Climate Crisis December – And What You Can Do

In a matter of a week and a half, this past December witnessed three climate crisis events.  It started on December 10 where a tornado remained on the ground ravaging almost 227 miles, destroying lives and buildings in its path.  From the Amazon facility in Edwardsville, IL, where the roof collapsed and six people died to the town of Mayfield, KY, at a candle factory and throughout the town, where some 78 people died in its destruction.

The next climate event had wind gusts at 100 mph in some areas of the approximately 660 miles measured on December 15.  This storm was personal as it hit Readstown, WI where I live.  The gusts were at times 69 mph.  The storm rolled in about 9:00 p.m. with the rain slamming my cabin from the south.  Nestled next to the ridge to the west, I usually feel protected.  Not this time.  The gusts raged until 6:00 a.m. shaking my cabin each time.  I never felt scared like that before.

But . . . that was nothing next to the horror that happened in Boulder County CO on December 30.  A grass fire fueled by 100 mph winds burnt 1,000 homes and buildings down to the concrete slabs or basements.  In less than six hours, 30,000 people were evacuated and homeless.  How no one was killed is a miracle.  No one has to convince those people there is a climate crisis.

So what do we do?  We have a major problem at hand with two sides to it.  Actually, there are probably many more sides to it but this is how I have simplified it.

First, we have been fooled into thinking we have a democracy with two parties and a choice.  What we really have is one party run by corporations that pay politicians to do their bidding.  The only goal the corporations have is to make money at all costs.  Along with that, they are doing everything in their power to thwart any solution in the direction of solving the climate crisis.  Keep those fossil fuels burning is their mantra. 

The bottom line is the government is not going to solve the climate crisis.

Second, the media is bought and paid for, too, so it is not going to deliver the real news to anyone.  Mainstream America may know there is a climate crisis but they have no idea what that really means and what they can do about it, as they go about their daily life. 

As covid has taken loved ones from us overnight, the climate crisis moves ever so slowly.  It has been going on since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.  That is when it was discovered that by burning coal and other fossil fuels the atmosphere would warm creating the climate crisis we now have.  Extreme weather is upon us . . . and escalating.

The two solutions I have are longshots . . . but they are all I got.  As depressed or hopeless as I feel at times at what I can actually do about the climate crisis, soldiering on is the only option. 

Somehow, I stumbled onto a presentation a week ago in my email given by two speakers put on by the North County Climate Change Alliance (NCCCA) of North San Diego County.  The two speakers, Ivi Kubica and Cat Russell, covered personal solutions needed to address the climate crisis fairly extensively, I thought.  There are, of course, additions to be made but this is a great starting point.  They also supplied the carbon footprint of the average American and other critical facts about how our lifestyle impacts the Earth.  It is a great overall place to start getting people up to speed, who are too busy to spend time trying to find out on their own with solutions to get them going.  Unless you take a class on this, it is a daunting task, and one can be overwhelmed trying to determine where to start.  Let’s not think about how we got here right now.  Just what we can do.

The bottom line is that we need more people fired up about the climate crisis.  I am betting, sadly, that most everyone has forgotten about those December climate crisis events except the people who have lost friends and family or the people who lost their homes in CO.

Here is the ask.  Most all of you reading this are already knowledgeable about the climate crisis.  What I am asking you to do is send the link to the presentation or this post to a person that may need a little jump start into implementing these solutions in their life and a gaining a greater understanding of what the climate crisis is about.  You are asking one friend or family member to watch the presentation.  After they have watched it, please ask them to send it to another friend or family member.  Ask one person to then ask one more person.  Possibly . . . just possibly . . . this could spread . . . at least a little bit.  It is the ripple effect.  We are the media doing what we need to do to get people on board.  Is this going to solve the climate crisis?  Not by that longshot I mentioned earlier . . . but it is one step closer to free.  Here is the link for the presentation called “Saving the Planet” Event with Ivi Kubica and Cat Russell:

The next longshot is this.  I took a crazy trip to DC and had these banners made with climate messages for the defunct government we have that takes our tax dollars and spends them in horrifying ways.  I took a picture of each one with the Capitol in the background.  Attached is the first one I made into a postcard with a message.  I compiled all the addresses of all the senators and mailed the postcard to each one.  Anyone who would like the first postcard, along with all the addresses, please let me know and I will send them to you.  You can edit the message to your liking if you so desire. 

Again, is this going to solve the climate crisis?  Sometimes we do things even though it seems like spitting in the wind.

Extreme weather is only going to get worse.  Somehow “extreme weather” is not what we felt this December.

We soldier on.

Chest Freezer Fridge Conversion – An Off Grid Cabin Upgrade

Technology has come into my little off grid cabin.  I cannot say I do not have electricity any longer.  It is created by renewable energy though . . . and, it is a little scary.  You know how some of these things go.  I get a taste of convenience and pretty soon I will have 20 more solar panels and a big screen TV.  OMG!  That is a frightening thought!

So, after four years of ice and a cooler, I now have a chest freezer that has been converted into a refrigerator.  Friends of mine introduced me to this magic about a year ago.  My friend said one solar panel would run it.  I was sold on that, and I bought two 360 watt solar panels so I could add some lights . . . and possibly watch a movie on my laptop.  Now that is living large.

I like starting with no power and building up.  That way I know what the solar panels and batteries are powering.  Mind you, I don’t have a very good understanding of load to number of solar panels to the number of batteries.  There are eight 6-volt golf cart batteries that the solar panels charge, which was installed back at the beginning of October.  Along the way, I will get a better understanding of how the ratio of panels to batteries work with load.

Along this journey, I have found out this chest freezer to fridge conversion is nothing new.  Countless people I have talked to have done the same thing and most live off grid.  I didn’t want to get a fridge and power it with propane, and some of the very energy efficient refrigerators on solar are expensive.  This chest freezer was about $200.  My friend gave me their old gadget that the freezer plugs into that enables it to be changed to a temperature of a fridge.  Nice.

I purchased it from Backwoods Solar.  The guys there have been great.  One of them said I could have done it with only four batteries but I like the extra cushion of eight.  In addition to the solar system, I did buy a battery charger for the cloudy days in the winter when the solar panels don’t get enough sun. 

It is definitely a learning thing.  Actually, the installation was the biggest challenge.  After a few roadblocks with a few local installers, I realized that this installation was on me.  I asked a friend of mine who cleans out my stove pipe and has done some solar installations to help me.  I didn’t really do much of the installation except find out how it all goes together.  That was enough.  It may be a piece of cake for the guys where I purchased it but it was Greek to me. 

I dug a trench for the PVC with the wiring from the solar panels to the batteries, along with building a wooden enclosure for the batteries.  The fact that the batteries are explosive made me nervous.  But, it is all installed and working fine.  Eventually I will need to check the batteries to add water to them, which I am not looking forward to because they are lead acid batteries.  For now, I will just enjoy this moment of calm.

My new fridge is so nice.  I can’t believe I went four years on a cooler.  Some new kitchen lights and two in the living room have been added.  The lights are LED and each one is about 4 watts each to run.  I am going to admit that I bought some LED Christmas lights, too.  I do feel like a stepped over a line though . . . back into the familiar world of light switches and total convenience.

Have no fear . . . no way am I caving and getting some big screen TV.

Kindling – It’s a Primal Thing

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 . . . 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.

Kindling . . . it’s a primal thing.

A COP26 Message to Biden and the World Leaders

Do they even realize this?  Apparently not.  They are doing something behind those doors . . . keeping as close to business as usual.  The fossil fuel industries have the most delegates attending . . . so you know that can’t be good.

Perhaps they weren’t paying attention in school.  This is quite difficult to dispute, even if they want to skirt the whole climate warming issue.

Heaven forbid we mess with the almighty ECONOMY.  I say “Take your marbles and go home.  The rest of us want to live.”

Do they know they are messing with the food system?  I suppose their bunkers are well equipped with years and years of dried food to eat.

This is called degrowth. Sure we can slap some solar panels up and get an electric car but do we really want any solar panels going up to support the cookie, snack, processed food, and any other aisle in the grocery store that is not real food, not to mention pet costumes and the rest of the consumer economy?

I think we can figure a new way to live. There were and still are egalitarian systems that took care of everyone, especially Mother Nature.

I always hesitate to bring up the obvious reduction or elimination of meat and dairy. It seems like a religion in a way. People feel threatened if you take away their meat. So, let’s just raise the price and make it a luxury.

Is anything really going to be done at COP? All of humanity hopes so. This is our last chance.

A Climate Crisis Film So Encompassing and Powerful

After viewing only 25 minutes of this 2015 film by Dr. Stephen Emmott, Director of Computational Science at Microsoft in the UK, I sent it out to as many groups as I could.  This was not just another film explaining CO2 and the extreme weather due to the warming of the Earth.  This was everything we do to the planet.  EVERYTHING. 

Yes, it is overwhelming.  But maybe . . . just maybe, it will inform people who did not realize this was happening.  And, it is just possible that it may enrage some people and get them to pressure our corporate/political machine we call a government to actually do something.  Because right now, they are doing absolutely nothing.  It is business as usual, and let’s just burn more fossil fuels as they run humanity off the cliff.

It is critical that everyone watch this film.  Not only mainstream America, but also environmentalists because slapping up some solar panels and an electric car is not going to get us out of this mess . . . if that is even possible at this point.  Renewable energy is better than burning fossil fuels but it poses its own degradation to the planet.  Whatever we do now will lessen the pain and suffering for some of us.

The link for the film is attached here:  Ten Billion Film

I find that mainstream America is aware of the climate crisis.  Polls prove that.  Although many people are in the thick of the forest fires and hurricanes, the rest of us are not.  It is easy to just forget that news, and we are on our way to work or the grocery store.  Unless you lost a loved one or your house, it is business as usual.  The fact that people are still moving to these areas tells me that they are not informed at all. 

A prime example of mainstream America is my sister and brother-in-law and their family and friends.  I thought I would just ask her if they talk about it with their grown kids or friends.  She said no.  I wasn’t really surprised.  It is never discussed at family gatherings.  They are upper middle class and both are recently retired.  She was a nurse and my brother-in-law was an electrician running his own small company.  Their three kids all went to college.  You would think the climate crisis would come up sometime.  She said now that she has more time, there would be more time to learn out it.  At least she is open to learning more.  So . . . mainstream America . . . clueless.  Prove me wrong if you think otherwise.

Let’s face it . . . as I took a walk with a friend this morning, there was no evidence of extreme weather or some climate emergency.  It was a beautiful fall morning.  This warming of the planet has been going on since the burning of fossil fuels started at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the mid-1700s.  People used coal for heat in their homes in the 1800s.  Factories used it for electricity. 

It has been a very slow journey to this climate emergency. 

We are all so insulated, as well.  Flip a switch for heat, electricity, water, and a refrigerator and freezer full of food.  Our lives are ones of extreme convenience.  Grow your own food?  Forget about it.  Head to the grocery store.  Give up beef and dairy?  Not on your life.  Give up processed food and fast food?  Cooking makes a mess and there is no time.  Unless you live in a city, the car is the main way to get places.  Stop buying all those clothes?  Fast fashion is the norm.

So why get involved, concerned, . . . or possibly enraged that nothing is being done about it.  This film will tell you why.  It is our responsibility to take care of this planet.  After all, it is the hand that feeds us.

I used to think that all we needed to do was change our habits and what we buy.  Recycling, composting, getting some solar panels, buying an electric car, turning down the heat, line drying clothes, or becoming a vegetarian or vegan were all the answers.  But this problem is so much bigger than that.  Once you understand how all the stuff we buy is degrading the planet with deforestation, biodiversity loss, monoculture crops, mining, the embodied energy in all of the products and food we buy, not to mention the burning of fossil fuels, you begin to understand that Joni Mitchell had it right.  We are not only paving paradise with a parking lot . . . we are destroying it.

How do we get out of this mess?  Is it even possible?

Watch the film . . . get enraged.  Most of all . . . share it.

Ten Billion Film

Fossil Fuel Energy Guide

Industrial Revolution

Coal Used for the Industrial Revolution

Remember the 1972 MIT Study on the Collapse of Capitalism?

Not really.  I was pretty young back then to be interested in the fall of capitalism.  But, thankfully, MIT was.  In 1972 a study by MIT came out predicting capitalism would collapse in midcentury.  KPMG, one of the four major accounting firms, crunched the numbers.  This is Jared Diamond’s book, “Collapse” in real time . . . today. 

You can talk about resource depletion, which is a major reason for collapse, but until you see it actually happening, it is business as usual.  And, we need to add the climate crisis to this collapse scenario. We do not see people standing in line in Big Box grocery stores here in the US . . . well, at the beginning of the pandemic, there were definitely empty shelves, and people freaking out there was no toilet paper.  Well, that is a bit of a concern.  Fortunately, no one wanted the 1000 sheet rolls so I was ok. 

In Diamond’s book, he details the collapse of Easter Island, as one of the societies that collapsed.  There were no ocean liners that could drop off a load of tomatoes or lumber.  And, although Earth is not an island, it is actually an island in the solar system.  Mars will not be delivering anything to us anytime soon . . . if ever.  It is not a destination I am interested in.

Nafeez Ahmed details the update on the MIT study in Vice on July 14, 2021.  The link is below.  Gaya Herrington participated in the original study and was curious if the prediction was on track.  She didn’t see anyone taking on that job so she set out and did it herself.  The study had graphed data on mortality, population, resources, pollution, fertility, food, etc.  After doing the calculations, she found it to be right on track.  Approximately 2040 is when capitalism will crash.  Although, in the article it mentioned it may happen as soon as 10 years from now.

Don’t count on the local news to let people know this is coming down the pike.  Wouldn’t you want to know that?  And, who is prepared for that?  This was news to me, even though I am well aware of resource depletion.  Our soil is severely depleted, and we are set to run out of fish in the ocean at 2048, for two examples.

Some resources like fossil fuels will be gone when they are gone because they take 1,000s of years to form.  Other resources like food can be replenished . . . unless we pave too much of paradise, as in what Joni Mitchell saw in her song “Big Yellow Taxi.”

The Colorado River and Ogallala Aquifer are both slowly being depleted of water.  They are situated in parts of the country that don’t get a lot of rainfall.  Much of our water supplies are being used for fracking with 100s of toxic chemicals added to millions of gallons of drinking water or irrigation for crops we shouldn’t be planting.  We will end up with no water for us if we don’t start changing our ways.

Back to the MIT study.  Richard Heinberg wrote a few books on resource depletion, along with Jared Diamond.  I am sure there are many others.  “Peak Everything” and “The End of Growth” were two of Heinberg’s books.  Perhaps MIT was concerned we, too, would become another Easter Island.

Curiously, the collapse of capitalism is exactly what would solve the climate crisis.  But, we need to be prepared.  Harrington said it wouldn’t be the end of humanity but there would be hardships.  We need to start making changes now. 

Growing food should be a top priority, along with conserving resources for the things we absolutely need, like medical supplies.  We can’t take 20 more years of burning fossil fuels.  So, I am hoping the 10-year prediction holds true.

We need to get ready for this.  Now.  The article is attached so you can share it with as many friends and family as possible.

In the meantime, start a garden.

The Future of Food

According to the United Nations UN News on March 9, 2021 in their article, “Food systems account for over one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions,” which we need to change to address the climate crisis.  That is a big segment of the CO2 going into the atmosphere, and we have control over what we buy at the grocery store or what we don’t buy.  That includes tilling up fields, methane from beef, production, packaging, and transportation.  Let’s add rice cultivation, fertilizers, and our consumption habits to that list.

So what do we do about it?

I recently took at tour of the Kane Street Community Garden in La Crosse, Wisconsin, with a friend who has been going there for some years.  It was amazing.  According to their website, listed below, the Hunger Task Force of La Crosse operates the Kane Street Community Garden and is funded by the City of La Crosse through a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). Some 30,000 lbs. of food are grown there each year, which is distributed to local food pantries and meal programs. Its goal is to end hunger in the area. On Harvest Days anyone in the community can come and get free food. There is at least one full time employee and many volunteers that run this garden.

They are also involved in Food Recovery, which is diverting food from grocery stores that would normally go into the garbage because its expiration date has passed or food that is slightly blemished. By directing it from a landfill, the food gets to people who need it. This program distributes food to over 120 programs in La Crosse, Vernon, Trempealeau, Monroe, Houston, Winona, and Allamakee counties.

The pictures above are some of the food they are growing.  I couldn’t believe they were also growing celery, which is something I have almost given up on.  I eat it every day with my hummus so it would be nice to be able to grow it.

As you may notice in those pictures, there are no cereals, candy, snacks, pop, processed food, and frozen food.  There is embodied energy in all of those foods, which help account for the 33% of CO2.  That embodied energy takes the form of all the manufacturing plants and processes to produce one product.  Those buildings all need energy to run.  If we are serious about addressing the climate crisis, we can all agree that we really don’t need any of those foods, and we can be healthier without them.  For instance, we could simply have oatmeal instead of the cereals or hummus for breakfast.

Obviously, the Kane Street Community Garden doesn’t have everything a grocery store would have. That can be solved. There are nuts or grains that can be grown for oil. Grains can also be grown. I am at the beginning of my search for a grain in my own garden. Chickens could be added for eggs. Local meats could also be minimally added.

This is where the future of food needs to go.  There should be at least 3-4 or more Kane Street Community Gardens in every city depending how big the city is. This is definitely a solution for people who can’t grow their own garden and live in big cities. 

We need to imagine a new way to live.

UN News, “Food Systems Account for Over One-Third of Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions” March 9, 2021,

The Climate Crisis Threatens Food the Most

Above are pictures of cabbage, kale, and squash.  All of them came out of a tiny seed.  Such a miracle.  Something we don’t usually stop to think about.  They all take water, sun, and soil to grow.  They look so innocent.  We take this whole process for granted.  But, we really need to rethink food. This food keeps us alive.

A little over a week and half ago, it finally rained in our area of Southwest Wisconsin after three weeks of no rain.  We all breathed a sigh of relief because those vegetables, along with the others in my garden, were struggling, because with a hand pump, I couldn’t give them the water they really needed.  The farmers in the area were also crying for rain.

Some areas of the country and world are already in the thick of the climate crisis.  They are experiencing droughts, flooding, forest fires, hurricanes, and heat waves.  Portland reached 116 this week.  Until now, the Midwest has not experienced the devastation that the coastal areas of the US have because of the climate crisis.  We have been lucky so far.  But, it was a little too close for comfort this June.  My neighbor across the street from me raises cattle.  He said he almost lost $100k if we didn’t get that rain.

Extinction Rebellion put out a video recently.  It was called “Advice to Young People as They Face Annihilation.”  Roger Hallam, who did the video, talks about the warming of the North and South poles and how that will have an effect on how it will slow the weather down.  If the weather slows, then that three weeks of no rain will turn into 5 weeks, then 7 weeks, and then 12 weeks. 

Some day when you go into the grocery store and there is no food, you will know why.

Yes, the weather is always changing, and we all laugh about it.  Well, maybe it doesn’t change so much in dry areas in states like Arizona where the sun is out almost 365 days a year.  Here in the Midwest where a lot of food is grown, we don’t realize how the changing weather is crucial.  A constant thunderstorm each week waters the crops and our gardens that we have labored over and cherish. 

It is food.  Food is the thing most threatened by the climate crisis.

Let’s talk a little about the state of the CO2 in the atmosphere, which has a direct effect on the climate crisis.  CO2 comes from burning fossil fuels, and most all of our energy needs come from burning those fossil fuels right now.  According to CO2.Earth, on June 27, 2021, there was 418.29 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere.  Only a year ago on June 27, 2020, there was 416.22 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere.  That is an increase of 2.07 ppm.  According to scientists, 350 ppm is considered safe, and 450 ppm is considered unsafe.  The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says we have 9 more years to drastically address the climate crisis.  If each year we are increasing the CO2 by 2 points, we will be very close to that 450 ppm in 9 years.

The increasing level of CO2 in the atmosphere is not slowing down.  We are basically doing nothing to address that.  Scientists say we have to stop using fossil fuels now.  In my mind, that means everything stops.  It is like the shutdown when covid hit last March.  That was our dry run for the shutdown we need to address the climate crisis.

But, not one talks about shutting things down . . . or degrowth . . . or a different economy.  The only thing I hear is we need to move to renewable energy, electric cars, regenerative agriculture, and jobs for everyone.

According to FinanceOnline, right now in 2021 the US has 289 million cars.  If we manufacture another 289 electric cars to replace those vehicles, that will mean extracting all the metal, oil for plastic, and other resources for the batteries.  It sounds like a good idea to reduce CO2 . . . but does it really?  Maybe in the long run.  But how many more holes can we dig into Mother Earth for those resources?

And, we can slap those solar panels up for electricity but there will be more extreme extraction for the resources for those panels and batteries.  Yes, in many ways it is better than extracting and burning coal, natural gas, and oil but we must ask where we are going with renewable energy. Let’s have some foresight here. Let’s have a little reduction in consumption, too!

Besides the homes where we live and our cars, let’s look at all the other buildings our lifestyle supports.  That is basically in the US. Other industrialized countries don’t consume as much as the US but it is still a concern. There are 100s of thousands of buildings that manufacture products we don’t actually need.  Those buildings burn fossil fuels for electricity, heat, and air conditioning.

If you go into the grocery store, you can see all the food we can do without.  We could eliminate the cereal, candy, cookie, snack, pop, and frozen food aisles to start with. 

We need to create a new way to live instead of manufacturing products that extract resources from the earth that eliminate biodiversity, fill the air with pollution, and get thrown away in a nanosecond.  It all contributes immensely to the climate crisis and threatens the food that we desperately need.  All the money in the world means nothing if we can’t grow food.

XR Video by Roger Hallam

CO2 in the Atmosphere

Number of Cars in the US

Is There a Future for Capitalism and the Consumer Economy with the Climate Crisis?

Yes, that’s a loaded question.  First of all, they both are the reason we have the climate crisis in the first place.  Second, that is how we live.  We are entrenched in this system, and there seems to be no way out.  We are stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Maybe you are wondering why we can’t just switch to renewable energy and go on with business as usual.  This is not only energy for our homes and cars we are talking about here.  Capitalism and the consumer economy supports all of the hundreds of thousands of manufacturing plants, distribution centers, offices, and Big Box stores that sell all of the products we buy around the world . . . that we really could get along without.  Well, most of them.

Right now, massive amounts of fossil fuels are burned for energy to provide heat, electricity, and air conditioning 24/7 for those buildings, and they are not small.  Then there is the extreme extraction of resources to manufacture those products, and all the embodied energy that goes into them.  Again, embodied energy is all the energy from start to finish to produce each item.  Many products require at a minimum 8-9 manufacturing plants and processes for just that one product.  There is also the planting, harvesting, and transportation for fruits and vegetables, along with ingredients for thousands of processed food products.

So maybe you are still thinking, fine, we will just slap some solar panels on them and go on with business as usual.   Then, we will just dig more massive holes to extract the resources for those solar panels, wind turbines, and batteries needed for energy storage.  This is also a global issue so this will need to happen everywhere.  Did I mention we live on a finite planet with only so many resources to produce all of those solar panels, etc.?

Let’s also revisit the silver mine in Mexico where extracting silver produces mounds of toxic tailings.   Jason Hickel’s article in Foreign Policy, “The Limits of Clean Energy” on September 6, 2019 states this mound at this particular silver mine was 7 miles around and 50 stories high.  He says that we will need 130 of these mines to provide silver for our “clean” energy.  And, this is only one of the many resources needed for renewable energy from solar and wind.  Can we really afford to mar up the planet with any more holes? 

In our current system, people have to work to live so we have to have jobs, so we can’t just blame the corporations for the mess we are in because besides having to work, we “love” all those products spewed out of the hundreds of thousands of factories.  Hmmm.  Scientists say we have about nine more years to turn this around, and that doesn’t mean we start turning it around nine years from now.

We need to stop all this nonsense NOW.

You are right.  No one wants to hear that.  Corporations don’t want to be told to stop what they are making, and people need a paycheck to live . . . and redo the bathroom, get a new car, take that cruise, etc.

Houdini couldn’t get out of this one.

Who invented this system anyway?  How will we get out of this mess?  Let’s add that most people live in cities today, which complicates things even more.  The industrial revolution created this mass migration to the cities for manufacturing jobs where before everyone was living an agrarian lifestyle.  A reverse migration is in order to address the climate crisis.  How possible is that?

What economic system do we create now?  Do we have to have one?  Yes, Naomi Klein in her book, “This Changes Everything” points a finger at the corporation and how brutally we treat Nature through extreme extraction but in my mind she never went far enough to mention consumers and working to live.  We are again entrenched.  And, no one wants to give up their toys.

I am sorry but we can’t just switch to renewable energy and go on with business as usual manufacturing all this stuff we don’t need . . . forget the new big screen TV, fancy cars, newest fashions, jewelry, computers for everyone, the newest Smart or iPhone, vacation cruises, pet costumes, movie theaters, water parks, Halloween candy and costumes, not to mention the cereal, snack, pop, candy, TV dinner aisle . . . you get the picture.

Is anyone talking about degrowth?

Richard Smith in his article, “Climate Crisis, the Deindustrialization Imperative and the Jobs Vs. Environment Dilemma, in Truthout, November 12, 2014, is the only one with any courage to really put it out there that we don’t need all this stuff.  He says we are going to have to choose which industries are worth keeping, and those would be caring industries.  The rest have to go.

There is a way out of this, and it isn’t making sure everyone has an electric car.  There are some things like the medical industry and schools that need to remain, and possibly some limited others.  As Richard Heinberg states in his book, “Peak Everything,” we need 50 million farmers or something along those lines. 

The documentary, “The Power of Community:  How Cuba Survived Peak Oil” is a good example of how to go forward.  Of course, we are tainted goods as capitalists in the US and brainwashed into we are all about freedom and having it our way.  As I like to remind people, you do want to live, right?

Cuba lost oil supplies from the Soviet Union when it fell apart in 1991, and everything stopped.  I don’t know how long it was between rations for the government and when they started growing food . . . everywhere.  It is a very positive documentary worth watching.

The “Economics of Happiness” is another very enlightening documentary by Helena Norberg-Hodge.  She sees firsthand what effect the consumer economy has on people and a village.  It happened to the Tibetan village she visited for many years.  All was fine.  Everyone had a home, food, pride in their culture, clothes, and young kids and the elderly were taken care of.  That all changed when the consumer truck came to their village.  This documentary is very worth the time to watch.  It also addresses how unnatural the 8-5 job is to make all these products, and how no one really likes their job.

People talk about a “just transition” for the workers in the fossil fuel industry.  We need a “just transition” for the millions of jobs lost from all of those products we won’t be producing any longer.  As a dear friend says, “All we need is food.  Everything else is optional.”

This is possible by letting go of the mess we have created and to return to basics; food and shelter.  And, that shelter doesn’t need to be 3,000 square feet either.  There is a growing movement of minimalists, local food, local everything, cooperatives, Tiny Houses, and Back-to-the-Landers that is growing and gaining momentum, all with a focus on financial freedom, as well.

This is about survival.  This is not all about the “me” culture the US has created.  That’s not going to work if we want a “humanity.” 

Let’s all survive together as a “we.”

Heinberg, Richard, “Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines,” New Society Publishers, July 15, 2010

Hickel, Jason, “The Limits of Clean Energy,” Foreign Policy, September 6, 2019

Klein, Naomi, “This Changes Everything:  Capitalism vs. The Climate,” Simon & Schuster, August 4, 2015

Morgan, Faith, Director, “The Power of Community:  How Cuba Survived Peak Oil, Community Solutions, May 14, 2006

Norberg-Hodge, Helena, “The Economics of Happiness,” Local Futures, November 13, 2010

Smith, Richard, “Climate Crisis, the Deindustrialization Imperative and the Jobs Vs. Environment Dilemma, Truthout, November 12, 2014

Which Will Be Our Fate — Easter Island or Tikopia?

It all comes down to carrying capacity.  If you are not familiar with that term, it means living within the means of the ecosystem and its ability to replenish itself for all the inhabitants to survive or at least one.  That’s my definition anyway.

I have read many environmental books and have seen countless environmental documentaries but none really hit me as much as Jared Diamond’s book, “Collapse.”  That was just last winter.  Resource depletion was nothing new to me but to see it demonstrated in real life history made an impact for some reason.  You can talk about resource depletion but if it hasn’t happened yet . . . or it happened 2,000 years ago . . . why get into a tizzy.  Look at climate change, it happens so slow, we forget it is happening.

Diamond details societies that collapsed and those that didn’t and his calculations on the reasons.  His book was different, also, in the fact it is mainly about resource depletion and not the climate crisis.  Resource depletion rarely gets mentioned in mainstream anything.  Most people aren’t really aware of it.  I think I can go out on a limb and make that assumption.  Everyone knows about climate change . . . which has now changed to the climate crisis.

So what about Easter Island and Tikopia?

Easter Island was a society that didn’t make it.  It is an island in the Southeastern Pacific, some 66 square miles, that is subtropical and very remote.  As Diamond details, they had canoes that were barely 10 feet long and were always leaking.  How did they manage to get to this island some 2,300 miles east of Chile and 1,300 miles west of Polynesia’s Pitcairn?  There were no ocean liners in 900 A.D. to drop off supplies and get them to and from the island.  That was the best estimation of when they inhabited the island.  Their population ranged from 6,000 to as high as 30,000.  Seems like way too many for an island that is 66 square miles.  They were most known for the huge stone statues they carved.  There are about 397 of them weighing anywhere from 10 to 270 tons.  Yes, and how did they move them if they couldn’t fashion a decent canoe?  Hmmm.

The island had a vibrant ecosystem when they arrived.  It was complete with animals, insects, trees, vegetation, etc. from the scientific assessment.  Without going into all of the details, somethings went wrong — very wrong, and they all perished.  Basically, I envision them watching the last tree fall in dismay as the last of their resources were depleted.

On the other hand, Tikopia addressed their carrying capacity needs.  It is an isolated island in the Southwestern Pacific, at 1.8 square miles.  They adhere to strict population control at 1,200.  There is no animal raising for consumption with so little land available to do so.  They have inhabited the island for some 3,000 years and are still there.

In the US, we live a very insulated life of extreme convenience.  Most of us have no idea where our energy and food comes from.  We turn on a switch, pump some gas, or drive to a Big Box store to get what we need.  We are totally separated from Nature.  So, that can be a huge problem right there when trying to make changes that will benefit the planet and address the climate crisis. 

We don’t fetch water, chop wood, or grow food.

These two islands, an example of one that collapsed and one that survived, demonstrate how important adhering to the constraints of carrying capacity and what happens when resources are depleted.  Add to this the climate crisis.  Fossil fuels are burned for our energy needs and are heating the planet to create extreme climate conditions of forest fires, hurricanes, flooding, drought, etc.  Although we are not an island, resource depletion is a very real threat on a finite planet with 8 billion people.  What does the average person do with that knowledge?

Well, that is a great question.  The answer is that you do something.  That brings up an example of what one does with information.  A wonderful friend gave me the book, “We Are the Weather,” by Jonathan Safran Foer.  For some 63 pages, I had no idea what the book was actually about.  He spends that much time talking about how we come to act with the information we have.

Safran Foer’s grandmother decides to leave Poland at twenty years old when she finds out the Nazis were days away from where they lived.  She is the only one in her family to leave her mother, two siblings, cousins, and friends.  Stated in Safran Foer’s book, “Asked why she left, she would say, “I felt I had to do something.”  Everyone else perished.  They all knew the same thing.

Maybe the climate crisis doesn’t feel like Nazis are days away.  We have been hearing about climate change for a long time.  For most there is no urgency but many people are feeling that it is getting worse . . . worse enough that they want the government to do something.  Again, that is here in the US.  It may feel different in other countries.  And, resource depletion isn’t even an awareness at all.

Some of us feel compelled “to do something.”  Maybe it is because we know more than the average person in the US about the climate crisis and resource depletion.  Perhaps.  Some of us figured it out.  Some of us stumbled on it.  I found out in a college class in 2009 called Environmental Sociology and countless documentaries and books after that class.  It isn’t in newspapers and the news.  Again, we are isolated, and it is business as usual.  No fossil fuel industry is giving up the money they are making.  And, extreme convenience and the lure of a new car, big house, new phone, and the list goes on . . . no one wants to give that up either.

“Only when the last tree has died, and the last river been poisoned, and the last fish been caught, will we will realize we cannot eat money.”  Cree Indian Proverb

Just like Easter Island and Tikopia, our survival is at stake.

We must all realize we need to do something.