COVID-19 rage post

I don’t know, y’all, I might have to start putting trigger warnings at the top of every post from now on! Is it just me, or has this social distancing thing put some realities about western life under the microscope for other people as well?

Klee: “Twittering Machine”

March was a hard month for me. I was practically glued to Twitter just trying to figure out where “the virus” was lurking and how it might effect us all. All while my so-called “government” rammed through an austerity budget and gave itself police-state powers. I got no posting done… and I probably should have tried to capture some of that craziness, if only for future reference. To aid in the “adjustment period” accompanying any other calamities we’re bound now to face, because I can’t help but see COVID-19 as the beginnings of a “new normal,” in which pandemics become more common. It’s just one of the joys climate change promises. And we here in Alberta might be stuck with a completely corrupt government for another three Godforsaken years.

Although I didn’t post, I did write a bit, including:

COVID-19 has forced me right up against a few truths that have rapidly made my life suck!

1- I have no one to really turn to in a time of crisis. I can talk to some of my family and friends, but none of them can really make a difference. They are in the same boat as myself. We all would like to get off, but don’t know how. It doesn’t seem like anyone really knows how to escape this life I can only encapsulate as “consumption dependent.”

DonkeyHotey/wikimedia

2- I am a human wrecking ball (along with other people- some much worse than others). I don’t want to be, but no matter how hard I want to not harm my planet, I’m forced to harm my planet. I can’t live in a home without being surrounded by plastics & all kinds of noxious chemicals. I can’t eat without producing a bunch of plastic waste, & ingesting more man-made chemicals. Then I produce wastes that don’t go back to the Earth. I can’t breathe without sucking in a bunch of airborne pollutants produced by bloodless entities called “corporations.” I can’t even feel assured that the recycling I work so hard to accomplish is even being completed once I throw stuff in my bin. I can’t stay warm, eat, read, look at my laptop, or drink water without causing the release of CO2.

3- I try hard to learn and reduce my consumption and eat from my garden, etc, but there has been this massive brain drain in that the people who knew how to live without supporting corporations are elders or gone. And I think about all the wisdom and adaptive skill they took with them and I mourn, and confront the existential truth: I cannot survive right now without harming my planet. I cannot live without enabling this sick, unsustainable cycle of consumption followed by production of all kinds of useless waste.

4- Then I come face-to-face with the knowledge that I am actually paying for the production of a lot of this Earth destruction through the dollars I am FORCED to give my government. And not only do I pay for corporate externalities, I now, because of the corrupt provincial government, pay for oil companies, even after being given a bunch of taxpayer money, to abandon the responsibility the SUPREME COURT OF CANADA ruled they have- to clean up the “orphaned” wells they sucked dry, used up and threw away. Typical corporate externalization with the added twist of doing an end run around the LAW!

User:Colin / Wikimedia Commons

5- Worst of all, I can’t count on my fellow human beings giving a fuck (excuse me- I did say “rage post!”) about any of this. Because, they say, what in the hell would I do about it? It’s the response I get all the time: yea, I know what you’re saying is true, but there’s nothing I can do about it.

6- I guess daily life kept me busy, so that I didn’t think about all of this too much. But now I’m at home. And I’m watching “leaders” use this health emergency to pass draconian austerity budgets, to prosper off of various kinds of insider profiteering, to advance their agenda’s of hate, gaslighting, division, and fear, all while being fully supported by their ever-slavering “base” ignorami. Yea, there’s voices of derision, but what changes? Nothing. The fascists are winning, no matter how openly they screw us. Our only recourse is to pull together, but I often feel like the chances of that are small. I’ve seen how “progressives” treat each other. History is supposed to be this arc towards justice. Bullshit. The Earth has never been so desecrated, police frame innocents, slavery is tolerated in American prisons, asylum seekers have their children abducted, and nothing gets better. The psychopathic bullying asses are on top.

Forced isolation is only a small part of what I’m confronting.

Two things have really taken a toll on my mental health since taking on “climate change educator” as primary job: corruption, and the enabling of corruption by effected persons (us- you and me.)

AND I’ve been down the economic rabbit hole. I found out that central banks are based on debt, in a nutshell. The banking sector is incentivized to loan, and thereby create money, but when defaults start, the system threatens to crash, then we, taxpayers, are forced to bail them out! So not only do we have a climate crisis, the foundation of western societies is a Ponzi scheme. So I’ve been trying to understand how we can fix the climate crisis, with all the change and work that involves, when we’ve got this highly vulnerable economic situation. Oh, and then there’s the whole big complication of the 1% getting all the gains for our work.

The real wealth is PEOPLE. People working creating things. Concrete back and forth exchanges of valuable things that enable life, water, food, shelter, and land are wealth. Silver and gold, because they endure and can be divided, have historically retained the ability to be an exchange of value. But the fiat money central banks create out of thin air, when added to the money pool, devalue each dollar. That means the average person’s purchasing power is greatly reduced when banks create money as they’re doing now.

I know that this corrupt system is not going to be broken down and changed until truly progressive, mentally healthy, empathizing people are running the thing. That’s the bottom line. We are never going to be able to transition fast enough without gov’t officials who support the transition, and who will design and implement policy that can get that job done.

“March on Versailles”

A pandemic, a climate crisis, a rotten money system, and an entrenched bunch of people who would rather be corrupt then risk their jobs.

It’s time for the revolution everyone.

ON THE OTHER HAND: the Earth is doing better… the down-turn in the global economy, reduced use of fossil fuels, greatly lessened pollution is doing her good. I’m going to post about that soon. Positive posts will return, fear not.

The Prozac will kick in!! (P.S. don’t be ashamed to get help if you need it, please!)

Fare well for now all.

Earth warrior Michael C. Ruppert

I’ve had a companion the last few days. His name is Michael C. Ruppert.

You may have heard of him… he was a huge figure for many people for many years, and his presence still looms large via the internet. He was an indefatigable curator and analyst of political and economic current events. He was especially interested in that nexus where power, money, and energy sources (especially oil) meet. But his curiosity, thirst for knowledge and truth, and drive to inform his fellow man were endless.

He was one of the first to sound the alarm about “peak oil,” where oil, the fuel of ever-increasing economic growth, gets harder and harder to extract. We’ve been through that peak… that’s why the search for oil by oil companies has become more radical, more dangerous, and way more expensive.

He blew the whistle on the CIA after he, an LAPD narcs detective, was approached to aid in that agency’s importation of drugs into America. He refused and was forced to resign due to threats on his life. There’s a FANTASTIC video showing Mike confronting then CIA Director, Alan Deutch, with the pointed statement, “I will tell you, Director Deutch, as a former Las Angeles Police narcotics detective that the agency has dealt drugs throughout this country for a long time.” The roar of the approving crowd and Deutch’s nervous response are astonishing, and a triumph for anyone who considers corruption and abuse of power by the State and its proxies as morally repulsive and totally unjust.

He deeply investigated 9/11, the murder of thousands of Americans by hijackers flying airplanes into buildings. That event was, of course, the catalyst for Team U.S.A.’s “war on terror,” that suspended civil liberties all over the world. America has not yet fully rescinded those suspensions, even though there’s never been another incident on American soil, America invaded Middle Eastern countries and started wars that’ve resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent people, and private companies have joined governments in establishing a surveillance state that apparently never gets questioned by “democratic representatives.”

I can only imagine what Mike would’ve had to say about COVID-19, various governments’ responses to it, and the possible sequelae that’ll result from it.

You might think, “this is a peculiar type of man to write about breathlessly on a climate change site!”

But you’d be wrong, because one of the things I love most about Michael C. Ruppert is his unabashed love for our planet; he proudly called himself a “Gaian,” i.e. a person who believes Earth is alive and mysteriously sentient, a spiritual being in and of herself, a planet ensouled. He was profoundly attracted to traditional Indigenous spiritual beliefs and practices. Mike perceived humanity’s destruction of our planet as a consequence of our profound “disconnect” from our home, our essential mother. And that our stupid quest for infinite growth on a finite planet- i.e. a planet that cannot endlessly supply resources or infinitely absorb the toxins we produce- was ultimately suicidal and was fated, 100%, to end. He tried to tell us that the signs of that end were screaming at us loudly.

I share Mike’s beliefs about our planet. So I see Mike as a kindred spirit, a true brother, a seeker on the same path as those of us who want to expose and change humanity’s destructive beliefs and actions before it’s too late.

I just wish Mike was still with us. He took his own life in April of 2014. He was only 63 years old. He took a universe from us- the one that lived between his ears. And another- the one that lived in his heart.

Mike and his dog, Rags

He was a lion. He was a guru, a teacher, a mystic, a prophet. His commitment to excellence, to evidence, to backing up his work so it would stand on its own, were exemplary. He quested for facts, then passed on what he’d gleaned. He sought out teachers and he acknowledged them. He made his findings and learnings public because he WANTED PEOPLE TO KNOW.

In other words, he cared. He knew he couldn’t reach everyone, but he never stopped trying to reach JUST ONE MORE.

He was gentle and kind, open-minded, funny, a warrior and a pioneer, a man’s man who wasn’t embarrassed to say that men should value the feminine too, including the feminine in themselves.

The evolution of his life is fascinating. He was born in February of 1951. His mom was a CIA cryptanalyst and his dad was a pilot in the U.S. Airforce. He became a policeman to help people, to do good. Fate found him when he learned about CIA drug-smuggling. From then on, his life wasn’t easy. He sacrificed his health, his time, his career, his energy for us, those of us who can hear him, those of us who know there’s something seriously awry with western “democracies.”

He would’ve been magnificent calling out Trump. He would’ve instantly recognized the bread and circuses that now characterize American politics. He would’ve instantly seen the U.S. Fed’s “bail-out”- supposedly an attempt to ease the economic savaging regular American citizens are experiencing- as what it REALLY is: a desperate ploy to protect the assets of the 1%. He’d say: “this is pennies for the people and endless treasure for the rich, as usual.” He’d know the bail-out is more transfer of wealth, more reverse-Robin Hood. More extreme exacerbation of American wealth inequality. A joke, satire, a travesty, complete dishonor, rank theft, the machinations of the mobsters that now dominate the American government. He knew at least 20 years ago that Wall Street is always the State, and the State is always Wall Street.

Yes, he would’ve known. He would’ve stated it. He was unafraid to speak truth to power, no matter how risky that was. He had an unerring moral instinct and drive that resonated with so many people. So his loss is colossal. I know I share my grief with a lot of people. I’m pretty sure that like me, like everyone who is “touched by” suicide, my fellow grievers are a bit angry at him too. He had time, we think. He could’ve taught us more. He said on Joe Rogan in March of 2013 that he was working on a new book.

Maybe he just got tired. Which I can certainly understand. He carried such heavy loads. With climate change and all the political corruption, I’ll be honest, I’ve been depressed. Was he out of hope? Could meds have helped Mike? We can’t know now. He was a man who purposefully took his own destiny into his own hands. He was deliberate and precise about how he died. He believed death was not actually an ending, it was a passage to something new. But still I can’t help but be selfish, and wish he was alive still on the Earth, with us.

Of course, he lives on in those who knew him, and those who, like me, know him only through his friends, and his work. They are the living links to the vital, charismatic person who was Michael C. Ruppert.

He’s been a wonderful companion these last few days. I’ve watched every video I can find of him. Every word he speaks is potent and meaningful on many levels and in many ways. So I have a lot more to learn from him. Here are some of my biggest take-away’s from my time with Mike so far:

  1. Our political-economic system, which is built on debt, and which relies on even more debt to fuel economic growth is not sustainable. You can’t have unlimited growth on a finite planet. Our economic paradigm is suicidal.
  2. You can’t change society unless you change how money works within that society.
  3. Oil will become increasingly difficult to extract. Prices will go up and there will be shortages until eventually people just can’t get, or can’t afford to buy, oil. It may take a decade, but it’s going to happen eventually. Other important resources have peaked too.
  4. We are reaching the tipping points at which our unsustainable paradigm meets the limits of our planetary resources and therefore the industrial age is coming to an end. Homo Petroleum- “man of oil,” whose society is based on and powered by oil- will die in the coming decades.
  5. Thus we the people have to get independent of oil, and begin transitioning to a life wherein we take care of ourselves and each other much more. Economies will localize, food will be grown at and close to home, and nature will be regenerated via permaculture principles.
  6. Mike’s big worries were climate change; nuclear pollution (especially Fukushima) and war, and the physical fact of nuclear power stations needing safe shut-down; war in general, especially for scarce resources, including oil (Mike believed the invasion of Iraq and U.S. aggression towards Iran were covert quests for oil); and greed.

I hope you’ll check out some of the many video’s of Mike on Youtube. His books are:

Some Mike quotes (these are all from the interview Mike did with Joe Rogan in Mar/13):

  • “They have to manufacture all this drama to make you think there’s a democracy at work out there!”
  • “It’s more profitable now to destroy things then it is to save them.”
  • “This is a government of the banks, by the banks, and for the banks.”
  • All [Obama’s] done is make us pay for all of the Wall Street crime! They’ve taken all that debt, all the money they printed, the derivatives, and the bail-out shit, and they put it on our backs, and that’s what’s happening all around the world! All that debt that belonged to Wall Street is now on our backs.”

There’s a biography of Mike called “Scout: a memoir of investigative journalist Michael C. Ruppert.”

Godspeed, brother. I’ll always be listening for you.

Alberta: oil sands, bitumen, & the resource curse

I’m writing this blog in Alberta, where I’ve lived almost all of my life. It’s inevitable, growing up in Alberta, that one becomes a witness, willing or not, to the conversation about the “energy sector,” and its woes and victories. Young Albertans are slowly perfused with the idea that the fate of “oil and gas” is linked to their own fortunes, along with those of their fellow Albertans. “We’re all in it together,” says Oil and Gas. And they mean it, until they don’t!

Of course, “oil and gas” in Alberta is a vast sector, with various corporate types and sizes. I want to focus this post on that portion of the sector that excavates bitumen. The areas where bitumen is mined are collectively known as the “oilsands,” “the oil patch,” or, for short, “the Patch.” [1]

The Patch, by the late 1990’s, had been developed to such an extent that it was attracting thousands of workers, both temporary and permanent, from all over the world. An entire city- Fort McMurray- grew out of global investment in the Patch, and it is, contrary to what one might imagine, a truly middle class suburban city complete with burgeoning families, schools, libraries, a hospital, churches, rec centers, etc- all of the trappings of modern life fueled by what some surely thought would be infinite oil patch profits.

Bitumen is a substance made up of oil, sand, water, and fine clay particulates. It’s found in the Caribbean, Europe, and the Middle East, but it has become intrinsically associated with the boreal forest of northern Alberta, which was, 100 million years ago, covered not with trees, but with a shallow sea teeming with marine life. Over millions of years, and the deaths of billions of these organisms, a sludge accumulated at the bottom of this sea. This decomposing matter was covered over with sandy mud and clay.

Then, during the last Ice Age, vast glaciers formed atop it, and after compression over milleniae, the sludge became bitumen. When the glaciers melted, 12 000 years ago, the running waters exposed the bitumen in some areas.

Dene women/Canadian Encyclopedia

The Indigenous of the area, the Dene, knew it was there, and it was a Dene woman named Thanadelthur, abducted by a Cree raiding party, and then taken to the Hudson’s Bay company in 1714, who first told Europeans about the “Gum or pitch that runs down the river.” The Cree sometimes used it to seal their canoes. [2]

A systematic survey of the area was done in 1913 by Sidney Ells. In 1920, the newly-created Alberta Research Council sent an engineer called Karl A. Clark to investigate the commercial potential of bitumen. By then it was recognized that bitumen wouldn’t be useful as fuel until technology to separate the oil from the sand, water, and clay was developed. Decades passed as liquid crude oil was discovered in America, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the Amazon, and Indonesia. Oil gradually became the engine of seemingly unlimited economic growth. And increasingly, of conquest and war.

World War 1 “was fought significantly, if not centrally, over vast oil deposits in the Middle East.” World War 2 was the “first war at oil’s full size and speed… fed by aviation fuel and continent-wide supply chains.” And in this war too, securing oil was one of the combatant’s big priorities: “The Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 was to some extent a preemptive strike to prevent losing control of its vital Indonesian oil fields.”

Oil’s abundance and power ignited dreams of limitless growth and impossible wealth. The whole modern world took on some of the delirious logic of the boomtown and the gusher, driven by the certainty that there would always be more.” To some, it was unthinkable that Alberta’s bitumen could not be tapped so that Canada could profit from its own vast oil sands reserves.

Leduc/wikimedia

In 1947, Imperial Oil hit a gusher at Leduc in central Alberta. The boom convinced then Premier Ernest Manning to renew efforts into what seemed stubbornly unyielding: those enormous oil sands deposits. Turns out Karl A. Clark had been working on his refining process all along. It involved “heating a slurry of bitumen and hot water with chemical catalysts to separate the bitumen from the sand. His process, with certain modifications and updates, is the process that is used at oil sands plants today.” The Alberta government heard that “crude oil could be made from the bitumen of the McMurray Formation at around $3 a barrel.” This was cheap enough to be commercially viable.

A Sun Oil-led consortium called the Great Canadian Oil Sands got approval for an oil sands excavation and processing plant in 1962. It took decades of trial and era before the process was really cost-effective. Even today, engineers continue to tweak it, shaving off seconds of time, kilaJoules of energy, and automating where they can. New materials have been developed, and gargantuan pieces of equipment have been built. As Turner writes, “the oil sands project has been haunted by a thousand mean demons every step of the way. Nothing about turning bitumen-rich ore into profitable flows of crude oil has proven to be straightforward.” They persevered: there was a vast global market for oil.

And yet, global oil prices MUST be maintained above a certain break-even point for oil sands operations to make money. The prices we’ve seen since the COVID-19 outbreak are nowhere near that price. In fact, Oil Sands Magazine pegs the break-even price for a barrel of WTI oil refined from bitumen at $70/barrel. And that amount excludes “blending and transportation costs but include[s] capital expenditures.” At present prices, with WTI oil under $40/barrel, Alberta bitumen is unviable.

Nevertheless, bitumen is touted by Alberta’s government as a critical product, and an industry that must be saved, no matter what it costs the taxpayer. The government persuades many. Some Albertans develop a deep respect for the bitumen industry, and may even idealize the men and (a few) women who work in it, and pay taxes while doing it. Others have a more nuanced opinion, seeing the industry as a fact of life with pro’s and con’s, but keep misgivings to themselves.

A few Albertans learn that the industry consumes vast amounts of fresh water (which, with climate change, is becoming more precious and rare), and natural gas. And that it makes vast ponds of toxic wastes which dot the northern boreal forest, presenting a hazard to all living things for years to come. Still, this latter group often chooses not to speak a word against the industry. It’s a precious few that feel confident enough in person and career to speak of the dangers the industry poses to living things. If you find it troubling that citizens of a free and democratic province feel reluctant to speak truthfully about an industry that harms the planet, then you’re not alone.

The Albertan government, as is common in regions where oil has been found, is invariably a big cheerleader of the industry… and so it behooves them to be, because the wealthy oil company executives and management, and their well-paid employees, have a lot of money to throw into political contests. I venture to say that without the support of oil-related people, a candidate for provincial legislature is unlikely to be elected at all. Certainly s/he has only a tiny chance to advance in power and influence, and almost no chance at all of becoming Premier or a Minister.

Connor Mah/wikimedia

The reality of climate change has done little to alter this dynamic. Although there was a flash-in-the-pan government that made some brave attempts at advancing Alberta into the 22nd century. That Premier, Rachel Notley, established productive relationships with many of the oil companies, which are, if nothing else, pragmatic in their interactions with the political types.

It’s said that Albertan oil executives, unlike those operating in some regions, recognize that greenhouse gas emissions are damaging the planet, and have to be reduced. Some even speak of the “zero emissions” barrel of oil, although no company on Earth is near that miraculous feat. But during the NDP government, oil companies accepted the Premier’s implementation of a small carbon tax, and it brought in $2.7 billion for the province before the Albertan electorate rejected it, in 2019, by returning a nominally “Conservative” government to power.

As a Petrostate– a region with oil- Alberta was immensely fortunate to experience a progressive, accountable government even for a limited time. Why? Because regions who “strike oil” are almost invariably corrupted by the wealth it brings in. Those privileged few who benefit from the sale of oil cannot resist using some of their wealth to buy the conditions most conducive to their business, and those conditions may or may not allow for debate or a general “rising of all boats.”

oil sands expansion/NASA

Over time, a large and growing wealth inequality tends to set in, with people directly or indirectly employed by oil companies raking in an ever larger share of the province’s income. Inevitably, oil companies employ lobbyists, at great expense, to manipulate politicians into making, modifying, or eliminating laws, as they see fit for “profit maximization.”

At first, social services such as education and healthcare, and municipal governments, seem to benefit from the increased tax revenue taken in by government from profitable oil companies and employees. But inevitably, wealth translates into “I want my taxes vastly reduced,” and “We want to pay way less in royalties.” Those unconnected to oil slowly lose out. Diversification of the petrostate suffers as the government concentrates on oil to the detriment of emerging/nascent initiatives.

The public purse is starved, but that fact is often obscured. Hidden as much as possible, too, are the financial benefits and taxpayer-provided subsidies generously, albeit undemocratically, bestowed upon oil by government. Parts of the previously democratic government are now “captured.” And once caught, it’s pretty difficult for them to wiggle their way out.

And that’s all during the boom times. What happens if something goes wrong- and heaven knows there’s a lot that can go wrong- and the price oil companies can obtain for each barrel of oil falls, or their costs of production rise for some reason?

Well, oil company employees lose their jobs, maybe permanently. Companies that derive their income from supporting oil go out of business. Construction in the area sputters, so contractors, carpenters, electricians, plumbers, painters, etc lose work. Companies that provide housing, food and cleaning services to temporary workers suffer. Restaurants, bars, motels, retail, etc all experience loss in income. Oil companies cut any labor considered in any way extraneous.

Invariably, upper management is just fine, but the damage to lower pay grades can be immense, cruel, and widespread. Meanwhile, the companies get taxpayer money in order to avoid bankruptcy. They’re able to pay upper management salary and bonuses, and pay dividends to shareholders. They may use taxpayer money to shore up their company’s market value by buying their own stock. The assets of the wealthy are thus protected by tapping the taxpayer. And of course, the taxpayer is paying for laid off employees to get unemployment insurance and other financial help.

let me off the Petrostate

All of this, the boom-and-bust cycle, the roller coaster of profit and loss, and the benefits to the people, which inevitably become costs, is known as the “resource curse.” The resource curse is not a phenomenon unique to Alberta; it has harmed the peoples of Nigeria, Russia, Venezuela, Iraq, America, and even Norway, whose government, arguably, has been the most wise and progressive about dealing with the mixed blessing of discovering oil on its territory. It has a $1 TRILLION oil-derived “people’s” fund. Contrast that to Alberta’s Heritage Fund, established by Premier Lougheed in 1976, which now stands at a relatively pathetic $18.2 billion as of March 2019.

Why did Alberta fare so badly vis-à-vis the resource curse?

I will leave that to another post.

Footnotes: [1] The oil sands were first called “tar sands” in an 1894 report by the Geological Survey of Canada. The first surveyors saw the bitumen as proof that there were large liquid oil reserves underground in the area. A Robert Bell of the Survey even mentioned that a pipeline would probably be required there, in the early 1880’s.

[2] Thanadelthur’s people were wiped out by smallpox. The Dene who took over their territory had lived farther north, and refused to mix with Europeans.