Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Dearth Day, part 1

Dearth Day

Earth day 2009 dawns. How deceptively benign the season appears. In New England, spring is coming on in alternations of rain showers and ever warmer sun shine. Many mainstream media outlets have sprouted a "green" page or blog. A fog of words greener than heavily fertilized lawn ascends until we, the most damaging consumers, can convince ourselves that things are turning in the right direction and we are shopping green to save the planet. Lest we call it a tax, "cap and trade" is murmured in our legislative chambers. Advertisers stretch language and sense to the breaking point to classify their wares as eco-friendly in some way. I survey and repeat the bad news here just to mark what I think is the state of the earth and to justify what I may do about it. Beyond fluff and posturing, there is a dearth of good news. There are things that we could do to avert the worst scenarios...we simply won't do them.

But those darned thermometers and satellites keep alarming those darned scientists. Every denial of our planet's warming, and particularly every denial of humanity's role in that warming is overturned and refuted with fresh reports and studies in every week's crop of journal articles. And still a Google search for "climate change hoax" finds over half a million matching web pages.
The polar bears are drowning for want of ice and 2500 year old pinion pines are finally meeting their end in heat and drought. Did you note the latest observations of atmospheric probes? They show that the recession is the only thing in recent history that actually set emissions back a notch. That is not the solution most were looking for, I suppose. In Washington DC, it is at last official: the CO2 you and the coal burning power plants exhale is a pollutant that will [already has!] harm your health. No scientist worth listening to [Sorry Freeman, you iconoclasm looks like pure ego trip from where I sit] doubts the combustion products spewed thoughtlessly for prosperity's sake are baking the planet. Neither engineers nor economists have a realistic plan to brake the machinery of climate destruction. We have collectively posed ourselves the false choice of prosperous vs. pristine. We will bear more children, building and burning where ever locally possible and not feeling responsible personally for the global changes that result.

We are supposed to think of the earth today, our only home. I don't like the word sacred very much becuase its general use is to put the questionable beyond question. However, since we have only this one planet to live upon and since the alternative to living sustainably is living unsustainbly, i.e. running out of crititcal resources and dying a grinding, bitter extinction, perhaps accelerated by uselessly waring over the dwindling supplies...sacred really ought to be the status we accord our environment. We are supposed to think of the earth one day a year. But all we can do that would actually help in the long run is to change how we think about ourselves and our gratifications. What earth needs is very simple and almost impossible: fewer and more responsible humans. That 70% reduction in greenhouse gases, now the number put out as our last best hope, is not a program the present herd of humans is disposed to mount. be continued in later installments...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Listen to Uncle Tom

This one is important. Read the comments too: a lot of readers understand that while Friedman is addressing the world-trade dominated economic structure as one of the roots of our unsustainable growth pattern, he has not scratched the surface of changes needed in our cultures, values and family sizes.   Friedman talks as if the solutions will still some how be found within the institutional and cultural frameworks we now take for granted.  He may become like Gore, one of the establishment's pet casandras.

So its good that a name brand opiner gets at least some of the problem's dimensions and uses his reach to put out the word.  But who is listening?  It can seem that virtually no one in this nation will put down his cheeseburger long enough or stop conniving for a bigger house soon enough to even think there IS a problem.  

I have been on this theme since I started this blog, and others more learned and foresightful, have been warning us far longer that our nation and all nations that aspire to consume as we do are headed straight over an ecological cliff.  And as we go, we pull the climate and the economy under with us.

I have my own solutions but such talk is likely to make me few friends in the land that could not see through Cheney nor find Bush ideas about energy and pollution self destructive.

Sunday, January 04, 2009


Economics exhibits business cycles of some regularity or frequency. Stocks form small asset bubbles to the rhythm of these cycles. Other assets may participate to a greater or lesser degree. An engineer would observe that negative feedbacks or restoring forces must be at play some how, working against each other but out of phase so as to produce these oscillations which seem, primarily in hindsight, so predictable. The changing times and the technical resources and the speed of information conspire to change the frequency but one way or another excitements and depressions follow one another in our economies just as they do in some mental disorders of individuals.

What makes mighty sand dunes and the crashing ocean waves? The steadyness of the wind, more than its strength, will find the harmonic of the medium, sand or water, and according to its steadiness, shape mountains in it to suit that harmonic.

Even without the blatant bias of tax law to help the rich and keep the poor in their place, we have always had rich getting richer [how old is that expression?]. It occurs to me that certain habits in commercial behavior or pecuniary personality traits, out of synch with the greed and fear of the mass of economic players, might be the more natural way of the wealthy than lobbying for tax loopholes.

If your habit was to not be caught up in euporias nor anxious to show off as much buying power as your neighbor, you might save liquid wealth while others use it to bid up inflating assets. Wealth defined as "having more money than you need for living expenses" is a definition that finds an alternately growing and shrinking population meeting its standards. What matters is what you do when you are thus "rich".

[btw, note in that Vaknin essay that he was calling "Ponzi scheme" on the whole of our vaporous financial market, well in advance of the collapses of the summer and fall and way ahead of the revelations that Madoff had made off with billions. He is, effectively, agreeing with Krugman that an unregulated market is an open invitation to and ultimately hard to distinquish morally from a Ponzi scheme. I particularly like the essay because it emphasizes the universal emotionalism and intellectual weakness of insecure humans that drunkens and finally unhinges our economy. Until our upbringings are founded on spiritually or psychologically healthy values , our markets will always be a way to stalk each other. A basic econ lesson would suffice to show how irrational market bubbles are, but who thinks in terms of equations?]

If others become needy for liquidity while you have cash, if asset prices decline and by their very decline motivate the needy owners to dump their own goods driving prices lower "before it is too late" to cash in, then your savings can obtain a muliplied quantity of that asset so dearly bought at recent market peaks. It sounds too obvious: "buy low, sell high" but real people have too much herd animal and not enough selling discipline. Plan, on the very day you buy, exactly the condition in which you will sell AND a stop-loss. The wind is steady, the economies have had millenia of hungry people and middle men between the earth's bounty and the gaping mouths and bare shivering shoulders. With your discipline, now go surf those waves.

Is that cyclying behavior the natural consequence of capitalist systems given the limitations of the humans who operate them? The "obvious" superiority and appearant dominence of capitalism as the "end of history" has been pronounced by bullshitting Neocons. But conversion of the world to liberal democracy and capitalism is not a done deal. This reality gap holds with an especially fierce irony for the economic and moral failures of the US, which for the last eight years has idiotically claimed to be the champion of those ideals even as it gutted them. My opinion FWIW, is that democracy is a fine idea and we should try it some time. Capitalism is not an idea so much as a label for the du jour mix of government support and proprietary rights that any given country uses to perpetuate the personhood of wealth...which is more or less the same as the personhood of personal power manifest in political terms. The basic flaw here is still the failure to see the psychological at work. The parties touting the political system do not realize how much they identify that system with themselves and its power with their power. They can promote liberal democracy so energetically because rather than the complex reality of culture change needed to make it work, they are merely promoting themselves.

The end of nature has also been pronounced. Unlike the Fukayammering, that trend spotting has been amply confirmed. With Obama's choice for the head of EPA, climate science has finally, pushed aside the oil-funded deniers. When too many mouths gape for food from a depleted nature, our steady winds become a cyclone, a vicious circle of unmet needs. That time is coming though it will not come all at once like $150/bbl oil. And when it comes, as intersecting trendlines dictate it will, then no amount of money is enough to buy food when one must grow it or yank it at gunpoint from the larder of a more prudent neighbor. When the psychological value of money is no longer the quivelent of power and security, there will be and end to economic oscillating.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Recommended reading

I have been subscribed to emailed news from a dot-org that is working in the area where I happen to agree we need a breakthrough in order to salvage our planet and our lives...the nexus where our personal options and incentive's connect to sustainable action at all scales is the economy.  It is my emphasis that an orientation toward sustainable life choices is a new morality to benefit both personal and environmental outcomes, a morality that simply quits denying how deeply those are connected.

That is my understanding of being "green" and it is not some light or lately aquired fashion statement.

If you have read this far, you may get something out of reading J Andrew Hoerner's commentary.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

just do it, do it justice

Election 2008 Voting Information

Today, November 4th, is Election Day! Remember to vote--not just for Barack Obama, but for Congressional, state and local candidates as well.

Where and when do I vote?

Find your polling place, voting times, and other important information by checking out these sites and the hotline below. These resources are good, but not perfect. To be doubly sure, you can also contact your local elections office.

What should I do before I go?

  • After you've entered your address on either Vote For Change or Vote411, read the voting instructions and special rules for your state.
  • Voting ID laws vary from state to state, but if you have ID, bring it.
  • Check out all the voting myths and misinformation to look out for:

What if something goes wrong?

  • Not on the voter list? Make sure you're at the right polling place, then demand a provisional ballot.
  • If you're voting on an electronic machine with a paper record, verify that the record is accurate.
  • Need legal help? Call 1-866-OUR-VOTE
  • Try to get video of the problem and submit it to

Want to do more?

  • Text all of your friends: "Vote Obama today! Pass it on!"
  • Volunteer at your local Obama office. Find an office here or here.
  • Make calls from home for Obama.

Now everybody go vote!!!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

The silence is niether accident nor burnout

I have reached the age of 59. I have lived longer than my father did. The world of cyclic spasms he endured through depression and war has sputtered to near collapse. The world of 300 years ago, of pristine and unpopulated wild land in America and untrammeled abundance and beauty were nearly vanished when he pined for them and no longer even a memory for most of the people whom Obama and McCain seek to influence.

I have lost faith in the electorate. Not that I should ever have much trusted a population that would elect the son of a bush despite seeing four years of his turdish handiwork. They will not look with their own eyes but turn instead to whomever will show them what they want to believe.

And I have lost faith in our system. Always mislabeled and misrepresented by its beneficiaries but lately a stridently crazy scheme to go on raping nature as if there would be no consequence, whether by greed, sloth or complacency, the capitalism that claims to have brought us to this "highest standard of living" has driven the average person to become a fairly mindless microbe, a processing unit in a vast overtaxing machine of consumption. My financial conservatism is at odds with all the political labels of my day. I am in agreement with Ian Sterling when he writes at Agonist:
What Rahm should have done was just written a check to the oil companies of the world for 150 billion dollars, because that is exactly where all of that money ended up.

Hunger for unearned entitlements is, despite the incessant chants of conservatives, not an ill of liberals or the poor. Legislated entitlements, or indeed, any enactment of law, require political power and voice that we all recognize as primarily the province of the wealthy, be they corporate or individual. The rules really were made by those who have the gold...and time has come for them to eat gold. It is a lot like eating lead when you think about it. I do not expect to live for ever or even to enjoy a retirement of ease and luxury. I am ready to cut loose the entanglements of Medicare and Social security and just fend for myself and die as people always used to: without choking down pills, sprouting tubes and drawing a swarm of physicians. I will be grateful if I get another decade and do not end too fogged in with pain. This is all I wish or hope despite the fact that I am of that lucky cohort of baby boomers and educated wage earners who thought they were awake as they pocketed the American Dream in its cheap-energy hey day. I have paid into the system in the name of good citizenship more than I ever imagined I would need but have come to expect that, like our present credit crisis, the keepers of the coffers will not be able to explain where all the money went. Goodbye to all that.

In the local politics of the US, which is applied to the whole world with numb conciet and spoiled by the faded power of our dollar, the Democrats include a few who have a better grasp of our precarious place and the Republicans, the very personification of the ills that wrought our demise, have no clue. Whoever wins in November will still be at the head of a parade of lemmings.

The chief drain on my blogging time of late has been my efforts to secure a personal future that is sustainable...because I think my nation, my fellow citizens and most of the world's populations are at best muddling toward exhaustion of resources and starvation.

I am not qualified, by anything more than common sense and having managed to earn or build whatever I now possess, to pronounce my acceptance of the gloomier prospects for humanity, economic or ecological. But moments come when all that you have been and done are seen together and invite a seeking of vantage point, call up a vision of their balance with what may remain for you to be and to do. Sharp and stinging so that I cannot hold them long, the questions come:"Will nothing I have done help? Will those sweet souls I have caused to be on this planet only know more strife and less contentment than I have? "
We have a casually overused turn of phrase, "You bet your life"...but at some level, that is what every decision we have ever made, and worse yet those we make for others, really amounts to.

A bit more aware, I have been placing my final bets. They do not involve six billion people.