WikiPeak Oil: Now Do You Believe It?

"Got oil?" "Not so much any more. You?"

M. King Hubbert started predicting the inevitable arrival of peak oil in 1950. In the ensuing 60 years, a steadily growing band of geologists, other scientists, and people who grasp the essentials of arithmetic have been warning strenously that peak oil is both inevitable and imminent. If they are right, its arrival will have consequences for the world that will rank somewhere between catastrophic and apocalyptic; yet, in the developed countries (and by developed, we mean oil-dependent) virtually no one in a position to do anything about it mentions the prospect, let alone taking it seriously. Now, powerful confirmation of peak oil has turned up in WikiLeaks. It’s where we learned, for example, that Prince Charles is not as well respected as Queen Elizabeth. So now do you believe? Continue reading

Forecast: Hard Rain Gonna Fall

Food rioters face police in Algeria. This is a weather-related event.

“What are you so worried about?” goes the old comedy routine. “My future.” “What makes you so worried about your future?” “My past.” On this basis alone — what has happened in our world in the past few months — we should be very worried about our future. It does not matter if you are one of the 37 people remaining on the planet who do not “believe” in climate change, evolution or gravity (if you are in that select group, by the way, congratulations on your new Congressional committee chairmanship). If artillery shells are exploding in rapid succession, ever closer, you might want to take cover; we can discuss later whether you believe in high explosives. Continue reading

Reflection: Word Pollution Rots Brains

A word cloud (the more often used, the larger) generated from a speech by Governor Bobby Jindal in 2009. (Photo by Jason-Morrison/Flickr)

While the problems caused by industrial-scale pollution of air, water and land rise inexorably to nostril level, any and all efforts to deal with them are hampered by the deliberate release of toxic words into our language. Like poisons and endocrine-disruptors, toxic words cloud our intentions, weaken our will and muddle our efforts. If we can’t talk clearly about where we want to go and why, we can’t get there. 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

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