Don’t come around here no more

By Mary Odum

In case my fellow Americans have been overwhelmed by all the other news during this chaotic era of descent, a white supremacist is making the rounds on college campuses inciting racism, hatred, and ethnic cleansing. His speech caused a murder and other violence in Charlottesville two months ago. He is now coming, uninvited, to the University of Florida on October 19th. The administration has waffled three times back and forth as to whether to allow it. They are now going to allow it, on the basis of overturned decisions on another campus and First Amendment free speech concerns. And they are funding the process with at least $500,000 in public, university funds.

My grandfather, Howard Washington Odum, was a prominent social scientist in the south, and was a tireless activist for racial integration. My parents taught me that racism, white supremacy, and Nazis are not a subject that one remains silent about. And I was taught that activism and science are not separate spheres. So here we go, within a bigger-picture context of energy descent. Continue reading Don’t come around here no more

Responsibility for regeneration

By Mary Odum

rockgardenANC
Examples can be powerful

I’m housesitting in Alaska, and my return to a place where Mother Nature is in charge once again motivates me to express myself. The front yard of this house is a beautiful rock garden which is low maintenance, and fertilizer and pesticide-free. But the real front yard for this house is the back yard, which backs to 780 square miles of Chugach State Park and its pristine wilderness. That view is grounding, reminding me of what the world looked like before the fossil-fueled growth of the past two centuries. Can we return to that view after the fossil fuels are gone, with clear

Anchorage back yard
Anchorage back yard

air, drinkable water, and an intact food chain? Do we just throw up our hands and accept die-off? Or do we actively work towards a more balanced society? Who’s going to do that and how do we start? This post is about prosaic lawn reform as a symbol of change and personal responsibility for the environment, but first I’m going to wander in synthesis through the threads of current events, to pull that theme together.

Continue reading Responsibility for regeneration

He’s told us not to blow it

impressedtechnology

By Mary Odum

Hopefully you’ve seen the recent movie, The Martian, a film directed by Ridley Scott and adapted from the online book by Andy Weir. If you have not seen the movie or read the book, both of which I highly recommend, there will be some spoilers for the movie in this post. The movie is wonderful, featuring Matt Damon playing Mark Watney, an astronaut-botanist-mechanical engineer, “sciencing the shit” (literally) out of extreme survival in a hostile environment while accidentally left behind on Mars.

Gauld-just-jealousCultural memes in art, music, and literature indirectly reflect what’s happening in society before our conscious minds do. The explosion of zombie movies and science fiction about intrepid survivors either abandoning Earth for new planets or struggling to get back to Earth suggests that subconsciously, we know we are beyond our limits and headed in the wrong direction on this planet.

Tom Gauld cartoon
Tom Gauld cartoon

Mainstream cultural memes derived from this movie suggest the power of human technology and inventiveness through know-how and persistence. NASA may have used this movie as a rallying cry in support of more funding in general, and funding for longer-range space travel specifically. Good luck with that. It is no accident that space travel in the US peaked with the US oil peak in 1970. Viewed from my perspective of the world in descent, the movie represents something different that probably hasn’t already been said, at least in the US, where Americans’ manifest destiny still reigns supreme. I’m not sure what Andy Weir’s intentions were, beyond telling a ripping good survival yarn, but I see this movie as a symbol of what happens when we venture to the limit of what is sustainable, using extreme technology and energy. When we venture beyond the energetic limits of what is sustainable, bad things are guaranteed to happen. When they do, cascading reactions and a vacuum of Nature’s support systems for our basic needs (soil, water, air, and food) create an extreme situation where high-tech systems will not work, and we must revert to jury-rigged lower-energy tech from an earlier time to get by in an extremely hostile environment that lacks Mother Nature’s supports. Continue reading He’s told us not to blow it

Arguments against GMOs

By Mary Odum

I recently decided to take an epidemiology course to fill in gaps in my knowledge base. The entire online graduate certificate in Environmental Health looked interesting, so I applied for the entire certificate. Environmental Health was the first course that I took online at this flagship Florida university. The online experience would be a separate post in itself — the online course was mechanically flawless but grossly deficient in interactions and building critical thinking skills.

One of my class assignments was to argue in a paper against Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Since the course and the textbook were too reductionist for my tastes, I argued using macroscopic arguments. I doubt the teaching assistants read it–like all other assignments in this MOOC, it received a grade with no comments. Various friends are asking me what I think of GMOs, and most students in the class and most of my friends think that GMOs are a great solution for our food problems, so I am reposting the paper here.

Corporations promote GMOs as the solution to world hunger through expanded global food sources. That hopeful argument is not based on evidence, and there are many arguments against widespread GMO use. Most science and policy arguments are reductionist. But Einstein said that we cannot solve problems from the same consciousness that created the problems. We must learn to see the world anew, from a larger scale to see a complete picture of the processes involved. Reductionist science is not the answer to the problems engendered by a finite biosphere with a human population in overshoot. Therefore, the arguments presented here address macroscopic arguments against GMOS, including the impact of peak oil production on the current developed countries’ system of industrial agriculture, the rapidly expanding pesticide treadmill that accompanies GMOs, replacement of natural biodiversity, water and soil loss or degradation, and expanding corporate domination, with increasing social inequity, loss of small farmers, monopolization and unsustainability of our food system, and the potential link between gut health and inadequately studied GMOs.

Continue reading Arguments against GMOs

Clutching our world views with a death grip

By Mary Odum

As I write, I am sitting in what might be my last airplane seat, stacked cheek to jowl with a couple with a cute but runny-nosed baby. My trip was with girlfriends on a bike tour in California, and I made the most of it, living very much in the moment. As I traveled, I wore my infection control hat, scanning the settings with new eyes for potentially dangerous situations. I was careful in public places such as airports, trolleys, and the BART, washing my hands frequently and keeping them folded in front of me. I was much more aware of impulses to touch my face. I watched a couple in the San Francisco airport who were headed to Nairobi touch their faces, many times, as they waited. Airport bathrooms were mostly hands-free, but the automatic toilets sprayed their contents powerfully in all directions when flushed. There was a new sign in the TSA line warning us to wash our hands because of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), but no mention of Ebola (EVD). TSA used gloves to pat me down, but they were not washing their hands after contact with people. Boarding passes, drivers licenses, and credit cards were swiped and exchanged, along with bills and coins. I saw a large homeless population on the waterfront in San Francisco with no access to bathrooms or handwashing, who were using the streets as open latrines. I saw prostitutes. Hotels had carpets and mattresses that would defy cleaning in an outbreak. I saw people hugging, and shaking hands, and doing all kinds of human, caring, or even loving things that would be extinguished in a pandemic.

Today the first nurse within the US healthcare system has acquired EVD. My nursing friends are worried. Are we ready for this? How do we communicate risk, or should we settle for optimistic reassurance that our system can handle this? What are our biggest needs in preparation?
Continue reading Clutching our world views with a death grip

Uncharted territory for a system in overshoot

By Mary Odum

http-:www.flu.gov:planning-preparedness:community:community_mitigation.pdf-fig3a
http-:www.flu.gov:planning-preparedness:community:community_mitigation.pdf 1918 pandemic CFR = <3%. Where would Ebola’s CFR line be on this graph?

We are in uncharted territory with the Ebola virus disease (EVD). The last time we had a plague that was this deadly was the Black Death in the 14th century, when there were only 450 million people in the world. That pandemic killed 30% to 70% of the population. There is no benchmark for EVD, which kills 3 out of 4 people it touches, and is emerging into a global population of 7 billion.

Ulgiati et al., 2011, Emergy-based complexity measures in natural and social systems - Emergy flows plateau in modern Rome as an example of a high-transformity system
(Ulgiati, Ascione, Zucaro & Campanella, 2011, Fig. 1) Emergy-based complexity measures in natural and social systems – Emergy flows plateau in modern Rome as an example of a high-transformity system

This pandemic signifies a turning point for society in response to peak oil, highlighting the problem of globalization for a planet of 7 billion people. We have lost control of a deadly outbreak, and our responses to its exponential growth are linear at best, ensuring that this plague will most likely spread further. Many in first world countries think we are immune to plagues. How might transmission of EVD change as it moves from a low-resource or low-transformity setting in West Africa to resource-rich (high-transformity) countries?  How might the battle against this epidemic change as it breaks out into different environments?

Continue reading Uncharted territory for a system in overshoot

The 4S’s of surge capacity

By Mary Odum

Welcome to the arcane and short-sighted world of public health strategic planning. This post introduces the term surge capacity, a term we will hear often in the coming months of this growing Ebola (EVD) epidemic. Surge capacity is the ability to manage sudden or prolonged increases in overall healthcare demand, and the key components are the 4 S’s of staff, stuff, structure and systems, for hospital and community preparedness (Adams, 2009). During a pandemic, lack of surge capacity in all four of these areas become key limiting factors:  hospital isolation beds (structure), healthcare providers (HCP-staff), isolation gear (stuff), and an efficient, just-in-time, high-transformity system, which is an obstacle to resilience.  Continue reading The 4S’s of surge capacity

Ebola as a game-changer?

By Mary Odum

In crises, anxiety focuses attention. I continue to focus on the growing Ebola epidemic, which has no real restraints to keep it from becoming a global pandemic. Overpopulation, inequity, peak oil, and disturbed natural environment have converged with the problem of Ebola, to set up the conditions for a pandemic. If we add a slow response from complacent, frozen bureaucracies to this toxic mix, then we can expect a global pandemic to occur. We have met the enemy, and he is us.

Healthcare professionals need to speak up about healthcare inequity and US readiness for pandemics. And I have a particular interest in this topic, since I am potentially most exposed as a nurse to acquiring Ebola through patients shedding the virus in body fluids, and women are at high risk as typical care givers in the home and hospital. I have studied handwashing in hospital settings, with insight as to the gaps. So I will continue to perseverate here, and add my nursing voice to the choir of concerned healthcare professionals. Continue reading Ebola as a game-changer?

A review of Barry’s “The Great Influenza”

By Mary Odum

BarryCoverThis week I finally read John M. Barry’s 2004 book, The Great Influenza: The story of the deadliest pandemic in history. Barry explains the lessons that we should have learned from the Great “Spanish” influenza pandemic of 1918. The book is well written, albeit with a lengthy introduction of the medical researchers and their personalities. If you don’t enjoy the history of Medicine or details of early virology research, you can skip that part. In his afterword, Barry states that a future pandemic is certain to occur, and we are in no way ready for it. Since my PhD is in Nursing-Health Policy, this is a topic that interests and worries me greatly, so I will expand on my earlier post as this threat has continued to expand and evolve. This post serves as book review and comparison of similarities and differences between the Great Influenza pandemic and the current looming threat of another pandemic, Ebola (EBOV). Continue reading A review of Barry’s “The Great Influenza”

Stop growing or meet the four horsemen?

By Mary Odum

I took some time off from writing this summer, as I was busy getting unmarried and moving back to my original home, Florida. Don’t ever change your name—it’s a real hassle to change it back, from Logan to Odum. The divorce was quite amicable, after almost 40 years together, and Alaska provides few obstacles to the process. The house in Alaska sold quickly, to friends, so here I am, literally a hot mess, in north-central Florida, trying to re-acclimate to 92 degrees in the shade with 95% humidity. Instead of wolverines and bears traipsing through the yard, it is raccoons and possums. Instead of goshawks eating the chickens, I have fledgling cardinals at my feeder. And instead of glorious mountain tundra runs, I have quiet paddles along sacred springs and lakes. I have encountered enough old friends and acquaintances here that I am quickly regaining my sense of place in this sunny, hot, subtropical, watery paradise. Continue reading Stop growing or meet the four horsemen?

Self-organizing societies

By Mary Logan

“If the future is to remain open and free, we need people who can tolerate the unknown, who will not need the support of completely worked out systems or traditional blueprints from the past.” –Margaret Mead

Modern societies have developed as adaptations to a high-energy world by producing surpluses of non-renewable energies, especially in the United States. These complex, crumbling societies have developed a powerful system of centralized, top-down control system, with a widening gap in power and wealth from the mainstream, as the balance of power diverges even further between the haves and have-nots, with a hollowing out of the middle class. If we are to have any future society, it will be more cooperative and self-organizing one. What are self-organizing societies, and why should you be hoping for one as an alternative to the current emphasis on centralized control? How can we develop them? Continue reading Self-organizing societies

Asking the right questions

answersaresimple-400x372In 1981, H.T. Odum and Herschel Elliott taught a systems philosophy course together at the University of Florida, entitled Systems, Philosophy, Energy, and Environment. The exams from the course are filed in box 67 of Odum’s collection at UF Library. The textbooks for the course were Energy Basis for Man and Nature (Odum & Odum, 1981) and Ecology and the Politics of Scarcity (Ophuls, 1977).  Some of the questions from the exams were excellent, and they offer structure for thinking about philosophical frameworks for descent.  Continue reading Asking the right questions

Fitting into nature–or not

The role of this website is to interpret emergy science and ideas surrounding descent for a broader audience.  At the Emergy conference this week, the increasing problem of environmental pollution and human waste was a recurring theme, as was the difficulty of environmental stewardship and low-energy living while nested within an industrial society at the larger scale. With thoughts from the prior post about the primary importance of developing a balance between nature and society, my immediate thoughts turn to what we can do personally. Continue reading Fitting into nature–or not

Developing a future balance of nature and society

Crafoord Prize 1987 HT Odum's goals (from Box 1 of UF Library Odum Special Collection)
Crafoord Prize 1987 HT Odum’s goals (from Box 1 of UF Library Odum Special Collection)

In 1987, H.T. and Eugene Odum were jointly awarded the Crafoord Prize by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. The Crafoord Prize is the Nobel equivalent for the biosciences, math, geosciences, and astronomy.

Howard Odum was one of the first to realize seriously the dangers of using fossil fuels. In his book “Environment, Power and Society” (1971) and “Energy Basis for man and Nature” (1976),he developed the theory that the processes of ecological systems are dimensioned according to the amount of solar energy reaching the earth, and that extra energy increases in various forms cause damaging disturbances.

In “Systems Ecology” (1983) he stresses man´s responsibility in the biosphere, a responsibility for what may be termed a permanent economy. The “work” that nature performs for man, for example in the production of forests, fish and clean water must in his view be made use of, not dissipated through interference that can cause unforeseeable future damage (Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, 1987).

When asked about what he would do with the prize, H.T. Odum said,  “Perhaps we can obtain matching funds and establish the program that we have long discussed on Developing a Future Balance of Nature and Society. We could do such research projects as:

  1. finding ways to make the economy of humans and that of nature cooperative

  2. planning for the lower energy world that is coming

  3. find public policies which can maintain economic prosperity when growth is no longer possible.” (Odum, 1987)

More than twenty-five years later are we any further along as a society in our understanding or prioritization of this research need?

8th Biennial Emergy Research Conference

uf

Prosperous Way Down Pre-conference

Wednesday January 15th, 2014, from 1 – 5 pm

Held at the H.T. Odum Center for Wetlands

University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida

This pre-conference is loosely organized by Doctor Tom Abel and is free for 8th Biennial Emergy Research Conference attendees. Proposed topics below, other topics to be determined via self-organization of the discussion.

  • Presentation of systems diagrams to illustrate issues
  • Reports on descent-related conferences attended
  • Reports on ongoing initiatives on a prosperous way down (PWD)
  • Reports on strategies for teaching and communicating about PWD
  • Report community organization and action about PWD
  • Reporting research on PWD

Preliminary schedule for the 8th Biennial Emergy Conference is posted as a PDF here. It is not too late to escape the polar vortex and come to Florida to warm your toes and learn something new about environmental accounting and energy descent! Registration available here.

CFWheader

From rails to trails in the Florida Keys

By Mary Logan

We are in Florida, warming up, visiting family, rehabilitating an old house, and attending the biennial Emergy conference in Gainesville in January. We are taking a break from the house rehab by bike touring from Sarasota to Key West and then back to Gainesville. Touring by bike emphasizes the difference in perspective between human-scaled travel and the machine-powered society that south Florida has adapted to. Continue reading From rails to trails in the Florida Keys

There’s no place like Nome

By Mary Logan

Thanksgiving week in America is a time of celebration of family, and of giving thanks. I feel very privileged to live at a time and in a place that is so entitled in terms of resources, security, culture, and opportunities. One way that I can attempt to live up to that privilege is through this blog, in ways that attempt to change the culture for the better for future generations. And one of the best ways to change culture is to make the alternative more fun. Bike touring is one of the low-energy habits that has become habit-forming for us, as it is inexpensive, it allows us to get out into nature and into new places that might be difficult to get to otherwise.

previous trip to Nome Alaska
previous trip to Nome Alaska

One photo that has been passed around from this blog is a surprising one. It is a photo of a previous bike trip to Salmon Lake, near Nome Alaska, on a tour with friends several years ago. This photo shows up repeatedly on my website statistics page as having been passed around all over the world–why is that? Are other people planning trips to Nome? Is it the beauty of the place, and the wide-open vistas of the arctic tundra? For Thanksgiving, I would like to share a photo essay of that trip, in appreciation of Alaska’s unspoiled wilderness. I give thanks for having access to one of the most amazing, pristine, unspoiled wildernesses in the world. Continue reading There’s no place like Nome

Care for the earth

By Mary Logan

connectthedotsdoomerhumorThere have been a flurry of public conversations recently about the importance of protecting the biosphere. We are paying more attention to the environment again, after forty years of neglect. And many people are finding this website after googling a surprising question, “Is ecology good for economies?”

There is a growing recognition of the importance of the environment, but there is still a disconnect in understanding the link between environment and economy, and inertia about how to begin to make changes we need to make. How do we convert the basic cultural assumption or value that what is good for us is good for the world? How do our values and ethics shape our culture for adaptation to a future of energy descent? Are values more important during times of scarcity, and how must our values change if we are to survive?

permethics
http://permacultureprinciples.com/ethics/earth-care/

I recently read Holmgren’s 2002 book, Permaculture; Principles and Pathways beyond Sustainability. The developing science of permaculture applies systems ecology principles to a new way of living—a permanent culture that honors the environment. Permaculture respects our energetic limits, as a means of restoring the environment while adapting to our future of less energy. Holmgren begins his book appropriately with a description of the three ethical principles of permaculture: care for the earth, care for people, and fair share. The second and third principles are derived from the first, which is primary. I was going to write a general review of Holmgren’s book, but then realized that I needed to spend an entire post discussing his first ethical principle of Care for the Earth. The review will have to wait until later.

Holmgren recognizes the increasing importance of environmental protection during the collapse of a society in overshoot. As the culture evolves to fit a lower energy pattern, societies that survive will be those that care for and protect their ecosystems. Too many people with too much technology will put extra pressures on the biosphere. Our growth-oriented values, ethics, and religion will have to evolve over time if we are to survive. What might that look like?

Continue reading Care for the earth

Energy, ecology & economics–part III

By Mary Logan

This is the third and final post in a series revisiting HT Odum’s classic Ambio paper on the 3Es (Ambio, 1973). The article was republished in Mother Earth News, and the reprint is still available online through Minnesotans for Sustainability. The first 15 points are covered in part one  and part two of the post series. The final five points, 16-20 of the Ambio paper, are extracted and quoted below, with updated explanations. In this final section of the paper, Odum described relative energy availability during stages of growth and descent, and recommended policies for energy descent. Continue reading Energy, ecology & economics–part III

The flap about space travel

By Mary Logan

Why is the movie Gravity so scary to some people, and why are people in both sciences and the humanities discussing the movie in a focused fashion, picking at its details? I would argue that the movie Gravity serves as a metaphor for a shift in world views about what is possible and sustainable in terms of our high-tech society. The discussion here of space travel allows me to continue my fall theme of illustrating emergy principles using science-fiction blockbuster movies. The movie also provides an opportunity to illustrate the emergy basis of space travel, and to suggest a metaphor between the failures of technology in the movie and the unsustainability of our modern civilization. Spoiler alert: If you haven’t seen the movie Gravity yet, there are spoilers ahead. Continue reading The flap about space travel

Energy, ecology, & economics — part II

By Mary Logan

This is part two of a three-part series revisiting HT Odum’s classic Ambio paper on the 3Es, which was written 40 years ago for a special issue of the Royal Swedish Academy of Science’s Energy in Society issue (Ambio, 1973). The article was republished in Mother Earth News, and the reprint is still available online through Minnesotans for Sustainability. The first 10 points are covered in part one of the post series. Points 11-15 of the Ambio paper are extracted and quoted below; in this section of the paper Odum described the not-yet named field of ecological engineering, as well as energy quality (transformity), and the net energy of solar and nuclear energy. Continue reading Energy, ecology, & economics — part II

Energy, ecology, and economics revisited

By Mary Logan

We must understand the concept of net energy in order to see the underlying energetic basis for society.  Yet net energy is often misunderstood, typically through optimistic measures of valuation that do not address the hidden inputs. Perhaps HT Odum’s clearest, simplest, most understandable paper on the topic was written 40 years ago, in a special issue of the Royal Swedish Academy of Science’s Energy in Society issue of Ambio (1973). The article was republished in Mother Earth News, still available online through Minnesotans for Sustainability. The paper remains as relevant and fundamental to the arguments for net energy today as it did 40 years ago. Each time I read the paper, I find new meaning from it. Perhaps it is time to revisit the principles quoted below from the paper, to update the terms and give modern examples of the interrelationships between the 3Es of energy, ecology, and economics. Some of the terminology and accounting methods have been refined over time, but the general principles remain unchanged–principles that are essential to the energy dialogue. Continue reading Energy, ecology, and economics revisited

The transformity of personal action

By Mary Logan

The more freedom we enjoy, the greater the responsibility we bear, toward others as well as ourselves. –Oscar Arias Sanchez

It is easy to get distracted when the world appears to be falling down around our heads. This week, the Emergist reports that he has gotten waylaid by intrusions at the personal scale, and relates those intrusions back to the principles of emergy and transformity. Here’s a snippet below from his blog this week about the transformity of his education, his feelings about his competing needs of parenting at the personal scale, and the urge to give to actions at the larger scale, and the relative value and costs of education in our society. The post is warm, funny, and something that I’ve been thinking about this week, too. Go read it, please, and I’ll wait right here while you do.

The Emergist Attacked by Two Toddlers

This blog has gone quiet for sometime, not that I haven’t had anymore topics to blog about, but because my oldest toddler has learned to turn off the computer. I actually have two posts fully thought out and half written. Further complicating the process is that the older one grabs the tip of my nose whenever he wants my attention, which is all the time, while his sister sneak attacks by smearing saliva on the screen with her hands. This all significantly ups the ante to write anything. Continue reading The transformity of personal action

Stranger in a strange land

By Mary Logan

Everything pulses, and pulses maximize the flow of power in systems. I pulsed in a big way this year. After too much time spent thinking, reading, and writing (and sitting in a chair) during the first half of the year, I put down the keyboard and took off on some physical, slow travel adventures for the summer. One of these adventures was a 2,000-mile bike tour, from Bellingham Washington, to Glacier National Park, to Yellowstone National Park, and then ping-ponging around Yellowstone on an event ride, Cycle Greater Yellowstone. We had beautiful, hot, dry weather, and a great trip. I cleared my head, I lost over 15 pounds, and I lived a simple, basic, Spartan life of biking, eating, sleeping (we camped). Touring the national parks by bicycle turned out to be an ideal way to see the crowded parks during summer. Our summer bike tour was purging and restorative, and there was time to think about my life at the personal and the larger scale. Reentry has been a bit disorienting—I feel like a stranger in a strange land. Continue reading Stranger in a strange land

Notes from the road

By Mary Logan

I am writing this while sitting on a very comfortable stack of hay in the small animal barn at the county fairgrounds in Republic, Washington. We have converged on this camping spot along with a very large motorcycle rally that takes place this weekend—it should be an interesting night. We are traveling by bike through small, rural, northwest towns along the Northern Tier route mapped by Adventure Cycling. We left Anchorage almost two weeks ago via the Alaska Marine Highway cross-gulf ferry, the MV Kennicott. We got the boot from Alaska, with 30 mph headwinds, pouring rain, and bugs in Girdwood and Whittier. We landed in Bellingham’s welcoming arms with hot sunny weather and began riding. In the past week, we have had glorious weather, with big tailwinds pushing us over four successive mountain passes.

washingtonpass

There are three of us again this summer, my husband Todd, our friend Kathleen Pelkan, and me. Pelk is from Bethel, Alaska, and we’re from Anchorage.  My husband dreamed up this trip as a training ride for a big event ride in Yellowstone in August, Cycle Greater Yellowstone.  So far the training curve has been fairly steep, with Washington Pass on day number three demanding 5000 feet of climb and a 66-mile day with full panniers. Fortunately there was mixed berry pie and cold beer on the other side of the pass in Mazama to reload calories and cool our cores. One of the advantages of bike touring is that you can eat anything you want, and still lose weight. The motto for this trip? We will stop for pie and beer!

Continue reading Notes from the road

A mind like compost?

by Mary Logan

On Top (Gary Snyder, Axe Handles, 1983, p. 11)

All this new stuff goes on top
turn it over       turn it over
wait      and water down
From the dark bottom
turn it inside out
let it spread through, sift down,
even.
Watch it sprout.

A mind like compost.

As our world views begin to shift, there will be much discussion about critical thinking. Shifting world views expose flaws in people’s thinking, from the ways we protect our ideas, to inaccurate assumptions, and to the inferences that result. This is in part because fundamental assumptions of our society are beginning to show cracks. There are many descriptions of critical thinking, but most of them do not go far enough in describing the synthesis necessary in describing our global problems. Ecological, macroscopic, and systems-based critical thinking are necessary to ask the proper questions about our global problems. Continue reading A mind like compost?

Going Local

by Mary and Todd Logan

springnotfoundAnchorage in general is in a sulk. Three or nine inches of snow fell yesterday and today, depending on where you live in the Anchorage bowl. This snowfall gives Anchorage a new record for the longest snow season on record, 232 days long. Bike to Work Day on Friday was rainy and then snowy. The Nenana Ice Classic, Alaska’s biggest guessing game on when the ice goes out in the spring on the Tanana, was the latest breakup in recorded history. Gardeners are frustrated, and even the skiers are tired of winter. We seem to be experiencing a cooling trend for Alaska due to the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and changes in the winter ice patterns–more in the Bering Sea and less in the Arctic. Alex DeMarban at Alaska Dispatch summarizes the study: Continue reading Going Local

The speech Obama needed to make

By Mary Logan

404govtnotfoundI’ve stayed away from politics pointedly in posts, because voting for either party is still just voting for growth, with different labels applied.  I do not believe that the current corporate giveaway that we call a political system is fixable unless we elect a leader who is ecologically and energetically literate. I doubt that will happen. That said, here is an earth day wish for real servant leadership which would fix our problems. The post is directed at a specific leader, Obama, since the United States is the worst offender in terms of extreme behavior and unsustainability.

As your president, I can set the agenda for what needs to be done, but I am relatively powerless unless I have the backing and the will of the people behind me, to mobilize the other two branches of government–the legislative Congress and the judicial Supreme Court. Increasingly, the checks and balances in this country are creating a stalemate, which only the powerful corporate lobbyists can overcome, and only in their favor. I am asking now for your help in averting a major crisis in this country, one that we have never faced before. Continue reading The speech Obama needed to make

What would you do if your money became worthless?

by Mary Logan

I am working on a policy post, but it is still cooking. So I will instead post a link to the best description of hyperinflation in Weimar Germany that I have ever read, that was written in 1970 when we went off the gold standard for good. Forty-three years later, our currency sins are finally beginning to catch up with us. What will penance for currency abuse look like? Since I have never received an answer to the question, “what would you do if your money becomes worthless,” I’ll ask it again.  Dead silence on this topic implies big blind spots.

Bezemer & Hudson, 2012 http://michael-hudson.com/2012/09/incorporating-the-rentier-sectors-into-a-financial-model-3/
Bezemer & Hudson, 2012 http://michael-hudson.com/2012/09/incorporating-the-rentier-sectors-into-a-financial-model-3/

While inflation in most countries is still manageable, the rate of inflation is increasing. That means that the amount of money relative to the underlying worth of the economy is expanding, through expansion of debt and money printing. Currently the debt in wealthy countries is mostly sequestered in the financial iron triangle loop, with little escaping into general circulation except where corporate salaries and graft trickle down to wealthy managers. At some point the sequestration will end, and the trickle down will turn into a rush. The jockeying that we are seeing now between countries attempting to balance their devaluation with the devaluation in other countries will become a race, and inflation will increase. How will our inflation race play out, and how will it be different from the description of the German Nightmare linked here? Another longer descriptions of the process is linked here. Might we segue into a new currency without pain and defaults for too-big-to-fail entities? Can we escape hyperinflation, given our bankrupt political processes?

wheremymoneywent

Header: Slave Market with Disappearing Bust of Voltaire, Salvador Dalí, 1940; Dalí describes his work on the painting “to make the abnormal look normal and the normal look abnormal.” While Dalí apparently disagreed with Voltaire’s philosophies, Voltaire had several relevant quotes on money that may apply here; “Dont think money does everything or you are going to end up doing everything for money” and “Paper money eventually returns to its intrinsic value — zero.” 

Social justice and solar equity

 By Mary Logan

“El socialismo puede llegar solo en bicicleta” (Socialism will only arrive by bike) —José Antonio Viera-Gallo, Assistant Secretary of Justice in the government of Salvador Allende (from Illich, Energy & Equity, 1973)

What is the relationship between social justice and resource sustainability? Many authors have tackled this subject from many directions, including Illich (1973), and O’Riordan (1976). In the developed world, freedom includes emancipation from nature, where freedom does not occur until we escape our limits. The spiritual is separate from the material, and energetic limits are not a consideration. Adequate society means that everyone else attains the first world countries’ level of development (Mies & Shiva, 1993).

Various authors have attempted to categorize environmental ethical thought. In a recent issue of Green European Journal, Boulanger included a useful figure adapted from Hopwood, Mellor & O’Brien (2005) that places various groups within a framework of two different criteria; how focused are we on the importance of equality versus our orientation towards environmental concerns? The implied question Boulanger is asking is, what are the proper politics for a world that is reaching its limits, and where do your values fit within this spectrum? Is this the best way to view the issue of social justice, and is the diagram inclusive enough in considering our limits? Can we have our equality cake and our environment too? Continue reading Social justice and solar equity