5.31.2013

#11 Suspender Cables Will Distribute Our Bridge's Load, Real Communication, Across the Broad Span

A bridge's components work together to carry the loads. One of the most important components in the interconnected system's ability to distribute the loads are the suspender cables that tie the 3 spanning elements [main cable, girder matrix and deck] together into a flexible, interactive whole. The first suspension bridges were built in Tibet and Bhutan in the 15th century by the Tibetan saint and bridge-builder Thangtong Gyalpo. Gyalpo used of iron chains in his version of early suspension bridges. In 1433, Gyalpo built eight bridges in eastern Bhutan. The longest surviving was the Thangtong Gyalpo Bridge in Duksum en route to Trashi Yangtse, which was finally washed away in 2004.

The job of our communication bridge's many suspender cables will likewise be to distribute the loads created by our consumer culture and its impossible demands for endless growth on an Earth with limited resources.

Global warming and climate change are just a symptom of the much broader disease that our environment, our limited biosphere, faces. The environmental movement, IMO, lost its way when it allowed CO2 pollution driven global warming to become public enemy #1. Well meaning as most enviros are they nonetheless fell into the trap of mistaking a symptom for the disease. Confusing the issues of symptoms and disease has allowed the entire environmental about into a dead end that confuses symptoms with causes.This confusion has allowed the entire environmental debate, which should be about the broader causes of the disease, to be hijacked by one narrow controversial issue - the role of human CO2 production in today's observed climate change.

Many issues, like the crisis over our food supply created by annihilation of world's pollinators, which is now proven to be caused by the use of pesticides and insecticides in industrial agriculture is certainly more immediate and just as potentially catastrophic in the long term as global warming. Searching an of the issues on list below from 'Green Living' or others, shows that though fossil fuels and global warming are part of the disease created by the demands of the consumer culture but that they aren't alone or even the most immediately catastrophic

1. Contamination of Drinking Water
2. Water Pollution
3. Soil Contamination
4. Wildlife Conservation
5. Air pollution
6. Biological pollutants
7. Carbon footprint
8. Climate change and global warming
9. Consumerism
10. Dams.
11. Ecosystem destruction
12. Energy conservation
13. Fishing and over-fishing.
14. Food safety
15. Genetic engineering including GMO foods.
16. Industrial farming
17. Land degradation, desertification and soil and land pollution.
18. Urban sprawl and habitat destruction
19. Logging and deforestation
20. Mining pollution including toxic emissions and heavy metals.
21. Nanotechnology
22. human induced 'natural' disasters
23. Nuclear issues
24. Other pollution issues like light light pollution and noise pollution
25. Overpopulation
26. Ozone depletion
27. Resource depletion
28. Non-Sustainable communities
29. Human introduced toxins - a long list
30. Waste such as litter, landfills, incineration, marine debris...

Suspender cables distribute a bridge's load. Real communication, our bridge's load, between the encampments must distribute the debate about the broad disease, about its causes, about the role we all play in it as consumers who's demands the capitalist matrix supplies. As Jorge Majfud says, "Trying to reduce environmental pollution without reducing consumerism is like combating drug trafficking without reducing the drug addiction." It's important to notice that Majfud, a genius IMO, refers to the broad issue of "environmental pollution" not just to global warming.

Tomorrow the bridge deck will be assembled and our bridge over the river of distrust between the two solitudes will be complete.

5.30.2013

#10 Many Individual Small Cables Make a Main Cable Strong, Many Ideas Make Solutions Possible

YIKES...Maintenance worker re-paints the metal jacket that covers a bridge's main cable and protects it from corrosion. 

There are 3 different structures that span the distance from abutment to abutment, the girder matrix, the deck on top of it and the main cables. Fortunately our mental communication bridge, unlike its metal counterpart, doesn't need painting and re-painting [apparently the re-painting job is never-ending on The Golden Gate Bridge]. Our metaphorical bridge's main cables, like the real GG's, complement the girders and deck by adding another important strong and flexible structural element to the bridge's load carrying capability.

A real bridge's huge main cable is actually made up of many smaller cables wound together. Our two main cables will be made strong and flexible by the myriad of ideas that connect us all, regardless of our differences of opinion, to our desire to find the real world solutions that can unite us. Each encampment, shrouded in the fog of their particular beliefs, envisions endemic solutions based on their worldview. Both encampments though understand that we are all in this together.

The Greenville folks often concentrate on cultural and systemic changes designed to ameliorate the broad environmental destruction our species is causing, including global warming. Greenville solutions often mention biodiversity and soils rich in organic matter as the best strategy for climate resilience and climate adaptation, growing and cooking organically, making the Great Transition back to carbon ranching by re-establishing perennial grasses, and eating far less meat as a route to sequestering 100 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Greenville folks envision a world free of pesticides, petro-chemicals and fossil fuels. Unfortunately, Greenville folks are often idealists who find it increasingly difficult to walk that talk in a world of chaotic consumption.

The Growthton folks see the same reality but envision a bountiful future based on humanity's ability to cope, to overcome, to succeed by technological prowess as they believe it always has. Growthton folks know that, whatever the cause may be, that global warming exists. They believe that risk management, based on sound cost-benefit analysis is the prudent path forward. Growthton folks know that the western security establishments, including all arms of the US military, consider environmental degradation, including climate change, to be the #1 long term security threat they face.

The specifics details of how these widely divergent worldviews can be refocused into convergent solutions is the main agenda, the main reason for attempting to build a strong, flexible communication bridge based on a solid foundation of basic agreement. Tomorrow we'll work on the smaller suspender cables that run between the main cable and the girder matrix further enhancing the bridge's load dispersing strength and flexibility.

5.29.2013

#9 Every Bridge Relies on a Network for the Flexibility and Strength Needed to Carry the Load

We live interconnected lives not just within human societies but within the much larger and richer web of life itself. Civil engineers learned long ago that a massive column or monolithic slab is actually far weaker than a much lighter, more flexible, interconnected network of smaller members because a network allows flexibility when under stress from unpredictable random forces.

Often in our lives, and in the secret lives of bridges, loads and stresses of various sizes come at us in combinations from multiple directions. When we or a bridge tries to rigidly resist these forces we both often fail. As the ancient Taoist teaching says, if we mimic a strong tree when faced with the random forces of rampaging flood waters we will, like the tree, most often be washed away. But if instead, we mimic the grasses and bend flexibly in the face of the torrent we, and the grasses, will most often be unscathed after the flood waters recede.

So the deck of our metaphorical communication bridge, like an engineer's girders and the Taoist's grasses, will be carried by a flexible network. Our bridge's network is well explained rationally by Fritjof Capra's seminal book 'The Web of Life: A New Scientific Understanding of Living Systems'. Explaining the vital flexibility of the web of life has been the subject of the works of many, if not all, of humanity's great artists, prophets and thinkers down through time, our bridge will try to stand on their shoulders and with their spirits.

One scientist's research, Forestry Prof. Suzanne Simard of UBC, into the role of mycorrhizae and mycorrhizal networks in old growth forests shows how the survival of young trees was greatly enhanced when they were linked into the network of the old trees.and has proven that trees do communicate and share resources like human brains - in networks. Her research provides strong evidence that maintaining forest resilience is dependent on conserving mycorrhizal links, and that removal of hub trees could unravel the network and compromise regenerative capacity of the forests.

Just as every material bridge relies on the instantaneous, incalculable and unseen distribution of stresses throughout its supporting girder matrix to provide the flexibility and strength necessary so too does the network provided by the web of life, the green matrix, provide us with the flexibility and strength to manage the mental challenge of surviving, perhaps, the greatest test our species has yet faced through the unseen connections that support the span over our environmental communication chasm

A forest isn't just a buncha trees, it's an interconnected network of seen and unseen flora, fauna, minerals, microbes, forces and faeries all pulling together for the common good. We can too.

5.28.2013

#8 From a Long Term Perspective Both Religion and Science Teach Us the Same Lessons

The second strong stable tower our communication bridge will use to flexibly support its span will, like the first tower, be built of a concept that also underlies the philosophies of both groups of believers in the Greenville and Growthton encampments. Once again, the two solitudes use totally different nomenclatures to define their beliefs. In fact agreeing with the viewpoint of the opponents on this aspect is often cause for expulsion from either encampment. Nonetheless, being a non-believer and a non-conformist allows me to happily hurdle this heresy.

The Cornwall Declaration on Environmental Stewardship, a broadly accepted document by many Growthton folks, says, "God is sovereign over creation and therefore humans can do no permanent damage." A statement which should be read and understood by all to be both symbolic of the primacy of "God" [which, being a heathen, i always immediately translate into Nature] and an intonation to 'chill out' because in the long run our short term actions, regardless of how weighty our human hubris thinks them to be, a just a blip. Further that we may well be able to cause lottsa short term pain, up to and including our own extinction and that of myriad other species. We may well be so good at poisoning, polluting and shiting in our nest that we soon end up nesting in our shit, as the old 60's saying said, that "God" [Nature] spits us out like a rotten apple. But that in time, life will rebound. That we humans are a short term vector and that, despite our illusions of grandeur, we 'can do no permanent damage'.

Science says the same exact thing, one particular field of science - geology - is totally devoted to the subject. James Hutton, known as the father of modern geology and a devout theologian, presented a paper in 1788 to the Royal Society of Edinburgh titled 'Theory of the Earth; or an Investigation of the Laws observable in the Composition, Dissolution, and Restoration of Land upon the Globe' that changed for ever how humans would understand just how little their short duration on the globe mattered from a long term perspective.

In his paper Hutton described the Earth as being formed by a continuous cycle in which rocks and soil are washed into the sea, compacted into bedrock, forced up to the surface by volcanic processes, and eventually worn away into sediment once again. Hutton concluded his his great geological treatise by saying "that the Earth offered no vestige of a beginning,--no prospect of an end." By today's reckoning, Hutton was asserting the unimaginably extended, "deep" time frame of an ancient Earth, what we today call the Geologic Scale of Time [see chart above].

Hutton’s ideas provided the framework for everything we now call modern science. And just as the ideas that God [Nature] is sovereign and that humans can do no permanent damage conveys comfort and strength to one group of believers, so too does the idea that no matter how much we ignorantly shit in our own nest one day our entire consumptive culture's contribution will be a thin shiny line in geology's sedimentary record give others of us strength through the same solace.

Our communication bridge's towers are complete. The next job will be connecting them to each other and the abutments at each end with the massive girders underlying our interconnected lives.

5.27.2013

#7 Bridge Engineers Take Precautions Because There Are 'Unknown Unknowns' Lurking Out There

Like a real suspension bridge our metaphorical communications bridge must have strong, stable towers that can support the cables and girders that will provide the bridge with both support and flexibility. Last week we built the tower foundations for the Growthton-Greenville bridge, next comes the towers themselves. Their strength will be in that they are constructed of principles held dear by both encampments, though they use different words to describe these same underlying principles.

Growthton, like almost everywhere, has both secular and religious ideas that contribute to its worldview. These groups may have different outlooks in some ways, but each is to some degree motivated by concepts of concern for the well-being of others and stewardship. Stewardship is the idea that humans are responsible for the world, and should take care of it. All  religions teach various degrees of support for environmental stewardship including the protection of all creation.

Aldo Leopold, a deeply religious man, championed environmental stewardship based on a land ethic "dealing with man's relation to land and to the animals and plants which grow upon it." Environmental stewardship refers to responsible use and protection of the natural environment through conservation and sustainable practices.

Greenville is likewise populated by a wide range of ideas and principles around which groups are organized. Like their Growthton cousins, the Greenville folks have strong beliefs about the nature of reality but both groups also recognize that as Donald Rumsfeld said:
"There are known knowns; these are things we know that we know.
There are known unknowns; that is to say, there are things that we now know we don't know.
But there are also unknown unknowns – these are things we do not know we don’t know."

Rumsfeld was US Secretary of Defense at the time and was referring to national security and the precautions America had to take. It's the same logic engineers use when they design bridges, the same logic Aldo Leopold used, the same logic the environmental movement supports. Every human knows and agrees that there are 'unknown unknowns'. Every human instinctively understands and agrees with the Precautionary Principle.

The first of two towers on our communications bridge will be strong because it's built from the fact that there are always 'unknown unknowns' lurking out there, on the fact that folks should never bet what they can't afford to lose, on the Precautionary Principle.

5.24.2013

#6 Hyperbolic Headlines Only Harm the Cause of Intelligent Discourse about the Environment


Another thing the Greenville and Growthton encampments share is a love hyperbolic headlines. To be fair it isn't totally their fault, sensationalism is a widely-acknowledged bias in media coverage. The newest, most counter intuitive, most highly sensational headline is the primary way media attracts readers. The MSM is in it for the dough, the more 'exposures' an outlet gets the higher their advertising rates. Smaller non-profit places like The Mud Report try to invent headlines that contain commonly searched keywords relative to the posting's content, not for the dough obviously, but for wider exposure.

Proponents and opponents of every issue know that nothing beats a sensational headline when it comes to getting wide spread exposure in the MSM. The penchant both solitudes has for using hyperbole to gain the attention of the MSM and therefor the public is mostly through fear mongering. Unfortunately the most hyperbolic headlines always end up rallying one encampment or the other at the expense of real learning or communication because both the non-zealots and the opponents of whatever sensational assertion is being made are turned off and turned away by it. So, not only are they crap, but they're worse than useless when it comes to engaging others in intelligent discourse.

Hyperbole is the use of exaggeration to evoke strong feelings. It may be used or to create a strong impression, but is not meant to be taken literally. But the billboard above, sponsored by The Heartland Institute, is an example of how a well known and well healed group uses sensationalism. But most of the Growthton opponents GWT keep their fear-mongering spinning in a tighter spiral which most often centers on the fact they've never seen a conspiracy theory they didn't embrace. Here's a list of recent hyperbolic headlines that is either funny or frightening depending on how you look at things.

IMO though, the all-around hyperbolic headline hunter champions come from Greenvile. Years ago Micheal Mann got a lotta sensationalist credit and dis-credit for his famous hockey stick graph. Then Al Gore, never one to miss an opportunity, got his inconvenient hyperbolic headlines. But none of the early Greenville sensationalists holds a candle to today's crop led by Bill McKibben and 'indisputable' champ James Hansen who's famous “essentially game over” quote about development of the Alberta Tar Sands stands head and shoulders above the rest.

Looking back at past Mud Reports it's easy to see mr. mud is not a supporter of bitumen a-tall but when Bill McKibben says the KXL pipeline represents “the fuse to biggest carbon bomb on the planet.” And when James Hansen says developing Tar Sands crud would make the climate problem unsolvable they do nothing other than bolster their base while alienating potential allies and being scoffed at by their opponents who immediately point out that: All Canadian sources, not just the Tar Sands, produce about 3% of the world's oil now and once fully ramped up could be producing 5% of the world's oil in 20 years or so, the other 95% represents more of the "game" to be over or not than anything coming out of Canada.

There is a serious GHG problem, IMO, but GHGs come from more than just oil. Coal produces many times more emissions than oil does; and coal use is growing faster than oil use. There's also natural gas which is a bit cleaner to burn than oil but the new shale gas being produced vents a whole lot of CO2 as part of its production process and many now say this 'fracked' gas actually has a larger overall GHG footprint than coal. Then there are natural emissions as well; and secondary feedback emissions like methane [100 times as bad as CO2] being released as the permafrost melts. This planet has just one atmosphere. Getting our little corner of the globe tidied up would be nice, but immaterial if the rest of the globe is demand side chaos.

The hyperbolic headline hunting by both sides is actually doing far more harm to the cause of intelligent discourse than either encampment will ever admit. It's a race to the bottom because all 'sides' lose. Nothing could further the cause of communication between the solitudes more than burying the hyperbolic headlines once and for all, mafia style, and using them as the rebar in our last set of tower foundations.

WAHOO...our communication bridge is out of the ground. From here on we'll be up in the air working on the more flexible components an intelligent discourse requires.

5.23.2013

#5 Burying Distrust of Motives, a Deafening Barrier to Real Communication, Learning and Change



The on a metal bridge the four towers which support the 2 large suspender cable are each supported by foundations, so to for our mental bridge. On a physical bridge the 2 sets of adjacent towers are connected by a cross beam that supports the girder to form a sorta a giant H. The 2 sets of towers on our psychological bridge will be connected too. The first set, the distrust of motives set, could be either set as the occupants of both the Greenville and Growthton equally and unreasonably distrust the motives of their opponents.

The Greenville proponents of the Global Warming Theory [GWT] truly believe that their opponent's beliefs are informed by the lying, fact spinning, authority bribing, selfish fossil fuel industry and/or the prognostications of religious 'seers' who tell them that their all knowing imaginary being, "God", is sovereign over creation and therefore humans can do no permanent damage to its creation...and there are folks who unquestionably fall into parts or all of this framework. But, and this is one of the major points The Mud Report will be arguing loud and clear from upon the bridge deck once it's built, the opponents of GWT aren't just dizzy dunderheads blindly following the spin doctors. There are scientific uncertainties, lots of 'em, and despite having all of the best intentions, the Greenville folks have just as much trouble accepting information contrary to their belief system as the Growthton folks and the rest of us do.

The Growthton opponents of GWT are equally convinced that the proponents are being duped/spun by a gang of self-serving scientists who's goals are acquiring grants for themselves and their institutions by getting dubious/sensational papers published by a church-type peer review process that never accepts anything outside the paradigm of their belief system or any song not sung by their choir. Despite them also having the best of intentions, the Growthton folks also refuse to accept any of the scientific uncertainties or results that don't validate their cherished beliefs. They too see those in the other encampment as being used by the spinners in science and the lamestream media in a giant conspiracy to enrich certain individuals and 'green' industries and in so doing impoverish those now invested in the non-'green' parts of the capitalist matrix.

Both solitudes rally their teammates, in part, around this distrust of their opponents motives. Both use this canard of distrust as a fall back position whenever they have no logical argument to immediately counter their opponents position. It's easy to see this type of communicable psychosis in action in almost every type of group human confrontation. Check it out, do the opponents in  Palestine and Israel listen to each other in an attempt to have an intelligent discourse? How about the Hindus and Muslims? The West and the 'Terrorists'? How about the overheated fans of rival sports teams or...

Only by listening can we really hear. Only by burying our prejudices about our opponents, including those about their underlying motives, can we really listen to their positions. Only by really listening and hearing the arguments of those that oppose us can we learn from them and counter their positions logically. Logic requires that every argument [thesis], even the most universally agreed upon, is only conditionally accepted. As soon as a valid counter argument [antithesis] comes to light the old argument is either thrown out completely in favour of the new or, more often, the two are amalgamated [synthesis], but in either case the newly accepted argument, the synthesis, becomes the new thesis which then is just as open to counter-argument as the original was. This is the basis of the scientific method. But without being able to listen and hear the contents of an antithesis because of deafening prejudices no change, no learning, no synthesis will ever be possible.

So today, hopefully, another of the deafening prejudices, the distrust of our opponents motives, will get buried mafia style in out communication bridge's tower foundations and good riddance to it. Tomorrow we'll head over to the last set of tower foundations where we'll try to turn the penchant both solitudes has for using hyperbole to gain the attention of the public through fear mongering and how the media's addiction to the most sensational hyperbolic headline almost always ends up rallying one encampment or the other at the expense of real learning or communication.

5.22.2013

#4 Exorcising Absolutism in the Pursuit of Intelligent Discourse and Mutual Respect


R-E-S-P-E-C-T, as Aretha Franklin crooned so clearly, means a lot to everybody. It's a what goes around comes around sorta thing, that's why we're building our metaphorical communication bridge's abutments outta mutual respect and in the process trying to bury, mafia style the overheated, name calling issuing from the solitudes on both sides of the chasm of distrust - Greenville and Growthton. Today it's Growthton's turn to sing along with Aretha.

First off, it's important to state that global warming/climate change is a symptom, not the disease itself. Defining and dealing with the overall disease can only be accomplished through the 'bumpy' progress of communication. Right now, there's less than zero communication between the two encampments and the pejorative labeling by both sides is one of the biggest hurdles to raising that score. For sure the Greenville proponents started the manure flinging, but the Growthton opponents quickly rose in indignation to the affront with a buncha well flung dung of their own.

'Warmist' seemed to be the best at sticking to the opposition so its usage quickly skyrocketed. The term 'warmist' is now used in a derogatory sense as in 'the warmist cult', 'the religion of warmism', or, my personal favorite, 'the warmistas'. The Urban Dictionary's definition says that every 'warmist' has these 5 traits:
1) An absolute belief that humans are primarily or even completely responsible for causing a mass climate change which will raise the average temperature of the planet.
2) Will not entertain the idea that it is possible that natural phenomena may cause climate change, regardless of any evidence.
3) Believes it is a good thing to throw billions upon billions of dollars at an idea that may or may not work to stop climate change, "just in case."
4) Believes that natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes are an indirect result of humankind's actions to cause climate change.
5) Shouts down, puts down, and insults anyone whose beliefs run contrary to their own, rather than having intelligent discourse. A zealot for their cause.

The over all religious 'absolute belief' vibe and the totality of #5 perfectly define the view both encampments have of each other. Our bridge will hopefully be a venue for 'intelligent discourse' and the exorcising of absolutism from both of the present solitudes.

The Growthton abutment is appropriately made of concrete. For concrete to be both strong and flexible it needs what engineers call pre-stressed re-enforcement. Don't know about you but whenever somebody calls me a prejudicial, ugly name like 'warmist' it pre-stresses me so it sounds like 'warmist', and it's cousins, are excellent choices to be buried and forgotten by the Growthton opponents of Global Warming Theory in service to the cause of building a strong and flexible connection through mutual respect.

Words matter. Sticks and stones may break your bones, but bones heal fairly quickly, deeply hurt feelings usually don't heal quickly, if at all. Words stick on the inside even when they've been forgotten on the outside. Looking at the terminology, the verbal manure, both sides fling at each other it's no wonder that every attempt at 'intelligent discourse' is quickly undermined by a mutual distrust of motives. As our project moves on to the tower foundations next mutual distrust of motives will be the next foul fiend we use to re-enforce our communication bridge.

5.21.2013

#3: Building Greenville's Connection to the Bridge by Showing Respect for its Opponents


Mutual respect, the abutment we'll be using to connect our communication bridge to the encampments on both sides of the chasm of distrust between proponents and opponents in the environmental debate, is only possible when both of the solitudes buys into it. Greenville's abutment will be made of logs and gravel, cosmic eh, and it'll be tied together by its rebar - the loaded names buried in its back fill.

The Greenville residents were first outta the shoot in the name calling wars during the early days of the global warming debates when they started tarring those who disagreed with the name 'deniers'. The Mud Report has tried for years to avoid the pejorative term at first by trying to re-define opponents as skeptics. But that never really caught on because almost everybody was skeptical. Another post tried to show how all sides, all people really, deny those truths that inconveniently don't mesh well with their worldview. But now, as of today, mr. mud and The Mud Report are taking the pledge. The pledge to never [after this post] use the loaded name of 'denier' to describe those who are stating their version of the 'truth'.

What does in denial mean? Wikipedia says: Denial is a defense mechanism postulated by Sigmund Freud, in which a person is faced with a fact that is too uncomfortable to accept...Fact being the operative word IMO. A 'fact' is something that's indisputable. Global Warming is obviously not indisputable. You might say one who disagrees with your 'truth' is mistaken, misguided or even wrong, all fine, none of them IMO implies that the adversary knows your truth to be true but, for some reason, denies it.

Another online popular definition from Yahoo is: "refusal to acknowledge existence of something: a refusal to believe in something or admit that something exists". Here the crucial word is admit. A person can only admit what they believe to be true. The opponents of Global Warming Theory aren't 'denying' anything. they embrace their reality just as avidly as the proponents embrace theirs.

The Greenville residents are not only using the term 'denier' as an elitist bullying tactic to rally their base around the worthiness of their version of the 'truth', but incorrectly to boot. 'Denier' is dismissive, a terrible foundation to build mutual respect upon eh. 'Denier is divisive, derisive and offensive so i won't use it, from now on it'll be rebar in the Greenville abutment. If in the future, for brevity's sake, The Mud Report can't use a descriptive phrase and instead must choose a single word - it'll be opponents.

So the Greenville abutment, Greenville's connection to this communication bridge is the showing of mutual respect for its opponents by taking the first step of ending the tarring of those opponents by name calling. It's just the first step toward acknowledging that there is no absolute right or wrong and that we're all in this together.

Tomorrow we'll work on building the Growthton abutment and try to bury a few more devise terms there too.

5.20.2013

#2: Abutments For Our Communication Bridge From the Slings and Arrows of Outrageous Zealotry


This morning's emails included an interesting one from an actual engineer. He was amused by my project. He mentioned a few important things i'd overlooked. Apparently the most important foundations for any bridge are its abutments. These structures connect the bridge deck to the ground where it lands and protects the bridge's overall integrity.

He also mentioned that yesterday's simplistic outline of bridge engineering had over looked some very important concepts not the least of which is flexibility. Every bridge is constantly in motion and just as the ancients long ago figured out that a bridge's abutments are its most important and long enduring foundations they also figured out that a rigid structure didn't last very long. In addition to the forces of wind, rain and tides that i mentioned yesterday i overlooked the constant small seismic movements, the occasional large tectonic movements as well as the movement of whatever is passing over the bridge, but most important is the daily and seasonal thermal expansion and contraction of the bridge's components that constantly change how and where the loads are carried.

The engineer wished me luck and said he'd be checking the blog from time to time to see how the bridge was coming along. Yikes...he mentioned some other stuff too, but for now including just these few 'constructive' ideas is daunting enough.

So the first foundations we'll build for our metaphorical bridge will be its abutments, its connections to the Greenville and Growthton sides of the philosophic abyss we're attempting to span. Two sides, two abutments. They each may need to be constructed a bit differently because of the different terrain on the two sides, but they will be doing the same job of protecting our communication bridge's long term integrity.

IMO the most important foundational connection to establish on both sides and the most important thing presently missing is: MUTUAL RESPECT. Yesterday's post said we'd begin by pouring concrete and burying, mafia style, some of the name calling both sides presently use both to tar their opponents and to rally their supporters. The Yale University Forum on Climate Change and the Media does a pretty good, even-handed job [IMO] in its article ‘Denier,’ ‘Alarmist,’ ‘Warmist,’ 'Contrarian', 'Confusionist', 'Believer'...The List Goes On ... and On ... and On of defining the loaded names we'll try to bury. And this blog post at the Discover Magazine asks some interesting questions about the use of  'loaded labels' that elicit some thought provoking answers by famous journalists and scientists.

Tomorrow, load willin and the engineers don't intervene, construction will begin with the building of two mutual respect abutments, to protect our communication bridge from the slings and arrows of outrageous zealotry.

5.19.2013

Part #1: Building a Bridge Between Greenville and Growthton Starts With Solid Foundations



There's many famous photos like the one above of the Golden Gate Bridge spanning the gap between two fogged in shores. The bridge and the fog isolated shores serve as an excellent metaphor IMO for the gulf between the two environmental pollution encampments - Greenville and Growthton - as well as the need to engineer a communications bridge between these two fogged in solitudes. Indisputable fact #1 is: we're all in this together, #2: nobody is gonna get out alive.

The first step in building a bridge, be it metaphorical or material, is to envision a plausible plan. Next the bridge's planners would work backwards, using reverse engineering, from the final finished product one step, one stage, at a time until the bridge is un-built back to its landing points. Then, when begining conctruction itself, the first step for all bridges is building foundations that are capable of carrying the loads. The the case of the GG bridge it'd be cars, trucks, steel and concrete plus the forces that act on those loads like the winds, rain and tides. A communications bridge on the other hand would have to carry the load of many differing opinions, perspectives, interpretations and expectations all being buffeted about by the forces of ever changing knowledge and uncertainty.

The GG bridge successfully spans the Golden Gate Strait from San Francisco to Marin County, with a lotta luck our metaphorical bridge will span the wide river of distrust between the proponents and opponents in the often rancorous debate about the causes of, the long term effects of  and the solutions to environmental degradation.

IMO the first necessary foundation for our bridge must be ending the name calling [shouting] from both sides. Today's goal was the overall plan of envisioning of a bridge between the encampments and acknowledgement our common humanity.  Tomorrow the hard work starts, we'll begin by pouring some concrete and burying, mafia style, some of the pejorative name calling we've slipped into as a convenience and a rallying cry for our camp mates.

5.18.2013

Hopefully the BCNDP Will Learn From Their Defeat That There's a Difference Between Poles and Polls



There's totem poles, fence poles, utility poles, ski poles, bean poles, fireman's poles, barber's poles, pike poles, the North and South Poles, the magnetic poles, mono-poles, di-poles, lottsa useful types of poles. There's pole vaulters, pole sitters and a personal favorite - pole dancers. Then there's polls and pollsters. Hum, different spelling, different smelling too eh.

This past week has been another smelly one for the pollsters. The BCNDP is in large part blaming their shit-kicking on the pollsters, a lot like Alberta's Wild Rose Party did after their recent shit-kicking. Both claim that their supporters were seduced into complacency by the inaccuracy of the polls. And it probably is true because both the NDP + WRP acted arrogantly like they had it in the bag. Apparently all those impressive poll numbers convinced NDP + WRP supporters it was okay to skip voting as long as they remembered to “like” their candidate on Facebook.

Unlike Alberta though only 52% of eligible voters showed up to vote in La La Land further allowing the NDP to blame their own supporters. Only one group of pollsters got it right. BC Liberal Party polling, based on only listed land lines, was dead on accurate. Older citizens, nearly all voting the 'fascist' cause, have land lines while young folks nearly all supporting the 'progressive' causes, use cell phones and the Internet but, apparently do not vote.

Winston Churchill once famously said, “The biggest argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”  He got it slightly wrong., the best argument against democracy would be a five-minute conversation with the average political party executive IMO. Certainly the party brain trusts must realize the polls, and polling companies, are multimillion dollar media companies whose god-like powers are derived from the fact that the media needs fantastic headlines to sell their ads. No one dares question the methodology or the numbers until the actual voting results come in. Then almost everyone remembers that polls, and polling companies can't be trusted. That how questions are framed and who is asked them determines the answers. That pollsters find the answers they're looking for.

Think about it. Do you respond to an unknown caller or immediately hang up when you don't recognize the voice? If you have call display, do you even answer calls from unknown numbers? Do you talk to them any longer than it takes to yell a couple of expletives? Do you fill in online surveys? Nobody i know does. Who has the time for this stuff in a tilt-a-whirl world?

There are lessons to be learned by the BCNDP from all this and hopefully they'll get beyond their current stage of denial and take responsibility for their own mistakes. Hopefully they'll remember next time that polling companies make a living predicting the sales of shampoos and deodorants so it's no mystery when their results turn out odoriferous? The BCNDP would be well advised to learn from their mistakes and stop blaming others.  To remember the old adage "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." And to reflect on what happens if/when a third shaming happens.

5.17.2013

The BCNDP Lost the Election Because They Failed to Fight Back or Offer a Viable Alternative



The BCNDP lost because they ran a terrible campaign that didn't offer any real alternative to the Liberals, except that they were not Liberals. Their campaign slogan was “Change for the Better.” But they didn't define what they wanted to change from or what they wanted to change to. The main reason they lost wasn't the Liberals endless negative ads, they'd been running negative ads against the NDP for years without success, it was because, other than policy wonks, nobody had a clear idea what they stood for.

BC New Democrats either forgot or arrogantly ignored the rules of political campaigning, especially in BC. BC has a long history of prize fight campaigns between the capitalist private enterprisers and the more socialist folks. So the NDP knew knew what was coming, but instead of understanding the difference between personal counter attacks and attacks that reminded BCers of the long list of Liberal lies - policy attacks - they, especially Adrian Dix. did nothing to defend itself let alone to fight back. When under attack they, like all of us, had certain choices; beg for mercy, run like hell, fight like hell or stand your ground in a rope-a-dope like defensive posture waiting for the attacker to get tired then springing out to launch a counter-attack, which is what i naively thought Dix was doing.

The BCNDP had plenty of policy targets to attack that could have overcome Christy's smile. For weeks i was sure Dix would bounce off the ropes, Ali style, with a stiff HST lies left jab, followed by a $6.0 million Basi and Virk legal fees paid by government left/right combination, quickly followed by a BC Rail scandal right cross. Then i figured he'd circle and line them up for another multi-punch combination aimed at their vaunted financial prowess - a left to the huge costs for BC Place Roof and the Convention Centre, a right to the privatizing of capital assets [like the BC Ferries, BC Hydro, Crown Forests] to in order to balance the books. Then finish them off with flurry centering on the closing of mental health facilities making so many defenseless folks homeless, the disastrous privatizing hospital cleaning and maintenance, the buying of ferries from Germany [all of which cost BCers good jobs], but no, they just stood there grinning...until they lost...not much grinning now eh.

Long before the election itself the BCNDP made a huge blunder by choosing the already scandal ridden Dix who's faked memo from years ago was such an obvious target for Liberal's attacks. And Dix only made the target more inviting when he got busted for not buying a Skytrain ticket. We all make mistakes and Adrian Dix is by all accounts a good, hard working, dedicated, honest guy as well as an excellent family man, exactly the kinda guy you'd wanna live next door to or invite over for a barbecue, but in the knock-down blood sport of BC politics all that matters is winning and...

The BCNDP ran a terrible campaign. They didn't use the record of scandal and mismanagement, they didn't offer a viable alternative. They were outwitted, outsmarted and outplayed. Now, a few days later, the BCNDP brain trust is blaming the media, the pollsters, the greens, the voters... and everything that moves for their loss...everything except their own incompetence. The party's president Moe Sihota blames the election loss on fear-mongering by the Liberals, complacency by supporters and -- to a lesser extent -- vote-splitting with the B.C. Green party. Yikes...i forget, which stage of facing impending doom is denial?

5.16.2013

Christy's Confident Smile Compared to Dix's Lack of Charisma Made BC Voters 'Feel' Comfortable


Christy Clark talks to a truck driver near Campbell River a few days before the election.

As a non-citizen of Canada, and therefore a non-voter, it's only right to keep my published opinions and advice to myself during elections, but as a long time resident of BC and a very interested observer, now that it's over...The folks in BC said nix to Dix for a range of reasons that may appear unrelated but IMO are all cousins. An excellent synopsis of my thoughts and feelings was the subject of one commentor [among hundreds yesterday] at the Tyee. The commentor talked about the insight she'd had when her work team did the Myers-Briggs test.

Basically the Myers-Briggs test is a well regarded personality test that strives to determine an individual's balance balance between two relative values.  One of the measurements is T, thinking, vs. F, feeling. In other words, some of us see the world through our thinking, rational minds, others see the world more through the emotions. Both are valuable...and all of us are a complicated mish-mash of the two. Her insight from this exercise was that [like me] she's a T in a world of F's, and that she'd better pay attention to the needs of the F's if she wanted to play well on any team, including the great big British Columbia team. It seemed to her that political junkies, especially those who consider themselves to be progressive ones - like she and i, are overwhelmingly Ts, Mr. Dix very much included. Ms. Clark was able to pull the F strings - fear, anxiety about change, financial insecurity, etc. while exhibiting a sunny personality. The NDP disastrously underestimated the power of this.

While Dix's body language and style demonstrated a level of arrogance that at least sub-consciously disgusted voters and non-voters alike, Christy's constant photo-op ready smile and quick confident sense of humour - well learned from years of working in the media and government - connected her emotionally to everybody, including those Ts like me who disagree with her politics.

Most folks don't have time like an old retired hermit gardener does to study the details of intricate issues. Most folks are to busy working, trying to raise a family, trying to make ends meet in this tilt-a-whirl culture. Folks may catch the weather to see what they and the kids should wear to work/school tomorrow, they may check the sports scores or the the odd headline on the radio while driving to work or shopping but otherwise not many have the time or energy to do more. BC, like almost everywhere, has become populated by over stretched folks who vote with their feelings both because that's what most people do and because they are so busy they only can think about immediate issues like their wallets.Christy Clark's buoyant personality - always upbeat, positive and optimistic - even as she lambasted the NDP's policies and personalities, combined with Dix's lack of charisma even more than his party's lack of viable alternative vision is why BCers nixed Dix.

Tomorrow The Mud Report will delve into the 'T' side of why the NDP got the shit-kicking it earned, but for me there was one particular 'F' moment that, when it happened, was the 'ah-ha' moment for me. It happened outside Campbell River a few days before the vote. Christy was striding along, casually dressed, smiling and shaking hands, journalists in tow, along side a row of big rigs idling in a lineup. She turned and a very gracefully climbed up the ladder while at the same time pulling herself up on the mirror support bar and talked to the trucker inside. She looked totally natural and confident in her movements, she talked warmly with the trucker, her smile and her confidence with him was, or at least seemed, totally genuine. My heart sank, i felt it too, it was obvious she'd win.

5.11.2013

The Only Solution to Environmental Degradation and Social Inequity is Bottom-Up Action


We all have choices. We all can choose to take personal responsibility. We all can take action, here and now, to live simply and happily by wanting less. People all around the world are discovering that less is more and are combating the over-consumption that lies at the heart of all environmental degradation and social inequity.

One excellent example is Ralph da Costa Nunez, a member of New York City's 'Home At Last' group that is dedicated to using a bottom-up, personal commitment solution to homelessness, especially among NTC's children. Each member of the group works to collect food donations and organizes other neighborhood groups to collect and make food donations every month. They collect, clean and repair toys for donation. Cash they themselves donate, or is collected, is used to buy toys, clothes, school supplies, shoes and new children's-sized socks and underwear that they distribute at family shelters. They organize supply drives and fundraisers to provide shelters with the items they need.

Ralph and his group don't blame anyone and don't expect the government to do everything. They know we're all in this together.

So does Barry Saxifrage who's excellent and well researched article last week in the Vancouver Observer titled 'Is jet-setting compatible with a safe climate?' about the embedded energy and environmental costs of air travel also talked about his own commitment to taking personal responsibility by walking the talk. From reading the comments its obvious that many folks agree with Barry and have also learned the joys of the staycation. In it Barry says, "Like with other aspects of the climate crisis, it sure looks like dirty industries won't act morally and politicians won't act in time. That means citizens will need to lead the way from the grassroots up."

Ralph and Barry know that in the end, it's not governments but a bottom-up revolution of everyday folks that's going to provide solutions. They act on their understanding that we feed the monster with our lifestyles and that only bottom up solutions by the that person in the mirror every morning can lead to any real change.

In a perfect world, a world where governments weren't corrupted by corporate monies, perhaps there could be fair and effective regulations enacted. But we don't live there. In this world top down solutions always seem to end up making complicated matters worse. Only bottom up solutions like mindful demand side reductions by individuals can be effective

5.10.2013

Last Night the News Hour Talked Openly About BC's Pot Industry, Here's a Few Things They Missed



Last Night the News Hour went on the road to Nelson, B.C. and did a story they called 'Nelson’s smoky little secret: B.C.’s cash crop'. They deserve tons praise for having the courage to talk openly about BC's underground pot industry and its benefits to BC's rural economy. It's not often that a MSM outlet will take the chance of alienating their advertisers by mentioning, let alone talking about the positive aspects and widespread community support for outlaws. Maybe it's because they were in Nelson, the reputed pot capital of Canada, maybe it's the fact that it's far from a secret, but they did it. GOOD ON 'EM

But they missed, or sidestepped, a few important things IMO. One of the most widely read posts The Mud Report has done is titled 'The #1 Reason Why Harper Won't Legalize Pot in Canada', thousands of folks have read it from all around the world. Of course the reason is that Canada's small time mom and pop marijuana industry is powering the rural economies all across Canada, not just in BC. The authorities themselves estimate the value at $7 billion in BC alone, that's a lotta money. And the vast majority of BC pot is grown by small scale growers not organized crime.

The growers earning $200,000 a year that Chris interviewed last night don't really qualify as small scale IMO. Most folks earn far less, more in the $20,000 range. More like a mortgage interest helper or a way one of the parents can stay home to raise the kids. And their bemoaning the competition from a new wave of outlaws made them even less likable, at least to me.

None-the-less, when mom and pop growers spend their loonies it's at local stores, on bills and at the grocery market not the stock market. But whoever grows them every plant takes huge amounts of labour to grow and process. Even the criminal types with the warehouses employ tens if not hundreds of people each somewhere during production. All those people have families and when all those thousands of outlaws spend their money in the local community it creates lottsa other jobs, a lot more than pipelines do. In the end the tax boys get their cut as the dough circulates around the economy so it's no loss to the government in the long run.  Instead folks just get to use it for awhile before taxes soak it all up.

One question that comes up all the time is:
Q.- Wouldn't legalizing pot simply turn it into just another commodity produced and profited from by large corporations, financed by large banks, and taxed to death by governments all of which would result in higher prices, lower quality and exported shareholder profits.
A. - Yes

Someday, like the other outdated 'boogie men' we've been manipulated to fear in the past - gambling, alcohol, tobacco, coffee, etc. - the 'sin' of pot will go up in smoke and the government will use it as another source of revenue. Until then 'we the people' can enjoy our tokes and our green economy secure in the knowledge that whenever it's legalized it'll become just another crappy plastic corporate commodity.

5.09.2013

How European Honey Bees are Poisoned, Abused and Treated Like Slaves in the Pursuit of Profits



Digging deeper into the issues surrounding the huge percentage of honey bee deaths this past winter and the worry created over our food supply these past few days has led me to try avoiding comparisons to slavery, to animal abuse, to poisoned illegal farm workers, to Bangladeshi garment workers...but i can't. The scientific studies show that European Honeybees are dying enmasse mostly because they are being poisoned by pesticides but they are also highly susceptible to these toxins because they are weakened by being forced to live on a monoculture diet they aren't co-evolved to eat.

All bees require the type of mixed diet found in a natural setting to remain healthy, not exclusively on one type of pollen/nectar for a week or two, then another, then another. Some honeybees get to stay put and eat a mixed diet from local flowers as they progress naturally through the seasons, but not the vast majority of them. For them its a peach monoculture in Georgia for a couple of weeks, then back onto the truck for a 72hr cross continent drive to a huge almond operation in Northern California, then...on to the next huge corporate owned monculture somewhere on the continent.

The corporations finance the bee's abuse from the banks, both rake in their ill-gotten gains by avoiding the cost of providing safe, secure working conditions. Its always the same story be it in Bangladesh or Baton Rouge. Its hardly a mystery malady when at each stop the honeybees are forced to endure different chemicals and pesticides in their weakened state. These marvelous creatures are abused and poorly paid the same way industrial ag. treats the rest of its farm workers. When they die from the toxins and abuse, their masters, big ag, moan about lost profits then, instead of improving the working conditions, they look frantically everywhere for more slaves when the honeybees die.

The second part of the question is about the danger to our food supply. Digging deeper into this meant looking into how different proportions of our foods are pollinated and by what vectors. The first sentence everywhere is: An estimated one out of every three bites of food comes to us through the work of animal pollinators.

About 50% of the food we eat comes from wind pollinated or self- pollinated crops, primarily barley, corn, oats, rice, rye, sorghums, wheat, sugar beets, sugar cane, potatoes, sweet potatoes and grass hay crops fed to animals. Another 10% comes from crops that may receive some benefit from insect pollination but are largely self-pollinating like beans, cotton, flax, peanuts, peas, and soybeans. Another 10% come from the fruits and veggie plants that are dependent on animal pollination like apples, pears, grapes, peas, lettuces, beets, carrots, sunflowers, onions, garlic, peppers, tomatoes, cole crops, (broccoli cabbage,kale, etc) cucumbers and melons, etc. The animal products are about 20% and some of it is derived from insect-pollinated legumes such as alfalfa, clover, lespedeza, and trefoil, the rest from wind pollinated hay and corn crops.  Finally about 10% is made up of fats and oils which come from oilseeds–coconuts, cotton, oil palm, olives, peanuts, rape, soybeans, and sunflower. Most of of these plants are dependent upon animal pollination. Which all ends up at somewhere near 1/3 of our food needing animal pollination.

But that's animal pollination and, like yesterday's blog showed, there are lotta other pollinators out there working their magic on our behalf other than honeybees. There are different estimates as to the proportions but none give European Honeybees over a 20% share, most less, of our pollinated dietary foods [33% of our total diet] so maybe 5%-6% of our total dietary intake is honeybee pollinated  Consequently if last winter 1/3 of the enslaved bees died that's a whopping 2% of our diet not harvested and that 2% is mostly luxury food items, like peaches, coffee, almonds, or vanilla. So it appears all the scary headlines about our food supply are just fear based propaganda by big ag and their bankers for the upcoming price 'adjustment' not to improve the bee's lives, but to increase profits from their deaths.

5.08.2013

Ending Our Insane Chemical 'War On Weeds' Would Let All the Pollinators Keep Keeping Us Alive


Click Here to hear Professor of Entomology Claudio Gratton's explain the essential role native bees play in our continued survival.

The huge numbers of European Honey Bees that died in all the 'developed' countries this past winter [about 1/3] has been directly tied to industrial agriculture's expanding use of pesticides, especially the neonicotinoids, by studies in both the US and Europe. Europe has already enacted new regulations to protect their pollinators, the US and Canada are, as usual, listening to the pesticide industry lobbyists and refusing to call for a ban.  

Neonicotinoid pesticides have been known for years to be deadly not only to honeybees but to all insect pollinators. There are at least 1000 different species of native bees in North America and 1000's of other species of pollinating insects too. All types of pesticides have been found to harm native and imported bees as well as the others, including fungicides, herbicides, acaricides, rodenticides, and of course the ubiquitous insecticides. Bats are important pollinators too, as are birds, particularly hummingbirds, honeyeaters and sunbirds. Other vertebrates, such as monkeys, lemurs, possums, rodents, lizards and humans have been recorded pollinating some plants as well.

As Cornell entomology professor Bryan Danforth says in explaining the importance of native bees, "The honeybee has hogged the pollination spotlight for centuries, but native bees are now getting their fair share of buzz: They are two to three times better pollinators than honeybees, are more plentiful than previously thought and not as prone to the headline-catching colony collapse disorder that has decimated honeybee populations. An individual visit by a native bee is actually worth far more than an individual visit by a honeybee." Danforth added. "Honeybees are more interested in the nectar. They don't really want the pollen if they can avoid it. The wild, native bees are mostly pollen collectors. They are collecting the pollen to take back to their nests."

Danforth goes on to say, "In the past, the attitude has always been, 'Well, you have the crop, and you have the honeybee, and that's all you really need.' But nobody has ever bothered to ask, well what about all these other bees that are out there? The role of native bees in crop pollination has been largely unappreciated -- until colony collapse disorder created a crisis."

Honeybees are considered valuable because, unlike native species, they can be moved from farm to farm. For example, honeybees are critical in pollinating California almond fields in February when there are no native bees around. The thing that makes the honeybee valuable to agriculture is its ability to quickly pollinate large numbers of flowers over a wide area making it possible to grow mono-cultural crops like canola, or almonds. When you grow large fields or orchards of mono-cultured crops, natural pollinators can only pollinate a small percentage of the flowers in the short period of time that nature allots for this work. These industrial scaled honeybee pollinated crops are often luxury food items, like peaches, coffee, almonds, or vanilla.

An estimated one out of every three bites of food comes to us through the work of animal pollinators [more on that tomorrow], only a small percentage of that is pollinated exclusively by imported European Honeybees. Since native bees are closely tied to their food source, anything that destroys the food source—whether it’s a herbicide, a freeway, a lawnmower or a housing development—destroys the native insects that were dependent upon it.

Corporate/industrial agriculture because of its monoculture dependent pesticide addiction is killing itself by destroying the living soil beneath its feet and also by killing its only source pollination. They'll poison and kill us too if we let them. But if instead we realize the value of our native pollinators, if we stop our insane chemical 'war on weeds', if we silence the lawnmowers and learn to love the native flowering plants and recognize them to be our cousins and the main food source of the native pollinators we depend on, our food gardens will have plenty of native pollinators to keep us alive. If we don't, well we won't have to worry about climate change or our anything else.

5.07.2013

The Environment's Real Enemies are Easy to Find, Their Cars Fill the Mall Parking Lots Everywhere



John Atcheson's article today, On 400 PPM, Mass Stupidity, and the Suicidal Language of Climate Lemmings, starts out with a couple of great lines: OK, lemmings don’t commit mass suicide.  But they do reproduce chaotically, and periodically consume their way out of sustainable habitats, and into mass migrations that result in most of their population dying. Sound familiar?

The 400 ppm part of John's title refers to the Keeling Curve's latest measurement of global CO2 concentration which shows that we'll be passing the symbolically significant 400 ppm mark perhaps today or maybe next week, but very soon. Like so many of us, John is somewhere between distressed and depressed on any given day by the apparently suicidal route our consumer culture is hurtling down and the consequences for humanity's survival.

Stephen Leahy's piece, As World Burns... Rich Countries Drag Feet at Climate Talks, expresses the same existential angst from a slightly different, more Canadian, angle. In it he points out that because of Canada's current and proposed export expansions of coal, tar sands crud and natural gas "Canada’s future prosperity will be based on profiting from dumping two billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere". Both are heartfelt well written articles, both speak to the same problem, both argue that our leaders aren't doing enough to fight the evil corporations.

This top down solution is the argument dejour. It started long before Bill McKibben declared the fossil fuel industry to be 'the real enemy' in his widely read and well documented  Rollingstone article, Global Warming's Terrifying New Math. Hard working and dedicated as he is, Bill Mckibben has become a sort of CC pied piper leading an increasing desperate troupe of environmentalists down another blind alley - divestment in fossil fuels. As Christian Parenti, and many others point out, divestment is an admirable and honourable thing to do but it's useless at best because it denies "...the basic economics of the fossil fuel industry, we actually sustain and feed Exxon, Chevron, Shell and the rest not as investors, but as consumers. We give them money when we buy gasoline."

Worse yet the longer the erstwhile environmental community continues to focus on one top down, blind alley solution after another the real real enemy, the enemy who's cars fill the mall parking lots everywhere daily, keep demanding and consuming more needless crap. Instead the real enemy in the mirror every morning - the demand-ers - must be the focus of a bottom up solution. As Jorge Majfud says, "Trying to reduce environmental pollution without reducing consumerism is like combating drug trafficking without reducing the drug addiction."

Why do so many intelligent, well educated people like McKibben, Naomi Klein, James Hansen and others focus on the suppliers of our addictions in drug warrior fashion? Maybe it's because they know that a demand side, bottom up message that focuses on middle class consumer and investor culpability would be angrily denied and dismissed?

5.06.2013

Thinking of Divesting in the Carbon Bubble? Here's a Few Ethical Re-Investment Ideas


Hot on the heels of the Carbon Tracker Report came Bill McKibben's Rolling Stone article 'Global Warming's Terrifying New Math' followed by a deluge of articles from every corner of the Climate Change choir explaining why trillions of stock market dollars are at risk because the Carbon Bubble is about to burst and when it does it'll plunge the world into another financial crisis. All of them, be it Naomi Klein, McKibben, Brune, Van Jones, Hansen or others, explain that these stocks aren't just owned by the rich, that they are also broadly owned by everyday folks through their pension funds, mutual funds, bank deposits, RRSPs/401Ks etc. In the end every choir member says the only option folks have is to divest from the fossil fuel industries immediately.

Divesting for ethical reasons isn't a new idea, as far back as 1758, the Quakers prohibited members from participating in the slave trade - buying or selling humans. Most of the early proponents of socially responsible investing were religiously motivated and forbid followers from investing in  “sinful” companies, such as those associated with products such as guns, liquor, and tobacco. More recently divestment in South African companies was a powerful factor in their abandonment of apartheid.

Just for the record, mr. mud has zero investments or pension plans of any kind and has always considered 'Ethical Investments' as an oxymoron. None-the-less i spent a number of hours these last few days researching the wide field of 'Socially Responsible Investing' [SRIs] in order to be able to offer a few [damn few] positive options for folks wanting to divest as the CC choir correctly suggests.

Divesting in fossil fuels is meaningless though, other than as an honorable feel good exercise, if all that happens is that the money from the sale of those investments is simply reinvested in another aspect of the capitalist matrix. Every tentacle of capitalism just feeds or feeds on fossil fuels though usually disguised by wearing a different wig. My first step was to look into how SRI funds operate. There's a great chart here that compares the investment strategy of all the leading SRI funds graphically. It shows that none of them
is really what i'd call ethical, they can't be because they all have maximizing returns - profit - as their goal, that's their job. Capitalism only generates profits by externalizing, avoiding, costs be it by manufacturing goods in third world countries or by using the biosphere as toilet who's cleanup costs will have to be paid by future generations.

Anyway, here's a couple of highly regarded references to start your own research: The Moskowitz Prize for Socially Responsible Investing from UC Berkley has good ideas and interesting past winners. And the book 'Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution', by Paul Hawken, Amory and Hunter Lovins is the classic on ethical investing

So, if you think that ethical investing isn’t an oxymoron here's a short list of possible options. These 3 below are similar in that they use slightly different methods to provide their investors with the security of owning low-risk farmland while benefiting from the value added by converting it to certified organic farmland. There's Farmland LP, Peak Prosperity and Slow Money started by Paul Newman who said of it, "I just happen to think that in life we need to be a little like the farmer who puts back into the soil what he takes out. Recognizing the wisdom of these words, let us begin rebuilding our economy from the ground up."

Another type of option is the type of Municipal Bonds that are sold to raise the capital to build rapid transit systems. There are no easy answers, folks have to do their own research and direct their own investments. None of my options offer outrageous promises of huge riches but they all offer a good night's sleep.

My personal non-investment list includes: Saving money and the biosphere by putting your money into your home through upgrading insulation and more efficient heating systems. Putting it into your kid's education. Buying the stuff for and building a food garden, then building a composter, then building a chicken coop. If that's not possible, invest in local food security, and your own, by joining a local farm food buying coop. Put your money into buying land that has good water and air that can grow healthy organic food, build a home on it, eqip it with off grid power. There's still lottsa good small tracts of land available all over the world, the further you get from a mini-mall the better the prices become.

Living simply is the best advice and investment, the money you don't spend is money earned because the stuff you don't buy doesn't depreciate and the environment doesn't have mitigate the production and transportation wastes generated. Dirt under your fingernails hardwork isn't a sin but debt is. Only by jumping from the nest will you ever fly. Get Ready. Get Set. Jump!

5.04.2013

Naomi Klein Exposes the Truth About the Dirty Investments Financing Environmental Groups


This month The Nation is publishing two excellent articles by Naomi Klein about how many of the largest environmental organizations still invest in fossil fuels. In 'Why Aren't Environmental Groups Divesting from Fossil Fuels?' Naomi asks, "Why do some of the largest environmental organizations -  Conservation International, The Environmental Defense Fund, The National Wildlife Federation, The Nature Conservancy, The Natural Resources Defense Council, The Ocean Conservancy, The Sierra Club, The Sierra Club Foundation, The Union of Concerned Scientists, The Wildlife Conservation Society, The Wilderness Society, The Woods Hole Research Center, The World Resources Institute and The World Wildlife Fund - still invest in fossil fuels?"

In the second titled 'Time for Big Green to Go Fossil Free' she makes it clear that "plenty of green groups have managed to avoid this mess. Greenpeace, 350.org, Friends of the Earth, Rainforest Action Network, and a host of smaller organizations like Oil Change International and the Climate Reality Project don’t have endowments and don’t invest in the stock market. They also either don’t take corporate donations or place such onerous restrictions on them that extractive industries are easily ruled out. Some of these groups own a few fossil fuel stocks, but only so that they can make trouble at shareholder meetings."

It's important to notice the words 'endowments and invest in the stock market' because this is the central issue in Naomi's articles, the focus of her exhaustive research and the way almost all conservation is done in the western world. The organization behind The American Prarie Reserve, an ambitious undertaking to rewild 3.5 million acres of short grass prairie in the greater Missouri Breaks area, as Richard Manning's book 'Rewilding the West' explains and details has the same dilemma. In order to raise the money necessary to buy up and 'rewild' that vast area hundreds of ranchers must be bought out over the coming years. This will cost an estimated $200, 000, 000. The only folks who've got that kinda dough are very rich folks and understandably even the most altruistic of them doesn't give money away without some conditions attached.

This reality leads most organizations into the world of endowments, which as registered charities are tax deductible and who's investments in the stock market create income, also usually tax deductible, that can be used to run the organization without depleting the donated capital [at least in theory]. Naomi's articles join numerous others lately in the wake of the Carbon Tracker Report and Bill McKibben's Rolling Stone article 'Global Warming's Terrifying New Math' in calling for all these environmental organizations to divest their interests in the fossil fuel industry.

Though this solution sounds good in reality it makes a better slogan than an effective tactic. All these endowments, just like the pension plans and all the various types of investment funds, hire fund managers who's job it is to maximize returns. So, as long as the job of the endowment's managers is maximizing returns within whatever moral parameters that organizations applies, divestment in one aspect of the capitalist matrix, fossil fuels, is meaningless if the money is simply moved to another aspect of capitalism, another part of the consumer culture who's demands drive all economic exchange, including those of the fossil fuel industry. Folks need to stop driving to the mall, stop consuming useless plastic crap, just slow down.

Christian Parenti at Huffington Post has noticed the problem too. He said recently, "I am all for dumping carbon stocks, if for no other reason than a sense of decency and honor...but we actually sustain and feed Exxon, Chevron, Shell and the rest not as investors, but as consumers. We give them money when we buy gasoline." There are other choices, like the picture above shows [more on that soon] but for now the reailty is that in this worldwide capitalist matrix top down solutions always seem to end up making complicated matters worse. Only bottom up solutions like mindful demand side reductions by individuals can be effective. As Jorge Majfud says, "Trying to reduce environmental pollution without reducing consumerism is like combating drug trafficking without reducing the drug addiction."

5.03.2013

Demand Driven Consumer Capitalism is Also the Driver of the "Environmental Pollution" Matrix


Yesterday's post ended with the Jorge Majfud quote, "Trying to reduce environmental pollution without reducing consumerism is like combating drug trafficking without reducing the drug addiction." It's important to notice that Majfud, a genius IMO, refers to the broad issue of "environmental pollution" not just to climate change.

Somewhere along the way climate change, which is a symptom of the disease of consumer capitalism not the disease itself, usurped the focus of the broader debate. Climate change is a very important node in the green matrix, tentacles leading to and from it interconnect every aspect of broader disease causing all forms of "environmental pollution"..IMO the media, knowing our limitations and its own, played a central role in the narrowing of the debate. Climate change offered so many tantalizing catastrophic predictions to headline, so many celebrities speaking out, so many simplistic graphs to illustrate the 'inconvient truth'. Of course, it's our fault as least as much as theirs - ratings, sales and profits are achieved by supplying that which is demanded in the media as in all capitalist industries.

The example list below from 'Green Living' [which could undoubtedly be edited] is an example of the broad range of nodes in the "environmental pollution" matrix that have been eclipsed somewhat by the climate change and related energy debates. Many issues, like the crisis over our food supply created by annihilation of world's pollinators, a keystone group if there ever was one, now proven to be caused by the use of pesticides and insecticides in industrial agriculture to ensure profitable harvests from petro-chemical fertilized monocultures is certainly more immediate and just as potentially catastrophic.

Every economic exchange, every unintended environmental consequence, is driven by demand. Folks need to stop driving to the mall, stop consuming useless plastic crap, just slow down. Please take a look the list below, maybe research some the topics more broadly, IMO you'll agree that demand driven consumer capitalism is the underlying driver of all."environmental pollution".

1. Contamination of Drinking Water: Contamination of fresh water used for household needs, including pollution of oceans, rivers, lakes, and reservoirs, ranks top on the list of environmental concerns for many Americans. More than half of respondents stated they worry about the safety of their drinking water a great deal.

2. Water Pollution: General worry over water pollution and associated environmental issues greatly concerns half of all Americans who participated in the 2008 poll. Related issues include acid rain, ocean dumping, urban runoff, oil spills, ocean acidification, and wastewater.

3. Soil Contamination: Soil erosion, soil conservation, soil salination, and soil contamination by waste, pesticides, and lead worries 50 percent of Americans.

4. Wildlife Conservation: More than 40 percent of Americans expressed concern about wildlife conservation and associated environmental issues, such as endangered species, animal and plant extinction, coral bleaching, introduction of invasive species, poaching, and loss of natural animal habitats resulting in relocation and a break in the food chain.

5. Air pollution: Concerns over air pollution have remained steady over the last decade, with more than 40 percent of Americans worried about indoor and outdoor air quality, carbon emissions, tropospheric ozone, particulate matter, sulfur oxides, volatile organic compounds, radon, refrigerants, and methane emissions.

6. Biological pollutants, including bacteria, viruses, molds, mildew, dander, dust, mites, pollen, ventilation and infection.

7. Carbon footprint and the responsibility of individuals to reduce their effect on the environment, including the use of renewable energy sources (solar power, geothermal heat pumps), recycling, and sustainable living.

8. Climate change and issues related to global warming, such as the greenhouse effect, global dimming, and the gradual rise in sea level.

9. Consumerism and over-consumption and their effect on the planet.

10. Dams and the impact of dams on the environment.

11. Ecosystem destruction and associated environmental concerns, such as aquaculture, estuaries, shellfish protection, landscaping, wetlands, and ecological restoration.

12. Energy conservation issues, including renewable energy for home and business, energy efficiency, and fossil fuel depletion.

13. Fishing and its effect on marine ecosystems, blast fishing, cyanide fishing, bottom trawling, whaling, and over-fishing.

14. Food safety concerns and the effects of hormones, antibiotics, preservatives, toxic contamination, and lack of quality control on health.

15. Genetic engineering, including concerns about genetically modified foods and genetic pollution.

16. Intensive farming, irrigation, overgrazing, monoculture, methane emissions, and the damaging environmental effects of deforestation for farming and cattle.

17. Land degradation and related problems, such as desertification and soil and land pollution.

18. Land use, urban sprawl, lack of free space, and habitat destruction and fragmentation.

19. Logging, deforestation, clear-cutting, destruction of wildlife habitats, and greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming.

20. Mining and its role in global warming, acid mine drainage, and soil and air pollution resulting from toxic emissions and heavy metals.

21. Nanotechnology and the future effects of nanopollution and nanotoxicology.

22. Natural disasters and their impact on all aspects of the environment.

23. Nuclear issues, including the effects of nuclear fallout, nuclear meltdown, radioactive waste, and the population's reliance on nuclear power.

24. Other pollution issues, such as light pollution and noise pollution, and their effects on human health and behavior.

25. Overpopulation concerns, such as continued building and burial.

26. Ozone depletion and damage to the Earth's ozone layer caused by CFC.

27. Resource depletion, the need for newer, cleaner energy sources, and exploitation of natural resources.

28. Sustainable communities and issues such as reducing reliance on fossil fuels, supporting local farmers and merchants, encouraging green practices and building, consideration of native wildlife, and adoption of mass transportation and cleaner methods of commuting.

29. Toxins, including chlorofluorocarbons, heavy metals, pesticides, herbicides, toxic waste, PCB, DDT, bioaccumulation, endocrine disruptors, asbestos, and poorly implemented hazardous waste management.

30. Waste and associated environmental issues, such as litter, landfills, recycling, incineration, marine debris, E-waste, and contamination of water and soil caused by improper disposal and leaching toxins.