Politics and Justice without borders





Global Community Newsletter

Volume 10 Issue 3 March 2012
Theme this month:

Global Community Days of Celebration and Remembrance during the year. Global Community Days of Celebration and Remembering during the year
Text only of above theme.

President Obama
A) Thank you letter to President Obama concerning your decision not allowing the world dirtiest oil, tar sands oil from Alberta, to enter on American soil.
a) Animation movie in (.swf)
b) Animation movie in (.wmv)

B) Letter to President Barack Obama concerning your re-election as President of the United States of America

Global Community Days of Celebration and Remembering during the year






Global Peace Village is a project of the Global Community. Global Peace Village
The theme of this Newsletter has been written by Global Peace Village.

Global Community Days of Celebration and Remembering during the year




Read about the introductory text concerning Global Peace Village: the way forward. Read about the introductory text concerning Global peace Village: the way forward.

Short list of previous articles and papers on Global Peace

Short list of previous articles and papers on Energy and the protection of the global life-support systems

Letter to President Barack Obama concerning your re-election as President of the United States of America

All our Global Peace animation projects are listed here.

See the following artboards of
"Thank you letter to President Obama concerning your decision not allowing the world dirtiest oil, tar sands oil from Alberta, to enter on American soil".

The artboards have dimensions 2880x1800.

Artboard #1 Thank you President Obama
Artboard #2 Thank you President Obama
Artboard #3 Thank you President Obama
Artboard #4 Thank you President Obama
Artboard #5 Thank you President Obama
Artboard #6 Thank you President Obama

Global Community Days of Celebration and Remembrance during the year.



Animation movie of Days of Celebration in .swf Animation movie of Days of Celebration in swf

Animation movie of Days of Celebration in .html Animation movie of Global Peace Village in HTML

See the following artboards and text files promoting Days of Celebration and feel free to use any of them. Each artboard has dimensions 2880x1800.

  • Artboard #1 Table of Contents Days we celebrate and remember
    Tribute to Virginie Dufour, April 28
    Life Day Celebration, May 26
    Global Citizenship Day, October 29
    Global Disarmament Day, May 26
    Cultural Appreciation Day, August 22
    Nationalization of Natural Resources Day, October 29
    Claiming ownership of the Earth as a birthright, October 29
    Founders of the Global Community Organization, Earth Government and the Federation of Global Governments, October 29
    Global Justice for all Life Day, October 29
    Global peace Movement Day, May 26
    Planetary Biodiversity Zone Day, September 25
    The Glbal Exhibition, August 17-22


  • Artboard #2 Tribute to Virginie Dufour, April 28. Days we celebrate and remember   artboard #5
    picture1.txt Days we celebrate and remember
    picture2.txtDays we celebrate and remember
    picture3.txt Days we celebrate and remember
    picture4.txtDays we celebrate and remember
    picture5.txt Days we celebrate and remember
    picture6.txt Days we celebrate and remember
    picture7.txt Days we celebrate and remember

  • Text #2 Life Day Celebration, May 26. Days we celebrate and remember,   text #1


  • Text #3 Global Citizenship Day, October 29 Days we celebrate and remember,   text #2


  • Text #4 Global Disarmament Day, May 26 Days we celebrate and remember   artboard #4


  • Artboard #3 Cultural Appreciation Day, August 22 Days we celebrate and remember   artboard #3
    Cultural Appreciation Day
    On August 22 of every year the Global Community celebrates the Global Cultural Day, the Cultural Appreciation Day.
    The event's theme is "Culture, Values and Social Development."
    The Global Community is rich with tradition and art. Culture is certainly tangible - churches, temples and monuments; and intangible - heritage with performing arts, fine arts or visual arts. Every community is based on a society distinctly different from any other country and its people.
    The Cultural Appreciation Day celebration occurs at the same time and is an important part of the Global Exhibition.


  • Artboard #4 Nationalization of Natural Resources Day, October 29 Days we celebrate and remember   artboard #4
    Nationalization of natural resources
    As defined by the Global Community, the concept of ownership states that land and natural resources of the planet are a common heritage and belong equally to everyone, to all life on Earth, as a birthright. Products and services created by individuals are properly viewed as private property. Products and services created by groups of individuals are properly viewed as collective property. Only the Global Community can rightfully claim ownership of the Earth. October 29 is the day to celebrate ownership of our natural resources.

    Along with ownership comes the obligation of using the resources, share them or lose them. Land and all other Earth natural resources are not commodities. Use the land, share it or lose it. This principle also applies to banks and similar institutions all over the world and to Wall Street. You own property because the previous owners could not pay. Use that property, share it or lose it. The Global Community stipulates that land ownership is no longer a problem. The Earth and all its natural resources belong to all the "global communities" contained therein. A village, or a city is "a global community" and owns the land around its boundaries. Along with the Global Community, it has ownership of all natural resources within its boundaries. So, by definition, land here, covers all naturally occurring resources like surface land, the air, minerals deposits (gold, oil and gas etc), water, electromagnetic spectrum, the trees, fish in the seas and rivers. It is unjust to treat land as private property. As mentioned above, land here, by definition, covers all naturally occurring resources like surface land, minerals deposits (gold, oil and gas etc), water, electromagnetic spectrum, the trees, fish in the seas and rivers. It is unjust to treat land as private property. Land is not a product of labour. Everyone should therefore be given equal access to such natural resources.

    In order to better protect life on our planet, the Global Community is asking people of all nations to defend and protect their natural resources. In particular, all the hydrocarbons within a national territory must be nationalized. It is an obligation, not only of a national government, but also of all the active forces in a country; it is the duty of local and municipal authorities, the duty of state authorities – of everyone – to take upon themselves this defense and this recuperation of natural resources.

    Nationalization is a necessity because American corporations have been buying local corporations to acquire natural resources of a country. This state of affairs has been going on ever since WWII. Over the past decades, the US national debt and annual deficit have been out-of-control because of a complete business freedom of the US corporate world. No taxation! When a large corporation is about to go out of business, the White House intervened with a bail out.

    For example in Canada, the property of the hydrocarbons, the oil and natural gas, and tarsands, have mostly owned by American and other foreign corporations. Our natural resources have been bought out by foreigners. Pipelines have been built to transport the oil and natural gas to the customers in the United States without paying taxes to Canada. Canadian corporations that have been taken over by American corporations with bankrupted money, paper money, Stock Exchange money, money that Americans dont even have. The White House prints dollar bills by the trillions and give them to corporations to buy more Canadian corporations. This is no longer a fair exchange of something tangible with something else of an equivalent value. We have natural resources and Americans have bankrupted money to exchange with. That's not right! How can we let that happened? It is time to nationalize Canadian natural resources.

    From this point onward, those Canadian natural resources will be under control of the Canadian people, for Canadians, and help resolve Canada's economic and social problems. Nationalization is not new. The global financial crisis is good example of nationalization. When Wall Street started to crash, the US Government thought it would be wise to nationalize key financial institutions, even partially nationalized, so why not natural resources? They are in great danger of being destroyed (forests, oceans, fresh water, soils, air we breath, electromagnetic spectrum) or destroying all life on Earth (petroleum rersources). Once Canadians have recovered these natural resources, it will generate employment. The plundering of our natural resources by international and transnational oil and gas companies has come to an end. And for this reason we want to share the joy on this historic day of nationalization. If indeed previous governments have used the Armed Forces for the benefit of transnational corporations, the Armed Forces can now be used to unite for their country, for their nation, for their patria. We are a government of the people, a native government. We are a global community. We want to ask government to defend its sovereignty, its dignity and above all the integrity of its territory, we want to ask that it take charge of all the oil fields of all of its nation. Unless a reformed or empowered Global Community is leading firmly upon the principle of equal rights for all Global Citizens, then the planet will be controlled by a handful of vested interests. Land is not a product of labour. Everyone should therefore be given equal access to natural resources. The Global Economic Model proposes to make private property the product of labour. Common property is all what Nature offers. The Global Economic Model policy removes taxes from wages and increases taxes and user fees on common property.


  • Artboard #5 Claiming ownership of the Earth as a birthright, October 29 Days we celebrate and remember   artboard #5
    Claiming ownership of the Earth as a birth right
    Along with all the global communities, the Global Community, all life on Earth, and the Soul of Humanity can rightfully claim ownership of the Earth as a birthright.

    And October 29 of every year is a special day to claim that right. Let us celebrate! The Earth and all its natural resources belong to all the "global communities" contained therein.

    A village, or a city is "a global community" and owns the land and all other natural resources around its boundaries.

    Along with the Global Community, all life on Earth, and the Soul of Humanity, a global community has ownership of all natural resources within its boundaries. Founders and Spiritual Leaders of the Global Community organization are happy to celebrate that day with all life on Earth.


  • Artboard #6 Founders of the Global Community Organization, Earth Government and the Federation of Global Governments, October 29. Days we celebrate and remember   artboard #6
    Founding of the Global Community organization, Earth Government and the Federation of Global Governments

    Message from the President of Earth Government, the Federation of Global Governments    History of the Global Community organization, Earth Government and the Federation of Global Governments History of the organization. Short description and history of the Global Community organization, Earth Government and the Federation of Global Govewrnments

    The Global Community organization, Earth Government and the Federation of Global Governments were founded on October 29, 1985, in Calgary, Canada by Germain Dufour, Prophete of God, Spiritual Leader and President, and further developed through Global Parliament meetings.

    Later on in 1990s he was joined by his wife, Virginie, in the developing of many global concepts. Symbiotical relationships were defined to show the path for a better world. The Federation was formed to replace the United Nations. Its basic proposal is a de-centralized global government.

    A Global Government offers essential services to the people where it operates and the Federation main function is to serve all people and help in this process with the formation of Global Ministries to protect all life on our planet.

    Essential services to the people of each member nation are now the most important global rights on the Scale of Global Rights and are protected by the Global Protection Agency (GPA) of each member nation whose function is to enforce Global Law as defined in the Global Constitution. The Scale is the fundamental guide to Global Law which itself includes legislation covering all essential aspects of human activities. That is how we will bring about the event of Peace amongst us all and give security to all people, all life on Earth.


  • Text #5 Global Justice for all Life Day, October 29 Days we celebrate and remember


  • Text #6 Global peace Movement Day, May 26 Days we celebrate and remember


  • Text #7 Planetary Biodiversity Zone Day, September 25 Days we celebrate and remember


  • Artboard #7 The Global Exhibition, August 17-22 Days we celebrate and remember   artboard #7
    The Global Exhibition
    For the sixth year since the first time ever promoting of a Global Exhibition in 2006, there will be a Global Exhibition at the time of Global Dialogue 2012, and at the same site in Nanaimo. It will also be occurring anywhere else in the world along with Global Dialogue 2012 during the period August 17-22 of each year. The Global Exhibition is a replacement to the usual Trade Show we have been promoting during each previous Global Dialogue. The Preliminary Program to the Global Exhibition will be the same as that of Global Dialogue 2012.

    The Global Exhibition covers many aspects. It can be about creating high profile, highly targeted business and consumer exhibitions, where buyers and suppliers from around the world can come together to do business. In an increasingly digital age, nothing can replace the power of human contact for establishing and maintaining business relations. And with more market leading exhibitions than any other organiser, no organiser delivers more business contacts. We specialize in exhibitions, trade shows, conferences and event planning.

    The Global Exhibition must allow multiplicity, diversity and contradiction to exist inside the structure of an exhibition ... a world where the conflicts of globalization are met by the romantic dreams of a new modernity, a new federation of nations.

    We divide the Global Exhibition into "platforms" -- conferences and lecture series engaging figures from a wide range of disciplines -- that take place at different communities around the world over the course of the year leading up to the installation in a large Global Exhibition in one country. Getting to know one another and ourselves as one humanity.

    Unity in diversity.The Global Exhibition must allow multiplicity, diversity and contradiction to exist inside the structure of an exhibition ... a world where the conflicts of globalization are met by the romantic dreams of a new modernity, a federation of nations, the Federation of Global Governments.

    Nothing in contemporary art speaks so directly to all of these issues as the large scale exhibition as well as any number of other biennials that cropped up around the world during the past decade. The Global Exhibition, endowed with a transnational circuitry, assumed the unique position of reflecting the idea of a world government. Establishing a new curatorial class able to bring artists together from wide-ranging geographic and cultural points, the large-scale exhibition alterd the kinds of visibility afforded artists and so fundamentally changed the conditions of artistic discussion, ultimately forwarding the position that no show could, or should, presume an all-encompassing thesis--at least not in conventional terms and form. Rather, the exhibition extends through time and across geography to include panels, lectures, publications, performances, and public works that fall welt beyond the parameters of the traditional show, and lies well beyond the grasp of any single viewer. In turn, these exhibitions have come to marshal the forces of any number of disciplines, including art history and theory, which leads one to the question of whether the critical function is in some sense migrating from critic to curator, or indeed whether such nominal distinctions are useful at all. At this level, I think that many people correspond to the economic, social, and cultural figure of the 'artist' as it has been constituted in the modern age."

    Earth Government aims at replacing the United Nations. That is truly a Revolution. If true revolution changes the rules on how to change the rules, then we must arrive at terms that transform the very concept of the exhibition. Although a few criteria for inclusion based on identity and geopolitics have developed, the art world is still heavily commodified, and an artist without a sales (and therefore publicity) base in the developed word--or a curatorial support network in the world's "periphery" -- is not going to be included. Further, the new terms of engagement may be geopolitical, but work from the "First World" must have a powerful aesthetic surplus or an antically unrecognizable political dimension in order to gain access. So many artists are doing serious work with directly political themes but do not see themselves included in these shows -- and would not expect themselves to be-since the public visiting such exhibitions is not their audience of interest. Granted, the flattened terrain of modern communications is bringing the interlocking worlds of art production and display into closer proximity, so it would not be correct to claim that work with direct political address will always be left out. But is it still necessary to point out that while "geopolitical" can have the cover of a prefix to cover its political nature, the politics in question bad better be far, far away?

    The art world -- a congeries of professional services along the lines of dentists, doctors, and professors on the one hand and high-end showrooms like ear dealerships on the other--consistently offers the modernizing elite a compass for understanding cultural and social "facts" as they impinge on their consciousness. The global exhibitions serve as grand collectors and translators of subjectivities under the latest phase of globalization. But as we move between disparate colonialist eras, what is plain about the present moment is that there is no dearth of images of the colonized Other in public view, despite only a little more insight -- and that quite momentary -- into the interior lives of others than in the previous colonial moment. The elite in question, especially in the North and in developed industrial and postindustrial nations (which includes, perhaps, the antipodean South), may have a taste for edification via these new Crystal Palace expositions. And why not?




Daily reminder

This is the way     Message from the Spiritual Leader of the Global Community
Message from the Editor    GIM  Message from the Editor
Politics and Justice without borders: what we stand for Politics and Justice without borders: what we stand for
Message from the President of Global Parliament, the Federation of Global Governments    Message from the President of Earth Government
History of the Global Community organization, Earth Government and the Federation of Global Governments History of the Global Community Organization and Interim Earth Government Since its beginning in 1985, many accomplishments can be claimed by the Global Community: History of the Global Community organization and Earth Government
Global Community days of celebration or remembering during the year Global Community Days of Celebration
A reminder of her passing away. Virginie was a great global citizen, and we all owe her something that's forever. GIM  Message from the Editor
Life Day Celebration on May 26. Participate. Life Day Celebration May 26. Participate.
Participate now in Global Dialogue 2012, no fees  Participate now in Global Dialogue 2012
Global Dialogue 2012 Introduction Global Dialogue 2012 Introduction
Global Dialogue 2012 Program  Global Dialogue 2012 Program
Global Dialogue 2012 OVERVIEW of the process   Global Dialogue 2012 OVERVIEW of the process
Global Dialogue 2012 Call for Papers Global Dialogue 2012 Call for Papers
We seek more symbiotical relationships with people and organizationsWe seek more symbiotical relationships
Note concerning personal info sent to us by email Note concerning personal info sent to us by email
We have now streamlined the participation process in the Global Dialogue We have now streamlined the participation process in the Global Dialogue

Top of the page

GIM Proclamations

Authors of research papers and articles on global issues for this month

Peter Goodchild (2), Nehginpao Kipgen, Lise, Manu V. Mathai, Guy R. McPherson, Tom Murphy, Bill Quigley, Christian Parenti, Jon Rynn, Eugenie Scott, Charles Sullivan,Bill Walker

Peter Goodchild, Waking In The Half World Waking In The Half World
Peter Goodchild, Global Energy And Resources Global Energy And Resources
Nehginpao Kipgen, Prospect of peace, stability in Myanmar Prospect of peace, stability in Myanmar
Lise, DEVELOPPEMENT DU 7e STADE DE L'ECHELLE DE KOHLBERG SUR LE PLAN COSMIQUE DEVELOPPEMENT DU 7e STADE DE L'ECHELLE DE KOHLBERG SUR LE PLAN COSMIQUE
Manu V. Mathai, Green Economy And Growth: Fiddling While Rome Burns? Green Economy And Growth: Fiddling While Rome Burns?
Guy R. McPherson, Toward An Economy Of Earth Toward An Economy Of Earth
Tom Murphy, Is The Ocean An Alternative? Is The Ocean An Alternative?
Bill Quigley, Occupying Corporations: How To Cut Corporate Power Occupying Corporations: How To Cut Corporate Power
Christian Parenti, Why Climate Change Will Make You Love Government Why Climate Change Will Make You Love Government
Jon Rynn, The Essentials for the Necessary Transition to a Renewable Energy Economy The Essentials for the Necessary Transition to a Renewable Energy Economy
Eugenie Scott, Teaching Climate Change To School Children Teaching Climate Change To School Children
Charles Sullivan, Ecology And The Pathology Of Capitalism Ecology And The Pathology Of Capitalism
Bill Walker, Conservatives Use Creationist Playbook to Attack Climate Change Education in Schools Conservatives Use Creationist Playbook to Attack Climate Change Education in Schools



Articles and papers of authors
 Data sent
 Theme or issue
 Read
 February 11, 2012  

Imagine you’re a middle-school science teacher, and you get to the section of the course where you’re to talk about climate change. You mention the “C” words, and two students walk out of the class.

Or you mention global warming and a hand shoots up.

“Mrs. Brown! My dad says global warming is a hoax!”

Or you come to school one morning and the principal wants to see you because a parent of one of your students has accused you of political bias because you taught what scientists agree about: that the Earth is getting warmer, and human actions have had an important role in this warming.

Or you pick up the newspaper and see that your state legislature is considering a bill that declares that accepted sciences like global warming (and evolution, of course) are “controversial issues” that require “alternatives” to be taught.

Incidents like these have happened in one or more states, and they are likely to continue to happen. Teachers are encountering pushback from many directions as they try to teach global warming and other climate science topics.

The importance of climate change education is, to the RealClimate community, a no-brainer. Numerous professional science organizations, from the American Chemical Society to the American Geophysical Union to the Geological Society of America have stressed the imperative of climate science being an integral part of science education.

So What’s a Teacher to Do?

Long a defender of the teaching of evolution, the National Center for Science Education has recently launched an initiative to support and defend the teaching of climate change science.

The “support” part has challenges all its own. Unlike evolution, which easily fits into biology and other life science courses, climate science spans multiple disciplines and can fall through disciplinary cracks in biology, chemistry and physics, or appear briefly in more specialized disciplines like ecology or Earth sciences. Moreover, climate science is complex and often non-intuitive, and students (and all too often teachers) stumble over misinformation and misconceptions that are hard to overcome. Many educational institutions are wrestling with how to support climate science in the K-12 curriculum.

But the “defend” part is where NCSE will make a unique contribution. Our experience over the decades helping teachers and school boards resolve the problems that have arisen over the teaching of evolution should stand us in good stead in helping them deal with this newer “controversial science”. Of course, there are many perspectives affecting the objections to climate science education, and each requires its own response.

Some of the denial is literal (It’s not happening! The science is bad!), some of it may be interpretive (it’s maybe happening but people aren’t to blame), and some of it stems more from the implications of climate change (it’s happening and maybe humans are responsible, but someone else is to blame and/or there’s nothing I can do about it). We’re going to help teachers understand where pressure against climate science education comes from, as the first step in helping them construct a response. From the evolution education controversy we learned long ago that one does not solve these problems merely by piling on more or better science: the underlying, motivating issues must be addressed. The science is essential, but not sufficient.

Climate change education should be an integral part of science education. Students should graduate from high school and certainly college with at least a basic understanding of the foundational concepts of climate science so they can understand human activities and how they are impacting climate and other aspects of the earth system.

This is no small task, and obviously NCSE as a relatively small non-profit can only do so much. We need your help.

We have been successful because we marshal allies, like scientists, teachers, parents, and other citizens, at the grassroots. NCSE’s success over recent decades in defending the teaching of evolution has been due in large measure to scientists and others who are willing to support good science education locally and at the state level. We also need scientists to provide us with their scientific expertise.

If you are a climate scientist, please give us your contact information so we can consult with you. Also, your contact information will be helpful to us if something occurs in your region or state where we need a scientist to write a letter, testify before a committee, support a teacher, or help in some other way.

Of course, an obvious way you can help is to join NCSE, but even if you don’t, your expertise will be helpful to us.

Visit our website, and contact our new Programs and Policy Director, Mark McCaffrey, who will be helping spearhead the new initiative, to let us know you support our effort. Teachers will thank you.

Eugenie Scott, a former university professor, is the Executive Director of National Center for Science Education (NCSE.) She has been both a researcher and an activist in the creationism/evolution controversy for over twenty-five years. She holds eight honorary degrees from McGill, Rutgers, Mt. Holyoke, the University of New Mexico, Ohio State, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Colorado College, and the University of Missouri-Columbia. Scott is the author of Evolution vs Creationism and co-editor, with Glenn Branch, of Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design Is Wrong for Our Schools.

  Read Teaching Climate Change To School Children
 February 3, 2012  

We need to develop a new economy because the current version is not working. The industrial economy is destroying every aspect of the living planet. And, as it turns out, we need a living planet for our own survival.

In this essay, I briefly describe the horrors of the current interconnected, globalized, planet-destroying house of cards. Then I articulate another way, which is not difficult to do: It would pose quite a challenge to come up with a worse way, and we have several models from which to choose. I will focus on two such models, agrarian anarchy and the post-industrial Stone Age.

What’s wrong?

Detailing all that is wrong with the industrial economy would require libraries full of books. The cryptic version includes, at a minimum, the following: (1) an industrial economy at the apex of western civilization, a set of living arrangements that transfers financial wealth from the poor to the wealthy; (2) human-population overshoot on an overcrowded planet; (3) runaway climate change on an overheated planet; and (4) wholesale destruction of the living planet. The latter brings an extinction rate of a few hundred species each day, along with destruction of potable water and living soil.

In short, as I wrote in the leading journal in my discipline, “the modern world essentially requires one to live immorally. There is no doubt that a society that enslaves, tortures, and kills people and abuses the lands and waters needed for the survival of our species and others is immoral, yet these actions are produced with stunning efficiency by the world’s industrial economy, as epitomized by American empire. Most people know that Big Energy poisons our water, Big Ag controls our food supply, Big Pharma controls the behavior of our children, Wall Street controls the flow of money, Big Ad controls the messages we receive every day, and the criminally rich get richer through exploitation of an immoral system. This is how America works. And, through it all, we think we live moral lives in the land of the free.”

It should be clear that the industrial economy is making us sick, mentally and physically, and also greatly reducing habitat for our species on Earth. As a result, I’m a big fan of terminating this set of living arrangements — that is, I’m a fan of terminating industrialized civilization — and replacing it with a more sane and durable set of living arrangements.

Alternatives

Alternatives abound, and generally rest along a continuum ranging from the current system to the post-industrial Stone Age. I will consider three points along the continuum: (1) the current system, which must be replaced if we are to persist as a species beyond a few decades, (2) agrarian anarchy, and (3) the post-industrial Stone Age.

The current system: industrial economy

The contemporary version of civilization is creating a dire set of predicaments: human-population overshoot, climate chaos, and an unparalleled extinction crisis. It is the primary problem we face. As such, I think it’s time to leave it behind before it leaves us. Considering the ongoing, accelerating collapse of the industrial economy and the virtual absence of national- or international-level discussion about mitigation, I strongly suspect our society is headed for the post-industrial Stone Age within a matter of years, not decades. But communities and the individuals comprising communities have the option of choosing between agrarian anarchy and the post-industrial Stone Age.

Agrarian anarchy

Anarchy assumes the absence of direct or coercive government as a political ideal, while proposing cooperative and voluntary association between individuals and groups as the principal mode for organizing society. This close-to-nature, close-to-our-neighbors approach was the Jeffersonian ideal for the United States, as evidenced by Monticello and the occasional one-liner from Thomas Jefferson. It was also the model promoted by Henry David Thoreau and, more recently, radical thinkers such as Wendell Berry (farmer, writer), Noam Chomsky (linguist, philosopher), Howard Zinn (recently deceased historian), and Tucson-based iconoclastic author Edward Abbey.

Consider, for example, a few well-known lines from Thomas Jefferson: (1) “The result of our experiment will be, that man may be trusted to govern themselves without a master”; (2) I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it”; and (3) “When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.” Although Jefferson did not call himself an anarchist, his words and ideals indicate he strongly supported the rights and role of individuals, as well as a small government that minimally oversaw the citizenry. The Greco-Latin roots of anarchy suggest the absence of a ruler, which seems like a good idea to me.

Like Jefferson, Henry David Thoreau idealized an agricultural society that was close to nature. Thoreau was a staunch defender of agrarian anarchy, and he focused even more closely on the individual than did Jefferson: “That government is best which governs not at all; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have.” To my knowledge, no state governments believe we’ve yet reached that point.

Fast forward to the late twentieth century, and we find several other philosophers defending agrarian anarchy. Perhaps the best known examples are Wendell Berry, Noam Chomsky, and Howard Zinn, but the clearest voice for agrarian anarchy came from Edward Abbey in the years before he died in 1989: (1) “Anarchism is not a romantic fable but the hardheaded realization, based on five thousand years of experience, that we cannot entrust the management of our lives to kings, priests, politicians, generals, and county commissioners”; (2) “Anarchism is founded on the observation that since few men are wise enough to rule themselves, even fewer are wise enough to rule others”; and (3) “A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government.”

In my dreams, industrialized nations are headed for agrarian anarchy. Many countries have been there for years and can show us the way, if only we allow them. If a region never acquired ready access to cheap fossil fuels, agrarian anarchy was an obvious approach. How else but a strong sense of self-reliance and dependence on neighbors to grow and distribute all food locally? How else but reliance on those same traits to secure the water supply, and protect it from the insults of industry? How else to develop a human community dominated by mutual respect and mutual trust? Contrary to our current set of living arrangements, no currency is needed: barter fills the bill. Better yet, a gift economy is well-suited to agrarian anarchy.

Post-industrial Stone Age

The first two million years of the human experience, and the first few hundred thousand years for our own species, was spent with relatively small communities living close to the land that supported them. These humans knew each other and they knew the plants and animals with which they shared the area. They had minimal impact on the lands and waters that supported them. These humans spent a few hours each week doing what we call “work,” making sure the members of the community were well-hydrated, well-fed, and warm. This was a durable set of living arrangements, as characterized by its longevity and minimal impact on Earth.

We arrogantly and disparagingly refer to this time as the Stone Age.

The first civilization arose a few thousand years ago. Civilization is characterized by cities. In other words, civilization is defined by by human populations too large to be supported in the local area. Cities require use of clear air, clean water, and healthy food from adjacent wildlands, as well as materials to ensure body temperature is maintained at about 37 C. In exchange, cities export dirty air, polluted water, and garbage to outlying areas. Most civilized people think this is a wonderful exchange, although it is unsustainable by definition because there are limits on nature’s abundance.

The current version of civilization, the world’s industrial economy, is the least sustainable model to date, in part because it requires growth for its survival: Civilizations, like organisms, grow or die. This finite planet cannot support infinite growth.

The world’s industrial economy mainlines ready supplies of inexpensive crude oil. The lifeblood of western civilization, cheap oil infuses our daily lives. Petroleum products transport us easily and conveniently, thus allowing for exchange of materials and ideas. Without inexpensive crude oil to deliver water, food, and building materials, the world’s industrial economy declines.

Each of the six worldwide economic recessions since 1972 was preceded by a spike in the price of crude oil, and the days of cheap oil are behind us. At the global level, peak extraction of crude oil occurred in May 2005. A modest decline in available crude oil, coupled with increased industrialization in lesser-developed countries such as China, India, and Brazil, indicates further spikes in the price of oil lie in our future. That the world has nearly a trillion barrels of crude oil remaining to exploit hardly matters: The price of oil is key to growth of the industrial economy. There is little doubt that future spikes in the price of oil will prove sufficient to terminate the industrial economy, taking us on a one-way trip to the post-industrial Stone Age. Already, expensive oil is overwhelming the ability of central banks and central governments to provide the illusion of economic growth by printing fiat currency. As nearly occurred in 2008 in the wake of oil priced at $147.27 per barrel, western civilization faces an abrupt termination in the face of expensive crude oil.

It is unclear what the future holds. I suspect completion of the ongoing collapse of the industrial economy will engender short-term but large-scale mortality of humans. Shortly thereafter, all “renewable” energy systems will fail because they depend heavily on maintenance and support from oil-driven industries. The batteries associated with most home-based PV solar and wind-energy systems have a life of a decade or so. When collapse of the industrial economy is complete and is followed by inability to generate electricity via “renewable” systems, it seems humans will be forced to live — yet again — close to our neighbors and close to the natural systems that allow for our survival. That is, we’ll be immersed in the post-industrial Stone Age, albeit with plenty of technology that was not present during the Neolithic period. The simplest of these technologies, including knives and jars, will be readily usable for a long time. The more complex technologies, especially those relying on electricity, will fade quickly from our memories.

An economy based on gift exchange

The current version of the industrial economy has most people obsessed with the tertiary economy (symbolic, green pieces of paper and magnetized particles on hard drives). A few thoughtful individuals focus instead on the secondary economy (the items we use in our daily lives), which rests firmly on the foundational but rarely contemplated primary economy. The primary economy is comprised of the raw materials we use to survive, and perhaps even thrive. Faith in the symbols characterizing the tertiary economy will be lost when people recognize there are too few items of use (secondary economy) and too few underlying materials (primary economy). One result will be a profound loss of power in the symbols.

An economy based on exchange of gifts worked for the first two million years of the human experience and, due to collapse of the industrial economy certain to result from ongoing decline of fossil-fuel energy, we’re headed toward a similar set of circumstances. We would do well to allow history to serve as a guide to our fossil-fuel-free future. Our current monetary system is based on faith in symbols and it appears to give us something for nothing. Instead, it steals our sense of community.

People with an abundance of paper wealth have no need to build their human community. Their wealth allows them to buy goods and services, so they need not know the names of the people providing the services. Ditto for the names of the plants, animals, soils, and water providing the services on which we depend for our survival.

On the other hand, financially poor people depend heavily on their neighbors. The rural poor recognize that those neighbors include non-humans as well as humans. True community is woven from gifts, and the gifts come from the lands and waters that support us, as well as from our human neighbors.

A personal example

I had the brass ring. And I let it go. My parents were lifelong educators. So are my only brother and my only sister. Among them, only I reached the pinnacle of the educational world: I was a tenured full professor by the age of 40. I walked away from that life, which I loved, an act that made most people think I’d lost my mind. I walked away after trying to change the morally bankrupt system in which we are immersed when I realized the system was changing me, and not for the better.

I let go of the brass ring after I realized the first step toward destroying this irredeemably corrupt system is to leave it. Because I was born into captivity and assimilated into the normalcy bias of a world gone bonkers, I left later than I should have, and long after I realized the immorality of the system. A large part of this delay resulted from my inability to identify where and how to leave the system. I had come to see the industrial economy at the apex of western civilization as a horrific system but, because it was the only system I ever knew, I didn’t know how to escape it. Finally, after several years of thought and a few aborted attempts to reach escape velocity, my wife and I developed a set of living arrangements on a small property with another small family where we try to model agrarian anarchy.

When I finally tossed aside the brass ring, I worked cooperatively with others to develop to transition toward a gift economy embedded in agrarian anarchy. I live in a small, sparsely populated valley where gifts are the rule, not the exception. I share a small property with a small family of humans, as well as goats, ducks, chickens, and gardens. We have attempted, and continue to attempt, to develop a durable set of living arrangements with particular attention to securing potable, healthy food, appropriate body temperature, and a decent human community. Living in agrarian anarchy in a human community at the edge of empire, I’ve taken responsibility for myself and my neighbors, human and otherwise.

This way of living is far superior to my former life. I drink pure water extracted from a local well with PV solar and hand pumps. I eat healthy, whole foods, much of which is grown on this property. I burn no fossil fuels during my daily life in a well-insulated, off-grid home. I know my neighbors, human and otherwise, and they know me.

Finally, very late in an unexamined life, I came to see the horrors of the way we live, and I let go. Please join me.

Guy McPherson is professor emeritus of natural resources and the environment at the University of Arizona, where he taught and conducted research for 20 years. He's written well over 100 articles, ten books, the most recent of which is Walking Away From Empire, and has focused for many years on conservation of biological diversity. He lives in an off-grid, straw-bale house where he practices durable living via organic gardening, raising small animals for eggs and milk, and working with members of his
rural community. Learn more at guymcpherson.com or email Guy at grm@ag.arizona.edu

  Read Toward An Economy Of Earth
 February 6, 2012  
Occupying Corporations: How To Cut Corporate Power
by Bill Quigley, Countercurrents.org

“Corporations are people, my friend.” Mitt Romney at Iowa State Fair

Corporations are obviously not people. But Romney is accurate in the sense that corporations have hijacked most of the rights of people while evading the responsibilities. An important part of the social justice agenda is democratizing corporations. This means we must radically change the laws so people can be in charge of corporations. We must strip them of corporate personhood and cut them down to size so democracy can work. People are taking action so democracy can regulate the size, scope and actions of corporations.

One of the most basic roles of society is to protect the people from harm. The massive size of many international corporations makes democratic control over them nearly impossible.

Corporate crime is widespread. The New York Times, ProPublica and others have revealed Wall Street giants like JPMorgan, Citigroup, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs have been charged with fraud many times only to get off by paying hundreds of millions. Professors at University of Virginia have documented hundreds of corporations which have been found guilty or pled guilty in federal courts.

Corporate abuse is even more widespread. For example, Corporate Accountability International named six to its Corporate Hall of Shame, including: Koch Industries for spending over $50 million to fund climate change denial; Monsanto for mass producing cancer causing chemicals; Chevron for dumping more than 18 billion gallons of toxic waste into the Ecuadorian Amazon; Exxon Mobil for being the worst polluter; Blackwater (now Xe) for killing unarmed Iraqi civilians and hiring paramilitaries; and Halliburton, the nation’s leading war profiteer.

Making corporations responsible to democracy of the people is challenging considering Wal-Mart, the world’s biggest corporation, does more business itself annually than all but two dozen of the two hundred plus countries in the world. Without dramatic changes, how can we expect people in small or even big countries to force corporations like Wal-Mart, Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon Mobil, BP, Toyota or Chevron to live by the same rules all the people have to?

Justice demands we make sure corporations do not harm people. Democracy must require that they operate for the common good.

In order to cut corporations down to size, the people must strip corporations of the special artificial legal protections they have created for themselves.

The story of how corporations took the full rights of legal persons in one of the great perverse tragedies in legal history. Corporations have worked the courts mercilessly since 1819 to take a wide variety of constitutional rights that were designed to cover only people. For example, the Fourteenth Amendment was passed in 1868 to make sure all citizens, particularly freed slaves and people of color, had full rights. There was no mention of protecting corporations. But corporations jumped on this opportunity resulting in a questionable Supreme Court decision that granted them legal personhood. At roughly the same time, the Supreme Court approved “separate but equal” racial segregation. Thus in thirty years, African Americans lost their legal personhood, while corporations acquired theirs.

Corporations now claim: 1st amendment free speech rights to advertise and influence elections: 4th amendment search and seizure rights to resist subpoenas and challenges to their criminal actions; 5th amendment rights to due process; 14th amendment rights to due process where corporations took the rights of former slaves and used them for corporate protection; plus rights under the Commerce and Contracts clauses of the constitution.

The most recent corporate judicial takeover of constitutional rights is the 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United versus the Federal Election Commission. The court ruled that corporations are protected by the First Amendment so they can use their money to influence elections.

Because of the bad Supreme Court decisions, it takes a constitutional amendment by the people to change the laws back. An amendment requires two-thirds of both houses of Congress to agree then three-quarters of the states must vote to ratify. This will take real work. But despite the growing size and unrestricted power of corporations, people are fighting back.

Dozens of groups are working to reverse Citizens United and restore limits on corporate election advocacy. In January 2011, groups delivered petitions signed by over 750,000 people calling on Congress to amend the Constitution and reverse the decision. More than 350 local events were held in late January 2012 to challenge the Citizens United decision.

Groups challenging this injustice include Code Pink, Common Cause, Free Speech for People, Moveon.org, Move to Amend, National Lawyers Guild, POCLAD, Public Citizen, People for American Way, The Center for Media and Democracy, and Women’s League for Peace and Freedom.

Many groups are asking for a broad constitutional amendment that makes it clear that corporations are not people and should not be given any constitutional rights. Representatives Ted Deutsch of Florida, Jim McGovern of Massachusetts and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont have sponsored bills in Congress to start the process for a constitutional amendment to make it clear that corporations are not people, are not entitled to the rights of people, and cannot contribute to political campaigns.

There are also many energetic actions at the state level. People for the American Way list organizational efforts in nearly all 50 states to end corporate influence in elections or amend the constitution.

Massive corporations now rule the earth. But they are recent arrivals which can and should be dispatched. It is time for people to again take control. The legal fiction of corporate personhood and the constitutional rights taken by corporations must cease. Join the efforts to cut them down to size and restore the right of the people to govern.

Bill is a human rights lawyer who teaches at Loyola University New Orleans and works with the Center for Constitutional Rights. A version of this article with full sources is available. You can reach Bill at quigley77@gmail.com

  Read Occupying Corporations: How To Cut Corporate Power
 January 15, 2012  

Fossil fuels are going to disappear, whether we like it or not. Petroleum, natural gas, and coal are becoming scarcer, harder to extract and a greater danger to the global climate. If we proceed with business-as-usual, energy companies will take advantage of increasing scarcity to dominate the world economy by vacuuming up more money from the 99%. They will be able to ally with military and financial institutions to construct an energy-military-financial complex that could eventually reduce most of the rest of us to a form of debt peonage. On the other hand, if we could possibly elect a government that does what governments do best – build infrastructure – we can avoid a world of global warming and economic collapse by building enough wind farms, solar panels, and geothermal systems to power our economy and ignite a sustainable, broad-based period of economic growth. Of course, this will require a sea-change in the direction of the political system, along the lines of the Occupy movement, but there is too much at stake to throw up our hands in despair.

The unfolding energy drama presents progressives with several dilemmas. Some are suspicious that oil scarcity can be used as a ruse by the oil companies and speculators to spike prices. Roger Altman recently argued that a larger supply of fossil fuels will lead to less international tension. More generally, progressives sometimes fear that advocating for less oil use will be seen by the public as an attack on the American Dream of a car in every garage and a single family home for every family.

But in addition to problems of scarcity and extraction, fossil fuels are bringing us towards extremely dangerous climate change. We need to have some answers or else the Right will simply keep up with the chant of “Drill baby drill.” It's time to counter with, “Build, build, build!"

Dirty fuels Create an Unsustainable economy

The question of the future of the supply of fossil fuels is not an easy one to answer. Oil producing nations, for instance, are not at all transparent about their supplies. Technologies constantly change, and so do environmental hazards. However, if we look at the current state of fossil fuel industries, it should be clear that we are in trouble.

1) Natural gas. Natural gas production is being kept alive by the development of hyrdrofracturing technology, or “fracking." As AlterNet has reported, an official with New York State stated that fracking will contaminate water supplies. His is only the most recent statement of a widespread concern about the dangers of this new practice. France has temporarily banned fracking, and New York State is considering how to proceed, but one would hope that the possibility of making New York City uninhabitable because of contaminated water would focus minds considerably.

Beyond environmental concerns, the corporate hype surrounding fracking as a “game changer” is false. Even the Energy Information Administration, generally a cheerleader for the industry, predicts that with fracking American natural gas production will increase by only 31 per cent by 2035. That increase probably won’t even cover growth of the economy, and even so there is talk of exporting natural gas, which will decrease the amount available for domestic use even further. The problem is one that is endemic to the current fossil fuel industry – the conventional methods of extraction are leading to precipitous drops in production as fields are sucked dry, so extreme extraction is the only route left.

2) Oil. The environmental situation is at least as bad in the case of petroleum production, as we saw in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Despite industry trumpeting of new technological breakthroughs, the underlying fact is this: oil companies would not be oil-fracking, drilling multi-mile pipes underwater, exploring the Arctic and cooking tar sands if they could do what they did for the first 100 years of the oil age -- drill into pressurized deposits of oil that are conveniently situated below solid, dry, accessible land. The energy gained compared to the energy needed to discover oil has collapsed from 1200 to 5 in the last 100 years. By contrast, wind energy now returns 25 times the energy needed to provide it.

Despite all of the new oil extraction techniques, global production of petroleum has stagnated since about 2005. This plateau in production is referred to as “peak oil” by activists who are concerned about how a civilization that requires oil for its transportation needs will survive if the supply should start to shrink precipitously. As scarcity leads to higher gasoline prices, economies stop growing, which leads to less demand for gasoline and then, temporarily, lower prices, until demand lifts the price again, and the cycle repeats itself.

Meanwhile, in a desperate attempt to stave off the inevitable, societies encourage dirtier and dirtier methods of extraction. Nigeria, a major oil exporter, illustrates this irony. The problem of peak oil is exacerbated by the decrease in exportable production, because big exporters like Nigeria and Saudi Arabia keep using more oil for their own use. When the Nigerian government tried to eliminate gasoline subsidies, riots ensued, a process that has repeated itself throughout the oil-producing nations, thus decreasing the amount of oil available for oil importers. This rioting occurred at the same time that Nigeria’s oil rich delta experienced a terrible oil spill, an area that endures an Exxon-Valdez-sized spill every year.

The Canadian tar sands may be the worst of all fossil fuel disasters, not only because thousands of miles of forest and large deposits of water are destroyed, but because the extra carbon emitted from these formations may mean “game over” for the climate, to use eminent climatologist James Hansen’s phrase. The reason Hansen is so worried about the tar sands is because his scenario for avoiding the worst of global warming is to stop using coal, but only if oil production peaks and declines, as peak oil activists predict. If more, dirtier oil flows, then you could shut down all the coal plants and the biosphere would still be in big trouble.

3) Coal. Coal use, at least in the U.S., is indeed declining , although not fast enough – and it is still increasing rapidly in China.  But even coal is experiencing supply problems, as China has to import 40 percent of its supplies. The data on coal is even less reliable than the data for petroleum, but some experts have predicted a peak in production as early as 2020. Meanwhile, coal, like oil and increasingly natural gas, continues to wreak death and destruction on its environment.

4) Nukes and biofuels. Uranium is not a fossil fuel, but it is a fuel, as are biofuels, which also have very negative consequences for the environment. Fukushima may have begun to sound a death knell of the nuclear power industry. Even the French nuclear industry, which generates 80% of France’s electricity, has had to lay off employees because contracts to build nuclear power plants have been cancelled. It is becoming clear that biofuels usually cause more damage than benefits, by replacing food production, encouraging deforestation, and increasing pollution. The challenge for humanity is to stop using fuels and to only use renewable sources of energy from the sun, wind, and earth.

Transitioning to a renewable energy society

For progressives, the fossil fuel crisis provides a great opportunity for equitable, sustainable economic growth. Since energy impacts all sections of society, all parts of the economy must become more just in order to solve the problem. Nowhere is this more evident than in the case of petroleum. While it would be much easier if Sammy and Susie Suburban could wake up in the future and drive their electric cars in just the same way they drive their oil-powered ones, this scenario seems very unlikely.

The best way to reduce and eliminate the use of petroleum is to increase the density of town, suburban, and city centers, so that people can choose to walk, bike, or take electric trains such as subways and light rail, and so that slow, low-range actually-existing electric vehicles can cover the shorter distances needed. To make dense city centers attractive, however, a good educational system is required. As the current candidate for Senate in Massachussets, Elizabeth Warren, has argued, much of the expansion of the suburbs and the increased expenditure of family income has occurred in order to live in a good school district. Thus, because of the interconnected nature of the modern economy, it might turn out that the single most important way to solve the energy crisis is to improve urban schools!

The technology now exists to supply all the electricity we need by constructing wind farms, solar panels, and energy-efficient buildings. If progressives want to argue for the positive benefits of government, then they can advocate for a multi-trillion dollar program of government-led new energy infrastructure, which would employ tens of millions of people and rebuild the key to our economic prosperity, our manufacturing base.

It is exactly because the energy, military, and financial elites will benefit from fossil fuel scarcity that progressives need to tackle the problem head on. In rebuilding the infrastructure, the economic fortunes of the 99 percent can be revived as well.

Jon Rynn is the author of the book Manufacturing Green Prosperity: The power to rebuild the American middle class, available from Praeger Press. He holds a Ph.D. in political science and is a Visiting Scholar at the CUNY Institute for Urban Systems. In the spring he will be participating in a global teach-in (globalteachin.com), incorporating these and other issues.
  Read The Essentials for the Necessary Transition to a Renewable Energy Economy
 January 27, 2012  

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Look back on 2011 and you’ll notice a destructive trail of extreme weather slashing through the year. In Texas, it was the driest year ever recorded.  An epic drought there killed half a billion trees, touched off wildfires that burned four million acres, and destroyed or damaged thousands of homes and buildings.  The costs to agriculture, particularly the cotton and cattle businesses, are estimated at $5.2 billion -- and keep in mind that, in a winter breaking all sorts of records for warmth, the Texas drought is not yet over.

In August, the East Coast had a close brush with calamity in the form of Hurricane Irene. Luckily, that storm had spent most of its energy by the time it hit land near New York City. Nonetheless, its rains did at least $7 billion worth of damage, putting it just below the $7.2 billion worth of chaos caused by Katrina back in 2003.

Across the planet the story was similar. Wildfires consumed large swaths of Chile. Colombia suffered its second year of endless rain, causing an estimated $2 billion in damage. In Brazil, the life-giving Amazon River was running low due to drought. Northern Mexico is still suffering from its worst drought in 70 years. Flooding in the Thai capital, Bangkok, killed over 500 and displaced or damaged the property of 12 million others, while ruining some of the world’s largest industrial parks. The World Bank estimates the damage in Thailand at a mind-boggling $45 billion, making it one of the most expensive disasters ever.  And that’s just to start a 2011 extreme-weather list, not to end it. 

Such calamities, devastating for those affected, have important implications for how we think about the role of government in our future. During natural disasters, society regularly turns to the state for help, which means such immediate crises are a much-needed reminder of just how important a functional big government turns out to be to our survival.

These days, big government gets big press attention -- none of it anything but terrible.  In the United States, especially in an election year, it’s become fashionable to beat up on the public sector and all things governmental (except the military).  The Right does it nonstop.  All their talking points disparage the role of an oversized federal government. Anti-tax zealot Grover Norquist famously set the tone for this assault.  "I'm not in favor of abolishing the government,” he said. “I just want to shrink it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub." He has managed to get 235 members of the House of Representatives and 41 members of the Senate to sign his “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” and thereby swear never, under any circumstances, to raise taxes.

By now, this viewpoint has taken on the aura of folk wisdom, as if the essence of democracy were to hate government. Even many on the Left now regularly dismiss government as nothing but oversized, wasteful, bureaucratic, corrupt, and oppressive, without giving serious consideration to how essential it may be to our lives.

But don’t expect the present “consensus” to last.  Global warming and the freaky, increasingly extreme weather that will accompany it is going to change all that. After all, there is only one institution that actually has the capacity to deal with multibillion-dollar natural disasters on an increasingly routine basis.  Private security firms won’t help your flooded or tornado-struck town. Private insurance companies are systematically withdrawing coverage from vulnerable coastal areas. Voluntary community groups, churches, anarchist affinity groups -- each may prove helpful in limited ways, but for better or worse, only government has the capital and capacity to deal with the catastrophic implications of climate change.

Consider Hurricane Irene: as it passed through the Northeast, states mobilized more than 100,000 National Guard troops. New York City opened 78 public emergency shelters prepared to house up to 70,000 people. In my home state, Vermont, where the storm devastated the landscape, destroying or damaging 200 bridges, more than 500 miles of road, and 100 miles of railroad, the National Guard airlifted in free food, water, diapers, baby formula, medicine, and tarps to thousands of desperate Vermonters trapped in 13 stranded towns -- all free of charge to the victims of the storm.

The damage to Vermont was estimated at up to $1 billion. Yet the state only has 621,000 residents, so it could never have raised all the money needed to rebuild alone. Vermont businesses, individuals, and foundations have donated at least $4 million, possibly up to $6 million in assistance, an impressive figure, but not a fraction of what was needed. The state government immediately released $24 million in funds, crucial to getting its system of roads rebuilt and functioning, but again that was a drop in the bucket, given the level of damage.  A little known state-owned bank, the Vermont Municipal Bond Bank, also offered low-interest, low-collateral loans to towns to aid reconstruction efforts. But without federal money, which covered 80% to 100% of the costs of rebuilding many Vermont roads, the state would still be an economic basket case.  Without aid from Washington, the transportation network might have taken years to recover.

As for flood insurance, the federal government is pretty much the only place to get it. The National Flood Insurance Program has written 5.5 million policies in more than 21,000 communities covering $1.2 trillion worth of property. As for the vaunted private market, for-profit insurance companies write between 180,000 and 200,000 policies in a given year.  In other words, that is less than 5% of all flood insurance in the United States. This federally subsidized program underwrites the other 95%. Without such insurance, it’s not complicated: many waterlogged victims of 2011, whether from record Midwestern floods or Hurricane Irene, would simply have no money to rebuild.

Or consider sweltering Texas. In 2011, firefighters responded to 23,519 fires. In all, 2,742 homes were destroyed by out-of-control wildfires. But government action saved 34,756 other homes. So you decide: Was this another case of wasteful government intervention in the marketplace, or an extremely efficient use of resources?

Facing Snowpocalypse Without Plows

The early years of this century have already offered a number of examples of how disastrous too little government can be in the face of natural disaster, Katrina-inundated New Orleans in 2005 being perhaps the quintessential case. 

There are, however, other less noted examples that nonetheless helped concentrate the minds of government planners.  For example, in the early spring of 2011, a massive blizzard hit New York City. Dubbed “Snowmageddon” and “Snowpocalypse,” the storm arrived in the midst of tense statewide budget negotiations, and a nationwide assault on state workers (and their pensions).

In New York, Mayor Mike Bloomberg was pushing for cuts to the sanitation department budget. As the snow piled up, the people tasked with removing it -- sanitation workers -- failed to appear in sufficient numbers. As the city ground to a halt, New Yorkers were left to fend for themselves with nothing but shovels, their cars, doorways, stores, roads all hopelessly buried. Chaos ensued.  Though nowhere near as destructive as Katrina, the storm became a case study in too little governance and the all-too-distinct limits of “self-reliance” when nature runs amuck. In the week that followed, even the rich were stranded amid the mounting heaps of snow and uncollected garbage.

Mayor Bloomberg emerged from the debacle chastened, even though he accused the union of staging a soft strike, a work-to-rule-style slowdown that held the snowbound city hostage. The union denied engaging in any such illegal actions. Whatever the case, the blizzard focused thinking locally on the nature of public workers. It suddenly made sanitation workers less invisible and forced a set of questions: Are public workers really “union fat cats” with “sinecures” gorging at the public trough? Or are they as essential to the basic functions of the city as white blood cells to the health of the human body? Clearly, in snowbound New York it was the latter. No sanitation workers and your city instantly turns chaotic and fills with garbage, leaving street after street lined with the stuff.

More broadly the question raised was: Can an individual, a town, a city, even a state really “go it alone” when the weather turns genuinely threatening? Briefly, all the union bashing and attacks on the public sector that had marked that year’s state-level budget debates began to sound unhinged.

In the Big Apple at least, when Irene came calling that August, Mayor Bloomberg was ready. He wasn’t dissing or scolding unions.  He wasn’t whining about the cost of running a government.  He embraced planning, the public sector, public workers, and coordinated collective action. His administration took unprecedented steps like shutting down the subway and moving its trains to higher ground. Good thing they did. Several low-lying subway yards flooded.  Had trains been parked there, many millions in public capital might have been lost or damaged.

The Secret History of Free Enterprise in America

When thinking about the forces of nature and the nature of infrastructure, a slightly longer view of history is instructive. And here’s where to start: in the U.S., despite its official pro-market myths, government has always been the main force behind the development of a national infrastructure, and so of the country’s overall economic prosperity.

One can trace the origins of state participation in the economy back to at least the founding of the republic: from Alexander Hamilton’s First Bank of the United States, which refloated the entire post-revolutionary economy when it bought otherwise worthless colonial debts at face value; to Henry Clay’s half-realized program of public investment and planning called the American System; to the New York State-funded Erie Canal, which made the future Big Apple the economic focus of the eastern seaboard; to the railroads, built on government land grants, that took the economy west and tied the nation together; to New Deal programs that helped pulled the country out of the Great Depression and built much of the infrastructure we still use like the Hoover Dam, scores of major bridges, hospitals, schools, and so on; to the government-funded and sponsored interstate highway system launched in the late 1950s; to the similarly funded space race, and beyond.  It’s simple enough: big government investments (and thus big government) has been central to the remarkable economic dynamism of the country.

Government has created roads, highways, railways, ports, the postal system, inland waterways, universities, and telecommunications systems. Government-funded R&D, as well as the buying patterns of government agencies -- (alas!) both often connected to war and war-making plans -- have driven innovation in everything from textiles and shipbuilding to telecoms, medicine, and high-tech breakthroughs of all sorts.  Individuals invent technology, but in the United States it is almost always public money that brings the technology to scale, be it in aeronautics, medicine, computers, or agriculture.

Without constant government planning and subsidies, American capitalism simply could not have developed as it did, making ours the world’s largest economy. Yes, the entrepreneurs we are taught to venerate have been key to all this, but dig a little deeper and you soon find that most of their oil was on public lands, their technology nurtured or invented thanks to government-sponsored R&D, or supported by excellent public infrastructure and the possibility of hiring well-educated workers produced by a heavily subsidized higher-education system. Just to cite one recent example, the now-familiar Siri voice-activated command system on the new iPhone is based on -- brace yourself -- government-developed technology.

And here’s a curious thing: everybody more or less knows all this and yet it is almost never acknowledged. If one were to write the secret history of free enterprise in the United States, one would have to acknowledge that it has always been and remains at least a little bit socialist.  However, it’s not considered proper to discuss government planning in open, realistic, and mature terms, so we fail to talk about what government could -- or rather, must -- do to help us meet the future of climate change. 

Storm Socialism

The onset of ever more extreme and repeated weather events is likely to change how we think about the role of the state.  But attitudes toward the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which stands behind state and local disaster responses, suggest that we’re hardly at that moment yet.  In late 2011, with Americans beleaguered by weather disasters, FEMA came under attack from congressional Republicans, eager to starve it of funds.  One look at FEMA explains why.

Yes, when George W. Bush put an unqualified playboy at its helm, the agency dealt disastrously with Hurricane Katrina back in 2005. Under better leadership, however, it has been anything but the sinister apparatus of repression portrayed by legions of rightists and conspiracy theorists.  FEMA is, in fact, an eminently effective mechanism for planning focused on the public good, not private profit, a form of public insurance and public assistance for Americans struck by disaster. Every year FEMA gives hundreds of millions of dollars to local firefighters and first responders, as well as victims dealing with the aftershock of floods, fires, and the other calamities associated with extreme weather events.

The agency’s work is structured around what it calls “the disaster life cycle” -- the process through which emergency managers prepare for, respond to, and help others recover from and reduce the risk of disasters.  More concretely, FEMA’s services include training, planning, coordinating, and funding state and local disaster managers and first responders, grant-making to local governments, institutions, and individuals, and direct emergency assistance that ranges from psychological counseling and medical aid to emergency unemployment benefits. FEMA also subsidizes long-term rebuilding and planning efforts by communities affected by disasters. In other words, it actually represents an excellent use of your tax dollars to provide services aimed at restoring local economic health and so the tax base. The anti-government Right hates FEMA for the same reason that they hate Social Security -- because it works!

As it happens, thanks in part to the congressional GOP’s sabotage efforts, thousands of FEMA’s long-term recovery projects are now on hold, while the cash-strapped agency shifts its resources to deal with only the most immediate crises.  This represents a dangerous trend, given what historical statistics tell us about our future.  In recent decades, the number of Major Disaster Declarations by the federal government has been escalating sharply: only 12 in 1961, 17 in 1971, 15 in 1981, 43 in 1991, and in 2011 -- 99!  As a result, just when Hurricane Irene bore down on the East Coast, FEMA’s disaster relief fund had already been depleted from $2.4 billion as the year began to a mere $792 million.

Like it or not, government is a huge part of our economy. Altogether, federal, state, and local government activity -- that is collecting fees, taxing, borrowing and then spending on wages, procurement, contracting, grant-making, subsidies and aid -- constitutes about 35% of the gross domestic product. You could say that we already live in a somewhat “mixed economy”: that is, an economy that fundamentally combines private and public economic activity.

The intensification of climate change means that we need to acknowledge the chaotic future we face and start planning for it.  Think of what’s coming, if you will, as a kind of storm socialism.

After all, climate scientists believe that atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide beyond 350 parts-per-million (ppm) could set off compounding feedback loops and so lock us into runaway climate change. We are already at 392 ppm. Even if we stopped burning all fossil fuels immediately, the disruptive effect of accumulated CO2 in the atmosphere is guaranteed to hammer us for decades.  In other words, according to the best-case scenario, we face decades of increasingly chaotic and violent weather.

In the face of an unraveling climate system, there is no way that private enterprise alone will meet the threat. And though small “d” democracy and “community” may be key parts of a strong, functional, and fair society, volunteerism and “self-organization” alone will prove as incapable as private enterprise in responding to the massive challenges now beginning to unfold.

To adapt to climate change will mean coming together on a large scale and mobilizing society’s full range of resources. In other words, Big Storms require Big Government.  Who else will save stranded climate refugees, or protect and rebuild infrastructure, or coordinate rescue efforts and plan out the flow and allocation of resources?

It will be government that does these tasks or they will not be done at all. 

Christian Parenti, author of the recently published Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence (Nation Books), is a contributing editor at the Nation magazine, a Puffin Writing Fellow, and a professor at the School for International Training, Graduate Institute. His articles have appeared in Fortune, the New York Times, the Washington PostTomDispatch, and the London Review of Books, among other places. 

  Read Why Climate Change Will Make You Love Government
 January 26, 2012  

A few years ago, Cheryl Manning assigned a research project on climate change to her high school environmental science class in Evergreen, Colo. She presented the basic facts and data from peer-reviewed studies, then asked the students to look into the issue themselves and report back on what they learned.

Halfway through the unit, three students came to class up in arms. They questioned whether the data was made up and if government scientists were part of a plot — “like conspiracy theorists that say we never went to the moon,” Manning said. At a PTA meeting the students’ parents accused her of trying to undermine their children’s religious belief system.

“Peer-reviewed science is the Kool-Aid of the left-wing liberal conspiracy,” they said, adding a warning: “Be on your guard.”

Manning’s superintendent backed her up, and the parents eventually pulled their kids out of school. But she said her experience is common enough that many teachers shy away from the subject of climate change.

Manning’s experience in Colorado is just a microcosm of a larger fight being waged in classrooms across the country. Reminiscent of the evolution-vs.-creationism clash, the overwhelming scientific evidence that says humans are causing the warming of the planet has emerged as the new battlefield in middle and high schools in the U.S.

“Lots of teachers I talk to just won’t teach it,” said Manning, a geologist before turning to teaching 16 years ago. “They’ll teach about the historical changes but not current trends. Science teachers already get so much pushback on evolution vs. creation that they’re reluctant to invite more controversy. And some teachers don’t know that much about climate change themselves. They’re not sure how firm the ground is they’re standing on.”

Manning is a member of the National Science Teachers Association. Last year an online poll of its 60,000 members found that 82 percent had faced skepticism about climate change from students and 54 percent had faced skepticism from parents. Some respondents added comments: Students believe whatever it is their parents believe. . . . Administrators roll over when parents object. In a recent survey of about 1,900 current and former teachers by the National Earth Science Teachers Association, 36 percent reported they had been influenced directly or indirectly to teach “both sides” of the issue.

That concerns the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) in Oakland, Calif. For 25 years the Center has worked to keep creationism and “intelligent design” out of public schools. Now it has expanded its scope to defend and support the teaching of climate change science, against the efforts of skeptics or deniers to intimidate teachers.

“We have been hearing for several years now that teachers were getting pushback on teaching climate change, and some of the playbook used by those promoting teaching ‘both sides’ was very similar to the attempt to have evolution ‘balanced’ by creationism and intelligent design,” said Mark McCaffrey, who is spearheading the Center’s new initiative. “From my experience working with teachers, it is clear that the so-called ‘controversy’ about climate change science is a major impediment to teachers and the polarized political climate around teaching the topic is a big problem.” 

McCaffrey is a pioneer in climate change education. He’s cofounder of the Climate Literacy Network and while at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) helped develop the Essential Principles of Climate Science, endorsed by the federal government’s U.S. Global Change Research Program.

As in Manning’s case, many times it’s individual parents who challenge individual teachers. Last year, in a Portola Valley, Calif., high school, a teacher who had shown her class Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth was challenged by a parent who demanded that the school provide “balance” with a debate between a climate change scientist and a global warming denier. The teacher’s union representative contacted NCES, and the Center argued that while policy issues — energy consumption, cap-and-trade, global warming adaptation — were legitimate subjects to debate in a social studies class, a science class should deal only in consensus science. School officials agreed and the debate was cancelled.

But there are also well-organized campaigns to get school districts and state legislatures to mandate teaching “balance.”

  • In 2010, in Grand Junction, Colo., a Tea Party activist gathered 700 signatures on a petition that teachers stop talking about climate change. The effort was supported by the Independent Women’s Forum, a conservative group that had targeted Grand Junction to kick off a national “Balanced Education for Everyone” campaign. When the petition failed, the campaign was scrapped.
     
  • Last summer, the school board in Los Alamitos, Calif., voted unanimously to require the teaching of “multiple perspectives” on climate change in an environmental science class. The issue was pushed by a school board member who maintained there are “legitimate, mainstream, normative opinions that differ from the liberal dogma of belief in global warming.” After the action received national and international attention, the mandate was rescinded.
     
  • State boards of education in Texas and Louisiana have introduced standards to require teachers to present climate change denial as a valid scientific position. Legislators in Tennessee, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Kentucky have introduced bills to require equal time for climate change skeptics. 

Attacks on the teaching of climate change often go hand-in-hand with efforts to insert creationism or “intelligent design” into public schools. In 2009, the Texas Board of Education mandated that teachers present all sides of the debate on both evolution and climate change. Leslie Kaufman of The New York Times wrote that the linkage was a canny legal strategy:

Courts have found that singling out evolution for criticism in public schools is a violation of the separation of church and state. By insisting that global warming also be debated, deniers of evolution can argue that they are simply championing academic freedom in general.

Campaigns against climate science and evolution are part of a national crisis in science education, said NCSE’s McCaffrey. 

“Teachers are overburdened and often teaching out of their area of expertise,” he said. “Environmental education tends to be heavy on ‘get the kids out in nature’ and light on science. By middle school, many students start to be turned off by science. Our efforts are geared toward re-invigorating science education for the 21st century in order to prepare our young people to become informed citizens and leaders of tomorrow.” 

Bill Walker, a contributing writer for Climate Central, is a former newspaper correspondent and for more than 20 years a communications strategist for leading environmental organizations. He lives in Berkeley, Calif.
  Read Conservatives Use Creationist Playbook to Attack Climate Change Education in Schools
 January 19, 2012  
Global Energy And Resources
by Peter Goodchild, Countercurrents.org

Modern industrial society is composed of a triad of fossil fuels, metals, and electricity. The three are intricately connected. Electricity, for example, can be generated on a global scale only with fossil fuels. The same dependence on fossil fuels is true of metals; in fact the better types of ore are now becoming depleted, while those that remain can be processed only with modern machinery and require more fossil fuels for smelting. In turn, without metals and electricity there will be no means of extracting and processing fossil fuels. Of the three members of the triad, electricity is the most fragile, and its failure will serve as an early warning of trouble with the other two (Duncan, 2000, November 13; 2005-06, Winter).

Often the interactions of this triad are hiding in plain sight. Global production of steel, for example, requires 420 million tonnes of coke (from coal) annually, as well as other fossil fuels adding up to an equivalent of another 100 million tonnes (Smil, 2009, September 17). To maintain industrial society, the production of steel cannot be curtailed: there are no “green” materials for the construction of skyscrapers, large bridges, automobiles, machinery, or tools.

But the interconnections among fossil fuels, metals, and electricity are innumerable. As each of the three members of the triad threatens to break down, we are looking at a society that is far more primitive than the one to which we have been accustomed.

Is it possible that fuels outside the range of conventional oil can make a significant difference? To what extent will enhanced production methods result in a “cliff” rather than a “slope”? How would a major financial recession (i.e. one not caused by oil scarcity), resulting in lowered demand, affect both production and prices? The biggest problem may be the synergism of fossil fuels, electricity, and metals: as one of the three declines, there is a decline of the other two, and the result is a chain reaction, a feedback mechanism, a tailspin, or whatever metaphor one chooses, so that industry in general comes to a sudden halt. Perhaps some of these unknowns will work out to be either irrelevant or identical in the long run, at least in the sense that (e.g.) a cliff and a slope both end at rock bottom.

Unconventional oil will make some difference to the final production numbers. By far the largest deposits of usable unconventional oil are the Canadian tar sands. But the popular belief that “there’s enough oil there to last a hundred years” is a good example of a modern half-truth. There are probably about 175 billion barrels of reserves (usable oil after processing), but there are two serious problems. The first is the rate of extraction: by the year 2020 it may be possible to increase production to 1.5 billion barrels a year; at such a slow rate of production, the reserves would indeed last a hundred years, but such figures are dwarfed by those for conventional oil, and by the annual demands for oil. The second problem is that processing the tar sands requires enormous quantities of water and natural gas: the environmental damage is unparalleled, and it might be impossible to supply such quantities anyway (Foucher, 2009, February; Hall, 2008, April 15).

From a broader perspective it can be said that, as oil declines, more energy and money must be devoted to getting the less-accessible and lower-quality oil out of the ground (Gever et al, 1991). In turn, as more energy and money are devoted to oil production, the production of metals and electricity becomes more difficult. One problem feeds on another.

It should also be remembered that the quest for the date of peak oil is in some respects a red herring. In terms of daily life, it is important to consider not only peak oil in the absolute sense, but peak oil per capita. The date of the latter was 1979, when there were 5.5 barrels of oil per person annually, as opposed to 4.3 in 2009 (BP, 2010).

The future of coal will resemble that of oil. The energy content of US coal has been going down since at least 1950, because the hard coal (anthracite and bituminous coal) is becoming depleted and must be replaced by subbituminous coal and lignite. Anthracite production in the US has been in decline since 1990. For those reasons, the actual energy output of all US coal has been flat since that same date. New technologies and mining methods cannot compete against the problems of lower-quality ore and more-difficult seams.

Actual production in the US might reach a plateau of 1400 Mt annually and stay there for the rest of the century. That will happen, however, only if there is massive development of the reserves in Montana, and if serious problems of transportation and the environment can be dealt with. Otherwise, US production will peak around 2030 (Höök & Aleklett, 2009, May 1).

The US has almost 30 percent of the world’s coal reserves, while China has only the third-largest reserves, totaling 14 percent, but China accounts for 43 percent of the world’s production (Höök, Zittel, Schindler, & Aleklett, 2010, June 8). With its enormous growth in consumption, it is unlikely that China’s coal supply will last until 2030 (Heinberg, 2009; 2010, May).

Worldwide, coal production is estimated to peak around 2020, to judge from historical production and proved reserves. Estimations based on a logistic (Hubbert) curve give almost the same result. Even if we assume, with great optimism, that ultimate reserves will be double the present proved reserves, such amounts would only delay the peak by a few years; even then, if extraction rates increase accordingly, the duration of the reserves will remain about the same (Höök, Zittel, Schindler, & Aleklett, 2010, June 8).

The first problem with hydroelectricity is that all the big rivers have been dammed already; also, the dams silt up and become useless after a few years (Youngquist, 2000, October). Decentralization, i.e. putting dams on smaller rivers, would solve nothing; on the contrary, decentralization leads to inefficiency — that is why the small hydro generators were closed down in the first place. The damage that the dams cause to wildlife and farmland is considerable. In addition, the end product is only electricity, which is not a practical substitute for the fossil fuels now used in transportation. The final problem is that as fossil fuels and metals disappear, there will be no means of making the parts to repair old generators or to build new ones.

Nuclear power presents significant environmental dangers, but the biggest constraints involve the addition of new reactor capacity and the supply of uranium. Peak production of uranium ore in the US was in 1980. Mainly because the US was the world’s largest producer, the peak of global production was at approximately the same date (Energy Watch Group, 2006, December; Storm van Leeuwen, 2008, February). Statements that uranium ore is abundant are based on the falsehood that all forms of uranium ore are usable. In reality, only high-quality ore serves any purpose, whereas low-quality ore presents the unsolvable problem of negative net energy: the mining and milling of such ore requires more energy than is derived from the actual use of the ore in a reactor. The world’s usable uranium ore will probably be finished by about 2030, and there is no evidence for the existence of large new deposits of rich ore. Claims of abundant uranium are generally made by industry spokespersons whose positions are far from neutral, who have in fact a vested interest in presenting nuclear energy as a viable option (Storm van Leeuwen, 2008, February). One must also beware, of course, of the myth that “higher prices” will make low-grade resources of any sort feasible: when net energy is negative, even an infinitely higher price will not change the balance. For all practical purposes, the nuclear industry will come to an end in a matter of decades, not centuries.

Global production of energy for the year 2005 was about 500 exajoules (EJ), most of which was supplied by fossil fuels. This annual production of energy can also be expressed in terms of billion barrels of oil equivalent (bboe) (BP, 2010; Duncan, 2000, November 13; 2005-06, Winter; EIA, 2008, December 31). In 1990 this was 59.3 bboe and in 2005 it was 79.3, an increase of 34 percent.

However, the use of electricity worldwide rose from 11,865.4 terawatt-hours in 1990 to 18,301.8 in 2005 (BP, 2010), an increase of 54 percent. Since the use of electricity is rising much more quickly than the production of energy, it is uncertain whether in the future there will be sufficient energy to meet the demand for electricity. If not, there could be widespread brownouts and rolling blackouts (Duncan, 2000, November 13; 2005-06, Winter). When electricity starts to go, so will everything else.

Solutions based on theories of alternative energy ignore, among other things, the infrastructure upon which a theoretical world of “alternative” energy would be based. To understand the problem of infrastructure entirely, we need to look at it as a loop, a matter of bootstrapping — the metaphors are numerous. To what extent, indeed, is it possible to raise oneself off the ground by pulling on one’s own bootlaces? The various answers to such a question can provide support either for or against the use of alternative sources of energy. The question of the “bootstrapping” of alternative energy may be either ontologically profound or utterly naïve, depending on how it is phrased, but actually it is rarely asked. At the risk of playing the devil’s advocate, however, I might point out two cases.

The first is somewhat general: many of the devices using advanced technology for alternative energy (e.g., solar-power devices, wind turbines) operate at their present levels of efficiency only because of the use of alloys that include rare-earth metals. Without fossil fuels, it would therefore be necessary to use (e.g.) solar-powered devices — or devices ultimately powered by other devices similarly powered — to roam the earth in search of these materials. Other solar-powered devices would then do the mining and milling. Further devices of a similar nature would be used to manufacture solar-powered equipment from these metals, and these last devices would then continue that technological cycle. All of this, of course, would have to be in place worldwide in the few years before fossil fuels have largely vanished. Although from what might be called a philosophical perspective there is nothing wrong with such a scenario, it seems obvious that one is leaving reality far behind.

A second, less bizarre example might be one mentioned earlier: Would it not be possible to solve the original problem of the “manufacture, transportation, maintenance, and repair” of equipment by establishing a worldwide grid annually carrying 500 EJ of electricity that could be delivered wherever it was needed? If so, then one might well imagine large trucks rolling along the highways, their wheels powered by large batteries. The answer, unfortunately, is that a battery for any large vehicle would have unsolvable problems of weight, longevity, temperature, and so on. There is also the much bigger question of where the 500 EJ would be coming from in the first place.

Global depletion of minerals other than petroleum and uranium is somewhat difficult to determine, partly because recycling complicates the issues, partly because trade goes on in all directions, and partly because one material can sometimes be replaced by another. All that is fairly certain is that there is not enough usable copper, zinc, and platinum on the planet Earth, even with improved recycling and better technology, for the world’s “developing countries” to use as much per capita as the US (Gordon, Bertram, & Graedel, 2006, January 31).

Figures from the US Geological Survey indicate that within the US most types of minerals are past their peak dates of production. Besides oil, these include bauxite (peaking in 1943), copper (1998), iron ore (1951), magnesium (1966), phosphate rock (1980), potash (1967), rare earth metals (1984), tin (1945), titanium (1964), and zinc (1969) (USGS, 2005). The depletion of all minerals in the US continues swiftly in spite of recycling.

Iron ore may seem infinitely abundant, but it is not. In the past it was ores such as natural hematite (Fe2O3) that were being mined. For thousands of years, also, tools were produced by smelting bog iron, mainly goethite, FeO(OH), in clay cylinders only a meter or so in height. Modern mining must rely more heavily on taconite, a flint-like ore containing less than 30 percent magnetite and hematite (Gever et al, 1991). Iron ore of the sort that can be processed with primitive equipment is becoming scarce, in other words, and only the less-tractable forms such as taconite will be available when the oil-powered machinery has disappeared. With the types of iron ore used in the past, it would have been possible to reproduce at least the medieval level of blacksmithing in future ages. With taconite it will not.

Annual world production of grain per capita peaked in 1984 at 342 kg (Brown, 2006, June 15). For years production has not met demand, so carryover stocks must fill the gap, now leaving less than two months’ supply as a buffer. Rising temperatures and falling water tables are causing havoc in grain harvests everywhere, but the biggest dent is caused by the bio-fuel industry, which is growing at over 20 percent per year. In 2007, 88 million tons of US corn, a quarter of the entire US harvest, were turned into automotive fuel.

The world catch of wild fish per capita peaked in 1988 at 17 kg; by 2005 it was down to 14 kg (Larsen, 2005, June 22). The fishing industry sends out 4 million vessels to catch wild fish, but stocks of the larger species are falling rapidly, so the industry works its way steadily down the food chain. Larsen notes in particular that “over the past 50 years, the number of large predatory fish in the oceans has dropped by a startling 90 percent. Catches of many popular food fish such as cod, tuna, flounder, and hake have been cut in half despite a tripling in fishing effort” (2005, June 22, p. 1).

The losses in the production of wild fish are made up by aquaculture (fish farming), but aquaculture causes its own problems: inshore fish farms entail the destruction of wetlands, spread diseases, and deplete oxygen. Although her study is otherwise excellent, Larsen omits the fact that millions of tonnes of other fish must be turned into food every year for use in aquaculture. The FAO dismisses these as “low-value/trash fish” (2006).

Land may be unsuitable for agriculture for many reasons (Bot et al., 2000). The climate may be too dry, too wet (not well drained), too hot, or too cold. There may be too much rain or too much snow. The terrain may be too mountainous. The soil may be nutrient-poor or polluted.

Soils may be naturally infertile for several reasons. They may have a low organic content; generally these are very sandy soils. There may be toxic levels of naturally occurring aluminum, resulting in acidity. There may be a deficiency in available phosphorus if it is bound to ferric oxides (Fe2O3). Soils may be vertic (consisting of cracking clays), saline, sodic, or just too shallow.

The rest constitutes the world’s “potential arable land.” To judge from the FAO Soil Map of the World, it would appear that the potential arable land is 38,488,090 km2, less than a third of the world’s total land area. This figure refers both to the land now being utilized for agriculture, and to the remaining land (net potential arable) that might be used in the future. The utilized arable land constitutes about 15,000,000 km2. (Bot et al. [2000] estimate 14,633,840 km2. The CIA [2010] estimates 10.57 percent of a total land surface of 149,000,000 km2, therefore presumably about 15,749,300 km2.) It would appear, then, that only about 38 percent of the world’s potential arable land is actually being used, and that there is a “land balance” (the cultivable but non-cultivated land) of 62 percent. (All of this is based on the assumption that any increase in cultivated land will happen without irrigation, since water is already in short supply.)

Bot et al., however, point out that for several reasons the figures from this map may be unrealistic. In the first place, a great deal of the land now being used is degraded, although the extent and degree of degradation of arable land is not entirely certain. The UNEP Global Assessment of Soil Degradation does not distinguish arable from non-arable land, but 41 countries have over 60 percent of their land (both arable and non-arable) severely degraded. Degradation is caused by deforestation, by overgrazing, by over-exploitation of vegetation (e.g., for firewood or timber), and by industrial activities (pollution). Agricultural activities themselves lead to soil degradation. Secondly, the unused arable land in developing countries is more than half forest. Cutting down forest would cause its own problems: the forest is in itself a valuable resource, and cutting it down would lead to wind and water erosion. Thirdly, much arable land is already being used for grazing. A more realistic estimate may be that the “land balance” is only somewhere between 3 and 25 percent.

What, then, constitutes the extent of “potential arable land”? On the positive side, there are parts of the world where the area of cultivated land might be increased. To do so, however, it would be necessary to destroy forests or other wilderness. Also on the negative side is the problem of soil degradation in the land that is now being cultivated. But that is not a straightforward matter: some land is very degraded, some is not so degraded, and the amount of land in each degree of severity varies from one country to another. At what point is land so degraded that it should no longer be labeled “arable land”? And the next question is: What is the net result of the positive and the negative? It would seem that the two roughly balance each other out.

Fresh water is declining in many countries around the world, particularly Mexico, the western US, North Africa, the Middle East, Pakistan, India, China, and Australia. If there is no population crash in the next few years, by the year 2025 about 2 billion people will be living with extreme water scarcity, and about two-thirds of the world will be facing water shortages to some extent (UN Environment Program, 2007). In Saudi Arabia and the adjacent countries from Syria to Oman, the annual water supply per capita fell from 1,700 m3 to 907 m3 between 1985 and 2005. In the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, most fresh water is supplied by desalination plants (UN Environment Program, 2007).

The diversion of water for agriculture and municipal use is causing rivers to run dry. The Colorado, the Ganges, the Nile, and the Indus are now all dry for at least part of the year before they reach the sea. In previous years, this was also true of China’s Yellow River; whether better management will prevail remains to be seen. The Amu Darya, once the largest river flowing into the Aral Sea, now runs dry as its water is diverted for the cultivation of cotton (Mygatt, 2006, July 26).

Most countries with water shortages are pumping at rates that cannot be maintained. The shallower aquifers could be replenished if pumping were reduced, but the deeper “fossil” aquifers cannot be rejuvenated when their levels are allowed to fall. Among the latter are the US Ogallala aquifer, the Saudi aquifer, and the deeper aquifer of the North China Plain (Brown, 2008).

Agriculture uses more than 70 percent of the world’s fresh water and is mainly responsible for the depletion of aquifers of both types (UN Environment Program, 2007). World grain harvests tripled between 1950 and 2000, but only with increases in irrigation. The US depends on irrigation for a fifth of its grain production; in parts of the grain-producing states of Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas the water table has fallen more than 30 meters, and thousands of wells have gone dry (Brown, 2008). The situation is worse in China, where four-fifths of the grain harvest depends on irrigation. The fossil aquifer of the North China Plain maintains half of China’s wheat production and a third of its corn. As a result of the depletion of water, Chinese annual grain production has been in decline since 1998.

All this excess use of water is leading to political strife. While the seas have long been generally subject to international laws, it is only in recent decades that there have been major international problems with the world’s fresh water. Because of falling water levels, new wells are drilled to greater depths than the old, with the result that the owners of the old wells are left without water. The result is a cycle of competition in which no one wins.

A similar competition exists with the world’s rivers. Sixty percent of the world’s 227 largest rivers have numerous dams and canals, and there are not many other rivers that are entirely free from such obstructions (UN Environment Program, 2007). Most countries sharing a large river with others are in the midst of violent struggle or about to become so. For example, India’s Farakka Barrage, completed in 1975, diverts water from the Ganges into its Indian tributary, thereby depriving Bangladesh of water (Smith & Vivekananda, 2007, November). Egypt and Sudan signed a treaty in 1959 allocating 75 percent of the Nile’s water to the former and the remainder to Sudan, with no provisions for the other countries through which the river flows, and Egypt has threatened military action against any of those countries if their irrigation projects reduce the flow (Elhadj, 2008, September).

It is not only military strength that settles issues of water distribution: countries with more water can produce more grain and thus influence the economies of less fortunate countries. It takes a thousand tonnes of water to produce a tonne of grain. In the short term it may therefore seem more sensible for water-poor countries to stop depleting their water by producing grain, and instead buying it from water-rich countries (Brown, 2008; UN Environment Program, 2007). Between 1984 and 2000, at a cost of about $100 billion, Saudi Arabia foolishly tried to produce its own grain but then gave up and switched to importing it. Buying grain has its own negative side-effects, however, in terms of national security, foreign exchange, and lost local employment (Elhadj, 2008, September). The biggest question of national security, however, may be: What will happen when the grain-exporting countries themselves start running out of both grain and water?

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Hall, C. (2008, April 15). Unconventional oil: Tar sands and shale oil — EROI on the Web, Part 3 of 6. The Oil Drum. Retrieved from http://www.theoildrum.com/node/3839

Heinberg, R. (2009). Blackout. Gabriola Island, British Columbia: New Society.

------. (2010, May). China's coal bubble . . . and how it will deflate U.S. efforts to develop “clean coal.” MuseLetter #216. Retrieved from http://richardheinberg.com/216-chinas-coal-bubble-and-how-it-will-deflate-u-s-efforts-to-develop-clean-coal

Höök, M., & Aleklett, K. (2009, May 1). Historical trends in American coal production and a possible future outlook. International Journal of Coal Geology. Retrieved from www.tsl.uu.se/uhdsg/Publications/USA_Coal.pdf

------, Zittel, W., Schindler, J., & Aleklett, K. (2010, June 8). Global coal production outlooks based on a logistic model. Retrieved from: http://www.tsl.uu.se/uhdsg /Publications/Coal_Fuel.pdf

Larsen, J. (2005, June 22). Fish harvest. Earth Policy Indicators. Retrieved from Earth Policy Institute website: http://www.earth-policy.org/index.php?/indicators/C55/

Mygatt, E. (2006, July 26). World’s water resources face mounting pressure. Eco-Economic Indicators. Retrieved from http://www.earth-policy.org/index.php?/indicators/C57/

Smil, V. (2009, September 17). The iron age & coal-based coke: A neglected case of fossil-fuel dependence. Master Resource. Retrieved from http://masterresource.org/2009/09/a-forgotten-case-of-fossil-fuel-dependence-the-iron-age-requires-carbon-based-energy-like-it-or-not/

Smith, D., & Vivekananda, J. (2007, November). A climate of conflict: The links between climate change, peace and war. International Alert. Retrieved from http://www.international-alert.org/pdf/A_Climate_Of_Conflict.pdf

Smith, R. (2009, June 8). US foresees a thinner cushion of coal. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124414770220386457.html

Storm van Leeuwen, J. W. (2008, February). Nuclear power — the energy balance. Retrieved from http://www.stormsmith.nl/

UN Environment Program. (2007). Global environment outlook 4. Retrieved from http://www.unep.org/geo/geo4/report/GEO-4_Report_Full_en.pdf

USGS. (2005). Historical statistics for mineral and material commodities in the United States. Data Series 140. Retrieved from http://minerals.usgs.gov/ds/2005/140/

Youngquist, W. (2000, October). Alternative energy sources. Oil Crisis. Retrieved from http://www.oilcrisis.com/youngquist/altenergy.htm

Peter Goodchild is the author of Survival Skills of the North American Indians, published by Chicago Review Press. His email address is prjgoodchild[at]gmail.com

  Read Global Energy And Resources
 January 21, 2012  

Contrary to everything we have been taught, there is no actual United States of America. The U.S. is an occupied territory that could more accurately be described as the Corporate States of America. If the geopolitical states are united, the people are not. We are a nation divided by ideology and by social and economic class. The U.S. is not a democracy and it never was. The systems of power do not allow the voice of working people to be heard or their collective will to be acted upon.

Despite the subterfuge of freedom and democracy, the rights of corporations have consistently superseded the sovereign rights of the individual and those of the community. Labor history and a litany of environmental catastrophes bear this out. For instance, everywhere one looks government agencies, ostensibly created to protect the public welfare, are allowing hydraulic fracturing of Marcellus shale, even when it poisons municipal drinking water and causes incalculable harm to the environment.

Our diverse forests are commodified, measured in board feet to be clear-cut and off-shored at prodigious bargain rates, like a liquidation sale. World class biodiversity is yielding to desertification and monoculture. Money changes hands. The few are getting rich at the expense of the many. The world and the people who live in it are treated like products to be exploited. We are told that nothing is sacred, save for the dollar and markets.

Nevertheless, it is an inescapable fact that no human being, including corporate CEOs and members of Congress, can live without potable water or breathable air. We are literally sacrificing the Earth’s life support systems and mortgaging the future, while attempting to satiate the greed of a few grotesquely wealthy individuals. Through lifelong indoctrination, Americans are persuaded that self-interested greed is in their best interest.

The rich and powerful have decreed that corporate profits, the Holy Grail of American capitalism, are more precious than life itself. The remorseless people in power are without conscience. History confirms that sociopaths do not hesitate to take what they want from their unsuspecting victims by any and all means.

But surely, even among Friedmanites, it must be allowed that some things cannot be commodified or bought and sold. For instance, clean air and potable water are the birthright of every living organism. These are necessities that belong to the commons; they cannot ethically be privately owned. In contrast to this assertion, two edicts of modern capitalism are private ownership and the commodification of workers and nature.

Capitalism, and the market fundamentalism that is associated with it, has stripped bare the Earth’s biodiversity and substituted a world of commodities in its stead. What we see and think we know is not real. It is the product of marketing and perception managers—a hologram.

There is growing conflict between capitalism and the planet’s ecology, its essential life support systems. A fierce struggle between capital and democracy is in progress. The booted foot of capitalism is pressing upon the throat of democracy. We inhabit a dying world and are inheriting dying freedoms. Corporate greed and over-population is the culprit. Conflict is everywhere.

Virtually all of the social upheaval, inequality, and environmental problems of today in some way ensue from capitalism, including overpopulation and armed aggression. Capitalism requires continuous economic expansion and a burgeoning market for consumers. This is simply not possible on a finite planet.

These tensions are manifested no more clearly than throughout the coal belt and mountains of West Virginia, where I make my home. Here, mountains are cleared of forests before being blown to smithereens in order to cheaply extract coal to enrich Massey Energy Corporation. The process, known as mountaintop removal, has poisoned streams, altered their courses, and changed the contours of the land and its hydrology. It has devastated both human and biological communities while filling the coffers of the timber and coal industries.

Conventional underground mining has claimed the lives of thousands of coal miners trying to scratch out a modest living from the Earth. At times, it has led to armed conflict between miners and the Pinkertons hired by the mining companies in places like Matewan and Blair Mountain.

In West Virginia, King Coal and the gas and oil industry run the state’s legislature. The government is effectively owned by corporate lobbyists. As a result, it is futile to make legal and moral appeals to government for redress of our grievances. If we limit ourselves to the tools that our oppressors provide us, the entire region will become a sacrifice zone. Working people and the poor make the sacrifices; billionaires and industry carry off the profit. We are left to deal with the aftermath.

The illusion of democracy, including voting in the absence of meaningful choice, is a poor substitute for direct action and anarchy. Democracy cannot flourish in the sterile soil that capitalism leaves in its wake. Either we have democracy or we have capitalism, or we create something entirely different. Radically opposing ideas cannot be reconciled.

Modern humans inhabit a human-engineered world of absurdities and contradictions. Regardless of the Supreme Court’s assertions, corporations are not people, and money is not speech. Every sentient human being knows this. However, the law says otherwise. We must deny the corporate state that victory by refusing to capitulate.

The struggle for community rights, egalitarianism, and social, economic, and environmental justice must occur outside of the system that creates inequality and fosters wanton destruction of the commons. Countless species of plants and animals that provide essential ecological services are being eliminated to create space for strip malls, gated communities, gambling casinos and golf courses. As a result, ecological and economic catastrophe loom. We are facing global famine in an anthropocentric over-heated world.

Globally, wealthy multi-national corporations are gorging themselves on the biological and mineral wealth of the commons. What could be more absurd or unethical?

The brainchild of Adam Smith, capitalism, which replaced feudalism during the French Revolution, is founded upon demonstrably false premises, many of which were unknown in Smith’s time. Nevertheless, classically-trained economists assert that capitalism is a primal force of nature rather than the defective human construct that it is. Modern capitalism has produced pathological symptoms and endorsed an ethos that is antithetical to life and to liberty. It is killing the world and foreclosing evolutionary possibilities.

Indeed, ethical considerations aside, and speaking purely from a biological perspective, one may emphatically state that modern capitalism is an aggressive cancer that is devouring its host. But most of us are in denial. People like me are asked not to utter the “C” word in public spaces. It might offend the well-intentioned believers. Whenever this occurs I am reminded of Thoreau, who uttered, “Any truth is better than make believe.” One has an ethical obligation to state what one knows succinctly and clearly.

It is not in dispute that the ideology of constant expansion on a finite planet is contradicted by inviolable ecological dictums—among them, carrying capacity, ecological overshoot, and die-off. But classical economists act as if these laws do not apply, or they are mysteriously overridden by the irrational exuberance of capitalism.

In reality, every political economy is underlain by ecology and by living, evolving, biological systems. Ecology is the only economy that really matters.

By possessing even a modest degree of ecological literacy, one can make some revealing predictions with mathematical certainty. For example, the continuation of capitalism as the primary political economy can have one of two possible outcomes: the virtual destruction of the biosphere, meaning the death of the host organism, or the abolition of the capitalist system.

What would a post-capitalism world look like and how might it work?

Global capitalism, with its dependence on the availability of cheap fossil fuels and petrochemicals for food production, must give way to small-scale local economies and organic agriculture. Food must be locally grown and, as far as possible, other necessities locally produced. The age of cheap fossil fuels is ending. Industrialized man must bravely confront his addictions and embrace sobriety or he will self-destruct.

It is said that nature bats last. Humans do best when they emulate natural systems that have evolved over eons of time.

A moneyless economy based upon need must supplant the current profit-driven system of exploitation. Accordingly, goods and services may then be exchanged without the conduit of markets. These exchanges would be of equal value and thus inherently fair.

The classic business models will be replaced by worker-owned and worker-operated cooperatives. In this arrangement, workers—not a board of directors—make all of the business decisions. They share the risks and benefits and distribute the surpluses of production, while significantly reducing the work day and the work week. A portion of the surpluses of production is allocated to the betterment of the community and to the protection of the commons.

New economic models must be predicated upon ecological principles or they will fail. Existing alternatives to capitalism, such as Spain’s Mondragon Worker Cooperative, must be critically analyzed and evaluated as a model that could, with modifications, be implemented elsewhere.

There is no better teacher than evolution and natural selection. History confirms that the most revolutionary ideas are occasionally the oldest. For instance, anthropological studies indicate that early Homo sapiens evolved by implementing egalitarian principles into their tribal clans. People and the cultures they create must either evolve or perish.

The egalitarian societies of the future will look radically different from the capitalism of today. Political campaigns and elections will recede into history and quickly forgotten. Evolved societies do not need leaders or elected officials.

Every member of an egalitarian community is a leader. Power flows in a circular form rather than a linear, top-down hierarchy. It is derived directly from the people. There will be no social or economic stratification. No one shall have privileges or rights that are denied to others. Every member of the community must be equally empowered and equally valued. All people will have equal access to opportunity. Healthcare and higher education, like pure water and clean air, will be regarded as a right of birth and provided without cost.

Direct action will replace voting in political elections. Rather than consent to be governed, sovereign people can create the world they want to live in. In communities where people are empowered and where they have an equal stake, they will want to participate. Everyone brings something to the table. Everyone contributes and all of society benefits.

Communities will become as interconnected and interdependent as ecological systems. But each will remain autonomous within the larger matrix of nature. States and nations as we know them may eventually recede into history and disappear.

Rather than the callous competition and exploitation nurtured by capitalism, communities can be organized around the principle of cooperation and social need. As in healthy ecosystems, the welfare of the individual is dependent upon the well-being of the community—and vice versa. No one will be left behind. All of us shall rise together.

All living organisms share a common origin and a common destiny. Ecology and economy must merge into an integrated natural system suited to long-term survival in a world already ravaged by industrialized man. Ecological and social healing must be part of the process of building sustainable communities.

The transition from capitalism to cooperation will be neither smooth nor easy. There will be many false starts. At first, there will be fierce resistance to revolutionary change. People cling to the familiar and the comfortable, to what they know, even when the dominant paradigm and popular culture does them harm.

The first tentative steps of a journey are often the most difficult. There are no clear blueprints to follow. There will be trepidation and uncertainty. But we must commit to beginning. The alternative is oblivion. But if we embark on the voyage the survival of the species, and a new age of enlightenment will be possible.

Charles Sullivan is a Master Naturalist, community activist, and free-lance writer residing in the Ridge and Valley Province of geopolitical West Virginia.

  Read Ecology And The Pathology Of Capitalism
 January 25, 2012  
Is The Ocean An Alternative?
by Tom Murphy , Countercurrents.org

With the exception of tidal energy, our focus thus far has been on land-based energy sources. Meanwhile, the ocean absorbs a prodigious fraction of the Sun’s incident energy, creating thermal gradients, currents, and waves whipped up by winds. Let’s put some scales on the energetics of these sources and see if we may turn to them for help. We’ve got our three boxes ready: abundant, potent, and niche (puny). Time to do some sorting!

Thermal Gradients

Wherever there is a thermal gradient, our eyes light up because we can create a heat flow across the gradient and capture some fraction of the energy flow to do useful work. This is called a heat engine, the efficiency of which is capped by the theoretical maximum (Th − Tc)/Th, where “h” and “c” subscripts refer to absolute temperatures of the hot and cold reservoirs, respectively. In the ocean, we are rather limited in how much gradient is available. The surface does not tend to exceed 30°C (303 K), while the depths cannot get much cooler than 0°C (273 K; pressure and salinity allow it to go a few degrees negative). The maximum thermodynamic efficiency therefore tops out at 10%, and in practice we might get half of this in a real application. The general scheme of producing energy from thermal gradients in the ocean is called ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC).
OTEC Potential

How much energy is available? First of all, water is tremendously efficient at storing thermal energy, packing 4184 Joules per liter per degree (definition of the kilocalorie). Therefore, extracting the heat from a cubic meter of water at 30°C—leaving it at 0°C—represents 125 MJ of energy. Turned into electricity at 5% efficiency, we would need to process 160 cubic meters per second to generate a standard power plant’s output of 1 GW. Remember that we’re using the most extreme temperature difference for our figures. Given that the elevated surface temperatures will only be found in the top 100 m of water (above the thermocline), we must chew through 1.6 m² of ocean area per second to make our gigawatt. In a day, we convert a square patch 370 m on a side.

But this doesn’t get at how much can be sustainably recharged. The thermal energy derives, after all, from solar input. In the tropics, we might expect a patch of ocean to receive 250 W/m² of sunlight on average. It takes a square area 9 km on a side to annually recharge the 1 GW draw (at 5% extraction efficiency: the other 95% is dumped into the depths as waste heat at close to 0°C). This figure ignores thermal exchange with the air, which will tend to be in the range of 5–20 W/m² per °C difference between air and water. Also, radiative losses will reach 150 W/m² in clear skies. Approximating these effects to produce a net 100 W/m² retained as heat, we need our annual square to be about 14 km on a side.

The 200 km² patch we need to supply a 1 GW “plant” gets multiplied by 13,000 to hit our 13 TW global appetite. That’s an area comparable to the land area of the Indonesian islands: New Guinea, Borneo, Sumatra, etc. (wanted to pick something in warm water to stare at on map). Clearly we have the oceanic space. And as such, we throw OTEC into the “abundant” box. It’s basically a form of solar power at 5% efficiency available over a large fraction of the globe. So no real surprise that it should be abundant.

I did not factor in evaporative cooling, which can be rather significant. But it would have a hard time knocking the total resource out of the abundant box. In rough numbers, half of the total solar energy budget reaches the ground, and something like 70% of this is absorbed by oceans, for 35% of the total. Meanwhile, evaporation claims 23% of the solar budget, effectively taking a 2/3 bite out of the thermal energy deposited. So we need something like the area of Australia in the ocean. Like I say—still abundant.

Comparing the daily volume/area draw to the recharge area, we compute an interesting timescale: 4 years. In other words, if we isolated a patch of ocean 14 km on a side that could generate 1 GW of OTEC power, it would take 4 years to process the entire volume (above 100 m depth). This is reassuringly longer than the one year recharge time, allowing for seasonal variation and adequate mixing.

OTEC Wrinkles

A look at the map above shows the regions for which our 30°C assumption is valid. These regions tend not to be near the major demand. If we want to park an OTEC plant off the shore of a more temperate location, several things happen. The temperature difference and therefore the quantity of thermal storage obviously shrinks (by roughly factor of two). The thermodynamic efficiency likewise takes a factor of two hit. And the warm layer is shallower at higher latitudes (say a factor of two). The net effect is a factor of 8 greater area of water processing per 1 GW OTEC plant. The area for solar collection likewise increases—by almost a factor of two for reduced insolation, and by an additional factor of two to account for reduced efficiency.

Since the energy produced is a quadratic function of ΔT, a temperate OTEC plant becomes seriously impaired in the winter. At 40° latitude off the U.S. coast, I calculate that the winter production is at 40% the summer production in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans

Operating and maintaining an offshore power plant in seawater, transmitting the power to land, dealing with storms and other mishaps are serious challenges. OTEC reduces to a low efficiency, operationally difficult method for harvesting solar thermal energy. It seems we would be better off getting 15% in solar thermal plants in sunny areas. I’m not sure why we’d waste our time on OTEC when there are better (cheaper) ways to collect the abundant energy of the Sun. OTEC has some advantage in not having to build the collector, and in the fluid delivery system, but this would seem to be a minor plus stacked against the operational disadvantages. OTEC deserves a spot in the abundant box, but practicalities limit its likely role.

Ocean Currents

Much as tuna was once marketed as the “chicken of the sea,” ocean currents are the “wind energy of the sea.” Recalling that the kinetic power in a fluid flow is ½ρAv³, where ρ is the density of the fluid, A is the area described by the collecting rotor, and v is the velocity of the fluid, we note that the density of water is about 800 times that of air. Big score! But the velocity tends to be smaller, and has a cubic power to knock it back. A strong mid-ocean current might reach 2 knots, or 1 m/s. Compared to a wind speed of 10 m/s (22 m.p.h.), we get 1000 times less power per rotor area. So we’re right back to where we were with wind.

We have a lot more ocean area than land area. And we are not as constrained in the ocean as we are on land to keep our turbines near the surface, so we could exploit more vertical space—to a point. Ocean currents tend to be confined to the upper 400 meters of water, so the depth gain is only a factor of 2–3 times what we access for wind. On the plus side, we note that ocean currents are far more steady/robust, so we would not be plagued by intermittency the way we are with solar and wind. On balance, wind fell into the “potent” box, so ocean currents surely deserve at least this rating—practicalities aside, of course.

We would naturally first want to exploit pinch-points (straits, narrow inlets, etc.), where currents may be up to 5 m/s, now delivering 100 times the power per area compared to a windmill at 10 m/s. But currents tend to be large in these pinch points due to tidal fluctuations, not steady flow, so we’re just tapping into the tidal energy budget—previously characterized as a niche source. To the extent that steady-current pinch points exist, they make a natural choice for locating underwater turbines, but such places are limited—especially in terms of area or they would not be “pinch” points—so the total power available is small.

Given a Choice?

We saw that a given rotor area will deliver comparable power whether placed in open ocean currents or on land in a moderate wind. Now I ask you: is it easier/cheaper to put a giant turbine on land, or upside-down at sea? Think about access for maintenance, salt water corrosion, transmission of electric power, all the bruised fish, etc.

Wave Energy

Most of us have marveled at the awesome power of waves crashing into a beach, pier, or headland. It’s enough to knock us over, unlike solar or wind power. And all that coastline—surely it’s a winner!

Wave Energetics

Waves represent third-string solar energy: solar energy is absorbed by land and sea, making thermal gradients in the air that generate wind. Wind then pushes on the surface of water, building up waves. The wind-wave interaction is self-reinforcing: the higher a wave sticks up, the more energy the wind can dump into it. Many of the waves arriving on a coastline were generated in storms somewhere across the ocean.

The Earth absorbs about 120,000 TW of solar energy (that which isn’t directly reflected). About 1% of this ends up being dissipated in winds (1200 TW). Of this, about 5% (60 TW) goes into wave generation. Some of this fights itself (wind against wave), some wave energy dissipates on its own via viscosity and turbulence, and some gets eaten up in shallow waters (e.g., around archipelagos) without making landfall. All of these chip away at the amount of wave energy accessible near land. I might venture a guess that we receive something comparable to our 13 TW global demand on our shores.

I want to satisfy myself with a ground-up estimate to see if the numbers make sense. Let’s say a 2 m-high wave (trough to crest) arrives every ten seconds, traveling at a jogging speed of 3 m/s. The waves are therefore 30 m apart. Each meter of wave-front then has a volume of about 30 cubic meters (average height is 1 m above the trough for a sinusoidal shape). The gravitational potential energy, mgh, above the trough comes to 225 kJ, and the kinetic energy, ½mv², is 135 kJ. If we were able to capture all of this energy, we would collect 360 kJ every 10 seconds, or 36 kW of power for each meter of coastline. Compared to solar or wind power density—at approximately 200 and 30 W/m², respectively—this sounds like a huge number: 36,000 W/m. But the fact that the denominator is linear in length and not a square makes a gigantic difference. The Earth has far more square meters than linear meters of coastline.

Happily, my figure compares well with values you can find by searching for “wave energy potential map” in Google. A 2000 km coastline might therefore net 70 GW if one could catch all the energy at 100% efficiency. The lower-48 in the U.S. might then collect something like 200 GW of wave power to the chagrin of surfers, representing something like 7% of the total domestic power demand. A very recent report puts the wave energy off California’s 1800 km coastline at 140 TWh per year, working out to an average of 16 GW—coming in a good deal less than my stupid calculation.

Undaunted, globally I will make the crude estimate that there is enough coastline to circle the globe twice—considering that not all coastline faces the prevailing swell and is therefore penalized. Whatever. This makes for 80,000 km of coastline. At 35 kW/m, we get 2.8 TW, or about 20% of global demand, fully developed.

A quick Google search shows estimates of global wave power of 2 TW, 3.5 TW, 1–10 TW: all roughly consistent with my crude estimate.

Waves in a Box

The numbers push me into putting wave energy in the “niche” box, since my criterion for “potent” is the ability to satisfy a quarter of our need if fully developed. It might possibly qualify as potent, but it’s borderline. Where did the 60 TW of total dissipation into wave energy go? A bit of digging suggests that half is lost in deep-water breaking (think of the “roaring 50′s” in the southern hemisphere). The rest is lost in wave-turbulence interaction and bottom friction. It would seem that there is greater inefficiency than I appreciated in delivering wave energy to land.

Critters in Common

Each of the three energy resources we’ve discussed here require placement of energy conversion equipment into the sea. I’ve seen what sunken ships look like even after a few decades. They’re beautiful in one sense—teeming with colorful life—but not so much if functionality is more important. I cringe to think of the maintenance costs of our energy infrastructure placed out to sea.

Washed Up?

The ocean covers 72% of the Earth’s area, absorbing vast amounts of solar energy as heat, moving around the globe in great conveyor belts, and capturing some fraction of wind energy in its waves. Ocean thermal earns a spot in the abundant box, ocean currents easily meet the potent criterion—being greater than wind potential, while waves fall short into the niche box. All three forms of ocean energy just add to the pile of alternative methods for creating electricity, being useless for heat or directly as transportation fuel.

Furthermore, only wave energy is conveniently delivered to our shores. Practically speaking, scaling facilities to capture ocean thermal and ocean current energy crosses a line of practicality that we are unlikely to exceed as long as other large-scale energy options (solar photovoltaics, solar thermal, wind, nuclear) remain more convenient. And yes, for all its complication, I would still guess nuclear to be easier to accomplish at scale than the ocean technologies. Anything on land gets an immediate boost in my book.

In this sense, ocean energy—much like solar energy in space, or pools of methane on Titan—falls into more of a “so what” category for me. Sure, it’s there, and I’m pleased to say it is even abundant. But practicalities will likely preclude us from pursuing it in a big way—at least in the near term when we face our great transition from fossil fuels. Wave energy is slightly less impractical, but the widely varying technologies I have seen demonstrated strike me as no more than cute, given the puny amount of power available in total.

So as I cast about looking for reasons why I should not worry about our energy future, I find little solace when I look to the sea. We’ll see nuclear fusion next week. No, really.

Tom Murphy is an associate professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego. An amateur astronomer in high school, physics major at Georgia Tech, and PhD student in physics at Caltech, Murphy has spent decades reveling in the study of astrophysics. He currently leads a project to test General Relativity by bouncing laser pulses off of the reflectors left on the Moon by the Apollo astronauts, achieving one-millimeter range precision. Murphy’s keen interest in energy topics began with his teaching a course on energy and the environment for non-science majors at UCSD. Motivated by the unprecedented challenges we face, he has applied his instrumentation skills to exploring alternative energy and associated measurement schemes. Following his natural instincts to educate, Murphy is eager to get people thinking about the quantitatively convincing case that our pursuit of an ever-bigger scale of life faces gigantic challenges and carries significant risks.

  Read Is The Ocean An Alternative?
 January 26, 2012  

“Fiddling while Rome burns” may seem a stale analogy, but when talking of “green growth” and “green economy” (GGE, for short), it is appropriate. Despite assertions to the contrary, the only thing innovative about the GGE concepts is the buzz that surrounds them. Getting excited about them when they are hardly new or creative notions blithely ignores their critical limitations for dealing with the social and ecological challenges facing us today.

The modern environmental movement emerged in the 1960s as a reaction to two centuries of industrial growth that produced everything in varied and vast quantities — including pollution. As political scientist Albert Weale has helpfully discussed, the initial policy strategy to emerge from this disquiet was confrontational. Governments sought to regulate corporations whose effluents despoiled nature and human health. Regulations were designed to mandate certain practices and penalize pollution in an attempt to change business behaviour. The confrontational arrangement of the 1970s was obviously problematic, inefficient and even ineffective.

The alternative was to frame environment and economic growth as mutually supportive partners. Indeed, “Our Common Future” (the report of the World Commission on Environment and Development, also known as the Brundtland Report) of 1987 observed, somewhat inexplicably, that “poverty reduces people’s capacity to use the environment in a sustainable manner; it intensifies pressure on the environment” and therefore suggested that rapid economic expansion is essential for a healthy environment. In the same breath, though, the report also recognized that there are “ultimate [biophysical] limits” and pinned its hopes of resolving this contradiction and realizing sustainability in the world on “ensuring equitable access to resources and reorienting technological efforts to relieve the pressure” long before these limits are reached.

The practical implementation of this prescription relied on realizing greater efficiencies and technological sophistication, and the appropriation of nature under expert management and market-based allocation. The report was less explicit — and subsequent policy even more so — on exactly how to enable “equitable access to resources” in practice.

The sustainable development agenda has been around for more than two decades. However, apart from some successes at cleaning up air and water, largely at the local level in affluent societies, its accomplishments in bringing about an arrangement of nature–society relations that is on the whole equitable and sustainable still appears limited. The basic problem is that the implementation of sustainable development unevenly emphasizes economic growth, and equity is seen as a managed outcome of applying modern science and technology to expand the economic pie and its subsequent allocation through free markets.

This approach has been unable to engage equity as a politically negotiated arrangement of fair social relationships. It should be evident to a casual observer today that while this strategy has succeeded in growing the economic pie, it has failed in arriving at a fair allocation of affluence and it effluents.

Efficiency is a necessary but insufficient condition today, when the imperative is to find sufficiency in a finite and deeply inequitable world.

Fast-forward to 2011 and the recent attention to “green growth” and “green economy”. The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) describes GGE as an economic arrangement that “enhances growth, social progress and environmental stewardship”. It recognizes biophysical limits and notes that the “objective of the green economy is to ensure that those limits are not crossed”. It proposes a “Great Green Technological Revolution” to make technologies “more efficient in the use of energy and other resources and minimize the generation of harmful pollutants”.

In a similar vein, UNEP’s Toward a Green Economy observes that GGE is an arrangement where “growth in income and employment should be driven by public and private investments that reduce carbon emissions and pollution, enhance energy and resource efficiency, and prevent the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services”. Reviewing these foundational assumptions of GGE, one must ask: What has changed in over two decades?

These ideas were innovative in 1987 when“ Our Common Future” was released. But to talk of them in 2011 as new solutions for persistent, unresolved problems is, to put it generously, unhelpful. They are good strategies, and policy must continue to emphasize them and expand their applicability. However, efficiency is a necessary but insufficient condition today, when the imperative is to find sufficiency in a finite and deeply inequitable world.

The scope of this challenge is unprecedented. The recent “great recession” revealed our inability to arrange an acceptable society without constant economic growth. Prevailing against this challenge requires a wellspring of imagination and creativity. Focusing on more efficient growth without situating questions of ecological limits, equity and distribution into the foundations of these discussions is rather futile.

Science and technology for sustainable societies

Ideally, the puzzle that GGE should help solve is how sufficiency can be approached practically, creatively and institutionally. Toward that end, some reflection on the dynamic interrelationships between technology and society is helpful.

Developing countries, especially low-income ones, with relatively low rates of electricity usage, may be able to “leapfrog” into electricity generation based on renewable forms of primary energy, for instance. As this assertion from UNDESA illustrates, the GGE discourse holds that developing countries and transition economies can advance directly to a green economy. The problem with the assertion of “leapfrogging”, however, is it fails to recognize that putting in place more efficient technology does not necessarily bring about the goals of equity and sustainability. This is because technology implicitly embodies normative positions and engenders patterns for mediating the interaction between nature and society.

Technology implicitly embodies normative positions and engenders patterns for mediating the interaction between nature and society.

Modern human’s encounter with fossilized energy illustrates this attribute of technology and the unprecedented social, political and economic dynamics that ensued. Long ago, Lewis Mumford eloquently reported on this sudden encounter that put “mankind in a fever of exploitation”, so much so that the logic of mining pervaded the “economic and social organism” and became the norm for subsidiary economic and industrial organization. This logic of “disorderly exploitation and wasteful expenditure” acquired a life of its own and continued to propagate quite independently of whether or not the initial mine of energy was depleted.

Two attributes of the relationship between technology and society must be highlighted here. First is their reciprocal influences, wherein a portfolio of technical capabilities and an accompanying economic logic lit that “fever of exploitation” and subsequently the “animus of mining affected the entire economic and social organism.”

The second attribute is the phenomenon characterized as “technological momentum” by Thomas Hughes (1994), wherein “disorderly exploitation and wasteful expenditure remained, whether or not the source of energy itself disappeared”. Whether we consider a specific instance such as breaking the addiction to oil, or the considerable difficulties of figuring out a steady-state economic arrangement, the momentum of past choices is evident.

In this context, the common duality of technology as socially “neutral” (its impacts are largely accidental and, therefore, society only needs to focus on fiddling with it so as to avoid or mitigate its unwanted consequences), or of society as being “technologically determined” (its social impacts are inherent to its design) are half-truths that reduce it to a spectator sport controlled by the key players in the field. Yet, the evolution of technology choices ought to be anything but a spectator sport.

In certain forms, technology holds the potential to be liberating and emancipatory and is at par with, or even more influential than, politics and legislation in shaping society. Thus, it is imperative for society to have at least a comparable (if not greater) influence on its evolution and form.

As Andrew Feenberg eloquently offered in 1991, “the design of technology is thus an ontological decision fraught with political consequences. The exclusion of the vast majority from participation in this decision is the underlying cause of many of our problems”. He further notes that “technology is not a thing in the ordinary sense of the term, but an ambivalent process of development suspended between different possibilities. It is a social battlefield … a parliament of things on which civilizational alternatives are debated and decided”.

Thus, fundamentally, what appears to be lacking is the ability for society to influence the evolution of technology and to impart to it values of sufficiency that are already visible in some conceptions and practices of human development and economic organization. The crucial need is for emerging green technology infrastructure to be able to embody these changes from the status quo. An attendant emergent requirement for green technology innovation, then, is that it be “democratic” as opposed to being “authoritarian” (after Lewis Mumford).

What appears to be lacking is the ability for society to influence the evolution of technology and to impart to it values of sufficiency.

A democratic technological infrastructure

In addition to addressing the question of scale (discussed above), a democratic technological infrastructure is also crucial for pursuing equality. Democratic technologies are particularly helpful in distributing means to generate wealth, a theme that was central to Mahatma Gandhi’s critique of modern technology.

This vision was eloquently captured by the gifted polymath D. D. Kosambi in the context of debates over the choice of civilian nuclear power in India. In 1960, Kosambi reasoned that there were significant difficulties in centralized generation and subsequent supply of electricity to a population as vast and dispersed as that of the sub-continent. In this context, he noted that the solar energy brought with it the distinctive advantage of “decentralization”, not just from the technical point of view but for a political and economic perspective as well. He argued that solar power was particularly conducive to “dispersed small industry and local use…” and that “if you really mean to have socialism in any form, without the stifling effects of bureaucracy and heavy initial investment, there is no other source so efficient”.

Going forward, our great faith in technological fiddling must be balanced by the burning fact that an unconditionally expanding economy (efficiency notwithstanding) is no longer feasible, not least because of the biosphere’s energy and material limits and the inequality it presupposes. Thus, as countries seek material infrastructures to mediate nature-society relations, the focus must move so that designs being considered can internalize and engage valuations of sufficiency, and realize a realignment of control over production and consumption arrangements from capital to community.

A truly green economy, in short, must be a revolution of democracy and equality as manifest in the technology infrastructure that is shaped by society, and which, in turn, is shaped by it.

Dr. Manu V. Mathai is a Research Fellow in the Science, Technology for Sustainable Societies Programme at United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies. Formerly a visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Science, Technology, Society and Public Policy at the Rochester Institute of Technology in the United States, Dr. Mathai’s research and teaching interests centre around interlinkages between the themes of energy, environment and development, with a focus on science and technology policy and conceptions of human and economic development amenable to sustainability and equality.

  Read Green Economy And Growth: Fiddling While Rome Burns?
 January 28, 2012  
Waking In The Half World
by Peter Goodchild, Countercurrents.org

Most estimates indicate that by 2030, more or less, annual global oil production will be about half of the peak rate. "Half" the oil with occur at the same time as "half" of everything else (water, metals, electricity, etc.) and the general collapse of both a functional economy (with debts already beyond comprehension) and honest government (if we consider, for example, how casually the US dumped its Constitution and replaced it with the Patriot Act). All of these events will be occurring as a synergistic tangle -- or, rather, an "anti-synergistic" tangle, centrifugal rather than centripetal. A little pocket calculator will tell you that, for most practical purposes, industrial civilization will be over by that same date of 2030.

I'm happy to drink my first cup of coffee at my usual very early hour, while perusing the Internet, but I usually don't consider that activity much more than a temporary pleasantry. If I step outside at dawn I can feel the Arctic wind blowing against my face. I'm not entirely sure I'll be able to get a chainsaw running as I get older, so that I can put several cords of firewood together each autumn. I don't even know it that tiny amount of fuel will be available, or if I'll find the greater amount of fuel that will be needed to drive to the gas station and fill up the jerry can to run the chain saw. -- Odd how they work, all these convolutions of civilized life, even on the far edge of urban sprawl.

Frankly, I often think that running a chain saw is a bigger fantasy than the one that says global petroleum will decline at a rate so slight that it will be as if a golf ball was bouncing slowly down the green. At times, yes, I get nervous about these matters. I'm not sure if I should be spending my time thinking of ways for someone my age (and certainly someone the age I will be in 2030) to handle the physical hardships of the post-industrial world, or whether I should be gloating over the thought that coffee, computers, and central heating will be with me to the end of my days. And there's nothing I can say about the end of anyone else's days, after that, except that it will be a time of revelation.

Peter Goodchild is the author of Survival Skills of the North American Indians, published by Chicago Review Press. His email address is prjgoodchild[at]gmail.com

  Read Waking In The Half World
 February 10, 2012  
PRESENTATION DU TEXTE DE LISE par Victor LeGendre. Par ce texte, Lise apporte une contribution majeure a la pensee de Lawrence Kohlberg bien connu pour ses recherches sur les stades de l'evolution du jugement moral chez l'etre humain. Les 6 premiers stades qu'il a proposes, Lise les resume dans un tableau qui figure a l'annexe 1. Kohlberg en a prevu un 7e qu'il a qualifie de mystique, mais qu'il n'a pas su developper, faute de sujets d'experimentation. Il nous a pourtant laisse un questionnement auquel Lise apporte une reponse : POURQUOI ET COMMENT TRE MORAL SUR LE PLAN COSMIQUE? S'appuyant sur sa connaissance des messages que les Elohim ont livres a l'humanite en 1973-75-78, Lise s'est posee d'autres questions auxquelles elle repond : SUR LE PLAN DE L'INFINI, QUE REPRESENTE LA MORALITE ET QUELLES SONT LES REGLES D'ETHIQUE TOUCHANT LA CONSCIENCE COSMIQUE?

En parcourant ce texte, vous comprendrez pourquoi les Elohim se sont fait entendre a l'aube du 3e millenaire. Pour nous faire prendre conscience de l'importance de nous situer sur le plan de l'infini. Car, sur le plan planetaire, nous devons survivre comme humanite dans l'espace-temps et, sur le plan cosmique, nous devons continuer d'exister et d'assurer l'equilibre du tout, tout en assumant notre role de consciences cosmiques. Autrement, comme humanite, ce sera notre fin, notre disparition sur terre due a notre autodestruction.
  Read DVELOPPEMENT DU 7e STADE DE L'CHELLE DE KOHLBERG SUR LE PLAN COSMIQUE
 January 24, 2012  
Prospect of peace, stability in Myanmar
by Nehginpao Kipgen,
The year 2011 was a decisive moment in recent Myanmarese (Burmese) political history, after a series of democratic reforms were implemented. The convening of a new parliament marked the end of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), the official party of the military junta since 1997, and gave rise to the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).

Significant political developments included the reconciliation between the National League for Democracy (NLD) and the military-backed nominal civilian government; successful lobbying for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) 2014 chairmanship; a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; and ceasefire agreements with armed ethnic groups.

The year 2012 began with the signing of a ceasefire agreement with the oldest armed ethnic organization in the country, the Karen National Union (KNU) and its armed wing the Karen National Liberation Army on Jan. 12. The KNU, which began armed operations in 1949, has been the symbol of the ethnic minorities movement in the country.

The other important development was the release of political prisoners on Jan. 13, which included prominent democracy activists. The release of political prisoners has been one fundamental demand of Western nations to normalize relations with the pariah state.

A series of democratic reforms in 2011 and its continuation in 2012 give optimism to many political observers and governments around the world. The bigger question now is whether the ongoing trend of reforms can bring a durable peace and stability to the country.

By observing the recent political changes, one can be as optimistic as to suggest that the country is heading toward the path of an irreversible democratic transition, as remarked by Shwe Mann, speaker of the lower house of parliament, to Secretary Clinton on Dec. 1.

The atmosphere of optimism is boosted by the international communitys desire to embrace if Myanmar continues to walk the path of democratization. For over two decades, the U.S. and Great Britain have been two of the fiercest critics of the Myanmar government. However, these two countries were the first Western major powers to send their chief diplomats to visit the reclusive country in more than half a century.

Despite a wave of positive developments, it is premature to conclude that the reform is irreversible. Along this line, it is pertinent to ask what entailed the series of reforms. Are they genuine or superficial? It is evident that different factors have contributed to recent reforms.

The political changes can be attributed to the Myanmarese leaderships search for legitimacy and recognition. In the midst of domestic and international pressures, the government wanted to build credibility by assuming the role of ASEAN chair in 2014. By doing so, the government plans to improve its international image and eventually convince the Western democracies to lift sanctions.

Recent political changes have also been entailed by developments at the United Nations and the political uprisings in the Arab world. Former military generals, now in civilian garb, were concerned by the possible establishment of a commission of inquiry into suspected crimes against humanity and war crimes which Tomas Ojea Quintana, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights, recommended in 2010 and reiterated in 2011.

While the political reconciliation between the NLD and the USDP-led government was crucial, the more significant issue was the government reaching out to armed ethnic groups for political dialogue, which remains the crux of Myanmars decades-old political problems.

If democracy alone were the root of Myanmars problems, it would have been resolved during the years of the first democratic government under Prime Minister U Nu. Disagreement over federalism or autonomy has been the fundamental problem between the successive central government and the countrys ethnic minorities.

Although a nominal civilian government has been installed, the military still retains the ultimate power. One vivid piece of evidence was a communique from the countrys President Thein Sein to halt a military offensive against the armed Kachin Independence Army on Dec. 10, but the military continues to engage in armed attacks.

The recent changes emerged only after the military had successfully entrenched its power base. The 2008 constitution reserves 25 percent of parliament seats for the military, and the current government is overwhelmingly dominated by former military generals and their cronies. The military will not hesitate to intervene if its power or control of the government is threatened.

Peace and stability does not depend on how many ceasefire agreements have been signed between the government and armed ethnic minority groups, but rather how these agreements will be implemented and sustained. This is contingent upon how much the central government is willing to delegate powers to ethnic territories and the extent to which the minorities are ready to cooperate.

The success of the ongoing reforms will also depend on how the international community reciprocates. The release of prominent political prisoners, and Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLDs rejoining electoral process are important for the Western democracies to review their diplomatic relationships with Myanmar. In fact, the U.S. government announced on Jan. 13 that it will resume ambassadorial diplomatic relationship with Myanmar.

The decades-old fundamental problems have been neither the issue of political prisoners nor the confrontation between the NLD and the military; and nor has it been sanctions. It has been the successive central governments (both civilian and military) reluctance to grant equality of rights to all citizens, and the refusal to grant autonomy to ethnic minorities.

Despite recent positive developments, the democratization process has the probability of either reversing back to military dictatorship or another form of authoritarian regime. However, if there is mutual participation and cooperation, the ongoing democratic reforms have the potential of a successful national reconciliation for all the peoples of Myanmar.

Nehginpao Kipgen is a researcher on the rise of political conflicts in modern Myanmar and general secretary of the U.S.-based Kuki International Forum (www.kukiforum.com). He has written numerous academic (peer-reviewed) and
non-academic analytical articles on the politics of Myanmar and Asia. Reach him at nehginpao@gmail.com.
  Read Prospect of peace, stability in Myanmar