Hunger Games in the Heartland

We’re headed back to the dustbowl future in the heartland. But not to hear the USDA tell it.

As recently as six weeks ago, the Pollyannas of industrial agriculture were all over the industrial media trumpeting the imminent “huge” corn harvest in the United States.  They knew it was going to be huge (see, for example, Bloomberg News on May 24) because more US acres were planted in corn this year than ever, and because there is no such thing as global climate change. Well, they didn’t say that second part, but they assumed it. Because if they hadn’t, they  might have foreseen the disaster now unfolding. Continue reading

How They Do Drought in Texas

Your Texas rice field looks like this? No problem, drill another well. (Photo by Terry Shuck/Flikr)

The next stop on our Last Chance Tour of a collapsing civilization: the Texas Panhandle.  The land is turning into  desert, the people are acting out the Tragedy of the Commons (a pretty way of describing the way humans fight for the last scrap of a vanishing resource),  the government is making things worse and almost everybody is pretending nothing is happening at all. Continue reading

18 Wheelers: Endangered Species

The environs of the Great American 18-Wheeler, which is showing signs of going extinct. (Photo by Thomanication/Flickr)

The industrial machine that is America today is not a person (any more than a corporation is), but if it were, we would understand clearly that its vascular system — the mechanical  network that supplies petro-nutrients to all its robot parts, without which it  cannot survive for a minute — consists of highways filled with tractor-trailer rigs. Heads up: the system has severe atherosclerosis. Continue reading

Thunderstorms Threaten WV Famine

A vicious squall line moves across the northeastern US on Friday, June 29. (Photo by NASA/Goddard)

The third horseman of the Apocalypse — Famine — is abroad in West Virginia today, the day after Independence Day 2012, because of a thunderstorm. In a stunning development illustrating the fragility of the industrial food chain, people in many of West Virginia’s counties began experiencing hunger three days after the storm knocked out power in their area. Continue reading

NPR: The Lost Best Hope

(Photo by timsamoff/flickr)

The last bastion of intelligent and balanced journalism in this country is apparently now the lost bastion: on Morning Edition last Wednesday, NPR ran a piece on the oil bidness that was a travesty of journalism. The piece by John Ydstie “reported” on the “huge boom” in US oil and natural gas production and claimed — not by quoting an idiot, but by making the idiotic statement with no attribution or qualification — that it “could help the nation reach the elusive goal of energy independence.” That was the lede sentence, and things went downhill from there.
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USGS: World on Really Bad Acid Trip

/Flickr)”]The US Geological Survey has been getting things right since at least the 1930s, when it correctly identified the Dust Bowl — while it was occurring — as a human-caused, not natural, event. Few people recognized the implications at the time, few know them today, and not many paid attention last fall when the USGS told us something else it knows about what we are doing to the world that nourishes us: industrial activities are turning the world to acid.

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US Oil Boom Busted

These oil wells were thick as fleas along the Texas coast in 1978, when America was awash in oil. But production has been declining since 1970, and simple-minded hype will not change that. (Photo by Roger Wollstad (Roger4336)/Flickr)

The latest version of “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” being sung by the Big-Oil Tabernacle Choir is a variant of the old favorite,  “Drill, Baby, drill.” The new lyric is that we have drilled, baby, drilled (or more accurately, fracked) and that now there is plenty of oil and gas in America, and there will continue to be plenty as long as you don’t dare tax or regulate Big Oil. You can even hear the backup singers muttering, “Energy independence! Energy independence!” Alas, the song is wrong.

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Apocalypse Any Minute: The Sun Storm Scenario

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.

Add to the list of mortal threats to the continued existence of the industrial age another inevitable, natural event to which we have exposed the throat of our machine. You may know about the threat of solar storms — I wrote about it here in January of 2011 (“A Solar Powered Blackout”) — but did you know that one of the consequences of a strong one will be the moral equivalent of a nuclear war — a kind of Chernobyl times 100? Continue reading

The Silence of the Bats

This brown bat is lucky -- he's just stunned momentarily. If there were white spots on his nose, he'd be dead. (Photo by Velo Steve/Flickr)

Is there anything Americans care less about than species extinction? It is as if their house were on fire, but they continue to watch TV because a) they didn’t need that stuff in the garage anyway, and b) it will probably go out by itself before it gets to the living room, c) it’s not their job to fight fires, and d) if it was really important it would be on television. Now that the fire has reached the living room — i.e., impending extinctions are a direct threat to the human food supply — Americans are at last responding. By turning up the TV. Continue reading

China Government Report: Brace for Impact

Shanghai slowly strangles in the exhaust of its prosperity. Seven years after this photo was taken, China sees a problem. (Photo by thraxil/Flickr)

While the American president doesn’t discuss it, and the candidates vying to replace him swear it doesn’t exist, scientists working for, and under the supervision of, the government of China are warning their people in an official report that “China faces extremely grim ecological and environmental conditions under the impact of continued global warming.” This is the judgment of the “Second National Assessment Report on Climate Change” released for public consumption this week. Continue reading