Mississippi Falling: Now What?

The Mississippi River lapped briefly at the edge of Interstate 20 in Vicksburg, Mississippi, and then receded. This time. (US Forest Service photo)

The historic Mississippi River flood of 2011 (or at least, of this far in 2011) is slowly receding now, and the catastrophic failure of the Old River Control Structures, that could have brought the US economy to its knees did not happen. What are we to make of this? But let us ask a different question first: instead of analyzing what did not happen, what are we to make of what did happen? Continue reading

Wall Street Bulls Trampling Farmland

”]The idiots savant who lead Wall Street stampedes off cliffs have a new sure thing: by which they mean a sure-fire, get-rich-quick scheme; and from which we should infer, take cover. First, the savant part; more and more of them are coming to believe that when you apply arithmetic and logic to the rate at which the industrial world is destroying natural resources, you are led to the conclusion that the edifice is going to crash. (Also see “Hedge Fund Guy Says Brace for Impact: Believe it Now?”) The idiot part is, they want to get rich from the crash, as they cling to the pathetic belief that, after the crash, having lots of money is going to be useful. So they are pumping up a new investment bubble — farmland. Continue reading

One Third of World’s Food Destroyed: Culprit Found

The critters that are "stealing" our food, busted at last. (Photo by Chris Huggins/Flickr)

A study done for the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, released a week ago, finds that nearly one-third of the world’s food supply — in the United States the figure is 40 per cent — is never consumed because it is wasted. Billions are being spent to develop new chemicals, new genetically altered seeds and new, energy-intensive, unsustainable farming methods that are alleged to increase food production, but the authors of the study expressed surprise that the loss of food, much of which is deliberately thrown away, is drawing no attention. Continue reading

Mississippi Rising: Is it Over Yet?

Maj. Gen. Michael Walsh, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Mississippi Valley Division Commander, explains to the news media on May 9 what the Mississippi River will be allowed to do during the flood of 2011. As the map clearly shows, it will be permitted to move only in straight lines. (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers photo)

The headline in USA Today yesterday read: “Mississippi Flooding Redeems Army Corps.”  Also yesterday, a Daily Impact commenter (a troll with no cogent argument, so you will not read the rest of his rant here) asked: “Don’t you get tired of predicting disasters that never happen?” Hard to know where to start, but let’s try here:

  • How can the Corps be redeemed for handling an emergency that is only about halfway through its course?
  • Warning of danger, and quoting authoritative people describing what could happen, is not the same thing as “predicting disasters.”

Let’s take another look at the Mississippi situation. Continue reading

Fracking Natural Gas: Unreality TV

Marchers in Pittsburg protest fracking in November, 2010. (Photo by Marcellus Protest/Flickr)

The thing about pathological liars is that they also lie to themselves. Their lies get them into ever deeper trouble, which they attempt to handle by mumbling lies to themselves, which don’t help, which causes them to double down on lies until gravity reasserts itself and the world falls on them. Keep this in mind as we watch the end state of the oil and gas industry. Continue reading

Mississippi Rising: Act of God, or of the Corps?

A US Army Corps of Engineers map shows the area that will be flooded when the Morganza Spillway is opened, probably tomorrow.

Long before it faced Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, the Chinese Army in Korea, the North Vietnamese or Saddam Hussein, the US Army Corps of Engineers was at war with Mother Nature — that’s the way the Corps describes it in its publications. No battle has been more expensive, or consumed more of its energy, than its fight to control the Mississippi River. The system it has built to do this is a monument to the industrial mind-set, and a testament to the inevitable crash of industrial over-reach. Whether this is the week that this particular edifice will fall remains to be seen — and will be a very close thing. Continue reading

Natural Gas, or Drinkable Water? Choose One

In a scene from the Academy-Award nominated documentary GasLand, a Pennsylvania resident ignites the water flowing from his kitchen tap, a trick he could not perform before natural-gas fracking came to a field near his.

A new study published by the National Academy of Sciences belies industry assurances that they can retrieve natural gas by hydraulic fracturing without affecting adjacent water supplies. The report provides more evidence that what industry ads portray as a safe source of abundant energy via new technology may in fact be an unacceptable tradeoff between the fossil fuel we want and the water we need. Continue reading

Fire and Rain: While Some States Drown, Others Parch

While the Mississippi River rises in historic floods a few hundred miles to the east. extreme heat and drought continue to afflict Texas with wildfires that so far have seared a thousand square miles. And there's more to come. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Staff Sgt. Eric Harris)

While the central and southern states are disappearing under floodwaters of historic immensity, a searing, lengthening drought is crisping the prospects of the American West and Southwest. Two recent major reports — one of them from the Department of the Interior — sounded strident alarm bells about the coming Big Thirst, while the loudest voices in Congress continue to decry climate change as a “hoax.” Continue reading

Industrial Agriculture says: Put Photographers in Jail

Pigs resting comfortably in a farm field after being transported according to industry standards. If you looked at this picture, you may have committed a crime (Big Ag may make the animal-porn legislation retrooactive). (Photo by CALM Action/Flickr)

Industrial agriculture is salivating over its latest Big Idea for preventing scrutiny of its brutalization of animals, mistreatment of employees, contamination of the food supply and emissions of pollution. The big idea: make it a crime to know about the practices. The industry-owned legislators of four states are promoting bills that would make it a crime to make, transmit, or even possess audio or video recordings of agricultural operations. Continue reading

Killing Waters in the Heartland

Farmer Fact of Life: You can't get seed into a field like this one in Iowa, and if you did it wouldn't come up. And most of the fields in 20 states look like this. (Photo by David Morris/Flickr)

While the nation largely ignores the developing, historic flood of the Mississippi River and its tributaries, it is totally oblivious to the rising threat of ordinary — well. perhaps not ordinary, but certainly less dramatic — rain to current and future harvests in the nation’s breadbasket. The fact that the Corn Belt is soaking wet, where it is not completely inundated, does not bode well for food prices, or for the food supply, in the US or the world. Continue reading