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

Ohio Lake “Dying”: Governor Applies Lipstick

Algae scum in the waves of Grand Lake St. Marys, Ohio, last June -- the symptom of a fatal illness. Last week, the governor applied a Band-Aid. (Photo by St. Marys Lake Improvement Association)

The government of the great state of Ohio demonstrated last week, with laser-like precision, exactly why we do not have a chance of avoiding the multiple catastrophes bearing down on our supplies of food, energy and water. In unveiling what was universally described as a “plan” to deal with one of the state’s biggest pollution problems, the governor and his fellow polititicans also demonstrated the new first principle of government: it is far, far better to appear to be doing something than to actually do something. Continue reading

Natural Gas Getting Fracked Over

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.

It has been a terrible month for the natural gas industry. From another well blowout in Pennsylvania to an emerging water war in Texas, from a new study by the EPA that scrapes some of the greenwash off the image of “natural” gas to an Academy Award nomination for an anti-fracking documentary. it’s been a total snafo (“situation-normal-all-fracked- over”). 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

EPA Burns Big Coal, Defends Mountain Top

This view of a former mountaintop in Pike County, Kentucky, which is now lying in nearby valleys, shows what's left when the coal is gone. (Photo by iLoveMountains.org/Flickr)

In a singular act of courage and principle — the likes of which we will probably not see again while the Know-Nothings rule in Washington — the US Environmental Protection Agency last week acted decisively and dramatically to crimp the coal-mining method known as mountaintop removal. The EPA yanked the permit of an Arch Coal Company sudsidiary to devastate a mountain ridge in central southwest West Virginia.

The action was remarkable for several reasons: Continue reading

Oil Spill? What Oil Spill?

"I don't see any oil on me. Do you see any oil on you?" Now that the pelicans have been whitewashed, the BP-oil-spill apologists are at work on the rest of the story. (Photo by MindfulWalker/Flickr)

Scientists working for the government (hence the people) of the United States made the declaration in August, a scant month after BP had managed to stop a five-month gusher of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Like cops at an accident scene littered with crushed cars and dead bodies, they intoned “Nothing to see here. Move on.” Three quarters of the spilled oil, they said, was gone. Nearly five million barrels of oil and two million barrels of chemical dispersant had been processed by the Gulf, no problem. In the words of Energy Secretary Carol Browner, “the vast majority of the oil is gone.” Nothing to see here. Move on. Continue reading

Lousy Fish, Dead Lobsters

One of the world's most noxious enterprises: raising fish in cages. (Photo by Ian Walsh/Flickr)

Give a man a fish and he will have food for a day; teach a man industrial fish production and you can bring famine to his whole world. The latest illustration of that (relatively new) proverb comes from Maine, where raising salmon is threatening everything else.

Industrial salmon production, like all other industrial processes, achieves economy of scale and immediate profit by concentrating and delaying risk. Continue reading

Food Crisis in Germany: a POP is the Weasel

Chicken feed? Diesel fuel? At Harles und Jentzsch we make them in the same tank. Have a little dioxin with your bacon and eggs?

Another major food scare in another part of the world demonstrates anew the boundless greed and clueless lethality of industrial agriculture. Nearly 5,000 farms in Germany were ordered closed late last week because animal feeds for pigs and chickens had been contaminated with dioxin, a toxic and carcinogenic chemical. As always in such cases, the moment the crisis erupted it became apparent that 1) it had been going on for a very long time, perhaps since last March; and 2) that criminal activity may well have been involved. Yet two vital considerations are absent from the media coverage thus far. 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

Iran, etc: When the Gas Bills Come Due

Iran Protest

What Ahmadinejad dreams, now that he cannot afford to buy the acquiesence of his people with 38-cent gasoline, as he could when the Green Revolution wilted a year ago,

Governments that buy the affection of their people, like people who submit to extortion, find that the deal is not sustainable because the demand for money just keeps going up while the supply dwindles. This is the lesson being learned right now by every state government in America, and that will be driven home shortly to the federal government: you cannot buy people off — in this case by refusing to tax them — forever. For one thing, the cost prevents you from doing the things that government is supposed to do. And for another, the cost just keeps on going up until it breaks you. For a crystal clear illustration of where this road leads, consider the plight of Iran. (For the audio version click here: 0106 Iran etc: When the Gas Bills Come Due) Continue reading