The People, Sir, are a Great Beast

The Prince and the Princess discover what royalty has oft learned before: if people are miserable enough, they will intrude on your life of privilege. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Modern political leaders focussed on polling, partisan doctrine and the next election forget at their peril that there is an ancient and non-revokable contract between leaders and followers: give us followers good times and security and we will allow you leaders your power and wealth; fail to protect us from grievous harm and we will erase you. Retribution for mass suffering has fallen brutally on high priests, pharoahs, kings, czars and presidents throughout history. And the laws of history have in no way and in no place been revoked. (To listen to the audio version, click here:  0104 The People are a Beast) Continue reading

A Solar Powered Blackout

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.

Blind faith in the power of industrial technology to provide everyone with cheap luxury requires turning a blind eye to the deferred costs of industrialization. And the longer we ignore the consequences, the worse they are. For example, the longer we tolerate industrial agriculture’s loss of topsoil, pollution of water and destruction of diversity, the more difficult will be any recovery to sustainable practices. Our society remains stubbornly oblivious to even the obvious rising threats; but here’s one that, real as it is, is truly obscure: the possibility that the sun could turn off our lights. (To listen to the audio version, click here: 0103 Solar Powered Blackout) Continue reading

Chinese Self-Destruction II

Typical Chinese farm

Small, diverse, productive, successful: these are the farms China is replacing, and the results are not good.

While the world watches with a mixture of envy and awe, China rises. Its political, economic and military power grows at dizzying speed, its leaders seem unfettered by any restraints. Yet it is the very restraints that bedevil other countries’ leaders — political opposition, free investigative journalism, special-interest activism, and public, protracted, messy debate — that slow industry’s rush to self-destruction. China started its industrialization well after the West, and may well crash and burn long before the West because the only lesson it has taken from our experience is how to commit suicide faster.

As we have reported here before, China is running chronically short of coal, oil, and electricity. And soon, according to a United Nations investigator, it will be running short of food. Continue reading

Peak Oil: Is Today the Day?

Gas lines in Louisiana in 2005. Are they coming soon, to stay? (Photo by Jaseman/Flickr)

What if it were today? What if today were the day that the realization dawned somewhere and spread virus-like across the web and the world: peak oil is here, it’s real, and it’s not going away? How many things would we wish, on the evening of that first day, that we had done before it came? Continue reading

China: World Leader in Self Destruction

air pollution over Suzhou, China

The Chinese may not be able to keep the lights on over a wide section of the country, but they sure can snuff out the sun. This air is over Suzhou, in Jiangsu Province, in 2008. (Photo by orangeandmilk/Flickr)

There is something in our nature that draws comfort from the knowledge that there are people like us who are much worse off. It’s not a pretty attribute, but it’s there, especially when the people are a lot like us, and are worse off for the same reasons that make us fear our own future. So let us take a moment’s respite from our knowledge of the impending consequences of squandering our natural resources, as we contemplate the same fate, bearing down on our supposed enemies. Even faster. (Admit it. You feel better already. Happy Holidays.) Continue reading

New Book: Peak Oil is Now, Global Collapse Imminent

Cover photo from Tariel Mórrígan's book Peak Energy, Climate Change, and the Collapse of Global Civilization: The Current Peak Oil Crisis.

An explosive new book from a University of California environmental scholar takes a scalpel to the blandishments of global politicians and their corporate paymasters to lay bare the hard facts they are trying — with increasing desperation and decreasing effectiuveness — to conceal. The facts are: peak oil is here, no one is ready, and a worlwide descent into chaos has already begun. Continue reading

New York Bans Fracking for Natural Gas

That's a natural gas fracking well. You'd be well advised not to drink the water. (Photo by Daniel Foster/Flickr)

The contrast could not have been clearer. A lame-duck state governor who has little chance of holding public office again puts the safety of his people above the profits of the oil and gas industry; while the increasingly lame Obama administration waffles.

On Saturday, Governor David Paterson of New York — who did not run for a second term in the 2010 election — ordered a stop to all drilling for natural gas that involves hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Continue reading

Nano, Nano: World-Beater Car Turns into a Dust-Eater.

The Tata Nano: When does affordable become too cheap? (Photo by Anugrah Adams/Wikimedia)

When India’s Tata Motors announced its plans to sell a car, the Nano, for under $3,000 to the rising millions of the Third World, there were in general two negative reactions. One was to giggle at the funny names, but that stopped when Tata bought the flagship auto companies of the British Empire, Jaguar and Land Rover. The other was to assume that the Nano would hasten the destruction of the industrial world by bringing to the masses of Asia the benefits of American society they crave so much: smog, gridlock, petroleum addiction and car payments. Turns out that was wrong, too, but not in a good way. Continue reading

Money Beats Brains Again: EPA Gives Up on Smog

smokestack in Chicago

The EPA was thinking of restraining air pollution such as this, into Chicago's air in January. But it has thought twice. (Photo by Andrew Ciscel/Flickr)

Since industrial America lost its grip on the White House, when its first wholly-owned and -operated president, George W. Bush, was replaced by the upstart Barack Obama, it has been pouring money into reasserting its grip on the Congress in order to prevent governmental interference with the making of profits. And Wednesday was payoff day. The Environmental Protection Agency surrendered. Continue reading

Peak Fish: We’re Running Out of Them, Too

Fish

Industry reports of steadily increasing fish catches over 40 years, it turns out, left something out.(Photo by ezioman/Flickr)

A new study of industrial fishing practices has found that the world’s fish catch peaked 20 years ago and has been declining since. Worse, it finds that the steady increases in the catch prior to the 1980s were achieved not because there were lots of fish, but because the industry constantly moved to new fisheries, leaving behind depleted ones. Now, they have run out of places to go. Continue reading