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

The Flood Last Time: Almost Apocalypse

Floodwaters (right) overflow the flank of the Old River Control Structure (left foreground) during the flood of 1973.

The Mississippi flood of 1973, which is about to be eclipsed in size and duration, came within a hair’s width of changing the history of America by changing the course of the lower Mississippi River. To understand the threat posed by the gathering flood of 2011, we need to know what happened, and what almost happened, nearly 40 years ago at the Old River Control Structure.  Continue reading

Hedge Fund Guy Says Brace for Impact: Believe it Now?

There is more than one way to figure out the future. As this chart clearly shows.....

Jeremy Grantham is the chief investment strategist for the Boston firm GMO, one of the world’s largest asset management companies ($107 billion in the portfolio at the end of last year). The title of his current newsletter to investors is “Time to Wake Up: Days of Abundant Resources and Falling Prices are Over Forever.” In other words: Brace for Impact. (Okay, he is not saying that the crash of the industrial world has begun, but he is saying, and backing his opinion with the kind of data analysis that made him a gazillionaire, that the main benefits of industrialization — plenty of cheap stuff — are gone.) Continue reading

Mississippi Rising: Update

The Mississippi out of its banks in 2008, in what will seem in retrospect a minor event in comparison with the great flood coming. (Photo by Kevin Dooley/Flickr)

A surge of water greater than anything seen in nearly a hundred years is gathering in the upper Mississippi River today. It is moving slow, and will work its will on the river states during most of the month of May. If, as forecast, it crests at 53.5 feet (the height of a six-story building) above normal at Vicksburg on May 18, it will be the greatest flood seen on that river since 1927. Because it is moving slowly, its high waters will linger in some places for eight days. Continue reading

Mississippi Rising: Apocalypse Now?

 

The little known Old River Control Structures (bottom center), a frail line of defense between the raging Mississippi River (top) and a total dislocation of the US economy, by way of the Atchafalaya River (bottom).

The Mississippi River, its tributaries swollen by snowmelt and stormwater, is rising toward a flood level that could equal or exceed anything in its recorded history. The threat to Cairo, Illinois — just above the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers — is so grave that the US Army Corps of Engineers is about to blow up a levee just downstream at Bird’s Point, Missouri, to relieve the flooding in Cairo by deliberately inundating 140,000 acres of farms and towns. The emotional controversy that has arisen over this move obscures a real and rising threat to the economy of the United States. Continue reading

Has the Great Unraveling Begun?

Do the throngs in the streets of Cairo have anything to teach the passers-by in the streets of America? You bet they do. (Photo by Essam Sharaf/Flickr)

Being paranoid doesn’t mean that people aren’t out to get you. Nor does it mean that you’re ready for it when they do. We who expect the crash of the global industrial system, who believe it has already (in slow motion) begun, need to be alert for the moment when the slow irreparable lean turns into the catastrophic free fall. That is when incomplete preparations for the aftermath become exactly the same as no preparations at all. Has that moment come for us, via Egypt? Continue reading

California: Waiting for the Big Wet One

Iowa is getting used to extraordinary floods, such as these in 2008, but "extraordinary" doesn't begin to cover what could happen to California. Soon. (USGS photo)

Imagine the chagrin if, after all these years spent staring at the San Andreas Fault, waiting for the most-predicted, -costly and -deadly natural disaster in US history, Californians should instead be washed away by a flood of Biblical proportions. According to the US Geological Survey (the people who have studied the San Andreas most intensely) it could happen. They calculate that such a flood, not unprecedented in California, could dwarf the damage of even a magnitude 7.8 earthquake, otherwise known as “The Big One.” Continue reading

Aflockalypse Now: Shock and Awe or Cheap Thrills?

No, it's not a canary, but it's trying to tell us something. (Photo by Dave Gingrich/Flickr)

Birds falling from the sky! Fish washing up on the beach! In the same week! In the same place (if you think of North America as one place)! Run! It’s here! Thus do the stewards of the fabulous technology of the Information Age ensure that our brains continue to atrophy. (To listen to the audio version, click here: 0108 Aflockalypse Now) Continue reading

A Solar Powered Blackout

A solar flare recorded Dec. 5, 2006, by the X-ray Imager onboard NOAA's GOES-13 satellite. The flare was so intense, it actually damaged the instrument that took the picture.

Blind faith in the power of industrial technology to provide everyone with cheap luxury requires turning a blind eye to the deferred costs of industrialization. And the longer we ignore the consequences, the worse they are. For example, the longer we tolerate industrial agriculture’s loss of topsoil, pollution of water and destruction of diversity, the more difficult will be any recovery to sustainable practices. Our society remains stubbornly oblivious to even the obvious rising threats; but here’s one that, real as it is, is truly obscure: the possibility that the sun could turn off our lights. (To listen to the audio version, click here: 0103 Solar Powered Blackout) Continue reading

New Book: Peak Oil is Now, Global Collapse Imminent

Cover photo from Tariel Mórrígan's book Peak Energy, Climate Change, and the Collapse of Global Civilization: The Current Peak Oil Crisis.

An explosive new book from a University of California environmental scholar takes a scalpel to the blandishments of global politicians and their corporate paymasters to lay bare the hard facts they are trying — with increasing desperation and decreasing effectiuveness — to conceal. The facts are: peak oil is here, no one is ready, and a worlwide descent into chaos has already begun. Continue reading