Should We Pay Corporations to Destroy the Planet?

Pricing the Planet Episode 1

Al Jazeera (2018)

Film Review

This documentary is about an endangered species trading scheme in which banks like J P Morgan and Goldman Sacks invest in projects that protect endangered species (eg bees, coral reefs, orangutans) or ecosystem services (eg (rain forests, clean water, wetlands clean air, topsoil). They then sell credits in these projects to corporations who wish to engage in mining and development that kill these species or destroy rain forests and wetlands.

In 1988, Bush Senior was the first to promote this model of environmental protection with his No Net Wetlands Loss policy. It enabled corporations that were destroying wetlands to purchase credits in wetlands that being set aside for preservation. This model was later employed in carbon trading schemes in which industries are allowed to emit CO2 pollution if they purchase credits in reforestation projects that capture CO2. After nearly 20 years of operations, this scheme has made speculators in carbon credits fantastically rich while allowing CO2 emissions increase exponentially.

Bankers and corporate executives argue that endangered species trading is the only way to save the planet because government regulation hasn’t worked (largely because banks and corporations have blocked effective environmental regulation). Most grassroots environmentalists oppose species trading. They argue that bees, reefs, orangutans and rain forests can only be saved with a total ban on activities that endanger them.

Globally Malua BioBank runs the largest “mitigation” project. They recently purchased the Malua Forest in Borneo for $64 million. They sell credits in the Malua Forest to palm oil companies to enable them to destroy other Indonesian rain forests, as well as companies that use palm oil products.

The Nature Conservancy (whose current CEO is a former Goldman Sachs banker) and other large environmental NGOs support “species banking” because they rely on large corporate donations to cover their staff salaries.

The video can be viewed free at the Al Jazeera website: Pricing the Planet

 

Alternatives to Industrial Farming

Unbroken Ground: Revolutions Start at the Bottom

Directed by Chris Malloy (2016)

Film Review

Unbroken Ground is about three revolutionary innovations in food production (regenerative agriculture, regenerating grazing and restorative fishing) aimed at increasing long term food security by working with natural processes.

Regenerative Agriculture

Regenerative agriculture is aimed at restoring and preserving topsoil by moving away from corporate monoculture of annual plants. The goal is to support farmers in raising a diversity of perennial staple crops.

At present annual grains (mainly wheat) comprise 70% of the global diet. Plowing topsoil under every year rapidly degrades soil fertility by killing the delicate microorganisms plants depend on for basic nutrients. Dedicating fields to a single monoculture annual hasten this process, necessitating the increasing use of chemical fertilizers and toxic herbicides and pesticides.

The filmmakers visit a group of scientists attempting to develop a perennial variety of wheat by cross breeding it with perennial grasses.

Regenerative grazing

The regenerative grazing movement is restoring the American Great Plains by reintroducing buffalo, the indigenous animals who co-evolved with the native grasses that grow there. Buffalo are 100% grass fed but unlike beef cattle, they don’t kill the grass by eating it down to ground level.

Studies show the animals also significantly increase CO2 sequestration (capture and storage – see The Soil Solution to Climate Change) in areas where they have been introduced.

Restorative Fishing

Restorative fishing uses ancient Native American fishing techniques to enable fishermen to catch their target fish and release non-targeted species back to the ocean unharmed. The process involves creating an artificial reef with nets and plastic strips. The false reef fools the fish into swimming more shallowly, enabling easy capture without harming their gills.

Can We Stop Climate Change Without Dismantling Capitalism?

The Cross of the Moment

By Jacob Freydont-Attie (2015)

Film Review

Can climate change be addressed without dismantling capitalism? The current track record of world leaders suggests not – especially with the election of the world’s most prominent climate denier to the US presidency.

The Cross of the Moment is a documentary exploring the climate change dilemma and various options for limiting global warming and mitigating the effects of catastrophic climate change. It’s produced in a panel discussion format, with the filmmaker posing specific questions to prominent astrophysicists, climate scientists, political economists and climate activists (including Bill McKibben, Gary Snyder, Derrick Jensen, Peter D. Ward, Jill Stein, Bill Patzert, and Guy McPherson). I’m not normally a big fan of talking heads, but the optimism conveyed by this film – in stark contrast to the usual alarmist arguments – definitely held my attention.

I was especially impressed with Bill McKibbon’s elegant explanation of why changing light bulbs and other market-based behavioral changes aren’t going to end global warming. The climate activist lays out an elegant argument why systemic structural changes is needed to wean humanity off of fossil fuels and why fossil fuel companies aren’t going to allow this without a major global movement to counter their power and greed.

The other panelists present a range of views on the specific structural/systemic changes that are necessary to prevent climate changes from wiping out our ability to produce food. Most seem to agree that fossil fuels could be totally phased out – and replaced by renewable energy – by 2050. They estimate this could be done for a total capital cost of $15 trillion (which according to the IMF is less than we currently spend annually to subsidize the fossil fuel industry*).

The film offers a number of viewpoints on how to bring this about. One economist favors a carbon tax; another would totally ban wasteful industries such as packaging (the third largest global industry after energy and food) and junk mail (which produces 51 millions tons CO2 annually in the US alone). Two activists express the view that the political corruption exerted by the fossil fuel industry couldn’t be overcome without dismantling capitalism altogether.


* According to the IMF, fossil fuel companies benefit from $5.3 trillion a year in subsidies.

 

The Coming Collapse of Our Oceans, Atmosphere and Global Food Chain

Seaspiracy: What You Should Know About Fish, the Ocean and More

Directed by Ali Tabrizi (2015)

Film Review

The world’s oceans, which are essential to the biosphere that supports human life (oceanic phytoplankton produce 80% of atmospheric oxygen) are in grave crisis. This short documentary raises the alarm about numerous oceanic life forms facing rapid extinction. The filmmakers identify two main causes: ocean acidification to to elevated CO2 concentrations and over fishing.

Most of the film focuses on the collapse of important fish stocks due to wasteful and destructive technologies, such as bottom trawling, and the buildup of toxic chemicals such as mercury and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls).

I was very surprised to learn that only a minority of the fish caught in commercial nets wind up on the dinner plate. Most are either discarded (dead) as “bycatch” or ground up to make fish pellets for factory farmed livestock and shrimp.

The solution proposed by the filmmakers is for everyone to become vegan. Unfortunately they don’t explore the more realistic option of dismantling capitalism.

Plows, Plagues and Petroleum

plows plagues and petroleum

Plows, Plagues and Petroleum: How Humans Took Control of Climate

By W F Ruddiman

Princeton University Press (2010)

Book Review

In Plows, Plagues and Petroleum, paleoclimatologist W F Ruddiman makes the argument that the human species began interfering with climate – by increasing CO2 emissions – long before they began burning fossil fuels during the industrial revolution. After studying millions of years of ice core records, Ruddiman concludes that agricultural activities that began roughly 10,000 years ago increased atmospheric CO2 sufficiently to reduce planetary cooling and reduce a long overdue ice age.

Ruddiman’s book carefully traces the domestication of local plants and animals that occurred simultaneously in Mesopotamia, China, Africa and the Americas between 8,500 and 4,000 BC. Plant and animal domestication was accompanied by large scale clearing of forest land for fields and pasture. This massive loss of trees was accompanied by a big increase in atmospheric CO2.

Ruddiman has always been curious about periodic drops in CO2 concentrations that began around 540 AD. Theorizing that these dips correlated with temporary declines in global population, he examined historical records for evidence of wars, famines and pandemics that might have wiped out large numbers of people. What he discovered was a close link between infectious epidemics and declines in CO2 concentrations, as forests reclaimed large swaths of agricultural land.

The first epidemic in the recorded history was an outbreak of bubonic plague in the Roman Empire in 540 AD. By 590 AD, it had wiped out 40% of Mediterranean Europe. European plague outbreaks continued to occur every ten to fifteen years until 749, when a long plague-free period was accompanied by a rebound in population growth, deforestation and atmospheric CO2. By 1089, virtually all of Europe was deforested.

An even more severe plague pandemic occurred in the mid-1300s, wiping out a third of Europe (25 million people). In some cities, mortality rates were as high as 70%. The resulting labor shortage gave serfs who survived immense bargaining power. As they moved from estate to estate seeking good working conditions, they began to be treated as tenant farmers rather than slaves.

There were new plague outbreaks, accompanied by reduced atmospheric CO2, in the mid-1500s and mid-1600s.

The large pre-industrial drop in CO2 emissions occurred with what Ruddiman refers to as the North American pandemic (1500-1750. This was caused by the arrival of Europeans – who Ruddiman describes as flea infested, lice ridden peoples who shunned bathing – with a host of illnesses (smallpox, influenza, hepatitis, diphtheria, measles, mumps, whopping cough, scarlet fever, cholera and plague) to which native populations had no immunity. This was in addition to untold numbers of natives slaughtered by Europeans.

Prior to the arrival of Europeans, the population of North America was estimated between 50-60 million. Ninety percent (50 million) would die over the next 250 years. This amounted to 10% of the global population. Nearly all their agricultural settlements were reclaimed by forest, resulting in the third and largest pre-industrial drop in atmospheric CO2.

Download a free PDF of this book at Plows, Plagues and Petroleum

The Approaching Mass Extinction

under a green sky

Under a Green Sky

By Peter D. Ward Ph.D

Smithsonian Books 2008

Book Review

Under a Green Sky is a compilation of the research linking mass extinction events with prehistoric episodes of global warming caused by high atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane. Ward explores the likelihood that current, unprecedented increases in both greenhouse gasses will likely cause a man-made mass extinction within the next 200 years.

The Asteroid that Wiped Out the Dinosaurs

The dinosaurs were wiped out by a mass extinction 144 million years ago at the end of the Cretaceous era. Most evidence suggests it was triggered by a massive asteroid striking the Earth. This collision produced massive quantities of dust that blanketed the earth, significantly reducing the solar radiation reaching the surface of the Earth. This, in turn, led a planet with a universally tropical climate to experience a decade or more of freezing temperatures. Most of Earth’s plant species were killed off, along with the animal life that relied on them.

Accord to Ward, the fossil evidence suggests that this K-T (Cretaceous-Tertiary) extinction was only one of multiple extinction events occurring in the presence of adverse living conditions that couldn’t support complex plant and animal life. Fossil remains suggest that smaller extinction events occurred every 26 million years, mostly triggered by massive increases in volcanic activity, leading to high atmospheric concentrations of CO2 and methane.

Under a Green Sky details Ward’s role in the excavations that support this conclusion, as well as the scientific methodology used to determine prehistoric CO2 levels, e.g. the size of plant soma* and differential ratios of carbon and oxygen isotopes.

What the Next Mass Extinction Will Look Like

The book concludes by outlining the mass extinction event Ward predicts for the 22nd century if atmospheric CO2 and methane levels continue to increase at their current rate. Based on past extinction events, this is the scenario he predicts:

1) A decrease in equator/polar temperature differences leads to total disruption of the thermohalene conveyer currents** responsible for oxygenating the ocean depths. Cold oxygenated water is steadily replaced with warm oxygen-poor water.
2) Sulfur-eating bacteria proliferate in the anoxic water (termed a Canfield Ocean) and release toxic hydrogen sulfide (the rotten egg smell associated with thermal hot springs).
3) Hydrogen sulfide rises into the upper atmosphere where it destroys s down the ozone layer protecting us from solar ultraviolet radiation. A massive increase in UV radiation kills off the phytoplankton, the ultimate food source of all ocean swelling animals.
4) A combination of intense heat and toxic hydrogen sulfide kills off many land based higher plants and animals.
5) The ocean turns purple, due to green and purple sulfur-eating bacteria. The sky turns green, owing to the proliferation of yellow dust from drought-stricken continents in the mid-latitudes.

Ward calculates that Antarctica’s ice sheet will have totally melted by 2200 and Greenland’s by 2300. By 2050, a steady rise in sea levels will have flooded all the world’s coastal cities, as well as all the deltas that presently contribute to global food production. Millions of people will die from famine (due to drastically reduced agricultural yields), extreme weather events and resource wars.

*The soma are tiny organs in plant leaves that capture sunlight to combine CO2 and water to produce plant sugars. They become more numerous as atmospheric CO2 concentrations increase.
**Plant fossils contain varying concentrations of carbon-13 and carbon-14 isotopes and oxygen-16 and oxygen-18 isotopes (the number varies according to the number of neutrons in the atom’s nucleus) depending on the relative atmospheric concentration of CO2 and oxygen when the plant was alive.
***Thermohaline circulation is an ocean conveyor belt that moves a massive current of water around the globe, from northern oceans to southern oceans, and back again. See Ocean Conveyer Belt

Our What the Frack Tour – June 21, 2014

 taranaki frackings siteslegend: red triangle: fracking well sites

red flame: gas/oil production stations

red pin: deep well injection sites

green pin: “land farms” and land treatment sites.

 source: Climate Justice Taranaki

We Have Been Invaded

As you can see from the above map, pristine Taranaki dairyland has been totally invaded and colonized by foreign oil and gas companies. New Zealand’s lax regulatory environment has produced a feeding frenzy. Eager to offshore as much profit as possible, they have transformed our clean green countryside into an industrial site.

A recent report by the New Zealand Commissioner for the Environment is highly critical of both Taranaki Regional Council (TRC) and New Plymouth District Council for their failure to regulate foreign energy companies in accordance with existing New Zealand law.

The PCE, bless her, makes the link between fracking and climate change front and center in her report. In her introduction, she questions the common assertion that natural gas is a so-called transition fuel, given its substantial contribution to atmospheric CO2. She also calls on the New Zealand government to specify exactly how they will fulfill their commitment to reduce New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions to 5% below our 1990 emissions by 2020.

Improper Disposal of Fracking Waste

Her report goes on to chastise TRC for the failure to regulate discharge of fracking waste. Despite vociferous complaints from local farmers and residents, TRC continues to permit discharge of untreated fracking waste into streams that provide water for livestock and, and in several cases, human beings.

She’s especially critical of TRC’s use of “visual inspection,” rather than chemical testing, to assess the water quality of these streams. One particularly silly monitoring report refers to inspectors signing off on water quality because they heard frogs singing.

Cows on landfarm“Land farmed” site with grazing cattle

Another common disposal method is to spread wastes on pasture and grow grass and graze cows on it – without testing the cows, grass or milk for heavy metals, barium, benzene, hydrocarbons or other chemicals commonly found in fracking waste.

The experience with toxic sludge in the US is that heavy metals and other toxic chemicals bio-accumulate in plants grown in contaminated soil

Given given that dairy products are New Zealand’s number one export, this so-called land farming could do major damage to our country’s economy. Especially as China, our major export market, is already exquisitely sensitive to the milk contamination issue.

Emergency Evacuation Plans

Another major concern in the PCE’s report relates to the Emergency Evacuation Plans fracking companies are required to file for each drill and production site. Many fracking sites are located less than 500 meters from private homes.

As here

home and well

here

2nd home

here

4th home

and here

third homeSarah Roberts and Robert Moore – Green Party candidates for New Plymouth and Taranaki-King Country

For some reason, none of these residents have been notified that they are slated for evacuation in the case of an accidental gas release or explosion. As an example there are 36 owners and occupiers identified on the TAG Oil emergency management plan (gas release/spill contingency plan covering 500m) at Sidewinder A wellsite. These owners and occupiers will not be aware of this.

Drop in Property Values

 

for sale

The owners of the last property pictured above are desperate to sell it. The value of properties located adjacent to fracking wells have plummeted.

This is due to the constant noise, exposure to air and water pollutants, heavy industrial traffic

industrial traffic

and flaring

flaring

What’s more the property adjacent to fracking wells can’t be insured, owing to the risk of leaking wells, inadvertent gas releases and explosions. Under New Zealand law, the property owner assumes liability for an abandoned well site that leaks.

Todd Oil (affiliated with Shell) has recently agreed to top up sales proceeds of land owners forced to sell their property at a loss. But if you live adjacent to a Tag Oil or Greymouth Petroleum fracking site, you’re out of luck.

Health Consequences of Fracking

Because the PCE is only charged with addressing environmental issues, her report doesn’t address the nosebleeds, rashes, cancer clusters and other health issues associated with living near a fracking site.

Waitara valley plant

Nor the disastrous effect of being surrounded by fracking rigs on overall well beings and quality of life. People shouldn’t have to live this way. Why should Taranaki residents sacrifice their livelihoods and the health and well being of their children for the benefit of foreign oil companies?

Todd sign

Community Meeting Regarding Norfolk School

Our What the Frack Tour finished up with a community meeting at Norfolk Hall, a Taranaki country hall between Inglewood and Stratford. TAG Oil is applying to drill their Sidewinder B well site 600 meters from Norfolk Primary School. This isn’t about a couple of exploratory wells. This is about the the potential drilling an on-going extraction of eight wells.

As came out at the meeting, prevailing south westerly winds would make emergency evacuation of the students impossible in the case of an accidental gas release. These can and do occur at Taranaki fracking sites.

what the frack

Read follow up letter from to Taranaki Daily News from one attendee: Not the Good Oil

 

 

 

 

Upcycyling: Saving the Planet by Design

the upcycle

The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability – Designing for Abundance

 By William McDonough and Michael Braungart

2013 Northpoint Press

 Book Review

In The Upcycle, American architect William McDonough and German chemist Dr Michael Braungart offer a new improved version of the cradle to cradle (C2C) vision they first introduced with their 2002 book Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things.

C2C design is an approach to architecture and manufacturing that seeks to lessen environmental damage and the impact of resource scarcity by revolutionizing the way we design products, factories, buildings and cities – as opposed to trying to undo or minimize the negative effects of conventional production. There are no villains in C2C design. McDonough and Braungart are highly critical of the current tendency to demonize carbon, given its role as an essential building block of life. There’s simply too much of it accumulating in the atmosphere when it should be returning to the soil for food production. They also object to labeling incandescent light bulbs, air travel, long showers and disposable diapers as “bad for the environment.” Instead of shaming and penalizing people who use these products for “wasting energy,” we should be trying to find more efficient ways to produce them.

Imitating Nature’s Design Principles

A fundamental precept of C2C design is its emphasis on biomimicry, i.e. copying the genius of nature’s design principles. One of the major drawbacks of conventional industry is a built-in inefficiency in which valuable resources are lost to the landfill, incineration or runoff. In C2C design, as in nature, there is no waste. Instead products, industries and processes are designed in such a way that waste from one provides the raw materials for others. McDonough and Braungart argue that the initial design of any product, building or factory should include detailed planning for the new products that will be made from its basic elements when it wears out or is torn down. For example, a C2C computer would be designed to be returned to the manufacturer and easily disassembled into safe, environmentally friendly components that can easily be put to other uses.

The Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute

With their new book, the authors elaborate on their earlier work by introducing the concept of “upcycling.” This they define as optimizing the materials, ingredients and process pathways in such a way that waste is converted to raw materials for nature or some other industry. By ensuring that scarce natural resources, such as aluminum, copper, water and wood, are continuously reused, there is less pressure to destroy more and more of the environment to replace them.

After consulting with hundreds of businesses and cities on adopting C2C design principles, in 2010 they started McDonough-Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC) and the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute. The latter issues C2C certification for companies and products based on five quality categories:

  1. Use of materials that are safe and healthy for humans and the environment
  2. Incorporation of design principles that allow all products to be reused by nature or industry.
  3. Use of renewable, non-polluting energy in the manufacture and assembly process.
  4. Use of production processes that protect and enrich the water supply.
  5. Treatment of all people involved in a socially responsible way.

The Upcycle presents numerous real life cases demonstrating the enormous economic advantages C2C technology can have for business. Lower energy and water processing costs can save tens of millions of dollars in both upfront capital costs and long term operational costs.

The Argument Against Biofuels, Nuclear Energy and Dam-Based Hydropower

A large section of The Upcycle analyzes the cost and desirability of current renewable energy options. Biofuels, nuclear energy and dam-based hydropower are rejected as being incompatible with C2C technology. Not only is the current biofuel industry responsible for massive rainforest destruction in Indonesia, but it offers no significant reduction in CO2 emissions (because they contain the same complex carbon chains, biofuels produce as much CO2 as fossil fuels).

Nuclear technology, in turn, creates a massive amount of permanent waste that can’t be diverted to other safe uses.

Meanwhile large dams, which cause the same kind of environmental damage and habitat destruction as strip mining and nuclear energy, has virtually decimated the wild salmon population in the Pacific Northwest. The authors give much higher marks to small scale high head hydro generation in which water flowing downstream turns a ferris wheel-type generator.

They also feel solar, wind (especially offshore wind generation, which is less aesthetically controversial), geothermal and biogas from manure and landfill waste have great promise. They note that as of June 2 2012 wind-generated electricity is two cents per kilowatt hour cheaper than coal.

Michael Braungart is featured in the following video Pyramids of Waste aka The Lightbulb Conspiracy:

Those Fracking Lies

snake oil

Snake Oil: How Fracking’s False Promise of Plenty Imperils Our Future 

Richard Heinberg (Post Carbon Institute, 2013)

Book Review

Snake Oil is all about the economics of fracking. Also known as hydraulic fracturing, fracking refers to using pressurized water and chemicals to release oil or natural gas trapped in underground rock formations. Heinberg’s new book describes the behind-the-scenes role of Goldman Sachs and other investment banks in driving the present fracking boom.

Technology to extract oil and gas deposits trapped in rock formations was first developed in 1866. Because the process is extremely capital intensive, fracking for oil only became economically sustainable in when the price of oil tripled a decade ago. In the case of natural gas, it took the elimination of price controls and federal tax credits to make fracking financially feasible.

How Fracking Loses Money
According to Heinberg, fossil fuel companies are losing money on fracking. The recent boom has led to a surplus of natural gas. This, in turn, has driven the price down, forcing the oil/gas industry to sell it for less than they spend to get it out of the ground. Because only a small fraction of shale gas can be extracted cost effectively, production declines by an average of 80-90% over the first 36 months. Industry data indicates it costs between $10-20 million to operate a fracking rig that will produce $6-15 million worth of natural gas in the well’s lifetime.

Obviously you can’t tell investors that fracking for natural gas is a money-losing proposition. Investors only want to hear that fracking is the miracle solution to America’s dependence on dirty coal and foreign oil. Thus oil/gas companies, the banks that finance them, the federal agencies that regulate them and Obama himself all parrot the hype that fracking will supply cheap natural gas to fuel US power plants for the next 100 years. According to Heinberg, this wildly optimistic prediction was calculated by extrapolating the best production rates of the best fracking sites over the 20,000 or so existing rigs. The problem with this methodology is that it fails to allow for rapid depletion rates or the fact that the best wells are already tapped out.

This pressure to meet financial targets forces the companies to sink more and more wells. Thirty-five to fifty percent of existing wells (7,200 wells) must be replaced every year “just to pay off the bankers.”

Fracking Based Derivatives
The only way companies can stay in business is by selling assets and financial products. This includes unused oil and gas leases* they acquired cheaply in the 1990s, company shares, derivatives and credit default swaps. The investment banks themselves have created their own fracking-based derivative called volumetric production payments (VPPS). The banks bundle them and sell them to gullible pension fund managers, just like they did toxic mortgages before the 2008 crash.

The billions they’re losing explains why the industry is so keen to start exporting fracked gas as Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) to China, Japan and India. These countries are happy to pay $15 per million BTUs, nearly four times the domestic price of $4. A growing export market will quickly drive up US prices.

Environmental Consequences of Fracking
Meanwhile the explosion of fracking rigs across the landscape is causing massive environmental damage and eating up scarce dollars we should be investing in renewable energy. Owing to strong public opposition, fracking is banned or strictly regulated in most of Europe. As a result, Europeans are far more likely to invest energy dollars in renewables. In 2012, Germany obtained 23% of their electricity from renewable sources, Denmark 41% and Portugal 45%

Snake Oil debunks the widely promoted myth is that that burning natural gas to produce electricity creates less greenhouse gasses than burning coal. If you count all the methane (a greenhouse gas 20-100 times more potent than CO2) released during fracking, using fracked natural gas to fuel power plants produces 20-100% more greenhouse gas emissions than coal.

The massive amount of freshwater consumed by tens of thousands of fracking wells is also a major concern, especially in drought-stricken regions. The water take for a single well pad cluster can exceed 60 million gallons. The Halliburton Loophole, championed by Dick Cheney, amended the Clean Water Act in 2005 to remove the requirement that oil and gas companies disclose the toxic chemicals they use in fracking. This is especially concerning given recent studies documenting serious health problems in people and livestock adjacent to fracking sites.**

In 2011, the EPA made the determination that fracking waste is too radioactive (from exposure to underground cesium and uranium) to be processed in municipal waste facilities. Thus most of it held in large evaporation pools or re-injected into old wells. A recent US Geological Service study has linked deep well re-injection to a rash of earthquakes in regions that rarely experience them. In 2011 central Oklahoma experienced a fracking-related 5.7 earthquake that destroyed 14 homes and a highway and injured two people.

Other Unconventional Production Methods
Snake Oil also debunks the flimsy economic hype used to promote other methods of unconventional oil and gas production (e.g. oil fracking, deep sea oil drilling, tar sands, etc), as well as examining what the inevitable transition to renewable energy will look like. Because renewable energy will never be as cheap as fossil fuels, some modification will be necessary in our current energy intensive lifestyle.

 *An oil or gas lease is a contract by which a landowner authorizes exploration for and production of oil and on his land, usually in return for royalties from the sale of the oil or gas.
**According to Al Jazeera, a jury has just awarded a Texas family $3 million for fracking related health problems.

 

Originally published in Dissident Voice

Reclaiming Our Streets: A Model for Social Change

mental speed bumps

Mental Speed Bumps: A Smarter Way to Tame Traffic.

by David Engwicht, Envirobook 2005

Book Review

David Engwicht is an Australian social inventor who consults internationally with town planners and social engineers about traffic calming measures. Mental Speed Bumps describes a revolutionary bottom-up approach to traffic calming called “street reclaiming.” The main focus of street reclaiming is to reclaim city streets for people instead of motor vehicles.

Because of their immediate change effect, street reclaiming activities are extremely effective for inspiring optimism about political change. As well as helping to repair broken social networks, they encourage ordinary citizens to see themselves as change agents, rather than waiting for indifferent and/or corrupt political leaders to make changes on their behalf.

As Engwicht points out, most people tend to blame someone else – either city officials – or drivers from other neighborhoods – for their traffic problems. However on closer scrutiny, they usually discover that they and their neighbors are responsible for about one third of the traffic on their street.

The “Living Room” Analogy

Based on working with neighborhood activists all over the world, Engwicht recommends street reclaimers follow five basic steps:

1. Reclaim your street as a socializing space
  • Move some of your normal activities closer to the street (e.g. reading your book in your front yard or on the sidewalk – working on painting, refinishing, and other do-it-yourself projects in your parking space instead of your garage or basement).
  • Supervise children playing on the sidewalk or in the roadway.
  • Walk your kids to school
  • Walk to local destinations and greet people you encounter.
  • Hold a street party.
2. Move more slowly and gently
  • Reduce your own car use to a minimum.
  • If you must drive, do it more slowly and casually.
  • Teach your kids to walk or cycle to school.
3. Intrigue travelers by engaging them in the social life of the street.
  • Wave to motorists.
  • Put something intriguing, such as a veggie garden, in your front yard or parking strip
  • Blur the boundary between your private home and the street (e.g. take down your front fence and curtains). This is common in many European communities to maintain the street as a social space.
4. Work with neighbors to create “Linger Nodes” to facilitate social life in your street.
  • Create a socializing node on your private land (seating, drinking fountain community notice board, sculpture, etc) or on the sidewalk.
  • Encourage local businesses to connect with the street by placing an activity outside their premises.
5. Evolve your street from a "corridor" into a "room."
  • Put “furniture” and “art” in your room.
  • Work with your city on design elements that make your street feel more like a room (for example a landscaped entryway, a ceiling made of flags or banners, and walls created from furniture or art).

Examples of street reclaiming activities:

parking meter party

Vancouver parking meter party

Above: Parking meter party (Vancouver)

photo credit: Andrew Curran via photopin cc

Below: Walking school bus (Montreal)

photo credit: Dylan Passmore via photopin cc

walking school bus

More free traffic taming information and materials available from Creative Communities

***

read an ebook week

In celebration of read an ebook week, there are special offers on all my ebooks (in all formats) this week: they are free.

This includes my new novel A Rebel Comes of Age and my memoir The Most Revolutionary Act: Memoir of an American Refugee

Offer ends Sat. Mar 8.