Muddy Water Rising

The tide of mortal threats to our industrial society continues to rise — as is well documented in today’s Sunday papers — while the leaders and the institutions that are supposed to preserve. protect and defend us indulge in distractions. (Whether it’s a hike on the Appalachian Trail or a rant about Socialized Medicine, it’s a distraction.) Meanwhile, the tide rises:
The Congressional Budget Office this week issued a new report on the national debt (little noticed in the furor over its cost estimates for “socialized” medicine) that reminds me of Thomas Jefferson’s observation: “When I reflect that God is just, I tremble for my country.” The debt continues to skyrocket, faster than the Gross Domestic Product. “To put it bluntly,” the New York Times [“The Debt Tsunami”] observes, “the fiscal policy of the United States is unsustainable.” There’s that word again. It means we cannot keep doing it. If we try — if we allow our representatives to refuse to raise taxes, cut spending and fix health care — then we will find out the bad way what unsustainable means.
Various cheerleaders for the Way Things Used to Be pretend to see the end of the recession coming. But the end of the recession does not mean a return to what we used to think of as normal. People are showing a strong tendency to save money, drat them, rather than buy stuff, and that means that a great many people who lost their jobs in the past year are not going to get them back. Bob Herbert writes in the Times [“No Recovery in Sight”] that the official unemployment rate has reached 9.4 percent, much worse than recently predicted, and is headed for ten percent. And according to on study, the underutilized workers — who want full time but only get part-time, or who want jobs but are too discouraged to even look — now total nearly 30 million, the highest number in history and the highest rate in a quarter century.
We who worried about the dramatically increasing reproductive problems in frogs and fish used to endure a lot of ridicule. Now, not so much. [It’s Time to Learn From Frogs,” Nicholas D. Kristof, The New York Times, again.] Because the problems are now occurring in humans, in the form of genital deformities in infants and declining sperm counts in adult males. The culprit? In all probability a class of widely used industrial chemicals called endocrine disruptors, meaning they interfere with the infinitely complex system that manages our bodies’ growth, functioning and reproduction. These chemicals are everywhere — in agricultural chemicals, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, cleaning compounds, children’s toys, food storage containers, furniture and carpets, computers, phones, and appliances. Only now has it occurred to some to research their long-term effects, and the results, just starting to come in, are horrifying.
Scary stuff, but remember the main thesis of BRACE for IMPACT: saving the world is not possible, but you and I can save ourselves — can start living sustainably — at any time we choose.

The tide of mortal threats to our industrial society continues to rise — as is well documented in today’s Sunday papers — while the leaders and the institutions that are supposed to preserve. protect and defend us indulge in distractions. (Whether it’s a hike on the Appalachian Trail or a rant about Socialized Medicine, it’s a distraction.) Meanwhile, the tide rises: Continue reading

Coming Detractions

Want a preview of the likely deterioration of climate and agriculture in this country over the next several years? Watch India today.

Time Magazine [“The Truant Monsoon: Why India is Worried” June 26, 2009] reports widespread panic in the country because the monsoon season of heavy rains that replenish the rivers and make agriculture possible has simply not appeared — it is at least two weeks late.

Save the story. You’re going to hear the same quotes from the chambers of commerce, the politicians, the global-warming skeptics and the miserable farmers out of the American Central Plains and Southwest over the next decade.

Tower of Power

There it is, in Chicago of all places, the Big Idea that could have saved us, in plain view for everybody to see and not talk about.

After a $350 million renovation the Sears Tower, at 110 stories the tallest skyscraper in the hemisphere, will produce 80 per cent of its own electricity. [Sears Tower to be Revamped to Produce Most of Its Own ElecricityThe New York Times.] That’s a big project, but it’s not the Big Idea. Continue reading

Les Bons Temps Roulette

One of the premises of BRACE for IMPACT is that industialism concentrates risk as it seeks economies of scale. Nowhere is this more visible — or more dangerous — than in the food industry. This morning’s case in point is the news that 65 people in 29 states have been sickened by the potentially deadly bacterium E. coli 0157. Continue reading

The Dark Twin

The thing we love about the industrialization of everything, the reason we tolerate its destructive rampages, is the notion economy of scale. This is the theory that when you mass-produce something, each something in the mass will cost less. What we need to keep in mind is that economy of scale has a dark twin that is equally powerful and seldom discussed — elevation of risk. Continue reading

My Money or My What?

Strident, moralistic voices are raised everywhere in the country declaiming that it is wrong to give government bailout money to banks whose greed and stupidity got them into trouble (after making them a lot of money), and wrong to take money from taxpayers to give to people whose greed and stupidity (or so it is argued) got them into foreclosure, after living in relative luxury for a few months or years. Continue reading

Forever Blowing (Up) Bubbles

The current financial meltdown offers a good model for other, far more serious disruptions that are on their way. If you think the greed-maddened, amoral stupidity of the investment bankers was unique, take a closer look at the masters of our supplies of food, water and energy. Continue reading