Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Next Paradigm

About 10 years ago, a friend gave me copy of Ishmael and insisted that I read it. I did, and I'm glad I did. The author Daniel Quinn, who is from Houston, has a great story telling style.

One of his newer books is called Beyond Civilization, Humanity's next great adventure. The Austin Chronicle calls it "As suspenseful, inventive, and socially urgent as any fiction or nonfiction you are likely to read this or any other year."

Here is a synopsis from Powell's Books:

"If a team of Martian anthropologists were to study our culture, their initial findings might read something like this: These people have the strange idea that the thing they call civilization is some sort of final, unsurpassable invention.

Even though vast numbers of them suffer in this oppressively hierarchical system, and even though it appears to be plunging them toward a global catastrophe, they cling to it as if it were the most wonderful thing (as they quaintly say) since sliced bread. That a more agreeable (and less catastrophic) system exists BEYOND civilization, seems to be entirely unthinkable to them.

In Beyond Civilization, Daniel Quinn has made it his task to think the unthinkable. We all know there's no one right way to build a bicycle, no one right way to design an automobile, no one right way to construct a pair of shoes, but we're convinced there must be only one right way for people to live--and the one we have is it, no matter what. Even if we hate it, we must cling to it. Even if it drags us to the brink of extinction, we must not let it go.

Many other peoples have built civilizations--and then walked away from them. Quinn examines the Maya, the Olmec, the people of Teotihuacán, and others, who did just that. But they all walked away moving backward--to an earlier lifestyle. Quinn's goal in this book is to show how we can walk away moving forward, to a new lifestyle, one which encourages diversity instead of suppressing it.

Not a "New World Order," but rather a New Personal Order.

Not legislative change at the governmental level, but rather incremental change at the human level.This is a guidebook for people who want to assert control over their destiny and recover the freedom to live at a scale and in a style of their own choosing--and starting now, today, not in some distant utopian future."

From the book, Quinn says:

"Because we don't expect to overthrow governments, abolish world capitalism, make civilization vanish, turn everyone in the world into walking Buddhas, or cure all social and economic ills, we don't have to wait for anything.

If ten people walk beyond civilization and build a new sort of life for themselves, then those ten are already living in the next paradigm, from the first day. They don't need the support of an organization. They don't need to belong to a party or a movement. They don't need new laws to be passed. They don't need a constitution. They don't need tax-exempt status.

For those ten, the revolution will have already succeeded.”

In my book, The Day of the Heart, there are the People of the Sun. They represent a civilization that is as advanced as I could imagine at the time. Their houses are in tune with the seasons, their clothes provide warmth as they provide energy. They nurture the environment they live in adopting care ranges where each stone, each tree, each meadow is developed to its full potential. Their food comes from the land and the waters and it his harvested by sophisticated cybersoids. Yet as perfect as their world is, there are others who would invade their sanctity.

Quinn is right I think about the need for a new personal order.

But I think we should not underestimate the present world order and its penchant for mining and taking resources, be it clean air, silver in the ground, the labor of the undeveloped nations, or the unsatiable demand of the consumer junkies who have taken the cool aid.

Much of the world's peoples are eager to partake of this punch....Even as it leaves a wake of oppression in the workplace, devastating climate change, and the stratification of society.

We must each find our own enlightenment,

and then we must bring this light together.

We need only ourselves.

As the mission/vision statement of this site says:

With the advent of advanced global communication,new forms of social contract can be created which transcend the geographic state. These new cybercoops or cyberstates will bring humankind to higher levels of cooperation and understanding.

Beyond Civilization.

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Monday, April 28, 2008

The Disarmaments Industry

I think most Americans have a very spotty sense of just how much money they spend on their Weapons of War. Generally, you read stories about China's increase in expenditures or their new training exercises with the Russians, but the stories rarely give you the scale of things. This story is a pretty good example:

Rearming the world
Why nations are suddenly locked in an arms race unseen since the early days of the Cold War
Boston Globe
By Joshua Kurlantzick
April 27, 2008

LAST SUMMER, AS Americans focused on the surge in Iraq, most ignored a military exercise with a potentially more far-reaching impact. In a remote location in the Ural Mountains, Russia, China, and several Central Asian nations gathered for a massive war game, ironically dubbed "Peace Mission 2007."

Thousands of troops, armored vehicles, fighter-bombers, and attack helicopters stormed a town in a mock battle that was supposed to simulate fighting a terrorist takeover. Beneath its antiterror veneer, Peace Mission 2007 was a classic display of military readiness: When it was over, the troops paraded before their assembled defense chiefs, and the whole event laid the groundwork for a closer military alliance among the participating nations.

That such an exercise was held at all might seem shocking. Despite the global war on terrorism, and a steady drumbeat of civil conflicts, no war involving a major power like Russia has occurred in decades, and no external enemy threatens any of the Central Asian nations.

But the exercise highlighted an alarming new reality. With much less fanfare than the early days of the Cold War, the world is entering a new arms race, and with it, a dangerous new web of military relationships.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which tracks international armed forces spending, between 1997 and 2006 global military expenditures jumped by nearly 40 percent. clip

Much of this new arms spending is concentrated among the world's biggest consumers of resources, which are trying to protect their access to energy, and the biggest producers of resources, which are taking advantage of their new wealth to build up their defenses at a rate that would have been unthinkable for a developing country until recently." more

The article goes on, but it's remarkably free of actual numbers. The author quotes from the SIPRI site, but he doesn't give the reader a feel for the conclusions he is making. No where does the article speak of the 1.2 trillion the world now spends.

Yes, the world's biggest consumer country (USA) does spend a lot on weapons of war.

Like about 623 billion dollars.

Russia and China spend about 1/6 of that combined.

And of the so called big producer countries, our ally, the Saudis, now spend almost 20 billion. But Venezuela only spends about 1.6 billion. Mexico spends about 6 billion and Nigeria spends not quite a billion.

Our new mortal enemy that must be crushed, Iran, spends a little over 4 billion.

As you might imagine, the good old US of A is also the largest exporter of weapons. And most of our allies are in the top ten.

It is true though.

At a time when humanity should be investing in advanced photon to electron materials, and high speed rail, and new ways to feed, educate, and empower ourselves, we are instead, investing in the weapons that will bring misery and destruction to us all.

Today's present day armaments industry must become

a disarmaments industry.

We must invest in the tools of peace


Or we will be consumed by these Masters of War


Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. Dwight Eisenhower

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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Peak Civilization

More and more folks seem to have come to the conclusion that the world as we know it is well, "not long for this world". Oil is at 120.00, food is going up dramatically, and even Sam's has set quantity limits on flour. Costco doesn't have rice.

Is our civilization at a Peak?

This piece by Carolyn Baker seems to make the case. Here is a small part of it.

By Carolyn Baker
Thursday, 24 April 2008

Something is festering in the psyches of the formerly middle class of this nation-something far more ominous than burgeoning public assistance and food stamp applications or mushrooming meth labs. If the subprime mortgage massacre had occurred in a vacuum, the dirty little secret might have been kept a bit longer, but juxtaposing it with Peak Oil, skyrocketing food prices, wacky weather and debilitating droughts, not to mention proliferating pink slips, it daily becomes embarrassingly obvious that Jim Kunstler was spot-on when he uttered his infamous declaration in the documentary, "The End Of Suburbia" that "the entire suburban project is the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world." clip

What Peak Civilization Really Looks Like

Peak Civilization by definition means the disappearance of public education, healthcare, government-issued currency, commercial food production, public access to regional water supplies, interstate commerce, the North American energy grid, and the very infrastructure of the United States.

Yet one need not succumb to fatalism.

While long-term revitalization cannot be realized now, its seeds can be and are being planted by the proliferation of vibrant relocalization movements erupting and evolving around the world, many of which have been spotlighted at the Truth To Power website. As Duane Elgin emphasizes: "A revitalizing society is a decentralizing society, with grassroots organizations that are numerous enough, have arisen soon enough, and are effective enough to provide a genuine alternative to more centralized bureaucracies."

The first headlines of food rationing in America are buzzing across the internet as I write this article. They underscore the unequivocal reality that collapse is going to compel us to feed ourselves or quite simply, we will perish. I believe that food security is the most urgent, the most immediate issue to which we must attend at this moment of Peak Civilization.

For months, this website has been informing readers about food storage and preservation and other aspects of preparedness. It is now time, if you have not already done so, to organize groups of citizens in your neighborhood, schools, churches, and community centers to plant and maintain gardens. In addition, collapse is compelling us to rapidly mobilize our neighborhoods and communities to not only accumulate our own supply of stored water but to organize citizens to work with local public water utilities to ensure that they remain public and are not privatized.

Our challenge at this moment in history is to recognize and intentionally connect with the evolutionary season of winter in which Peak Civilization finds itself because as Duane Elgin admonishes us: "It is time to begin the next stage of our human journey."

As I witness most of humanity's current "solutions" to its climate-energy-food-water-population-economic dilemmas, I see only myopic, psychotic strategies, and I have to ask myself whether or not it will be necessary for us to annihilate ourselves and the planet in order to transition into a more advanced evolutionary paradigm that will not permit the human race to ever again engage in anything like the current madness.

Tragically, I see almost nothing that suggests otherwise.

It is crucial that we comprehend that not only have we entered winter, but that that particular season is going to last a long time. As we navigate that winter, we are allowed our discontent, but we dare not permit ourselves to disconnect from current reality.

Simultaneously, it is imperative that we hold a vision of revitalization and plant its seeds everywhere at the same time that we honor more the changing of the seasons than our addiction to springtime. "

Sharon Ask of Casaubon's Book adds this in her "OK Breathe" post.

- the answer to how to do deal with a fast crash or a slow crash is the same - live differently, help other people adapt to living differently, grow food, enrich soil, share, talk to the neighbors, help each other out, take care of yourself and your own, give what you can to those in need, meet as many of your own needs as you can, keep services alive for those who are most vulnerable, speak out against injustice, do what good you can, and try and stop what evil you can, love one another, take pleasure in what you have and find a way to hope for the future. "more

As I look out the arched kitchen window, I see a soft mist above the great dome on the 200 year old church. Last night, in the zocolo, I watched 2 dozen young boys dressed in 16th century European clothing sing to an exhuberant crowd. Some of the songs were from the broadway show Man of La Mancha, finishing with the Impossible Dream.

But I think it would be far better for us to dream the possible dream,

a vision of revitalization.

I have a hard time imagining
that humankind is anywhere close to Peak Civilization.

Rather, it seems more likely


Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Dark Side

I noticed that Hillary starting wearing a lot of red lately, which is the favorite color of "R" fems. If there is any doubt in your mind that H "R" C and her campaign has not joined the dark side, watch this:


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

New Wings

New Wings

Last weekend at a street market,
John met two people* who raise Monarch Butterflies,
as a hobby, usually, but this year
they had clear plastic containers
with cocoons hanging inside
and the dates:

July 21-25

You could buy one cocoon
or two.

I checked them first thing
this morning and the cocoons
had turned dark,
which means they are about
to pop.
I drank a cup of coffee and
checked again.

Hanging from the top
of the plastic container
were two butterflies,

drying their wings.
I read that they pump
liquid thru the veins of their
wings to inflate them.

I didn’t know how long
it would take.

In about an hour one
opened it’s wings.

Forty five or so minutes later
we took them outside.
They seemed to be slipping
on the plastic, so I let them step
onto my hand.

They stayed there five minutes
or so, then

at the same instant

both flew off —

one landing on the prairie
verbena plant that volunteered
last year in the front yard
the other in an oleander bush
which is just beginning to bud.

Happy Spring

©Susan Bright, 2008

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-fifty 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.

Click here to learn about the Texas Monarch Butterfly Monitoring Project.
*Carol, 832-283-4552


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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Become the Change

Last Sundays's New York Times Magazine is all about green. This so called low carbon catalogue has a number of ways to reduce your carbon footprint. It also has a defense of small, individual eco-actions entitled Why Bother written by Michael Pollan. It's a pretty good read. Here's a piece of it:

"Have you looked into the eyes of a climate scientist recently?

They look really scared.

So do you still want to talk about planting gardens?

I do.

Whatever we can do as individuals to change the way we live at this suddenly very late date does seem utterly inadequate to the challenge. It’s hard to argue with Michael Specter, in a recent New Yorker piece on carbon footprints, when he says: “Personal choices, no matter how virtuous [N.B.!], cannot do enough. It will also take laws and money.” So it will. Yet it is no less accurate or hardheaded to say that laws and money cannot do enough, either; that it will also take profound changes in the way we live.


Because the climate-change crisis is at its very bottom a a crisis of lifestyle — of character, even. The Big Problem is nothing more or less than the sum total of countless little everyday choices, most of them made by us (consumer spending represents 70 percent of our economy), and most of the rest of them made in the name of our needs and desires and preferences.

For us to wait for legislation or technology to solve the problem of how we’re living our lives suggests we’re not really serious about changing — something our politicians cannot fail to notice. They will not move until we do. Indeed, to look to leaders and experts, to laws and money and grand schemes, to save us from our predicament represents precisely the sort of thinking — passive, delegated, dependent for solutions on specialists — that helped get us into this mess in the first place. It’s hard to believe that the same sort of thinking could now get us out of it. clip

In the judgment of James Hansen, the NASA climate scientist who began sounding the alarm on global warming 20 years ago, we have only 10 years left to start cutting — not just slowing — the amount of carbon we’re emitting or face a “different planet.” Hansen said this more than two years ago, however; two years have gone by, and nothing of consequence has been done. So: eight years left to go and a great deal left to do.

Which brings us back to the “why bother” question and how we might better answer it. The reasons not to bother are many and compelling, at least to the cheap-energy mind. But let me offer a few admittedly tentative reasons that we might put on the other side of the scale:
If you do bother, you will set an example for other people.

If enough other people bother, each one influencing yet another in a chain reaction of behavioral change, markets for all manner of green products and alternative technologies will prosper and expand. (Just look at the market for hybrid cars.)

Consciousness will be raised, perhaps even changed: new moral imperatives and new taboos might take root in the culture. Driving an S.U.V. or eating a 24-ounce steak or illuminating your McMansion like an airport runway at night might come to be regarded as outrages to human conscience. Not having things might become cooler than having them.

And those who did change the way they live would acquire the moral standing to demand changes in behavior from others — from other people, other corporations, even other countries.

All of this could, theoretically, happen. What I’m describing (imagining would probably be more accurate) is a process of viral social change, and change of this kind, which is nonlinear, is never something anyone can plan or predict or count on. Who knows, maybe the virus will reach all the way to Chongqing and infect my Chinese evil twin.

But the act I want to talk about is growing some — even just a little — of your own food. Rip out your lawn, if you have one, and if you don’t — if you live in a high-rise, or have a yard shrouded in shade — look into getting a plot in a community garden. Measured against the Problem We Face, planting a garden sounds pretty benign, I know, but in fact it’s one of the most powerful things an individual can do — to reduce your carbon footprint, sure, but more important, to reduce your sense of dependence and dividedness: to change the cheap-energy mind. clip

Chances are, your garden will re-engage you with your neighbors, for you will have produce to give away and the need to borrow their tools. You will have reduced the power of the cheap-energy mind by personally overcoming its most debilitating weakness: its helplessness and the fact that it can’t do much of anything that doesn’t involve division or subtraction.

The garden’s season-long transit from seed to ripe fruit — will you get a load of that zucchini?! — suggests that the operations of addition and multiplication still obtain, that the abundance of nature is not exhausted.

The single greatest lesson the garden teaches is that our relationship to the planet need not be zero-sum, and that as long as the sun still shines and people still can plan and plant, think and do, we can, if we bother to try, find ways to provide for ourselves without diminishing the world."

Obviously, there is nothing in the piece about the corporate state's role in our current situation, but in the fullness of the author's point, it's not necessary.

His point about planting a garden is much like mine in how it feels to ride your bike to work.

You leave the radio, the controlled air, the separation of your car, and the lack of communion that it creates , and you find a new world that is outside of the Matrix.

Riding a bike, planting a garden, keeping your bird bath full.

These small eco-actions bring about a bonus

that is well beyond the simple sum of these actions.

For we truly must become the change,

we wish the world to be.

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Monday, April 21, 2008

The Democracy Crisis

Yesterday, we had a brunch at the West Campus house. We invited several good friends and some new friends to share some time and visit with Dave T. and P.H. who had come in from the Bay Area for the long weekend. Dave is hugely concerned about climate change and more importantly, deeply consternated over how we don't seem to be doing much about it. (watch)

At the brunch we had several doctors, a lawyer, an architect, an activist, several musicians, a potter, a utility guy, and a business person or two.

For a brief while, we actually focused on climate change....not the science of it, or the potential of it, but how most of us simply put it away in some cubicle in our minds.

Several in the group drive hybrids. A couple of us ride our bikes to work. Most of us give to the right causes. The doctors give their time and skills to the community, to young kids with tattoos, and older ones who have been confined.

Dave talked about his recent communications with Jim Hanson and how important Hanson's study stating that we must return to 350 parts per million of CO2 is. But why do we not act?

One suggested that issues like this are buried and compartmentalized as a defense mechanism.

Respect is the Hub reiterated his plea for Respect. Respect for Others, Self, Place.

Another talked about getting "outside of the Matrix", and understanding that all of our "good behavior" is still very much in the matrix of this culture of growth and plunder.

Another suggested that if corporations insist on being persons, we must begin to actually treat them as persons. That means that if corporations kill and hurt and steal, they like each of us, might be placed in prison, (charter revoked) or in some cases, they might lose their charter forever. (corporate capital punishment)

If corporations were truly responsible persons, many of the issues that we face today would significantly change. For we are, in fact, in a world of sociopathic corporations that roam the earth as giant transnational plunderers, responsible to no authority other than their own boards and the capital markets that reward them for such behavior.

This domination and the perversity of "profit over all "pervades every sector and stratum of our social fabric. This ever present need for profit and market share reared its ugly head last week as ABC in the name of "the People" McCarthyized both democrats, defending their pointed questions by asserting that they were just asking the questions that the "R"s would bring up in the general election.

It is a measure of how "out of whack" things are that they would consider fronting for the opposing party a legitimate purpose of the fifth estate.

A substantial part of the Climate Crisis,

both its genesis and its effective resolution,

is a Democracy Crisis.

And until we understand that,

Neither will be addressed.

And our lives and our consciousness,

will continue the compartmentalization

that allows us to deal with today,

as we divert tomorrow

to another time,

and another place.

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Green PVs

Here is an oldie from the second year of EFA.
Natural Solar

If humankind is going to meet the challenges that lay ahead, we will do well to copy nature not only in its intricate complexity but also in its graceful simplicity.

Here is a very encouraging development for photon to electron devices:

Synthetic Molecules Capture Solar Energy
Green Building Press
September 5, 2006

A leaf is a highly efficient solar cell and researchers in Sydney have created molecules that mimic those in plants. Like the cells in plants, they harvest light and create power. According to the research team, led by Dr Deanna D'Alessandro, the best leaves can harvest 30 to 40 per cent of the light falling on them. The latest state of the art solar cells are only 15 to 20 per cent efficient, and expensive to make. But the researchers say they have recreated some of the key systems that plants use in photosynthesis.

Bacteria and green plants use photosynthesis to convert light energy into usable chemical energy. Wheel-shaped arrays of molecules called porphyrins, collect light and transfer it to the hub where chemical reactions use the light energy to convert carbon dioxide into energy-rich sugar and oxygen.

This process, which occurs in about 40 trillionths of a second, is fundamental to photosynthesis and is at the base of the food chain for almost all life on Earth.

More than 100 of the newly constructed synthetic porphyrins can be assembled around a tree-like core called a dendrimer to mimic the wheel-shaped arrangement in natural photosynthetic systems. The molecules designed by the team are about one trillionth the size of a soccer ball.

But the large number of porphyrins in a single molecule means that a significant amount of light can be captured and converted to electrical energy – just like in nature. Since they are so efficient at storing energy, D'Alessandro believes they could also be used as batteries – replacing the metal-based batteries that high technology devices depend on.

The team say their preliminary results are very promising, although they are still in the early stages of building practical solar energy devices using the molecules.

Now they’ve made the molecules, the team along with their Japanese collaborators at Osaka University are working to combine them in the equivalent of a plant cell.

Over the next five years they will attempt to scale the technology up to commercial scale solar panels. "

And here is another announcement that may reduce the costs of present PV systems by reducing the cost of the silicon:

Dow Corning Introduces New Solar Grade Silicon Material
Clean Edge
September 4, 2006

MIDLAND, MI -- Dow Corning (Nachrichten) Corp. today announced that it has achieved a milestone in solar energy technology: a solar-grade (SoG) silicon derived from metallurgical silicon that exhibits good solar cell performance characteristics when blended with traditional polysilicon feedstock.

This new silicon feedstock material, Dow Corning(R) PV 1101 SoG Silicon, is the first commercially available feedstock produced from such technology using large scale manufacturing processes. For several years, the primary obstacle to the growth of solar energy has been the constrained availability of silicon, the key raw material used in the production of solar cells.

Until now, Dow Corning says, the solar industry has relied on the supply of polycrystalline silicon, a high-grade purity product, originally developed for the semiconductor industry. This has meant that the solar industry has in turn been subject to resource restraint.

The launch of PV 1101, produced from a very different route, will alleviate that restraint and offer a new source of supply as well as new technical and business options for the solar industry.

"PV 1101 is certainly one of the most innovative technologies to come along in the solar energy industry since the manufacture of the first silicon solar cells," said Gaetan Borgers, director of Dow Corning Solar Solutions.

"For years now, the solar industry has hoped to be supplied by new sources of silicon designed and dedicated to them.

PV 1101 is a major step in that direction.

It is a step that will provide a means of growth for the solar industry."

We need inexpensive photon to electon strategies,

and advanced ultra caps to store it.

We need to accelerate the installation of advanced wind turbines,

We need smart, efficient homes and smart pedestrian oriented communities.

We need sporty motor in-wheel plug-in hybrids.

We need to act as if Climate Change and Peak Oil,

are coming to eat our children

and lay waste to our lives.

Cause they are.


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Friday, April 18, 2008

Of Necessity

Over the last few years, I have reported on the development of all kinds of third generation photon to electron materials. However, one of the possible pathways to a solid state world, dye-sensitive cells, although theoretically very inexpensive, have also been very, very low in efficiency.

Thanks to Renewable Energy News, here is a development from the University of Washington that may change that:

Popcorn-ball Design Doubles Efficiency
of Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells
by Hannah Hickey, University of Washington

A dramatic improvement in the efficiency rates of dye-sensitized solar cells (DSC) has been discovered in Washington. Researchers at the University of Washington (UW) have found that by using a popcorn-ball design -- tiny kernels clumped into much larger porous spheres -- they have the ability to manipulate light and more than double the efficiency of converting solar energy to electricity.

"We think this can lead to a significant breakthrough in dye-sensitized solar cells," said researcher Guozhong Cao, a UW professor of materials science and engineering.

Dye-sensitized solar cells, invented by Michael Grätzel and Brian O'Regan in 1991, are more flexible, easier to manufacture and cheaper than existing solar technologies.

Researchers have tried to increase efficiencies by varying the surfaces of the cells, making them rougher, and have achieved higher and higher efficiencies. Current lab prototypes can convert just over one tenth of the incoming sun's energy into electricity. clip

One of the main quandaries in making an efficient solar cell is the size of the grains. Smaller grains have bigger surface area per volume, and thus absorb more rays. But bigger clumps, closer to the wavelength of visible light, cause light to ricochet within the thin light-absorbing surface so it has a higher chance of being absorbed.

"You want to have a larger surface area by making the grains smaller," Cao said. "But if you let the light bounce back and forth several times, then you have more chances of capturing the energy."

Other researchers have tried mixing larger grains in with the small particles to scatter the light, but have had little success in boosting efficiency. The University of Washington group instead used only very tiny grains, about 15 nanometers across. (Lining up 3,500 grains end to end would equal the width of a human hair.)

Then, they clumped these into larger agglomerations, about 300 nanometers across. The larger balls scatter incoming rays and force light to travel a longer distance within the solar cell. The balls' complex internal structure, meanwhile, creates a surface area of about 1,000 square feet for each gram of material. This internal surface is coated with a dye that captures the light.

The researchers expected some improvement in the performance but what they saw exceeded their hopes.

"We did not expect the doubling," Cao said. "It was a happy surprise." more

It would be a happy surprise if this kind of research

was funded with say a month of war.

That 10 billion might provide a lot of surprises.

If we just end the war a year sooner,

that 120 billion dollars at 1.00/ watt (now 3.00) would provide

120,000 MWs of solar,

More capacity than Texas,

Enough energy for 20 million homes. (@12,000 Kwh/year)

Continuing to place our faith and resources in armaments and guns

is not a sadly serious certainty.

And placing our confidence and energy in the tools of peace

should not be viewed as a happy surprise.

For we must move from War to Peace,

not as a matter of choice.

But of Necessity.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

ABCs of McCarthyism


I was born in a small mountain
community near Scranton.
The creek that ran through our family
farm didn’t have a name.
People were as likely to
remember the place as Four Corners
as Tompkinsville, which was
the official name, and while
my parents moved away when I was
a toddler, after my brother, their first
child, died of Lukemia,
we returned yearly for long stays
and it was my second home.

From my Midwestern perspective
Pennsylvania always looked run down,
“depressed” my father explained
because the coal mines shut down
and the economy had tanked.
The family members who remained
were teachers and musicians
in schools and churches in Pennsylvania
and eventually upstate New York
where they have woven satisfying lives
through work and church and community.

Our creek water was black, like coal,
and I’ve always wondered how healthy
it really was, flowing through mining country
down to our small farm. My cousins went
to music camp every summer along with
my father’s sister, who taught piano, chorus
and organ. The family sold the farm house
after my grandparents died, but kept the
cabins each sibling built alongside the creek,
where I was born. My father and grandfather
told stories about houses, gas stations, stores
tumbling into mines that had caught fire
and which are still burning.

But the mountains are astoundingly beautiful
in spite of the damage we’ve done to them —
spectacular in autumn, lush with life in summer
and in the winter cold and relentless.
The people work hard enough to have little
patience with art that doesn’t surface in church
which explains the classic path musicians
in my family have followed.

I have to say, if McCarthyism is going to take
hold again in America, lash out the ABCs someplace else—
guilt by association, treason by association, denial of freedom
of speech, freedom of religion, character assassination —
Pennsylvania, the birthplace of our country, deserves
better than this simple-minded folly.

©Susan Bright, 2008

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-fifty 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.

Go to Moveon.org to sign a petition demanding sane and balanced coverage of the election from ABC.

*This is from Truthout, send them some money if you are able to do it.

An Open Letter to Charlie Gibson and George Stephanapoulos
By Will Bunch
The Philadelphia Daily News

Thursday 17 April 2008

Dear Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos,

It's hard to know where to begin with this, less than an hour after you signed off from your Democratic presidential debate here in my hometown of Philadelphia, a televised train wreck that my friend and colleague Greg Mitchell has already called, quite accurately, "a shameful night for the U.S. media." It's hard because - like many other Americans - I am still angry at what I just witnesses, so angry that it's hard to even type accurately because my hands are shaking. Look, I know that "media criticism" - especially when it's one journalist speaking to another - tends to be a genteel, colleagial thing, but there's no genteel way to say this.

With your performance tonight - your focus on issues that were at best trivial wastes of valuable airtime and at worst restatements of right-wing falsehoods, punctuated by inane "issue" questions that in no way resembled the real world concerns of American voters - you disgraced my profession of journalism, and, by association, me and a lot of hard-working colleagues who do still try to ferret out the truth, rather than worry about who can give us the best deal on our capital gains taxes. But it's even worse than that. By so badly botching arguably the most critical debate of such an important election, in a time of both war and economic misery, you disgraced the American voters, and in fact even disgraced democracy itself. Indeed, if I were a citizen of one of those nations where America is seeking to "export democracy," and I had watched the debate, I probably would have said, "no thank you." Because that was no way to promote democracy.

You implied throughout the broadcast that you wanted to reflect the concerns of voters in Pennsylvania. Well, I'm a Pennsylvanian voter, and so are my neighbors and most of my friends and co-workers. You asked virtually nothing that reflected our everyday issues - trying to fill our gas tanks and save for college at the same time, our crumbling bridges and inadequate mass transit, or the root causes of crime here in Philadelphia. In fact, there almost isn't enough space - and this is cyberspace, where room is unlimited - to list all the things you could have asked about but did not, from health care to climate change to alternative energy to our policy toward China to the deterioration of Afghanistan to veterans' benefits to improving education. You ignored virtually everything that just happened in what most historians agree is one of the worst presidencies in American history, including the condoning of torture and the trashing of the Constitution, although to be fair you also ignored the policy concerns of people on the right, like immigration issues.

You asked about gun control - phrased to try for a "gotcha" in a state where that's such a divisive issue - but not about what we really care about, which is how to reduce crime. You pressed and pressed on those capital gains taxes, but Senators Clinton and Obama were forced to bring up the housing crisis on their own initiative.

Instead, you wasted more than half of the debate - a full hour - on tabloid trivia that for the most part wasn't even that interesting, because most of it was infertile ground that has already been covered again and again and again. I'm not saying that Rev. Wright and Bosnia sniper fire and "bitter" were never newsworthy - I myself wrote about all of these for the Philadelphia Daily News or my Attytood blog, back when they were more relevant - but the questions were stale yet clearly intended to gin up controversy (they didn't, by the way, other than the controversy over you.) The final questions of that section, asking Obama whether he thought Rev. Wright "loved America" and then suggesting that Obama himself is somehow a hater of the American flag, or worse, were flat-out repulsive.

Are you even thinking when simply echo some of the vilest talking points from far-right talk radio? What are actually getting at - do you honestly believe that someone with a solid track record as a lawmaker in a Heartland state which elected him to the U.S. Senate, who is now seeking to make some positive American history as our first black president, is somehow un-American, or unpatriotic? Does that even make any sense? Question his policies, or question his leadership. Because that is your job as a journalist. But don't insult our intelligence by questioning his patriotism.

Here's a question for you, George. Is it true that yesterday you appeared on the radio with conservative talk radio host Sean Hannity, and that you said you were "taking notes" when he urged you to ask a question about Obama's supposed ties to a former member of the Weather Underground - which in fact you did. With all the fabulous resources of ABC News at your disposal, is that an appropriate way for a supposed journalist to come up with debate questions, by pandering to divisive radio shows?

And Charlie...could you be any more out of touch with your viewers? Most people aren't millionaires like you, and if Pennsylvanians are losing sleep over economic matters, it is not over whether the capital gains tax will go back up again. I was a little shocked when you pressed and pressed on that back-burner issue and left almost no time for high gas prices, but then I learned tonight that you did the same thing in the last debate, that you fretted over that middle-class family that made $200,000 a year. Charlie, the nicest way that I can put this is that you need to get out more.

But I'm not ready to make nice. What I just watched was an outrage. As a journalist, you appeared to confirm all of the worst qualities that cause people to hold our profession in such low esteem, especially your obsession with cornering the candidates with lame "trick" questions and your complete lack of interest or concern about substance - or about the American people, or the state of our nation. You embarrassed some good people who work at ABC News - for example, the journalists who worked hard to break this story just last week - and you embarrassed yourselves. The millions of people who watched the debate were embarrassed, too - at the state of our political discourse, and what it has finally become, at long last.

Quickly, a word to any and all of my fellow journalists who happen to read this open letter. This. Must . Stop. Tonight, if possible. I thought that we had hit rock bottom in March 2003, when we failed to ask the tough questions in the run-up to the Iraq war. But this feels even lower. We need to pick ourselves up, right now, and start doing our job - to take a deep breath and remind ourselves of what voters really need to know, and how we get there, that's it's not all horserace and "gotcha." Although, to be blunt, I would also urge the major candidates in 2012 to agree only to debates that are organized by the League of Women Voters, with citizen moderators and questioners. Because we have proven without a doubt in 2008 that working journalists don't deserve to be the debate "deciders."

Charlie, I'm going to sign off this letter the way that you always sign off the news, that "I hope you had a great day."

Because America just had a horrible night.


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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Sleep Talking

The POTUS came out with a climate change speech today that laid out his new plan. Well, it's not really a plan, it just fluff and floozy to keep him from looking like he is. But simply setting a goal was enough to make the conservatives at National Review Online get all cranky.

Bush & Global Warming: Still A Mistake
Iain Murray

The President, as I mentioned below, stepped back from calling for a ruinous cap and trade scheme, but his speech still lays out a blueprint for slow motion economic decline. It legitimizes global warming alarmism and undermines opposition in Congress to disastrous energy-rationing policies, such as the Lieberman-Warner bill.

President Bush's global warming proposals could have been worse. Bereft of the cap and trade call, however, it became a stunningly pointless speech that was unnecessary. While the President said that the global warming debate was intensifying, the fact is that global warming alarmism is on the verge of collapse all around the world thanks to the stark lessons of reality. If anything, by delivering this speech the President has only helped to intensify the alarmist agenda.

Thanks to strong and quick conservative opposition, the President did indeed step back from some of the most damaging proposals being considered in the White House—for instance, supporting a cap-and-trade for utilities. Yet it's not clear what exactly is left. His emphasis on new technologies is encouraging, although it opens the door to massive government subsidies.

The vague principles relating to the incentives he outlined could support sensible policies, or, more likely, damaging policies.

President Bush has unfortunately moved the debate toward energy rationing policies that will raise the electricity and gasoline prices paid by consumers. But, perhaps we should be grateful that he hasn't moved the debate far enough to please the global warming alarmists. Grist, Joe Romm and the Center for American Progress are all incensed.

The best point in the speech was the strong opposition to carbon tariffs and trade wars, as favored by the French. That needed to be said. He also said raising taxes was no way to deal with the problem—meaning his "incentives" probably can't be interpreted as a carbon tax, and, in fact, expensing might meet the strictures. (But so would cap and trade.)

He also rightly outlined the regulatory nightmare caused by activist litigation; however, he has had ample warning of that—Chris Horner's paper five years ago warned exactly how this would happen.

The upshot: an unnecessary and unhelpful intervention in a debate that for all the hype, was actually progressing satisfactorily on its own."

As you might imagine, I rather like the French proposal for carbon fees and feel it is at least moving us in the right direction. Allowing carbon to be placed into the biosphere without any kind of premium for doing so, when we are 99% sure that it is dangerous to do so, is a recipe for for a calamity of species ending proportions. However, I would not characterize myself as a global alarmist, I would rather characterize the folks who have coined that phrase to be somnabulists.
They are sleep talkers.

I do agree with the Review that the Cap and Trade plans will fail to do the job, and I further agree that if we don't get to developing the kind of advanced photon to electron solid state economy we are capable of, we will be seeing all kinds of gasoline allotments, and other carbon constraints. And our freedoms will equally be constrained.

When I was young, I used to sleep walk. Now that I'm older, the idea that I might get up in the middle of the night and walk around without knowing what I am doing, where I am going, or why I'm doing it, kind of horrifies me.

I wonder when the conservatives will awake from their somnabulist state,

and realize that their words and writings on climate change

is the neural equivalent of sleep talking.

And the time to wake up

and to come together

is now.


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"sleep walking well" courtesy of mihai criste

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

P is for Propaganda

I'm thinking about my day and how much crap I have to do. As I finish putting the dishes from the night before into the washer, I yell at the kids to get into the car. They come but we are already late. We all pile into the Suburban and zoom out the drive.

It's five miles of driving just to get to Tommy's school and its another three for Lisa. By the time I get to work I've driven 15 miles and its already 7:55. As usual, I have NPR on. I feel I can trust the news there.

I worry about climate change and how that will effect my life and my children's life. I think sometimes that we should do something now to change our petroleum dependent life and maybe downsize a little and sell our big suburban life to someone else.

But then, I hear a story about a cute 15 year girl who doubts the whole thing.

Teenage Skeptic Takes on Climate Scientists
by David Kestenbaum
Morning Edition,
April 15, 2008 ·

If you're a scientist trying to convince people they are making the world warmer, Kristen Byrnes is your worst nightmare. She's articulate, intelligent, she has a Web site, and one day her people will be running the world. Her people, meaning 16-year-olds.

Kristen's Web site, "Ponder the Maunder," has made her a celebrity among climate skeptics. After she posted a critique of Al Gore's movie An Inconvenient Truth, her Web site got so many hits the family's internet service provider sent them a warning.

Her story may dismay mainstream scientists, but plenty of people are friendly to her ideas.

In one poll last year, only about 50 percent of people agreed humans were contributing to global warming. The other half either disagreed, weren't sure or didn't believe the Earth was warming in the first place. clip

Her Web site includes charts of temperature records, El Nino indexes, isotope measurements. Skeptics loved it: A 15-year-old attacking the mainstream scientific view.

"It took off like wildfire," Mike says, "But that was nothing compared to when her Al Gore critique went up."

Kristen had no fear. She took on Al Gore the Nobel laureate, Academy Award winner and former vice president. She went after Jim Hansen, one of NASA's top climate scientists. E-mail poured in, mostly from skeptics happy a young person had taken up the cause.

"I got a letter in the mail on my birthday from a senator," she says.

Someone runs off into another room to track it down and returns with an envelope from the office of Sen. James Inhofe, the Oklahoma Republican famous for calling global warming a hoax.

"Dear Kristen," the letter begins. "Thank you so much for your letter and e-mail and for your kind words. I appreciate your help in the fight against global warming alarmism. You are a common sense young lady and an inspiration to me. I want you to keep up the good work. We are winning." more

thanks NPR.

Now I know I can go about my life with no concern for the problem that every Academy of Science of every nation has warned about. Now I know I can keep my big house in the suburbs and get a new bigger SUV. Now I know that because a 15 year old with very helpful parents doesn't believe in the the most important issue of our time, neither do I.

Besides, doesn't every issue have two sides?

If your house is in flames
and your blind neighbor can't see it.
Perhaps the fire doesn't exist.

If you were in London during Hitler's bombing
and your deaf grandmother didn't hear the siren,
perhaps the bombs didn't exist.

And besides, a real US Senator agrees with Kristin,
He says it's all a hoax.

thanks NPR.

You've made my day.

But maybe the P in NPR should no longer be for "Public".

Sometimes these days, the P is for Propaganda.


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