Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Our Giant Reactor

Even as the senate discovers that they have just approved loan guarentees for the Nukers, P. G. & E signs the largest nuclear fuel deal ever using the biggest nuclear reactor in the system.

Here's a piece of the the story, thanks to the Energy Blog.

PG&E Signs Agreement With Solel for 553 Megawatts of Solar Power

SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- Pacific Gas and Electric Company announced today that it has entered into a landmark renewable energy agreement with Solel-MSP-1 to purchase renewable energy from the Mojave Solar Park, to be constructed in California’s Mojave Desert.

The project will deliver 553 megawatts of solar power, the equivalent of powering 400,000 homes, to PG&E’s customers in northern and central California. The Mojave Solar Park project is now the world’s largest single solar commitment.

“The solar thermal project announced today is another major milestone in realizing our goal to supply 20 percent of our customers’ energy needs with clean renewable energy,” said Fong Wan, vice president of Energy Procurement, PG&E. “Through the agreement with Solel, we can harness the sun's climate-friendly power to provide our customers with reliable and cost-effective energy on an unprecedented scale.”

The plant utilizes Solel’s patented and commercially-proven solar thermal parabolic trough technology. Over the past 20 years, the technology has powered nine operating solar power plants in the Mojave Desert and is currently generating 354 MW of annual electricity.

When fully operational in 2011, the Mojave Solar Park plant will cover up to 6,000 acres, or nine square miles in the Mojave Desert. The project will rely on 1.2 million mirrors and 317 miles of vacuum tubing to capture the desert sun’s heat.
“We are thrilled to bring 553 MW of clean energy to California,” said Avi Brenmiller, chief executive officer of Solel Solar Systems. “Our proven solar technology means Solel can economically turn the energy of the warm California sun into clean power for the state’s homes and businesses.”

According to their website, Solel is building an $800 million 150 MW project in Spain and has recently upgraded a 100 MW project in California for FPL Energy. They have been active in supplying smaller solar power plants and components for them, but this is the first megaproject that they have landed.

Their current technology is more than 20% more efficient than the original design due to improvements in the design of the solar trough and the receiver tube.
Neither Solel or P G & E have revealed any costs for the project but an AP article on PR Inside estimated that The Mojave Solar Park to cost $2 billion. A NYT article said that people close to both companies put the cost of electricity from the plant at slightly more than 10 cents a kilowatt-hour. (The Solel website says "the cost of solar thermal produced energy can be close to 12 cents (US) per k/Wh)

However, many economists and investors predict that this price will continuously drop over the next ten years with increased installed capacity, to 6 cents per kW/h, as a result of technological improvements, economies of scale and volume production."

Now, in case you don't know it,

10 cents per Kwh for non carbon emitting energy

is a remarkable achievement.

And 6 cents per Kwh would literally be a game changer.

Fifteen years ago, when I chaired an energy policy committee

for the State, it was clear then that large scale solar thermal electric

could provide affordable clean renewable energy.

We imagined a scenario of large scale wind and solar

that would economically meet the needs of the state.

But back then the retail rate was 6 cents, wholesale was 3.

And when you add the cost of carbon,

you can add another 4 to 6 cents.

No wonder the Nukers and the Clean Coalies

If other utilities tap our giant reactor,

They are going to need them.


Monday, July 30, 2007

With God on their Side

A friend and reader sent me this video over the weekend.

It's well worth the listen, and the walk down memory lane.

With God on our Side

Oh my name it is nothin'
My age it means less
The country I come from
Is called the Midwest
I's taught and brought up there
The laws to abide
And that land that I live in
Has God on its side.

Oh the history books tell it
They tell it so well
The cavalries charged
The Indians fell
The cavalries charged
The Indians died
Oh the country was young
With God on its side.

Oh the Spanish-American
War had its day
And the Civil War too
Was soon laid away
And the names of the heroes
I's made to memorize
With guns in their hands
And God on their side.

Oh the First World War, boys
It closed out its fate
The reason for fighting
I never got straight
But I learned to accept it
Accept it with pride
For you don't count the dead
When God's on your side.

When the Second World War
Came to an end
We forgave the Germans
And we were friends
Though they murdered six million
In the ovens they fried
The Germans now too
Have God on their side.

I've learned to hate Russians
All through my whole life
If another war starts
It's them we must fight
To hate them and fear them
To run and to hide
And accept it all bravely
With God on my side.

But now we got weapons
Of the chemical dust
If fire them we're forced to
Then fire them we must
One push of the button
And a shot the world wide
And you never ask questions
When God's on your side.

In a many dark hour
I've been thinkin' about this
That Jesus Christ
Was betrayed by a kiss
But I can't think for you
You'll have to decide
Whether Judas Iscariot
Had God on his side.

So now as I'm leavin'
I'm weary as Hell
The confusion I'm feelin'
Ain't no tongue can tell
The words fill my head
And fall to the floor
If God's on our side

He'll stop the next war.

There is a new book out with the same title. It's about the Air Force Academy.

With God on Our Side
April 3, 2007

With God on our Side: One Man's War Against an Evangelical Coup in America's Military
By Michael L. Weinstein and Davin Seay

Under the "boy emperor", George W. Bush, we have entered the Dark Ages in earnest, pursuing a short-sighted path that can only accelerate our decline.

What we are now seeing are the obvious characteristics of the West after the fall of Rome: the triumph of religion over reason; the atrophy of education and critical thinking; the integration of religion, the state, and the apparatus of torture--a troika that was for Voltaire the central horror of the pre- Enlightenment world; and the political and a and economic marginalization of our culture.

Add to this the pervasive hostility toward science on the part of the current administration and we get a clear picture of the Enlightenment being steadily rolled back. Religion is used to explain terror attacks as part of a cosmic conflict between Good and Evil rather than in terms of political processes.... Manichaean's rules across the United States.

According to a poll taken by Time magazine fifty-nine percent of Americans believe that John's apocalyptic prophecies in the Book of Revelation will be fulfilled, and nearly all of these believe that the faithful will be taken up into heaven in the 'Rapture.

Fundamentalism and democracy are completely antithetical when the former attempt to engage the machinery of the state to further its parochial biblical world view. The opposite of the Enlightenment, of course, is tribalism, groupthink; and more and more, this is the direction in which the United States is going.

Meanwhile, I've been thinking,

That the times, they are a changing,

and maybe, just maybe,

God's on their side.

Or at least riding the fence.


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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Earthfamilyalpha III

Earlier today, I found the time to compile the last 7 months of posts .

The new subject heads provide a pretty useful map into this blizzard of posts. I was particularly happy to see so much poetry this year. Thanks SB.

It's a great way to drill deep into the main subject areas of EFA.

Earthfamilyalpha Content III


Climate Change

Act As If It Is / The Albedo Effect / Your Pledge / 100 Years of Science / Petrol to the Fire / In Imminent Peril / Doffing the Cap / Change to Preserve / I just ate a G 8 / Gonu Rocks the Boats / Crossed Fingers / The Tenacity of Mendacity / The Pod People / Carbon Scams / Real Know How / The Fall of the Titans / The Disease is the Cure / Eight Billion / Frisbees and Flatulence / Mr. Gore goes to DC / The Swindling of the Earth / The Real Realism / Step it Up! / The Moving Scale / Do You, Mr. Jones / Climate Change Theater / World Climate Accord / A Fighting Chance / The Window /Frozen in Time /Evolving Ourselves / Climate Premiums /The Good Explosion / The Final Verdict / Tick Tock / The Year of Feedback / Santa's Ski / Food Chains / The Culturotomy / Bush v Gore II

Resource Depletion

A Bowl of Porridge / A Curious Phenomenon / Better Clothes / The Cave of our Fears / The Better Outcome / The Myopia of More / The End of Everything / Portland Plans for Peak / Get it Together / Happily Motoring / The Plausible Scenario / It's Now, Now / Without our Boat / The Challenge / Beyond Purview


Uranium Savages / Some Day Sun Day / Riding the Caboose / Flying in the Air / Wise Use / Reversible PV / Deploy, Develop, Evolve / The Mainstream / The Silver Bullet / Vision 2020 / Photonic Plastic Peace / The Rock Burners / The Photonic Energy Web / Hydrogen Hype / Good News, Bad News / A More Perfect Union / Coal is Toast / The Light That Surrounds Us / The Clean Coal Myth / The Earthship /Energy Vision / Seed Pods / Perma Principles / Ultra Cap Wrap / The A F V / Earth's Xmas List / Energy and Light



Buddha Mind Bubbha Mind / A day in the Life / It's Been Crappy Before / The Tao of Climate Change / The Whispering Hours / The Second Attention / The Observer is the Observed / La Paz / Our New Hat / Freedom from the Known / We see what we are / The There There / It's the Season / Sea of Light / The Rushing / Contradiction Diction


Earth Pledge / Masters of War / Mercy At Last / Blind on Blind / Good History is not Was / Fast-track Hacked / Plenty of Blame / A Platform for Reason / Its a Bad Joke / Foolish Wise Men / Let's Find Out / Peace on Earth Day / Notes on Nationalism / Strong Winds / The Long Shadow / The Green Enlightenment / Carbon Nation / Pressure Change / Toadie Speaks /The Ride /The Mouse that Roars / The Imminent Threat / Peace on Earth / Losers Weepers / Let US Begin


The Thirst of Water / Lady Bird / Herding Cats / River Friend / Oh By The Way / Graveyard Universe / What Profit / Moment finds Place / Wandering Stranger / Unbomb Iraq / Earth Day Possibilities / Respite / Wars Are Not Solutions / Light and Worship and Us / Flight Of the Bumblebee / Lecto divina / Line in Water / Endebbe Road, cont. / Phoenix On Our Street / White Crosses / Three Iranian Women Poets / Screaming at the Robot / Mosul / What We Honor / Prayer for the Abuser / Or Not /Peace Train / Last Act / Peace Surge / The Age of Quan Yin / Send the Bush Twins / Diving into the Future / Blind Executioner / New Strategy / Apology / Unbomb Iraq / International - Law? / Family /Pie

The World

Live Earth / Earth Food / Et Tu Gonu / Mother Noos / Where Things Are / Oh Brother / Blue Hole


The Desert Rainbow / So Sick of It / Floods and PUDs / The Hate Makers / Vivoleum is People / Bold Steps and Big Ideas / The Nays / The Bank Tower / Stopping Shopping / Remaking Society / A Light Goes On / Ironic / Cultural Transformation / Wheel of History / Light to Light / Pax Americana / Culture of Intransigence / New McCarthyism / Every Religion

The Glory of War / Turning Blue / The Tunnel at the End / The Purloined Post / The Cool of the Heat / Learning to Fly / The Mugwump / The Day of the Heart / A Galactic Tactic


Tools or Toys / Circle the Sun / Knowing what we Know /Triangular Transformation / A New Social Contract / Publicans / Memorial Day Blues / Space and Time / Our Joys and Our Tears / Each Beat of the Heart / Tomorrow is Today / The Planetary Cortex / Place and Space / The Light of Day



Friday, July 27, 2007

The Thirst of Water

In 1999, after an art event at
in Brackenridge Park in San Antonio,
I climbed down to the mouth of a small
well that is one of the two remaining
springs that used to feed the San Antonio

Today the aquifer is full, new
springs bubble up all over Central Texas,
but the spring fed winding river
along which San Antonio was born,
remains an urban carnival of
commerce and concrete.

* Blue Hole Dry

Blue Hole

We step quietly thru blue moonlight
down to a spring where
the San Antonio River once pulsed
from hollows that dive
deep into the planet
filtering pure water —
to feed long winding rows
of Texas Pecan trees
whose tap roots drink
and drink.

In Brackenridge Park,
on the estate of Our Lady
of the Incarnate Word,
the water is gone tonite.

Beneath a full moon in October
in the last year of the millenium
a horned owl calls every 45 seconds.

Moon shadows are long elves—
and ambulances howl.
Traffic sounds pulse, and pulse
and the water is gone,

Every spring has guardians.

Suzanne watches over the Blue Hole—
pours bottled water
into the dark caw of a spring,
that tonight is
mud surrounded by dry leaves.

We listen to a visceral spirit lap
it up, and know water can thirst.

Suzanne tells us
this is one of two remaining
source springs for the San Antonio River.

She says the other mother spring
is in someone’s front yard.
Both are dry.

I have floated with my mother on a
pontoon boat, taking photographs, have
floated past galleries and restaurants,
past the IMAX and it’s giant movies,
past twelve story hotels,
past parking garages
on water that is black at noon —
The River Walk.

I have heard the tour guide
say San Antonio pumps city water
into the old river bed —
recycles it in a closed system
so River Walk businesses
can flourish.

A river in a concrete box winds
alongside the Alamo
through the heart of
the historical district,
old missions, cajunto bands.

I have heard Beverly Sheffield
say dozens of springs
fed the San Antonio River
when he was a boy.

Four women gather at the Blue Hole
under a full moon in October
in the last year of the millenium—
water spirits have
guardians, we wispher
in the moonlight --
wait for rain which will flow
into an urban river in a box.

*Blue Hole when, like today, the aquifer is full.

©Susan Bright, 2007

Susan Bright is the author of nineteen books of poetry. She is the editor of Plain View Press which since 1975 has published one-hundred-and-ninety books. Her work as a poet, publisher, activist and educator has taken her all over the United States and abroad. Her most recent book, The Layers of Our Seeing, is a collection of poetry, photographs and essays about peace done in collaboration with photographer Alan Pogue and Middle Eastern journalist, Muna Hamzeh.

Announcement: The Plain View Press e-store is online.


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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Uranium Savages

No, not the band.

Apparently, a professor in New York has discovered that using renewable energy will take land. And in the case of biomass and hydropower, lots of land.

Here's part of the story from The Guardian:

Renewable energy projects will devour huge amounts of land,
warns researcher·

Analyst argues wind farms and biofuels are not green·
Report's look at negative aspects aims to end 'taboo'

Ian Sample, science correspondent
Wednesday July 25, 2007
The Guardian

Large-scale renewable energy projects will cause widespread environmental damage by industrialising vast swaths of countryside, a leading scientist claims today. The warning follows an analysis of the amount of land that renewable energy resources, including wind farms, biofuel crops and photovoltaic solar cells, require to produce substantial amounts of power.

Jesse Ausubel, a professor of environmental science and director of the Human Environment programme at Rockefeller University in New York, found that enormous stretches of countryside would have to be converted into intensive farmland or developed with buildings and access roads for renewable energy plants to make a significant contribution to global energy demands.

Prof Ausubel reached his conclusions by ranking renewable energies according to the amount of power they produce for each square metre of land. The assessment allows direct comparison between the different approaches, based on the impact they will have on the surrounding landscape.


The report, which appears in the International Journal of Nuclear Governance, Economy and Ecology today, also criticises plans for widespread farming of biofuels. (clip)

Prof Ausubel said that despite technical and political concerns, nuclear power plants still ranked as the most environmentally-friendly for large conurbations. "The good news about nuclear is that over the past 50 years all of the forms of waste storage seem to have worked."

Reminds me of the joke about the falling man.

When asked how things are going,

his reply was, "Everything's fine so far"

In the report, he gives a energy/land use numbers for solar and wind.

Wind energy

Wind farms generate around 1.2 watts for every square metre of land.

Solar power

Photovoltaic cells covering an area of 150,000 square kilometres would be needed to meet US electricity needs for a year. To power New York city would take 12,000 square kilometres, about the size of Connecticut."

Here is the report in Inderscience Publishers . I did not pay to read it yet, but I will bet that the author will have shaped his research, given the other work he has published . In the other paper, he discusses how to release less cadmium into the environment.

Something tells me that he doesn't mention that:

You can farm or raise cattle under the wind turbines.

You can live and work and park under photovoltaics.

Neither of which would qualify as "devour"

He doesn't mention that nuclear plants take huge amounts of land.

He doesn't mention that power plants often need huge cooling lakes.

He doesn't talk about the footprints of the nuclear mines.

He doesn't talk about the area dedicated to provide secure storage.

And I know he didn't tally up all the land that is currently used by power plants, mines, roads, storage, shipping, and switch stations to get a fair comparison of the present system's commitment of land vs. the commitment we would need with a unified photonic energy web.

At my shop, (an electric utility)we could cover the cooling pond of our existing nuclear plant with solar and provide all of the energy we will need for the next 20 years or so.

If we decide to provide all of the energy for the city, we will need 66 sections of land.

That's 6 miles by 11 miles.

If we decide to provide solar energy for the whole world, we would need an area about the size of Texas.

Texas fits pretty well into the Sahara.

The author is not all wet though. He accurately shows that biomass crops are probably not such a keen idea.

But his love for nuclear energy is down right Kookie.

Oh, and I wonder if he looked up peak uranium.

These guys are just savages from a prior age.

The Age of Fire.


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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Buddha Mind Bubbha Mind

Here is a little piece out of my new book. It's still in production. It's about changing the basic operational system of our consciousness. Although this might look like religion, it's not.

"There is a myth that one day after many searchings and much work, that you will be blinded by the Light of Creation and you will foreverafter be enlightened and reside completely in the mind of God.

Although events of this nature can and do occur with Great Saints, it is a rare and sublime occurrence.

This morning, I read these words of Ramana Maharshi in response to a question regarding the "states of mind" for a Jnani. He responds:

“How can there be, when the mind itself is dissolved and lost in the Light of Consciousness?

For the Jnani, all the three states are equally unreal. But the ajnani is unable to comprehend this, because for him the standard of reality is the waking state, whereas for the Jnani the standard of Reality is Reality itself. This Reality of pure Consciousness is eternal by its nature and therefore subsists equally during what you call waking, dreaming, and sleep. To him who is one with that Reality, there is neither the mind nor its three states and, therefore, neither introversion nor extroversion.

His is the ever-waking state, because he is awake to the eternal Self; his is the ever dreaming state, because to him the world is not better than a repeatedly presented phenomenon of dream; his is the ever-sleeping state, because he is at all times without the “body am I” consciousness.”

"Ramana Maharshi was a 19th and 20th century Indian Jnani who at the age of seventeen, without the guidance of Guru, attained a profound experience of the “True Self”. From this time on, he remained fully absorbed in the Self. After years of silent seclusion, he finally began to reply to the questions put to him by spiritual seekers from all over the world. He wrote nothing and left only very simple instructions to those who would seek him out. Over and over again he would tell them to investigate for themselves, “Who am I”.

But most of us cannot and should not retire to a cave or temple.

We must instead nurture our own transcendence even in the desert of the non-reality of Man. For in truth, there is no nonreality. There is only the illusion of nonreality.

At our best, we find ourselves wrestling between impatience and transcendence.

We may live in our Buddha Mind for a moment and then fall back into our Bubba Mind with the slightest provocation.

Yet, if we hold onto the Oneness like a dog to a bone, this Mind of Man will fall away. We will see the Oneness in our friends, in our conversations with them, in the silliness of our minds, in the smallness of our small talk, in the source of our victimizations, in the shallowness of our cravings, in the tombs of our desires.

We will be the Oneness in the quality of our play, and in the depth of our Love. We will be the Oneness in the fullness of our understandings and the in the breath of our care. We will know who we are and where we are and whose time it is.

And like the Jnani, the standard of Reality

will be Reality itself.

And the Creator will be the Creation.

And the Observer, the Observed.

You will awake to a place where World has become a Dream.

And the Dream has become Reality.

There is a dog talking to his neighbor.

And two birds are gossiping about the cold night.

And a horse clops up the steep cobblestone street

Thinking of his sore feet.

A rooster crows to his girl friend.

And the power of Man sleeps."

And then I think about "Alberto smugface sickf#ck Gonzales",

and his gang of Texas Oil Dicks who stole

our Constitution,

stomped on it with their blood drenched boots,

wiped their filthy cracks with it,

and then made our chicken sh$t congress eat it,

right there on CSpan

as they continue to reem us and the world ,

with their lies and their vile ways

in the clear light of day. (breathe)

It's enough to make you holy.

Buddha mind Bubbha mind.


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Act As If It Is

In case you haven't noticed.

It's raining. In July. Parks, and yards, and roadsides are verdant. Lake levels have gone from historically way down to flood stage. All five of the main basins in Texas are or have been at flood stage.

What's Happening?

Global warming really means that there is more energy in the system. That's the reason I always use the phrase Climage Change. More Energy means more heat, more storms, more evaporation, more wind, more everything...except stability.

So while California and the south east are suffering, we now have buckets of water. Same is true for Great Britain. And it's pretty extreme.

"Flood-ravaged Britain is suffering from a wholly new type of civil emergency, it is clear today: a disaster caused by 21st-century weather.

This weather is different from anything that has gone before. The floods it has caused, which have left more than a third of a million people without drinking water, nearly 50,000 people without power, thousands more people homeless and caused more than £2bn worth of damage - and are still not over - have no precedent in modern British history.

A new study tells why we can expect more.

Human activity changing global rains
Daily Telegraph
July 24, 2007

A STUDY has yielded the first confirmation that global warming is already affecting the world's rainfall patterns, bringing more precipitation to northern Europe, Canada and northern Russia but less to swathes of sub-Saharan Africa, southern India and Southeast Asia.

The changes "may have already had significant effects on ecosystems, agriculture and human regions that are sensitive to changes in precipitation, such as the Sahel'', warns the paper released today by Nature, the British science journal. Scientists have long said that global warming is bound to interfere with snow and rainfall patterns, because air and sea temperatures and sea-level atmospheric pressure - the underlying forces behind these patterns - are already changing.

But, until now, evidence that the interference was already happening existed anecdotally or in computer models, rather than from observation.

World climate system stimulated

One problem for researchers has been a lack of accurate, long-term rainfall data from around the world that would enable them to distinguish between regional or cyclical shifts in rainfall. Francis Zwiers, a scientists with Environment Canada, Toronto, found a way around these problems by using two data-sets of global rainfall pattern beginning, conservatively, in 1925 and ending in 1999.

They compared these figures with 14 powerful computer models that simulate the world's climate system and found a remarkably close fit.

Tropics drier

Over the 75-year period under study, global warming "contributed significantly'' to increases in precipitation in the northern hemisphere's mid-latitudes, a region between 40 and 70 degrees north, they say.

In contrast, the northern hemisphere's tropics and subtropics, a region spanning from the equator to 30 degrees latitude north, became drier. And the southern hemisphere's tropics (equator to 30 degrees latitude south) became wetter.

The study looked at annual average rainfall on the land, not at sea. In addition, it did not look at extreme weather events - episodes of drought and flooding - whose frequency and severity are also seen as likely to increase as a result of global warming.

The new study was carried out jointly by several national climate research institutes using their supercomputer climate models, including the Hadley Center of the UK MeT Office. The investigation will be published by Nature on Thursday. "

Last night, the Democrats were asked about climate change by a youtube snow ball.

It was kind of cute a guess,

Kind of like going up to Katrina flood victim in your pink flippers and mask asking how it feels to be homeless, jobless, and without your child.

When our leaders quit saying that Climate Change

is the most important issue facing humankind,

and instead act as if it is,

Maybe, just maybe, we'll see a real solution,

Like a climate change premium on the fuels

that are creating the problem.


They are still part of the problem.


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Monday, July 23, 2007

Tools or Toys

Many of you know that my view of the future includes the creation of internet families or coops. I believe that the only way to really "create what we need" in the social, legal, and economic fields, is to, well, create what we need. To spend more time trying to elect truly progressive national leaders in this corporate controlled environment is a colossal waste of energy, resources, and time. (even though there is no such thing as waste).

Rather, it seems that we should begin to build new creations of social contract that transcend the nation state agreement . We can do that now with the tools we have been given. Yet, most of us are still wedded to the idea that we must work within the system.

I argue that we should create a new system of cooperation that will ultimately be as powerful as the current system based on capital and competition. Then, these new institutions can compete in the bigger world of giant corporations and other public institutions.

Most people seem to understand the concept, but few seem to really "Grok" the concept. This article by David Pollard seems to capture some of the reasons why so few really have the vision or the imaging power to begin this movement towards global unions and coops.

How to Save the World

"A lot of my friends and readers are technophiles. They believe that social networking and other technologies can make the world a much better place. I'd like to believe it, but I don't.

The industrial economy is rigged. It is not a 'market' economy or a 'free' economy. It is designed to reduce us to mere, insatiable consumers -- of politicians' promises with our tax dollars, of overpriced, imported crap products, of 'education', of packaged information and entertainment 'products', of health treatments etc.

We are given just enough cash and credit to keep us addicted, and we are isolated from serious social interaction to make us compliant. No great conspiracy. That's just how the world works best when the objective is to maximize profit and GDP.

We are not people in this economy.

We are consumers, taxpayers, students, audiences, patients. Numbers. Demographics. (clip)

The glue that holds natural communities together is physical and emotional, not virtual or intellectual. To make them work, and to make them sustainable, they must be part of a massive relocalization of the way we live and the way we make a living.

Long distance social relationships may be pleasant and instructive, but they are not the stuff of true community. As useful as the Internet is in letting us practice social arts, it may actually be an impediment to creating real, sustainable community, something we can depend on, live on.

The economics of natural enterprise and natural community are inherently local, geographically centred on physical place. I know this is hard to explain, which is perhaps why I keep putting off trying to express it.


Most of what our economy is about is atoms, not bits. It is quality, locally produced food and clothing and building materials. It is creation and recreation that we participate in, in person.

Ultimately we will have to abandon the illusion that we can be part of a global, virtual, ever-changing 'electronic' community, that we can be citizens of the whole world, that social networks and technology can change the world.

Eventually we have to come back to place, to true community, and make it work, face to face.

The world we will face by the end of this century, a world of cascading crises and horrific scarcity, will not allow us to play with technology. This technology is fragile and needs huge amounts of energy stolen from future generations to work at all.

We cannot afford it. This future world, a world of rust and reclamation, will force us to face hard truths. Our future social networks will be held together with flesh and sweat, not messages and VoIP.

It's time we got down to the business of figuring out how our descendants will live, and make a living, when the ephemeral constructs of our rapacious, delusional age are gone. It's important to get started, with love and without illusion. Here, now, in this place.

The time for toys is over."

This pretty much captures the position of a lot of the peak oil doomsters.

They see our tools as toys.

Cowboys surely said the same thing about

horseless carriages.

I think that growing a global nervous system,

a noosphere,

will connect the global community in ways that

we are just now beginning to understand.

Physical space and Social space

will continue to be blurred.

Of course, I can't eat bits or packets of IP,

any more than I can sleep in my flat screen.

But ask a rake how to get to the farmer's market,

Or ask a bed for a good place to stay.

In my view of the future,

We will need all the tools we can muster.

Whether or not they are toys,

isn't a function of the the tool,

it's a function of its beholder.

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Saturday, July 21, 2007

A Bowl of Porridge

Although I agree with the premise that drives most Peak Oil Long Emergency types, I don't agree that the end of cheap liquid fuels will be the end of advanced civilization. Quite the contrary. Although, some of the older members of the Titanic apparently chose to just sit on board and play cards until their party was submerged, most chose to find a lifeboat. And those who did, survived.

It's just not in our human nature to give up.

And the idea that we cannot or will not develop solar technologies that provide enormous amounts of affordable and sustainable energy supplies just doesn't ring true to me. Given the technological knowledge we presently have, there is no fundamental reason why our culture could not be totally powered by the light of our days through a unified photonic energy web within the lifetimes of most of us.

That of course is provided that we actually realize that we are presently on a collision course with a fossil fueled asteroid that is heading our way. If we allow it to hit us, if we allow it to continue its course, we will be inundated in a global war with roman numerals.

That said however, there are many in the Peak Oil doomster crowd that are pushing the creative envelope in thoughtful and important ways.

Here is a small piece of a well crafted story by John Michael Greer that caught my attention:

"Once the private car has become an anachronism and the energy costs of long-distance trucking make local production of most goods a better bargain, the economic glue that holds together a sprawling highway network and the many industries necessary to maintain it faces rapid dissolution.

That same glue is most of what holds the United States together as a nation-state, and its breakdown will likely see the unraveling of the United States as a primary focus of our collective identity. Just as the rapid growth of transportation links turned the grandchildren of Virginians and Californians into Americans, the disintegration of those same transportation links may well turn the grandchildren of Americans into something else.

It’s unlikely to turn them back into Virginians and Californians, though, because the triumph of the nation-state in the 19th century was followed, in the United States more than anywhere else in the world, by the triumph of the market economy over culture. A faux culture designed by marketing experts, produced in factories, and sold over the newly invented mass media, elbowed aside the new and still fragile national culture of the United States and then set to work on the regional and local cultures this latter had only just begun to supplant.

By the second half of the 20th century, nearly all of the functions filled by noneconomic culture in other societies were being filled by the market in America, and increasingly in other Western countries as well. The tunes people whistled, the recipes they cooked, the activities that filled their leisure hours and the self-images that shaped their thoughts and behavior no longer came out of such normal channels of cultural transmission as family and community; they came out of the market economy, with a price tag attached that was not denominated in dollars alone.

The second half of the 20th century, in fact, saw the death of anything that could reasonably be called American culture. Most examples of what anthropologists call “culture death” have seen people beaten and starved into relinquishing their traditional cultures; what the modern American experience shows is that people can also be bribed by prosperity and cajoled by advertising into doing the same thing.

Granted, in a society awash in cheap abundant energy, it’s easier and cheaper to buy one’s culture ready-made from a store than to make the investments of time and energy into family and community needed to maintain a living culture in the true meaning of the word.

Equally, in a society where “fashion” driven by media campaigns takes the place of any less mercenary guiding force, making traditional American cultures look as bad as possible was just another bit of marketing.

Think of the movie Deliverance, with its likeably cosmopolitan heroes struggling to survive against the brutal malevolence of backwoods villains, and the banjo riff that provided the movie’s leitmotif defining traditional American culture itself as a hostile Other: that same message has flooded the American media for much of a century.

Culture death is a traumatic experience, and I suspect that a great deal of the shrill anger and maudlin self-pity that fills American society these days has its roots in our unwillingness to face up to a trauma that, in the final analysis, we have brought on ourselves. As the age of cheap energy comes to an end, though, I suspect there are worse traumas in store.

A nation that has sold its own culture for a shiny plastic counterfeit risks a double loss if that counterfeit pops like a soap bubble in its collective hands. Equally, a people that has come to see its role as that of passive consumer of culture, rather than active maker and transmitter of culture, may have very few options left when the supply of manufactured culture to consume runs out. "

Not long ago, while visiting with dear, good friends in the mountains of Mexico, we began to talk about how the Germans seemingly went on a pathological national suicide pact in the first half of the 20th century. Prior to this "national pact", the German people were known for their music, their philosophy, their art, and their other contributions to culture.

My friends had a special context and view on this.

They were both born in Germany.

Whether of not the American culture has caught the German national suicide bug or not, time will soon reveal. The likelihood that the rest of the world will be drawn down with them as a result is high.

If we accept the notion that culture in general has now been replaced by a faux market culture which is the product of marketing and corporate shaping, it is no wonder that we have such confusion and chaos in our institutions and other cultural forms.

We have sold our birthright for a bowl of porridge.

Not only is it growing cold.

It came out of a can to begin with.

Maybe we should try Jacob's ladder instead,

And join the family.

art courtesy of Ardyn Halter