shoulder, she makes sure that what I write here is both full of truth and free from personal or pointless criticism. For this is what I have to learn here. This is where our proper response to our scary future begins: in seeing things just as they are, and then reacting to them with equanimity — by rising above our petty likes and dislikes, our self-protecting projections and false expectations, in order to be able to act with true mindfulness and compassion under any circumstances. For any circumstances are already here.

John Siman is going back and forth between the Georgia coast, where he is working on the refit of the schooner Wanderer (soon to be the Emancipator), and The Farm in Tennessee, where he is writing, among other things, a book titled Disconnectivities: Watching America Heat Up and Hubbert Down; or, Always Astonished. He can be contacted at john “at” thefarm “dot” org

* * * * *

References:

Voices From The Farm, edited by Rupert Fike.
copyright 1998.

Book of Acts: the New Testament, Acts, 2:44, 45.

Ecovillage Training Center:

thefarm.org

Albert Bates’ book: The Post-Petroleum Survival Guide and Cookbook, reviewed in Raise the Hammer, January 10, 2007:

www.raisethehammer.org

Earth First! Journal:


earthfirstjournal.org

The OSP Unmasked

February 9, 2007 at 6:55 pm
Contributed by:

Folks,

I have been greatly relieved to see some of the truth about the Office of Special Plans coming out into the open…finally. I first blogged it in June 2003, quoting an article from Newsweek, so we’ve known about it for nearly four years. I have blogged it seven times since then.

OK, so this investigation is about four years too late to save us from getting into the Iraq debacle, but at least the truth is coming to light. Now that the White House’s deceptions about the war are becoming public knowledge–no longer something that can be cast aside as “conspiracy theory”–perhaps we can also have a real debate about Iraq. Again, yes, a debate we should have had before the war–and would have had, had the Republicans dominating all three branches of government not stonewalled it, but better late than never, I guess.

I am reminded again of one of my favorite quotes by the Dr. Martin Luther King: “The arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

–C

Feith Takes the Fall


By Mark Thompson/Washington

Friday, Feb. 09, 2007


For a person most Americans have never heard of, Doug Feith has been called terrible names by very important people. In Plan of Attack, Bob Woodward quotes General Tommy Franks — appalled at the quality of intelligence about Iraq — railing that Feith, then the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, was “the f—king stupidest guy on the face of the earth.” Today, there was another bad review. Feith got publicly slapped by the Defense Department’s inspector general for developing pro-war intelligence on Iraq — outside of official channels — that now seems plainly wrong. The IG concludes that Feith’s office, on a free-lance basis, made claims “that were inconsistent with the consensus of the intelligence community.” The report said that Feith’s shop exaggerated the purported links between Saddam Hussein’s government and al Qaeda. “That was the argument that was used to make the sale to the American people about the need to go to war,” said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the armed services committee. He said the Feith’s work, “which was wrong, which was distorted, which was inappropriate … is something which is highly disturbing.”


Feith may have been one of the Bush Administration’s most fervent supporters of war with Iraq but, in truth, he was only a bit player. Indeed, he is the third bit player in the Iraq fiasco to be paying for the sins of his superiors recently. For a couple of weeks now, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby has been in the dock in federal court in Washington, trying desperately to keep his one-time boss, Vice President Dick Cheney, from being stained by the responsibility for Libby’s chats with reporters and government officials about Valerie Plame’s CIA job. Then, just yesterday, Army General George Casey was raked over the coals by Senators who didn’t think his past 30 months in command of U.S. ground forces in Iraq warrants his elevation to Army chief of staff. While he did get the promotion, the Senate vote of 83-to-14 was the poorest showing for an Army chief since Vietnam. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said Casey should be held accountable for giving Congress too-rosy assessments of the war as the situation there spiraled downward into chaos. “I have questioned in the past and question today a number of decisions and judgments that Gen. Casey has made in the past two and a half years,” McCain said. “During that time, conditions in Iraq have gotten remarkably and progressively worse.”


This trio of woes seems to have a common thread: Underlings snared while trying to please their bosses. It’s almost like blaming the hammer instead of the carpenter for a bent nail. Speaking to the Associated Press, Feith took umbrage at descriptions that his work was “inappropriate.” Said he: “The policy office has been smeared for years by allegations that its pre-Iraq-war work was somehow ‘unlawful’ or ‘unauthorized.'” He has a point: it was the Bush administration that chose Feith’s reports over those generated by its $1 billion-a-week intelligence operation. Feith’s work was most certainly authorized — from the very top.


Source: Time: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1587982,00.html

Missing Molly

February 1, 2007 at 9:57 pm
Contributed by:

Folks,

The progressive cause lost one of its very best and brightest yesterday, as Molly Ivins succumbed to cancer.

She was really my kinda gal: her heart was always with the common man and the progressive cause, but her trenchant critiques and her rapier wit cut the Left as easily as the Right.

She was nobody’s fool. She could boil endless layers of Beltway gobbledegookdown to straight and simple talk without even trying, and she could depants a Texas politician in a New York minute with a single well-turned phrase. I lost count of the times I breathed an explosive sigh of relief after reading some of those phrases, as if she had taken a huge burden off of me by speaking the straight and simple truth when all around was confusion and noise.

But maybe more importantly, her aim was true. I haven’t done a count, but having read her over the years, I think the record would show that she was right on the money most of the time.

She had so many brilliant quotes, it’s impossible to choose one carefully, so here’s one more or less selected at random:

Naturally, when it comes to voting, we in Texas are accustomed to discerning that fine hair’s-breadth worth of difference that makes one hopeless dipstick slightly less awful than the other. But it does raise the question: Why bother?

Oh, it’s just that your life is at stake.

She is also the one who coined the President’s nicknames of “Dubya” and “Shrub.”

I won’t try to tell her story here–there are hundreds to choose from. But if you aren’t familiar with her work, I encourage you to take a look at her thousands of articles and her many books. Or maybe you’d like to check out the half-dozen blogs in which I featured her work.

She was an American treasure. The only other person I can think of who can hold a candle to her unabashed progressiveness, and her plainspoken, incisive wit, is Jim Hightower…and I pray for his good health.

I’ll be missing you, Molly. Missing ya huge. Nobody did it better.

Letting her have the last word, then, here’s her last column.

–C

Molly Ivins: Stand Up Against the ‘Surge’

Original Source

Posted on Jan 11, 2007

By Molly Ivins

The purpose of this old-fashioned newspaper crusade to stop the war is not to make George W. Bush look like the dumbest president ever. People have done dumber things. What were they thinking when they bought into the Bay of Pigs fiasco? How dumb was the Egypt-Suez war? How massively stupid was the entire war in Vietnam? Even at that, the challenge with this misbegotten adventure is that we simply cannot let it continue.

It is not a matter of whether we will lose or we are losing. We have lost. Gen. John P. Abizaid, until recently the senior commander in the Middle East, insists that the answer to our problems there is not military. “You have to internationalize the problem. You have to attack it diplomatically, geo-strategically,” he said.

His assessment is supported by Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the senior American commander in Iraq, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who only recommend releasing forces with a clear definition of the goals for the additional troops.

Bush’s call for a “surge” or “escalation” also goes against the Iraq Study Group. Talk is that the White House has planned to do anything but what the group suggested after months of investigation and proposals based on much broader strategic implications.

About the only politician out there besides Bush actively calling for a surge is Sen. John McCain. In a recent opinion piece, he wrote: “The presence of additional coalition forces would allow the Iraqi government to do what it cannot accomplish today on its own—impose its rule throughout the country. … By surging troops and bringing security to Baghdad and other areas, we will give the Iraqis the best possible chance to succeed.” But with all due respect to the senator from Arizona, that ship has long since sailed.

A surge is not acceptable to the people in this country—we have voted overwhelmingly against this war in polls (about 80 percent of the public is against escalation, and a recent Military Times poll shows only 38 percent of active military want more troops sent) and at the polls. We know this is wrong. The people understand, the people have the right to make this decision, and the people have the obligation to make sure our will is implemented.

Congress must work for the people in the resolution of this fiasco. Ted Kennedy’s proposal to control the money and tighten oversight is a welcome first step. And if Republicans want to continue to rubber-stamp this administration’s idiotic “plans” and go against the will of the people, they should be thrown out as soon as possible, to join their recent colleagues.

Anyone who wants to talk knowledgably about our Iraq misadventure should pick up Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s “Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone.” It’s like reading a horror novel. You just want to put your face down and moan: How could we have let this happen? How could we have been so stupid?

As The Washington Post’s review notes, Chandrasekaran’s book “methodically documents the baffling ineptitude that dominated U.S. attempts to influence Iraq’s fiendish politics, rebuild the electrical grid, privatize the economy, run the oil industry, recruit expert staff or instill a modicum of normalcy to the lives of Iraqis.”

We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war. Raise hell. Think of something to make the ridiculous look ridiculous. Make our troops know we’re for them and trying to get them out of there. Hit the streets to protest Bush’s proposed surge. If you can, go to the peace march in Washington on Jan. 27. We need people in the streets, banging pots and pans and demanding, “Stop it, now!”

Copyright 2007 Creators Syndicate Inc.

A (Minor) Christmas Miracle at the Salton Sea

January 6, 2007 at 1:31 pm
Contributed by: Chris

Folks,

This one is considerably off the beaten path for GRL, but I wanted to share the story. My ambivalence about publishing it was resolved today when I came across, quite accidentally, two other stories about the Salton Sea. So here is my little story, replete with information freely plagiarized from Wikipedia and elsewhere.
(more…)

2006: A Time of Transition

January 4, 2007 at 6:09 pm
Contributed by:

Reposted from Wealth Daily:

2006: A Time of Transition

by Chris Nelder

At the beginning of a new year, the urge to look back and review the one gone by, and consider what the new one will bring, is irresistible. In my review of 2006, one theme emerged, and that is transition.

Politically, it was a year where the Bush administration’s rhetoric about terrorism, and its unwavering commitment to staying the course in Iraq, began to sound tired and out of touch. We started the year with few voices of opposition being heard, but we ended it with a mid-term election rout, and the Democrats back in control of Congress. It was a year when the excesses and corruption of some of the most powerful and wealthy people in America finally came to judgment. Being one of those Californians who got bent over by Enron in 2001, I still feel cheated that “Kenny Boy” Lay died before doing a day of time for his crimes, but at least he and his cronies were brought to justice. From Abramoff to Delay to Foley to all the rest of the rotten bunch, we swept at least some of the corruption from Congress.

It was a year when we began to explore the complex relationships between global warming, major weather events, and fossil fuels. There was the release of An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore’s superb movie about global warming. We started the year where a substantial portion of Americans still thought there was a real scientific debate about whether global warming was a real problem at all, and where journalists still persisted in trying to portray “balance” when all of the data are really on one side. But we ended the year with millions of people having seen the data for themselves, and having seen the unmistakable trends now under way across the entire earth. We still have deniers, but we have a whole lot fewer of the deliberately confused.

The quality and quantity of data about climate change also improved radically in 2006. We had a sharp increase in the number of studies, and many more results were reported by the press. NASA reported in September that the earth’s temperature is the highest it’s been for a million years. We saw whole populations of whales moving north due to the warming oceans. We watched 750,000 square kilometers of formerly permanent Arctic sea ice melt. We watched huge portions of the Antarctic ice shelves calve into the water. And we learned that the reason we didn’t get a big hurricane season may have been that we had so many dust storms (due to drought) in Africa.

On the energy front, the peak of global oil production started coming into view. All the data aren’t in yet, so it’s too early to say. But the data we do have indicates that the global supply of oil rose less than 0.2% (after consecutive years of 2% gains), while the global demand for oil increased unabated by another 1%. All of the supply increase came from non-OPEC suppliers, mainly in Russia and Africa. But on the whole, the areas that have been expected to make up the shortfall—the Caspian, West Africa, Brazil, and the Canadian oil sands—are not growing quickly enough to make up the shortfall.

It’s possible that 2006 was the global production peak, but it may have been more due to changing consumption patterns than to supply changes. We won’t know for another year or more if that was the case, due to the notoriously bad problems of getting data about oil production from most parts of the world. Kenneth Deffeyes, geology Professor Emeritus at Princeton, a devotee of M. King Hubbert’s who has applied his modeling techniques to global production, famously quipped that the global peak was Thanksgiving Day, 2005. Now it appears that 2005 was, in fact, the global peak of conventional oil, and the increases from unconventional oil (polar and ultra-deepwater, oil sands, natural gas liquids and condensates, etc.) haven’t materialized at the speed, or in the quantities, that had been expected.

Geopolitically, 2006 was very much a year of transition for oil suppliers, seeing Russia, Venezuela and Bolivia all make bold moves to gain greater control over their oil and gas production, and renationalize their assets. The majors like Exxon, Shell and BP were forced out of their investments, and the national governments began increasingly to use their supply as a geopolitical weapon. Just as it did in 2005, Russia’s gas brinksmanship nearly left much of eastern and central Europe in the cold, driving a hard bargain at Christmas, and forcing them to pay nearly doubled prices for natural gas.

Europe, in particular, developed a whole new level of sensitivity about their dependence on foreign supplies, causing the EU’s Energy Commissioner to begin work on a new common energy policy for the EU, and to warn publicly that they face a major energy crisis in the next 20 years unless they do something about it, fast.

This looks, for all the world, like the beginning of a new kind of cold war, where the mere threat of withholding supply is enough to affect the balances of power. As of 2006, national oil companies (NOCs) now control over 90% of the world’s remaining oil. The majors, including Exxon, Shell, BP, Chevron, and all the rest, are in control of a mere 10%.

On the demand side, OECD nations declined by at least 1.3%, due in part to slowing economies, a warmer winter, and gains in efficiency. But non-OECD nations, including the overheated economies of China and India, consumed an aggregate 3.5% more oil—1.3 million barrels per day—in 2006 than they did in 2005. China’s crude imports alone surged 10% higher in 2006, and their economic growth is still red-hot.

The crude oil price spike of 2006 was probably the most noticeable phenomenon, starting and ending the year at $61, but going as high as $78 in July. As the price climbed through the spring, public outcry led some Senators to call hearings and question the heads of Big Oil on their pricing and maintenance practices. But, observing what some have called a “mutual suicide pact” between Congress and Detroit, nobody dared invoke the sacred cow of CAFÉ standards. As the price of crude plunged to $55 and gasoline dropped back into the low $2 range, the pressure let up, and we were back to business as usual before election time. Some analysts took the opportunity to declare (on the basis of absolutely nothing other than a lower oil price) that peak oil theory was dead and discredited.

Explanations for the spike, and the drop, varied widely: an increase in the “terror premium” to which the markets eventually became inured; an expectation of damaging hurricanes that never materialized; the loss of infrastructure from Katrina and Rita plus the temporary shutdown of the leaky pipes in the Alaska, most of which was recovered by the end of the year; and a huge tide of hedge fund money that surged in and surged right back out of the energy complex. Theories were legion.

But almost none of them focused on the fundamentals of supply and demand. I maintain that the Street has still not priced in the reality of peak oil, and continues to be swayed primarily by short term factors like weekly inventory reports. Energy traders still behave like a mass of seagulls, chasing each other’s momentum around on the beach. We strive to be more like Jonathan Livingston, and keep a long view of the situation as much as possible.

Here’s what I see, from a loftier vantage point. The fundamental problems of oil supply and demand got worse in 2006. Population growth is still unchecked and undiscussed. The geopolitical balances of the world are even more unstable now than they were a year ago, and major oil exporters enjoy more control than ever. We’re definitively past the peak in conventional production, and entering the uncertain three-to-five year period just before the absolute global peak. Most of the world now recognizes that climate change and fossil fuel use are inextricably connected, and many have begun serious efforts to switch to renewable fuels and increase the efficiency of our fossil fuel uses. And hardly anybody is still pretending that oil isn’t the reason that our armed forces are in the Middle East.

Awareness of the peak oil problem is still dawning, albeit much more slowly than I would like. We started 2006 with President Bush’s admission that we were addicted to oil, but his comment was about dependency on unstable producers, not about global depletion. And by the end of the year, Congress and the White House had talked much, but accomplished little. For its part, most of the press (with a very few notable exceptions, like the Chicago Tribune and the U.K.’s Guardian) continue to seem muddled about the whole issue, easily led astray by the wild promises of economists and oil industry propaganda.
But on the whole, I think 2006 showed some promise that we can get our heads around these problems and start making tracks toward solutions. We have a very long way to go, but it’s a start.

Next week, we’ll take a look at some of the developments that we can look forward to for the coming year.

Until next time…

The Compactors – Buying Nothing for Christmas

December 21, 2006 at 9:58 pm
Contributed by:

Folks,

Here is another positive example of everyday people making a difference.

A group of ten friends in San Francisco made a compact between them not to buy anything new in 2006, except for food and the bare necessities for health and safety. They have mostly succeeded, and were featured in several newspaper stories, like the one below.

For Christmas, they’re either eschewing gifts, or making gifts, or finding good used stuff, and wrapping it up in newspaper and other paper that would otherwise have been put in the bin. I love this example, because it shows that, especially at Christmas, one can step out of the intense consumerism and still have a perfectly enjoyable holiday, with or without the gift-giving.

For my part, I haven’t gone quite that far, but I have succeeded in finally convincing my family (after years of trying) to limit the gift-giving to the kids (under 15 yrs) and spouses. I can’t tell you what an immense relief it has been not to have to do all that shopping, and spend money I can’t afford to spend, not to mention staying off the roads and out of the stores. It has turned a holiday that I had started to regard with anxiety and dread, back into what it should have been all along: a positive and relaxed time to enjoy the company of family, full stop!

So if you’ve been running around like a madman, singing under your breath “It’s the most stressful time of the year…,” maybe you want to stop a minute and consider those examples. You might be surprised at how willing your family and friends are to follow suit. You do have the right to be a person, and not just a “consumer.”

May your holiday season be filled with joy, companionship, and relaxation!

–C

From http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/12/17/AR2006121701122_pf.html


Nothing New Here — And That’s the Point
In California, 10 Friends Eschew Consumer Culture to Live Secondhand

By William Booth
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 18, 2006; A01

SAN FRANCISCO — In the living room, the group gathers to share inspirational stories about the joy of finding just the right previously owned shower curtain. To the uninitiated, these people appear almost normal, at least in a San Francisco kind of way. But upon closer inspection, you see it: Nothing in this house, nothing on their bodies, none of their products — nothing is new. Everything is used.

For these people, recycling wasn’t enough. Composting wasn’t a challenge anymore. No, they wanted much more of much less.

Attention holiday shoppers! These people haven’t bought anything new in 352 days — and counting. These 10 friends vowed last year not to purchase a single new thing in 2006 — except food, the bare necessities for health and safety (toilet paper, brake fluid) and, thankfully, underwear, and maybe socks (they’re still debating whether new socks are okay).

Everything else they bought secondhand. They bartered or borrowed. Recycled. Re-gifted. Reused. Where? Thrift stores and swap meets, friends and Dumpsters, and the Internet, from Craigslist to the Freecycle Network, which includes 3,843 communities and 2.8 million members giving away stuff to one another.

These people purchased old sheets this year. Tonight’s vegetarian feast was cooked in a hand-me-down Crock-Pot. Christmas presents? They’re making them, or — shudders — they don’t give them.

They call their little initiative “the Compact,” which they say has something to do with the Mayflower and the Pilgrim pledge to live for the greater good, save the planet, renew their souls, etc. And although these modern “Compactors” say they never intended to spark a mini-movement or appear on the “Today” show, that is exactly what has happened.

Since the San Francisco Chronicle ran an article about them in February, their story of not buying has appeared on media outlets around the world — everything from Yoga Journal to Martha Stewart’s Body + Soul to the London Times. Even Oprah’s producers called.

It appears they’ve pinched a nerve. Perhaps, the Compactors suggest, many people have the same feeling that the mall just isn’t working for them anymore.

“We’re just rarefied middle-class San Francisco greenies having a conversation about consumption and sustainability,” says John Perry, a marketing executive with a high-tech firm, and one of the founding Compactors. “But suddenly, we decide we’re not going to buy a bunch of new stuff for a year? And that’s international news? Doesn’t that say something?”

Their user group on Yahoo has grown to 1,800 registered members, representing SubCompact cells operating across the country (including Washington), and around the planet. So they apparently live among us, biding their time, quietly not buying, like some kind of Fifth Column of . . . Shakers.

The online Compact community ( http://groups.yahoo.com/group/thecompact) spends enormous amounts of typing-time discussing things most Americans probably do not. Such as how to make soap. Or whether a mousetrap counts as a safety necessity. Or how to explain to your children that Santa Claus traffics in used toys.

“And people hate us for it? Like it drives them nuts?” This is Shawn Rosenmoss, an environmental engineer in the original San Francisco group. Some have called the Compactors un-American, anti-capitalist, eco-freak poseurs whose defiant act of not-consuming, if it caught on, would destroy the economy and our way of life.

Kalle Lasn, editor of Adbusters magazine, who advocates taking a 24-hour timeout of the consumer merry-go-round, has promoted Buy Nothing Day since 1992, urging citizens to resist the urge to splurge on the day after Thanksgiving, the kickoff to the holiday shopping spree.

Lasn claims that millions of people have stopped shopping on Buy Nothing Day, although he admits there is no way to know for sure. But Lasn does know that Internet discussion about the movement has grown, and so, too, the backlash — against the backlash.

“I go on talk radio shows, and I’m amazed by the anger of some people, the Chamber of Commerce president who calls up and says, ‘You’re trying to ruin the economy,’ ” Lasn says. “I sympathize. I know you have to pay your rent, but try to take the larger view. We consume three times more than we did right after World War II. These things are connected.”

“I think it upsets people because it seems like we’re making a value judgment about them,” says Rosenmoss, who has two children. “When we’re simply trying to bring less . . . into our house.”

What are the rules to this particular game? “People are really into the rules,” Perry says, “as if it were a game, which it kind of is. I like that part of it. Figuring out how to do what I need to do without running out and buying something.”

The rules are simple — and flexible. The original Compactors decided they would get to vote on anything in the gray areas.

One member recalls asking permission to purchase a new toilet brush, contending that it was a health issue. Overruled. How about a new house key? Allowed. New tubes of shampoo, toothpaste, sunscreen are okay, but skin bronzer would be frowned upon.

At the potluck supper, the family dog is playing with a toy, which looks like a ball of yarn. Technically, it is new, and thus a Compact breaker. “But if she eats it,” points out Rachel Kesel, a professional dog walker, “then it’s food.”

“We all have our little weaknesses,” says Kate Boyd, a schoolteacher and set designer. Her challenge was getting used bicycle shoes, plus a used helmet and pump. Three buys through Craigslist through three sellers. “It was more of a hassle than going to the bike store,” she says, but more interesting, too. “You get to meet new people.”

The greatest challenge of the Compact? “The strangest things,” Perry explains. For example, he cannot find used shoe polish.

Then there are modern dilemmas. Is it better to buy a battery (allowed, if recycled and rechargeable) for a cellular phone for $70 or just have the company give you a new free phone if you switch providers?

Clothes? Easy, they say. Vintage stores. Consignment shops. Or more down-market, your Goodwill, your Salvation Army. Or your own closet, likely filled with outfits.

Toys? The easiest. Perry and his partner, Rob Picciotto, a high school language teacher, have two adopted children. “I take Ben to Target sometimes and we’ll play with the toys and then leave,” Picciotto says. The kid seems happy.

“I broke down and bought a drill bit,” Rosenmoss says. The Compactors nod their heads. “I just wanted it and I needed and I did it.” The group members understand. They’ve had their drill-bit moments.

But not a lot of them. Asked what they bought that broke the Compact, the list was not long: some sneakers, the drill bit, a map, and for Sarah Pelmas and her newlywed husband, Matt Eddy (fellow Compactors), some energy-efficient windows for the house renovation. The 1920s house, they remind us, was purchased used. Indeed, they painted it with recycled paint.

“By being so strict with yourself, you learn to take a deep breath,” Kesel says.

“You learn to do away with the impatience.” Boyd says, “You see that the craving will pass.”

One Compactor points out that the group’s members are not really denying themselves much. Boyd says that, for example, by buying less new, “I drink way better wine now.” Also allowed: services. So they could buy a massage if they wanted to. They can go to movies, theater, concerts, museums, bars, music clubs and restaurants. They can fly, drive (and buy gas), stay in hotels.

Judith Levine, author of “Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping,” went really cold turkey in 2004 with her husband. The couple split their time between Brooklyn and Vermont. She applauds the Compactors, but says that not buying stuff for a year is only taking it halfway. Not going to the movies and restaurants for a year — now that’s cutting back.

Amazingly, the Compactors have all decided to renew their pledge for another year. There are, naturally, things they miss, and so they’ve decided to give themselves one day next month when they can buy a few things they really need new.

Like? “I need a drain snake,” Perry says. Is that not pitiful?

Pelmas is dying for new pillowcases. Used pillowcases, even this group agrees, are rather disgusting.

Lessons learned?

“We didn’t do this to save the world. We did this to improve the quality of our own lives,” Perry says. “And what we learned is that we all have a lot of more stuff than you think, and that you can get along on a lot less stuff than you can imagine.”

Staff writer Sonya Geis in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

"Rob the Rubbish"

November 29, 2006 at 9:54 pm
Contributed by:

Folks,

Check out this positive example. “Rob the Rubbish” is cleaning up the world, starting with his street, in his town–the smallest town in Britain, home to the famous World Bog Snorkeling Championships, Man v Horse Marathon and the Real Ale Wobble.

Robin Kevan (61), a retired social worker, hails from Llanwrtyd Wells, Powys, in Wales. He likes to walk, and hates seeing trash about. His wife got tired of hearing him complain about it and told him to do something about it then, or shut up. So he did. Starting around 5 am, every day, by himself, and for himself.

But eventually his local efforts caught attention, and then began to snowball. He recently returned from a trip to Everest, along with a sizable entourage, to clean up the trail and the base camp. He has other such trips in the works, and was recently featured on the BBC program “One Planet.”

All because he started picking up the trash around his little town.

Check him out: http://www.robtherubbish.com/

You can listen to the show about him right now at the One Planet BBC web site, but I don’t know if it will be archived.

Rob’s “tidying up” is a great example, not only of how one person’s effort really can make a difference, but also of how truly interconnected the world is. You tug on one string–even on one street, by yourself, unnoticed in the pre-dawn, in the smallest town in the U.K.–and you tug on the whole world.

—C

Head for the Hills – The New Survivalists

November 27, 2006 at 4:01 pm
Contributed by:

Folks,

I’m going to start featuring some of the positive things that are going on in the world, in response to peak oil and our other ills. Here’s the first, an article from Australia about some of the things folks down under are doing to relocalize their communities. I think these are fascinating case studies, and instructive examples for all of us. These are regular folks, just like you and me, who are struggling to define sustainability and community, and figure out the best way forward. An excerpt:

While researching this story, I spoke to 18 people who were changing their lives in preparation for big trouble up ahead. Not one of them sounded like a nut job – not to me, anyway. Five of them were scientists, three were engineers and five were in IT.

They weren’t treechangers or seachangers, although sometimes they might have portrayed themselves as such so as not to look like loons. I sure hope they’re wrong, but in the months that this story was in gestation, I bought two chooks and planted some fruit trees. Hey, it can’t hurt.

Check it! And while you’re at Relocalize.net, check out what others are doing in communities near you. Then join or start a group, and pitch in!

–C

Head for the hills – the new survivalists

Mark Whittaker, The Weekend Australian Magazine, News Limited, 18 November 2006

Halliburton Sweeps Project Censored’s Top 25 Stories

November 22, 2006 at 2:20 pm
Contributed by:

Folks,

I’m taking a brief respite from energy coverage today, to bring you this item by popular demand.

For 30 years, Sonoma State University has compiled an annual list of important stories that were ignored (or censored) by the mainstream media. Their “Top 25 Censored Stories of 2007” list has been published, and it has a few real doozies in it. (Why they’re calling it the list for 2007, I don’t know.)

The ones that caught my eye, and that of an alert reader, were the three Halliburton stories. Let me excerpt some key points:

  • as recently as January of 2005, Halliburton sold key components for a nuclear reactor to an Iranian oil development company
  • throughout 2004 and 2005, Halliburton worked closely with Cyrus Nasseri, the vice chairman of the board of directors of Iran-based Oriental Oil Kish, to develop oil projects in Iran. Nasseri is also a key member of Iran’s nuclear development team. Nasseri was interrogated by Iranian authorities in late July 2005 for allegedly providing Halliburton with Iran’s nuclear secrets. Iranian government officials charged Nasseri with accepting as much as $1 million in bribes from Halliburton for this information.
  • It was [Dick] Cheney who directed Halliburton toward aggressive business dealings with Iran—in violation of U.S. law—in the mid-1990s, which continued through 2005 and is the reason Iran has the capability to enrich weapons-grade uranium.
  • When I asked Wendy Hall, a spokeswoman for Halliburton, a couple of years ago if Halliburton would stop doing business with Iran because of concerns that the company helped fund terrorism she said, “No.”
  • Halliburton’s subsidiary KBR (formerly Kellogg, Brown and Root) announced on January 24, 2006 that it had been awarded a $385 million contingency contract by the Department of Homeland Security to build detention camps in the United States.
  • Vice President Dick Cheney’s stock options in Halliburton rose from $241,498 in 2004 to over $8 million in 2005, an increase of more than 3,000 percent, as Halliburton continues to rake in billions of dollars from no-bid/no-audit government contracts.

Man, it’s gotta be great to be Dick Cheney. You get to flaunt US law and make millions selling weapons to your enemy, and you get to keep your job as CEO. Then, as Vice President of the country, you get to gin up support for wars against your clients, shovel no-bid contracts to your former company, and build secret detention centers to sequester your opponents when things get out of hand. And you never have to answer to anybody, and make millions on all of it. What a gig!

Feel sick yet?

Well, don’t. If none of this is worthy of coverage by the mainstream media, then clearly, it’s not important.

Here are the top 25 headlines. Read the Project Censored report for the full stories.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

–C#1 Future of Internet Debate Ignored by Media

#2 Halliburton Charged with Selling Nuclear Technologies to Iran

#3 Oceans of the World in Extreme Danger

#4 Hunger and Homelessness Increasing in the US

#5 High-Tech Genocide in Congo

#6 Federal Whistleblower Protection in Jeopardy

#7 US Operatives Torture Detainees to Death in Afghanistan and Iraq

#8 Pentagon Exempt from Freedom of Information Act

#9 The World Bank Funds Israel-Palestine Wall

#10 Expanded Air War in Iraq Kills More Civilians

#11 Dangers of Genetically Modified Food Confirmed

#12 Pentagon Plans to Build New Landmines

#13 New Evidence Establishes Dangers of Roundup

#14 Homeland Security Contracts KBR to Build Detention Centers in the US

#15 Chemical Industry is EPA’s Primary Research Partner

#16 Ecuador and Mexico Defy US on International Criminal Court

#17 Iraq Invasion Promotes OPEC Agenda

#18 Physicist Challenges Official 9-11 Story

#19 Destruction of Rainforests Worst Ever

#20 Bottled Water: A Global Environmental Problem

#21 Gold Mining Threatens Ancient Andean Glaciers

#22 $Billions in Homeland Security Spending Undisclosed

#23 US Oil Targets Kyoto in Europe

#24 Cheney’s Halliburton Stock Rose Over 3000 Percent Last Year

#25 US Military in Paraguay Threatens Region

Earthaven

November 20, 2006 at 11:50 pm
Contributed by:

I loved this recent story from the Washington Post, about an intentional community in North Carolina called Earthaven. It’s a next-generation approach to some of the same ideals that drove the communes of the 60s, only with a peak oil motivation, more professionals and retirees, and a more entrepreneurial, business-savvy approach. As these folks attest, it’s an ongoing challenge to make it work, and they haven’t achieved true sustainability yet. But you gotta love the effort. I believe that groups such as these will serve as very useful models for other communities as they prepare to powerdown and relocalize.


Another Way

By Joel Achenbach

The Washington Post, Sunday, November 19, 2006

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/11/14/AR2006111400979.html


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