Gag the Little Children — Forever

Coming soon to a yard near yours? A fracking well looms over a residence in the Eagle Ford shale region of Texas. (Photo by Earthworks Action/Flickr)

The Hallowich family will never forget what happened when the frackers moved in next door. But under court order, they must never speak of it.  (Photo, of a similar situation in North Dakota, by Earthworks Action/Flickr)

These two things happened in the summer of 2011:

  1. US EPA administrator Lisa Jackson told a Congressional committee, “I’m not aware of any proven case where the fracking process itself has affected water,” echoing industry insistence that not a single water well had been affected by fracking [see “The Mother of All Fracking Lies,” The Daily Impact, 8/17/2011];
  2. A large fracking company, Range Resources Corp., agreed to pay a Pennsylvania family $750,000 to shut them up about how a fracking operation next to their 10-acre farm had polluted their water and air, seriously damaging their health.  

That frackers lie is not the headline. Here’s the headline: in approving the settlement agreement, the court imposed on the family’s two minor children, then 10 and seven years old, a lifetime ban on talking about fracking or the Marcellus Shale region. Continue reading

The Days After Tomorrow 6: They Voted With Their Feet

[This is one of a series of meditations on what we might have learned, and might still learn, from the history of Native Americans about how to live without modern technology and industry, which we may have to do in the near future.]

de Crevecouer

This is a noble Frenchman who fought in the French and Indian War. He thought Indian culture was “far superior to anything to be boasted of among us.”

If you say anything complimentary about historic Native American life, you will be told that you are buying into the myth of the Noble Savage, you are mis-applying modern sensibilities to Stone Age history, and are thus constructing in your mind a Disney movie about a Mad Max era. It’s a hard criticism to answer. How, indeed, can we overweight, sedentary keyboard crunchers come to any valid conclusion about life as hunter-gatherers without iPhones?

Turns out, we have a few witnesses. Here’s one. “The American Indian should serve as a model for how to eradicate poverty and bring natural rights back into civilized life.” Can you hear the sneers? Obviously, this is some bleeding-heart academic New Age liberal with no knowledge of history, right? Wrong. That’s Thomas Paine, a founding father of the United States, writing in 1795 while the Indian Wars raged in the Midwest. Continue reading

Let the (Wile E. Coyote) Games Begin

wile e coyote

You don’t have to worry about gravity or reality or any of that stuff if you just don’t look down….

What will be the trigger that detonates the final implosion of the industrial age? The betting is always changing, and a new and unexpected candidate has just presented itself as a possibility. The traditional destructors — scarce and/or expensive fuel, shortages of food and/or water, rising sea levels, spreading drought, violent weather and the like — are lined up like dominoes and will eventually fall onto each other in a final wave goodbye. But who will go first? With such musings do we beguile the time as we wait. This is how to get Dallas, and New Orleans, and Nice off our minds, we’ll think about Rio de Janeiro and the Olympics.  Continue reading

Blacking Out: Struggles of the California Power Grid

electrical-power-linesThe operators of the California electric grid, under a state of emergency since June, made it through the year’s first fierce heat wave, but face a near-perfect storm of setbacks as they struggle to keep the lights on until fall brings cooler weather. Be glad you don’t work there. Here is a brief list of what they’re facing:

  • The endless drought has so depleted the state’s reservoirs that only 20% of the normal supply of hydro power is available. Hydro is one of the largest sources of California’s power.  
  • The largest source of electricity in the southern half of the state, natural gas, is not available at all due to the shutdown of the massive storage facilities in Aliso Canyon after they leaked massive quantities of natural gas into the atmosphere — for four months.
  • The summer heat, and the electricity needed to deal with it, are both seeking new record highs this year.
  • With the system thus stretched to its utmost, natural disasters also threaten. Wildfires, which are breaking out earlier in the year, getting bigger, and lasting longer than ever, not only damage the grid directly, but their smoke ionizes the air and bleeds power from transmission lines and force operators to reduce line voltages.
  • And then there’s the really big gorilla in the room, the Big One, earthquake that is, that will destroy much of the California grid, and that’s not all.

Continue reading

Sand Wars

sand mining

A sand mafia — that’s what they call them — in Sierra Leone in the process of stealing a beach. With just a little more finesse, they do it in Miami, too.

The human industrial complex requires enormous inputs of natural resources to build and extend itself. If you rank these raw materials by volume used, number one will be water. Number two will be sand.

Hard to accept? Go anywhere in the world and look around. If you’re in a city looking at a high-rise building, it’s probably mostly concrete (sand), just like the streets, sidewalks, bridges, and the freeways with their interchanges and ramps. The windows in the skyscrapers and storefronts are glass (sand). Some buildings are made of brick (sand) or block (sand). And some of the highways are asphalt (sand). Out in the country most houses may be framed with wood, but they rest on foundations and basements of  concrete and block, and many of them are roofed with asphalt shingles. I’m finding this out, and telling you about it, using computer chips made of sand. Continue reading

The Days After Tomorrow 5: None So Blind

Bill Gates

Think the days of arrogant white ignorance are over? Consider that just a few weeks ago, American Geek-in-chief Bill Gates grandly offered to give Bolivia, which he referred to as a poverty stricken country, 100,000 chickens. (Sort of a “Let them eat eggs” statement — or, with a little extra trouble, cake.) Bolivia, it turns out, has a thriving economy, exports 36 million chickens a year, produces nearly 200 million. But thanks anyway, Great White Father.

[This is one of a series of meditations on what we might have learned, and might still learn, from the history of Native Americans about how to live without modern technology and industry, which we may have to do in the near future.]

One cannot answer a question that has not been asked (if you are a parent, you know exactly what I mean). And one cannot ask a question of which one cannot conceive. Thus does ignorance remain locked in place. Before we can learn anything useful from or about any other culture, we have to remove any blinders that prevent us from conceiving of questions: things like bigotry, racism, intolerance, delusions of superiority and exceptionalism, convictions of a special and exclusive relationship with God. Continue reading

Bored on the Fourth of July

beach closed“Hi, Twits and Likees and BFFs. Can’t find the right emoticon for our family’s bummer of a long weekend. As you know, because we’ve been posting about it all year, we planned the trip of a lifetime to Florida’s Treasure Coast beaches over the 4th. But when we got there the beaches were covered with a green, toxic, smelly curd that some genius compared to guacamole but I never saw an avocado tree anywhere so that doesn’t make any sense. Continue reading

Brexit Brokit. Now Trumpit?

Scorpion and Tortoise

“All we need to do to get safely through this,” said the scorpion to the tortoise and the tortoise to the scorpion, “is be true to ourselves.” (Wikipedia Image)

It was unthinkable that voters in the United Kingdom would elect to leave the European Union. And indeed, thinking was apparently not involved, because the very ones who did it are running around today screaming “WTF?WTF?” and asking please, sir, could they have a do-over? It is unthinkable that voters in the United States would ever, likewise, place their country in the hands of a President Donald Trump. Go ahead, take a minute and try. See? You cannot think it. Doesn’t mean it isn’t going to happen. Continue reading

The Days After Tomorrow 4: Paiute Morning

When dawn came, and the people of the Paiute camp emerged from their wickiups, the Watching priest was astonished not by what they did, but what they did without.

When dawn came, and the people of the Paiute camp emerged from their wickiups, the Watching priest was astonished not by what they did, but what they did without.

[This is one of a series of meditations on what we might have learned, and might still learn, from the history of Native Americans about how to live without modern technology and industry, which we may have to do in the near future.]

About a hundred years after Father LeJeune vented about the unwillingness of the Montagnais to give or receive orders, another Jesuit priest awoke in the predawn hour in a Paiute village, near the other coast of the North American continent. Apparently the Jesuits, who at least were willing to observe and take down information about the lives of the Native Americans, were no better than anyone else at sharing what they learned, because this priest was as shocked by what he saw as Father LeJeune had been, for the same reason.

As daylight came and the villagers stepped out of their wickiups, they went immediately into action, some gathering twigs for tinder, others starting the breakfast fires, some fetching water, others preparing food. All this activity, and all that was to come that day and every day, proceeded without anyone giving anyone else an order. Continue reading

The United States of Anxiety

atomic-bomb

Any minute, in any place, the terrorists could strike. We’re the only ones who can save you. Vote for us.

In this the fifteenth successful year of the War on Terror, it is fitting that the leaders of a crumbling empire report to their terrified citizens on the hard-won battles that have been prosecuted in their names. Yesterday, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, John Brennan, did just that, with a forthright report to the oxymoronic Senate Intelligence Committee. Allow me to set the stage:

  • For 15 years, the military power of the largest, richest, most advanced armed forces in the world, in the history of the world, have been deployed against a force of musket-wielding, Toyota-truck-driving desperadoes whose aggregate numbers have probably never exceeded the population of Winchester, Virginia.
  • The United States has spent approximately $14 million per hour on this war, for 15 years — nearly two trillion dollars and counting — on an enemy that has no air force, no navy, no heavy missiles, no armor, no artillery, and not much money.
  • On 9/11/2001, Al Qaeda had about 20,000 fighters. To punish them for their attack on the World Trade Center, we invaded two countries, killed an estimated 1.3 million people (that’s just in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan) and suffered 10,000 American fatalities.

Continue reading