Saturday, January 19, 2019

Keeping Tabs on Climate Change - a Three Dimensional Chore

It's happening all around you - in front of you, behind you, on both sides, above your head, beneath your feet. It's happening on land, in our seas and in the atmosphere. It extends from the North Pole to the South Pole and everywhere in between. Climate change is omnipresent.

Humanity, being essentially a terrestrial species, focuses on terrestrial aspects of climate change - floods, droughts, heatwaves, and a range of severe storm events of increasing frequency, intensity and duration. We fret about sea level rise, coastal inundation, wild fires.  The atmosphere comes a distant second in priority and the oceans, what's going on there is out of sight/out of mind.

Climate change impacts matter but mainly in the context of economic loss and disruption. Sure it's killing people, loads of them, and displacing people driven from their traditional homelands but, hey, that's also out of sight/out of mind for most of us. After all, if we were to acknowledge that, our fossil fuel fetish would become indefensible. We are, when it comes right down to it, a full-fledged petro-state behaving with all the sincerity, integrity and compassion of a petro-state. This is not the Canada of St. Laurent, Mike Pearson and Pierre Trudeau. It is the much different Canada of Harper, Justin Trudeau and Kenney. But, I digress.

One of my main sources of climate news is the environmental section of The Guardian. Think of it as pre-digested climate science. It's a good starting point. I have some 40+ bookmarks of climate science sites, mainly government agencies (NASA, NOAA, NCAR, the WHO and WMO, the Met Office, etc.) and NGOs such as the Global Footprint Network, Pembina, the Nature Conservancy, etc.). Then there's a gaggle of peer-reviewed journals such as the Lancet, the various Nature publications and so on. Every day brings a week's worth of reading and more. It's a daunting task to which, if I'm very lucky, I can spare perhaps two hours a day, often less.

A real problem in blogging about this subject is that many of the studies seem, at first glance, repetitive. Sometimes they are. More often they're corroborative rather than repetitive. Climate science is a very broad field. It is a mix of hard sciences such as physics and chemistry and the gamut of Earth sciences, the Gaia stuff, from hydrology, geology, glaciology, meteorology, atmospherics, biology, botany, agronomy, epidemiology, medicine, the list can seem endless. These sciences are often closely linked. For example, a study that comes out of the field of physics can be tested and confirmed or refuted by studies in other disciplines. Global warming is foundationally physics but it can be confirmed through studies in a variety of other disciplines. That's not going to prevent subsequent studies from sounding like "old news" to a general audience. There's a real "broken record" problem with this stuff.

I sometimes wonder how many of us have a good grasp on how much and in what ways we're already affected by climate change. It varies from region to region, whether you're coastal or landlocked, whether you live in an urban or rural setting, your latitude.

If your homeland is equatorial, well, you're pretty much screwed and you probably know that already. If you come from a milder, temperate clime you're more likely to be wealthy enough and selfish enough to ignore climate change and, through your indifference, let your best remaining options for mitigation and adaptation slip through your fingers just as we've been doing for the past 30 years. Our Day of Reckoning will come but we're too damned busy to worry about that.

I've seen all the proof that I need that climate change has arrived in my region.

First there's the steady migration of marine life - fish, marine mammals, sea birds - into local waters from the warming waters to the south.  There are no fences, no highways, no mountains impeding marine life. When they choose to move, they move and they're moving.

Then there's the spreading infestation of pests such as the pine beetles moving through our forests. These are insects whose numbers were once held in check by winter cold snaps that we just don't get any longer.  They've savaged the pine forests of western states and British Columbia and now they've crossed the Rockies and are working their way through the boreal forests en route to Labrador eventually.

A third marker is the change in our wild fire season. Wild fires are now a massive problem from Mexico all the way into Alaska. In Sweden this year the fires spread into the Arctic Circle. There are more fires, deadlier fires like the blaze that rampaged through the town of Paradise, California.

And who can forget the Blob, this area of unduly warm water that shows up in the north Pacific that nobody yet really understands.  Not sure if that phenomenon has anything to do with the uptick in the frequency and severity of winter storms we've been experiencing.

Climate change is here and it is changing how we live in little but significant ways. Wild fire smoke can confine us to our homes. This year the air inside got bad enough that I forked out for air purifiers that do a terrific job of removing the fine particulate matter from the air inside my home.

Yesterday I scored one of these babies, the Streamlight Siege. It's the highest rated, battery powered, LED lantern and I found it for half price.

These wind storms can leave people out here without electricity for days.  Flashlights are okay for moving through the house but ultimately they're no substitute for a good, versatile lantern.  This one will provide illumination for 12 days on three D batteries. I'm not yet ready for a back-up generator because they're expensive and they're gasoline powered and I don't have room for one.

In essence, I'm learning to live with climate change, finding small, affordable ways to adapt. It would be great if our governments at all levels would be a bit more pro-active on adaptation strategies but this is, after all, the era of "everyday low taxes." We don't want to pay and we don't want them spending and they want our votes.

I have to remind myself that this is still "early onset" climate change, impacts that, for now, lend themselves to modest adaptation strategies. In most other corners of the world the people aren't so lucky. Their future is much more precarious than our own.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Whaaaat? More than Half of Food Produced in Canada is Wasted.

It seems that Canadians are doing something seriously wrong when it comes to food.
More than half the food produced in Canada is wasted and the average kitchen tosses out hundreds of dollars worth of edibles every year, says a study researchers are calling the first of its kind. 
"It's a lot of food," said Lori Nikkel of Second Harvest, the Toronto-based group working to reduce food waste that commissioned the study.

"We waste more food than we consume." 
The study released Thursday is the world's first to measure food waste using data from industry and other sources instead of estimates, said Martin Gooch of Value Chain Management International, which conducted the study.
Value Chain works with agriculture, aquaculture, marine and food industries to make them more profitable. 
"What we did was actually go to industry and (said), 'Give us primary data,'" Gooch said. "This is the first time anywhere in the world that anyone's gone out and got primary data that connects production with consumers." 
Results were checked with industry experts. 
"At every point in the process, we ground-truthed it," said Gooch. 
"We're confident our results are conservative." 
Previous work has suggested that Canadians waste almost 400 kilograms of food per person, one of the world's highest totals. The new work adds considerable detail to that figure. 
Apples rot in the grass for lack of harvest workers. Surplus milk is flushed. Thousands of hectares of produce are plowed after cancelled orders. 
The report, funded largely by the Walmart Foundation, concludes 58 per cent of Canadian food production is wasted.  
The report says the value of usable groceries that wind up in landfills or other disposal sites is almost $50 billion. That's more than half the amount Canadians spend on food every year and is enough to feed every Canadian for five months. 
As well, it says avoidable food waste in Canada produces more than 22 million tonnes of climate-changing carbon dioxide emissions.

Another Door Closes on Bitumen

A body blow to heavy oil comes into effect in 2020 when the International Maritime Organization will mandate deep cuts to sulphur emissions. That's for starters.

By 2050, shipping giants will have to cut their emissions by half.
By itself, next year’s cap could prevent 150,000 premature deaths and millions of childhood asthma cases each year, according to researchpublished in the journal Nature. It will also cost tens of billions of dollars for an industry that’s dragged its feet on the environment.

Necessity being the mother of invention, some of the world’s most conservative companies are starting to experiment with cleaner fuels and cutting-edge technologies. 

Heavy oil, the cheap, garbage stuff, has been the fuel of choice for shipping. Anyone who lives along a coast will be familiar with the sight of ships getting underway, even cruise ships.

 A drop in heavy crude will make bitumen, more costly and less desirable than heavy crude, less able to command the above-market prices needed for production.

Bitumen is sometimes called "heavy crude oil." That's not true. It is in a category of its own, "extra heavy crude."
Heavy crude oil is closely related to natural bitumen from oil sands. Petroleum geologists categorize bitumen from oil sands as ‘extra-heavy oil’ due to its density of less than 10° °API.[8] Bitumen is the heaviest, thickest form of petroleum.[9] According to the U.S. Geological Survey, bitumen is further distinguished as extra-heavy oil with a higher viscosity (i.e., resistance to flow): “Natural bitumen, also called tar sands or oil sands, shares the attributes of heavy oil but is yet more dense and viscous. Natural bitumen is oil having a viscosity greater than 10,000 cP.”[8] “Natural bitumen (often called tar sands or oil sands) and heavy oil differ from light oils by their high viscosity (resistance to flow) at reservoir temperatures, high density (low API gravity), and significant contents of nitrogen, oxygen, and sulfur compounds and heavy-metal contaminants. They resemble the residuum from the refining of light oil. 
...Production, transportation, and refining of heavy crude oil present special challenges compared to light crude oil. Generally, a diluent is added at regular distances in a pipeline carrying heavy crude to facilitate its flow. Dilbit (diluted bitumen) is a means of transporting highly viscous hydrocarbon. Per the Alberta Oil Sands Bitumen Valuation Methodology, "Dilbit Blends" means "Blends made from heavy crudes and/or bitumens and a diluent usually condensate, for the purpose of meeting pipeline viscosity and density specifications, where the density of the diluent included in the blend is less than 800 kg/m3."[14][15]
...With current production and transportation methods, heavy crudes have a more severe environmental impact than light ones. With more difficult production comes the employment of a variety of enhanced oil recovery techniques, including steam flooding and tighter well spacing, often as close as one well per acre. Heavy crude oils also carry contaminants. For example, Orinoco extra heavy oil contains 4.5% sulfur as well as vanadium and nickel ...Heavy crude refining techniques may require more energy input though, so its environmental impact is presently more significant than that of lighter crude if the intended final products are light hydrocarbons (gasoline motor fuels). On the other hand, heavy crude is a better source for road asphalt mixes than light crude.
 Yes, bitumen is good - for producing road asphalt. It's also good, as our First Nations demonstrated, as pitch for sealing birch bark canoes.

Crisis, Crisis. No End of Crises.

I was shaken by the story last week about how 60 per cent of Canadians consider the lack of a new pipeline to the west coast a "crisis."  It was a compelling report and also disheartening to one with a deep attachment to our pristine Pacific coastal waters. I knew that those 60 percenters were drylanders to whom our coast was inconsequential, especially in the context of a chimera of untold wealth to be had from our bitumen bounty.

The National Observer to the rescue. Likewise vexed by this Angus Reid pipeline poll, the Observer did a little polling of its own. What else might Canadians consider a crisis. They adopted the Angus Reid questions just substituting other issues in lieu of "pipelines."

Remember, Angus Reid's pipeline crisis set the threshold at 60 per cent.

On the issue of the Alberta regulator's internal estimate that Tar Sands remediation could cost upwards of $260 billion, 86 per cent considered that a "crisis."

96 per cent viewed the IPCC warning that we have just 12 years to cut CO2 emissions a staggering 50 per cent if we're to thwart the worst impacts of climate change as a crisis.

89 per cent of respondents considered the plight of Canada's forests from wildfires and pest infestations a crisis.

Suddenly Angus Reid's 60 per cent sounds a bit trifling. That doesn't mean you're not going to hear it repeated again and again by those pushing this damned pipeline.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Roadkill, Kale and the Humble Iguana. Dining in an Overpopulated Planet.

Think of it as just another lesson in Lifeboat Earth.

Like the occupants of a lifeboat, we're scrambling around to keep us all going just a little bit longer.

Everyone on a lifeboat needs certain things. Water and food are pretty high on their list.  There'll be no feasts, no banquets. You have to make do with what you've got when you get in and whatever you can snag afterward. You don't get to be fussy.

Earth is beginning to resemble our lifeboat and we're struggling to get as many aboard as possible. And, no, we don't get to be fussy.  Consider these three news reports.

The Guardian reports on a study by the Norwegian think-tank, Eat, in conjunction with the British medical journal, the Lancet, to come up with a new diet for our difficult times. The answer - red meat once a month and oodles and oodles of kale.  Think you can get by with eating just once a month?
The Eat-Lancet report posits that the global food system is broken. From the numbers quoted alone, it is hard to disagree: more than 2 billion people are micronutrient deficient, and almost 1 billion go hungry, while 2.1 billion adults are overweight or obese. Unhealthy diets are, it says, “the largest global burden of disease”, and pose a greater risk to morbidity and mortality than “unsafe sex, alcohol, drug, and tobacco use combined”. The planet isn’t faring any better. Introducing the commission under the title Acting in the Anthropocene, the Lancet firmly places that global food system within the framework of human impact on both climate and the environment that has caused geologists to rethink how they work: we are not (yet) extinct, but we have an era named after us. And what we are eating has a lot to do with that. Food production, the report states, “is the largest source of environmental degradation”.
But what if you need a little more meat in your diet? What's a guy to do? Well, there's always roadkill. Drive far enough and you're bound to find dinner.
Every year, between 600 and 800 moose are killed in Alaska by cars, leaving up to 250,000lb of organic, free-range meat on the road. State troopers who respond to these collisions keep a list of charities and families who have agreed to drive to the scene of an accident at any time, in any weather, to haul away and butcher the body.
“It goes back to the traditions of Alaskans: we’re really good at using our resources,” the Alaska state trooper David Lorring told me. Everyone I talked to – biologists, law enforcement, hunters and roadkill harvesters – agreed: it would be embarrassing to waste the meat. In the past few years, a handful of states, including Washington, Oregon and Montana, have started to adopt the attitude that Alaskans have always had toward eating roadkill. A loosening of class stigma and the questionable ethics and economics of leaving dinner to rot by the side of the road have driven acceptance of the practice in the lower 48.
Years ago I bought Buck Peterson's original "Roadkill Cookbook." It's still available in bookstores and you should find a copy for under $10.  Buck covers all the bases, everything from how to fry up skunk to the best way to roast a haunch of moose.  He describes how to tenderize you free meat (usually the car/truck does most of that) and the spices that will make your carrion wonderfully delicious.

Buck even has tips on going hunting. He prefers those 50s-era pickup trucks with the huge, real metal bumpers, that, if you hit your next meal just right can actually flip the dispatched carcass over the cab and into the bed of the truck. He has tips on what to hunt and when, where to go hunting, how to get the sun behind you, all that sort of thing.

And, if you're famished, you can always cook up the entree on your way home. Check out Chris Maynard and Bill Scheller's "Manifold Destiny." You've got that perfectly good engine. Why not use it to cook your fresh kill?

 But not every part of the world is blessed with ready meat on the hoof. Central America is an example. That region is getting hammered by climate change. Heatwaves and droughts, crop failures have beset several countries such as Nicaragua, Guatemala and Honduras. Yet they've got something that, I've read, tastes just like chicken - iguana.

The government of Nicaragua even set up billboards urging the people to turn that household pet into household dinner.
A land management expert, Guillermo Membreño, told Nicaragua's government-run online newspaper La Voz del Sandinismo that breeding the prehistoric-looking lizards "has two benefits." It's not just a great supply of dietary protein (packing a hefty 24 percent, compared to the 18 percent found in chicken, according to Memreño, although there is scant evidence for his calculations), but can also "offer a commercial use for the animals", i.e. selling the skins, or the iguanas themselves as pets. 
Nicaragua's environmental law prohibits iguana hunting between January and April each year, but there are exceptions—the law is waived if you are going to keep the lizards for food. 
This isn't the first time iguanas have hit the news. Back in 2012, Puerto Rico had mini-Godzilla situation—there were more iguanas than humans. The solution, as they'd become invasive, was to start culling and selling them for export to the Latino and Asian immigrants across the US who miss the taste of iguana—said to be like a sweeter version of chicken, often served either quick-fried in tacos or slow-cooked in stews. The eggs are also eaten, too, and are supposed to taste like a rich cheese. 
Unfortunately the taste for iguanas has encountered a predictable problem. They've become nearly extinct in Honduras.

Well, there are always bugs. Hardly a week goes by without some report on the latest yummy insects on offer at some swank eatery. But let's not leave out our pets. This week dog food made of insects hit the grocery shelves in Britain. The pet pellets are made of the larvae of black soldier flies (shown above). 
Globally, pets consume about 20% of the world’s meat and fish, a number set to rise with the trend for consumers to feed them human-grade meat. Pet food is also estimated to be responsible for a quarter of the environmental impacts of meat production in terms of use of land, water, fossil fuels, phosphates and pesticides. 
Insects provide a relatively high 40% of the protein in the new product from startup Yora. They are dried and ground with oats, potato and “natural botanicals”. The current version comes in the form of dried pellets, although Yora says it hopes to launch a “wet” version later in the year.
So what's the message in the saga of kale diets, roadkill and the noble iguana? Each of these tells the same tale. We've outgrown the planet. There's a similar parallel underway on our oceans where the industrial fleet, taking advantage of growing demand and dwindling supplies, is "fishing down the food chain," collapsing one fish stock after another.

We do indeed live in "interesting times."

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Whatever Happened To? The "Amoral Shysters" Who Rigged Brexit.

“If we allow cheating in our democratic process … What about next time? 
What about the time after that? This is a breach of the law. This is cheating.
 This is not some council race, or a by-election.
 This is an irreversible change to the constitutional settlement of this country.

With those words, former Cambridge Analytica research director, Chris Wylie, warned British lawmakers that the Brexit referendum had been rigged in favour of the Leave camp.

Since then further evidence has emerged that the Leave side freely and covertly broke campaign spending limits, giving them another means of skewing the results.

Echoing Wylie's take on the tainted referendum, the Irish Times' Kathy Sheridan wrote today:
What have we learned from the Brexit fiasco ? That we should take nothing for granted. That a small, well-funded band of determined, self-serving, amoral shysters can bring down a great country. That we are right to be fearful. That we should aim to do better but appreciate and loudly protect what we have. Because we now know up close what happens when a country grows complacent.
"Amoral shysters" such as Aaron Banks and Nigel Farage. In March of last year I took a cursory look at Mr. Banks.
In September 2013, the man who bought Brexit – Arron Banks – was in trouble. 
For the past two years, financial regulators in Gibraltar had been scrutinising his insurance under-writer, Southern Rock. They had discovered it was keeping reserves far below what was needed. 
This was a serious problem. Banks claimed he had already provided £40 million to plug the hole. He also told the regulator he would step down as a director, but has since been required to find an eye-watering £60 million in extra funding. 
A year later, these financial worries seem to have completely evaporated. Banks had begun buying diamond mines, investing millions into chemical companies and wealth management firms, setting up loss-making political consultancies, and most famous of all – funding the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP).
Banks has claimed he was promoted and rose to lead his own sales team at Norwich Union – now part of Aviva. However, Aviva say they have no record of Banks ever having worked for Norwich Union. He has also claimed to have worked for Warren Buffett around this point in his career. We asked Buffett about this. He replied. "I have no memory of ever hearing of the name Arron Fraser Andrew Banks. He certainly never worked for me." Further checks across the Berkshire Hathaway group, made by Buffett’s office, yielded no evidence he had ever worked for any of his subsidiaries.
Just last November, The Observer reported that Banks was under investigation by Britain's National Crime Agency for millions of pounds he pumped into the Leave campaign.
It makes a complete mockery of our democratic system that Britain will, in all likelihood, have already taken the irreversible step of leaving the EU before the results of this investigation into Banks’s alleged criminal wrongdoing are known. And it is a travesty that the Electoral Commission has, more than two years after the referendum took place, only just concluded its inquiry, which only came about as a result of Cadwalladr’s reporting in the first place.

This is not the only dark cloud hanging over the conduct of the pro-Brexit referendum campaigns. Earlier this year, the Electoral Commission found that both Vote Leave – the official Brexit campaign – and Banks’s Leave.EU broke electoral law by significantly exceeding official spending limits. Yet there has been a complete absence of consequences for those involved, including the cabinet ministers who convened and sat on the committee that oversaw Vote Leave’s campaign. 
...All this should be sounding alarm bells in Westminster. Our electoral law is based not on tough regulation and enforcement but on openness, transparency and trust; it relies on people being honest and upfront, if only because any cheating will get found out, with consequences for their political careers. However, in a one-shot, high-stakes referendum campaign, there is far less to lose and it would appear that the key Brexit campaigns took advantage of that. They not only overspent, but made wildly misleading claims, for example, that leaving the EU would free up £350m in public spending every week, claims they knew they could not be held to account for.
Yet it's all for naught. The AggregateIQ/Cambridge Analytica vote manipulation, the flagrant and wanton spending irregularities, the fraudulent promises of "amoral shysters" such as Banks and Farage - all these things that gave Leave the narrowest of referendum wins - none of it matters. Westminster is going to proceed as though the referendum vote wasn't rigged again and again and again.

WEF - Why Can't We All Just Get Along?

Next week the glitterati of politics, industry and finance will gather at Davos, Switzerland to ruminate over what ails our world and how to exploit fix it.

This year, the World Economic Forum will be gasbagging about our rapidly worsening environment. The lips they will be flappin'.

The most urgent problem, according to the WEF, is major power rivalries that are thwarting collective action to thwart climate change. No wonder Trump is giving this year's conclave a pass.
The WEF’s annual global risks report found that a year of extreme weather-related events meant environmental issues topped the list of concerns in a survey of around 1,000 experts and decision-makers. 
But with Donald Trump announcing protectionist measures aimed at Chinaand the European Union in 2018, the report said the international cooperation needed to limit further global warming was breaking down. 
“Global risks are intensifying but the collective will to tackle them appears to be lacking. Instead, divisions are hardening,” the report said, noting that nine out of 10 people polled said they expected relations between the leading powers to worsen in 2019. 
“The world’s move into a new phase of strongly state-centred politics, noted in last year’s Global Risks Report, continued throughout 2018.”
...Environmental risks continued to dominate the risks report, although there were also long-term concerns about the dangers posed by cybersecurity breaches in the years ahead. 
The report tracks five environmental risks: biodiversity loss, extreme weather events, failure of climate-change mitigation and adaptation, man-made disasters, and natural disasters. All five are thought to be in the high-impact, high-likelihood category.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

But Only If We Want It Badly Enough

As the clock runs down on the time we have remaining to thwart catastrophic climate change we have to decide if we want that badly enough to do what we must for our grandkids and generations to follow them.

Then Potsdam Institute director, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, told the delegates to the 2015 Paris climate summit what it would take - nothing less than the "induced implosion" of the global fossil fuel industry. What he meant was that governments would have to shut down the coal mines, the oil and gas wells and the bitumen pits and in short order.  Nothing less than a rapid transition to alternative, clean energy would buy us a fighting chance at averting runaway global warming and climate mayhem.

The Guardian reports on research that says we can still probably do it if we want to choose life over ruin.
It shows that meeting the internationally agreed aspiration of keeping global warming to less than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels is still possible. The scientists say it is therefore the choices being made by global society, not physics, which is the obstacle to meeting the goal. 
The study found that if all fossil fuel infrastructure – power plants, factories, vehicles, ships and planes – from now on are replaced by zero-carbon alternatives at the end of their useful lives, there is a 66% chance of staying under 1.5C.
Christopher Smith, of the University of Leeds, who led the research, said: “It’s good news from a geophysical point of view. But on the other side of the coin, the [immediate fossil fuel phaseout] is really at the limit of what we could we possibly do. We are basically saying we can’t build anything now that emits fossil fuels.” 
Nicholas Stern, of the London School of Economics, who was not part of the research team, said: “We are rapidly approaching the end of the age of fossil fuels. This study confirms that all new energy infrastructure must be sustainable from now on if we are to avoid locking in commitments to emissions that would lead to the world exceeding the goals of the Paris agreement.”
From the study abstract:
"if carbon-intensive infrastructure is phased out at the end of its design lifetime from the end of 2018, there is a 64% chance that peak global mean temperature rise remains below 1.5 °C. Delaying mitigation until 2030 considerably reduces the likelihood that 1.5 °C would be attainable even if the rate of fossil fuel retirement was accelerated.
"Although the challenges laid out by the Paris Agreement are daunting, we indicate 1.5 °C remains possible and is attainable with ambitious and immediate emission reduction across all sectors."
What does that mean? No new fossil energy infrastructure. No new pipelines. No armada of bitumen-laden supertankers plying the British Columbia coast. The very survival of our civilization hinges on shutting down fossil fuel production and abandoning plans to expand fossil energy infrastructure.

Justin Trudeau and most other Canadian politicians, federal and provincial, are on the wrong side of this. Their side is willing to gamble on the future of human civilization. It's not even conventional crude oil they want to pimp either. They're out to flood world markets with the filthiest, toxin-laden, high-carbon, ersatz petroleum sludge on the planet. That is the very definition of "pernicious."

Monday, January 14, 2019

Too Damn Dumb to Live

In recent years, British Columbia has been averaging somewhere close to 10 fatalities a year from avalanches. Many of the victims, it seems, are Albertans.

The latest to die are a 51-year old Calgarian and the man's 24-year old son who remains missing.

There have been plenty of avalanche warnings of late and there were warnings of avalanche hazards in the Purcell Mountains where the party of nine Albertans took their snowmobiles.  Despite the warnings the group was competing in "high marking" on Saturday when the avalanche claimed its victims.

This is what high-marking can lead to:

What in hell causes these people to ignore avalanche warnings and do the very thing most likely to trigger an avalanche? It can be perilous at the best of times but why court death?

Wishful Thinking? The World Economic Forum's Cure for What Ail's Humanity, Globalization 4.0

Acknowledging that the globalization associated with the neoliberal era led to enormous damage to the masses, the World Economic Forum will be launching the cure in Davos, Switzerland this month - more globalization, a.k.a. Globalization 4.0.

In case you weren't aware of Globalization 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0, here's a quick primer.  1.0 was globalization prior to WWI (and it was substantial). 2.0 arrived in the immediate post-WWII era. 3.0 is what we've been living under since Reagan, Thatcher and Mulroney decided that Hayek and Friedman knew what they were talking about - the age of neoliberalism and the quest for the GDP Holy Grail.

That leads us to Globalization 4.0.
In the dominant narrative of the last 40 years, GDP was king, and countries pursued deregulation, loosened capital controls, cut corporate taxes, and liberalized their labor markets.

The eruption of popular anger that has roiled many countries’ politics in recent years is rooted in the failure of that neoliberal model. But there is no economic law requiring globalization to be a race to the bottom. On the contrary, for humanity to have any hope at all, Globalization 4.0 must break with neoliberalism for good.
Yes, indeed. A break with neoliberalism. I'll get right on it. Should be finished by a week next Thursday at the latest.

"No economic law requiring globalization to be a race to the bottom." Brilliant. Wonder why no one thought of that years ago. Of course the "race to the bottom" has nothing to do with economic law and everything to do with greed and a political caste that long ago stopped working for the people who elected them to office. Marginal thinkers who saw the quest for ever greater GDP as their priority. Leaders like the current prime minister of Canada and the guy before him. Those two, what a pair.

If you're looking for specifics about this Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) well you're out of luck. There's a lot of Kumbaya talk but it's vague, touchy-feely stuff, heavy on bromides. If anything it sounds like an admission by the political, industrial and financial jetsetters winging their way to their mountain retreat that they've made a complete bollocks of it so far but one more shot, just one more, will surely rectify everything.  And there's the problem.

Getting into neoliberalism was easy. It's like driving into a ditch. The pull of greed is a powerful force. Getting out of the neoliberal ditch will be far more difficult than getting in. It's how so much of the world's wealth accumulated into so few hands.  How, short of confiscatory taxation, do you break that?

So what is this Fourth Industrial Revolution? It seems to be a vision of globalization purged of globalism.
Globalization is a phenomenon driven by technology and the movement of ideas, people, and goods. Globalism is an ideology that prioritizes the neoliberal global order over national interests. Nobody can deny that we are living in a globalized world. But whether all of our policies should be “globalist” is highly debatable. 
After all, this moment of crisis has raised important questions about our global-governance architecture. With more and more voters demanding to “take back control” from “global forces,” the challenge is to restore sovereignty in a world that requires cooperation. Rather than closing off economies through protectionism and nationalist politics, we must forge a new social compact between citizens and their leaders, so that everyone feels secure enough at home to remain open to the world at large. Failing that, the ongoing disintegration of our social fabric could ultimately lead to the collapse of democracy.  
Moreover, the challenges associated with the Fourth Industrial Revolution(4IR) are coinciding with the rapid emergence of ecological constraints, the advent of an increasingly multipolar international order, and rising inequality. These integrated developments are ushering in a new era of globalization. Whether it will improve the human condition will depend on whether corporate, local, national, and international governance can adapt in time. 
Meanwhile, a new framework for global public-private cooperation has been taking shape. Public-private cooperation is about harnessing the private sector and open markets to drive economic growth for the public good, with environmental sustainability and social inclusiveness always in mind. But to determine the public good, we first must identify the root causes of inequality.
This is where it gets wobbly. Public-private cooperation is about the private sector and open markets working for the public good? It's about governments weaseling their way in the era of "everyday low taxes" by unloading their responsibilities on the private sector lured in by assurances of irresistible profits.
The "public good" may be there, somewhere, but, if so, it's pretty far down the ladder of the interests being served.
...while open markets and increased competition certainly produce winners and losers in the international arena, they may be having an even more pronounced effect on inequality at the national level. Moreover, the growing divide between the precariat and the privileged is being reinforced by 4IR business models, which often derive rents from owning capital or intellectual property.
...Globalization 4.0 has only just begun, but we are already vastly underprepared for it. Clinging to an outdated mindset and tinkering with our existing processes and institutions will not do. (Justin, did you get that?) Rather, we need to redesign them from the ground up, so that we can capitalize on the new opportunities that await us, while avoiding the kind of disruptions that we are witnessing today.

As we develop a new approach to the new economy, we must remember that we are not playing a zero-sum game. This is not a matter of free trade or protectionism, technology or jobs, immigration or protecting citizens, and growth or equality. Those are all false dichotomies, which we can avoid by developing policies that favor “and” over “or,” allowing all sets of interests to be pursued in parallel. 
To be sure, pessimists will argue that political conditions are standing in the way of a productive global dialogue about Globalization 4.0 and the new economy. But realists will use the current moment to explore the gaps in the present system, and to identify the requirements for a future approach. And optimists will hold out hope that future-oriented stakeholders will create a community of shared interest and, ultimately, shared purpose.
There you have it. Feel better now? This sounds like "world government" time, the very thing that plunges the Americans into apoplexy.
The changes that are underway today are not isolated to a particular country, industry, or issue. They are universal, and thus require a global response. Failing to adopt a new cooperative approach would be a tragedy for humankind. To draft a blueprint for a shared global-governance architecture, we must avoid becoming mired in the current moment of crisis management.

Specifically, this task will require two things of the international community: wider engagement and heightened imagination. The engagement of all stakeholders in sustained dialogue will be crucial, as will the imagination to think systemically, and beyond one’s own short-term institutional and national considerations. 
These will be the two organizing principles of the World Economic Forum’s upcoming Annual Meeting in Davos-Klosters, which will convene under the theme of “Globalization 4.0: Shaping a New Architecture in the Age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution”. Ready or not, a new world is upon us.
And that, kids, came directly from Klaus Schwab, the founder and chairman of the World Economic Forum. Are you starting to feel some seismic rumbling coming on? Relax, that was last night's burrito.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Let Them Eat Cake, Trump Official on Furloughed Federal Employees

White House economic advisor, Kevin Hassett, knows a thing or two. For starters, he knows that he's still getting paid while nearly a million federal employees are not. He also knows that those unpaid employees are actually better off.  Really, they've never had it so good.

 Let me see. Where did I put that guillotine?

This is What "Progressive" Looks Like

Yea, there thou mak’st me sad and mak’st me sin 

In envy that my Lord Northumberland 

Should be the father to so blest a son— 
A son who is the theme of honour’s tongue, 
Amongst a grove the very straightest plant, 
Who is sweet Fortune’s minion and her pride— 
Whilst I, by looking on the praise of him 
See riot and dishonor stain the brow 
Of my young Harry. O, that it could be proved 
That some night-tripping fairy had exchanged 
In cradle clothes our children where they lay, 

And called mine Percy, his Plantagenet!

Henry IV, Part 1 has always been my favourite of Shakespeare's plays and this my favourite passage from that play. It's from the first scene as King Henry laments upon taking the measure of his own son, the wastrel who becomes Henry V, against the magnificent achievements of Northumberland's son, Hotspur.

I suppose a lot of fathers wind up sharing Henry's worries about their own sons. Mine certainly did and I gave him no end of good cause for it.

Sometimes I share a similar dismay about our political leadership or what passes for leadership in the neoliberal era. Whether it's your guy or the other side's guy, they're all a bit dismal even if some are a notch worse than others.

What leads me to vent is a guy by the name of Jay Inslee, the governor of the state of Washington.  Inslee, the progressive governor of one of the most progressive states in the USA.

It was Jay Inslee who, when Rachel Notley grumbled about cutting off oil supplies to British Columbia, came out and said that, if necessary, Washington would ensure that BC had the oil it needs. It reminded us that British Columbia had a powerful adversary next door but it also had a powerful friend just downstairs.

Now, it seems, Jay Inslee is considering a run for the Democratic presidential nomination and, if he runs, he intends to focus his campaign on climate change.
Inslee is looking to carry the lessons learned from a long career of incremental wins and heartbreaking losses on climate policy to the national stage as a possible presidential contender.

"I learned one of the key talents is persistence," he told NBC News in an interview. "Climate change is not going away, and neither are we."
As a generation of young activists, led by new voices like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., rise to the forefront, they may want to pull up a seat next to the 67-year-old governor and hear his stories. 
More than a decade before this year's rallies for a Green New Deal — a plan to spend big on a rapid transition to renewable energy — Inslee, in speeches, op-eds and a book, was calling for a "moonshot" federal project modeled on the Apollo space program to slash emissions. 
...His potential entry into the wide-open 2020 Democratic primary contest with a climate-focused campaign comes amid an intense debate over how to marry environmental sustainability with political sustainability, a question he's grappled with like few others. He believes the fate of the world depends on getting the answer right. 
"That's what's at stake here," Inslee said. "A fundamental continuation of life and civilization as we've become accustomed to."
I look around, from one end of Canada to the other, and I see no leader of the stature of Jay Inslee. I see no one - no prime minister, no federal cabinet minister, no premier - willing to acknowledge what Inslee states so plainly, that what is at stake here is nothing less than the continuation of life and civilization as we've known it. What in their priorities can possibly rise to that significance? Yet I hear none of them calling for a "moonshot" scale effort to salvage as much of our civilization as we still can.

What I hear is a prime minister, enfeebled by his betrothal to pipelines, arguing for a minuscule carbon tax amid the clamor of those who would rather do nothing. And that's when I have my own Henry IVth moment.