Thursday, February 23, 2012

Get A Job

We are trapped. A friend of mine, very bright, knows engines backwards and forwards has gone to the fracking fields in North Dakota to work. He is around 30, has a family and was working a seasonal job. Now he is raking in the money. He told me one day they didn’t have anything for him, he sat in his truck all day and earned a lot of money.

He needs a job. The way we live, we need fossil fuel energy. If we are polluting the water, polluting the air, upsetting the seismic situation , so be it. He needs a job and the way we live, we need fossil fuel energy. If he doesn’t do this work, there will be a flood of job loss repercussions locally and across the nation.

For a powerful, well-documented explanation with charts of chemicals as well as environmental and health effects of fracking see: http://www.earthworksaction.org/issues/detail/hydraulic_fracturing_101

On top of being a dangerous assault on the ground water, water use, air quality and human health, we are picking at crumbs. See:

http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/energy-futurist/energy-independence-or-impending-oil-shocks/375

Destruction of land and contamination of water and air for jobs, oil and of course

money is taking place at the tar sands in Alberta, Canada.

Oil Sands Could ‘Delay’ Peak Oil - Candice Beaumont

http://www.hardassetsinvestor.com/features-and-interviews/1/2419-candice-beaumont-oil-sands-could-delay-peak-oil.html

** from a portion of the interview****

Ludwig: Where else are oil sands located besides Canada?

Beaumont: There are some oil sands in the United States as well. In Utah there are some oil sands, and in West Texas. But it's harder to produce in the U.S., because it's still environmentally very difficult.

In Canada, it's in very remote places, it's 40 below zero, nobody is

going to that neighborhood. In the U.S., in West Texas, people live

where the oil reserves are and so you couldn't have the type of

environmental impact that they are doing in Canada, where they are

basically destroying the environment. If a bird flies over a river near

the oil sands, the bird dies just from flying over the river. It's that

toxic. They are just dumping all the waste into the waterways. If you

did that in the U.S. you would be in jail.

Ludwig: Is that going to be an issue over the long term?

Beaumont: It's an issue. But because it's in remote areas and not

inhabited, they aren't worrying about the pollution, because nobody

lives in that area. So, they can do it.

We do live there, it is the earth.


A friend of my works at one of the big ski resorts in Colorado. Every year, but I guess especially this year, they are making snow. We do the same here in Minnesota. If they didn’t make snow, which to me is the height of arrogance and waste of energy and misuse of water, the job losses would be huge. Not just at the ski resort, but job losses would resound throughout the community and down the mountain.


In my essay on saving energy (http://sunweber.blogspot.com/2011/11/saving-energy.html), I show pictures of a football stadium filled with people and a parking lot filled with cars. This is a tremendous use of energy during the football season and all other spectator sports – soccer, basketball, baseball, etc. – throughout the world, throughout the year. The loss of jobs here would affect whole towns, whole states, whole countries.

We will do anything and everything to maintain our present personal level of energy use and the comfort it affords us. We will do anything and everything to the earth, to other people and even to ourselves to continue on this path. And if we don’t have the energy level we see others have, we will do anything and everything to the earth, to other people and even to ourselves to attain that level. The proof of this assertion is simple; we are doing it.

From: The Curmudgeon Report

http://sunweber.blogspot.com/2011/02/curmudgeon-report.html


As the U.S. of A. empire winds down, our military men and women will be coming home. Many of these men and women have been trained in high tech, energy intensive fields and in war. Where will these thousands of people work? What kind of job?


Manufacturers, assemblers, installers, maintenance people and bureaucrats inspecting and providing grants for solar and wind devices, as I have written in multiple places, are extensions of the fossil fuel world will be idle when fossil fuels are scarcely available.

See: http://sunweber.blogspot.com/2011/01/energy-in-real-world.html

http://sunweber.blogspot.com/2011/12/machines-making-machines-making.html


A dear friend is an interior designer. Enough said.


These careers/jobs have been valuable and contributing in the world of cheap, easily accessible fossil fuels and with the ongoing paradigm of continual growth. The men and women have been hard working people enmeshed in the ongoing vision of the their world. They are not to be denigrated for this past; their jobs are simply extraneous and not supportable in the coming world.


We are trapped in needing to squeeze out every molecule of fossil fuel energy we can. It is threatening air, ground water, rivers, oceans, seismic activity, soil, and human health, but we have no choice.


John Michael Greer: The Myth of the Machine

The strategy discussed in last week’s post—that of walking away from energy-intensive lifestyles before the waning of the age of abundant energy brings them grinding to a halt—is a viable response to the crisis of our age, but it’s also a great way to poke a stick at some of the most deeply entrenched of the modern world’s dysfunctional habits of thinking. Suggest it in public, for example, and you’ll very quickly learn why all that talk about saving the planet has turned out to be empty air: everyone’s quite willing to watch someone else make sacrifices for the good of the biosphere, but ask them to make sacrifices themselves and you’ll see just how far their love of the planet extends.

http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2012/01/myth-of-machine.html

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 25, 2012


“Inevitably, the luxury of yesterday tended to become the treat of today and the necessity of tomorrow.”

Smith, Richard. 2009. Premodern Trade in World History. Rutledge. N.Y. pg. 91

Easy and cheap

“There is within every human the perpetual pull of opposites. Fear taunts courage; willpower struggles with appetite; order with disorder. Caution tugs at curiosity as impulse teases aversion. For all the stimulation of the new, there remains the powerful comfort and security of the known. We are, like Dr. Dolittle’s famous Pushme-Pullyou, conflicted creatures. Individuality is defined by these differences, by where the balance is struck.

But one impulse in particular seems to have weak competition or none at all. The appeal of ease, or the less-taxing option, is unquestioned. Only the obstinate, the perverse, the eccentric, or the mad, the conventional wisdom toes, intentionally choose the more difficult over the easier method of reaching a goal. The hatchet or the ax over the chain saw? “I like the feel of the ax in my hand, the resistance, the thud of impact. I like to feel I am linked to what I am doing. I like the quiet in the forest, the smell of rosin, even the living shudder of the tree as the x bites, “ says the old woodsman. The logger smiles, pulls the starter on his chain saw, and has seven trees down in the time the woodsman spends on one. And the logger’s boss brings in the feller-buncher, the giant machine that grasps each tree in a steel embrace, then cuts it and stacks it with its downed companions as if it were kindling; and logger smiles no more as the new machine does the work of seven chain-saw-bearing men and he finds himself reading want ads. Seldom, however, is the original impulse to make things easier questioned.

The religious have always known that ease is a dangerous road to travel. One reason for caution is that it’s sometimes hard to tell who the real beneficiary is. Or whether something is really as easy as it first seems. Or whether ease costs more than it appears to. Or whether something is being lost in the transition that hasn’t been mentioned, or foreseen, or accounted for. Machines, in the time of Carlyle, Dickens, and Ruskin, were making production easier. The matter of “at what cost” had just begun to be considered, and then only by a very few.

Close on the heels of ease is cheap, and the combination, especially in goods, is virtually irresistible. Low cost and convenience: the machine made it possible.

Pg. 79-80 Fox, Nicols. 2002. Against the Machine. Island Press. London.

Also found in my essay: http://sunweber.blogspot.com/2011/10/to-make-light-bulb.html


My partner is a teacher of special education. Her teaching may continue but I don’t see special education being funded down the line in a diminishing economy. She would like to retire in 2015. We will see. My primary job before I retired because of my lung cancer was as a psychologist in private practice. I see this as a tradable skill for money and goods. I might need a rattle and a drum if we turn tribal. :-)


We are presently developing an orchard/garden that will be workable without electricity or fossil fuels if need be. We have a large below grade root cellar. This spring we are building a greenhouse that will function for at least ten months if not year round (we will have to see). We fenced our orchard and fields with good, high material that should last decades. At our age, we will need some young muscle for help, which I believe will be an easy find.


What work do you do?


Who will make the shoes, weave the cloth, spin the yarn, work the forge, grow the food?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Over and over

These three books give good evidence of how a trading economy for net profit has probably existed since the beginning of human existence. Given any animals propensity to use as many and all the resources in its environment to survive and reproduce humankind is tough on the environment and eventually itself.

Smith, Richard. 2009. Premodern Trade in World History. Rutledge. N.Y.

Reinhart, Carmen and Rogoff, Kenneth. 2009. This Time is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly. Princeton U. Princeton.

Chew, Sing. 2007. The Recurring Dark Ages. AltiMira. N.Y.

Together they essentially say some form of trading has been around for thousands of years in one form or another. After person to person or group to group of the Paleolithic, trading evolved. One initial form was with governments including the religious hierarchy financing trade between other powers. The aim was primarily to get goods not available in their area as well as to develop allies but some profit was extracted. This moved into a more entrepreneurial phase with top families financing trade expeditions on land and water for profit. All of this took place thousands of years ago.

For thousands of years there has been a convergence of misuse of people by the wealthy, environmental degradation vis a vis the particular resources valued at the time and natural happenings such as volcanic eruptions, climate change, floods that brings about periodic crashes (dark ages) that last at least decades if not centuries. It has generated crashes periodically across millenniums that mirror this latest one.

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Trade in the past:

Two non-perishable commodities that serve as good examples of how long-distance trade worked in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages are obsidian and amber. Obsidian is volcanic glass formed by the cooling of viscid lava. . . .

In the prehistoric world, nothing made a sharper edge for knives, daggers, scapers, razors, sickles, and projectile points for spears, harpoons, and arrowheads than obsidian. . . . By Neolithic standards, it was a high-value item. . . .

. . . a good deal of flux is apparent in the obsidian trade. Over a period of time, a particular site can go from having 90 percent of its stone tools in obsidian to practically nothing and later back up to 90 percent. No doubt the trade was widespread, and today obsidian tools are found scattered across southwest Asia and parts of Europe hundreds of miles from their source.

Extracted from – Smith, Richard. 2009. Premodern Trade in World History. Rutledge. N.Y. pgs 19-20

“Inevitably, the luxury of yesterday tended to become the treat of today and the necessity of tomorrow.” Smith, Richard. 2009. Premodern Trade in World History. Rutledge. N.Y. pgs91

Another example of distant trade in the distant past:

Lapis laxuli occurs naturally in very few places worldwide. The closest to the ancient centers of civilization was in Badakhatan in the snowy mountains of northeastern Afghanistan 1,500 miles as the crow flies from Mesopotamia and twice that far over the circuitous routes trades actually traveled. . . .

Lapis first appeared in northern Mesopotamia in the form of beads at the end of the fifth millennium bce although it did not become abundant until the middle of the fourth.

Smith, Richard. 2009. Premodern Trade in World History. Rutledge. N.Y. pg. 37

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Economic folly

Varieties of crises:

1. Inflation crises - An annual inflation rate of 20 percent of higher

2. Currency Crashes – An annual depreciation versus the relevant anchor currency of 15 percent or more.

3. Currency Debasement –

A. A reduction in the metallic content of coins in circulation of 5 percent or more.

B. A currency reform whereby a new currency replaces a much-depreciated earlier currency in circulation.

4. The bursting of Asset Price Bubbles (equity or real estate)

5. Banking crises –

A. Bank runs that lead to the closure, merging, or takeover by the public sector of one or more financial institutions.

B. The closure, merging, takeover, or large-scale governemtnt assistance of an important financial institutions (or group of institutions) that marks the start of a string of similar outcomes for other financial institiutions.

6. External debt crises – outright default on a government’s external debt obligations.

7. Domestic debt crises – the freezing of bank deposits and/or forcible conversions of such deposits from dollars to local currency.

Reinhart, Carmen and Rogoff, Kenneth. 2009. This Time is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly. Princeton U. Princeton. pg. 4-11

“Broadly speaking, financial crises are protracted affairs. More often than not, the aftermath of severe financial crises share three characteristics:

1. Asset market collapses are deep and prolonged. Declines in real housing prices average 35 percent stretched out over six years, whereas equity price collapses average 56 percent over a downturn of about three and a half years.

2. The aftermath of banking crises is associated with profound declines in output and employment. The unemployment rate rises an average of 7 percentage points during the down phase of the cycle, which lasts on average more than four years. Output falls (from peak to trough) more than 9 percent on average, although the duration of the downturn, averaging roughly two years, is considerably shorter than that of unemployment.

3 . . . the value of government debt tends to explode . . . “

Reinhart, Carmen and Rogoff, Kenneth. 2009. This Time is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly. Princeton U. Princeton. Pg. 224

“Broadly speaking, financial crises are protracted affairs. More often than not, the aftermath of severe financial crises share three characteristics:

1. Asset market collapses are deep and prolonged. Declines in real housing prices average 35 percent stretched out over six years, whereas equity price collapses average 56 percent over a downturn of about three and a half years.

2. The aftermath of banking crises is associated with profound declines in output and employment. The unemployment rate rises an average of 7 percentage points during the down phase of the cycle, which lasts on average more than four years. Output falls (from peak to trough) more than 9 percent on average, although the duration of the downturn, averaging roughly two years, is considerably shorter than that of unemployment.

3 . . . the value of government debt tends to explode . . . “

Reinhart, Carmen and Rogoff, Kenneth. 2009. This Time is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly. Princeton U. Princeton. Pg. 224

Letter to Dr. Carmen Reinhart and Dr. Kenneth Rogoff, sent 2/1/2012

I have enjoyed your book, This Time is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly, in giving me an outline of historical “financial folly” and how it pertains to the present. I would ask if this time is actually different because of the convergence of population (underwritten these last 200 years by fossil fuels) overshoot, peaking of easily accessible, relatively low cost petroleum, tremendous environmental degradation that is accelerating in attempt to maintain lifestyle via fracking, tar sands, assault of the arctic, deep water drilling, mountain top removal, depletion of food fish stocks, depletion of potable water and aquifers, topsoil depletion and other non-fuel mineral depletion or scarcity.

Sing Chew in his book The Recurring Dark Ages proposes that for multiple millennium there have been a convergence of oppression of people by the wealthy, environmental degradation vis a vis the particular resources valued at the time and natural happenings such as volcanic eruptions, climate change, floods that brings about periodic crashes (dark ages) that last at least decades if not centuries. I believe we are on the edge if not in the midst of one of these convergences. This time it is global as is the concerns I outlined in the above paragraph.

“Unlike past Dark Ages, the options today are limited in terms of the various paths for system recovery. In the previous Dark Age period, the world system was not as globalized and encompassing, and system could expand in terms of the search for natural resources and labor, thereby enabling previously degraded and exploited areas to recover. At this stage of the globalization process, planet Earth is fully encompassed, and thus if ecological collapse (Dark Age) occurs there are few replacement areas for system expansion. Besides this, the level of connectivity of the world system in terms of production and reproduction processes means that the collapse will be felt globally, unlike previous Dark Ages in which not all the peripheral areas were impacted by the collapse.

Chew, Sing. 2007. The Recurring Dark Ages. AltiMira. N.Y. pg. 181

http://sunweber.blogspot.com/2011/05/we-are-here.html

http://sunweber.blogspot.com/2011/05/new-middle-ages.html

and

http://www.blottr.com/world/breaking-news/peak-oil-crisis-no-one-talking-about

http://ourfiniteworld.com/2012/02/01/the-most-important-resource-for-our-future-inexpensive-oil/#more-14593

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/03605442/37/1

Scroll down to: “Oil supply limits and the continuing ļ¬nancial crisis”

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Celebration

In this time of preparing for Relay For Life*, I would like to share my celebration.


Nine years ago (February 2003) I was diagnosed with lung cancer. My odds were poor; my lifespan was projected as very short. They couldn’t operate because the tumor had grown out of my lung and surrounded nerves, blood vessels and my esophagus. They immediately put me into treatment – radiation five days each week and chemotherapy one day a week.


You, of course, don’t want to die from cancer and you really don’t want to have to go through treatment. Treatment is rough. It took me five years to get over it more or less. I am absolutely not complaining about treatment. I rejoice at being alive and salute those men and women who gave me wonderful care and continue to delight in my survival against rough odds.


The radiation darkened my skin making it very sensitive to touch. It burned my esophagus so that at the end of treatment I needed narcotics for a month in order to eat; it was so painful. Still today my esophagus is so rough that phlegm gets caught and I go through serious coughing jags. Radiation hardened my lungs. This coupled with emphysema; I have 50 percent of the lung capacity of a person my age. Radiation also affected my thyroid gland in my neck so that I was tired all the time and even testier than usual. Pills helped that.


Chemo messed with my memory and other cognitive functions. It is called chemo brain. That is somewhat cleared up. I got to treatment an hour away with the help of friends. Certainly one of the reasons, I get to write this is because of care and support of my partner of then and now.


I had smoked for decades. When I started they were still extolling its virtues. Doctors were in advertisements promoting smoking, major television shows were sponsoring smoking. Let me be clear, I smoked decades passed the time I knew it was deadly. I take full responsibility for the results of believing “it will never happen to me”.

I quit smoking a year and a half before they found the tumor. If you smoke, the time to quit was yesterday. If you sell tobacco, you may make a profit but you lose the moral high ground, you are support a horrible addiction and may cause illnesses and even death.


I went all around Minnesota for a few years after treatment talking to young people about not smoking. What was impossible to convey to these young people as it would have been to me at their age is the utter joy of being alive – good friends, good work, good food, and the wonderful sensuality of living.


One young woman asked me during my talks to students, “If you could tell someone one thing about not smoking what would you say?” My almost immediate response was, “The people who love you want you to live.”


*”Relay For Life – Relay For Life is a life-changing event that gives everyone in communities across the globe a chance to celebrate the lives of people who have battled cancer, remember loved ones lost, and fight back against the disease.

At Relay, teams of people camp out at a local high school, park, or fairground and take turns walking or running around a track or path. Because cancer never sleeps, Relays are overnight events up to 24 hours in length. Relayers do not have to walk all night, but each team is asked to have a representative on the track at all times during the event.” From: http://www.relayforlife.org/


For more information about my experience, see my website:

http://www.rea-alp.com/~dragnfly