Windfall: When Renewable Energy is not Sustainable

wind turbine down

After 19 years of facing the wind, this German turbine fell to it. It’s starting to happen a lot.

Industrial Masters of the Universe have long since learned what to do when the fickle public embraces a product or concept that was previously anathema; they embrace it like an Anaconda getting ready to eat a pig. Thus they learned to love “organic” stuff, and “natural” chemicals and even “renewable” energy. As soon as they learned that customers would line up to buy $3 million turbines, that the government would subsidize up to 70% of the cost, and that the public would love them for doing it, it was game on. Now, however, accumulating costs and negatives are beginning to indicate game over. Continue reading

US Climate Migrations About to Begin

Too close for comfort: rising waters of the Gulf of Mexico are turning the residents of Isle de Jean Charles, LA, into the first U.S. climate refugees. (Photo by Karen Apricot/Flickr)

Too close for comfort: rising waters of the Gulf of Mexico are turning the residents of Isle de Jean Charles, LA, into the first U.S. climate refugees. (Photo by Karen Apricot/Flickr)

Does the Congress know about this? The Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development in January approved grants of about a billion dollars to communities in 13 states to help the deal with climate change — a problem that according to a majority of the leaders of Congress, and a majority of the members of the Senate, does not exist. Among those grants was one for $48 million to help move an entire Louisiana community to higher ground as rising seas obliterate its land. This is a first for America. It is hardly the last. Continue reading

They’re Parking the Trains. And the Ships and Planes and Trucks…

(Image from Google Earth)

The train to nowhere. (Image from Google Earth)

 

It’s a picture that’s worth a thousand choruses of “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” Here in the Seventh Straight Successful Year of the Recovery from the Great Recession, tucked into a corner of the Arizona Desert, is a line of parked Union Pacific locomotives. It was discovered on Google Earth, so it is, as they say, visible from space. There are 292 of them, baking in the sun like so many dinosaur skeletons, in a line stretching almost five miles. They, and the people who used to run them, are now “excess capacity” for one of the country’s largest freight haulers. In this, the Seventh Straight Successful Year of the Great Recovery. Continue reading

The Days After Tomorrow 2: The Thunderbird Lesson

Thunderbird Site

A 1985 on-site reconstruction of the oldest known human habitation on the North American continent, used by Paleo-Indians in what is now the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. What they were doing there, for 12,000 years, could be a lesson for us all. (Photo by Douglas Campbell/Flickr)

When we talk about re-ordering human life to suppress the sicknesses that have brought the planet to the brink of destruction — greed, heedless exploitation of limited resources, and so on — the discussion often founders on claims that these traits are fixed in human nature or to put it in more modern techno-jargon, they are “hard wired” in our brains and/or in our genes. So it doesn’t matter, it is argued, \ how we try to organize society, human nature will assert itself and a few years after the total crash of industrial society someone will invent a futures market and away we go again. One of the reasons that I will never buy that argument is that I have been to the Thunderbird Site. Continue reading

The Worst Reporting on Climate Change. Ever. (So Far.)

boiling frog

If the warming is siow, the frog is happy. (Photo by Purple Sloq/Flickr)

In describing our progress toward a well-educated and -informed citizenry, served by a free and fearless press, seeking a smoothly functioning democratic republic, do you believe in devolution, or are you a destructionist? That is, do you think we are rotting away from within, or is God punishing us? It’s probably too late to have that discussion; when you’re in a sinking scow, you can lament the lack of a luxury cruiser only so long, then you have to shut up and swim.

The low water mark (to twist the metaphor) of our society’s deteriorating journalism, its increasingly muddled grasp of scientific discoveries, and its atrophied ability to speak its own native language — not to mention its suffocating narcissism — was expressed in a single news story recently whose pungency and brevity would have been admirable if the perpetrators had intended it. Continue reading

The Days After Tomorrow: Introduction

Making dinner without a microwave, as they did in Cahokia Mounds, Illinois, 800 years ago (when the city was larger than London)? Maybe. But living without greed? Priceless. Maybe we should ask. (Photo by Cahokia Mounds Museum Society)

Making dinner without a microwave, as they did in Cahokia Mounds, Illinois, 800 years ago (when the city was larger than London)? Maybe. But living without greed? Priceless. Maybe we should ask. (Photo by Cahokia Mounds Museum Society)

Apres Nous le Deluge. And Then What?

Opinion is divided about what la Marquise de Pompadour meant, when she said (perhaps to her lover Louis XV), “Apres nous, le deluge [After us, the crash].” It was either, “You know, we’re making a really big mess of things, and everything is probably going to go to hell after we’re gone.” Or, on the other hand, she may have meant, “So what? We’re going to be gone. Where’s the cake?”

Among people who believe that the Industrial Age has started to come crashing down around our ears, there is a roughly similar divide: between those who see nothing after le deluge but extinction of the human race; and those who think some of us will survive. But then what? Continue reading

The Fall, and Further Fall, of Broadcast Journalism

fortune teller

Get into a dignified line of work, he says. Go into TV journalism, and you’ll never have to be harassed or humiliated like, you know, a hedge fund guy. (Photo by Vito Fun/Flickr)

Once upon a time, in a galaxy far away, we were young, and journalists. We thought of ourselves as initiates in a brotherhood (which it was, mostly, then, the sisters came later), followers of a calling, and most importantly members of a profession.

A profession, according to the dictionary, is an occupation “that involves prolonged training and a formal qualification.” We were never big on the “formal qualification” part — although we had to have an FCC licence to put our hands on the controls of a broadcasting station — but we did train. For many years I spent hours each week being grilled on the word choices in my scripts (Lewis, have you no idea of the difference between continuous and continual?”) and my pronunciation of them (“Lewis, I did not hear any sub-guttural value in that initial G, and where was the labial stop at the end of ‘ship’?”) Continue reading

Feeling the Burnout

Bernie

Like King Arthur in T.H. White’s The Candle in the Wind, Bernie Sanders led a rising against brute force, and lost, yet will be remembered for an historic moral victory. (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

We knew (didn’t we?) that Bernie Sanders was never going to save the world, or our country. But wasn’t it grand watching him try, and succeed in doing things that everybody knew were impossible to do? Everybody knew it was impossible to finance a major political campaign without drinking the poisoned Kool-Aid of rich peoples’ money. Bernie did it. Everybody knew you couldn’t be a contender if you didn’t like war — all wars, any war, war all the time. Bernie was a contender. Everybody knew that you could not be competitive in national politics if you ever mentioned the words “climate change” without  a sneer and a snowball. Bernie was competitive, after he identified climate change as the number one threat to the future of the United States.

Seems like everybody doesn’t know very much. Still, as they say, even stopped clocks are correct twice a day. Everybody knew that Bernie couldn’t win, because he’s a Jew, a “socialist,” too old, and for all the reasons mentioned above. Everybody was wrong about all the reasons, but right in the conclusion, as the state of New York confirmed yesterday. Continue reading

O Blogger, Where Art Thou?

Bloodhounds“Mr. Lewis, where art thou?” writes Daniel Reich. “Been reading your blog for years now and it looks as though you have abandoned your post so to speak. Been a fan ever since I read Tribulation  A book that gave me comfort gained from knowing that I wasn’t alone. I think you know what I mean. Please come back, Mr. Lewis. Let us bear witness to the unraveling together.”

First let me offer an apology to you, Mr. Reich, and to all the other regular readers of The Daily Impact. All seven of you. It is not polite to cut off an ongoing conversation without explanation, and I should have handled my absence with more respect for you. I shall try to explain.

Remember the old joke that asks, “How do you immobilize a centipede?” and answers, “By asking him which foot he leads with.”  A similar thing applies to writers. How do you block them completely? Ask them “What is the point of writing this?” Whether administered by a malevolent onlooker or by the unwitting writer himself, the immediate effect of the question is paralysis.

That’s what I did to myself earlier this year, more or less in mid-sentence. And, not to quibble, Daniel, but I did not abandon my post. I have been sitting right here, watching my cursor blink, for two months, trying to answer the question. Continue reading

One Nation, Under Water, with Penury and Indigence for All (*)

debt(* that is, the 99 per cent.)

I was there when a furniture-store owner I’ll call Chuck introduced, to a certain British-ruled, sub-tropical, behind-the-times island, the concept of hire-purchase — or, in American, rent-to-own. He started selling furniture on credit, for a small down payment and a contract to repay the balance at an astronomical interest rate. His policy scandalized everyone on the island who was rich enough not to need credit for such purposes; and was insanely popular with everyone else. Continue reading