Saturday Links for the Week: July 12, 2008

tar sands

A Short History of the End of Civilization: Mike Davis is a brilliant and provocative writer. Just go read his brief and incisive summary of what has led our civilization to the brink of collapse. Mike, you need a blog! Teasers:

The UNDP…warns that it will require “a 50 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions worldwide by 2050 against 1990 levels” to keep humanity outside the red zone of runaway warming… Yet the International Energy Agency predicts that, in all likelihood, such emissions will actually increase in this period by nearly 100 percent — enough greenhouse gas to propel us past several critical tipping points…

Let’s just ask: What if the buying and selling of carbon credits and pollution offsets fails to turn down the thermostat? What exactly will motivate governments and global industries then to join hands in a crusade to reduce emissions through regulation and taxation?…

And what if growing environmental and social turbulence, instead of galvanizing heroic innovation and international cooperation, simply drive elite publics into even more frenzied attempts to wall themselves off from the rest of humanity?… We’re talking here of the prospect of creating green and gated oases of permanent affluence on an otherwise stricken planet…

National Academy of Science…found that the richest countries, by their activities, have generated 42 percent of environmental degradation across the world, while shouldering only 3 percent of the resulting costs.

Humans Have 23 Years to Go: IFTF is creating a game set 10 years from now that gives the players 23 ‘years’ to deal with five cascading social, ecological and economic crises that threaten to end civilization. Sounds like fun, if they’ll let us play (full access to members only, and the link above was down at time of writing). Problem is, they’re calling the game Superstruct (literally: build over top). Seems to me that the only viable solutions to this problem will be bottom-up, not top-down. Shouldn’t the game be called Substruct? Thanks to Jerry Michalski for the link.

Discover Undiscovered Musicians: Some great hand-made music from unknown artists you can browse and play to your heart’s content — Here’s my own ‘station’ collection of what I’ve been listening to there.

Pictures Without the Need of Words: My friend Melisa Christensen is the photo director of a sweet little film, lovingly and exquisitely photographed, about human relationships and priorities.

Great Green Events Calendar: Leafing Through tells you where to go, greenly, all over the world.

See What Global Warming Has Wrought So Far: A couple of years ago I pointed out the NOAA viewer that lets you see a movie of glaciation, coastal flooding and vegetation change over the past 21000 years (since the last ice age). If you haven’t seen it, take a look. What would be interesting would be to project it forward, assuming a hundred-fold or thousand-fold acceleration of rate of change.

The Only Diet for a Peacemaker Is a Vegetarian Diet: “Conscience dictates that the grain should stay where it is grown, from South America to Africa. And it should be fed to the local malnourished poor, not to the chickens destined for our KFC buckets.” Even the orthodox churches are starting to get it.

Who Are You Trying to Impress?: Justin Kownacki analyzes the politics of conversations, and how disruptive they can be to making the conversation meaningful, valuable, and informative.

The Mortgage Lender Implode-o-meter: Keep up to date with the collapse of IndyMac, Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, and all your favourite wacky trillion-dollar irresponsible lending characters.

Google Offers Animated Avatars for Google Chat: The poor man’s Second Life app “Lively”, has just been released. Limited avatar options. Agonizingly slow. Much work needed.

Doug Rushkoff on Open Space Democracy: Democracy is a collective choice and emerges through collective action, he says. If we only care about what it means to us individually, and what we do individually, democracy is lost. Branding, advertising, the mainstream media, corpocracy, hierarchy — these are all directed at us as individuals. We have to get past self-interest, past individuation of everything. Don’t ask What can I do?, discuss What can we do? Thanks to William Tozier for the link.

Unintended Consequences: George Monbiot’s latest article about the Death of the Oceans raises some more interesting thoughts about unintended consequences in complex systems. Of course high oil prices will reduce (somewhat) demand for gasoline and hence reduce CO2 emissions. But that reduced demand in affluent nations will also allow Asia to continue to pick up whatever oil is not contracted for, pushing emissions right back up again. And while high prices will drive some people to switch to more efficient vehicles, will those more efficient vehicles then be driven further than the gas guzzlers? Monbiot explains that high oil prices are keeping ocean-devastating fishing trawlers in port, but it’s also got fishermen striking for subsidies, pushing politicians who want re-election to divert money from worthy causes to subsidizing uneconomic activities. And environmental laws designed to prevent permafrost and glacial melt and ocean disasters are being abandoned in the desperate search for a little more cheap oil, accelerating global warming that will ultimately require huge taxes on oil to curtail. This is precisely why the “market mechanism” that so many conservatives trust to solve global warming and everything else simply does not work. Complex systems are inertial — they tend to adapt to stay in equilibrium until forced to a new equilibrium by either decisive intervention, or catastrophe.

Canada’s Conservatives “The Republican Farm Team”: George Bush’s (last?) lapdog, arch-conservative Canadian PM Harper, is refusing to allow conscientious objectors to the Bush war to come to Canada, ending a two-century-old tradition of providing sanctuary for Americans of conscience. Bush now beckons Harper obediently to his side by barking “Yo Harper!” Meanwhile, as they shrugged off their responsibility for the global food crisis, Bush and Yo Harper and the rest of the G8 gang of thieves chowed down on an extravagant 18-course meal of high-energy, high-cruelty imported foods.(Thanks to Meg Fowler for the links).

Alberta Hypes Bitumen Sludge Mining to Obama & McCain: Despite growing realization that the Alberta Bitumen Sludge Mining operation (what the industry prefers to call ‘oil sands’, depicted above) is the most ecologically destructive project on Earth, the government of Alberta, whose economy is utterly dependent on this horror, is busy lobbying both US presidential candidates to endorse buying its dirty oil. They will almost certainly succeed: It’s not in their backyard.

found magazine

Find of the Day, above, found on top of a baby change table in a women’s washroom in BC. Thanks to Darren Barefoot for the link.

andrew campbell and marysa de veer
© 1997-2004 original work by Andrew Campbell & Marysa de Veer

Thought for the Week: Being A Part: I’ve been chatting recently with Andrew Campbell and Beth Patterson about connection with the land and all-life-on-Earth. Andrew has pointed to the work of Gregory Bateson (whose first wife BTW was Margaret Mead) and his discussion of immanence — the quality of remaining within as a part (of the environment, Gaia, the complexity of all-life-on-Earth), while our minds furiously attempt to analyze, to dissect, to set ourselves apart. Beth has collected a remarkable set of stories from readers that answer the question “Where is Home?” I replied to Beth that I thought the most evocative writing I had readabout this was that of Sam Mills of the now largely-lost blogs feral and thistle & hemlock (she now writes the blog bitterbrush); here’s an example of how she tells us what it means to be a part.

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1 Response to Saturday Links for the Week: July 12, 2008

  1. Sean Ness says:

    Thanks for letting people know about the Superstruct game! The link is working now; access is for the masses, not just IFTF supporters; and while the name may by translated to “build over top” it is by all means a bottoms-up forecasting game. Enjoy the game!–Sean (Institute for the Future)

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