COVID-19 gratitude post

COVID-19 should be the biggest wake-up call people have ever gotten. Like: ring, ring! “Hello it’s your planet calling. Can you please continue with the very much reduced fossil fuel use, please, my children? It’s been a nice break. Thank-you!”

Doctorow/wikimedia

Seriously though. This COVID-19 isolation has been an eye-opener.

What did we all do when threatened? I mean, besides go out in panicked droves buying toilet paper 🙂 Well, we did what we had to do to survive. We stayed home and hunkered down with our loved ones.

And we were ok. Some of us were even better than ok. We could do stuff we hadn’t done in years, fun stuff like read and listen to music and play games and paint and write and play with our kids. We used modern tools to stay in touch with each other and to get work done. We learned that the ways we had been living our lives weren’t inevitable or written in stone.

We found out that we don’t NEED to be running around all day long and aging ourselves prematurely with stress. We found out that kids survive without dance and piano and swimming. We took- wait for it- NAPS! Delicious mid-afternoon naps.

I personally found out that if you just sit with the people you live with- just sit with them and a nice cup of tea- eventually these things called “words” form in your brain, and you use your tongue, teeth, and lips to speak them! Then your family members do the same back to you! Sometimes this tickly thing forms in your belly and kind of splurges out of your throat. It’s called “laughing.” I found it quite pleasurable. I wanted more of it!

Certain things turned out to be essential- safety, food, water, shelter, love. Everything else we could literally do without.

And didn’t the outdoors get super-precious? Like, denied of it, we wanted that fresh air and the sounds of birds and breezes.

COVID-19 boiled life down to its essence and its essentials. Faced with the threat of suffering and death, we reduced our attentions to what we needed to do to remain alive and healthy, and to protect our loved ones.

And we learned that we are dependent upon certain outside forces to live. And that some of those forces are not all that benevolent. Some of them couldn’t be trusted to act humanely and responsibly when a threat bore down upon us. I learned this about our provincial government. Some learned this about not only their government, but also about their landlords, the utility companies, their employers, their creditors. Those entities became predatory when people became vulnerable through no fault of their own. They took advantage of a communal threat to become threats themselves. They made things much, much worse for some of our friends, neighbours, and fellow citizens. And that inhumane behaviour is continuing.

But, we discovered, MOST people are just like ourselves. They want to keep their families safe, they want to live in a way that makes them happy, they want peace and quiet and health. Most people, in other words, are good and responsible and willing to do what it takes to help their communities. They will take accurate information and turn it into rational decisions and actions. They will act in ways that benefit not only themselves but also their fellow humans.

Tom Ackroyd/wikimedia

These lessons, I would argue, are exactly what we- all of us, myself included- needed to learn. We needed to learn these things because we needed to know that the way we had been living is not the only way or even the best way. We can find ways to “slow down.”

And we needed to affirm that there really is an “us,” when it comes right down to it: faced with a threat, the majority of us do what is in the best interests of our communities. We protect our vulnerable and we look out for each other. Human connections and well-being are still what truly and profoundly matter to 99% of us. And we needed to know that when it comes time, we can meet demands on the tribe. We can get through a crisis.

And we’ll need those lessons in the days ahead. Because many of us will need to continue to lean on the strength of the collective. Compassion, reason, and generosity of heart and mind will remain necessary to ensure everyone can be fed, clothed, housed, and made to feel like part of “us.”

I have no doubt we’ll all continue rising to challenges. And here I acknowledge and thank all of those who continued working while COVID-19 was an active and little-known threat: nurses, doctors, emergency responders, grocery store personnel, police, cleaners, pharmacists, delivery people, postal workers, and everyone else I missed. I know all good folk join me in thanking you for your selfless work and for putting yourselves in harm’s way for your community. You are extraordinary humans!

The takeaways from this post are: 1- we have much to be grateful for. Our families, our friends, our communities are precious. They’re made up of hardworking, responsible, kind, and generous human beings.

2- there are better ways of doing everything society does. We’re born into the structure that other people made. We fit ourselves into it. We’re socialized to it, and rarely question its normality. In fact, we’ll die to preserve it! We’re taught that it’s not only the best way, it’s the ONLY way. Every other way is foreign, unnatural, too big of a change, too expensive… yadda yadda. People make the structure, and then the structure makes the people.

But this COVID-19 time has shown us that there are other possibilities, and that the truly precious parts of life aren’t material or work-related. We of this time haven’t ever, as a society, decided how we want to live or be governed. What we consider truly important, what values we want to guide our functioning. It’s come to that time when we have to re-evaluate what we’re doing, the why’s & how’s, the structure of society and whether it serves all of us fairly, or even promotes our well-being.

Thomas Jefferson said that “every generation needs a new revolution.” He was right. Democracies need to be updated frequently. They need to look inward and assess whether, and how well, they’re serving the truly valuable part of societies, the people. It’s time we had our revolution. It need not be a violent one, but it does need to be a “green” one. Because when we take care of our planet, and our democracies, we are also taking care of ourselves.

Plant a garden? But, why?

To me, Spring is the best time of the year. Trees and bushes come back to life, the robins return and sing me awake, and daffodils, tulips, and dandelions bloom. The eye and the brain are delighted by the colors and signs of life after the months of dull greys and browns. Young people’s thoughts turn to love, they say.

My thoughts turn in earnest towards my garden (and love, too, haha)!

Jim Linwood/wikimedia

The joyful part is thinking about new foods to grow and store to provide calories, nutrition, and a variety of tastes and textures for the long months of winter. But I must make room, of course, for the old staples because they’ve proven themselves reliable. Every year I grow potatoes, onions, garlic, basil, carrots, tomatoes, beets, and squash, especially zucchini. These are the foods that’ve succeeded year after year, and that I know my family will eat.

This year, the newbies will include a variety of beans, including Fava beans from a friend. Dried beans, I’ve learned, are a protein-rich food that is simple to dry (just leave them out on a screen), great for long-term storage, and very light in weight, and therefore portable.

So I’m one of those very enthusiastic gardeners. I don’t think there’s a better choice for promoting one’s and one’s loved ones’ health. In fact, other than growing food, the actions for which you get the biggest bang for your buck are storing water, and securing power through solar and/or wind generation. People can live without toiletries and electronic entertainment, but we wouldn’t survive long without food, water, and access to heat and shelter.

A garden harvest sure helps meet that need for food…

www.pnosa.com/wikimedia

And my personal experience has shown me that the old phrase, “you are what you eat,” is 100% accurate. When I stick to a home-grown diet, I feel like a different person. It’s dramatic. When I “fall off,” I rapidly get achy, grouchy, tired, and down. It’s gotten so that now I realize that indulging in “treats” like chocolate and ice cream is not worth the health consequences. And the process of getting “back on the wagon” involves a few days of carb craving (sugar is the mind-killer!) during which I berate myself for having to learn the lesson again! But, in the grand scheme of things, eating ice cream is a minor sin, so I don’t “punish” myself for long.

Besides, our culture encourages us to indulge every whim and fancy so that someone makes money, and the manipulation works very well. There’s a bunch of study behind it! So if you’re trying to improve your diet, and fall off, just get back on again as quickly as you can, knowing that each time you do re-dedicate yourself to your health, you’ve learned something. And to be honest, I’ve found that if your diet fulfills your nutritional needs, as a homegrown garden helps to do, cravings decrease dramatically. It’s like, given the choice, my body prefers healthy food, but when given a taste of dopamine-eliciting goodies, my brain wants more of them! Silly, silly brain, froot loops are for kids 😊.

So I thought in this post, I’d explore WHY home-grown organic food is nutritionally superior to store-bought food, and even more, to fast food, convenient “snacks,” and sugary junk! What is it that food you grow yourself has that store-bought food does not?

zinc

In a word, nutrients. Macro nutrients (carbohydrates, fats, and proteins), micro nutrients (vitamins, all sorts of important minerals, and fiber), and “secret” ones too (see below!).

Turns out that growing food for grocery stores is very different from growing food in gardens. First, commercial growing has developed crops that are ideal for appearing edible after prolonged transportation, storage, bumping, and handling. The breeding of that sort of fruit and veg ended up with produce with decreased nutrient levels:

Commercial produce breeders often develop new varieties based on high yields and fast growth or the ability to withstand shipping. Sometimes, flavor and nutrients are inadvertently lost. Many modern varieties offer fewer nutrients than varieties did decades ago… High-yielding, fast-growing plants may not process nutrients at the same fast rate, so they have fewer nutrients compared to lower yield, slower-growing varieties…

looks good…

[Also] many commercial crops are picked early and ripen on the way to stores. But… even when they do ripen in color… they may not “ripen” in nutrient levels the way they would have if picking was postponed. Mechanical pickers and bulk commercial handling often cause more stress and bruising, which speed up nutrient losses. In your own garden, you can keep crops on the vine until fully ripe and handle them gently. You’ll be rewarded in taste and nutrient content.”

Eating the food I’ve grown makes me feel so much better that I’m convinced there’s something magic about the alchemy between soil, sunshine, rain, and plants. And indeed, there are chemicals in garden produce that are being studied for their health benefits. These include polyphenols, carotenoids, glucosinolates, and flavonoids. They sound like dangerous chemicals, but they’re actually natural compounds that give fruit and veg their unique tastes, textures, and colors. And they’re garden produce’s secret health-promoting compounds, because they act as antioxidants, which prevent and help repair damage to our cells.

I’ve noticed that my garden produce has more complex flavors and fragrances then store-bought, and this is attributable, I’m sure, to these less well-understood compounds that quickly degrade in storage. For example, you can dig up a carrot from your garden and just smell the difference from store-bought. Then you bite into it and there are layers upon delicate layers of carroty goodness going on. It’s hard to explain, but once you experience it, you’ll be hooked. Fresh garden produce just tastes better. It’s akin to a spiritual experience, a fresh tomato or kale leaf or raspberry straight from the plant. Everyone on this planet should experience it, especially kids.

Last, there’s garden soil. If it’s healthy- regularly renewed with compost you can make at home– it contains a rich network of organisms, including bacteria, that are essential for the proper growth and nutrition of garden plants. These are the bacteria we require in our gut to digest food properly. Ever wonder where that internal biome came from? It comes from our soil. Tiny living things from the dirt end up being ingested, and inside of us they do very important work. We are soil, and soil is us. Without those soil bacteria within, we cannot be healthy.

So is home-grown produce better than fast and/or “convenient” store-bought food?

Well, yes… fast and highly-processed food actually has very little nutritional value. The “prep” it goes through- any natural part being mixed with chemicals and boiled/fried/steamed/dried until there’s no life in it- renders it practically nutrient-free. Even the “fresh” veg on a burger is of the store-bought variety and therefore less nutritious. Chips, cheese spreads, margarine, pop-tarts, white bread, flavored crackers… all contain next to no nutrients and are teeming with chemicals and artificial dyes. I think of these now as cardboard sprinkled with salt. That’s literally what I see myself chewing on when I think about these foods.

Now let’s talk about sugary junk!

Modern “food” developers make use of unnatural sweeteners that wreak havoc on our bodies. These are “refined sugars including corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose” and artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose. These latter are suspect to me and I never use them. They may also be addictive.

There are three naturally-occurring sugars: fructose, and sucrose (glucose plus fructose), both found in fruit, and lactose, found in milk. Science has found ways to convert these natural sugars into super-concentrated forms that are then used to sweeten everything from tomato sauce to packaged cookies to soups to “healthy” cereal. The big problem with unnatural sugars is that they break down very quickly to glucose, the form of sugar our body needs. So you get a rapid and very high concentration of sugar in your blood followed by a crash. Our bodies didn’t evolve to handle that kind of instant sugar load. By contrast, natural sugars break down slowly, thereby providing a constant, steady dose of glucose energy.

This rapid, large dosing of sugar over time is linked to all kinds of health problems including obesity, diabetes, a weakened immune system, cancer, heart attack, strokes, generalized inflammation, and metabolic syndrome.

I’ve had this discussion with my son over and over. He has kids. I’ll buy them ice cream for the occasional treat. He buys them Slurpees, candy, and pop. Then when I criticize his choices, he’ll say, “there’s no difference between the treats I buy them and the ice cream you offer them.”

But he could not be more wrong. And the type of sugar is the main culprit. Pop and candy are basically high fructose corn syrup, water, and dyes. But the milk products used to make ice cream at the very least give the kids some calcium and vitamins. And the fat in it slows down the absorption of the sugars, a lot of which is admittedly refined. Of course if I wanted to give them a truly healthy dessert, I’d offer them some berries, fresh from the garden! Or watermelon, a mango, or even a banana split with home-made ice cream sweetened with Stevia. But I’m only one Grandma, what can I say?

So now you know that home-grown food is factually healthier than store-bought. But while doing the research for this post, I came across many additional advantages to garden produce:

1- you save a bunch of money! Gardening is cost-effective. And if you save your seeds, as I do for tomatoes, chard, beets, carrots, and basil, it’s even easier on the chequebook. My chives, rhubarb, and garlic come back every year without fail. My strawberries should, but I’ve had some trouble there.

Organiponico crop- Jengod/wikimedia

2- gardens improve food security- “with the fall of communism in Russia, food prices spiked and many urban dwellers responded by using vacant land for food production. This land now produces 30 percent of all food grown in the country and 80 percent of the vegetables.” Cubans, too, during the difficult ’90’s, used any vacant land, and developed intensive urban gardens (organiponicos), to supply people with food. With financial aid from Venezuela, Cubans stopped gardening as much, and are now experiencing food shortages.

3, 4, 5 and 6- “From an environmental perspective, urban gardens and farms do much more than beautify vacant land. They help to attract and repair habitats for pollinator species such as bees to urban areas, in a time when the bee population is in crisis. They provide stormwater capture through the installation of rainbarrel systems. Finally the addition of plants to an urban environment provides necessary cooling effects to an area often surrounded by pavement and concrete.”

7- it’s easy- ” ‘Growing food is very simple,’ says Kathleen Frith, managing director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment (CHGE) at Harvard Medical School. ‘It takes a little time, but things like tomatoes, lettuce, peppers — basic kitchen crops — are very forgiving. Really, anyone can learn to grow food pretty easily.’ “

8- it makes healthier kids- “Poor eating impacts people throughout their lives, from fatigue and concentration problems at school and work to behavioral and medical problems in both children and adults… Active gardeners have reported increased consumption of vegetables and decreased consumption of less nutritious sweet foods and drinks as a result of growing their own food.”

9- it connects you to our planet and increases gratitude- ” ‘Backyard gardening can inspire you to take an interest in the origins of your food…’ says Dr. Helen Delichatsios, an internist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. ‘When you grow your own food, you savor it more because of the effort it took to get to the table.’ “

10- it gets you outside and is great exercise- in fact, gardening burns more calories than walking an equivalent time, can lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety and depression, and strengthen your bones (sunshine stimulates Vitamin D production).

If all that doesn’t convince you that you should plant a garden this year, I don’t know what will! You can start off very small, and work your way into a bigger, more diverse garden. And you can buy plants which makes things very simple- just place them in good soil with enough space and sun, water them, and watch them produce a lovely harvest for you and your family. You won’t believe how healthy and empowered you’ll feel. Happy planting!

Addendum: here are two excellent talks on the harmful effects of high fructose corn syrup and the resulting sky-high (and increasing) costs to society. Dr. Lustig is a brilliant endocrinologist, and recently took legal training just to fight the commercial food lobby that hides the truth about HFCS.

Dr. Lustig 2013
Dr. Lustig 2009

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.

Love song to the Earth

How did I miss this? From the 350 or bust site: “Some of the biggest names in music have come together to record a song dedicated to keeping Earth safe. But this song is more than just a feel-good anthem, it’s a powerful tool for fighting climate change.

Here’s how: Thanks to the generosity of the song’s creators, every time this song is downloaded, streamed or shared, Friends of the Earth and the UN Foundation will receive the revenue from sales and royalties. And a share of the proceeds go directly into our plan to keep carbon in the ground and out of the atmosphere.

Critical preparation for climate change- water

In my very first post, I said I would help you protect yourself, your family, and friends. To do that, we need to figure out what climate change means for average people. What threats could we be facing in a warmer, more erratic and unpredictable world?

NOAA

Right off the top, we have to expect days of extreme heat. If that heat is coupled with humidity, the danger of hyperthermia (dangerous rise in body temperature), heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and death rise exponentially, because your sweat can’t evaporate, thereby cooling you. On hot days, people are going to have to be able to a) drink lots of clean water, to maintain hydration; b) cease outdoor activity that raises body temperature; and c) get in cool areas.

Drought goes with heat if that hot weather persists. Most cities get their water supply from local rivers, and cycle the supply through water treatment centers. If a shortage develops, city governments restrict water usage to meet basic needs. But what if a shortage is combined with some kind of contamination of the water supply? What if the shortage goes on and on, and eventually a family needs more water? For example, a garden you depend on to meet food needs may be getting thirsty.

Anshu Singh1 /wikimedia

I think it’s wise to store water. I know, I know. In our bustling world, it seems silly or inconvenient to worry about water. I suppose it is, until you need it! Apparently, a person can survive about 3 days without water, but of course, those are pretty awful days. We’re 2/3 water, so consequently many body systems suffer when we’re not adequately hydrated. I get a headache and grouchy (which is common) when thirsty. I don’t want to experience anything more severe!

Climate change has already been linked to both acute and chronic kidney damage due to heat waves causing heat stroke- a high body temperature ITSELF can damage your kidneys- and dehydration. Of course, the combination of the two is particularly destructive. Lack of water and heat make our kidneys particularly climate change-sensitive. It’s just better to be proactive here, and be sure you’ll have plenty of clean water on hand.

A guideline states that a person should drink 2 L (1/2 gallon) of water per day. During a heat wave, you’ll need more. So to be safe, a family of four should have about 16 L (4 L per person) stored for just one hot day. If that family wanted to store enough water for a week, that would equal 112 L (30 gallons). There are big storage containers available, and I’d consider one if I knew a heat wave was in the forecast, but they’re not very portable.

Some sites don’t recommend milk jugs, but they’re an affordable alternative. I store my water in them, with a teaspoon of bleach added to the first batch of water. I rotate them so that none is older than six months, although apparently “if a water storage source is in ideal conditions (it started out clean and was stored in a dark, cool area, not directly on concrete or near harsh fumes and chemicals), it technically can store indefinitely.”

In the summer, I catch rain in big plastic tubs for my garden. If I see mosquito larvae in it, I give the plants a big drink and start over. Have you noticed that plants “like” rain water much better than hose water? There are countless scientific reasons for this, including the fact that nitrogen, abundant in air and a critical plant nutrient, is captured in rain drops and deposited in soil when it rains. The energetic process of lightning creates a particularly useful form of nitrogen for plants.

Rain water is also more acid than hose water, and the CO2 in our atmosphere is partly responsible for this: “Carbon dioxide is also brought down to Earth to the benefit of plants when it rains. Carbon dioxide… imparts to rainwater an acidic pH. When this acidic rainwater reaches the soil, it helps to release micronutrients such as zinc, manganese, copper and iron that are essential to plant growth.”

And, amazingly, our skies are full of bacteria. Some of them are plant helpers. And some of them, it appears, are able to make it rain! These bacteria are able to coalesce ice crystals- the precursors to raindrops- around themselves. Now researchers are trying to determine if these “bioprecipitating” bacteria may be useful to human beings during droughts, via cloud seeding, but with bacteria instead of chemicals.

wikipedia

Back to household water. Thorough emergency preparedness sites always mention that clean water is critical not only for drinking, but also for food washing and cooking, staying clean (hygiene is essential to health), taking medicine, and even washing out wounds. And don’t forget pets! One prepper couple said, “We found it almost impossible to live off of one gallon [2 L] per day.” This is completely understandable when you learn that the average westerner’s indoor water usage is 197 L (52 gallons) per day. A full quarter of that is from flushing toilets, but that’s a whole different post! Point is, clean water is vital to you and your family’s health. It’s well worth securing a store of it in the age of climate change.

Worldwide, only “2% [of water] is fresh. Of that 2%, almost 70% is snow and ice, 30% is groundwater, less than 0.5% is surface water (lakes, rivers, etc) and less than 0.05% is in the atmosphere.” Climate change increases “the amount of water that the atmosphere can hold, which in turn can lead to more and heavier rainfall… Although more rainfall can add to fresh water resources, heavier rainfall leads to more rapid movement of water from the atmosphere back to the oceans, reducing our ability to store and use it. Warmer air also means that snowfall is replaced by rainfall and evaporation rates tend to increase. Yet another impact of higher temperatures is the melting of inland glaciers. This will increase water supply to rivers and lakes in the short to medium term, but this will cease once these glaciers have melted. In the sub-tropics, climate change is likely to lead to reduced rainfall in what are already dry regions. The overall effect is an intensification of the water cycle that causes more extreme floods and droughts globally.”

Gennabaron/wikimedia

I include all that info to say in conclusion that although we can predict general effects on the Earth’s water cycle, climate change will effect each region of the globe uniquely. The only thing we can all know with certainty is that there are challenges ahead. That’s why I recommend taking the issue of fresh water availability off the list of problems to be solved in an emergency if possible. I think, too, that knowing you have water available for your family adds to one’s peace-of-mind. It also goes a ways towards initiating a proactive attitude and a preparedness mentality in a time they are, in my opinion, sorely needed. I hope this post gets you thinking “independence” and “water is life.”

The secret life of stuff part 2

(For part 1, go here).

What if we knew the provenance- the “life history-” of every item for sale, prior to deciding whether or not to purchase it. Would it effect our buying decisions? Is it even possible?

Apparently it is, but it takes an enormous amount of time, effort, and money to track the back story of products for sale in western society. Daniel Goleman, a psychologist, “decided to turn his attention to… ‘ecological intelligence’ to see how easy it might be to make informed choices about products… He concluded that it is virtually impossible… [despite the fact that] if any product on the market has hidden environmental impacts, every time someone buys it they are in effect rewarding those impacts.”

And “green washing,” whereby companies exaggerate or even make up environmental “benefits” about their products, is a thing. So unfortunately, it’s the rare case when the public can have an authentic market signaling effect on companies. Without government intervention, this is not going to change. Thus we arrive at the crux of the matter, where the environment meets human needs, and demand meets design. In Hill’s words, “we have to think more creatively about how materials become products, and then become ‘waste.’ We have to think about the whole chain of production and consumption… where [products] come from, how we use them, and where they end up.”

So let’s think about that, from the consumers’ perspective. Even if a consumer has stopped buying “luxuries,” and is purchasing only what s/he needs to fill basic needs, grocery purchases are, as I’m sure you know, almost completely opaque as to provenance. The only info we are typically “allowed” is product name, ingredients, supplier/company, and MAYBE where that company is located. With fresh produce, even that limited info is kept from us.

One doesn’t stop to think how much trust we’re expected to invest in the companies that supply the food we eat! We are effectively dependent upon suppliers, and the grocery chains they sell to, for our food. Food that is critical to the health and well-being of ourselves, our families, and the other human beings who make up the networks we depend upon to survive and thrive.

I’m taking a moment here. I am pausing to breathe. I really don’t like being dependent on corporations for anything. I trust you will understand when I say that I’m inserting a cheerful bluebird of happiness picture here to facilitate my own calm… Ah.

Ok. To sum up the relative powerlessness of consumers as to whether or not companies consider the sustainability of their products, from “cradle to grave,” i.e. from conception as product, through design and sourcing of raw materials, to production, transportation to markets, sale, and disposal, the author of The Secret Life of Stuff (2005), Julie Hill, says: “Prices do not on the whole factor in environmental damage, so the prices people pay cannot… take care of that damage… designing products to address environmental concerns has not been part of businesses’ perceptions of what constitute our most important needs and desires.”

This translates into “the idea that the market will magically deliver sustainable products free of negative externalities, especially FAST, as consumers’ demand dictates, is a pipe dream. Forty-five years of neoliberal capitalism, and cheap oil, has entrenched global supply chains and labor, and constricted the mindset of the vast majority of companies, investors, and entrepreneurs.” Which is not to say that sustainable products are unavailable, not in development, or impossible. It IS to say that sustainable products should, if the market operated as neoliberals say it does, be available, on a widespread basis, NOW. That they aren’t, when demand for them unequivocally exists, is market failure, and a source of deep frustration for consumers. Obviously, we’re not in positions of power or efficacy as consumers in this neoliberal economy.

It’s also the inevitable result of neoliberal capitalism, and most- MOST- corporations aren’t stereotypical, forest-razing bad guys, rabid for profit, and oblivious to a concept that used to be bandied around a whole lot more… “corporate social responsibility.”

So let’s return to Hill, as we come to the most critical part of her book. Here she addresses: HOW can we be sure that products that companies make are truly “green?” How can we as consumers feel easy in our purchases, knowing that we are rewarding companies that minimize their negative externalities as they meet our basic needs, and also our demands for sustainable “luxury” items?

It’s all, says Hill, in the design of products: “Design really means ‘intent.’ If our intent changes, then the practical manifestation of that intent in the shape of well-designed solutions will follow… Imagine a world in which the [specifications that govern intent] always features the environment.” Then she lays out six principles that, if established, would ensure that consumers’ product choices are consistently and reliably sustainable:

1- “Everything sustainably sourced: all materials are sourced according to strict conditions on managing their human and environmental impact- this includes timber, minerals, textile fibers, and even water;

2- Everything designed for recovery: all products are designed for their materials to be recovered and recycled;

Uhuru design- reclaimed materials/wikimedia

3- Nutrients cycled: valuable nutrients from food, animal, and human wastes are returned to the land to minimize the use of artificial fertilizers; as are biodegradable materials such as timber, paper, textiles, and plant-based plastics when they can no longer be recycled;

4- All energy renewable: but demand for energy may also need to be kept within limits;

5- Stemming the flow of stuff: there are strategies to reduce the flow of resources through the economy, including keeping products in use longer;

6- Care with new promises: new technologies are very carefully scrutinized- developments such as genetic modification, and nanotechnology have to subscribe to the principles above, and not add any new problems.”

Admittedly, if all six principles were all at once codified into law, along with strong and effective enforcement options, the new specifications regulating design would be a tall order for companies to adhere to, especially quickly. BUT, Hill is unquestionably laying out what will have to govern product development, from conception to disposal, in the future. These six principles do nothing more, nor less, than ensure that consumers can buy products that don’t cause environmental damage, that companies then seek to hide. All that does is bite consumers in the butt later on, as their tax dollars are used to ameliorate those hidden negative externalities.

Getting to the point of being able to implement these principles will involve a process. It’ll be part of the process of transitioning to the green economy. Indeed, these principles, in one form or another, will comprise a key part of the green economy, because without them, products for sale will not be sustainable.

U Michigan sustainability

I am eagerly looking forward to the day I can buy food, and other products, that I can trust were produced, and transported, sustainably. This will often mean that the things I purchase were grown or manufactured locally. Maybe I’ll even be able to purchase them with a local currency! But that is another post.

Hill discusses all six design principles in detail, and states that, “Reconfiguring the economy along these lines… is the biggest challenge the human race has yet faced.” I’m not so sure. I think that localizing, a process that sees people satisfying needs and wants within their own communities, is a promising and attractive idea. The nurturing and support of one’s neighbours and “city-mates” in creative endeavours, whether it be growing organic food, or making pottery, or decorative items, or wonderful, fresh daily bread, or one-of-a-kind furniture… well, these are the kinds of efforts and entrepreneurs one used to be able to find everywhere. And they are part of what makes a city vibrant, prosperous, and pleasing to live in. Here’s hoping we make it happen.

The beautiful place

How are you doing? This is a check-in. A taking-stock of where and how we are at this moment.

I’m days from launch, cramming for my real-world internet debut. I’m installing caching plug-in’s (two days ago, I didn’t even know what “caching” was!) I’m running speed tests. I’m deciding about social media links. And weighing the pro’s and con’s of chat enabling software. I’ve got a lump in my belly, a sore back, and a warm heart 🙂

I owned my domain for 8 months before I took the plunge into fiddling with blogging tech. Writing the posts, finding images, and creating turned out to be way more fun than I’d anticipated. But the learning curve isn’t bending down! It seems like every victory uncovers more things I should learn, to be thorough and conscientious and on my game.

I’ve been watching MMA fights, trying to absorb some Conor McGregor-style resilience and bravado! If he can train, fight, win, and come back from injury and defeat as he does, then I can learn some internet stuff! I can work through my anxiety. I can help fight climate change.

With your help, I can do this. I want you to know that I know my site isn’t “perfect.” But I’m a blogging newbie. I’ll get better. Can I ask for your feedback? Please. Help me improve. That’s an invitation for constructive criticism, not cruelty!

A word on comments: by all means, express your feelings, but ad hominem attacks and other trolling B.S. isn’t productive. We’re all grown up’s here.

I have great plans and ideas for this site. I want a podcast here. I want this to be a hub for climate change discussion, thoughts about community building, and creating a prosperous and healthy future. I want people to feel welcome, informed, supported, inspired, and empowered here. This is an interesting and stressful time to be alive, if you’re plugged in to the wider picture. Homo sapiens is looking right at its own evolution. And saying, “ya, I don’t think I like the idea of evolving much, thank you!”

No, I’m kidding, but what is true is that humanity’s choices now either get us closer to that improved place, or farther from anything resembling progress. I can taste that better world; I call the future, with green economy and vibrant communities, “the beautiful place.”

I’m trying to create my own little beautiful place. And I also want to help you catch glimpses of yours. This blog is one of my tools, a central one. Thanks for visiting. Thanks for being!

Please tell me what you’d like to see written about here. Everything we are and do is effected by climate change. Let me know what will help you cope, function, feel, dream, relate, and act better and more effectively. Thank-you!

Step by step, community by community, with every project, big and small, we evolve towards the beautiful place. Onward.

Some important terminology

1- Mitigation: “the act of reducing how harmful, unpleasant, or bad something is” (Cambridge Dictionary). “Mitigation” of climate change has become a shorthand way of summing up any and all actions taken to decrease the negative impacts of global warming and its effects.

Interestingly, FEMA, the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, has information about mitigation, without once mentioning climate change. I guess this is apropos, considering the U.S. administration is presently “lead” by a climate change denier. However, what the agency states is perfectly applicable to climate change:

U.S. Government Accountability Office/wikimedia

Mitigation is the effort to reduce loss of life and property by lessening the impact of disasters. In order for mitigation to be effective we need to take action now—before the next disaster—to reduce human and financial consequences later (analyzing risk, reducing risk, and insuring against risk). It is important to know that disasters can happen at any time and any place and if we are not prepared, consequences can be fatal.

Effective mitigation requires that we all understand local risks, address the hard choices, and invest in long-term community well-being. Without mitigation actions, we jeopardize our safety, financial security and self-reliance.”

2- Adaptation: “the act or process of acclimatizing or adjusting to new environmental conditions and/or events.” Thus, adapting to climate change could include establishing new building code in order to reduce energy consumption, and therefore emissions caused by fossil fuel burning. New code could also include an expectation that new homes be built with the ability to obtain electricity via renewables, and/or with a certain percentage of materials from local or sustainable sources.

Preserving forest Asia

Adaptation also includes the reclamation and regeneration of industrial and/or agricultural lands, and the establishment of gardens according to permaculture principles. Municipal composting programs, an effort to prevent methane production in landfills, is another example of adaptation to climate change. Because there are so many ways to reduce GHG emissions, create carbon sinks, and prepare for the adverse possibilities of climate change, there are literally thousands of ways to adapt.

Here’s a nice little discussion: “Adaptation means anticipating the adverse effects of climate change and taking appropriate action to prevent or minimize the damage they can cause, or taking advantage of opportunities that may arise. It has been shown that well planned, early adaptation action saves money and lives later.

Adapting farmers in Vietnam

Examples of adaptation measures include: using scarce water resources more efficiently; adapting building codes to future climate conditions and extreme weather events; building flood defenses and raising the levels of dykes; developing drought-tolerant crops; choosing tree species and forestry practices less vulnerable to storms and fires; and setting aside land corridors to help species migrate.”

3- The green economy: “low carbon, resource efficient and socially inclusive. In a green economy, growth in employment and income are driven by public and private investment into such economic activities, infrastructure and assets that allow reduced carbon emissions and pollution, enhanced energy and resource efficiency, and prevention of the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services.”

For a bit of contrast, a Canadian report defines the green economy as “The aggregate of all activity operating with the primary intention of reducing conventional levels of resource consumption, harmful emissions, and minimizing all forms of environmental impact. The green economy includes the inputs, activities, outputs and outcomes as they relate to the production of green products and services…

The green economy is a subset of the entire Canadian economy. It does not exist in parallel to the traditional economy, but it includes similar activities and processes. It produces similar goods and services as the broader economy, but also includes new products and services and green processes supporting the production of green products and services.”

Aquaponics/IPCC

This report includes some awesome news on employment: “There is no doubt that greening of the Canadian economy will involve large scale investments in new technologies, equipment, buildings and infrastructure and therefore will be a major stimulus to employment. Based on the definition and supporting framework, the green economy has an impact on employment through (a) the adaption and reallocation of existing jobs; and (b) the creation of new jobs.”

4- A green job– “one that works directly with information, technologies, or materials that minimize environmental impact, and also requires specialized skills, knowledge, training, or experience related to these areas”