Email From The Future  

Posted by Big Gav

One email list I subscribe to is called "Future Edition" from The Arlington Institute. This one always catches my eye as its sent from an email address named "The Future", so it tends to stand out in my incredibly clogged in box. I came across this one a few years ago, I think courtesy of Kevin Kelly's List of lists, though it no longer makes the list (assuming it ever was there).

Future Edition tends to cover a lot of the issues I like to rant about - minus the tinfoil - though as it only comes out once a month its not apppropriate for a daily news fix. The latest edition (Volume 9, Number 14) has a number of interesting links on the usual wide range of topics - I'll quote just a sample below.

Great Warming: Call to Action

The launch of a major statement calling for immediate action on climate change has brought together a diverse coalition of voices from every spectrum of thought, all of whom believe that environmental stewardship and creation care must become a top policy priority.

The statement, which is being issued in advance of the November 3 release of the new climate change film The Great Warming, is one part of a major initiative by the coalition and the film’s producer Stonehaven Productions to engage Americans in proactive action and advocacy. The coalition is urging all Americans to see the movie and thus let elected officials at all levels know that global warming is an urgent priority.

The Great Warming Call to Action statement -- signed by high-profile religious leaders from across the faith and ideological spectrum, key policy-makers, celebrities, environmental groups, and many of the most respected scientists in the world -- calls on our country to take immediate action to address climate change.

Regal Cinemas, which does not generally release independent documentary films, committed to a national release of The Great Warming following months of calls from people who viewed the documentary in their communities and churches and became convinced that the movie must reach a broad audience in order to galvanize action on climate change.
http://www.thegreatwarming.com/

FUTURE FACTS - FROM THINK LINKS

DID YOU KNOW THAT...

* Greenland had a net loss of 100 gigatons of ice per year between 2003 and 2005.
* 2,000 sq km of Nigeria is becoming desert each year.
* Plug-in hybrid vehicles could replace 80 percent of the gasoline used in the United States.
* In some countries, including Germany, Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands, there is no longer any night sky untainted by light pollution.
* Incandescent light bulbs turn 5 percent of the energy they use into light. The other 95 percent is wasted.

ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES

Greenland Ice Sheet on a Downward Slide -- (Science Daily -- October 22, 2006)
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/10/061019162746.htm
For the first time NASA scientists have analyzed data from direct, detailed satellite measurements to show that ice losses now far surpass ice gains in the shrinking Greenland ice sheet.

Imagine Earth without People -- (New Scientist -- October 12, 2006)
http://www.newscientist.com/channel/earth/mg19225731.100?DCMP=NLC-nletter&nsref=mg19225731.100
If tomorrow dawns without humans, even from orbit the change will be evident almost immediately, as the blaze of artificial light that brightens the night begins to wink out.

Climate Water Threat to Millions -- (BBC -- October 20, 2006)
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/6068348.stm
Climate change threatens supplies of water for millions of people in poorer countries. Recent research suggests that by 2050, five times as much land is likely to be under "extreme" drought as now.

Solar Flares Will Disrupt GPS in 2011 -- (New Scientist -- September 29, 2006)
http://www.newscientisttech.com/article/dn10189-solar-flares-will-disrupt-gps-in-2011.html
Global Positioning System receivers have been found to be unexpectedly vulnerable to bursts of radio noise produced by solar flares. When solar activity peaks in 2011 and 2012, it could cause widespread disruption to aircraft navigation and emergency location systems that rely heavily on satellite navigation data.

Pollinators' Decline Called Threat to Crops -- (Washington Post -- October 19, 2006)
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/18/AR2006101801712.html?referrer=email
Birds, bees, bats and other species that pollinate North American plant life are losing population. This "demonstrably downward" trend could damage dozens of commercially important crops, since three-quarters of all flowering plants depend on pollinators for fertilization.

The Freshwater Boom is Over -- (The Guardian -- October 10, 2006)
http://www.truthout.org/issues_06/101006EB.shtml
While climate scientists have been predicting that the wet parts of the world are likely to become wetter and the dry parts drier, they had assumed that overall rainfall would rise, as higher temperatures increase evaporation. This new paper's "drought index" covers both rainfall and evaporation and shows that, overall, the world becomes drier.

Antarctic Ice Shelf Collapse Tied to Global Warming -- (Environment NS-- October 16, 2006)
http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/oct2006/2006-10-16-03.asp
Scientists reported the first direct evidence linking the 2002 collapse of an Antarctic ice shelf to global warming. The researchers found that stronger westerly winds in the northern Antarctic Peninsula, fueled primarily by human-induced climate change, were responsible for the dramatic summer warming that led to the retreat and collapse of the Larsen B ice shelf.

Ozone Hole is a Double Record Breaker -- (NASA -- October 19, 2006)
http://www.nasa.gov/vision/earth/lookingatearth/ozone_record.html
This year's ozone hole in the polar region of the Southern Hemisphere has broken records for area and depth. From September 21 to 30, the average area of the ozone hole was the largest ever observed, at 10.6 million square miles.

ENERGY DEVELOPMENTS

Existing Tech Could Replace Fossil Fuels -- (MIT Technology Review -- September 01, 2006)
http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/posts.aspx?id=17381

Researchers say that the combined use of alternative energies for which we already have reliable technology "could replace all fossil fuel power plants." And that the use of hydrogen for vehicle fuel is a bad idea in most cases - as using electricity directly in vehicles (stored in batteries) rather than to generate hydrogen is three times cheaper.

The Cost of Lighting the World -- (BBC -- October 23, 2006)
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/6067900.stm

A major advance in light technology is not far away. The latest advances have been light-emitting diodes - LEDs - and are developing at a very fast rate. Because the individual LEDs are so small, they can be put into highly efficient optical systems.

Regular readers will remember I recently linked to David Martin's talk at The Arlington Institute on 2008 and the possibility of economic gyrations caused by the implementation of Basel 2.

The latest talk they have up is from Daniel Pinchbeck, the author of "Breaking Open The Head" and "2012: The Return Of Quetzalcoatl", on the subject of 2012 and what he sees as the factors that point to major changes occurring around that time.

I can't see a transcript (though hopefully one will appear at some point) but its worth having a listen to even if you have some reservations about Pinchbeck (which I know some readers do). He talks largely about the ecological crisis - including species extinction, global warming and peak oil as factors in this - as the driving force for change - declaring that continuing business as usual is a "suicide scenario". He touches on the subject of the competing scenarios of collapse versus a positive change towards a sustainable high tech society several times (which we often see in the peak oil world as the collapsist / doomer vs the techno utopian / viridian argument) and takes the view that its preferable to aim for a better future than to simply accept that the status quo will continue to deteriorate, pointing to William McDonough's "Cradle to cradle" vision as one way forward.

While I can't remember the phrasing exactly, he also talked about the problematic case of some activists who become so discouraged by the lack of progress they end up wishing collapse would occur. He used the metaphor (quite apt given his Quetzalcoatl book) of a snake shedding an old skin - you can't just rip the old skin off and grow a new one - instead the thing is left on and dies / falls away gradually - so patience and a gradual turnaround of attitudes are required.

This reminds me of a couple of work anecdotes I was going to throw into the mix, so I may as well do it here. The first involves my "boss" (by and large I tend to do my own thing when I go to work at a company so I use this term pretty loosely) who did a presentation a couple of months ago where he threw in a line about "if I was a conservationist I'd give up driving my 5 litre V8 car, blah blah blah - but I'm not a conservationist, so I'm going to keep driving it". Last week I saw a copy of "An Inconvenient Truth" on his desk and quipped "I thought you weren't a conservationist !", and he - much to my surprise - said "I'm changing my mind". So it seems Al Gore is having an effect.

The second anecdote is about a executive who gave us a talk on how to convince the organisation to do what you want (my group tends to deal in vision but doesn't have much direct authority to make people do things - which isn't unlike being a blogger really). He had 7 talking points, which went as follows:

1) Begin with the end in mind (the old Steven Covey maxim)
2) Put yourself in the other person's shoes
3) Synthesis (be able to combine and shift between the big picture and the details)
4) Take People On A Journey
5) Accountability
6) Conditioning and Patterned Behaviour
7) Little Agreements

To illustrate the last point, he used an example of techniques the North Koreans used on American prisoners of war - first getting them to agree that they were being held in an acceptable physical environment, then later that the food was OK, then later that they were being treated well, then later that perhaps the North Koreans might not be as bad as they were made out to be etc etc etc. The point being that to convince someone he totally disgrees with you its best to do it very gradually, not try to get them to do an about face (which won't happen) - not to say that North Korea is good. Nevertheless I'm anticipating the next iteration of management texts (following the Sun Tzu / Art of War, Machiavelli / The Prince genre of management textbook fads) will start telling us to act like Kim Il Sung....

Back to Daniel Pinchbeck, I've linked previously to his interview with RU Sirius, he also had a profile done recently by Rolling Stone that he wasn't too happy about. Plenty of other background can be found at his blog. RI has also done some tinfoil takes on Pinchbeck's work - see Full Spectrum Dominance and Chant Down Babylon.
Rolling Stone has an interesting profile of Daniel Pinchbeck, son of an abstract painter and a beatnik book editor. Pinchbeck writes books about and turns people on to ayahuasca, "an Amazonian jungle brew that carries the DMT compound, usually combining the leaves of a plant containing DMT with a vine found snaking around rain-forest trees, whose beta-carbolines make the DMT orally active."
[Pinchbeck] took it for the first time about ten years ago in downtown Manhattan with a California shaman introduced to him by the poet Michael Brownstein; Pinchbeck wore Depends and a blindfold, and kept a plastic vomit bucket by his head.

...

Vocal proponents of alternate realities, like Sting and Oliver Stone, have been open about their experiments with ayahuasca, and in the hipster circles where ayahuasca has taken root, many people are making weeklong trips to Peru, which cost about $600 without airfare and include about four ayahuasca ceremonies. It's a kind of Merry Tripster scene, with guided shamanic journeys to Peru, Colombia and Hawaii available nearly monthly with shamans like a white-turbaned, middle-aged female guru from L.A. who channels a spirit called "the Mother," and with whom Pinchbeck has a close relationship.

The "Breaking Open The Head" style of writing (and experimentation) seems to follow (much less rigorously) in the footsteps of Wade Davis (and before him Richard Evans Schultes - in the ethnobotanist sense - and Terrence McKenna - in a more purely psychedelic sense).

I've referred to Wade Davis before as I think most readers of this blog would find him very interesting (he does a lot of work for National Geographic - there is a good interview here - and the shamanic drug thing is just one small aspect of the natural world that he investigates). A few of you may remember a glowing review I wrote of "The Serpent and the Rainbow", which I laughingly subtitled "How to make a zombie" - which is actually quite an eye opener that helps you understand the background of Haitian zombies and the fact that they actually real (honest - read the book - its an entirely rational phenomena once you understand how it works). Other books I highly recommend of his include Light at the Edge of the World, Shadows in the Sun and Rainforest: Ancient Realm of the Pacific Northwest.
Q:You're a passionate advocate of the need to ensure the survival of cultural diversity. Why does diversity matter, if nature and society are changing all the time anyway?

A:Just as there is a biological web of life, there is also a cultural and spiritual web of life—what we at the National Geographic have taken to calling the "ethnosphere." It's really the sum total of all the thoughts, beliefs, myths, and institutions brought into being by the human imagination. It is humanity's greatest legacy, embodying everything we have produced as a curious and amazingly adaptive species. The ethnosphere is as vital to our collective well-being as the biosphere. And just as the biosphere is being eroded, so is the ethnosphere—if anything, at a far greater rate.

Some people say: "What does it matter if these cultures fade away." The answer is simple. When asked the meaning of being human, all the diverse cultures of the world respond with 10,000 different voices. Distinct cultures represent unique visions of life itself, morally inspired and inherently right. And those different voices become part of the overall repertoire of humanity for coping with challenges confronting us in the future. As we drift toward a blandly amorphous, generic world, as cultures disappear and life becomes more uniform, we as a people and a species, and Earth itself, will be deeply impoverished.

Q:You argue that the steady loss of languages, which are reportedly disappearing at a rate of one every two weeks, is an alarming indicator of declining cultures. What do languages represent that makes you so fiercely concerned about their demise?

A: Language isn't just a body of vocabulary or a set of grammatical rules; it's a flash of the human spirit, the vehicle through which the soul of each particular culture comes into the material world. When you and I were born there were 6,000 languages spoken on Earth. Now, fully half are not being taught to schoolchildren. Effectively, they're already dead unless something changes. What this means is that we are living through a period of time in which, within a single generation or two, by definition half of humanity's cultural legacy is being lost in a single generation. Whereas cultures can lose their language and maintain some semblance of their former selves, in general, it's the beginning of a slippery slope towards assimilation and acculturation and, in some sense, annihilation.

Heading back to TAI, as I like to know a little bit about the background of my information sources (though I'm not as rigorous as I should be about checking up on some places I link to), I did a little search to see what came up on The Arlington Institute. The results were quite intriguing - from their "SourceWatch / Disinfopedia" profile:
Best described by Jonathan Mowat:
The Arlington Institute (TAI), is an apparent strategist in the use of postmodern coups. It was founded in 1989 by John L. Petersen, in order, in his own words, " to help redefine the concept of national security in much larger, comprehensive terms by introducing the rapidly evolving global trends of population growth, environmental degradation, and science and technology explosion, and social value shifts into the traditional national defense equation." Among its board members are Jack DuVall, the former US Air Force officer who is director of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict in Washington, DC and James Woolsey, the former Clinton administration CIA director and neocon spokesman who is currently the chairman of Freedom House.

The need for an organization like the Arlington Institute, its website reports, "evolved from the bipartisan, eighteen-month long National Security Group project that Petersen co-founded and jointly led in Washington, DC, in 1986-7. That ad-hoc group of national security experts was brought together to explore and map the security environment that the successful candidate would have to operate within after the 1988 presidential campaign. Petersen also wrote the final report for the group, 'The Diffusion of Power: An Era of Realignment,' which became a strategy document used at the highest levels of the Department of Defense."

"In the early part of the 90s," it adds, "Petersen was engaged in a number of projects for the Department of Defense which functioned to build a systematic understanding of the major approaches that were then being used to study and anticipate futures. One notable project for the Office of the Secretary of Defense involved traveling throughout the world visiting the foremost practitioners of futures research to assess each methodology and attempt to develop a new, synthetic approach that drew from the best of the then current processes." Petersen became an advisor to a number of senior defense officials during this time, serving in various personal support roles to the undersecretary of the Navy and the chief of Naval Operations, among others.

Midway through the 1990s, it adds, "Petersen became convinced that humanity was living in an extraordinary time of change that would necessarily result in a major global shift [of power?] within the following two decades. TAI committed itself to playing a significant role in facilitating a global transition to a new world that operates in a fundamentally different way from the past."
Principals

* John L. Petersen – founder
* Jack DuVall – board member
* James Woolsey – board member


As Woolsey is one of the geo greens its interesting that TAI are looking at ecological overshoot in its various forms - normally geo green policy is framed in terms of energy security rather than ecology. On the whole I tend to approve of their goals (even if their rhetoric often leaves me unmoved - at least it uses an angle which would appeal to kneejerk reactionaries and get them to do the right thing in spite of some of their underlying prejudices about environmentalists), though I'm sure my left leaning readers would be suspicious, let alone tinfoil types who see the combination of elite policy makers and action regarding the limits to growth as a plot to maintain the economics of scarcity.

Some of the stuff talked about by both David Martin and Daniel Pinchbeck at TAI features in this latest prophecy of doom from Kevin at Cryptogon (I'll get my tinfoil in early tonight) as he considers the implications of a warning from the chief of the GAO in the US - it seems the planets of the military industrial complex, the technology sector, the new agers, the environmental movement and tinfoil clad survivalists (though perhaps permaculturists is more accurate in Kevin's case, which is a bit of a weird combination) are all moving into alignment. Kevin is also speculating that martial law is about to be introduced in the US and that Ras Tanura in Saudi Arabia (the linchpin of the world's oil supply) may be about to go up , as part of a false flag operation to kick off a war with Iran - which would be the October suprise to end all October surprises if it happened...
Maybe David Walker and the gang didn't get the memo on the mysterious buyers... Doesn't the eerie "bid" in the equity markets help them sleep peacefully at night?

This show would have already come down if it wasn't for the macroeconomic black ops. Rather than allowing this thing to die, it is being kept in an undead state for as long as possible.

With the debt closing in on $9 trillion, we're already living well within the realm of financial make believe. Could the debt reach $46 trillion or more? There's no purely economic reason why it couldn't. I don't see any difference between $9 trillion and $100 trillion. IT'S ALL FAKE AT THIS POINT.

Here's a list of things that are---unlike "Economics"---very real:

Water scarcity
Energy scarcity
Food scarcity
Raw materials scarcity
Weather cataclysms/global warming
In a word, 'Overshoot'

Any one of those issues could deliver a kill shot to this horror show we call the global economy. And, as I'm sure you already know, they're all starting to impact at the same time. But never mind all of that, just pay attention to "the terrorists." The terrorists! LOOK OUT!!! THE TERRORISTS!!! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

Their basic message is this: If the United States government conducts business as usual over the next few decades, a national debt that is already $8.5 trillion could reach $46 trillion or more, adjusted for inflation. That's almost as much as the total net worth of every person in America - Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and those Google guys included.

A hole that big could paralyze the U.S. economy; according to some projections, just the interest payments on a debt that big would be as much as all the taxes the government collects today. And every year that nothing is done about it, Walker says, the problem grows by $2 trillion to $3 trillion.

Heading back to the subject of collapse and framing of the peak oil issue, a recent DrumBeat at The Oil Drum had a bit of discussion around this, after Odograph kindly quoted John Robb and myself commenting on how unfortunate it is that "conventional belief" is that "peak oil = collapse" (Odo copped some angry doomer bile for his trouble).
Do you really think that the opposite of believing that doom is inevitable is to think "all we have to do is believe that everything will be OK?"

No. I think the honest, pragmatic, and humble approach is to work just as hard as you can for solutions, and let the result be your answer.

We won't really know until it plays out, and as that quote says, assuming failure helps determine the outcome.

...

BTW, this is really about "framing" in the "don't think of an elephant" sense.

"Peak oil" has, in my opinion been successfully framed as a flavor of doom. That's too bad because it limits the role that concept can play in conventional politics and society.

Framing matters, especially when it successful but ungrounded in facts. Was the Iraq invasion a "war on terror?" I don't think so, but I see the cost of it being successfully famed that way.

Do the members of the "peak oil" movement want to make a real impact on national politics, or do they want to be written of as doomers? It's up to you .. but mind your framing.


Leanan is of the view that collapse is inevitable (based on Tainter's theory of the collapse of complex societies), which is something I have a lot of trouble accepting is justified by the facts - so I'll repeat my own comments from TOD (with a whole lot of typo fixes and additions) here:
All societies seem to collapse eventually. But they also seem (thus far) to be able to reconfigure and achieve yet more complex forms during subsequent iterations of civilisation (or empire, or whatever you'd like to call it).

So if you take a relatively short term view, societies collapse (for various reasons - but lets assume destroying their own resource base is the primary cause), and become less complex.

If you take a longer term view, societies have always become more complex over time (or, to put it another way, people have managed to continually develop more complex technologies and organisational structures in order to achieve more complex goals). Of course, some societies simply perish - there is an element of survival of the fittest going on.

If you believe we'll never get more "work" from energy than we do now (or whenever the oil peak arrives) then maybe the inevitable collapse case could be justified (though I think there are still scenarios where this wouldn't be the case if you are willing to entertain dieoff as but one step in the process - but this isn't a path I'm interested in exploring).

However, I don't see it this way - there is massive scope for efficiency gains (increasing net 'work" from available energy) and there is massive scope for harnessing other energy sources (solar and wind in particular) - and I think further increases in "complexity" will be required to implement these.

I don't define complexity as increasingly pronounced hierarchy and centralisation though...

...

One of my points is that energy is a rather flexible concept (though few people seem to talk about this).

There is how much energy you can harvest from a given source - and then there is how much "work" you can do with it (based on how efficiently you utilise it).

People focus on the harvesting side (and I still say there is scope for improving how much we can harvest from alternative sources) - but they ignore what efficiency gains can mean (and its these that determine the amount of "work").

A peak oil downslope can still mean a plateau or upslope on a "work" curve if you can use the energy available effectively enough.

Does anyone really think we're even half way to optimising our efficiency of energy usage ?

What I'd like to see is 2 graphs that complement the oil depletion model - a "total energy" graph (including all forms of energy that could be harvested) - and a "total work" graph (showing the end result of using this energy - a concept which might take some work, pardon the pun, to define).

In some ways "total energy" would be like an oil depletion model that accounts for declining EROEI (Mobjectivist once had a great graph that showed this which I can't find the link for right now) but include solar, wind, tidal, geothermal, biofuel etc as well.

"Total work" would be a little like Duncan's Olduvai "per capita energy" graph - but adjusted so that it actually means something - its the "work" thats important, not the energy per se.

Both of these are even harder to estimate than oil depletion models but worth a shot with some documented assumptions - perhaps viewed under a set of scenarios like the Limits to Growth did.

If all 3 graphs trend down under a reasonable set of assumptions then I'd concede we're in trouble and the collapse scenario makes sense - but my feeling is that we'd see a plateau in graph 2 and an uptrend in graph 3 if a number of fairly simple actions were undertaken...

I'm not sure if anyone has ever tried modelling either of these but if you've ever seen something similar send me a link...

Odograph himself has a problems with fisheries off California, along with one on the unethusiastic response to the appointment of Lee "Jabba" Raymond to the head of a committee looking at the energy crisis (presumably this is intended to scuttle meaningful action). Odo also has a great series of scanned images that he posts every now and then from a book showing various cities around a century ago.
Commercial fishing causes serious fluctuations in fish populations leaving them in danger of total collapse, says new research published today. These fluctuations mean current measures in place to control fish stocks may not be sufficient to ensure their sustainability.

The research, which is published in today’s Nature, involved compiling the largest ever survey of both exploited fish and non-exploited fish off the California coast. The research team looked at how the abundance of both types of fish varied over a 50 year period, and found the first evidence that exploited species’ population levels vary far more than non exploited species’ in the same ecosystem.

I’ve come to believe that the only safe fishery strategy is to implement “no take zones” large enough to support base populations. This sort of article reinforces that belief. Unfortunately, the “no take” or “marine preserve” idea is spreading very slowly.

The Sydney Morning Herald's "Scorched Earth" special continues this weekend, with a report called Climate comes in from the cold, that features the Clean Energy for Eternity group down on the south coast.
For Matthew Nott, it all started on New Year's Day.

Across the state, near-record temperatures drove many people indoors, demand for electricity soared as air-conditioning units were switched on and railway tracks buckled in the heat.

At Tathra Beach, 20 minutes east of Bega on the South Coast, where Nott had gone to cool off, the temperature had soared to 42 degrees by 10am. "I was reading Tim Flannery's The Weather Makers and I thought 'What a juxtaposition, this book about climate change and record temperatures'," says Nott, an orthopedic surgeon who moved to the Bega Valley six years ago with his family.

It was a juxtaposition he says changed his life. With no political or environmental experience before then, Nott has since spent his spare time researching climate change. He was disturbed by what he discovered: predictions from the world's leading scientists that man-made greenhouse gases being pumped into the atmosphere would dramatically alter the earth's climate, and evidence some of the changes were taking place.

Frustrated by a lack of government action on the problem, in May Nott rallied 3000 residents in the Bega Shire to form a human sign on Tathra Beach that read "Clean Energy for Eternity". From that event, a small group of activists was formed to encourage the local council to cut energy consumption in the shire and source some of its electricity from renewable energy. The group has started to talk to residents in the neighbouring shires of Eurobodalla and Snowy River about similar programs.

While grassroots groups like this one were springing up all over Australia, little was changing in the top political echelons.

The Howard Government remained a steadfast critic of the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement to tackle climate change, and argued any attempt to penalise greenhouse gas polluters would damage the economy. Government ministers continued to play down the link between climate change, urban water shortages and the widespread drought.

But suddenly, two weeks ago, the Government's tune appeared to change.The Prime Minister, who had long scoffed at the "gloomy predictions" about climate change, finally made the link between drought and global warming.

Was this a sudden change of heart from a Government derided by many for its "go slow" attitude on climate change? And if so, what prompted it? An increasing sense of urgency about the devastation wrecked by the drought appears to be part of it. But political commentators, the Opposition and green groups say the Government's conversion is more rhetoric than real and is purely driven by public opinion.

"I think [the recent change] is utterly poll driven," says Greens senator Christine Milne. "In the federal budget, Costello did not once mention climate change and did not say the cost of the drought would blow out the budget. "Two weeks ago Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane said [the climate change documentary] An Inconvenient Truth was "just entertainment" and Howard said we shouldn't exaggerate the link between climate change and the drought. Then, Friday week ago they suddenly changed their position," Milne says. "The polling shows the Australian community have put two and two together and see that drought, more and hotter bushfires, the water shortage and climate change are all connected and they blame the Government for 10 years of inaction."

A Lowy Institute poll released in early October found 68 per cent of Australians believed climate change was a "critical threat" that should be immediately addressed, even if this involved significant costs.

Energy experts and opposition parties described this week's announcement by the Treasurer, Peter Costello, of a $75 million grant for a solar power plant in regional Victoria as "short-term thinking" and a one-off. Greenpeace's energy campaigner, Mark Wakeham, welcomed the funding but said the company behind the plant had admitted it might not have gone ahead if it was not for a Victorian Government renewable energy support scheme and this highlighted the Federal Government's inadequate policies.

"If you are going to tackle climate change you need systemic change," says Wakeham. "You need a price on carbon … you need incentives for all renewable energy, not just funding for one project.

"If that is the Government's response to climate change then we should be worried."

GetUp is organising a series of marches around the country on November 4 called the Walk Against Warming.



On Saturday November 4, we're taking our CLIMATE ACTION MESSAGE to the streets in support of the Walk Against Warming, which is kicking off in capital cities and towns all across the country. Meet other GetUp members and join tens of thousands of people nationwide for a few hours in a fun, unified and highly visible action for our future.

With climate change firmly on the front page now is the perfect time to exert pressure on our politicians to take global warming seriously, and give us responsible leadership for our future.

Meanwhile the forecast is for higher temperatures and falling dam levels.
RAINFALL is at record lows, temperatures have been steadily rising, water storage levels are well below average - and there is no relief in sight. Dams providing water for almost all of Australia's major urban centres have had no significant boosts for several years, and they continue to be drawn down.

The bleak picture of the drought is detailed in a report by the National Water Commission, which warns that Australia is unlikely to see drought-breaking rain before next year. "In short, Australia's water supplies have been seriously affected by a succession of poor seasons and the outlook is not promising," the report says. That view is backed by seasonal forecasts from meteorologists, who believe less rain and higher temperatures are likely in the next three months.

The reports came as John Howard continued his tour of drought-affected regions and ABARE forecast a massive drop in livestock and grain crops.

The latest long-range outlook for rainfall and temperatures from the bureau suggests a long, hot summer for much of the country after higher-than-average temperatures in the Pacific and Indian oceans.

In another example of everything being connected, the drought is also being blamed for falling fish catches.
SHOPPERS will pay more than $50 a kilogram for fresh king prawns this Christmas.

Fish prices across the board will also go up about $4 or $5 a kilogram because, like prawns, the catch is well down.

North Coast fishermen blame the drought and high diesel prices and say competition from imports doesn't help.

The drought on the land has resulted in the failure of the southern estuaries - such as the Hawkesbury, Nepean, Hunter and Shoalhaven rivers and Wallis Lakes - to discharge nutrients and young fish and prawns into the ocean.

Coffs Harbour Fishermen's Co-operative general manager Phillip Neuss said that, usually, there was a reasonable catch of prawns but the tonnages had dropped.

"We got 177 tonnes in 2002, 119 tonnes in 2004, 85 tonnes in 2005 and 69 tonnes this year," he said. "So the catch is 61 per cent down on the good year in 2002, a loss of about $1.8 million.

"All our catch comes from the north after being flushed out of the river systems but we are getting very little because of the drought."

The SMH also has a report on the slowing down of the North Atlantic current - apparently part of it stopped briefly in 2004. RealClimate also had a post on this current recently, along with another containg some warnings about quoting the mainstream media on climate science.
Scientists have uncovered more evidence of a dramatic weakening in the vast ocean current that gives Western Europe its relatively balmy climate by dragging warm water northwards from the tropics.

The slowdown of the North Atlantic Drift, which climate modellers have predicted will follow global warming, has been confirmed by the most detailed study yet of ocean flow in the Atlantic.

Most alarmingly, the data reveals part of the current, usually 60 times more powerful than the Amazon River, came to a temporary halt during November 2004.

The nightmare scenario of a shutdown in the meridional ocean current that drives the Gulf Stream was dramatically portrayed in disaster film The Day After Tomorrow.

That scenario had Europe and North America plunged into a new ice age virtually overnight. Although no scientist thinks the switch-off could happen that fast, they do agree that even a weakening over a few decades would have profound consequences.

MonkeyGrinder has been looking into his crystal ball and foresees further pyramid construction.
Oil stuck below $159, traders question OPEC resolve

SINGAPORE (Reuteres) Oil deepened losses below $159 a barrel on Tuesday as traders waited for evidence that other OPEC members would follow Saudi Arabia's lead in cutting output.

U.S. light, sweet crude dipped 12 cents to $158.69 a barrel by 0148 GMT, extending a 52-cent fall on Monday . Prices hit a 2008 low of $156.55 a barrel last week and stand 25 percent below a record-high traded in July. London Brent fell 26 cents to $158.95 a barrel.

Top global exporter Saudi Arabia told its customers at the weekend that it would give them less crude in November, making good on its part in an OPEC deal last week to cut production by 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd) to try to stem falling prices.

The kingdom told Asian refiners that it would cut their sales by up to 8 percent versus October's levels and told oil majors that it would deepen earlier curbs by another 5 percent, but most others members have yet to show evidence of reducing output.

With oil prices still high by historical measures, analysts have questioned whether the full cuts OPEC agreed to will be implemented, and oil traders appear to be waiting for the proof.

"Until another third world country starves to death following the cut on stockpile levels we don’t expect a response" from prices, said Blonkles Gurb, a commodities analyst at National Paraguay Bank. "It may be a few weeks before anything happens (to stocks)."

Some OPEC ministers said another 500,000 bpd reduction could follow when the group meets in Abuja in December as they fear a supply glut could develop in the second quarter if peak winter demand fails to draw down toppy stockpiles.

Meanwhile, in the face of oil production cuts, construction of the huge asphalt pyramid commemorating the American-Iran conflict continues unabated in Saudi Arabia.

I'll close with Billmon looking at media coverage of the upcoming US elections.
No one in the corporate media, to my knowledge, has even come close to putting an accurate lead on the story -- which would look something like this:
Faced with the likely loss of one if not both houses of Congress, the Republican Party has embarked on a massive, last-ditch effort to smear Democratic challengers in competitive districts across the country.

The resulting campaign has completely demolished whatever minor restraints remained on the use of lies and distortions in political attack ads, and has pushed the already debased American political process to a new low.


A "straight" journalist couldn't possibly write a lead like that and expect to get it past his/her editor -- even though the Republicans themselves revealed their intentions quite clearly some weeks ago:
The National Republican Congressional Committee, which this year dispatched a half-dozen operatives to comb through tax, court and other records looking for damaging information on Democratic candidates, plans to spend more than 90 percent of its $50 million-plus advertising budget on what officials described as negative ads.

Opposition research is power," said Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds (N.Y.), the NRCC chairman. "Opposition research is the key to defining untested opponents."

The only fresh "news" is that the resulting ads are even fouler and more despicable than any the Rovian machine has unleashed in the past -- to the point where some of them would probably have made Joseph Goebbels himself blush.


The way the media is currently handling the GOP's Swiftboat extravaganza is a textbook example of how the conventions of journalistic "objectivity" have become the enemies of truth, not its allies. It shows why so many on the left are so angry even with "responsible," non-Foxified news organizations: because they insist on describing a moral equivalence that factually doesn't exist -- and which many, if not most, reporters know does not exist.

The Democrats certainly aren't the Children of Light here, and there's no question liberals are perfectly capable of ignoring the motes in their own eyes -- and those of their political patrons. The general reaction in Left Blogistan to the reporting on Harry Reid's land dealings in Nevada was a good example. Lefty bloggers generally fell all over themselves excusing Reid's financial ties to an extremely dirty circle of local Las Vegas pols (to find out how dirty, Google "Operation G-string" or "Rick Rizzolo") and arguing that the Minority Leader's failure to disclose his partnership with a known mob attorney was a mere technicality. Reid's dealings may not have been illegal, or even unethical, but I have absolutely no doubt that if he had been a Republican pol caught with the same pair of pants around his ankles, the cries at Daily Kos for a special prosecutor would have been deafening.

But at some point refusing to recognize the disproportionality -- a disciplined, lavishly funded and utterly ruthless authoritarian machine on one side; the usual run of backslapping bribe takers on the other -- becomes a form of lying, and we're long past that point.

When even Chris Matthews can smell the odor wafting from "Ken Mehlman's cesspool," you know how strong the stench is, but most journalists, most of the time, continue to flee from the truth: that the GOP machine will use every totalitarian propaganda trick in the book, if need be, to keep all three branches of the federal government in its grip. Or, at a minimum, that the men at the top -- Rove, Mehlman and, of course, Junior -- show no signs of having any limits on their willingness to use such techniques.

The sinking sensation this produces in my stomach is comparable to the feeling I had after the Abu Ghraib story broke, when it quickly became clear that torture and sexual abuse had been used as routine tools of interrogation not just in Iraq but at Guantanamo and in Afghanistan, but the corporate media insisted on treating the Cheney Administration's lies as equal to, if not greater than, the events unfolding in front of their eyes.

I could, of course, cite other examples -- the WMD fraud, the secret wiretapping, the insane debate over whether the sectarian slaughter in Iraq qualifies as a "civil war," and so on. But the common denominator, in each case, was the corporate media's stubborn, and I would say deliberate, insistence on "balancing" obvious lies and partisan spin against the facts. Truth versus truthiness.

Needless to say, if the TV bimbos and the ink-stained wretches were willing to give the Geneva Convention that kind of treatment, it's no surprise they're willing to do the same in a political campaign -- which, after all, tend to be vapid, vicious, inane and dishonest even at the best of times. But every failure to draw some kind of line, to make a distinction between "both parties are doing it" and "one of the two parties is completely out of control," encourages the out-of-control party to behave even more outrageously. In the end, it will also force the Democrats to respond in kind (that is, if they want to survive) thus making ABC's prediction that the left, too, will unleash it's garbage a self-fulfilling prophesy.

...

To me it looks as if a conscious, corporate decision has been made to try to hold (or win back) the conservative "red state" news audience even if it means losing the liberal "blue state" audience. Whether this is because the conservative news audience is larger and more affluent, or because the strategists at Viacom, Disney, GE and Time Warner have decided that liberals are less likely to change channels when their ideological beliefs are offended, or because the more demographically desirable blue state audiences have long since "self selected" their way out of old media's reach all together, I don't know. But when Mark Halperin promises Bill O'Reilly he will feel his pain, or the CBS Evening News gives every conservative nut job in America a spot on "Free Speech," or NBC refuses to accept an ad for the Dixie Chicks documentary because it disrepects Shrub, or Time puts Ann Coulter on the cover, I think they're making economic statements as much as journalistic ones.

You could say: To hell with old media, they're just a bunch of senile dinosaurs anyway, who cares who they pander to? But old media, for better or worse, still set the news agenda, and still dominate the political process. And they're doing an energetic, if not yet totally successful, job of sucking up new media and sticking them in the same corporate straight jacket. If they decide, as matter of cold capitalist calculation, that one-party Republican rule is the smart way to bet, that could also become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Maybe I'm wrong -- I hope I am. But if I'm right, then in years to come progressives may look back and sigh for the good old days when journalistic "objectivity" still encouraged the corporate media to give the truth and conservative propaganda equal weight, instead of just mindlessly repeating the latter.

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