From Occupy Wall Street to Occupy Wal Mart

In the Temple of Black Friday, Occupy Wall Street is just a dim memory. (Photo by tshein/Flickr)

After a brief flirtation with Occupy Wall Street, the American people returned this week to Occupy Wal Mart, a movement with which they are vastly more comfortable. Notions of closing the gap between the country’s financial overlords and the sinking 99.9 per cent vaporized as it came time for the annual orgy of gorging that celebrates the highest American values: over-consumption and football. By Friday, Zucotti Square on Wall Street was empty of people exercising their Constitutional right of free assembly. Herald Square in front of Macy’s department store, on the other hand, was jammed with six thousand people exercising their right to buy cheap stuff.

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Texas Wind-Power Miracle or Hot-Air Debacle?

A Texas-sized wind turbine under construction. This is what happens when industry embraces renewable energy. Whatever it is, it’s not sustainable. (Photo by vaxomatic/Flickr)

One of the core ideas of the book Brace for Impact and this website is expressed in the mantra: renewable is not sustainable if it’s industrial (actually, nothing is sustainable if it’s industrial, but for the moment let us focus on energy). If you want to follow the crash and burn of a large-scale demonstration of the principle, you need look no further than the Texas wind power miracle. Or debacle. Continue reading

If You Eat Food, Do Not Read This

Meet the all-natural ingredient that, when crushed, is used to turn your yogurt red and is described on the label as “Natural Red #4.” (Photo by Stephen Begin/Flickr)

Unless you are very, very good at suppressing the gag reflex, you are not going to want to read a new blog put up by a former food industry executive, apparently as an act of contrition for his years of pushing food-like substances on an unwitting public. In his latest post, Bruce Bradley identifies a few of the things that are not only added to industrial food, but qualify under existing regulations for the label “all natural.” [Hair-trigger gag reflex? DO NOT CONTINUE READING.] Continue reading

The United States of Monsanto

It is no longer enough for the seed and chemical company Monsanto to use its rivers of cash to own and operate the United States Congress (in the language of corporations, there is no word for “enough”); it is now using the US Department of State as its global sales force. The objective, apparently, is to replace every plant grown for food on the planet with a genetically mutilated plant sold by Monsanto. With the help of the United States government, the project is well along.
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A Town in Texas: This is How it Ends

Once a thriving recreational lake and source of water for the town of Robert Lee, Texas, the E.V. Spence Reservoir is now a brackish puddle.

They are starting to think seriously about abandoning the west Texas town of Robert Lee because it is about to run out of water. Too strong? Okay, to be exact, some of Robert Lee’s 1,049 people have moved away, and more are thinking about leaving before the water runs out. Will that create a trend that gives us our first American town to be abandoned because of climate change? (I’m still betting on Las Vegas as the first city.) Will America’s first recognized climate refugees be Rick Perry’s Texans? We’ll report. You decide.

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Zombie Lake Erie is Dying Again

Algae blooms on Lake Erie, virtually covering its Eastern bay in this August photo from space, are killing the lake. Again. And we know who the killer is.

Declared dead in the 1970s, brought back to life by the environmental movement it did much to inspire, Lake Erie is once again expiring, killed by industrial agriculture. Specifically, phosphorous from synthetic fertilizers, which the aforementioned environmental movement never gained the clout to regulate. After having been reduced by two-thirds with various buffering and conservation practices, phosphorous levels in Lake Erie are, according to an Ohio State University expert, “back up to when it was considered a dead lake.” Continue reading

Water Scientists say Brace for Impact

A cow’s carcass in Northern Kenya, photographed last week, testifies to the reality of what happens when the water runs out. And it is running out. (Photo courtesy CIAT The International Center for Tropical Agriculture/Flickr)

The burgeoning world population, already grown far beyond the numbers the planet can sustain, is increasing its consumption of water twice as fast as it is growing, according to the World Resources Institute. In a world already profoundly short of clean water, where the number of people is ratcheting upward past seven billion, in which global climate change is spreading drought across vast areas, this means, in the words of a WRI expert, that “we have a significant challenge on our hands.” To translate from the scientese: her hair’s on fire and she’s screaming “Brace for Impact!”

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Oil: More Peaked Than Ever

Coming soon to a gas station near you: higher prices, fewer gallons. (Photo by Jason Langheine/Flickr)

Masked by speculation, eased by the great economic contraction in the United States and Europe, the terminal industrial disease known as Peak Oil continues to ravage the industrial world, which has not yet noticed that it is infected, and is just now beginning to feel a little woozy. Peak oil is a little like the Ebola virus — by the time you feel the symptoms, you’re dead.

If you look, you will find the symptoms. Continue reading

Saudis Try Drinking Oil, Burning Water, Eating Money

An oil-and-water cocktail is hard to burn and nasty to drink, but the Saudis, running out of both, are drinking hard and burning bright. (Photo by Yortw/Flickr)

While the industrialized world approaches the brink of peak oil — the point at which supply can no longer, ever, meet demand — the supplier of much of that oil, Saudi Arabia, is teetering on the brink of peak water. With increasing desperation, the kingdom is juggling the rising, competing demands for its limited water supplies, and trying to repeal the iron laws of supply and demand.

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Experts Shout “Fire!” in Crowded Planet. Crowd Ignores Them

Some experts believe, although not without contradiction from other experts, that increased temperatures in the place where we live may be a cause for some level of concern. (Photo by Ada Be/Flickr)

A conference in London this past weekend on climate and health concluded that the “alarming speed” of the depletion of natural resources around the world, now being accelerated by climate change, poses “an immediate, growing and grave threat” to health and security everywhere. The medical, academic and military experts predicted imminent increases in hunger, conflict, social unrest and species extinction worldwide. Continue reading