What’s wrong with this picture? The Standard & Poor’s 500 Public US Companies’ P/E ratio has historically traded at around 17, which assumes healthy growth in profits for big corporations indefinitely into the future. What, then, does a P/E ratio of 150 mean? It means that trillions of dollars of taxpayer money (which future generations will have to repay), given to financial institutions to bail them out, is being dumped into the stock market because it has nowhere else to go (bonds paying 0.5% interest, nope, real estate, nope nope nope, stock market it is then).
PREPARING FOR CIVILIZATION’S COLLAPSE
Lessons From the Edge: Sharon Astyk urges those of us who know, now, how urgent and seemingly impossible the task of saving our civilization from collapse is, to remember we have something most people don’t:
Sometimes when I deal with people who don’t think climate change is real, or that serious, or who don’t think that peak oil will be a big deal, I forget that I have something they don’t have – dozens of backroom conversations with people who care desperately about the mending of the world, who care so much that they are willing to put their family lives, their time and energy and even physical wellbeing on the line to spread the word – even though they know they are likely to fail to protect what they care most about. Not “we’re doomed” but “we’re on a precipice, and we’re not sure which way we’re going to begin to slide.”
And what also strikes me is this – the sheer courage it takes to do this. As I say, I’m a piker – I go home to my kids and my goats and breath deep and do laundry and keep my computer between me and other people. It would be easy to take from their sense of loss the idea that we should stop trying, that it is all hopeless. But that’s not what one gets – at the end of the night the sense is this – that though the odds are increasingly small and the abyss below us increasingly vast, what matters most is that we live our lives as though we can succeed, because every bit of harm we prevent and every blow softened matters, and in the end, how you lived matters as much as the winning.
Why the Technophiles are Wrong: Bill Rees, co-inventor of the ‘ecological footprint’ concept, in a one-hour podcast tells one of the many blissfully unaware ‘smart growth’ conferences that we’re already in overshoot, that today’s cities are simply unsustainable and parasitical, that we’ve entered the “plague phase” of human population that will inevitably lead to implosion, that population growth and economic growth must stop, not just become ‘green’, and that the “technofix” approaches to today’s crises are naive and delusional. Thanks to David Parkinson for the links.
Listening to the Land: Derrick Jensen, in A Language Older Than Words, advised us “Stand still and listen to the land, and in time, you will know exactly what to do”. In his latest article in Orion, he explains what he means by this, and relates this capacity for attention to the survival, for much longer than our modern, teetering civilization, of most aboriginal cultures. Unfortunately, Derrick is a litttle overly-inclined to believe in the almost inherent sustainability of many aboriginal cultures. The sad truth is that overfishing and overhunting, and even catastrophic agriculture — the same kind of disconnected degradation of our land that characterizes our modern civilization, also, much of the time, characterized theirs. There are, alas, no noble savages, and while we have a great deal to learn from aboriginal cultures, if we want a model to replace our modern civilization, we will have to look elsewhere, beyond our smart and fierce species.
Here Comes the Commercial Real Estate Crash: A US billionaire investor says that taxpayers have no more money to spend, and that as commercial (office and retail) vacancy rates soar to all-time high levels, a total collapse of commercial real estate values is inevitable. Thanks to Paul Kedrosky for the link.
Wade Davis on Ancient Wisdom: The 2009 Massey Lectures series (5 hours of podcasts) explain what is being lost as the world’s indigenous cultures disappear in the face of modern civilization monoculture and what might be done. Thanks to Eric Lilius for the link.
POLITICS AND ECONOMICS AS USUAL
US Court Justifies Purposeful Brutal Torture: A terrific summation by Glenn Greenwald of why the behaviour exhibited by US government officials — leading to the arbitrary, completely unwarranted, savage torture of innocent people — amounts to state-sanctioned terrorism. The US, under Obama, remains a rogue nation, and the rest of the world should be very afraid. Glenn is also interviewed this week by Bill Moyers.
Phony Corporate Fronts ‘Negotiate’ Environmental Settlements for First Nations: A disturbing expose by Offsetting Resistance reveals that some of the groups that sign up First Nations people to negotiate on their behalf capitulate to industry and government in secret closed-door meetings, and some are fronts for major polluters. What’s worse, the First Nations are not even permitted to attend to see what is being negotiated away on their behalf. It appears that this has been done extensively to get cheap and unlimited oil industry access to lands for the horrific Alberta Tar Sands development, by dubious quasi-environmental groups like Pew Charitable Trusts (controlled by the family that also controls Sunoco), the ‘Canadian Boreal Initiative’ (a program of Ducks Unlimited), and the ‘North American Tar Sands Coalition’ (with the conflicted cast of characters depicted in the graphic above). Thanks to Paul Heft for the link.
Year’s Best Books: Women Need Not Apply: Salon provides a tepid and unconvincing rationalization for the outrage of Publishers Weekly’s list of the year’s ten top books — all by men. In the PW also-ran list, women dominate in only two categories, tellingly — “mass market” and “lifestyle”.
Obama’s Wars Now: 300,000 Civilians Dead and 5 Million Refugees: A remarkable and disturbing rant by a former Chief of Staff to Colin Powell explains the impossible hole the US has dug for itself in Iraq and Afghanistan. Scroll down past the comments to “Transcript”. Thanks to Raffi Aftandelian for the link.
Snitching for Fun and Profit: As public cameras become commonplace on every street-corner, it gets harder and harder to find enough people, or even ‘smart’ machines, to monitor them. So now, governments are planning on paying you to watch their camera streamcasts and report “any suspicious activity”. Thanks to Tree for the links.
FUN AND INSPIRATION
Joni Mitchell turns 66 today. Her song Amelia is a classic. “Maybe I’ve never really loved. I guess that is that is the truth. I’ve spent my whole life in clouds at icy altitudes.”
THOUGHTS FOR THE WEEK
You want to get depressed about the future of our planet, just look at the most popular topics on Twitter. You want to get even more depressed, look at the most popular videos on YouTube. A billion Neros fiddling.
From David Whyte’s poem ‘Sweet Darkness’:
Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.
From Margaret Atwood’s poem ‘Up’:
Now here’s a good one:
You’re lying on your deathbed.
You have one hour to live.
Who is it, exactly, you have needed
all these years to forgive?