Thursday, May 10, 2007

Slow crash update May 10th 2007

A Review of "EATING FOSSIL FUELS" by Dale Allen Pfeiffer

Eating Fossil Fuels begins and ends with a very basic assessment, something that too few people completely understand or think about, and yet is absolutely critical to our well-being on planet Earth: our food supply is highly dependent on hydrocarbons, whether as fossil fuel or petrochemical additives. In the 1950s and 1960s when population growth threatened to outrun food stores, an international agricultural program, now referred to as the Green Revolution, was initiated to increase farm production all around the world through the intensified use of petrochemical fertilizers and irrigation. The results were impressive. Production nearly tripled. In the years since, low cost fossil fuels have increasingly become a critical part of all facets of industrial agriculture from the growing to the packaging to the transportation to the preparation of the product, to the extent, as Mr. Pfeiffer would say, we are all but eating fossil fuel.

Australia's epic drought: The situation is grim

Australia has warned that it will have to switch off the water supply to the continent's food bowl unless heavy rains break an epic drought - heralding what could be the first climate change-driven disaster to strike a developed nation.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Slow crash update May 6th 2007

Accidental Sustainability and Why We Can't Sustain It

this is really interesting in that it demonstrates the effectiveness of sabotage at stopping enviornmental destruction and pomoting ecological social change, i put it here because it was an *accident* but who knows?

For those of you who haven't heard yet, a portion of a highly trafficked freeway interchange in the San Francisco Bay Area collapsed early yesterday morning when a gasoline tanker lost control and exploded. The flames apparently reached temperatures nearing 3000F degrees, and a structure we ordinarily trust to be quite stable turned from an overpass into an asphalt waterslide.
To say that this event will disrupt traffic flow is a profound understatement. The truck happened to explode where three major highways converge and split off (aptly named "The Maze"), forming almost all of the direct routes to and from cities throughout the East Bay, as well as San Francisco. After yesterday, it's not just inconvenient to get through there; it's impossible. From a commuter's point-of-view, this is catastophic. But from the environment's point of view, it might be quite the opposite.

The Spirituality of Collapse

So what might be some of the gifts of collapse?

First, collapse strips us of who we think we are so that who we really are may be revealed. Civilization’s toxicity has fostered the illusion that one is, for example, a professional person with money in the bank, a secure mortgage, a good credit rating, a healthy body and mind, raising healthy children who will grow up to become successful like oneself, and that when one retires, one will be well-taken-care of. If that has become your identity, and if you don’t look deeper, you won’t discover who you really are; and when collapse happens, you will be shattered because you have failed to notice the strengths, resources, and gifts that abide in your essence which transcend and supercede your ego-identity. In a post-collapse world, academic degrees and stock portfolios matter little. The real question, as Richard Heinberg so succinctly puts it is: Do you know how to make shoes?

Peak Oil, Carrying Capacity and Overshoot: Population, the Elephant in the Room

It is becoming clearer every day, as crises like global warming, water, soil and food depletion, biodiversity loss and the degradation of our oceans constantly worsen, that the human situation is not sustainable. Bringing about a sustainable balance between ourselves and the planet we depend on will require us, in very short order, to reduce our population, our level of activity, or both. One of the questions that comes up repeatedly in discussions of population is, "What level of human population is sustainable?" In this article I will give my analysis of that question, and offer a look at the human road map from our current situation to that level.

Climate change could dramatically change forests in Central America

Drought could cause dramatic shifts in rainforest plant communities in Central America, reports a new study published in the May 3 issue of Nature. The research shows that many rainforest plants are ill-equipped to deal with extended dry periods, putting them at elevated risk from changes in climate projected for the region.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

slow crash news update April 19th 2007

The Peak Oil Crisis: Have the Troubles Begun?

While US refinery utilization is now back up above 90 percent of capacity, a question remains as to how much longer the US can import sufficient quantities of finished gasoline and the proper grades of crude that enable our refineries to produce the optimum amount of gasoline in their current configuration. Two weeks ago, as a number of observers pointed out, refinery utilization increased while gasoline production dropped. This may be a one-time glitch, or it could mean that sufficient quantities of light, sweet crude, that are optimal for making gasoline, are becoming difficult to find. If this is indeed the case, then the US has a problem of major proportions.

Bee-Ing and Nothingness. Why have the bees left the environment?

what is being called CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder) is spreading very quickly. it should be noted that being that honeybees are THE corner stone of mass agricultural systems, like ours, than if they go so does agriculture and hence civilization. but not in a nice way unfornuately.

Denial in the Desert

Persistent drought, like melting ice, rapidly reorganizes ecosystems and transforms entire landscapes. Without sufficient moisture to produce protective sap, millions of acres of pinyon and ponderosa pine have been ravaged by plagues of bark beetles; these dead forests, in turn, have helped to kindle the firestorms that have burst into the suburbs of Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix and Denver, as well as destroyed part of Los Alamos. In Texas the grasslands have also burned--nearly 2 million acres in 2006 alone--and as topsoil blows away, prairies are reverting to desert.

The Ashes of Phoenix

“This is not the first time unchecked growth has filled the Valley of the Sun. If you lift the rug of Phoenix, buried directly below you will find the remains of an ancient city, a Neolithic version of Phoenix. The first communities appeared in the low basin of the Salt River 3,000 years ago, as shown by remains recently discovered under the new Phoenix Convention Center. From there, prehistoric settlements took an escalating course of empire, filling the basin to overflowing. They sprawled all the way south to Tucson, while satellite communities appeared even north of Flagstaff. They grew until they were no longer able to sustain themselves. Then, their civilization fell.”

Friday, March 2, 2007

oil depletion starting to hit home

Fuel shortage hits truckers

Mar 02, 2007 08:34 AM
Peter Cameron Canadian press

ecerpt: "Two major fuel suppliers are sounding the alarm for Ontario's trucking industry amid "critical" shortages of diesel fuel in the province.
The fuel shortage, which has seen motorists inconvenienced for more than a week as gas pumps intermittently run dry, has forced Ultramar to suspend diesel deliveries to four Toronto-area service centres and three other Ontario cities – Hamilton, Cambridge and London.
"These sites will remain open only while the product currently in the storage tanks lasts," Ultramar said Thursday in a notice to customers.
"Certain (other) sites may be required to authorize a maximum of 250 litres per transaction."

Thursday, March 1, 2007

article of the day

What a Way To Go: Life at the End of Empire
Carolyn Baker

A REVIEW OF THE DOCUMENTARY "What A Way To Go: Life At The End Of Empire", by Tim Bennett and Sally EricksonI didn’t say it would be easy; I just said it would be the truth. - Morpheus, from “The Matrix”
If anything is not easy to watch but absolutely the truth down to one’s toenails, it is Tim Bennett’s and Sally Erickson’s doggedly transparent documentary, “What A Way To Go: Life At The End Of Empire.”
[More:]Nothing less than a 123-minute cat scan of the planet and its twenty-first century human and non-human condition, this documentary is indeed, “in your face” but with reverence, poignancy and solemnity yet sending world-class denial artists running to re-watch “Little Miss Sunshine” another one hundred times. While viewing it, I could see in my mind Carl Jung puffing on his pipe and pensively whispering under his breath, “Human beings can only handle so much truth.”
Divided into four parts, Waking On The Train, The Train And The Tracks, Locomotive Power, and Walkabout, the film begins with Tim Bennett’s personal saga of awakening in the eighties from lifelong slumber. Recounting the realities he has subsequently discovered is a tedious litany of human and planetary horrors that only those ready to awaken with him are likely to endure. To their credit, Bennett and Erickson offer no “happy ending chapter” at the end—no list of quick and painless fixes. Nothing about the world humans have created in the past several thousand years is painless, and nothing they might contemplate doing to remediate it could ever be quick. “What A Way To Go” is nothing less than two physicians presenting a diagnosis of terminal cancer to a patient who currently feels and looks “just fine”. Still another metaphor might be the one that Bennett and Erickson present in the documentary’s first chapter, namely, that of a suicidal individual standing on a ledge at the top of a very tall building, contemplating jumping to his death. It is an image to which the filmmakers return several times as the film progresses.
The issue of denial is addressed head-on as the documentary’s numerous interviewees name it and its consequences. Those individuals include: Thomas Berry, Richard Manning, Stuart Pimm, Ran Prieur, Paul Roberts, William Schlesinger, Richard Heinberg, Chellis Glendinning, Derrick Jensen, Jerry Mander, and Sally Erickson. Specifically, Derrick Jensen speaks of the energy that it takes to remain in denial, and how humans who stop clinging to it discover that as a result, an enormous amount of energy is freed up to do whatever work the planet’s terminal state calls them to do.
“What A Way To Go” names Peak Oil, climate change, mass extinction, and population overshoot, as the four pivotal and daunting challenges that humans must address and resolve if any species are to remain on planet earth. Equally terrifying, in my opinion, are two symptomatic offshoots of these four: nuclear holocaust and global economic meltdown.
So how do humans—that species which unlike all the others, is in the process of rendering earth uninhabitable—reverse the nightmare we have created? While for many of us, it may seem like a no-brainer, Bennett and Erickson emphasize that unless the issues are unveiled and talked about, no hope for solution exists. Given the documentary’s unrelenting reminders of the lethal trajectory to which the human race has committed itself, the filmmakers’ insistence on breaking one’s own denial system is a crucial first step to all others.
As an historian I particularly appreciate Sally Erickson’s assertion in the film that in order to begin addressing the issues, we must develop a historical perspective and understand how we arrived at this point in human history. This is exactly what I have attempted to do in my recently-published book U.S. HISTORY UNCENSORED: What Your High School Textbook Didn’t Tell You. Americans in particular are loath to investigate causes and prefer to hastily “move on” to solutions; however, without understanding causes, it is impossible to construct viable solutions.
Especially validating for me was the perspective this documentary lends to the issue of Peak Oil in relation to climate chaos. While experts on hydrocarbon energy such as Richard Heinberg leave no doubt in the viewer’s mind that Peak Oil is a frightening reality, those same experts, including Heinberg, acknowledge the gargantuan climate change monster that could surpass Peak Oil not only in its consequences but how quickly those consequences manifest the collapse of civilization and make the planet uninhabitable.
As for the tiresome “technofix” argument—you know, the one that says that because humans are the superior specie and have created such highly sophisticated civilizations, we will ultimately invent technology that will adequately reverse the “Big Four” pivotal challenges, Daniel Quinn, author of Ishmael and The Tales Of Adam, compares humans living in developed countries to people living in very tall brick buildings who every day go to the bottom of their building and remove 200 bricks and bring them to the top of the building. Obviously, such ludicrous behavior is unsustainable and will inevitably result in the demise of the building’s foundation and its collapse.
Ultimately, “What A Way To Go” meanders into the root causes of our planetary nightmare: our disconnection from ourselves, each other, and the earth; the cultural stories that have been forgotten and replaced with newer, self-destructive ones about growth, domination, and hubris; the systems we have created and the addictions that feed those systems, and of course, our denial.
In Part Four, “Walkabout”, we are given not hope, but the challenge of creating options, the first being, the decision to grow up, forsake our denial, and become adults. Richard Heinberg reminds us that, “We have been so infantilized by civilization that we can no longer survive without it. As all of this starts to shift and change and disintegrate and collapse there’s the opportunity, in fact, to come back to ourselves. To grow up, fundamentally, as people and as a culture.”
Both Erickson and Bennett have incorporated their own children into the documentary with brief comments from Erickson’s daughter and Bennett’s son. Erickson herself states that in terms of future generations, “I think they’re going to look back and shake their heads and say, ‘What happened to those people? How did they lose sight of such basic things.’?”
Earlier I used the analogy of two physicians announcing to a patient that she/he has terminal cancer, and it is appropriate here to ponder what cancer actually is, namely, the growth of cells out of control, thus the more archaic reference to a cancer as a “growth.” Growth has become for Western civilization a cancer that is destroying its inhabitants, the ecosystems, all other forms of life on earth and the planet itself. Or as the author, William Kotke notes, “Civilization is a mental/material world of culturally transmitted illusion.” Growth must cease, and it will cease, whether we choose to participate in that process or whether we don’t. Civilization will collapse, and that collapse offers opportunity as well as crisis. It may occur suddenly, or it may transpire as the economies and infrastructures of developed nations are hollowed out over time.
Appropriately, Bennett and Erickson have chosen the subtitle, “Life At The End Of Empire.” In his recent book Nemesis, historian Chalmers Johnson notes that an empire and a democratic republic are inimical to each other. Where one exists, the other cannot. If a nation chooses empire, its democratic republic will dissolve and ultimately perish. Should it choose to retain democratic republic, it must forsake empire; it cannot have both. The United States has chosen empire, and its citizens are allowing the shredding of its Bill of Rights and the evisceration of its civil liberties. All empires inevitably collapse, and everyone reading these words is living that collapse in this moment.
At this writing, world financial markets are reeling from yesterday’s sell-off bloodbath in China and Europe. The day before, a U.S. government auditor warned that U.S. debt to other nations is spiraling out of control. Virtually every project of Western civilization is unsustainable, especially its debt. An equally frightening but enormously important documentary that every thinking American must see is “In Debt We Trust” which illumines another locomotive out of control, imminently headed for a bottomless chasm. While I don’t wish to prognosticate that this week’s plunge of financial markets is the beginning of that economic train wreck, I know that the centralized financial systems which manage the United States government are behaving like the individuals mentioned above who carry the bricks from the bottom of their building to the top of it, leaving the foundation in peril of collapse. The fundamental difference is that when the American people behave in such a manner, they remain in the building and will be victimized by the collapse, whereas members of centralized financial systems have helicopters waiting at the top of their buildings which allow them to abscond with the bricks, turn them into gold, and deposit them offshore.
While no one wishes to jump off the ledge like the one on which the man at the beginning of “What A Way To Go” has perched himself, there is a sense in which all of us must either jump or have something far more momentous than our physical existence annihilated. The documentary quotes Andre Gide:
One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.
In the final moments of the documentary, Bennett offers an invitation to the viewer: “Let’s jump off the train and build a boat…a lifeboat, an ark, a galleon of adventure and imagination destined for unknown lands. Build it now. The ice is melting. The waters are rising. We’re going to have to let go of the shore.”
Bennett concludes the documentary by stating that he doesn’t know if he will survive the collapse but that he is committed to showing up in the world and telling his truth. It’s almost as if his physical survival is much less urgent than that commitment—in which case, I must concur with his and Erickson’s message: What a way to go!