Links and Tweets of the Week/Month: February 11, 2010

rice crop art

artwork constructed of hundreds of thousands of rice plants in japan, seen from an aerial view; thanks to tree for the link


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:

buckwheat beets turnips sumac elderberries
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
chick peas rhubarb potatoes filberts/hazelnuts kale/collards

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:

  1. “Do what you do best and link to the rest.”
  2. “If the news is important, it will find me.”
  3. “Information wants to be free.” (actually Marshall McLuhan said this first, not Stewart Brand)
  4. “It’s not information overload. It’s filter failure.”
  5. “Our readers know more than we do.”
  6. “The people formerly known as the audience”
  7. “The sources go direct.” (i.e. intermediaries that add no real value are toast)
  8. “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.


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.


Music for reflection and meditation from Japan: MARTH. Thanks to Miralee for the link.

Silly pictures from the I Can Has Cheezburgers / Lolcats folks: There I Fixed It: unsafe fixes and your tax dollars at work.


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?

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11 Responses to Links and Tweets of the Week/Month: February 11, 2010

  1. Can you tell me who did your layout? I’ve been looking for one kind of like yours. Thank you.

  2. Rafael says:

    “Do what you do best and link to the rest.”
    It easy write or say. But first you have to know what you are best in. I am 45 and so far I did not found what I am best in. I would like to find it asap, any sugestion?
    Things what I like, need good or normal short term memmory. And this is what I am lacking.


  3. MonkeyMuffins says:

    So sorry to see — yet again — another Peak Community (such as it is) site lend credence to and give refuge to easily debunked, conspiradoid moonbat, Michael “nine eleven was an inside job” Ruppert.

    This is an unforgivable error.

    The man propagated and sold-for-profit the mind-numbingly stupid idea that “nine eleven was an inside job” (sorry, he doesn’t simply get to “walk away” from this without at least a very public and detailed apology).

    Shame on him.

    And shame on you for giving him any kind of positive press.

    He deserves no press whatsoever.

    Why the Peak Community (such as it is) insists on lending credence to and giving refuge to all manner of nine-eleven, conspiradroid moonbats (Jan Lundberg, Matthew Savinar, Alex Smith, Carolyn Baker, Richard Heinberg, and far-too-many others) will forever be beyond me.

    It’s as counterproductive as it is offensive.

    To the best of my knowledge, Jim Kunstler is the only — THE ONLY — “peakster” with enough moral integrity to call these folks what the are, “fucking brain damaged” (not to mention snake-oil opportunists).

  4. Monkeymuffins

    What evidence do you have that Jan Lundberg, Matthew Savinar, Alex Smith, Carolyn Baker and Richard Heinberg are all 9/11 conspiracy supporters?

    I happen to know Jan and Carolyn pretty well, and they have *never* mentioned such beliefs to me in any of our extensive communications. Maybe you just feel the need to tar everyone with the same brush in order to satisfy your own belief that anyone who doesn’t toe a particular party line is a “moonbat”. Life isn’t as simple as you would like to think it is – I personally believe that for a group to carry out such a remarkable feat of navigation, security evasion and guaranteed symbolic (as well as physical) destruction, then conveniently leave pilot manuals in a van in Arabic, is a belief too far on the other side.

    I have no idea who did it, but it didn’t half kick-start a major defense spending round that completely dwarfs anything that might be spent on trying to prevent climate change. The system willingly enslaves millions (billions) to ensure economic growth…go figure.

  5. Jim Wood says:

    Ref.: Electric Bicycles, for Better and for Worse

    The writer (unidentified) states that China is “dumping” shoddy electric bicycles on the American market. Nothing could be further from the truth. The vast majority of the factories that produce the scooter-type e-bikes (SSEB’s) are local operations catering to nearby markets. This is because transporting them to distant markets within China would make the selling price noncompetitive, which is always a very important consideration to the average Chinese citizen. These e-bikes come in a wide range of quality catering to various domestic price points.

    The low quality, made for low end domestic consumption, e-bikes are exported only because importers bring them in because of the cheap prices. The fault lies not with the Chinese who need to address all domestic market price points, but with greedy importers who exploit both them and people here to whom they are sold. If consumers here took the time to check into the background of companies selling them here they would be less likely to buy the junk SSEB’s and those selling them would quickly turn to some other get-rich-quick market to exploit. Unfortunately when we stopped teaching Latin in schools we tossed a myriad of expressions that linked how people lived in Roman times with how we live now, showing that some things do not change. One of these expressions that is good to keep in mind is “caveat emptor”, “buyer beware”.

    The writer implies that the pedals furnished with the SSEB’s are there only to skirt the law. The fact is that they are there to comply with the law. We investigated this thoroughly years ago when the law transferring jurisdiction over low-speed electric bicycles was transferred from the NHTSA to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. We were assured by CPSC personnel who, after reviewing the specifications for our products and recommending minor changes, that we would be, and are, in compliance with the CPSC regulations (16 CFR Part 1512 (b)).

    It is gratifying, nevertheless, that the write acknowledges that there are good quality SSEB’s and other e-bikes available, but in the $2,000 price range, which ours are. It does not matter where a product is made, what is important are how it is made and for whom it is made.

    James Wood

  6. Eric Lilius says:

    Collapse is no longer available on YouTube.

  7. raffi says:

    Thanks, Dave, for pointing out the film Collapse.
    It’s viewable at

  8. Ed says:

    Turning a comments section at an outstanding blog into a war zone about 9/11 is infinitely more damaging than any promotion of anyone would ever be. Last I heard, people ought to be able to ingest what information there is, find more, and ascertain in their own way its value. Ruppert’s recent comments on his blog are worthy of a read. If you think 9/11 could not have been an inside job, I urge you to read James Douglass’ “JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters”. Be forewarned, however; dealing with the truth about things requires a heart and an open mind, and the ability to calm one’s mind, master one’s amgydalic responses, and avoid labeling things and people.

  9. Paris says:

    If you want your male loved ones to survive, don’t let them stay idle (playing video games) as most men do!
    Show them how to work, and it will have their mind busy figuring out how to sweep the floor/iron the clothes/wash the dishes/shop fresh and cheap food for so long they won’t be sad (or drunk) anymore…

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