Saturday, March 08, 2014

Here's the Deal

I'm packing in this blog for a while.  It's simply not worth it.  I have other things deserving of my attention that have been too long neglected.   One of these entails churning through studies and research papers pertaining to a form of carbon sequestration that holds the promise of significant benefits to the western provinces and states.  I've been exploring this idea for about two years and it's now time to see if it can be put through a feasibility study.

Another is to pursue some writing opportunities that I've been skirting around for some time.  Trust me, I can write far better than the fare that's been dished up on this blog, most of which never gets proofread.

I want to become directly involved in the effort to stop the Northern Gateway and, if possible, Kinder Morgan also.  Writing about it isn't going to make a meaningful difference.  That much has become clear to me over the past three years.  Elizabeth May alone stands against these pipelines and she isn't going to be able to convince the NDP or the Liberals to place Canada ahead of their partisan political pursuits.

I think our children and theirs are in for a very bumpy ride over the next several decades.  Change is setting in far faster than anyone had envisioned just a few years ago.  Democracy is no longer safe in my country and I can't see that improving in the future.  Hard and uncertain times lie ahead.  On the world scene we may be lapsing into another Cold War, this one focused on the South China Sea instead of the Fulda Gap.  We don't seem to have the will - or the goodwill - to prevent this from happening.

See you all later.

What follows is a post, "The Cult of Living Large" from March 2 that somehow got taken down.  I think it's a worthwhile read.  I managed to recover it from another site where it had been cross-posted.

2015, we're told, is the year the developed world (that's us) and the emerging economies (China, India, etc., etc., etc.) will close ranks to formulate an effective plan of action to fight climate change.  It's going to be Kyoto on steroids, a true hallelujah moment, a meeting of minds, a global joining of hands, a flexing of collective muscle and sinew.

Yeah, right.

2015 is probably our final chance to reach some sort of meaningful, global consensus.  In case you haven't noticed we're already being overtaken by climate change impacts, and this is the 'early onset' stuff.

So why am I writing this off?  That's simple, it's not going to work. We're focusing on a symptom, not the disease.   That's right, - climate change, anthropogenic global warming, call it what you like - is a symptom, a major symptom to be sure but just one aspect of the really lethal malady that lurks beneath it.

Let's consider another symptom - population.  We're now at 7+ billion and headed to 9-billion and more.  That's nearly triple the number of mouths to feed than we had when I was born.  There's something stirring inside that 7+ billion, an emerging middle class of gargantuan proportions.  It's said there's a larger middle class in India than in the United States.   China has an even larger middle class.  It's a phenomenon of social mobility that's sweeping every emerging economy in Asia, South Asia, Africa, South America, pretty much everywhere.

Here's the thing.  This emerging mega-middle class wants the same things we have.   They want more and better food, bigger homes, they want cars and consumer goods of every description, they want travel and luxuries.  They want more, a lot more.  And, as they get what they want, it consumes more energy, more resources especially freshwater, and produces more CO2, more waste and more pollution of every variety.

In the half century following the end of WWII, India added roughly a billion people to its population. The United States, during this same interval, grew by about 100-million.  Here's the thing.  A hundred million people in the ultimate consumer society had about the same overall environmental footprint as those billion Indians.  So you can see where I'm going with this emerging mega-middle class issue.

Now, consider this.  Even before this onset of the mega-middle class, mankind, our global civilization was using about 1.5 Earths worth of resources.  We're using resources at an ever growing rate that's already one and a half times greater than our planet's ability to replenish them.  That's impossible, isn't it?  Well eventually it will be but for now we've come up with some conjuring tricks to keep the party rolling.

There's a term for it.  We're 'eating our seed corn.'  Instead of settling for what nature puts on the table before us, we're also raiding the pantry and we're hitting it hard.  You can see it with the naked eye from space.  Astronauts can see the state of deforestation as we raid our forests, the 'lungs of the planet' to satisfy all that middle class demand.  We can see rivers that no longer flow to the sea.  We can see the dust plumes that rise in China and now cross the Pacific to North America.  We can see the encroaching deserts.  We can see the tailing ponds of Athabasca.  We can monitor the collapse of one global fishery after another as our commercial boats, responding to middle class demands, 'fish down the food chain.'  We have satellites that can now measure surface subsidence triggered by our exhaustion of groundwater - aquifers.  

We even awarded a Nobel prize to the fellow who came up with the greatest conjuring act of them all, the Green Revolution.  His idea was that a country that was food insecure could boost agricultural production by tuning up its marginal farmland through the use of irrigation and the application of modern fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides.   It worked.  India, for example, once beset by periodic famines, became a major food exporter.  The bounty was so wonderful that nobody paid much mind to what awaited in the long term.  Now, just decades later, the land is becoming exhausted.  In some places more than twice as much fertilizer is needed to grow crops and, worse yet, the groundwater resource is in distress.  If you pump out water at many times the natural recharge rate, you're heading for 'empty.' 

We usually overlook the critical fact that not only does nature put food on our table, she also empties our bedpans.  The biosphere cleans our waste.  It always has and, if it hadn't, we wouldn't be here having images of bedpans run through our brains.  Rain cleans pollution from our atmosphere.   Rivers are magnificent at cleaning waste as they run to the oceans.  Our oceans suck CO2 in massive tonnage from the atmosphere.   Soil, the microbes and chemicals within it and the plants that grow from it,  absorb and then clean waste in a variety of ways.  It's just another vital function of our biomass.  But, here's the thing.  It's a finite planet, remember?  That means our biosphere has a finite limit to the amount of waste it can process.  Once it reaches capacity, waste backs up, accumulates.  We're familiar enough with polluted rivers and lakes, polluted air.  China is now hitting a major soil contamination problem, the result of massive industrial pollution of some really bad stuff like arsenic building up in soil to the point where crops are unfit for human consumption.  We've got all sorts of this going on in just about every corner of the world, especially the heavily populated hot spots. 

We've engineered a global cult of living large.  The high priests mass in the financial districts and legislative assemblies of every major centre on the planet.  They lead us in the worship of growth.  If we have a problem they teach us that the solution lies in growth.  Their liturgy is founded in 18th century neo-classical economics, 19th century industrialism and 20th century geo-politics.  There you will find the faith, chapter and verse.  That this might be madness almost never occurs to us.

Here's the thing.  China may zoom off the charts with 10% annual growth in GDP but we in the West target about 3% annual GDP growth.  It's compounded growth.  We expect the current year to be 3% larger than the previous year.  Now let's run the math.  As a scale let's use a hypothetical adult lifetime of 50-years - 35 working years, 15 years of retirement.  Let's begin at Year 1 of lifetime 1.  By the time lifetime 1 is over, at year 50, 3% annual GDP growth would mean the economy had grown 4.4 times larger overall.  At the end of lifetime 2, the economy would have grown over 19 times larger than it was in Year 1.  After lifetime 3, GDP would have swelled by 84 times.  At the end of lifetime 4, Year 200, GDP would have grown 369 times what it had been in Year 1.  Not 369 per cent larger.  No, 36,900 per cent larger.  369 times larger.  That would be reflected in commensurate massive increases in consumption of energy and other resources and massive increases in consumption of goods and services and massive increases in waste and pollution of all sorts.  How do you squeeze all that growth into a finite world?

You do it by eating your seed corn, raiding the wine cellar and, eventually, you empty the pantry.  What then?  Well, at that point, your options are narrowed considerably.  You start wondering what your neighbour might have left in their pantry.  If you're tribal, you might go raiding.  Happens all the time.  Eventually something has to give.  Usually the strong take from the weak, the rich take from the poor.  Hell, rich countries are already buying up the best farmland in food insecure countries like Somalia where we routinely have to provide famine relief.  Go figure, eh?

This essay started with climate change.  That morphed into a look at population and the approaching plague of the mega-middle class and then into rapacious excess consumption and finally into our addiction to growth and how that leads us to the edge of a cliff.  See, they're all connected.

Climate change is not a disease.  It's a symptom of the disease that underlies all of these other symptoms.  That disease is the lethal and dysfunctional manner in which we, as a global civilization, have become organized - socially, economically and politically.  We have crafted institutions and modes of interaction based on a bountiful supply of cheap energy and the remarkable advancements in technology and science.  We have evolved into a civilization of "because we can" with scant regard to whether we should.

Fighting climate change is like a needle exchange programme for heroin addicts.   It's harm prevention and that's really, really great and wonderful and necessary.  It reduces the transmission of HIV and other diseases that create enormous costs to society.  It does not, however, remedy the addiction itself.  Fighting climate change isn't going to save us any more than a clean needle will save a junkie from the inevitable ravages of addiction.  It may buy us time and that's a good thing but, with everything else that's building, it probably won't be much. 

There are solutions - logical, equitable, justifiable solutions if we, as a global civilization want to take them.  Rapidly decarbonizing our economies and societies is one and it's essential.  We have to get rid of our fossil fuel addiction. 

Getting free of our toxic, growth-based, neo-classical economics model is just as essential.  We need to shift to steady state or 'Full Earth' economics.  I can refer you to several good texts on this or you can get the idea from consulting Wiki.

 Population.  What to do?  We must calculate our biosphere's population carrying capacity.  It is said that we began exceeding our planet's resource replenishment rate in the second half of the 70s at between three to four billion people.  Much has changed since then.  We've not only packed on another three plus billion in numbers but we've also significantly increased our per capita consumption, our environmental footprint which means we're probably looking at a maximum very close to the three billion mark.

How do we get from 7-billion to 3-billion.  There's just one way that I can think of short of resorting to mass annihilation.   We gradually phase out globalized agriculture, a trade as old as civilization itself.  Each country should curb agricultural exports by something in the range of 5 to 10% each year.  Eventually the nations of the world, rich and poor, are left with a reality of self-sufficiency.  That would be a shock to countries like the U.K. that have found it cheaper to import food than grow it domestically and now rely on 75% imported food.  It would entail rationing in some countries and the diversion of investment from financial and industrial growth into agriculture.  I just cannot think of any other way to drive depopulation.

We need institutions to oversee and enforce the protection and allocation of common resources including global fisheries.  No longer can we have massive commercial fleets pillaging our oceans.

In effect there are real solutions, not just the cheap and dirty fixes we have used in the past but real solutions.  We need the resolve to take them.  If we don't do this on our own terms, we'll reach the same point in other ways.   That would be insanely tragic.  We have a choice.


Grant G said...

I`m sorry to see you go, you are dedicated and well informed.

And I have a request of you..

you don`t have to write all the time, however when you fell inspired scribe some words, tell a story..

Me personally, I have an aging mother consuming more and more of my time, financial pressures and chores needing done, a juggling act and occasionally I don`t write for a week, or two..

I know how you feel, there are times I think a perch on the grassy knoll with a target in sight would accomplish more.

Enbridge`s northern gateway will be stopped, we have the troops and ground forces ready for war..

As for paid writing gigs, good luck, unhinged word artists who print to truth are a rare breed, a dying breed, corporate whoring has replaced journalism.

Either way...

Either way I thank you...Oh, and my friend Kootcoot regarded you as one of the best..

Be well.

Good day

the salamander said...

.. Walk In Beauty .. MoS

or saddle up n ride the BmW to hell n gone
& explore the land you give so much to

its been a wild ride for me, just following your curiosity
much like Lautens, Norm, Lorne & so many more
Simon, Grant G, Laila, the Beav, all the rest
different, distinct, glowing.. powerful, honorable
jam full o Common Sense Canadian courage

drop me a line some day ..

in the meantime.. and these are mean times
will hoist a stiff shot, while aimed westward
a toast in your name for brilliant service
a 2nd salute to your Dad..
a 3rd to your native land & mine & all of ours

.. perhaps you'll find a piece of yourself here ..
I hope so .. and its why I write ..
its certainly not for myself ..
and I sense this in your work .. M

Owen Gray said...

I'll miss reading your stuff, Mound. Call it a shift of focus, not a retreat.

Your writing is always crisp and concise. That's why you drive Anonymous crazy.

Lorne said...

I am very sorry to read this Mound, but I respect your reasons. I do hope that you will post when the spirit moves you, as Grant G suggests, and wish you well as your pursue other opportunities.

Richard said...

Fight the good fight! You know as well as ii.. its go time.

Dana said...

This blog, your thoughts and words will be missed my friend.

Next time we're coming over I'll get in touch. A pint at The Shady perhaps.

Boris said...

Take care out there. Did the same a while back, but once in a while come back to grumble.

Winnipeg Dad said...

Mound: Yours is the first blog I read every day. I will miss your informed, insightful, passionate truth-telling. Yours is a message that our political and society leaders need to hear. So keep your chin up and take care of yourself. I hope we hear from you again soon.

Anonymous said...

This is an unfortunate development, Mound. I hope you keep your blog alive in some shape or form.

Anonymous said...

have a good journey. And share with us where it took you.

P.S. Make no mistake, the reason you were attacked, is because you were doing such a good work.
Your sword is mighter than it might appear to you.

deb said...

Good Luck Mound on your new pursuits, I know they will benefit the coast. Thanks for enlightening me and others on so many political topics.
I have enjoyed and learned.

JGL said...

Best wishes for the future and many thanks for your substantial efforts with this blog.
I have found it a source of interesting articles and insightful comment.

Inse said...

Well I'm sorry to see you go Mound but enjoy the tasks ahead of you. I have always found your blog to be a source of hope and inspiration and it was always a 'go to' site.
I sincerely hope that you will, if only occasionally, still post and I intend to keep the page bookmarked as always. Keep well and many thanks for your efforts.

Anonymous said...

One by one the bloggers of reason and insight are stopping their activities. From Canadian Cynic to Red Tory and now "The Disaffected Lib"...

Good luck with your new direction.

- cwtf -

Anonymous said...

I will really miss your wise words — you tell it like it is and you tell it so well, too. Good luck in your future actions — I’m sure you’ll make a difference. Thank you for all you’ve written and thanks also for saying good bye not leaving us wondering. I still wonder what ever happened to Sixth Estate.

Kim said...

It is a time to act. I think alot of progressive bloggers have curtailed their online activities lately as we watch in horror the global takeover of Fascism. I know I have.

Thanks for all your insights on here and comment sections elsewhere. Best of luck, we will prevail.

WILLY said...

Oh great, you run off to save the world and now I have to actually read my own news links to find out what is going on.

This is a fine state of affairs.

Anonymous said...

I predict you'll be back in less than a week. You just need a rest. There's no shame in cracking up, I've seen worse. Good luck and see you soon.

ThinkingManNeil said...

Can't say I'm happy with your decision, Mound, but I certainly do understand, respect, and support it with my full measure. There are many fronts in this seemingly worsening and never ending fight, and while we could use your considerable talents on all of them, the issues you've raised are certainly worthy of your attention - and god knows they could use the help.

Farewell for now, my friend. It'll always be an honour, sir, to fly your wing in any capacity.

>Clicks mic twice; peels off in a starboard chandelle...<


Marie Snyder said...

Hope to hear from you again. Hopefully you'll still be around in the comments here and there! Eight years to retirement, then I'll join you on the front lines!

Beijing York said...

I'm sorry there are some petty minded people who have driven by to disrupt the what has been like a comfortable salon for the exchange of ideas and insights as to where we are headed economically, environmentally and politically.

I will miss my daily visit to see your latest posts, Mound. Take care and please reboot your site whenever the mood strikes you. (Hopefully soon.)

Elliott Taylor said...

Good luck Mound! :)

rumleyfips said...

I'll miss the breadth of your interests, your research and your contacts.

Much success protecting BC from the corporate hordes.

Steve said...

Godspeed Mound
You were a great voice in the wilderness, thanks for all your great posts and insights.

Purple library guy said...

Well, on one hand I'll miss this blog quite a bit. On the other, you taking time to pursue your other writing ambitions may give me more time to pursue mine.
Good luck with all the stuff!

Anonymous said...

I learned many things, on many subjects- from you. I met many other fine people here, because of you. Thanks. Hope we hear from you, soon, MoS...

LeDaro said...

Mound, I wish you best in your new endeavours but you will be missed here. I do visit your blog and learned a lot from you.

All the best.

Anonymous said...

Grant G said...

Enjoy the read mound....Happy trails..

tempusfugit said...

Mound, I'm sorry to hear you're taking a break - although I can understand the reasons. But you're going to be missed.

Maybe, just maybe, you'll find time for the occasional post on the F-35.

Take care,

sassy said...

I'll miss your posts and say a LARGE thank you for all the ones you have written.

Best wishes and like many above me had said, would be great to see you back when the mood strikes.

Anonymous said...

Dilemmas of conservatives and closet conservatives in 'western' nationalist democrazies!

Bragging about multiculturalism and fooling the world with this rant on charter of hypocrisy but blaming the victim immigrants who would get never an equal status in the society and would never have money more than survival money, for not assimilating.

You want him to be absolute loyalists but would never let him have a life.

You will start the wars that you can not finish to gain economis benefits and leach the blood out of the world but when it comes to give something back you cry foul!!

Well doesn't work that way!

Anonymous said...

Dear Mound: I've been on the move for several weeks arriving back in Canada late yesterday. Finally got some sleep and looked for your blog at four today. I am truly sorry you have decided not to blog anymore. I am sure there are those in high places (laugh..maybe you know who I mean) who are delighted of your decision. Maybe all out support for Elizabeth is where your best efforts will be most valuable. I will definitely miss reading "A Mound of Sound". It was the one blog that informed me as to what was going on in Canada politically; helping me stay in touch with what was actually happening in my country while away teaching in foreign countries. I wish you well and hopefully you will return with a blog once a month or so to keep the pot stirring, as it is with your exciting strong feelings toward subject matter that gave me the inspiration to keep reading. Stay Cool! Cheers and Happy Trails, Anyong

istvan said...

Best to you Mound ,you have to do what you have to do.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to see you of luck.

LMA said...

Hey, MoS, remember me? Still read your blog regularly. Relocated to the country, planted lots of trees. Couldn't think of any other way to fight climate change with limited resources.
I know you will be back when you've taken care of business. Cheers, LMA.

Anyong said...

Here's hoping things are going well.

Anyong said...

When will you be returning?

The Mound of Sound said...

Hi, Anyong. I don't know if I will be returning. I'm doing a course through the war studies department of King's College, London, exploring likely causes of war in the decades ahead.

I'm also doing independent studies on globalization and climate change. We tend to see globalization primarily as an economic phenomenon while overlooking its political and security dimensions. Similarly, most research has explored the globalized economy's impacts on climate change but there's only a smattering of work on how climate change will hurt, perhaps even cripple the global economy.

Where are you hanging your hat these days? Is Korea still your second home? The whole South Asia/Asia Pacific region is fascinating these days - fascinating and just a tad frightening. I can think of happier places to be for the next decade or two but none with the same promise of excitement.

Anyong said...

Hello MOS: I'm back in, dare I say, wearisome Alberta. I've been asked to return to a six month teaching stint in S. Korea. However, now that I am older, I tend to pick up all the local bugs which sets me back health wise. My stint with cancer was a bit of a health setback but am free of it..90% of it has to do with attitude. I certainly agree with you. Asia is an interesting place in an interesting time but air pollution is sooooo very bad there, egged on by corporate greed by countries like us. China is definitely trying to do something about its mess while most people in Canada think what happens there doesn't affect us. How wrong most Canadians are especially regarding pollution. In South Korea, Presidents only serve a five year term. That needs to happen here. These people who get themselves ensconced become so very smug and think they are above reproach. To be very frank, the political system in Canada is depressing. If I could, I'd relocate to New Zealand. You happen to live in the best environmental part of Canada and while I've considered moving to Van Island, it has become very expensive to do so.
Good luck with your interesting studies I am sure you will do well. What you are doing has been a consideration on my part a number of times. Russia seems to be a repeat of the IIWW. Cheers!

Kev said...

Bon Voyage MoS

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Today was the first time I read a Matthew Fisher article. It is in the Montreal Gazette. I was amazed that the MG would publish such rubbish. I Googled Matthew Fisher and was surprised to learn that he is not a writer for a junior high school newspaper. Scrolling down the page brought me to The Disaffected Lib: The Most Idiotic Journalist in Canada, who turned out to be Mr. Fisher. I'm really disappointed to see that the Mound of Sound is no longer blogging but so happy the Montreal Gazette and Matthew Fisher steered me to this place.I have the feeling I've got a lot of catching up to do.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

What was the blog you had linked to a while ago which was written by a captain/sailor about the treacherous waters of the Hecate Strait? I've been trying to find that post but couldn't.

The Mound of Sound said...

S, I think this is what you're looking for:

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.