Nuclear power and the collapse of society

Repost from Rex Weyler’s Blog at Greenpeace

Entire post available here

. . . . This is the face of industrial collapse, when alleged solutions become bigger problems. Nuclear power has now become a massive liability, draining resources from communities that need schools, hospitals, and the essentials of life. Joseph Tainter, Jared Diamond, and other researchers point out that some societies – Tikopia island, Byzantine society in the 1300s – avoided collapse, not by increasing complexity with better technology, but by down-sizing intentionally, learning to thrive on a lower level of complexity.

This is now the challenge of industrial society. Can we, and especially the rich and powerful, change our habits of consumption and growth? Can we come back to Earth?

Header Image: Odum diagram of the uranium chain, 1976

Treatment wetlands equal cleaner water and more birds

By Debra Segal and Robert Knight

Debra Segal, M.S. is an environmental scientist who has assisted in designing, permitting, and monitoring treatment wetlands in Florida, including Gainesville’s Sweetwater Wetland Park and the Lake Hancock Outfall Wetland. She is also a volunteer for the Alachua Audubon Society.

Robert Knight, Ph.D. is co-author of Treatment Wetlands and is a pioneer of treatment wetland design, operation, and performance. He has been instrumental in incorporating productive and safe bird and other wildlife habitat in treatment wetlands and has been active in the design and/or operation of many of the systems described in this blog.

Some of the most productive birding hotspots in Florida are man-made treatment wetlands that were designed to remove nutrients and pollutants from treated wastewater and stormwater. Increasing wastewater flows and stormwater runoff are the inevitable results of increasing human populations. But a growing number of communities in Florida and worldwide, are turning this liability into an asset by initially treating this water through conventional advanced treatment technologies and then recycling the partially purified water into wetland systems designed to provide final purification cost-effectively. One ancillary benefit of these treatment wetlands is their high biological productivity that supports complex and abundant wildlife populations, including many wetland-dependent birds. With additional forethought and some additional cost, these treatment wetlands are becoming important destinations for bird watching and nature photography. Continue reading Treatment wetlands equal cleaner water and more birds

H.T. Odum on energy equality

This post was originally posted on P2P Foundation’s site on 31st December 2012. Images for this repost were added by PWD admin.

 By Michel Bauwens 

Michel Bauwens is the founder and director of the P2P Foundation and works in collaboration with a global group of researchers in the exploration of peer production, governance, and property. His recent book Save the world – Towards a Post Capitalist Society with P2P is based on a series of interviews with Jean Lievens, originally published in Dutch in 2014 it has since been translated and published in French with an English language publication expected in the near future. Michel co-authored with Vasilis Kostakis of Network Society and Future Scenarios for a Collaborative Economy published by Palgrave Pivot in 2014. Michel currently lives in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Monthly Review has an in-depth analysis of the global planetary ecological crisis, which also features an introduction to the thought of energy ecologist, Howard T. Odum. First, an introduction to his work via Cutler Cleveland at Encyclopedia of the Earth: Continue reading H.T. Odum on energy equality

Greetings to the natural world

The Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address (the Ohen:ton Karihwatehkwen) is the central prayer and invocation for the Haudenosaunee (also known as the Iroquois Confederacy, Longhouse People, or Six Nations — Mohawk, Oneida, Cayuga, Onondaga, Seneca, and Tuscarora). It reflects their relationship of giving thanks for life and the world around them. The Haudenosaunee open and close every social and religious meeting with the Thanksgiving Address.

ta-wampum-825
Hiawatha Wampum Belt of the Iroquois Confederacy

It is also said as a daily sunrise prayer, and is an ancient message of peace and appreciation of Mother Earth and her inhabitants. The children learn that, according to Native American tradition, people everywhere are embraced as family. Our diversity, like all wonders of Nature, is truly a gift for which we are thankful.

When one recites the Thanksgiving Address the Natural World is thanked, and in thanking each life-sustaining force, one becomes spiritually tied to each of the forces of the Natural and Spiritual World.  The Thanksgiving Address teaches mutual respect, conservation, love, generosity, and the responsibility to understand that what is done to one part of the Web of Life, we do to ourselves.

Continue reading Greetings to the natural world

Patterns for navigating the transition to a world in energy descent

Repost by David MacLeod

“This paper considers current concerns about resource depletion (“energy descent”) and the unsustainability of current economic structures, which may indicate we are entering a new era signaled by the end of growth. Using the systems thinking tool of PatternDynamics™, developed by Tim Winton, this paper seeks to integrate multiple natural patterns in order to effectively impact these pressing challenges. Some of the Patterns considered include Energy, Transformity, Power, Pulse, Growth, and the polarities of Expansion/Contraction and Order/Chaos. . . .

MacLeod-Transformity-e1439851398679. . . . As a new flow of energy enters the system and interacts with a resource, transformation of energy can happen, where some quantity of energy is liberated from the resource and transformed into a higher quality energy. The Transformity Pattern, Winton states, “is a major structural aspect of how the universe works, and its structure is complexification” (Winton, 2012a). H. T. Odum argued that all processes entail a reduction of energy quantity as they are transformed into a higher quality energy, a new quality of energy available for use by the system to function in a new and more powerful way. The reduction in energy quantity is the 2nd law of thermodynamics at work – the energy that is dissipated out in all processes to increase entropy. This is where some amount of energy “sinks” (into the Void) in every process. The 1st law of thermodynamics is not violated, however – the total quantity of energy in the larger system is conserved, but a portion of it has now become unavailable for additional work.”

See the entire article, published at Integral Leadership Review, here.

 

Efficient use of water isn’t enough to save our springs

By Robert E. Ulanowicz

This is a repost of a Jan. 31st, 2015 guest editorial to The Gainesville Sun. Dr. Ulanowicz is a member of the Advisory Panel to the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute.

As Americans we are understandably proud of our commitment to efficiency. It is no surprise, then, that in order to save our aquifer and springs in North Florida, we encourage ever more efficient ways of using water.

At the individual level, we endeavor to install water-saving showers and toilets or to plant drought resistant shrubs and lawns. On a larger scale we seek to develop more efficient ways of using water for irrigation, such as replacing center-pivot irrigation by “dropped-nozzle” application of water to crops.

The records show that efficiencies can indeed foster per-capita decreases in consumption, but it may come as a surprise to many that, at the community level, the drive to enhance efficiency usually results in an increase in overall water consumption!

This paradox has been documented through the outcomes of a number of projects that were intended to save groundwater by implementing more efficient ways of irrigating crops. In regions that ranged from Kansas to New Mexico and Colorado, increased water use followed in the wake of adopting greater efficiencies.

This counter-intuitive phenomenon is not new. It was described 150 years ago by British economist William Jevons. Unfortunately, this inconvenient reality, known as “Jevons’ Paradox,” has been little-heralded by economists since then.

There are many ways whereby improved efficiency can lead to greater overall consumption, but in most cases the savings gained by better efficiency are overwhelmed by an increase in total demand, spurred on either by the new technology itself or by extrinsic factors.

The implication for Florida’s programs to rescue our groundwater is clear: emphasis solely on water-saving efficiencies is destined to failure. Certainly, as individuals we need to redouble our efforts at conservation and efficient water use, but at the community level it becomes necessary that we reorder our priorities and focus instead primarily upon ways to limit total extractions.

Regulating total use was actually the intended mission of Florida’s water management districts. Toward that end, the districts issue Consumptive Use Permits (CUPs) and establish Minimum Flow Levels (MFLs) for lakes, rivers and springs.

Unfortunately, as the courts have discovered, MFLs are difficult to define, making them almost impossible to adjudicate and enforce.

Applications for CUPs, meanwhile, are almost never denied. To make matters worse, incentives that promote Jevons’ dynamics are actually written into some CUPs. The permit regulating extractions by the Jacksonville utilities, for example, rewards the reuse of wastewater (an efficiency) by allowing additional withdrawals from the aquifer without requiring any replacement!

commonspoemThe bare truth is that, aside from urban residents, use of a scarce and necessary common resource remains free to major users. This situation inevitably leads to the well-known “tragedy of the commons,” or catastrophic overuse.

At this time we do not have a firm idea of how much water is being extracted from the aquifer. To avert tragedy we need to begin to measure all that is pumped from the Floridan aquifer. A program to monitor all users — domestic (urban and rural), industrial and agricultural — must be initiated.

Secondly, we need to use water balance models, independent of developmental goals and desires, to establish a cap on what can be sustainably removed from the Floridan aquifer. While capping withdrawals might seem draconian to some in North Florida, it should be mentioned that caps restricting pumping have already been established around Orlando and Tampa. Such limits are long overdue for North Florida.

Finally, we must develop a schedule of charges to be assessed to all users commensurate with their metered use.

Once fees have been implemented (a possible referendum issue?), greater efficiencies will arise quickly and spontaneously. A convenient mnemonic for this strategy is E=mc2, or “Effective management consists of metering, capping and costing.”

We in North Florida are indeed fortunate to have our springs and lakes as visible indicators of the health of our aquifer.

calculate and internalizeElsewhere, as with the Ogallala aquifer in the Midwest, the deleterious effects of overpumping remain largely invisible, and these groundwater resources are being tapped to extinction.

Of almost equal importance to our well-being, it is extremely fortuitous that we possess our springs and lakes for recreation, scenic beauty and inspiration.

They are outstanding riches that truly deserve extraordinary efforts for their preservation.

However, if we fail to make our top management priority the capping of total extraction from the Floridan, it becomes inevitable that we will lose these irreplaceable treasures.

MaximumpowerspeedlimitWe need to redouble our efforts at conservation and efficient water use, but we must reorder our priorities and focus primarily on ways to limit total extractions.


Editor’s note: Is Jevons’ Paradox an early Economist’s observation of the Maximum Power Principle
What are the best policies for preserving precious stocks such as aquifers in our complex society in descent?

The Emperor’s New PPE

By Sally Sellers

SallyAnnSellersSally Speak is the effort of Sally Ann Sellers, RN, BSN, MA Ed, an old battle-ax who is just delusional enough to think her pen is mightier than a sword. Good night & good luck!

“There is no greater evil than men’s failure to consult and to consider.” ― Sophocles, Antigone

Hospitals in the US cause about 400,000 premature patient deaths each year due to preventable harm (iatrogenic causes). This equates to three jumbo jets falling out of the sky each day (James, 2013). Our dysfunctional healthcare system tolerates the carnage of preventable patient injury and death, and potential occupationally-acquired infectious diseases by healthcare workers (HCW). But with the introduction of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), we may be creating unsafe conditions that threaten communities outside of the hospital walls if our isolation protocols and personal protective equipment (PPE) do not work properly. This deadly problem may add to the list of poor outcomes of our healthcare system, spreading the disease, since caregivers are vulnerable to being infected and carrying it into communities. In West Africa, as of mid-October, WHO reports 420 HCW cases of EVD, and 239 deaths, and 2 HCW cases in the US and 1 in Spain.

The deadly outbreak of EVD has created the need for change within the U.S. healthcare system, but the leadership at the CDC and other healthcare in-groups are reacting slowly, with groupthink, creating a situation where those who set policies actively suppress dissenting viewpoints, isolating themselves from outside influences and even taking irrational stances that dehumanize other outside groups, such as “sloppy nurses” and a “panicky public.” When groups make faulty decisions that lead to a deterioration of mental efficiency, reality-testing or moral judgment, they are displaying symptoms of “Groupthink”, a term coined by social psychologist Irving Janis in 1972. What are the signs of groupthink, and how do those signs present during a crisis when we need to change healthcare standards and policies?
Continue reading The Emperor’s New PPE

Go LOW for health and sustainability

by Jessica Njaa

After enduring a medical issue, Jessica Njaa became increasingly interested in researching how food affects health, and the environmental aspect of food choices. She is an Honors student at the University of Alaska Anchorage, and is currently pursuing a Bachelors of Science in Environment & Society.

sadnessMost Americans are suffering from SAD– the Standard American Diet. This diet consists of highly processed, mass-produced foods grown with unsustainable practices. Processed foods generally have lowered nutritional quality and are usually not organic. Eating such foods increases the risk of a multitude of health problems. The diet is not sustainable, with a large footprint and energy basis. We are beginning to understand as a society that we have a major impact on the environment, and are using energy and fossil fuels in an unsustainable way. So what are the solutions? We have the power to make the change by Going LOW!

What are LOW foods? LOW foods are Local, Organic, Whole, and Low on the food chain. To GoLOW is to change the diet to include eating LOW foods for health and environmental sustainability. Continue reading Go LOW for health and sustainability

The great migration

por la abuela

Rudolf-Mates-1929 50watts.com-A-Forest-Story-by-Josef-Kozisek-(Czechoslovakia--1929)_900It wasn’t supposed to be like this—we all expected so much more of everything. When everything has always gotten bigger, better, and faster ever since we could remember, or our fathers’ fathers could remember, then we expected things to keep getting bigger, better, and faster, because that expectation had been baked into not only our own perceptions about how the world works, but also our culture. It was our expectations that led to our downfall, as we never imagined anything different. Continue reading The great migration

The overgrowth of control circuits and the rise of autism

by Brian @ http://theemergist.wordpress.com

This is a repost from TheEmergist on April 21, 2013. Brian runs the twice-monthly blog The Emergist.  He is a stay-at-home dad of two young children and one very young six-acre forest garden.  He became enthralled with HT Odum’s theories after reading Environment, Power, and Society in the 21st Century (EPS) and uses his blog as an outlet for the strange stream of consciousness that EPS induces in its readers.

Key questions

  • What are the reasons civilization maybe more prone to frequent collapse? Cancer? Complexity? Something else?
  • What do models of autism tell us about the “disorder”?
  • How should/has humanity combat/ed autism?

H/T to Mary and Jan for helping me parse this post out. I don’t think they necessarily agree with this idea, but their resistance helped make it much better. Further, I apologize if anyone takes issue with my usage of the term pathology or autism. They just happen to be most succinct words I can think of for this topic.

Emergist definition

Autism-/’ô – tizem/ – Using high quality energy to do a task that can be performed with lower quality energy to gain control by simplifying a subsystem. The resulting effect is waste, which feeds back to disorder the overall complexity of a system. Continue reading The overgrowth of control circuits and the rise of autism

Principles for the Pulse that is Peak Oil « integral permaculture

From David M. at Integral Permaculture; “Howard Odum was of the opinion that all systems on all scales pulse.  Storages gradually accumulate, consumers consume and develop, and eventually decline, and then dispersing materials that will be used in the next pulse.” And if “energy flows, storages, transformations, feedbacks, and sinks” are central to any system, man-made or otherwise, we can see that the peaking of world oil production is going to have a huge effect.”

Also from David’s post, a quote from Holmgren; “…If there is a single most important insight for permaculture from Odum’s work it is that solar energy and its derivatives are our only sustainable source of life. Forestry and agriculture are the primary (and potentially self-supporting) systems of solar energy harvesting available. Technological development will not change this basic fact. It should be possible to design land use systems which approach the solar energy harvesting capacities of natural systems while providing humanity with its needs. This was the original premise of the permaculture concept. While available solar energy may represent some sort of ultimate limit to productivity it is other factors which primarily limit it.”

via Principles for the Pulse that is Peak Oil « integral permaculture.

What did you do in the empire, grandmother?

por la abuela

Rudolf-Mates-1929 50watts.com-A-Forest-Story-by-Josef-Kozisek-(Czechoslovakia--1929)_900
Rudolf Mates, 1929 50watts.com-A-Forest-Story- by-Josef-Kozisek-(Czechoslovakia–1929)_900

The empire was an amazing time to be alive, dearie. I was what they call a professor. That meant that when I got up in the morning, I would take a hot shower, drink coffee that had been automatically brewed, get in a car that was parked in a heated garage, and drive through traffic for half an hour to a building in the middle of the city. Sometimes I would ride my bike instead, but I was considered a great renegade for doing so. There, I would park, and go in to an office, which was a series of rooms with fancy furniture and lots of computers and telephones. And there I would sit, in a room by myself with my computer, and write things in response to others’ messages. Continue reading What did you do in the empire, grandmother?

A new definition for economics


By Austin Johnson, essay written Dec. 2012 for UAA Honors 192 course, Limits to Growth

Le moulin de l'oubli (Mill of oblivion), Gilbert Garcin, 1929 Value added modern business?
Le moulin de l’oubli (Mill of oblivion), Gilbert Garcin, 1999 Value added modern business?

“There is no business to be done on a dead planet.” The legendary Sierra Club executive director David Brower spoke these words. I have found no quote that ties business and earth together with such profound simplicity. I will use the inspiration from this quote to look at our current system of business and give examples of more sustainable practices. To conclude this UAA Honors course on limits to growth, I revisit my earlier definition of our system as one based solely on the production, consumption and exchange of goods

L’atelier de Sisyphe - Sisiphus’ workshop, Garcin, 2001
L’atelier de Sisyphe – Sisiphus’ workshop, Garcin, 2001 The business cycle

tied to a free market, whereby anyone can envision, develop and deliver products as long as the end cost is competitive. In the market place, the consideration of “good” or “bad” in products is seldom distinguished. This has led us to a place where missiles and solar panels are evaluated using the same economic metrics. Both items have a purchaser and can be produced competitively within their own markets. Both count as forms of economic growth. Companies playing the economic game continually search for the edge that will maximize profit at other’s expense. We live in a society that constantly reminds us that at the end of the day the person who profits is the “winner”. When profit is of utmost importance, we ignore other values like happiness and spirituality that offer new ways to measure wealth. It is clear that this current economic system has major flaws that render it broken. Continue reading A new definition for economics


The 6 Rs: making a sustainable impact

By Saara J. Alatervo, College of Business and Public Policy and Honors College, University of Alaska, Anchorage. Saara J. Alatervo is an undergraduate business major and honors student.

America is a disposable nation. Each person on average produces more than 1,600 pounds of trash each year. In total, over 230 million tons of trash accumulates in landfills yearly in the United States. Seventy percent of the trash that makes its way to landfills could be recycled (Annenberg Foundation, 2012). Recycling is one of the 6 Rs of sustainability. The 6 Rs include: reinvent/rethink, refuse, reduce, reuse/repair, recycle, replace/rebuy. When we apply the 6 Rs to their lives we promote sustainable practices. But we must make the conscious effort to do so.  Continue reading The 6 Rs: making a sustainable impact

A Sustainable Cuba

By Anel Quiroz, a student in UAA’s Honors 192 course on Limits to Growth

A small island in the Caribbean that people usually associate with an evil dictator is one of the most sustainable countries in the world. This little island is the island of Cuba where the people might not have it all, and they may dislike their ruler but they have a healthier environment than most third world countries or first world countries. The island of Cuba has achieved a goal that most successful countries are too developed to reach in a lifetime. Cuba has learned how to sustain its people to succeed even if that success is slow. Cuba is a role model for all underdeveloped and developed countries to follow. Continue reading A Sustainable Cuba

Avoiding a Depression ≠ Happiness

By Jeremiah Eisele

Jeremiah EiseleBio: I am a student at the University of Alaska Anchorage where I am pursuing a BS in Electrical Engineering. I was born in Alaska, and I grew up in a rural area on the Kenai Peninsula. After high school, I attended vocational school, and then began working as an electrician. I worked as an electrician for about 15 years before deciding to return to school and pursue a degree in engineering. After graduation, I plan to stay in Alaska and work towards developing sustainable sources of energy within the state.

Most Americans have probably heard the phrase – money cannot buy happiness. But Americans spend much effort in the pursuit of wealth. Of course people need money to provide for themselves and their families, but once we have secured basic needs what else can money buy? Many people see the accumulation of wealth as a status symbol. We also use money to buy almost anything we might want, including luxury items, vacations, and even companionship or love. However, once we meet our basic needs, most other purchases satisfy some emotional need. The fulfillment of emotional needs with material possessions is typically short-lived. After all – emotions are feelings, not objects, and feelings fade unless rekindled.

The success of the United States as a nation is largely measured through the eyes of an economist. Arguably, the most important measure of the country’s success is its GDP – essentially the amount of “goods” produced by the nation. Economists use GDP extensively to determine the growth rate of the country. The growth rate of the United States has a direct correlation with the financial wealth of the American people. Since the prosperity of the country and its citizens are closely related, there is a great deal of desire to keep the economy growing. Therein lies the problem, and hopefully the solution. Continue reading Avoiding a Depression ≠ Happiness

Self-realization: from awareness to action

Swiss Alps 2011by Elizabeth Schoessler

With each topic that my University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) Honors class covered on the Limits to Growth, my faith in humanity decreased, and simultaneously, my faith in myself. I have the intelligence and educational background necessary to analyze and synthesize the facts. This class, along with my sociology and anthropology courses, demonstrated that for many, ignorance is truly bliss. The characteristics instilled in me by virtue of being an American make me feel guilty. Although I have a significant amount of information at hand, I have yet to overhaul my life or spark a change in others. I cannot help but ask myself what type of future lies ahead, and why can’t we change our behaviors? Continue reading Self-realization: from awareness to action

Operation Trash the Cuddy

By Saara Alatervo, Jade Aronson, Raine Becker, Emma Digert, Jeremiah Eisele, Claire Ferree, Austin Johnson, Kristina Khang, Anel Quiroz, Elizabeth Schoessler, Salomé Scott, Alexandra Weill, and other University of Alaska Anchorage Honors 192 students. . . writeup by Jeremiah Eisele and Mary Logan, with special thanks to Paula Williams, Director of the Office of Sustainability at UAA

184November 15th is America Recycles Day in the U.S. Local communities hold events to educate citizens on the methods and benefits of recycling. We are Honors 192 students at the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA), and this year we “Trashed the Cuddy” as part of a class project for America Recycles Day. UAA’s Office of Sustainability hosted the event, and Dr. Herminia Din’s Art 160 Art Appreciation Class was also involved. The primary goal of our event was to help fellow students understand the importance of waste reduction through the acts of reducing, reusing, and recycling. The goal was to create visual feedback that raises awareness about the volumes of waste we create. Currently society efficiently removes and hides our volumes of trash in landfills–out of sight, out of mind. In order to illustrate how rapidly trash accumulates, campus staff bagged a single day’s worth of trash from the entire university and we placed it on display outside Cuddy Hall. We surveyed students, and invited them to visit our educational area and get a bite to eat. Our class divided into four groups to work the event by surveying attendees, promoting and publicizing the event, researching the life cycles  of plastic bottles and aluminum cans, and documenting the event through still photos and the movie at the end of this post.  Continue reading Operation Trash the Cuddy

Young Voices–Generation iDontCare

by Monsieur le docteur Ralph (un nom de plume)

 

Our university has an eccentric, bow-tied math professor who is extremely fond of the quote from Piet Hein, “Problems worthy of attack, prove their worth by hitting back.” He uses the phrase to scold students who give up on a math problem simply because it seems difficult. After surviving a fair number of quantitative courses, I have felt the type of mental bruising that accompanies more worthy assignments and the satisfaction of defeating them. The realms of blackboards and quad-ruled notebooks also make fairly safe battlegrounds, but as much as I like to hide in that world, the Real World tends to find me anyway. That reality seems to be defined by its most immediate crisis – a never-ending stream of problems. These problems have always hit me, but I generally decided I was not equipped to solve them and surrendered to a ruse of apathy. Recently, my studies have exposed me to new people and ideas, and I have retreated from current issues less often. I still feel unprepared to deal with most global problems, especially those about politics or economics. They have become divisive to the point that calm discussion tends to be uncomfortable if not impossible. I have decided I am most concerned with and optimistic about environmental issues because society is already actively developing potential strategies and solutions, but I am frustrated by the collective indifference common among my peers. Continue reading Young Voices–Generation iDontCare