Who Goes Dry First? Vegas or Phoenix?

Lake Meade, water source for Las Vegas and Phoenix, shows its "bathtub ring" marking where its water used to be. It is less than half full and dropping fast. (Wikimedia photo)

Lake Meade, water source for Las Vegas and Phoenix, shows its “bathtub ring” marking where its water used to be. It is less than half full and dropping fast. (Wikimedia photo)

The title of first American city to be abandoned for lack of water will be awarded in the next decade or so, and it’s hard to decide whether to bet on Las Vegas or Phoenix. It could be a tie. Those among us who still like our stories to end with a moral are rooting for Vegas, whose demise would round out a lovely wages-of-sin, Sodom-and-Gomorrah kind of fable. Phoenix seems less blameworthy, but only if you think what’s about to happen is retribution for sin. If you lean more toward the inevitable-consequences-of-stupidity theory, then there’s not much to differentiate between Dumb Phoenix and Dumber Las Vegas. Continue reading

From Insecticide to Genocide

Dead_bee_winter

A world soaked in insecticides is not a place where bees can live. We’re really going to miss them. (Wikimedia photo)

Call it the Return of Silent Spring. Rachel Carson’s 1962 book of that name aroused the world to the dangers of soaking the world with insecticides (at the time, primarily DDT). Her dark vision of a spring in which no birds sang nor insects buzzed gave impetus to the environmental movement. What better evidence that that movement has been rolled up like a cheap rug than the news that after half a century we are back where we started?

According to a major new study, the world is so saturated with insecticides (especially these days, the pervasive neonicotinoids) that bees and earthworms are vanishing. As they go, they will take our food supply with them. Continue reading

Former Treasury Secretary Sees Climate Crash Coming

Henry Paulson (right) speaks at his nomination as Secretary of the Treasury. He lived through one crash. Now he sees another coming.

Henry Paulson (right) speaks at his nomination as Secretary of the Treasury. He lived through one crash. Now he sees another coming.

The man who was at the center of the global financial crash of 2008 — Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson — knows a thing or two about crisis. And he sees another one bearing down on us. He wrote about it in a hair-on-fire op-ed piece in the New York Times last weekend. The headline: The Coming Climate Crash. And he’s a Republican! Continue reading

The Fall of the House of Cantor Cards

Congressman Eric Cantor (R-VA), heir to the speakership, forgot the rule: dance with the ones what brung ya.

Congressman Eric Cantor (R-VA), heir to the speakership, forgot the rule: dance with the ones what brung ya.

The punditry that has arisen since the primary-election defeat of Eric Cantor, Republican Majority Leader (and Speaker-in-Waiting) of the House of Representatives, has mostly subtracted from the sum total of human knowledge. So, naturally, I want to contribute. (At least no trees were killed in the promulgation of this analysis.) Since a stunned David Brat, economics professor and novice candidate, acknowledged his victory over Cantor last Tuesday and immediately went into hiding, the Chattering Class has been having convulsions. Continue reading

Indian Summer: Apocalypse Rehearsed

Australian heatwave causes wildfiresThis is a shape of things to come: intolerable heat persisting for unprecedented lengths of time; failure of the electric grid when it’s needed most; hundreds of deaths from the searing heat; unreasoning violence spreading across the county like fire. India had it all last week, and the relief brought by the (late) onset of monsoon rains may be scant and temporary. This is the specter of climate change made real, made explicit, in the present tense. And still the world acts as if it’s the other guy’s end of the boat that’s burning, no worries here. Continue reading

Natural Gas: Flaming Out?

Seen from above, natural gas being flared at night bears a remarkable resemblance to the ill-fated Hindenburg. (Photo by Phudpucker.com)

Seen from above, natural gas being flared at night bears a remarkable resemblance to the ill-fated Hindenburg. (Photo by Phudpucker.com)

A little known crisis is approaching in the world of natural gas, one that threatens the most successful part of the largely imaginary New American Bonanza (NAB) in oil and gas brought on by hydraulic fracking. The gas frackers did manage to increase domestic supplies, so much so that two things happened: every electric generator that could switch from coal to gas, did so; while the glut drove the price down so far that the gas producers started losing money. Their output, which had grown by seven percent in 2011 and five percent in 2012, managed to inch up one percentage point last year. Now the entire industry has an iceberg just off the starboard bow. Continue reading

Big Ag Fights Small Ag: We Lose

Farms like these in Vietnam are the ones that feed the world, provide work and security for families, and preserve the land. We're stamping them out. (Wikipedia Photo)

Farms like these in Vietnam are the ones that feed the world, provide work and security for families, and preserve the land. We’re stamping them out. (Wikipedia Photo)

Just as it has become crystal clear (as confirmed by a new United Nations report) that the world made a terrible mistake when it entrusted its future to industrial agriculture; and that the only hope for a sustainable global food supply rests on small, diverse, family farms; now Big Money is weighing in on the side of Big Agriculture and is in the process of snuffing out the last best hope for food.

There are two parts to this problem. The ravages of industrial agriculture — the ruined land, poisoned water, sick animals and rampaging, mutant weeds and diseases — are becoming well known. We were told not to mind these things because it was the only way to keep up with a growing, hungry population. Turns out it wasn’t even one of the ways. Continue reading

Don’t Like Global Warming? How About Global Rioting?

You thought the unrest in Ukraine was all about Russia? Or the West? Try food. (Photo by Yaruslov Kharandiuk/Flickr)

You thought the unrest in Ukraine was all about Russia? Or the West? Try food. (Photo by Yaruslov Kharandiuk/Flickr)

The boiling point of a country is 210; not degrees on a thermometer, but points on a scale of food prices devised by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization. Reach that mark, and your population, on the brink of starving, will be in the streets kicking ass and taking heads. Pundits natter on about masses yearning to be free, loving democracy, spurning Islam, suddenly intolerant of dictators they were fine with for decades. In reality, the flame that lit the Arab Spring and the Syrian Civil War and the Crisis in Ukraine was a food price index of 210; and the same torch is spreading the flames around the world. The outbreak, according to Dr. Nafeez Ahmed (a security expert and writer for the Guardian of London), is a tsunami of civil unrest  “on a scale that has never been seen before in human history. This month alone [February] has seen riots kick-off in Venezuela, Bosnia, Ukraine, Iceland, and Thailand.” Continue reading

It’s Deja Vu All Over Again: Recession Redux

This was then, but retail stores are right now closing at a rate not seen since then. Just one of many signs that the recovery is not recovering. (Photo by Ed Yourdon/Flickr)

This was then (2009), but retail stores are right now closing at a rate not seen since then. Just one of many signs that the recovery is not recovering. (Photo by Ed Yourdon/Flickr)

Would it not be a hoot if we who expect the crash of industrial civilization, while we are staring intently at the usual suspects (peak oil, climate change, food shortages, grid failure, the San Andreas Fault) and waiting for one of them to start the avalanche, get sucker-punched by the Masters of the Universe? Would it not be excruciatingly funny if the very same people who almost burned the world alive in the first decade of this century managed not only to escape repercussions but to incinerate it in the second? The dial is moving from possible to likely as the ethically challenged whiz kids of Wall Street continue to play, unsupervised by adults, with the same matches in the same gasoline-soaked structure. Here’s what they’re doing, compared with what they did. Continue reading

US Officials Blow Up Oil-Boom Myth

Go ahead and drill some more. The oil, says the IEA, is simply not there.

Go ahead and drill some more. The oil, says the IEA, is simply not there.

The story broke last night. 9 pm. By now every mass media website should have it as the lede and every cable channel should be wall-to-wall with it. Why? Because it is a mortal blow to the five-year myth that America is in the midst of an oil-and-gas revolution that will return us to world supremacy, make us an exporter again, and bring us closer to energy independence.

Of course, some of us knew that these were all lies, all the time. But gullible people, especially gullible investors (who were the targets of the hype) bought the bogus claims. Chief among these — the biggest, most persuasive lie — was that the Monterey Shale in central California held a vast treasure in oil reserves, Continue reading