Monday, May 17, 2010

Growth As Cancer


Everything you thought you knew is wrong!

Okay, maybe not everything. But what if some of our core beliefs about how the world works turn out to be myths?  This documentary flips our world upside down to see what makes it tick, as it explores the most critical question of our time:

How do we become a sustainable civilization?
Water shortages, hunger, peak oil, species extinction, and even increasing depression are all symptoms of a deeper problem – addiction to unending growth in a world that has limits. Hooked on Growth goes way beyond prescribing Band-Aids to slow the bleeding. This film examines the cultural barriers that prevent us from reacting rationally to the evidence current levels of population and consumption are unsustainable.
It asks why the population conversations are so difficult to have. Why it’s more important to our society to have economic growth than clean air. Why communities seek and subsidize growth even when it destroys quality of life and increases taxes.
Our growth-centric system is broken. It’s not providing the happiness or the prosperity we seek. But that’s good news; it means a shift to a sustainable model will be good for us. We’ll be happier and more prosperous!
Individual and public policy decisions today are informed by a powerful, pro-growth cultural bias. We worship at the Church of Growth Everlasting. Undeterred by the facts, we’re on a collision course powered by denial and the myth that growth brings prosperity. Before we can shift our civilization meaningfully, effectively, and substantially toward true sustainability, the world must be “prepped.” We must become self-aware and recognize the programming that keeps us hooked. Hooked on Growth will do just that. We’ll hear from leading thinkers of our time – scientists, sociologists, economists – to help us separate fact from superstition.
How does a film have some fun while shaking up the fundamental underpinnings of our modern civilization? We follow the travails of an everyday citizen who dares to stand up in his own community and declare, “The emperor has no clothes!”  We follow his adventures as he attempts to provide an intervention in a community addicted to growth. The cultural resistance to getting unhooked is amply illustrated as filmmaker/activist Dave Gardner spars with his city council, chamber of commerce and growth profiteers. He even runs for city council. All the while, we follow Dave’s adventures in getting this film made. He nearly goes broke as humanitarian foundations fund efforts focusing on symptoms rather than a film that dares to expose the system creating those problems. As the film plays out, we find belief in growth everlasting is deeply entrenched around the world.
We’re approaching the end of growth. Will we embrace it? Or go down fighting?

From Las Vegas to Atlanta, Mexico City to Mumbai, the White House to the Vatican, Hooked on Growth takes us on a whirlwind tour of growth mania. It’s Wild Kingdom with a twist: the cameras are turned on humanity as our own survival skills are examined. Hooked on Growth looks into the psychology of denial and crowd behavior. It explores our obsession with urban and economic growth, and our reluctance to address overpopulation issues head-on. This documentary holds up a mirror, encouraging us to examine the beliefs and behaviors we must leave behind – and the values we need to embrace – so our children can survive and thrive.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Bottled Water Bullsh*t

found at Dr. Joseph Mercola's site.
The next time someone offers you a bottle of water, take a stand and say something clever like, “No thank you, I don’t believe in it.” This simple move will open up a conversation about the massive swindle that is bottled water … and possibly persuade one more person to give it up entirely.
Please also make a point to see this fantastic new movie, "Tapped", which is playing in select theaters in the United States and is available on DVD.
Even beyond the issues of your health and the environment, bottled water represents a novel form of privatization, in which private corporations have succeeded, and quite successfully I might add, at making water a commodity.
I would say, and I suspect you would agree, that water is more a “right” than it is a commodity. And private corporations should have no more control over the selling of water than they do the selling of our air supplies. Well, this is already occurring to some extent as corporations make a profit selling water -- which at times even makes water less available to the people living in the area.
Even public water supplies are being increasingly taken over by private corporations, and in some areas of the world are up for grabs by the highest bidder.
This has been publicized in countries such as Bolivia, where residents battled police and the military to protect their water rights from the US-based Bechtel Corporation, but you should know water privatization initiatives are being pushed all over the world … including in the United States.
If you’re interested in learning more, an excellent, eye-opening film on this topic that I highly recommend is Thirst.
Getting back to bottled water, however, many, many Americans still drink it, believing it is somehow healthier than tap water.
In 2008, U.S. bottled water consumption reached nearly 9 billion gallons, raking in revenues of more than $11 billion.
Folks, this is for a “product” you can get virtually for free by turning on your kitchen tap!

Are You Paying 1,900 Times More for Unhealthy, Earth-Damaging Water?

If you drink bottled water, yes, you are!
Bottled water typically costs more than $1.50 per bottle, which is 1,900 times the price of tap water.
Yet, that very same bottled water that you’re paying a premium for is, in about 40 percent of cases, simply bottled tap water, which may or may not have received any additional treatment.
On top of that, most municipal tap water must actually adhere to more strict purity standards than the bottled water industry. Further, while the EPA requires large public water supplies to test for contaminants as often as several times a day, the FDA requires private bottlers to test for contaminants only once a week, once a year, or once every four years, depending on the contaminant.
An independent test performed by the Environmental Working Group revealed 38 low-level contaminants in bottled water, with each of the 10 tested brands containing an average of eight chemicals including disinfection byproducts (DBPs), caffeine, Tylenol, nitrate, industrial chemicals, arsenic, and bacteria were all detected.
So what you are paying for is often no different, or even worse, than the water that comes out of your faucet.
When you factor in other elements, like the chemicals that can leach from the plastic bottle and its impact on the environment, bottled water becomes a losing proposition no matter how you look at it.

Drinking From Plastic Bottles is Not a Wise Health Move

When drinking bottled water you need to think not only about the water but also about the bottle itself. Plastic is not an inert substance as its manufacturers would like you to believe. It contains chemicals like BPA and phthalates, which mimic hormones in your body.
Even tiny concentrations can cause problems such as:
  • Structural damage to your brain
  • Hyperactivity, increased aggressiveness, and impaired learning
  • Increased fat formation and risk of obesity
  • Altered immune function
  • Early puberty, stimulation of mammary gland development, disrupted reproductive cycles, and ovarian dysfunction
  • Changes in gender-specific behavior, and abnormal sexual behavior
  • Stimulation of prostate cancer cells
  • Increased prostate size, and decreased sperm production
Anytime you drink from a plastic bottle you risk exposure, but if you leave your bottle of water in a hot car or reuse it, your exposure is magnified because heat and stress increase the amount of chemicals that leach out of the plastic.

Plastic is Hurting the Earth in a Major Way

About 1.5 million tons of plastic are used to manufacture water bottles each year around the world, and the processing itself releases toxic compounds like nickel, ethylbenzene, ethylene oxide and benzene. Further, according to the Sierra Club, the U.S. alone uses 1.5 million barrels of oil to make plastic water bottles, the majority of which then end up in landfills.
In fact, 1,500 water bottles are thrown away every second!
This massive waste is one reason why there is now a plastic “stew” twice the size of Texas swirling through the Pacific Ocean.
Also extremely harmful to the environment is the way corporations are pumping water from underground aquifers. These natural springs serve as water sources for nearby streams, wells and farms, but the aggressive pumping can easily dry them out prematurely.

A Simple Solution is at Your Disposal 

One you realize that many sources of bottled water is:
  • No safer than tap water
  • Extremely expensive
  • Often contaminated by plastics chemicals
  • Contributing to massive environmental harm
… the choice to stop using it becomes simple. Fortunately, the alternative to having pure water is also simple: filter your own at home.

Unfiltered Tap Water is NOT Better than Bottled Water!!

My favorite filter is a reverse/osmosis filter as it will remove virtually all of the pollutants, such as disinfection by products, fluoride, arsenic, lead, drugs in the water supply, rocket fuel, bacteria, viruses, you name, it removes it. Unfortunately the down side is that it also removes minerals that should be in there. Fortunately the solution is quite simply.  Add some high quality salt, like Himalayan salt, about 1/4 teaspoon for gallon.
I currently use a R/O system that is not yet commercially available. It is a tankless system in which I fill a glass container directly that is easy to clean. This eliminates the stagnant water in the holding tank and inevitable mold/slime contamination with using a R/O system with a holding tank.  We hope to bring this to system to market in the next year.
Additionally the filtering process damages the structure of the water. A simple way to restructure the water would be to create a vortex. You can do this by putting a large spoon in the container and swirling it around very fast for awhile. This will clearly start to restructure the water. Getting the water cold, down to about 4 degrees Centigrade or 39 degrees Fahrenheit will also work.  The best way to do that would be to store your bottle outdoors in the winter (when it doesn't go below 39 F) or put the bottle on your cement garage floor at night and the earth will remove much of the heat from the bottle. Store the water in a cool area.
You could cool the water in a refrigerator but that would impart negative EMF into the water so it is less than ideal. Similarly there are vortex machines you can purchase for about $500 but they will also impart these EMFs into the water.
This enables you to rely on your own well or municipal source for safe, clean water. If you need to take some with you on the road, store it in a glass jar or bottle.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Preparing, REALLY, for Collapse

From a slide show by Dmitry Orlov
Our Future and the End of the Oil Age:
Building Resilience in a Resource-Constrained World

Scraping the bottom of the oil barrel
The new oil is not like the old oil:
Energy Returned on Energy Invested has gone from 100:1 to 10:1 and is heading down
We are using up the dregs: deep offshore, heavy/sour crude, tar sands, arctic oil...
Oil consumers will run out of money before oil companies run out of places to drill.
The agony of the industrial age can be prolonged by destroying what's left of the biosphere.

...the bottom of somebody else's barrel
The US has to import over 2/3 of its transportation fuels.
High oil prices mean extra revenue for oil exporters.
Oil exporters invest that money in their domestic economy.
Their domestic oil consumption increases.
Consequently, there is less oil for them to export.
Net exporters become net importers even while they are still pumping some oil (just as the USA did in 1970).
Many oil importers end up left out in the cold.
Oil importers who ride scooters and use kerosene lamps do a lot better than oil importers who drive SUVs.
This is not a contest for who can use the most oil.
This is a contest for who can grow their economy using the least amount of oil.
We have already lost; let's regroup and try again.

Why can't this show go on?
A system that evolved in conditions of continuous growth of material resources cannot shrink controllably.
The key ingredient is confidence; once faith in the future is lost, everyone's behavior changes radically.
Everyone at the top already knows that this show cannot go on and are (attempting to) plan accordingly, for themselves.
The name of the game is "Keep the rest of them fooled for as long as possible".
People are still paying down their mortgages, putting money in their retirement accounts, etc.
Being fooled this way can make people very angry.

The logic of diminishing returns
Joseph Tainter, in his Collapse of Complex Societies, pointed out that social complexity increases until further investment in complexity becomes counterproductive.
He also pointed out that complex systems do not self-simplify; they collapse catastrophically and are eventually replaced with much simpler systems.
Diminishing returns are observable and measurable.
Diminishing returns cannot be explained using the internal logic of the systems involved.
The people involved in maintaining these systems struggle along, but are eventually forced to give up.

Examples of diminishing returns
Each additional dollar of debt causes the economy to shrink even faster.
Each additional dollar of defense spending makes the country less safe.
Each additional dollar spent on health care makes the country sicker.
Each additional dollar spent on education makes the people more ignorant.
Each additional dollar spent on the justice system increases injustice.
Each additional dollar spent on job creation increases unemployment.
Each additional dollar contributed to a political campaign makes the people even more powerless.

Escaping from diminishing returns
What can we do to avoid wasting our efforts on perpetuating doomed systems? How do we construct alternatives?

Lower your official exposure/profile
Decrease your environmental footprint and burn rate
Avoid financial arrangements and legal documents
Rely on personal connections and relationships
Avoid the mainstream, look for fertile margins, fringes, niches
Be hard to classify

Reasonable expectations
Money will not be very common or useful (government defaults, growing joblessness, savings wiped out or taxed away, access to imports lost, etc.).
As the US loses ability to import 3/4 of transportation fuels, economy will stall and population will become stranded.
Political system will maintain appearances as long as possible - "Proud and Purposeful Paralysis".
Many local authorities will fail (close police stations and fire departments, stop supplying sewer, water and garbage removal services).
Other local authorities will try to charge confiscatory rates, and fail just a little bit later.
Various officious busybodies will have a hard time figuring out whose side they are on, and will probably need help.

The Big Transition
BEFORE                                        AFTER

Cars and trucks                             Bicycles, boats, 2 feet
Municipal water supplies              Rainwater collection, wells
Municipal sewage                         Composting toilets
Trash removal                                Local junkyards, incinerators
Garbage removal                          Local compost piles, recycling, reuse
Fast food                                        Community kitchens
Supermarkets                                Open-air markets
Hospitals                                        Local clinics
High Schools                                 Home Schooling
Colleges                                        Apprenticeships
Office work                                    Physical labor

The future is very unpopular
Each resident of North America employs the equivalent of 100 "energy slaves": services provided by machinery that runs on fossil fuels. But emancipation is at hand!

People do not like to be persuaded by fact or logical argument.
People like their comforts: cars, HVAC, etc.
People are seduced by TV, consumerism.
Manual labor and farming are low-status activities.
People lack the skills to lead a non-mechanized existence.
It is almost impossible to convince people to do what will be necessary - until it becomes necessary.
It will be almost impossible to do what is necessary without a significant amount of preparation.
Those who take the trouble to prepare will be a tiny minority.

Enough food to feed a family can be grown on 2000-3000 sq. feet (It takes a bit of practice to get this going.)
Some foodstuffs (cooking oil, grains, wine, coffee, chocolate) need to be "imported" somehow.
A lot of wild foods can be gathered (berries, mushrooms, roots & shoots, nuts, [white] acorns.
"Edible Forest Gardens" can be planted on public lands - useful plants surrounded by thorny thickets.
Community kitchens are more efficient than personal ones.
Eliminate all food waste: chickens, rabbits, guinea pigs, carp, catfish, crayfish - something out there will eat it all up.
Nanny goats can provide milk for infants/children.
Seasonal migration out to the land to grow food.
Harvests have to be "floated out" (road transport expensive).

Municipal water = bad risk.
Flushing with potable water = insanity!
Many grades: drinking water, washing water, irrigation water, gray water, "lively" water.
Sewage is a very bad idea; composting much better.
Roof rainwater collection, barrels, filters for drinking water.
Swales dug into hillsides can boost groundwater.
Hot water for washing: rocket stoves fed by brush piles.
Passive irrigation systems instead of pumps and hoses.
Runoff from disused parking lots and other structures can be saved in cisterns.
Flat roofs can be planted with sod to soak up water and keep buildings cool.
Proper placement of shade trees and evaporation pools can make air conditioning unnecessary.


Single-family dwellings are no longer affordable for nuclear families; single-family dwellings become extended-family GULAGs where the residents eventually go insane.
There is a lot of unused commercial real estate that will belong to nobody in particular once all parties are bankrupt.
There are a lot of unused shipping containers that are very easy to customize for a wide variety of uses.
Large structures are cheaper and easier to retrofit for off-grid use than small ones.
Transportation needs are much reduced if the entire town relocates into the shopping mall and the office park.
Basements of demolished suburban houses can be flooded and used for aquaculture, or for tree nurseries, etc..
Freed-up land can be used for community agriculture.

Medical "care"
Stay healthy: eat little, mostly vegetables, avoid exercise, but do some physical labor, sleep plenty and get lots of rest, avoid stress, have a sense of humor
Avoid doctors and hospitals (they prescribe toxic drugs, spread disease and deplete family savings)
Know how to treat/cure yourself and the people around you - good hygiene, herbs, massage, rest & TLC
For serious medical needs, have a medical evacuation plan in place - to a country with a functioning medical system (Canada, Mexico, Cuba, Russia...)
Know when it's time for you to go (your life isn't worth half a million to extend by a year or two, no matter who you are - the country can't afford it)
Avoid American medical "care" if at all possible.
Making a profit off of sick people is deeply unethical.
Health is not insurable. If all houses burned down, there would be no fire insurance. Nobody dies healthy..
Resist efforts to tie you to a "job" by the threat of cutting off your access to medical "care".
Resist efforts to force you or your family into medical bankruptcy through medical extortion.
You have no choice of doctor who isn't an American doctor and violates the Hippocratic oath by putting financial and legal considerations ahead of what's good for the patient.
And now, you have no choice but to buy federally mandated private health insurance.

To recap: 2/3 of transportation fuels are imported, and these entire 2/3 are going away.
Daily trips to town by private motor-car will once again be reserved for the aristocracy (chauffeur not included).
There is not much hope for continuation of air travel, air freight or interstate trucking.
Rail freight could actually be revived at very little cost (much more cost-effective than road freight).
Water freight is supremely efficient, especially if by sail.
Our harbors, bays, sounds, estuaries, rivers and canals are our prime regional transportation assets.
Many people will be delighted to once again be able to make a living on the water.

In conclusion
Many people can't be persuaded by either fact or reason. Let's hope you are not one of them.
Running out the clock on our current living arrangement is a bad idea: the longer you wait, the fewer options you will be left with
A rather exciting time to be alive, wouldn't you say?