Posts Tagged ‘extreme weather events’
by stuartbramhall in Sustainability
If video won’t play go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=amRrz2jog_U
Richard Heinberg of the Post Carbon Institute visited New Zealand, where he has a large following, at the beginning of October. Two hundred fifty people attended his presentation at the Tauranga (pop 121,500) Environment Centre on October 1st.
The main focus of Heinberg’s talk was his recent book, The End of Growth. In it he challenges the mythology surrounding economic growth – specifically assertions that growth is a longstanding and essential cornerstone of human economic activity that needs to continue indefinitely into the future.
His talk starts with some really interesting graphs revealing that global GDP (gross domestic output) was virtually static prior to 1871, when the harnessing of fossil fuels made the industrial revolution possible. Even then, global GDP increased at a minuscule pace until 1980, when it suddenly rocketed upward. Heinberg shows other graphs linking this sudden uptick with a spike in both world population and energy consumption.
He goes on to praise the Club of Rome’s controversial 1972 Limits to Growth, which he describes as the best selling environmental book of all times. The book makes predictions, confirmed by more recent studies, that world industrial and economic output will begin to decline during the first half of the 21st century. Heinberg himself sees major economic disruption occurring before the end of the decade for three main reasons: energy scarcity, debt and an epidemic of extreme weather events (like the Midwest drought and now Hurricane Sandy).
He follows a lucid and compelling explanation of why high oil prices always suppress economic activity with data linking the high price per barrel with stagnant production (since 2005) in the face of increasing global demand.
However his discussion of the origins of the debt crisis, which he separates into household and government debt, is the most interesting part of the talk. It’s Heinberg’s belief that consumer credit was almost as important as cheap fossil fuels in enabling the 20th century economic boom.
I highly recommend that people watch the entire video. Heinberg has a gift for presenting complex technical concepts in ordinary language, and has some excellent suggestions for how communities can prepare for the bumpy economic road ahead. Be sure to watch the question period, where he describes humankind’s 24 civilizations. All but the current one have collapsed, owing to depletion of water and topsoil. He stresses that the current rapid depletion of these resources is far more ominous than fossil fuel depletion.
If you go to the Tauranga Environment Centre page, there’s a PDF of the slides he presented.
by stuartbramhall in Going Non-Corporate, Sustainability, The Global Economic Crisis
Much of the work that went into the Voluntary Simplicity and Y2K movements (see prior blogs) has been incorporated into Transition Towns and other sustainability-related movements. There are now literally millions of groups worldwide focused on some aspect of bioregional sustainability. The most visible evidence of their success are the blossoming of home veggie gardens, urban community gardens and orchards and farmers’ markets; the 1,040 cities and towns (nearly 1/3 of the US population) which have signed onto the Kyoto accord; and the 125 communities voting to place citizens’ above corporate rights (see http://www.tikkun.org/article.php/jan2011kanner).
One of the most important factors in this success is the ability of the sustainability movement to address apathy and alienation head-on, by reengaging people in neighborhood and community life. For many people, local civic engagement leads on to re-engagement in the political process. I would never argue that progressives should focus on local community building to the exclusion of critically needed government reforms. Corporate lobbies still have the ability to overturn local and state laws in the courts by claiming that they violate alleged constitutional rights. Thus organizing to end so-called constitutional protections for corporations (which clearly run contrary to the intent of the founding fathers) – either through federal legislation or constitutional amendment (www.movetoamed.org) must be an extremely high priority. At the same time, I see the neighborhood and community sustainability networks playing a pivotal role in building strong grassroots lobbies to tackle banking reform, restoring of civil liberties or ending the wars in the Middle East.
The Basics of Sustainability Organizing
Sustainability-related work can be broken down into concrete, achievable steps, which also lends to its appeal. In preparing for the End of the World as We Know it, Y2K activists predicted local communities would need to prepare for breakdowns in the following services:
- Global commerce (food imports being the most crucial)
- Water and energy utilities
- Waste removal systems
- Telecommunications, Internet and mass media
- Financial institutions
- Transportation systems
- Governance and government services
- Health Care
- Institutions and agencies responsible for education, justice, manufacturing and security
In most places, organizers have found it easiest to begin with food, water and energy security – in part because they are most critical to human survival. However the bioregional economic network established as a first step in addressing food, water and energy security can also be used to prepare for breakdowns in other systems. For 99.9% of human existence people have relied on a bioregional economic model in which they have sourced the vast majority of their food and other essentials for life within a 100 mile radius. The process of re-creating this network is very helpful in learning to shift our thinking away from relying on national and multinational corporations to meet our needs.
Although the sustainability movement receives little attention in the mainstream media, it has it has been quietly building for nearly two decades – often with the support of state and local government (it receives the most state support in California). In Europe it receives national and EU support. The following is just a small snapshot of local accomplishments around energy, food and water security.
FOOD AND WATER SECURITY
- Increased local expertise in permaculture and biointensive agriculture techniques, as industrial fertilizers and insecticides (manufactured from fossil fuels) become unavailable and/or prohibitively expensive.
- De-paving – digging up private and public driveways and parking lots and replacing them with backyard veggie gardens and community orchards and gardens. In addition to improving food security, this restores watersheds by reducing run-off, a major threat to water security in the industrial world.
- Lawn liberation – replacing lawns and ornamental trees and shrubs with fruit and nut trees and veggie gardens.
- Support of local farmers through farmers markets and Community Supported Agriculture Schemes (in which residents “subscribe” to weekly deliveries of fresh veggies and fruit).
- Neighborhood and municipal systems of rainwater collection and purification and gray water collection
- Adoption of active run-off management plans, in which lost groundwater is measured and minimized in development planning – and replaced, for example via the Blue Alternative (in which groundwater is replaced by digging small catchment pools in open spaces).
- Reduced fossil fuel dependence in transportation:
o Beginning work to create local consumer-farmer/consumer-retailer networks, including state and locally owned banks, credit unions and cooperatives. Given that local businesses struggle to compete (their costs and prices tend to be higher) with national and multinational corporations, this can be facilitated via the creation of local barter systems (example from Greece at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-12223068) and/or local currencies, such as Ithaca hours, that can only be spent locally.
o Community and municipal initiatives to increase public and active transport (cycling and walking) through urban planning that incorporates growth management and sprawl reduction, creation of urban villages where residents live closer to essential services, and restricted permiting of malls and big box retailers (Portland and Vancouver, British Columbia are excellent examples).
o Community and neighborhood street reclaiming initiatives to make streets safer for people to use cars less and walk and cycle more.
o Increased uptake of car sharing schemes, employing efficient electric or hybrid vehicles or those run on regionally produced biomass fuels.
- Reduced home/business fossil fuel dependence:
o State, local and power company subsidies for home insulation schemes and solar water heaters.
o Subsidies and reduced permit fees for Green Building (buildings purpose-built to be energy/water/waste self-sufficient).
o State and local regulations and subsidies (as per German model) to increase distributed energy systems based on alternate energy sources (solar, wind, tidal, etc).
o Active promotion of Open Source computer and information technology.
by stuartbramhall in Challenging the Corporate Media, Mind Control and Disinformation, Sustainability
I think Heinberg and Hopkins are right (see previous blog): sustainability activists should focus on resource scarcity, rather than climate change. It’s just too damned hard to persuade large numbers of people to undertake major lifestyle changes around something they can’t directly experience. Except for extreme weather events, it’s virtually impossible for lay people to observe the effects of global warming. The whole notion of CO2, which is invisible, causing a greenhouse effect that paradoxically produces more rain and colder winters, requires an enormous leap of faith (and confidence in the integrity of scientific experts). Especially given 50-100 year time line required before we see the benefit of our energy saving sacrifices.
In fact, it doesn’t surprise me a bit, given the profound distrust of science, technology and educated liberals embedded in working class culture, that a new conspiracy theory has arisen (with a lot of help from Big Coal according to Climate Wars author Gwynne Dyer) about Climategate being a hoax that George Soros, the New World Order and a bunch of liberal yuppies are using to impose new limits on individual freedoms.
Engaging the Working Class
Resource scarcity, on the other hand, is a daily reality – especially for low income workers and the unemployed – as the cost of gasoline, home heating, and food goes through the roof. Moreover fossil fuel depletion will continue to hit the working class harder than the rest of society, given the staggering income inequality found in all industrialized countries.
People already have experience preparing for resource scarcity, with the disaster kits they keep in their garage or basement. There’s already a whole (mainly blue collar) survivalist industry dedicated to the concept. Community and neighborhood focused survival has already had a dry run, through the Voluntary Simplicity Movement started by Vicki Robins’ book, Your Money or Your Life. The Voluntary Simplicity movement subsequently morphed into the Y2K movement, which arose around the concern that our computer-based infrastructure would collapse in the year 2000 because computers would read “00″ as “1900.”
Obviously millions of lines of code got rewritten in time, and civilization didn’t collapse in 2000. However the history of the Y2K movement is well-preserved, owing to the large number of Y2K websites that remain on the Internet. As a brief member of the Phinney Ridge Y2K group in Seattle, I distinctly recall the ah-ha moment when we all recognized the extent to which technology (thanks to cheap fossil fuels) had replaced mutual relationships with neighbors and the national environment.
The Breakdown in Civic Engagement
It was hard not to be dismayed at the wholesale disintegration of social ties that occurred around the time I entered adulthood – with people systematically disengaging from extended family and friends, as well as neighbors and community and civic groups (unions, granges, churches, and neighborhood and community centers and groups) that were central to American life prior to the 1970s. At the time we blamed the problem on our long work hours and the failure of wages to keep up with inflation.
It would be several years before I learned the role the National Association of Manufacturers and their brainchild – the massive American public relations industry – in this enormous social transformation. That transforming Americans’ identity from social involved, interdependent citizens to lonely, isolated, insecure, TV-addicted consumers had been a deliberate aim of US PR strategy – to increase sales of consumer goods (and profits).
It was only after coming to New Zealand in 2002 that I learned about the late Australian-born psychologist Alex Carey. Carey describes quite eloquently the deliberate crafting of a pro-corporate, consumption-driven American psyche – beginning as early as the 1930s with the Mohawk Valley Formula (see Taking the Risk Out of Democracy: Corporate Propaganda vs. Freedom and Liberty - http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/25/006.html).
To be continued, with a discussion of our first major organizing success of the 21st century (the sustainability movement).
by stuartbramhall in Sustainability
Record Cold Predicted Back in June
There was a massive blizzard in Britain yesterday, closing both London airports. I find it very intriguing that the UK is experiencing its coldest December in 100 years especially as this is what Dr Gianluigi Zangari predicted in July, when he first reported that the Gulf Stream (aka the North Atlantic Drift, aka the Ocean Conveyor Belt, aka the Thermohaline Circulation, aka the Thermohaline Conveyor, aka the Loop Current) that warms Britain during the winter had virtually halted. Without this moderating effect, Britain, at the same latitude as Siberia, would have the same kind of winters. I first blogged about Zangari’s findings back in September (see http://stuartbramhall.aegauthorblogs.com/2010/09/18/hello-houston-we-have-a-problem/).
Zangari is a Theoretical Physicist at the Ascati Institute in Italy. He has worked for years with a collaborative network of scientists monitoring the Gulf of Mexico Loop Current and its contribution to the Thermohaline Current System that makes the Gulf Stream that becomes the North Atlantic Drift Current.
In June Zangari published a paper based on CCAR Colorado, NOAA and US Naval satellite data revealing the Ocean Conveyor Belt had stopped a month earlier, breaking into small eddies 250 miles from the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Zangari blamed this on the millions of gallons of Corexit BP dumped into the Gulf. This combined with oil to form a sludge that sunk to the ocean floor that gradually spread via ocean currents along the US Atlantic coast.
“As displayed by both by the sea surface maps and the sea surface height maps, the Loop Current broke down for the first time around May 18th and generated a clock wise eddy, which is still active. As of today the situation has deteriorated up to the point in which the eddy has detached itself completely from the main stream therefore destroying completely the Loop Current. ..”
“It is reasonable to foresee the threat that the breaking of [such] a crucial warm stream as the Loop Current may generate a chain reaction of unpredictable critical phenomena and instabilities due to strong non-linearities which may have serious consequences on the dynamics of the Gulf Stream thermoregulation activity of the Global Climate.” —Dr. Gianluigi Zangari,
Link to Zangari’s original paper: http://www.associazionegeofisica.it/OilSpill.pdf
Why is CCAR Falsifying Satellite Data?
In subsequent interviews, Zangari expressed concern that CCAR began falsifying their satellite data following the publication of his paper. Gee, I wonder why they would falsify data? He added that unless the Loop Current reorganized itself, England would start experiencing Siberian-style winters and possibly another Ice Age.
Another effect of the breakdown of Thermohaline Circulation, according to Zangari, was a disruption in the atmospheric Jet Stream in summer 2010, causing unheard of high temperatures in Moscow (104F) and drought, and flooding in Central Europe, with high temperatures in much of Asia and massive flooding in China, Pakistan, and elsewhere in Asia.
I don’t pretend to understand the advanced calculus Zangari employed to formulate his findings. However now that his predictions have come to pass, I think he needs to be taken seriously.
Good YouTube interview with Zangari at following link:
Good background papers in lay language:
by stuartbramhall in Sustainability
I’m afraid I have some really bad news today. It appears, from satellite images, that the Ocean Conveyor Belt, aka the North Atlantic Drift, aka the Gulf Stream, aka the Thermohaline Circulation stopped approximately a month ago. Instead of travelling all the way north to the west coast of Britain, it now seems to break up into whirl pools around North Carolina. This is believed to be the explanation (owing to a change in equatorial trade winds and currents) for the massive floods in China, India and Pakistan and (owing to jet stream effects) the heat wave and draught in Soviet Union. And oh yes, winter has already started in the Alps. This is consistent with predictions for world weather patterns if the Conveyor Belt doesn’t start up again. A new Ice Age in northern Europe developing over the next five years. See http://europebusines.blogspot.com/2010/08/special-post-life-on-this-earth-just.html
Climate scientists have warned this might happen – gradually – as a result of increasing global temperatures. This was before the BP oil spill and the decision to dump a million gallons of Corexit into the Gulf of Mexico to disperse it. I don’t think any of us are naïve enough the billions of gallons of oil BP spilled in the Gulf of Mexico simply evaporated. What happened is that much of it combined with the Corexit to form a thick emulsion (sludge) that dropped to the seabed and which is gradually working its way up the East Coast of the US.
And it appears that it’s having a major effect on ocean currents (what drives the Conveyor Belt is a tendency for warmer, saltier water to rise and colder less saline water to sink). This is believed to be the explanation for the sudden halt in the Conveyor Belt.
I guess we all need to prepare for a big increase in extreme weather events. As well as a big drop in world food production. Scary stuff.
The Most Revolutionary Act on radio:
(click on link)
Chris and I discuss how I was first targeted, following my decision to support the occupation (of an abandoned school) that led to the formation of Seattle’s first African American Heritage Museum – as an alternative to the crack cocaine epidemic among the city’s African American teenagers. We also talk about my research into HIV AIDS, my hospitalization and the Veterans Administration psychologist I worked with who also helped GIs illegally stationed in Cambodia in the sixties and seventies (and terrorized into keeping quiet about it).
(click on link – show is syndicated – fast forward the music to hear interview)
Rob and I discuss the phone harassment, break-ins, attempts to run me down – and my psychiatric hospitalization. We also talk about the political activities that seemed to lead the government to target me – including my research into HIV AIDS – and my inability to get help from the Seattle police. Then we cover the whole area of conspiracies in general, which are more accurately called State Crimes Against Democracy (SCADS)