Running Out of Water and Time

Drought-stricken corn under a hot and rainless Iowa sky last week. Two more studies say, things are going to get worse. (Photo by USDA)

The train is coming at 80 miles per hour. Children are playing on the railroad tracks, oblivious. The train is closer now. The children are not aware of it. You can hear the train, people are yelling at you that it is coming, and you, my friend, stand there near the children, not moving, thinking of other things. Thus climate change bears down on us, thus peak oil comes closer at 80 miles per hour, and thus does our water run out. Two shouted warnings about water just this week. Continue reading

Feds Approve Las Vegas Water Grab

The Fountains at Bellagio Casino, one reason Las Vegas is running out of water. Yes, we know they have their own well, but the 5-10 million gallons they use every day could significantly slow down the depletion of Lake Mead. (Photo by sheilaellen/Flickr)

Dying cities, like dying people, reveal their characters near the end. Some go out with dignity, others grasp wildly at any scheme to avoid their fate, no matter at what harm to others. Case in point: Las Vegas, a clutch of casinos, bars and brothels built in the worst place you could build a city, in order to cater to the worst urges of human nature. Now this synthetic oasis in the desert is running out of water, and proposes a solution consistent with its traditional ethics: we’ll just take somebody else’s water.
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In a Village in India, It’s Power to the People

A Mumbai vendor uses a lamp, charged during the day by the solar panel he is holding, to bring business to his stall. Such affordable solar solutions are helping people all over the country deal with an unreliable (and seemingly unfixable) grid. (Photo by Nokero/Flickr)

A tiny village in India offers a lesson to the world: in a country reeling from failures of its grid, shortages of fuel for power generation, daily blackouts and brownouts, the village has power for lights, water pumps, fans, battery-chargers and the like all the time, from an inexhaustible source.  Note to anyone interested in surviving the coming crash of the industrial age: listen up. Continue reading

India Blackout Foreshadows US Event

It’s not easy to get a picture of a blackout. This one is from Brazil. (Photo by Alexandre Brevegliere/Flickr)

The United States is edging ever closer to the kind of power-grid failure that put 600 million Indians — ten per cent of the population of the planet — in the dark for two days this week. The reasons for the threat are the same here as they are there: one, no one is taking care of the grid — the network of transmission lines, interconnectors and transformers that is essential to life as we know it; two, supply cannot keep up with demand; and three, rate-setting is a political rather than an economic process. It should not come as a shock, so to speak, that neglect, failure to prepare and playing politics with essentials  should lead to disaster.  Continue reading

Bogus Oil Boom Bogs Down

a natural gas well using hydraulic fracturing

It’s not just a drilling rig, it’s a fracking rig, and it has to be watered with millions of gallons if it is going to flourish.

Here’s a lovely circle of life: global warming caused in large part by burning oil has contributed to a drought that is making it impossible for the oil bidness to sustain its over-hyped oil boom in the Bakken oil shale formation under Montana and North Dakota. And that’s just one reason the boom will soon be busted.

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The China Syndrome Worsens

Lanzhou, on the Yellow River in China, is one of the most polluted places in the world and is typical of the the consequences of unrestrained industry that are bringing Chinese protesters into the streets. (Photo by sandandtsunamis/Flickr)

China has long been the secret envy of American industrialists. Imagine being able to do whatever you want — build any factory anywhere, pay people whatever the hell you feel like laying them, dump your waste wherever the hell you feel like dumping it — all with no interference from any news media, EPA, environmental organization or opposition party. Forget West Virginia — that’s almost heaven.  But be careful what you wish for, boys and girls; China is coming apart faster than we are. Continue reading

Thunderstorms on Steroids Punching Holes in Ozone

A thunderstorm near Denver, Colorado reaches for the stratosphere. These days, supercharged thunderstorms are punching through the ozone layer, exposing living things below to a new threat. (Photo by Dan Mahr/Flickr)

Scientists at Harvard University have discovered yet another unexpected — not to mention unintended — consequence of  climate change. Thunderstorms on steroids — supercharged by the increased heat energy trapped in the atmosphere — are, as it were, punching massive holes in the ozone layer. The implications for life on earth are profound, and profoundly negative. Continue reading

From American Drought to “Global Catastrophe”

Food riots erupted across North Africa in 2011 — this one in Algeria in January — after prices spiked. It’s about to happen again. (Photo by Magharebia/Flickr)

Some poet  invented the name “Arab Spring” as a label for the tsunami of public desperation that last year took down the governments of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Poets and Pollyannas saw the events as an upwelling of love for democracy. Realists related them to the spike in world food prices that threatened the survival of whole populations and made them desperate for change — any change.  Now, thanks in large part to events unfolding in the American heartland, get ready for another, worse, spike. Continue reading

Mississippi Falling: How Far?

It’s not easy being a Mississippi barge; 14 months ago they were being swept away by flood waters, now they’re running aground in low water. (Photo by Brad Jones/Flickr)

The Mississippi River is in some places running 53 feet below its level of last May. That’s not quite as alarming as it sounds because last May it was in an historic flood. But with little snow last winter in the mountains and no rain to speak of this year in the West and much of the Midwest, the lower river has fallen eight to 10 feet below normal. That is perilously close to shutting down one of the country’s principal arteries of commerce. Continue reading

Newt Gingrich Says Brace for Impact. Believe it Now??

A solar flare erupting from the sun yesterday, along with a CME that will miss earth. Watch that space.

Newt Gingrich is like the sun in this respect: if an entity belches heat and light and energy on all frequencies in all directions all the time, every once in a while it’s going to hit something.  At 1:00 am tomorrow, Saturday July 14, a coronal mass ejection from the sun capable of shutting down life on earth as we know it will miss our home planet, not by much. Coincidentally, the Washington Post this morning contains an essay by Mr. Gingrich on the danger of such an event, a rare direct hit by a man who has frequent cerebral mass ejections. Continue reading