Category Archives: Environment

After the Great Pause–toward a New Society

Recent events have made it clear that there is no going “back to normal.” It seems to me that in this time of flux there are many possibilities, but I think they boil down to two fundamental choices. The world can continue on the trajectory of increasing concentrations of power and wealth, and dominance of the many by the few, or society can begin to decentralize and move toward community empowerment and local control.

Many are calling for people to embrace “a new human story founded on the principles of connection and diversity” and argue that such a story is already emerging.

The upcoming online event called World Localization Day promises to move our collective consciousness in that direction. I’ve already registered to participate and suggest that others do likewise. It will be happening next Sunday, June 21. This global event will be streamed three times: starting at 4pm in Sydney, 4pm in New York and 4pm in London. Registration fees are on a sliding scale, or even free for those with scant means.

As the website says:
After COVID-19, we can return to stressful disconnected lives and climate catastrophe, or we can slow down, scale down and rebuild our connections to each other and to the Earth.

Check it out.

2020 May Newsletter

In this issue

  • What could be nicer than this?
  • Planet of the Humans
  • The Need to GROW
  • Trade Exchanges and Credit clearing are No Longer Experiments, They’re Mainstream Business

There is so much going on these days, and so much I want to share with you that I hardly know where to stop. Yet, I do not wish to overwhelm my readers, so I’m choosing to keep my newsletters short. Whether they also become more frequent will depend on my own state of overwhelm and how the spirit moves me in the weeks ahead. In this edition I’m starting off on a lighter note with an amusing presentation by one of my longtime favorite authors. Oh, and by the way, there’s nothing in here about Covid-19. That’s not for lack of serious concerns or important sources to share, but I think we all need to take a break from it, so I’ll leave that for next time when we’ll get into it big time.
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What could be nicer than this?

Take a few minutes to relax and be amused. Whether or not you’ve ever been a fan of Kurt Vonnegut, as I have, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this lecture he gave in 2004 on the Shape of Stories.
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Planet of the Humans

This new and controversial documentary by Jeff Gibbs and Michael Moore lays out the hard, cold facts about our energy intensive way of living and the implausibility of renewable energy sources ever being able to replace fossil fuels. The inevitable conclusions are that we humans need to reduce our energy consumption, stop the growth of our population, and start making better public policy choices regarding infrastructure and technologies.

But vested interests have refused to believe the obvious facts and are intent of continuing on the present path in order to protect their material fortunes. In Tucson, where I live, tens of millions of dollars are being wasted on road widening projects just to deliver traffic more quickly to the downtown bottlenecks, a policy that in the process has been killing off more pedestrians and bicyclists and raising noise pollution to maddening levels.

The film has been controversial because it argues that the much vaunted shift to renewable sources of energy is an illusory savior, and the mainstream environmental organizations have been largely co-opted by corporate interests.  The movie is freely available for viewing at https://planetofthehumans.com/.

Among those featured in the film is energy and climate expert, Richard Heinberg of the Postcarbon Institute. Heinberg’s review of the film provides a more nuanced picture of our energy future and I encourage everyone to read it. The bottom line for me is my long held belief that there is no techno-fix maintain that will allow us to maintain the profligate ways of our current civilization, and that is a good thing because we are presently face with a multi-dimensional mega-crisis that is forcing us to transition to a different way of living that does not promote endless economic growth. I’ve also been arguing for a long time that we need to get off this perpetual growth spiral and shift our efforts away from ever increasing consumption and toward a Butterfly Economy that is in harmony with nature. If we do not make the necessary changes in the way we live, nature will do it for us.
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The Need to GROW

Speaking of living in harmony with nature, one of the most important things that we can do is to change the way we grow our food. This award winning documentary shows that it is possible. There are viable alternatives to industrial agriculture that are not only capable of producing an abundance of more nutritious food, but of saving the planet in the process. Get it here.
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Trade Exchanges and Credit clearing are No Longer Experiments, They’re Mainstream Business

This opinion piece by Paul Brandus appeared recently on the MarketWatch website: How small businesses can stay afloat during the pandemic without government help.

While still often referred to as “barter exchanges,” the scores of commercial trade exchanges operating around the world enable their business members to transact billions of dollars worth of purchases and sales annually without using conventional money. How do they do that? As I’ve been explaining for many years, established business members are given an internal line of credit in proportion to their sales volume, thus creating a new form of liquidity within the exchange that is independent of bank borrowing and conventional money.

The proliferation of trade exchange networks is a fundamental necessity in rebuilding the economy to be more resilient, fair, and democratic, and preserving the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that are the backbone of every community economy and political democracy.
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Monday, May 25 was Memorial Day in the United States. It is a day when we remember and honor all those who have fought and died in our many wars. Let us also remember the horror and utter waste that is the essence of war, and resolve to put an end to it forever.

Thomas

“Everything’s up to date in Kansas City,” including free public transit

On December 5, the Kansas City council voted unanimously to make city bus routes fare-free. While the city’s light rail has been free for some time, fare-free service will now be extended to include all bus routes.

Well, it makes good sense, doesn’t it? At a time when income disparities are becoming ever more extreme, lower income people still need to get to work, and greater mobility has many benefits in terms of productivity and quality of life. Besides that, a shift toward mass transit has positive benefits for the environment. I, for one, hope that other cities will follow this example.

Read all about it at, Kansas City becomes first major American city with universal fare-free public transit.

 

An important new book

Rebuilding after Collapse: Political Structures for Creative Response to the Ecological Crisis

Edited by John Culp

As society grapples with the reality of climate change, many believe that technology will somehow save the planet. As this book argues, that is not enough: larger-scale collaboration, coordination, and funding is needed. Individuals and groups, even with significant personal resources, will not be able to reverse the present course of ecological disaster. What our endangered planet needs is broadly supported community action, which is what happens when people come together and organize for the common good. What we need, in short, is political structures and actions. The essays in this book examine the political structures that have led to our present crisis and offer concrete lessons from the U.S., Japan, Brazil, and Greece, that can, if heeded, bring us back from the brink and toward an ecological civilization.

This book of essays emerged out of some of the presentations that were given at a major conference, Seizing an Alternative: Toward an Ecological Civilization. that was organized by Center for Process Studies and held at Pomona College (CA) in June 2015 and attended by more than 1500 people. It includes two of my own essays, Greece and the Global Debt Crisis, and How Private Currencies and Credit Clearing Exchanges Can Help Save Civilization, as well as essays by John Cobb, Ellen Brown, Gayle McLaughlin and several others.

The full list of contents and order form can be found here. The book can also be ordered on Amazon.com

What we can and cannot afford

Can we afford health care for all, free education for all, housing for the homeless, food for the hungry, a decent and efficient national system of transportation, a clean and healthy environment, a fair and equitable distribution of our collective production, and a true democracy in which people decide their own fate and how their money is to be spent? Politicians of all stripes tell us we cannot. “Where will the money come from?” is their plaint whenever such measures are proposed.

But other countries have many of those things. There is a vast number of countries that have free or almost free universal health care, as can be seen in this list. And here is a list of 11 countries that have BOTH free universal health care AND free college. The list includes not only affluent countries like Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland, but relatively poor countries such as Greece, Argentina and Brazil.

Anyone who has traveled in western Europe knows that Amtrak is a bad joke compared HSRinChinato the extensive and efficient rail systems in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and elsewhere. China too has much better trains than the U.S. and has been rapidly expanding its transport infrastructure. According to Wikipedia, China already has “the world’s longest high speed rail network” which is “also the most extensively used, with 1.713 billion trips delivered in 2017 bringing the total cumulative number of trips to 7 billion.”

Way back in 2005 I rode from downtown Shanghai to the airport at  Pudong on the maglev train that reached speeds up to 431 kmph (268 mph).

Yet, when President Trump calls for an almost $80 billion increase to the military budget, hardly anyone asks, “where’s the money going to come from?” and the measure easily gains Congressional approval.

Here are the things we cannot afford:

  1. We cannot afford continuation of the Empire with its deployment of military forces around the world and endless overt and covert warfare.
  2. We cannot afford continuation of the interest-based, debt-money regime that forces unnecessary expansion of economic activity and centralizes power and concentrates wealth in the hands of a super elite.
  3. We cannot afford continuation of the environmental destruction and climate change that is caused by the fossil fuel based economy.

The $727 billion U.S. military budget for 2019 dwarfs all other segments and amounts to 61% of all discretionary spending. To trump2019_discpie_unbranded_largeput it in perspective, the U.S. spends many times more on military than any other country. According to the National Priorities Project, the next highest military spender, China, spends only about one third as much on its military.

I have written extensively about the defects inherent in the centrally controlled interest-based, debt-money regime, which is driving the endless expansion of debt that makes economic growth an imperative. See, for example, my article, Money, debt and the end of the growth imperative.

Ultimately, if we do not take appropriate action, nature will decide our fate. See the work of Joseph Tainter and Jared Diamond, starting with this interview of Joseph Tainter by Jim Puplava.

In a future post I will elaborate upon these points, but for now I recommend viewing the recent Jimmy Dore show at https://youtu.be/yHpN7X9iK3o.

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Seizing an Alternative, Pomona College, June 4-7 – Free Plenary Sessions, Scholarships, and other reasons to participate.

Here’s a portion of the latest informational brief about the upcoming conference. You’re invited:

Don’t stay away!

(I mean, really, when is the next time you’ll be able to get together with hundreds and hundreds of people rethinking civilization from the ground up?)

            Seizing an Alternative: Toward an Ecological Civilization             June 4-7, Pomona College, Claremont, CA

ATTEND FREE PLENARY SESSIONS at Bridges Auditorium, Pomona College, Claremont, CA:

THURSDAY, June 4
Bill McKibben: 7:00 p.m. Opening Night

FRIDAY, June 5
John B. Cobb, Jr.: 9:00 a.m.
Vandana Shiva: 7:00 p.m.

SATURDAY, June 6
Herman Daly-John B. Cobb, Jr. discussion moderated by PRI’s Warren Olney (recorded):
  9:00 a.m.
Sheri Liao: 7:00 p.m.

SUNDAY, June 7
Wes Jackson: 9:00 a.m.

Southern California Edison makes ADDITIONAL STUDENT SCHOLARSHIPS (limited) available. To apply, write to info@PandoPopulus.com.

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