The Economics of Happiness is a documentary by Helena Norberg-Hodge. It is an all-encompassing film for me that shines a bright light on how to deal with the climate crisis. It has much more to say about how we live than just let’s not burn fossil fuels anymore. Helena comes to visit a village in Tibet, and over the course of some 35 years, witnesses a way of life that is rich and very different from the Western world she knows. She sees the transformation after the Pepsi truck comes to town in the form of consumerism. What was once a vibrant people proud of their song, dress, and way of life is destroyed by the consumer economy. It is a film well worth watching.
Attached is an interview hosted by Nate Hagens with Bill Rees. This interview is a must if you don’t know what Overshoot is. Even if you do, it is well worth watching. Overshoot basically means we are using more resources than the planet can regenerate or won’t be able to regenerate. When some resources like oil are gone, they are gone. This is something that economists have never wanted to take into consideration, as Bill explains.
Attached is the recent interview by Nate Hagens with Arthur Berman, “Peak Oil – The Hedonic Adjustment.” You may or may not be familiar with the term peak oil. Regardless, this interview is a must. Many have debunked peak oil or at the very least kicked the peak oil can down the road. My definition for peak oil is the half way of oil reserves in a country or globally. Obviously, the remaining half of the oil will be depleted much more rapidly than the first half due to the increase in population and the additional uses for oil.
I always say that if they are trying to get oil out of tar sands, the end of oil is not that far away. If you are not familiar with tar sands, look up Alberta Tar Sands. And, as clearly stated in the interview, oil runs the whole global economy. Art Berman discovers some important and disturbing facts while getting ready for this interview. Spend some time and watch this. It is important that people know these things and are prepared. Please share it. Thank you.
There is nothing scarier to the majority of scientists . . . and me . . . than geoengineering. For anyone that is unfamiliar with that term, it is the process of spraying sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere to keep the sun from warming the planet. Shannon Osaka wrote an article in the Washington Post on January 9, 2023, called, “This firm is working to control the climate. Should the world let it?”
Osaka reports that regardless of the risks, Luke Iseman, the founder and CEO of Make Sunsets, is acting on his own without any world decision to go ahead with geoengineering experiments. He is going to make that call for the whole world? Granted he is doing it on a small scale but that is not some decision I personally want him trying out on the planet. He will then encourage others to do the same.
That turn at the Industrial Revolution created this climate crisis. Should we trust some geoengineering technology to fix it?
No one knows how this will turn out. Industrialized nations are pushing to do something drastic, as levels of CO2 continue to rise, and geoengineering is looking like their solution. I will tell you what drastic is but guaranteed to work to keep CO2 from rising . . . shut down the consumer economy for starters. What geoengineering says as a solution is the fossil fuel industry and the consumer economy have no intention of shutting down. Their solution is to keep business as usual.
During March through May 2020, here in the US, a big portion of the economy was shut down because of COVID. Everything from retail, restaurants, schools, theaters, etc. were closed. The only exceptions were grocery and hardware stores, and of course hospitals. Emissions declined not immensely but noticeably. Big Box Grocery stores remained open, so that meant the 30% of emissions from our food system kept rolling out. Those stores have a big portion of retail in them, as well.
Sure, shutting down most of the consumer economy will create massive job losses. But you know, we will just have to figure that out. The future of humanity is at stake. Everything we rely on to keep us alive is at stake, oh by the way. We need to envision a new way to live, like growing our own food, canning fruits and vegetables, sharing tools, and creating more efficient dwellings that don’t rely on fossil fuels to heat and cool them.
Here in the US, we don’t need 40 different cereals to choose from. Let’s all eat oatmeal for breakfast. We also don’t need to grow tomatoes in Mexico that hitchhike on ocean freight to China to become tomato sauce to then hitchhike back via ocean freight to the US to be transported via semi-truck to distribution centers and finally your local Big Box Grocery store shelves all across the nation. We can grow our own tomatoes.
Stop the insanity of industrialization that is creating the climate crisis and extreme weather, soil depletion, droughts, massive flooding, land disruption, warming oceans, methane release from thawing permafrost, mowing down the Amazon for more food for animal agriculture, mining, resource depletion, and biodiversity loss that will push humanity off the cliff.
Civilizations have collapsed before, . . . and, we are on our way. Can we lessen the blow?
Osaka, Shannon, The Washington Post, January 9, 2023, “This firm is working to control the climate. Should the world let it?”
On occasion, I have written about this feeling before. Perhaps more so when I first moved into my little cabin. But, every time I go out to gather kindling . . . I get the feeling again.
To me . . . it is something intrinsic to our nature. It is primal. And, we have lost it. It has been replaced by fluorescent lighting, piped in music, and shelves upon shelves of fossil fuel laden food and products.
Yes, I still have to go into the big box grocery store and drive a car . . . the fossil fuel list goes on. But, yesterday, as I was gathering kindling, that grocery store, etc., felt so unnatural . . . I am caught in between.
I carry on with my goal . . . to be as self sustaining as possible. Even when I hear people say . . . there is no way you can grow all your own food . . . or it is so much work. I say . . . the planet depends on me succeeding . . . and . . . my survival is at stake . . . not to mention the reconnecting of my inner being to what it knows is real . . . Nature, it is home. People have done this in the past . . . and are doing it today.
With persistence, I will learn how to grow my food. Last year, so much went wrong in that garden that will teach me what to do better this year. Yes, the cabbage heads didn’t show up, the potatoes were tiny, the pole beans didn’t come up, onions were too small, carrots and beets are so much trouble, and let’s add broccoli and brussel sprouts to that list, too.
But . . . I got 19 pint jars of canned tomatoes . . . and . . . that meant everything to me.
So, kindling . . . it helps start my fires in the wood stove . . . so I can survive the -40 that Nature dishes out. It is a hand to mouth thing. It is not covered in plastic wrap that I need scissors to get into.
My boots sunk into the foot of snow, as I trudged through to an area of trees . . . and watched a rabbit scamper through the field to the other side of the woods . . . heard the snap of each dry branch as I added them to my pile . . . felt the falling snow on my face . . . wondered what kind of shelter I could build in the nook of some trees . . . heard the silence of the gray day . . . enveloped in a milky winter sky . . . felt the knowing eyes of the ancestors guiding me.
If you haven’t see this documentary, get it on your list. The film was directed by Faith Morgan and released by The Community Solution in 2006. It is very inspirational, and it is a great guide to navigating collapse. Believe me, we are going to need it because the collapse is starting to rear its ugly head big time and will only accelerate.
Back in 1991 when the Soviet Union was falling apart, Cuba lost oil imports from them. There was no shooting and chaos because of it, as many here in the US fear will take place when collapse happens. Instead, the power of community shone brightly, and everyone came together. Without oil, the country stopped. Buses ran intermittently. They said the average Cuban lost 20 lbs. Eventually, everyone was growing food everywhere. Oxen were used to plow fields. Very little fertilizers or pesticides were used if any. I highly recommend watching it.
A little note here about the reference to peak oil in the title of the documentary for people who are not familiar with that term. Peak oil is when a country or globally the half way point of oil is reached. The US reached peak oil in the 1970s. Well, then, horizontal fracking was invented, and the oil that was unreachable was extracted. I ran into a site on the history of oil, and the US stopped exporting oil when it reached peak oil to protect reserves. That lasted for 40 years until fracking came along.
A big oil boom happened around 2005 or so. Back then, everyone was moving to North Dakota to get an oil job at the Bakken Oil field. Fracking for natural gas happens in many states but there are about only four major oil fields in the US that use fracking. Michael Patrick Flanagan Smith wrote a great article on what that oil boom was like when he worked there from 2013 to 2014. People were living in their cars because the town had no place to house everyone. The peak oil term got kicked down the field because everyone thinks we will always find ways to extract more oil, even though we can’t afford to burn another drop. Since then, those oil fields are running dry.
I always say, if they are spending money to extract oil from Alberta tar sands, which is gunk, the end of oil is not far away. And, as Cuba witnessed, oil runs everything.
While Cuba had no warning that crisis was coming, the climate crisis alarm has been blaring finally for the last three years. Countries have been coming together since 1992 to address the climate crisis but it really didn’t hit center stage until Greta Thunberg showed up shortly before COVID lambasting world leaders at the COP24 meeting in Poland in December 2018 for doing nothing. Just listening to her again in the link below brought tears to my eyes.
The climate crisis has moved at a snail’s pace. So where is the urgency? Well, things are starting to ramp up.
I am wondering if there are any more forests in the US left to burn? Every season millions of acres go up in smoke. Because of drought, the Danube River in Germany was so low this summer that they couldn’t use it for exporting goods. China closed factories this past summer because of drought and heat. The Colorado River in the Southwest US is in the 23rd year of a major drought. Seven states depend on water from the Colorado, and 70% of it is used for agriculture. Farmers are letting fields go fallow because a lack of irrigation. Places like Portland and Denver that don’t normally get summer temperatures in the 90s and 100 got hit again this summer. Hurricane Ian slammed Florida. These are just a sampling of how the climate crisis is playing out. There are countless other examples worldwide, of course.
Where does this leave us? What does this film tell us? What can we do?
It is clear that the US and other countries are hell bent on squeezing the last dollar from the economy and pillaging the resources until the planet is ravaged of the last thriving ecosystem. The CEOs and politicians will be safely tucked away in elaborate bunkers stocked to the hilt to watch us fend for ourselves knowing they have sold us enough misinformation, fear, and guns.
Hmmm. Perhaps the power of community that Cuba exhibited will radiantly emerge.
We can hope.
The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil
Never heard of it? You are not alone. It is anything but Mainstream. Google doesn’t even send me anything on it, and it is really good at sending me climate crisis news. Well, and, it is a pretty radical solution to the climate crisis, but . . . the most realistic. I have written about it before . . . but let’s go here again.
Degrowth needs some serious PR right now. People need to be talking about this. It won’t be an easy transition but it is doable. And, did I mention, we will need some new kind of economy . . . or maybe no economy. The people up at the top, the corporations and politicians, well, and also small businesses, are not going to go for this. They are not addressing the climate crisis at all now, anyway. They are too busy taking humanity off the cliff.
Yes, everyone can switch to renewable energy, but . . . I am sorry to tell you, that has its own issues environmentally. Right now, we are basically focusing on our own energy needs and forgetting about the big emission producer, and, that is . . . what we consume in the way of products and FOOD every day!
So what is Degrowth all about? When you start counting all the CO2 a product produces, meaning all the embodied energy, you are on your way to understanding why Degrowth makes sense. By that time, when you go into the Big Box Grocery store, your head will want to explode seeing all that CO2 on the shelf.
If you are not quite there yet, let’s take a walk through the cereal aisle. That innocent raisin bran sitting on the shelf had a big diesel tractor plant the wheat and harvest it, took it to a flour mill, trees were cut down for the box, oil was extracted for the plastic sleeve, raisins were grown and harvested, the box went to a printer to have the graphics printed, and all of it ended up at the raisin bran factory so it could be shipped to your local store. That took a lot of CO2.
Now, look at every product on the shelf and go through that same process. It takes oil to transport and electricity, heat, and AC for those manufacturing plants. Do we really need 40 different cereals? How about oatmeal for breakfast out of a bin reusing your own bag. Ah, now, we are getting somewhere. Remember, when you pick a tomato from your garden, there is no CO2 emitted. Don’t have a garden? Get a garden plot.
Maybe you are thinking about all the jobs that will have to go. I don’t know about you, but I want to live. That is what this whole thing is about . . . surviving. And, at this point, if you are watching the game, we are very close to losing. Maybe we will just reduce the suffering that is headed our way.
A debt jubilee, universal income, not to mention garden plots everywhere, are all many of the ways we can do Degrowth. Just think of all the things that emit CO2 or use lots of water that we can live without and still be happy. Think about it . . . talk about it at the dinner table . . . and, pass it on. Degrowth.
Yes, the consumer economy. It doesn’t get mentioned at all when discussing the solutions to the climate crisis. Well, in some ways it does in the form of reducing personal consumption. And, truthfully, it wasn’t always in my mind either. I was still focusing on changing our lifestyle as a way to avert the climate crisis after the college class, Environmental Sociology, that I took in 2009. The main culprit is burning all those fossil fuels, and we use that for all of our energy needs. I say oil runs everything . . . and it does.
The main climate crisis solution is the focus on switching to renewable energy in the form of solar, wind, geothermal, etc. That is a major step in the right direction. Using energy to create solar panels that soak up sun for some 30 years beats out endlessly digging up coal and fracking for naturel gas to burn for electricity hands down. Although, everything has its environmental cost.
Jason Hickel, wrote the article “The Limits of Clean Energy,” in Foreign Policy, September 6, 2019. Let’s think again before we dig another big hole for renewable energy. It is a better source of energy but it is not without its consequences. I highly recommend reading it. The link is attached below.
The enormity of the climate crisis and how the consumer economy contributes to it would send me sobbing in hysterical grief and hopelessness after that class. I would envision it as a huge locomotive with CEOs as the engineers with profits and endless growth gleaming in their eyes. We, the consumers, were the passengers screaming “yahoo” at the thought of our next big screen TV, all-inclusive cruise ship vacation, new car, etc. We were a package deal. No way was that locomotive going to be stopped . . . and it was flying down a hill at top speed.
I want that vision in everyone’s head. I hear people whine, “I can’t give up this or that.” People . . . this is a life and death situation. And, until Mainstream America gets that . . . they will be watching football, eating barbeque chicken wings, and shopping for that new car, not really understanding how the climate crisis is really an . . . EMERGENCY.
How do we get there? Hmmm . . . maybe you can tell me.
Somewhere after that class, I had the embodied energy moment. I don’t think there was a chapter or any mention of it in the class. I think once you start looking at everything you do and buy as carbon, embodied energy just naturally comes along. And, if you don’t understand embodied energy, it will be a giant leap to why degrowth is one of the best solutions. But, as a dear friend says, “There is no silver bullet for the climate crisis, only silver buckshot.”
For a reminder here, infinite growth on a finite planet is not possible.
Embodied energy is all the energy it takes to produce a product, provide a service, etc. For instance, there may be 8-10 factories or processes to produce a box of raisin bran. And, all those manufacturing plants and processes are spewing fossil fuels into the air.
Can’t we all just eat oatmeal?
There are ramifications for all our choices. Take biofuels for instance. Do we want to use the land to grow food and eat or fuel our cars? Solar arrays? Again, do we want to eat or turn on the lights? CAFOS, which stands for Confined Animal Feeding Operations, provide about 99% of the meat and dairy consumed. Regenerative agriculture and open grazing will help our soil but do we have enough land to have some billions of animals openly grazing. Hmmm. Possibly, if we get rid of all the corn and soy fields. I don’t know.
Back to degrowth. Now that is definitely not brought up at anyone’s dinner table. It is not even Mainstream anything. I never get it in my Google news feed . . . and Google does a fine job of sending me everything on the climate crisis. And, I can’t really say when I took that next step from solar on the house to . . . no, we don’t need raisin bran and most every aisle in the grocery store.
Yes, solar on the roof is a good solution to address the climate crisis but we get a bigger bang for our buck by reducing all the pollution from eliminating all the stuff we can be happy without.
Richard Smith wrote a great article called, “Climate Crisis, the Deindustrialization Imperative and the Jobs vs. Environment Dilemma,” in Truthout, November 12, 2014, which I have talked about before and have attached below. I highly recommend reading his article because he gets why we need degrowth.
It really isn’t any wonder why no one brings it up as a climate crisis solution because that would mean dismantling . . . oh, yes . . . capitalism and the consumer economy. How do you tell X, Y, and Z company you have to go? How do you tell people they can’t have raisin bran and pet costumes anymore, let alone go on that fabulous cruise ship vacation with the endless food buffets and coconut margaritas?
He also wrote the book “Less is More: How Degrowth will Save the World.” It is a great book but I think his solutions will take too long. Some of his ideas are to get rid of planned obsolescence, no more advertising, a debt jubilee, and others.
Hey, that debt jubilee is great because we all have debt . . . we have to work to live. Along the way, we are convinced to buy shiny objects so we have more debt and have to work even more. That’s why this is such a sticky mess. CEOs want more profits, and we have debt and want more stuff.
So, degrowth is a tough one. Again, how do we get there? We can’t afford to dig more holes for resources to manufacture more products, even for solar and battery storage. We need to eat and need the biodiversity we are endlessly destroying.
Remember the movie, The Lorax, where they lived in that bubble with fake trees . . . actually, everything was fake. We are almost there today, where you have to visit Nature . . . if you live in any type of metro area of any major city. There is no Nature there. Ok, you may have some grass. We haven’t gotten to fake trees yet. In time. And those corn and soy fields . . . that isn’t Nature either.
There has to be some kind of monetary incentive to get to degrowth. And, I have a solution. Warning, I am going to go down some political rabbit hole here.
Just recently, our US corporate/political machine we call a government passed a close to a trillion-dollar military budget. Hey, forget about addressing the climate crisis, having decent healthcare, free college, stopping mass incarceration, addressing all the excrement from CAFOs from the billions of animals, etc. The military machine would rather use our tax dollars to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia and other countries to kill women and children or create more wars to go to. The US has some 750+ bases around the world, and some 6,000 nuclear warheads that can destroy the world. Isn’t that enough for them?
The incentive I mentioned for Degrowth could come from divvying up that trillion-dollar military budget to everyone in the US. I know it is a crazy pipe dream . . . but come on . . . can you really argue that it doesn’t sound good? That money could be used to help the people of the US. There would be some left in that budget to keep the lights on in all those 750 bases.
You can tell me I am full of beans, which I am as a vegetarian, but . . . I think it is an awesome idea!
Degrowth. Bring it up at the dinner table.
Richard Smith, “Climate Crisis, the Deindustrialization Imperative and the Jobs vs. Environment Dilemma,” Truthout, November 12, 2014.