artwork constructed of hundreds of thousands of rice plants in japan, seen from an aerial view; thanks to tree for the link
PREPARING FOR CIVILIZATION’S END
25 Plants You Should Consider Growing: Unlike most “Post-Civ” bloggers I rarely write about growing your own food. Sharon Astyk often does, and this low-maintenance edibles list is inspiring. Time to start some serious gardening. The plants are:
|sweet potatoes||flax||maximilian sunflowers||parsnips||sunflowers|
|blueberries||popcorn||hopi orange winter squash||potato onions||rice|
|amaranth||kidney beans||annual alfalfa||winecap mushrooms||jerusalem artichokes|
Walking Away From Mortgages: Many Americans are now living in homes with mortgages that are greater than the value of their property. Why would anyone continue to pay a debt that is higher than the asset it secures? After all, big corporations view pulling the plug on unsuccessful ventures and sticking the debtholders and shareholders a key business strategy. The whole idea of “risk capital” is that the interest and other fees you earn for lending to risky borrowers compensates you for the risk, so that if the borrower defaults you accept the loss and chalk it up to experience. Yet for some reason homeowners feel some moral obligation to throw good money endlessly after bad. This of course is exactly what the corporatists, who have no such moral compunction, are counting on, what economists call moral asymmetry. The logical response would be to tell the lender to write off the excess of the mortgage beyond the property value, and refinance the mortgage accordingly. Apparently in some US states (called “recourse” states) this moral asymmetry is institutionalized — lenders can go after a mortgagee’s personal assets if they default. There is, of course, no recourse when these corporatists walk away from debts, offshore their operations, and stiff the taxpayers whose subsidies and bailouts paid for the corporatists’ ventures. Where is the sense of outrage here: Have the education system and media so dumbed down the citizens that they can’t see this for the cruel and criminal con it is? If everyone with a mortgage greater than the value of their home either walked away from it, or was legally empowered to require the excess to be written off as the “bad debt” it is, then of course there would be many bank failures and plunging profits. That’s how the market system is supposed to work. The lenders, of course, want it both ways, and Obama and the citizens seem blithely willing to let them have it.
The Bottleneck Century: William Catton, author of Overshoot, has a new book Bottleneck, that describes the collapse of civilization in this century, and forecasts an 85% human population die-off to about one billion people. To Catton, the culprits are overpopulation, overconsumption, and short-termism, compounded by competition, the ideological corruption of language, and hyper-specialization that have reduced our societal resilience. His message is very consistent with John Gray’s, and mine, in asserting that collapse cannot be prevented, but that working models of a better way to live and make a living, developed now, might benefit its survivors. Thanks to David Hodgson for the link.
Until the Party’s Over: Stoneleigh describes the mania that allows us to be collectively irresponsible in ‘boom’ times: “When people feel they are operating within the bounds of properly structured criminality, they feel no personal responsibility and do not fear consequences.” Now, will someone please turn the lights off?
Growth Isn’t Possible: A new research report from the New Economics Foundation concludes that we have to move immediately to a zero-growth, steady-state economy if we want to get atmospheric carbon concentration under 350 ppm in time. Of course, that’s not possible either.
Shorter Showers and the Nature of Complexity: Melanie Williams weighs in on the Derrick Jensen argument that individual action is inadequate in dealing with the economic, energy and ecological collapses we now face. Derrick argues that actions like taking shorter showers, recycling, and turning down/up thermostats, even if taken by millions of people, will have an insignificant impact on these problems, and that, in addition to this, we need to take direct, personal action in areas where we have particular expertise (Derrick’s is in dismantling dams that no longer serve any useful function, and which destroy habitats and migration). Melanie argues that our collective power as consumers is enormous. She also lists “Personal Ways to Disengage from the System: sell your car, don’t buy processed foods, build passive solar homes, give up gadgets, use a clothesline, don’t use airplanes, stay where you are.” I think we need to do both, but I am also convinced that even doing both will not be enough.
Manifesto for Relocalization: The New Rules Project outlines steps that will be needed to relocalize our economy before the industrial economy collapses. Thanks to Tree for the link.
View Collapse Online: The film about Michael Ruppert, Collapse, is now downloadable on YouTube in 8 parts. Thanks to David Hodgson for the link.
“Steady-State Economy” Idea Goes Mainstream: The links and articles on the site are lame, but it’s good to see a broad-based appreciation of the principles of moving to a zero-growth economy, and an acceptance that this is a viable option for the future, albeit one that is nowhere in sight.
Eight Maxims of the New Media: A great recap from Mark Coddington. Thanks to Jerry Michalski, the smartest guy on the freakin’ planet, for the link:
- “Do what you do best and link to the rest.”
- “If the news is important, it will find me.”
- “Information wants to be free.” (actually Marshall McLuhan said this first, not Stewart Brand)
- “It’s not information overload. It’s filter failure.”
- “Our readers know more than we do.”
- “The people formerly known as the audience”
- “The sources go direct.” (i.e. intermediaries that add no real value are toast)
- “Transparency is the new objectivity.”
Electric Bicycles, for Better and for Worse: For those, like me, trying to become car-free, electric bicycles would seem to be an important part of the solution. But China seems destined to wreck this green technology opportunity as well: Whereas a quality electric bicycle costs about $2,000 and an upgrade kit for your manual bicycle $1,000, China, home to a staggering 120 million electric bicycles, is dumping heavy, shoddy electric scooter “bicycles” (where the pedals are just there to skirt licensing and insurance regulations), into the Western market for $500.
Oregon Taxes the Rich: Bucking the historical, geographical and ideological trend, Oregon voters approved tax increases for rich individuals and corporations to pay for social services. Maybe it will start a trend.
Fifteen Emerging Conservation Issues: Most of the complexity of natural ecosystems remains unfathomable to us, but here is an intriguing list of 15 emerging issues in conservation from synthetic meats to biochar — newly discovered problems and interesting ideas — that need more study. Beware unintended consequences. Thanks to Dave Riddell for the link.
POLITICS AND ECONOMICS AS USUAL
Elizabeth Warren on How Big Banks Still Don’t Get It: The head of the TARP oversight board says that financial institutions will simply not participate in the economic reforms needed to prevent the disappearance of the middle class and that they still feel entitled to obscene salaries and profits. Only by wrenching power and wealth away from these organizations will we be able to redistribute wealth sufficiently to prevent the US from becoming essentially a third-world elite-versus-everyone-else nation, she says. Thanks to Raffi Aftandelian for the link.
Some Religions are More Equal Than Others: An American Christian hate group is trying to exploit the extreme right-wing orientation of the US Supreme Courts to narrow religious rights in that country to just Christianity and selected other large organized monotheistic religions. Thanks to Tree for the link.
Last Word on Citizen United Case: Glenn Greenwald and Kevin Drum talk sense about the Supreme Court’s decision to throw out all restrictions on corporate campaign financing, when others can’t see past the ideology and emotion it has stirred up. The decision really is logical in the context of the granting of personhood to corporations and the breadth of the US First Amendment. There is an answer: To elect policy-makers and appoint Supreme Court judges to undo corporate personhood rights and recognize that non-profit organizations deserve rights that for-profit corporations do not. But don’t expect to see that happen anytime soon.
Post-Copenhagen Climate Process at a Standstill: Copenhagen was a disaster, proof that multilateral accord even on urgent matters is essentially hopeless as each country defends its turf and national agenda, but the discussions that were supposed to make things better in 2010 are going even more badly.
Downer of the Month: If you still foster any hope that the mainstream media might somehow help raise ecological consciousness, just watch this pathetic car commercial, which was shown during the Superbowl and has been seen by millions since. Then read the even more pathetic comments by viewers. A sure-fire cure for optimism.
FUN AND INSPIRATION
THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK
From Sharon Astyk, on the suffering of men, and how it differs from that of women:
Statistics from cultures undergoing major crises seem to bear out the assumption that often, women adapt better than men to many difficult situations. The decrease in lifespans in the former Soviet Union that accompanied the collapse was in part due to loss of health care, but a lot of it had to do with rises in suicide rates, stress and alcohol abuse. At one point, the division between lifespans for women in Russia and for men was more than a decade.
This does not mean that every man facing a transition into a poorer, less energy rich world is doomed to crisis. But I think it is important to talk about – because just as I’ve written many times about the changes that peak oil and climate change and their economic consequences are likely to bring about for women, the ones that come for men are important and real. All men, and all of us who love husbands, fathers, brothers, friends, sons need to be aware of these issues – to be aware of the degree to which watching your world unravel seems to engender different responses. Women who turn to each other, who talk, whose identities may be more complexly built on a mix of personal and professional identities may not grasp how hard this is for the men in our lives to face unemployment and shifts in everything they’ve known. I think this is an important thing to be able to be open about, for both men and women, and also and important thing to be conscious of.
Have you had this experience, either personally or for someone you cared about? None of us want to see the rates of suicide rising. None of us want to watch the guys in our life struggling. None of us want them to turn to drugs and drink to dull a sense of loss. Of course many men won’t. In many cases it is the women who struggle with these issues. But overwhelmingly history suggests that the psychological trauma of watching your world transformed often strikes men, particularly men of middle age and above, harder than it does women. How do we soften the blow?