Tuesday, April 08, 2008

HopeDance And Waking Up


No more "evidence" of collapse is needed; it's happening here and now and with dizzying speed. I no longer feel a need to "convince" anyone; I'm simply sitting back and watching the inevitable unfold, and as I report the daily news, I can scarcely keep up with the events that have turned prophets into historians.
---Carolyn Baker, historian and psychoanalyst
http://www.carolynbaker.net/ , her valuable site
We Bring Democracy To The Fish
It is unacceptable that fish prey on each other.
For their comfort and safety, we will liberate them
into fishfarms with secure, durable boundaries
that exclude predators.
Our care will provide for their liberty, health, happiness, and nutrition.
Of course all creatures need to feel useful.
At maturity the fish will discover their purposes.
---Donald Hall, from White Apples and the Taste of Stone. © Houghton Mifflin Company, 2007.
The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.
---Rachel Carson
The photo is called "Kelley's Tiger Lily," though that isn't what the flower really is, and can be found at http://www.flickr.com/photos/24836803@N06/2344026577/in/pool-350168@N20
The news about climate and economy are so disturbing every day, that even people who never talk to me about current affairs are doing so now. People acknowledge impending disaster and don't know what to do. What is there to do? Are we doomed?
This must be brief this morning, as I have taken so much time to read. But among the first articles to show up was something Carolyn Baker sent along to subscribers during her fundraiser. It's from a free magazine in Southern California apparently, which is called HopeDance. I couldn't find it at the actual site so I don't know when it was written. It is lengthy but it leads one through the "syndrome" of waking up from this lifestyle of convenience most Americans anyway have fallen into over the last 50 years. It's not impossible and in fact it ain't even so hard. Take the time and you'll feel better at the end~~~
Beyond that, the news is more scary than ever. Hopefully Paul Krugman's column yesterday already has been recommended to you. He explained what's happening to the price of grain and why~~~
For those climate change skeptics who advocate the cosmic ray theory, scientists Sunday from Lancaster and Durham Universities offered proof the theory isn't correct, and it's carbon emissions after all~~~
Even worse, James Hansen, head of the Nasa Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, said yesterday even our most extreme goals for carbon reduction aren't good enough. He lays out what he projects now~~~
And the World Health Organization put out its predictions yesterday about how climate change will bring new outbreaks of disease and death. In fact, as surely you know, it already is happening~~~
Time to get busy...with that first step you can take in this Dance.

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hop Dance...!

Is that like the "Bunny Hop" dance?

For the family men (and women) who dance amongst us, Ray Anthony's single release of the "Bunny Hop" featured another novelty dance classic, the "Hokey Pokey" on the B side.

Put your right foot forward
Put your left foot out
Do the Bunny Hop
Hop, hop, hop!


That was back in the 50's

But wait, this is 2008: the second millennium! A lot is happening nowadays...

Failing to recycle plastic bags could find you spending eternity in Hell, the Vatican says after drawing up a list of seven deadly sins for our times. Monsignor Gianfranco Girotti, a close ally of the Pope and the head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, one of the Roman Curia's main court, said recently that (1) genetic modification, (2) carrying out experiments on humans, (3) polluting the environment, (4) causing social injustice, (5) causing poverty, (6) becoming obscenely wealthy and (7) taking drugs were all mortal sins.

Did you know that Britain's first prosecution for failing to recycle household waste in 2006 failed after a woman was cleared of putting the items in the wrong bin?

But, fear not, the Exeter City Council pledged to continue chasing recycling offenders through the courts, despite the unfavorable landmark ruling.

Donna Challice, 31, was prosecuted for putting non-recyclable waste in a green wheelie bin at her home in Exeter, but was cleared at Cullompton magistrates' court.

She had denied putting waste, including left-over takeaways, cigarette ends, bicycle parts and the contents of a vacuum cleaner, into the recycling bin the council provided; the magistrates said the case had not been proved beyond reasonable doubt.


Pete Edwards, Exeter City Council's member for environment and leisure, said that although the council was disappointed with the outcome, it was pleased that the case had raised the profile of recycling:

"Every day, thousands of people in the city diligently sort through their rubbish, separating residual waste from recyclables. It only takes one person to contaminate their green bin and we have to discard a whole lorry-load of recyclables. We cannot let the thoughtless minority spoil it for the selfless majority."

"Bunny Hop," btw, is also a technique that allows one to hop over logs, rocks, ditches, curbs, cattle guards, and other similar objects. A useful maneuver, for any mountain-biker... or politicians... or lazy columnists and (un)inspirational speakers of this decade.

I mean, really, does it take a professor of economics and international affairs at Princeton University of the reputation of Paul krugman to tell us, after the fact, that "we need a pushback against biofuels, which turn out to have been a terrible mistake." Thank you very much Mr Krugman, but I think that by now most people (of good faith) have noticed that it has been a terrible mistake (they even were those who predicted, before the fact, that it would be a terrible mistake.) "The most immediate need is more aid to people in distress..." Duh! Maybe Mr Krugman's column caught me at a bad time, or maybe I am experiencing stage 5 of the "waking up syndrome" but I can't help but wonder at how irritatingly vacuous and uninspiring some of the things out there are---some of them actually haven't evolved at all since the eighties, and while perhaps some are waking up, others---others who should be at the forefront, constructively working at solutions---are complacently sleeping on their laurels or falling back asleep. May I get you another pillow, professor Krugman? It's "made in China", of 100% "organic Moroccan cotton" grown in Louisiana.

Anonymous said...

Oops, looks like I had and Emily Litella moment here (how embarrassing!): I see that the tile says "Hope Dance" - NOT "Hop Dance."

Oh well....never mind, then.

.....didn't mean to be such a curmudgeon ;-)

Nausicaa said...

Maybe the point is, if we don't put the big rocks in first, will we ever get the rest to fit in an fall into place?

Or as Stephen Covey would put it, ARE WE PUTTING THE BIG ROCKS IN FIRST?

The question was beautifully illustrated in the well-known story popularized in "First Things First" in which Stephen Covey tells a story that one of his associates heard at a seminar:

One day an expert in time management was speaking to a group of business students and, to drive home a point, used an illustration those students will never forget. As he stood in front of the group of high powered overachievers he said, "Okay, time for a quiz." Then he pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouthed Mason jar and set it on the table in front of him. Then he produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar. When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, "Is this jar full?"

Everyone in the class said, "Yes."

Then he said, "Really?" He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the space between the big rocks. Then he asked the group once more, "Is the jar full?" By this time the class was on to him. "Probably not," one of them answered. "Good!" he replied. He reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in the jar and it went into all of the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, "Is this jar full?"

"No!" the class shouted.

Once again he said, "Good." Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked at the class and asked, "What is the point of this illustration?" One eager beaver raised his hand and said, "The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard you can always fit some more things in it!"

"No," the speaker replied, "That's not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is: If you don't put the big rocks in first, you'll never get them in at all."


The most urgent ecological and socio-economical question of our time---if there is still time---might quite possibly come to this: What are the "big rocks"? Anything less is just gravel... and sand through the hourglass.

Anonymous said...

Hmm… methinks the problem is that the Big Rocks are already in, and they might be the wrong Rocks, or the wrong shape, or some of them might just be in the wrong place, I don't know (there are those who say that there are the only rocks viable insofar as human motivation is concerned), but they have been there for so long, that there seem to be very little room remaining for anything else, let alone any new Big Rocks. And people are very afraid to touch any of the big rocks because of the collapse that could result from it---it could end-up breaking the jar---and no one is quite sure how to go about it.

The problem with Economists is that they deal in gravel and sand, their myopia prevents them from seeing the big picture and they can't see the big rocks.

While I have been enjoying, now and then, the writing of Paul Krugman (back when he used to be insightful, that is), I am not so sure that what we need right now are more lazy platitudes and morality lessons from a former Enron consultant.

I mention here Mr. Krugman's past association with Enron, not to imply any "guilt by association"---Mr. Krugman served in early 1999 on a panel that offered Enron executives briefings on economic and political issues, and, well, as he has said himself, "as far as he knew at the time, they genuinely wanted to learn something"---true as that might be, the point I am trying to make, I guess, is that Mr. Krugman like many speakers of his profession do not have the distance required to give them the perspective needed in assessing the issues in any other terms than just business as usual. That’s all they know.

Is it unfair to assume of Economists, like Mr Krugman (whose normal fee for a one-hour business speech in Boston or New York was $20,000 back in 1998-1999 - more if the speech involved long-distance travel), might have become insensitive to the plight of those less privileged than they are? Perhaps so. Or might it be, perhaps, some articles that Mr. Krugman wrote which contributed to that feeling. Like his article In Praise of Cheap Labor, for instance - I quote:

”You may say that the wretched of the earth should not be forced to serve as hewers of wood, drawers of water, and sewers of sneakers for the affluent. But what is the alternative? Should they be helped with foreign aid? Maybe--although the historical record of regions like southern Italy suggests that such aid has a tendency to promote perpetual dependence. Anyway, there isn't the slightest prospect of significant aid materializing. Should their own governments provide more social justice? Of course--but they won't, or at least not because we tell them to. And as long as you have no realistic alternative to industrialization based on low wages, to oppose it means that you are willing to deny desperately poor people the best chance they have of progress for the sake of what amounts to an aesthetic standard--that is, the fact that you don't like the idea of workers being paid a pittance to supply rich Westerners with fashion items."

I don’t know, perhaps I am being unfair to Mr. Krugman and his like. Or maybe I am just prejudiced against Economists in general.

It’s possible.

I have always liked Mathematicians better. I find them to be generally more intelligent (or, at least, imbued of a different kind of intelligence) and more human (or of a different sensibility.)

Take Norbert Wiener, for example, (the Wiener crater on the far side of the Moon was named for him), and, as much as I hate to take us back to the 50’s (once again, and for the second time on this thread---maybe a proof that some of the big rocks haven’t budged much in fifty years) what he said on The Human Use of Human Beings (Cybernetics and Society - 1954) remains of relevance today:

"Any labor that accepts the condition of competition with slave labor accepts the conditions of slave labor, and is essentially slave labor… The answer, of course, is to have a society based on human values other than buying or selling."

Anonymous said...

In a brand-new slideshow, Al Gore speaks of hope (and of how hope alone is not enough) and of how the lack of adequate response to Global Warming amounts to a "Democracy Crisis."

The new slideshow presents evidence that the pace of climate change may be even worse than scientists were recently predicting, and challenges us to act with a sense of "GENERATIONAL MISSION" -- the kind of feeling that brought forth the civil rights movement.

The videoclip can be seen here on TED.com:

http://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/243

(It's about half an hour long.)

jazzolog said...

Thanks anonymous and Nausicaa for carrying on here the past couple days. 'Tis the busy season around here it seems. I'd love to carry on about Ray Anthony and The Bunny Hop, being quite expert about both the band and the dance, but we must not be diverted in these anxious times.

At the newciv.org version of jazzoLOG, some discussion has been going on about solar power, and especially the Sunpower company's involvement in it. Sunpower was mentioned in the Green Energy article just before this one. They offer this information at their site~~~

"Sunpower was involved in a solar dish/Stirling engine program in the early 90's, involving the U.S. DOE, Cummins Power Generation Company, and others. We developed and supplied a series of free-piston Stirling engine-alternators for that project, from about 1989 to 1994. Information regarding the project is online. Solar power generation is an ideal application of Sunpower's engine technology, and is becoming more commercially viable as conventional energy costs soar."
http://www.sunpower.com/index.php?pg=21#17

A link also is provided to this compendium on solar dish/Stirling engine technology~~~

http://www.osti.gov/energycitations/product.biblio.jsp?osti_id=10130410

Bill Henderson is a TruthOut contributor, who took off on the new James Hansen projections in a stunning article Wednesday. Here it is~~~

Jim Hansen, the Big Ice Melt and the Mainstream Media
By Bill Henderson
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Wednesday 09 April 2008

Imagine you have a choice between two scenarios on the future impact of climate change:

Scenario A: Climate change is real and human-caused, a gradual increase in global temperature that we have a long time to do something about (2050 targets) before drought, sea level rise, etc. get too severe; climate change can be effectively mitigated within continuing political and economic business as usual with carbon taxes and more efficient green technology.

Scenario B: Climate change is an emergency where we must make Draconian cuts to our use of fossil fuels immediately and globally in order to reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere this decade so that we don't continue over a tipping point where both polar ice caps melt completely, sea level rises by 75 meters, and conditions become fiercely inhospitable to humanity and most of the species with which we share this small blue planet. Political and economic business as usual is far too slow and path dependent for mitigation of this scale, so we must innovate a World War II-style government mobilization so that a systemic reconfiguration of the global economy is possible. http://www.earth-policy.org/Books/PB3/Contents.htm

Thousands of mainstream media articles and commentaries on TV, in newspapers and magazines, inform about climate change Scenario A, but there has been minimal, almost nonexistent mainstream coverage of Scenario B even though its main proponents - James Hansen and his NASA climate science team - have released several papers explaining this nonlinear vision of climate change focusing upon the unpredicted rapid melting of the polar ice caps.

Very few people outside of climate scientists and climate activists even know about Hansen's polar ice melt hypothesis and what it means to each of our distant and more immediate futures. There is probably a scientific debate raging in labs and symposia about this new and compelling vision of climate change, but since publics globally remain, surrealistically, almost completely uninformed, how would we know?.

For example, Andrew Revkin, the NY Times expert and dean of American climate science reportage, mentioned the Hansen et el latest paper, "Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim?" http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/2008/TargetCO2_20080407.pdf only through his Dotearth blog with no coverage in the Times newspaper at all. http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/03/19/back-to-1988-on-co2-says-nasas-hansen/#comment-17868 At Dotearth he quotes from the paper's summary:

"Humanity today, collectively, must face the uncomfortable fact that industrial civilization itself has become the principal driver of global climate. If we stay our present course, using fossil fuels to feed a growing appetite for energy-intensive lifestyles, we will soon leave the climate of the Holocene, the world of human history. The eventual response to doubling preindustrial atmospheric CO2 likely would be a nearly ice-free planet.

"Humanity's task of moderating human-caused global climate change is urgent. Ocean and ice sheet inertias provide a buffer delaying full response by centuries, but there is a danger that human-made forcings could drive the climate system beyond tipping points such that change proceeds out of our control. The time available to reduce the human-made forcing is uncertain, because models of the global system and critical components such as ice sheets are inadequate. However, climate response time is surely less than the atmospheric lifetime of the human-caused perturbation of CO2. Thus, remaining fossil fuel reserves should not be exploited without a plan for retrieval and disposal of resulting atmospheric CO2. Paleoclimate evidence and ongoing global changes imply that today's CO2, about 385 ppm, is already too high to maintain the climate to which humanity, wildlife and the rest of the biosphere are adapted."

But the vast majority of New York Times newspaper readers, Americans in general and people globally have never even heard of this emerging vision of climate change, let alone been informed and educated by critical commentary from those with relevant expertise.

Hansen's emerging climate change vision and climate change A are almost mutually exclusive. Today's nascent climate change mitigation measures, including carbon taxes and cap and trade, remain completely within the gradual, linear, conventional wisdom. This level of mitigation does not address the big ice sheet melt as a crucial tipping point. No governments anywhere - not even those governments that have led in acknowledging climate change as a real and serious problem - are even remotely considering mitigation measures of an immediacy and scale needed to try to return atmospheric CO2 emission levels below 350 ppm. Climate change B is an impossibility within our present political and economic systems.

Which is probably why you haven't heard about Hansen's new climate change information and possible Draconian mitigation strategies in the mainstream media.

If you want to know more about climate change B, you can go to Hansen's web site and read the papers and other presentations detailing this vision. http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/ You can search through blogs for a critical appraisal of the science and what it means for present mitigation strategies. http://climateprogress.org/2008/03/17/hansen-et-al-must-read-back-to-350-ppm-or-risk-an-ice-free-planet/

And there is an excellent presentation of the Arctic melt science, including invaluable communications and policy formation chapters based upon this science by two Australians, Sutton and Spratt, in a report, Climate Code Red, published in February. http://www.climatecodered.net/ Their characterization of this climate change as an emergency requiring immediate action beyond the capacity of political and economic business as usual arguably makes Climate Code Red the most important document published so far this year - a possible Nobel Prize contender even. But you almost certainly have never even heard about its existence before now, because Climate Code Red received no mainstream coverage at all, not a single mention - let alone pertinent critical coverage.

An equivalent report, even one released by an NGO (Climate Code Red was published by the NGO Friends of the Earth) usually receives media coverage averaging over one hundred Google News citations. A report on commercial adoption of genetically modified crops, released the same week in February, for example, had more than 160 citations with coverage by all mainstream broadcasters and publishers. Sutton and Spratt's emergency response message was obviously too heretical, hence this outrageous news anomaly.

So your choice: a climate change that doesn't threaten your lifestyle and future aside from a couple of pennies increase at the pump (the new climate change denial?), or you can choose to search out more about this year's very inconvenient truth about climate change, a sobering vision of climate change equivalent maybe to receiving the news from your doctor that you have a potentially terminal disease with only a slim chance of survival (our kids' future, humanity's future) - unless you make seemingly impossible, drastic lifestyle changes immediately.

http://www.truthout.org/issues_06/040908EA.shtml

And if that's not enough to think about, Reuters on Wednesday seemed pretty much alone in reporting a UN study on the oceans that states, "Warming trends in a third of the world's large ocean regions are two to four times greater than previously reported averages, increasing the risk to marine life and fisheries."
http://uk.reuters.com/article/environmentNews/idUKHAN29074220080409?sp=true

Quinty said...

Regarding the rocks and the jug.....

Before the big rocks can go in the jug first has to be emptied.

Fortunately, rocks, large and small, will be enormously profitable. Which should be a cause for optimism. Self-interest is a powerful engine.

Can a bubble be made of rocks, one catching Wall Street's keen attention? The glue tying all bubbles together is wealth and power. Why should it be different for rocks?

The current failure to reshuffle the contents of the jug reveals a gross lack of imagination. One would think George Bush, of all people, would understand the possibilities. But then he tanked badly as an entrepreneur.

Our next president may correct that lapse with intelligent self-interest, which could achieve wonders. Hey, it may even save the planet.

jazzolog said...

The starvation wars begin I'm afraid. The Toronto Globe and Mail published an in-depth article yesterday, discussing rising food prices and the first attacks and who's dying. This is tough stuff, and I'm wondering if Yanks will ignore this news as much as we have the invasion of Iraq.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080410.wfood0411/BNStory/International/home/?pageRequested=all

Nausicaa said...

"The glue tying all bubbles together is wealth and power."

I don’t know... sounds like a line out of Sid Meier's Civilization V:

"The success of Civilization lies in its simple principle: having the control of a civilization, your task will be the conquest of all the other civilizations of a given world, while the means to attain this goal is the development of a powerful network of settlements."

Population Growth in Three turns

Nausicaa said...

Irrational Games released last year a game called BioShock, that takes place in and Objectivist-dystopian world. The story unfolds within a Galt's Gulch like community (a model for the rest of the world of laissez-faire capitalism) set at the bottom of the sea. The year is 1960. A billionaire named Andrew Ryan has built this underwater city as a way to escape the confines of the world. It is a place of total freedom, where capitalism is unhindered, where people are free from the meddling of governments, where science can flourish unbound by ethics or morals (It's a utopia that wears its heart on its sleeve. The banner reads: "The great will not be constrained by the small!" or "Altruism is the source of all evil!"), a place where every dream can be realized … except that something has gone horribly wrong.

The game is a mash-up: part Night Of The Living Dead (the inhabitants of the city, the splicers, are more like people driven insane, actually. These splicers are not zombies, they’re still normal people. They’ve just fallen into an unstable state as they’re trapped in this underwater city with their ideals and dreams crushed), part 1984, part Ayn Rand, with a dash of Jules Verne, a bit of Metropolis, and plenty of art deco to fit the mood. And for our good friend jazzolog, here, the music is mainly wonderful set pieces from the 1940s and 1950s, in total, 30 licensed songs can be heard throughout the game.

I am Andrew Ryan and I am here to ask you a question:
Is a man not entitled to the sweat of his own brow?

No, says the man in Washington. It belongs to the poor.
No, says the man in the Vatican. It belongs to God.
No, says the man in Moscow. It belongs to everyone.

I rejected those answers. Instead, I chose something
different. I chose the impossible. I chose...Rapture.

—Andrew Ryan


Game developer Levine has stated in an interview with gaming website IGN that the project has drawn on many influences, mostly from Utopian and dystopia literature: "I have my useless liberal arts degree, so I’ve read stuff from Ayn Rand (whose name inspired the name “Andrew Ryan”) and George Orwell, and all the sort of Utopian and dystopia writings of the 20th century, which I’ve found really fascinating."

In a screenshot of an in-game location known as “Kashmir Restaurant”, there appears to be a golden statue holding a globe with the word “Rapture”, in a pose strikingly similar to the one on the cover of Atlas Shrugged by Rand. One of my favorites is that poster on a wall that asks Who is Atlas?

Nausicaa said...

Bioshock has been hailed as part of a new game generation providing an entirely new tool through which to explore philosophy, psychology, and morality.

The following article is by Hiawatha Bray of the Globe Staff (August 27, 2007):

BioShock lets users take on fanaticism through fantasy

I don't usually warm up for a video game review by reading a book review. But to appreciate the new game BioShock, it helps to read "Big Sister Is Watching You," Whittaker Chambers's coolly contemptuous take on Ayn Rand's 1957 novel, "Atlas Shrugged."

Rand's book has sold millions of copies this past half-century. To several generations of libertarians, it's pretty much sacred scripture. But to Chambers, a recovered communist with an eye for the dictatorial, "Atlas Shrugged" was bunk, and dangerous bunk to boot.

The book envisions a commercial utopia founded on free enterprise at its most absolute -- so absolute that in Chambers's view, this new freedom must ultimately be enforced at gunpoint. "From almost any page of 'Atlas Shrugged,' " said Chambers, "a voice can be heard, from painful necessity, commanding: 'To a gas chamber -- go!' "

Fifty years on, an erstwhile "Atlas Shrugged" fan named Ken Levine came to much the same conclusion. Rather than pound out a scathing critical essay, he created a beautiful, brutal, and disquieting computer game instead. It's called BioShock, and it's one of the best in years.

BioShock, published by 2K Games, runs on Windows-based desktop computers or the Microsoft Xbox 360 gaming console. It's yet another shoot-'em-up set in a crumbling post-apocalyptic world, but what a world. The place is called Rapture, a marvel of skyscrapers and supper clubs set on the ocean floor. No, it doesn't make architectural sense to rebuild Times Square under a thousand feet of seawater, but it sure looks cool. And that's one reason why billionaire Andrew Ryan built it there. Besides, creating Rapture in international waters put his personal utopia beyond the reach of the institutions Ryan hates above all others -- governments and religions. Rapture is the complete Randian utopia, with no taxmen to confiscate wealth, no popes and pastors to urge charity to the poor. Just total freedom to invent, to create, to enjoy.

Sounds like fun. So what's with all the mangled corpses and kill-crazy mutants? It seems some of Ryan's genetic experiments got a little out of hand. He's discovered ways to give humans extraordinary new powers, but at a terrible price. You'll need to use some of those powers to get out of Rapture alive. You can get all you want by killing giant armored beasts called Big Daddies, guardians of the bio-engineered chemical called Adam. Just one problem -- the Adam is contained in the bodies of Little Sisters, glowing-eyed, lovely little girls. To get a little Adam, be nice to the Little Sisters. To get a lot of it, kill them. You choose.

As father of two glowing-eyed, lovely daughters, this isn't much of a dilemma. I'm plowing ahead without a full ration of Adam. But that makes things more difficult, and cuts your chances of survival. A guy like Ryan would sacrifice others for his own needs; why not you? After all, it's only a game . . .
BioShock isn't the first game to serve up such moral conundrums; a bunch of Star Wars titles let you choose the Jedi path of niceness or the Vaderian Dark Side. But there's a particular, throat-catching poignancy this time. Those Little Sisters are just too cute to shoot.

On the other hand, BioShock is still a computer game, with that genre's addiction to second chances. Mess up, and you're resurrected with another chance to solve a crucial puzzle or survive a vicious attack. That makes the dilemma rather less painful, and frees you to enjoy the sheer wonder of making your way through this decayed undersea metropolis. With its lavish art-deco visuals, backed up by wonderful old pop songs like "Beyond the Sea" and "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" BioShock is one of those games where you almost hope nothing exciting happens, so you can just mill around and take it all in. No such luck. Rapture was designed as a man-made paradise, but Heaven is only for the dead.

That's the insight that inspired Levine, creative director of Bio- Shock. In an interview, he told me that Rapture is his version of "Galt's Gulch," the capitalist utopia created by the hero of Rand's novel. As a young man, Levine was much taken by the idea. But in time he came to perceive the bitter, world-hating fanaticism at the core of "Atlas Shrugged." He realized, like Chambers, that such fanaticism, even in the service of total freedom, must come to a bad end. BioShock is his vision of how it would all go wrong; it's also a wonderful example of dystopian fantasy done right.

jazzolog said...

Well Nausicaa, I couldn't figure out the Population Growth illustration, nor am I any good at online games or game theory. The only things that fly me into raging blind staggers are libertarians, scientology and Ayn Rand. Does our relationship still have a chance?

So now both the World Bank and Wall Street Journal are concerned the people are rioting before they starve. And of course they want more cash. There's always money to be made off the poor, the widows, orphans, the halt, the lame, the blind.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/04/13/AR2008041301972.html

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120813134819111573.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

One needn't shut down economies to eliminate carbon. In fact, both Sweden and Iceland boomed after moving to advanced energy.

http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2008/05/rfk_manifesto200805 and you get an inspiring view of Madonna too. (Encourage the magazine by picking one up at the newsstand, and read that probe into Monsanto.)

And now, if you'll excuse me, it's Earth Week at OU. Lots to do!!
http://www.ohio.edu/outlook/07-08/April/419.cfm

Qunty said...

Ah gee, shucks, Nausicaa, having weathered the dot com bubble (seeing what it did to the San Francisco Bay Area), and viewing the current home mortgage bubble (what it’s doing to us far and wide), and recalling the “greed is good” stampede during the Reagan years, and a few other high moments in American capitalism and investment/speculative bubbles, I wouldn’t snicker at the gung ho rapaciousness of Montgomery Street or Wall Street. The desire for money and power or perhaps simply a house on Pacific Heights does drive many of these economic bubbles on. And I had thought my little piece was small paean to your rocks and jugs tale....

Though I’ll readily admit I don’t see what any of this has to do with Mosul? Or that rather odd non sequitur of a cartoon. Gosh, if our presidential candidates can take umbrage under advancing age for their gaffs (That’s what Bill Clinton said about Hillary, you know? That at sixty you sometimes make mistakes....) Presidents sometimes set the tenor of the times. If McCain is elected will we have one long senior moment?

Quinty said...

What I don’t understand about the No-Manmade-Global-Warming types is their violence.

What do they have against cleaning up? Disposing of our waste and garbage in a decent manner? Against having a clean and healthy planet?

Why get so angry at other people for that?

Now we know that such outfits, say, like Pacific Lumber attack full pronged because "tree huggers" threaten profit and their control of old growth forests. A violent campaign on their part is understandable. We know that other exploiters and polluters don't want to see their profits cut because they can no longer dump their waste into streams, rivers, oceans, the earth and air. Their violence is understandable too.

And when you look back a few decades at the right’s ideology, how it has evolved, you can see that many of those who backed those corporate interests have, over time, shed their original motivations of self-interest, leaving only the husk of their hard ideology. They hated “tree huggers” then and they hate today’s version for who they are. Even when the profit motive no longer motivates their search for self-serving arguments.

Fortunately, green will be enormously profitable. And much of corporate America is eager to hop aboard, if only government would help establish the necessary infrastructure, which the private sector can’t do alone. My understanding and knowledge of this is small, but a public/private approach appears to be the way to go.

So why so much violence on the part of eco-disaster deniers? After all, even if the greens are wrong wouldn’t we all be better off with a clean, healthy environment? And does green vindication mean a total collapse? An eco disaster? That only such a disaster will prove the greens were right?

But aren’t sustainable clean energy resources decent objectives in themselves? Without depending upon foreign energy? Or oil? Do we have a right to perpetually use the Earth as a sewer, a cesspool out of convenience or to increase profit? Or out of sheer laziness?

Nausicaa said...

"Does our relationship still have a chance?" I don't know. I was not aware that "our relationship" was in jeopardy, jazzolog. Is it?

"Libertarians, Scientology, Ayn Rand...", all those things which you mentioned, where do they spring from? Why is America such a fertile ground for such extreme ideologies out of all places---or Australia and New Zealand? (Australia and New Zealand, incidentally, form which also sprung some of the most reactionary No-Man-made-Global-Warming ideologies, of which Quinty speaks.) Where do metaphysical, epistemological, ethical, and political ideas spring from? What of Nazi Germany? How does one become Adolph Hitler? What of Communism and Stalinism? Is the American Dream merely about "whatever the market will bear"? (Should Hospitals charge whatever the market will bear?) And what of planet Earth? What more can it bear?

One ignores such forces at one's own risk. They are part of humanity's collective recorded history and they are the building blocks and the gestalt of what dreams and nightmares are made of.

So are the blind poet Homer, who taught men to sing, and the wise fool Socrates, who taught men to question.

The middle of the road is guarded by the mist of forgetfulness.

When I was a little one, I used to have that recurring nightmare of a monster who would come after me and from which I used to run away, until one day I was advised to stand up to the monster instead and look at it in the eyes and just tell the monster to leave me alone and go away. Quinty knows that of which I am speaking - His father's paintings speak volume (There is a Goya-like quality to some of them – Goya knew about monsters, "El sueno de la razon produce monstruos") Well, I stood my ground and tried to look the monster in the eyes…. the monster had no eyes.

I have learned since then that only a dream can banish a nightmare.

Anonymous said...

So many dreams and so many nightmares.

It can’t be helped: Some people’s dreams are other people’s nightmare. So it has been for a long time.

Hitler's dream was an absolute nightmare. And Gandhi's dream was a nightmare to those holding the rains of the British Empire.

And, well, it seems like America is busy with its own dreams and nightmares at the moment.

At the same time, the rapid ecological degradation of the planet we live on will soon become everybody’s nightmare.

I find Nausicaa’s take on Libertarianism a timely one. It is a misleading and greatly underestimated ideology. Although very few people consider themselves Libertarians per se, many people’s philosophical and political outlook finds its rationalization in the language popularized by Libertarianism as it is echoed in the propaganda of ultra-liberalism. The reason it is popular in places like America, Australia and New Zealand, is because it is very much a wild-wild west, new frontier kind of a thing. Ayn Rand too is alas all too relevant, as Moral Disengagement is at the core of what passes for Libertarianism today. Libertarianism is a broad spectrum of political philosophies that can mean essentially virtually anything to anyone (provided one agrees on the importance of "individual liberty" – and who doesn’t support "liberty"?) and therefore meaning nothing, which makes it particularly malleable for the purpose of political propaganda.

Very much to the point here is an extract from a paper by Dr. Albert Benduara on the topic of Impeding ecological sustainability through selective moral disengagement.

In conservative environmentalism, as Lakoff (2002) succinctly describes it, human domination over nature is the natural order. Nature is a resource that can be owned and used by the owners in pursuit of personal interests and how they choose to live their lives. Viewed from this environmental ethic, transactions concerning natural resources should be governed by free-market principles without governmental intrusion. Regulators are seen as meddlesome bureaucrats masquerading under the guise of protecting the public against harmful products and practices. They are charged with hassling innovative, hard-working people who have achieved their success through self-reliant dedication. In the words of Gingrich (1995), a leading conservative spokesman, “To get the best ecosystem for our buck, we should use decentralised and entrepreneurial strategies, rather than command-and-control bureaucratic effort”. The products of unfettered pursuit of self-interested activities within legal bounds, are said to contribute to the welfare of others. In this business ethic, the intrusion of broader social considerations in the market process is viewed as a ‘taxation’ that hampers productivity and profitability (Friedman, 1993).
(…)
The notion of nature as an economic commodity is in no way confined to a conservative ethic, however. It comes in all types of ideological stripes. As the locus of influences goes increasingly mega-corporate and transnational, nature is widely viewed in terms of market value rather than its inherent value in the local milieus. Even some of the most basic necessities of life are now being treated as commodities priced in terms of supply and demand. For example, the growing scarcity of fresh water is a looming crisis, especially in developing countries with teeming populations, limited water resources, and inadequate delivery systems. Sinking water tables, receding glaciers that feed rivers, and heavy pollution of rivers that render the water undrinkable and hazardous to health foreshadow dwindling water supplies. Faced with a large populace and lacking the infrastructures to deliver fresh water, some developing countries are outsourcing this function to outsiders who are there to make a profit on their investment (Mann, 2007). The poor may be priced out of a vital ‘commodity’ they cannot forgo.
(…)
Social and moral justifications sanctify harmful practices by investing them with worthy purposes. This enables people to preserve a sense of self-worth while causing harm by their activities. The justifications take a variety of forms. They may include economic advantages in the competitive global marketplace, societal benefits, strengthening national security, protecting the free enterprise system, and curbing intrusive government. National, constitutional and economic justifications also do heavy duty in promoting products and industrial production processes that are hazardous to the environment and human health (White et al., 2007). Their depicted wondrous benefits are usually accompanied by dire warnings of costs to human well-being were the products to be withdrawn or subjected to governmental regulation.


Bandura also points to soaring population growth as a major source of environmental degradation and believes that mounting numbers will wipe out the benefit of clean, green technologies. And so Population Growth in Three turns is not such an "odd non-sequitur of a cartoon," after all.

Anonymous said...

In Atlas Shrugged, in the book's last line, a character traces in the dirt, over the desolate earth," the Sign of the Dollar, in lieu of the Sign of the Cross.

As Whittaker Chambers observed in his review (Big Sister Is Watching You), that Dollar Sign is not merely provocative, though we sense a sophomoric intent to raise the pious hair on susceptible heads. More importantly, it is meant to seal the fact that mankind is ready to submit abjectly to an elite of technocrats, and their accessories, in a New Order, enlightened and instructed by Miss Rand's ideas that the good life is one which "has resolved personal worth into exchange value," "has left no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous 'cash-payment.'"

Apparently, programs like Opportunity NYC which have been adopted in the Bronx and offers financial incentive for children to do well in school are the way of the future. In this program, fourth- and seventh-graders who do well on various tests, including standardized tests, are paid for high grades. Parents also receive up to $25-$50 per month for 95% school attendance. (This incentive is geared toward fourth- and seventh-graders because these students' test scores determine how much federal education money the city receives.)

If we are to believe Libertarian cheerleaders, all this suggests that the human race is entering a new Golden Age. So, people should just sit back, shut up and shop, and let markets and technologies work their magical wonders.

Can "green" be enormously profitable? And is much of corporate America eager to hop aboard? The problem, to date, is that the corporatist economy which has seized control of nearly all aspects of modern life cannot abide drastic and sudden change that requires capital investment and a dip in stock value, so it perpetuates the current oil-based energy economy and squelches the technologies which could move us away from oil. That’s the problem with "the invisible hand of the market." It is not always that enterprising, nor does it always like to take risks. Sometimes, one bird with Bush is safer than two with the tree-huggers.

Essentially, those who say that oil is like a drug addiction are right. But do they realize the implications of what it is that they are saying? Think of Afghanistan, much of the economic growth in that country is being fueled by heroin money. And so naturally the question is, what interest would drug trafficker have in finding a cure to heroin dependency? By the same token, what interest would oil dealers have in finding a cure to oil dependency? Our economy thrives on dependency. The more, the better. It also thrives on "planned obsolescence." Bad for the planet, good for the Economy. It is in the interest of the market that the consumer's needs never be completely or permanently fulfilled. Our Economy depends on it. And, to that regard, oil meets all those criteria.

Corporate America, no doubt, will hop aboard when green becomes "enormously profitable." Or it will do so when it has no choice. Or because "the invisible hand of the market" makes Corporate America do it (e.g. When Japanese and European vehicles with longer lifespans entered the American market in the 1960s and 1970s, the American carmakers were forced to respond by building more durable products.). More likely, I suspect, that green technology has the potential to become more of a grass-root initiative. Decentralized, make it yourself, environmentally safe, inexpensive green technology (like solar cells), into the hands of the people. Now, wouldn’t that be genuine Libertarianism?

jazzolog said...

I wasn't able to get to jazzoLOG yesterday, as the main feature of OU's Earth Week Monday was 2 presentations by Erik Reece, author of the book Lost Mountain, about strip mining in Appalachia. I've mentioned him a couple times here, and have been wanting to meet him...since he teaches at the University of Kentucky, not far from here. That happened at a forum lunch yesterday, and went on until late last night. I'll try to get a summary together real soon but in the meantime, here's an editorial he wrote Sunday for his hometown paper~~~

Considering the facts about coal
Going by the book tells part of story
Erik Reece • Special to The Courier-Journal • April 13, 2008

Last week, while visiting Eastern Kentucky's Robinson Forest, I sat down beside the state's cleanest stream to ponder a recently published document called Kentucky Coal Facts. Generated by the Kentucky Coal Association and the Kentucky Office of Energy Policy, it makes for some interesting reading.

In the debate between spokespersons for the coal industry and citizens opposed to mountaintop removal strip mining, there exists a relentless, almost comical disagreement over the "facts." What follows, then, are some observations based solely on facts and statistics generated by the coal industry itself.

One of the first things you learn from Kentucky Coal Facts is that our state's bituminous ore is shipped to 23 other states and is also shipped overseas. A significant amount of it goes to states like Texas, Minnesota and Pennsylvania, states so rich in wind that they shouldn't have to import a pound of coal. The industry takes apparent pride in the notion that Kentucky is the "Saudi Arabia of coal." But the Saudi royalty has grown rich on their fossil fuel, while the mountains of Kentucky remain one of the poorest places in the United States. The profits from coal leave the state almost as quickly as the coal itself.

Another fact: The production of coal is in decline and has been in decline for the last 40 years. So has employment. In Eastern Kentucky, coal jobs have been cut by 60 percent, due mostly to the mechanization of the industry through strip mining. In 2004, there were only 4,901 surface mining jobs in the region -- 227 per county. Coal may have been the economic engine of Kentucky's past, but it isn't the engine of the present (or 30 percent of coalfield residents wouldn't live below the poverty line), and with federal carbon caps on the horizon, it certainly won't support a successful economy in the future.

It is true, as Kentucky Coal Facts states, that we in the commonwealth pay less for our electricity than anyone else in the country. But that low price comes at a huge cost. Economists use the term "externalities" for all of the costs that are not factored into the monetary price of a commodity. In Appalachia, the externalities are as numerous as they are severe: undrinkable water, lung-scorching coal dust, obliterated mountaintops, the fatal effects of illegally overloaded coal trucks and disappearing wildlife.

The coal industry can claim that a strip mine sprayed with hydroseed is "wildlife habitat," but it isn't the natural habitat of any species native to the mountains of Kentucky. Furthermore, it's hard to understand how a grassland monoculture is any kind of wildlife habitat at all, unless the rare Eastern Kentucky golfer now constitutes wildlife.

Coal operators in Kentucky have to put up bond money before they start mining, money that will pay for reclamation if the company refuses to do so. As of 2005, according to Kentucky Coal Facts, there are 8,502 outstanding bonds valued at $779.9 million. "The bonds assure timely and successful reclamation," states the document. Really? Then why are over 8,000 mine sites sitting unreclaimed? Why is close to a billion dollars in bond money outstanding? This is one of the industry's best-kept secrets: 2.8 million acres of strip mined land have never been reclaimed in any fashion.

Still, for all of the statistical candor in Kentucky Coal Facts, it must be said that what isn't included remains as significant as what is. In the "Air Quality/By-Products" chapter, for instance, the document points out that sulfur dioxide emissions have decreased by over 50 percent since 1976. But it makes no mention of carbon dioxide, the leading source of our global climate crisis, and mercury, which threatens 630,000 newborns every year in the U.S. Coal accounts for 40 percent of air-borne mercury every year.

This is one of the gravest externalities of burning coal; it is morally hard to fathom why this industry would knowingly cause irreparable neurological damage to the unborn. As for global warming, our affluent country is its leading cause, but researchers predict that the world's poorest countries will suffer the brunt of it through droughts, flooding, famine and disease. Another moral dilemma for a country that often claims to follow the teachings of a Mediterranean street preacher whose Sermon on the Mount was a unambiguous charge to care for the world's poor.

But on a local, statewide level, perhaps the real take-away from Kentucky Coal Facts is this: Though the third-largest coal producing state in the country, Kentucky only produces 10 percent of the nation's coal (most of it comes from Wyoming's Powder River Basin). What's more, strip-mined coal from Eastern Kentucky only accounts for 4 percent of the nation's coal.

How easy, then, would it be to reduce the country's need for coal from the country's most biologically diverse ecosystem and thus end mountaintop removal? Try replacing a few lightbulbs with energy-saving ones. Seriously, on a house-to-house level, that is all it would take.

Of course, to halt global warming, we Americans will need to make far more important changes. But stopping mountaintop removal, the most violent environmental practice in this country, requires next to nothing on the level of consumption.

On the level of politics, it may require a great deal more. In his March 14 speech at the state capital, Wendell Berry warned that it might even demand nonviolent civil disobedience. Consumption is easy; citizenship is not. Over the last eight years, corporations and their lobbyists have taken over the very agencies that were created to regulate their greed and lawlessness. To reclaim our democracy -- at least a government worthy of that name -- will require a great deal of effort and creativity.

But what choice do we have?

http://www.courier-journal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080413/OPINION04/804130426

Quinty said...

Regarding the aspect of Anonymous's comments regarding mine.... Which Anonymous? Are there are at least two operating here?.... I've seen the CEOs of major American corporation (Dupont, General Motors) lengthily speak (on CSPAN) on how they're ready to go.... All they need is the assist over the edge that only government can provide to establish the necessary green infrastructure. These CEOs see enormous possibilities - innovatively, technologically and, yes, profitwise - by going green. So a powerful corporate will does exist out there to some extent.

Will there be resistance? Sure, would be my guess. There always is.

(How do we know Christopher Marlowe didn’t write Shakespeare's plays? The voice is completely different. And Marlowe, in none of his plays, ever reached the heights Shakespeare did. Applying that criteria to Anonymous makes me wonder if there may not be two? Though I don’t mean to imply that one is more elevated than the other.)

jazzolog said...

It appears to me, at the Barack Obama entry from March 20th, the Anonymous 2 have a dialogue. It may be easier than logging in and all that, but possibly some of the strength of a comment is lost without a distinctive identity of some kind.

Anonymous said...

A dozen, a gross, and a score,

Plus three times the square root of four.

Divided by seven

Plus five times eleven,

Equals nine times itself,

Nothing more...

- Author unknown

Nausicaa said...

Is this goodby,then?

jazzolog said...

All right you two(tube), before I have to post my favorite rendition of Indian Love Call, let's get back to flowers at hand---and I must get an entry together about Jeff Goodell, whose presentation about Big Coal I got to hear last night. The May issue of Harper's is on the stand, and if you don't want to wait a month to read Wendell Berry's new essay online you'll have to go buy it. Here's a piece of it~~~

Faustian economics: Hell hath no limits
Wendell Berry, Harpers

The general reaction to the apparent end of the era of cheap fossil fuel, as to other readily forseeable curtailments, has been to delay any sort of reckoning. The strategies of delay have been a sort of willed oblivion, or visions of large profits to the manufacturers of such "biofuels" as ethanol from corn or switchgrass, or the familiar unscientific faith that "science will find an answer." The dominant response, in short, is a dogged belief that what we call the American Way of Life will prove somehow indestructible. We will keep on consuming, spending, wasting, and driving, as before, at any cost to anything and everybody but ourselves.

... Our national faith so far has been: "There's always more." Our true religion is a sort of autistic industrialism. People of intelligence and ability seem now to be genuinely embarrassed by any solution to any problem that does not involve high technology, a great expenditure of energy, or a big machine.

... It is this economy of community destruction that, wittingly or unwittingly, most scientists and technicians have served for the past two hundred years. These scientists and technicians have justified themselves by the proposition that they are the vanguard of progress, enlarging human knowledge and power, and thus they have romanticized both themselves and the predatory enterprises that they have served.

As a consequence, our great need now is for sciences and technologies of limits, of domesticity, of what Wes Jackson of the Land Institute in Salina, Kansas, has called "homecoming." These would be specifically human sciences and technologies, working, as the best humans have always worked, within self-imposed limits. The limits would be the accepted contexts of places, communities, and neighborhoods, both natural and human.

... perhaps our most serious cultural loss in recent centuries is the knowledge that some things, though limited, are inexhaustible. For example, an ecosystem, even that of a working forest or farm, so long as it remains ecologically intact, is inexhaustible. A small place, as I know from my own experience, can provide opportunities of work and learning, and a fund of beauty, solace, and pleasure -- in addition to its difficulties -- that cannot be exhausted in a lifetime or in generations.

... And so, in confronting the phenomenon of "peak oil," we are really confronting the end of our customary delusion of "more." Whichever way we turn, from now on, we are going to find a limit beyond which there will be no more. To hit these limits at top speed is not a rational choice. To start slowing down, with the idea of avoiding catastrophe, is a rational choice, and a viable one if we can recover the necessary political sanity. Of course it makes sense to consider alternative energy sources, provided they make sense. But we will have to re-examine the economic structures of our lives, and conform them to the tolerances and limits of our earthly places. Where there is no more, our one choice is to make the most and the best of what we have. (END)

(May 2008 issue)
Long article (eight pages) from poet, essayist and farmer Wendell Berry, whose writings have served as a moral compass for generations of Americans. His "Long Legged House" made me decide to stop wandering and settle in one place, and his "Unsettling of America" was the first glimmer I had of the problems of modern agriculture. The article is behind a paywall. -BA
http://www.energybulletin.net/42840.html

jazzolog said...

At last I had the chance to meet Erik Reece, a nature writer in the tradition of Thoreau and Wendell Berry, who is his mentor. The devastation of the mountains is his theme, and believe me you have no idea how widespread the destruction is. My new friend, Stephanie Laird, tells it today in our Athens News~~~

Earth Week speaker decries mountaintop removal
By Stephanie Laird
Athens NEWS Campus Reporter
April 17, 2008

Earth Week 2008 keynote speaker Erik Reece, author of “Lost Mountain: A Year in the Vanishing Wilderness,” discussed the devastation that mountaintop-removal coal-mining has on the environment and nearby communities with a panel of activists Monday evening.

“They blast off everything that’s not coal,” explained Reece, a native Kentuckian who teaches at the University of Kentucky in Lexington.

Mountaintop removal, he said, is a radical and destructive coal mining practice executed throughout Appalachia by coal companies because they realized blowing the top off mountains is the fastest and cheapest way to mine coal. During the process, he added, the “overburden” – the rocks, topsoil and trees concealing the seams of coal – are dumped into the downslope valleys and streams as “fill material.”

The Clean Water Protection Act, a bill currently pending in Congress, will redefine “fill material” to not include mining “waste” under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act. Reece said the redefinition will revert the law to what it was before the Bush administration changed it in 2002.

In West Virginia, where the mining practice is used extensively, 1,000 miles of streams have been buried by mountaintop-removal valley fills, according to panelist Julian Martin, vice president for state affairs for the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy. He is also vice-chair of the Kanawha State Forest Foundation and board member of the West Virginia History Association.

According to Reece, 95 percent of the streams surrounding mine sites have been degraded or are dead due to coal-mining practices. Acid-mine drainage, another mining side effect, has contaminated many streams in areas with mining operations (including Athens County, though mountaintop removal isn’t used here). In addition to water resource depletion, mountaintop removal is “occurring in one of the most biologically diverse landscapes in North America, which is incredibly distressing,” said Reece.

He noted that once the trees have been shaved off and burned from the face of the mountain and deposited in the neighboring valley, there’s nothing left to hold the water back. Consequently, flash floods can wash out an entire community downstream from a mountaintop-removal operation, said Reece. Even worse, he continued, communities near coal-sludge impoundments – areas constructed by coal companies to hold the liquid waste known as sludge or slurry produced from washing and processing coal –risk being drowned by this carcinogenic cocktail if a dam fails.

This potential disaster became all too real for Kentuckians when an impoundment owned by Massey Energy Company released 300 million gallons of viscous sludge in 2000, resulting in the flooding of homes, gardens and the contamination of 75 miles of waterways. While modern impoundments are less likely to falter, they are much larger and more numerous, according to the Sludge Safety Project.

While disasters of this magnitude bring the controversial mountaintop-removal issue into the spotlight, the proliferation of coal dust in communities near mining operations is a less sensational but still significant side effect.

Reece maintained that the coal dust coating Appalachian communities in mining regions results in increased cases of bronchitis. Additionally, “60,000 newborns in our country are at risk because females have mercury in their breast milk,” he said, adding that coal-fired power plants are the leading cause of increased mercury levels in the environment.

“Distance negates responsibility,” said Reece. “We need to take responsibility to negate the difference.” Distance is an issue in mountaintop removal because the people who are impacted are not the people with the power to halt the destruction of the Appalachian mountains.

The ramifications of mountaintop-removal mining are viewed as “externalities” to the people in charge, said Reece, since they are not factoring in the cracked foundations that blasting incurs, losses due to flooding, the decrease in the songbird population, or the coal dust that clouds communities in the vicinity of mountaintop-removal operations.

“The love of money is the root of all evil,” declared Reece. “The coal industry is an interesting demonstration of this,” he added, noting that it regularly contributes millions of dollars to politicians to protect their mineral investments and irresponsible methods.

“Corporations are acting in ways that are fundamentally immoral,” said Reece. “The love of money has corrupted these corporations, which don’t have a moral compass because they’re not an individual; they’re not a real person.”

According to Reece, citizens need to think about themselves as members of the land community so they can begin making the fundamental changes necessary to live sustainably into the 21st century.

Supporters of mountaintop-removal mining, including the coal industry and some economic development officials, argue that it has helped maintain a crucial industry in depressed regions of Appalachia, with jobs and economic development. They cite examples where such mining resulted in rare flat sites for development in otherwise mountainous areas, and have even argued that the resulting habitat can be good for wildlife.

IN HIS DEBUT BOOK, REECE chronicles a mountaintop-removal project at “Lost Mountain” that he witnessed over the course of a year in Kentucky. Month by month he watched the once-majestic mountain vanish, along with the animals and vegetation that formerly called it home.

Reece also ties in the social, class and economic issues associated with this explosive method of coal mining, including testaments from local residents impacted by mountaintop removal and the governmental and corporate shortcomings that permit its continuation.

The panel of activists joining Reece Monday evening included: Julian Martin, a man who was witnessed the devastation of mountaintop removal in his own backyard since his youth; Bill Price, Sierra Club environmental justice coordinator and Clean Water Protection Act lobbyist, whose home and community in West Virginia was flooded in 2001 due to mountaintop removal; and Ohio Student Environmental Coalition member Mattie Reitman.

In relation to the environmental justice theme of Earth Week 2008, Price said the regions of the country producing coal can be overlaid onto areas with the highest poverty rates.

“If the people of Appalachia got the money from the coal mined from the region, we would be one of the richest parts of the country,” he said.

In addition, mountaintop removal not only depletes the environmental quality and resources of a region, he said, it hampers economic development opportunities, since businesses don’t want to locate in regions where you can’t even drink the water.

For information on additional Earth Week 2008 events visit: www.facilities.ohiou.edu/conservation/earthweek.htm

http://www.athensnews.com/news/campusnews/2008/apr/17/earth-week-speaker-decries-mountaintop-removal/

jazzolog said...

While James Hansen writes again, at Yale Global last week, that the clock is running out http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/display.article?id=10657 , the only clock George Bush is interested in is how much time he has to answer questions on Deal Or No Deal http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/apr/22/georgebush.usa . Hahaha, watta guy! Maybe he needs the money,

But have you checked your bankbook lately? Do you still have a bankbook or did you bury all the cash in the backyard?

Let's say there are 172 people in your acquaintance who have bank accounts. If you were to compare the state and condition of your account with all those other people and make a list of those who have funds on hand and those who are in the hole, where do you think you would be on the list?

You may not be aware of this but the US Central Intelligence Agency puts out a World Factbook. It's an annual publication and, as such books go, is a very good one. The CIA updates the version that's online, which you can download I guess if you want to. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/index.html
If you go to that link, you'll notice one of the features is called Rank Order Pages. Nations are ranked according to this and that.
Once there https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/docs/rankorderguide.html , you'll find a whole index of ways the Agency ranks them. One of those ways, under Economy, is Current Account Balance.
Now, without peeking, among the 173 countries, for which such information is available, where do you think the United States might be, according to the latest update on April 15th---heh heh tax day?

Here's the answer~~~

https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2187rank.html

Anonymous said...

CLEAN ENERGY ECONOMY is here, now. It has been for quite a while already. The problem has never been the "know-how" (not in a long time.) The question is not whether we CAN, but whether we WILL.

DO WE HAVE THE WILL?

I am not just talking about you or me, or your friends and neighbors---many people do---but about the nation states of the planet, the people who pulls the levers, in subtle and no so subtle ways, and the people who influence opinion.

We can solve it

It might require shaking down the Oil Cartel first, however.

Just like their many drug cartel counterparts (like, for example, the cocaine cartel), oil cartels control the production and distribution of the substance they are pushing on the market (and, interestingly, just like "drug cartels" they too sometimes finance terrorist organizations.) This is no conspiracy theory, it is economic 101: What's the purpose of cartels and corporate trust? They are a consortium of independent organizations formed to limit competition by controlling the production and distribution of a product or service, they set up the trust in the hope of gaining a monopoly.

Are all-powerful oil interests, more than a century old, going to let go off their stranglehold on the economy and industrialized civilization, without a fight?

There is no doubt that a clean energy economy would be a win for American jobs.

But American jobs is not the issue, is it? Not insofar as corporate interests are concerned. They'll tell you that it is, but do not listen to what they say, watch what they do. The issue is profit, of course. But more than that, it is about CONTROL.

CONTROL...

The problem with Green Technology (insofar as oil based corporate interests are concerned) is that it is not an energy founded exclusively on controllable limited raw materials, like oil or coal (or cocaine), and it doesn’t favor a cartel-like kind of control of an economy whose ups and downs would no longer be modulated by the scarcity (real or artificially managed) of the controlled resource (or substance) available on the market. In other worlds, green energy (wind, solar, geothermal) comes as close as we have ever been to FREE energy. It is not free, of course, it is technologically based, but the problem with technology (insofar as Oil interests are concerned) is that ultimately it cannot be controlled (not the way Oil or Coal are.) And technology tends to become less expensive and more ubiquitous in the long run. (The Internet and Internet related technologies, another major concern for people interested in CONTROL, is a good example of that.)

jazzolog said...

Thanks for stopping by Anonymous with the good news in your comment. Since I put this up I've had the chance to hear James Hansen in person at Ohio State in Columbus last week. It's still somewhat shocking to see a scientist with such staggering credentials talk so matter-of-factly about the annihilation of this planet. Unless coal is stopped in its tracks, he says, that's what will happen. For the bright side see the Robert Kennedy Jr. article referenced in the most recent comment at Green Energy Development, the article at jazzoLOG that appears just before this one.