Why Germany Resists the Transition to Electric Vehicles

Running on Empty: Will Germany’s Car Industry Survive?

DW (2019)

Film Review

This documentary focuses on the resistance of Germany’s government and auto industry to the transition to electric vehicles.

Germany car industry, the world’s largest, contributes 2% to global carbon emissions. Under the 2015 Paris climate agreement, their government pledged to produce one million electric vehicles by next year. Without a single major electric vehicle manufacturer, clearly they won’t meet this goal.

The filmmakers contrast Germany with Norway, where 77% of new vehicles are electric. And China, which will ban the sale of new fossil fuel vehicles after 2027.

Due its failure to transition to electric vehicles (EVs), industry analysts predict the German car industry has only a 50-50 chance of surviving. Many key auto designers are emigrating to other countries where they can work on developing EVs. Moreover without a domestic EV market, environmentally conscious drivers will buy imported EVs instead of Germany’s old fashioned gas guzzlers.

 

A Global Project to Regreen Our Deserts

 

Regreening the Planet

VPRO (2013)

Film Review

This documentary is about a global social enterprise called Commonland stared by Chinese American environmentalist John D Liu and Dutch ecologist Willem Ferwerda. The primary purpose of Commonland is to attract business investment for regreening landscapes that have been desertified due to destructive industrial farming practices.

Liu first got his start regreening the Loess Plateau in China, using organic and biodynamic principles that focus on restoring healthy soil microorganisms and smart water use.

The documentary features amazing footage of four regreening projects in China, India, Egypt and Spain. Each emphasizes the economic and job creation potential of regreening. Large scale projects that shift communities from imported to locally produced food are one of the best ways to create jobs for unemployed youth.

More information at the Commonland website>

 

Improving Food Production by Subtracting Oil

The following video is the keynote address by Indian activist Vendana Shiva at the 2015 Soil Not Oil conference in Richmond California. Her primary theme is the destructive effect of industrial agriculture on soil, human health, water balance, climate, ecological diversity, economic inequality and world peace (as the driver of continual resource wars).

She maintains industrial agriculture is an extremely inefficient method of food production – requiring ten calories of oil for every calorie of food produced. Factory farming is only economically viable because of heavy government subsidies of oil production and the synthetic nitrogen fertilizer manufactured from natural gas. If Food Inc were required to pay the full cost of industrial farming (including the toxic effects of the chemicals they use), it would be many times more expensive than organic farming.

She maintains real purpose of industrial farming is to increase GDP by producing more commodities, when it should be to maintain soil and human health.

Prior to the industrial age, farming was as much about soil regeneration as food production. The talk particularly emphasizes the importance of “carbonizing” soil with organic matter. It cites studies showing that a two ton per hectare increase in organic matter removes ten gigatons of CO2 from the atmosphere. This also makes the soil drought resistant by improving its capacity to store water.

The Sinister Purpose of Western Education

Schooling the World: the White Man’s Last Burden

Directed by Carol Black (2010)

Film Review

Schooling the World, featuring Indian environmental activist Vendana Shiva and Helene Norberg Hodge (producer of Economics of Happiness), is about the colonizing function of western education. The “White Man’s Burden” is a Victorian reference to the schooling of ignorant natives for the purpose of “civilizing” them.

Historically, the primary purpose of western education has been to facilitate the seizure of occupied land by destroying native language and culture. At present, however, its main purpose is to train children to use corporate products in a modern environment and to become compliant workers in a global industrial system. Thanks to western education, “backward” third world children transition from self-sufficient members of local economies to dependent cogs in the global economy.

The documentary gives three examples of this philosophy in practice: the historical outrage of indigenous Americans being kidnapped from their parents (in both Canada and the US) to have their language and culture forcibly stripped from them and modern day Ladakh and India, where rural parents experience intense pressure to send their kids to English schools.

In Ladakh, a Buddhist education teaching children compassion, cooperation and respect for nature has been replaced by an education valuing conformity, regimentation and love for money. Meanwhile many Indian parents sell their homes to pay for western-style education they believe will win their kids positions as doctors or engineers. In the end, the majority end up unemployed, with a lucky few finding entry level work.

Instead of teaching them sustainable living in harmony with nature, Western education teaches children to see themselves as separate from the natural world by locking them up in dark, airless, ugly spaces – and giving them books about nature.

The filmmakers challenge the wisdom of allowing the industrial north to force their educational model on the entire world when it clearly isn’t working for western youth. They refer to statistics showing that 16 million American young people suffer from depression and 1.6 million take psychotropic medication.

They also challenge that “development” (ie colonization) and western education lifts the “developing” world out of poverty. Historical evidence shows clearly that third world misery is a direct result of systematically stripping native inhabitants of their land, local economies, language and culture.

A Novel About the Transition Movement

2nd life of Sally Mottram

By the bestselling author of the Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin.

The Second Life of Sally Motram

By David Nobbs (2014)

Book Review

Comedy writer David Nobbs, known for the British satiric news program That Was the Week, That Was and the hit TV series The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, died on August 8 at age 80. The latter was a bestselling book before it became a TV show.

The back cover makes no mention that The Second Life of Sally Motram concerns the Transition Town movement. In fact, this is only revealed on page 117, when the heroine goes to Totnes (the birthplace of the Transition movement) and comes home with The Transition Handbook by Rob Hopkins.

The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin has always been one of my favorite TV series, thanks to Nobbs’s brilliant portrayal of human quirks, foibles and idiosyncrasies. The same humor pervades his final novel, his parting gift to the sustainability movement.

The plot concerns a penniless widow of a colorless lawyer who has hanged himself rather than face bankruptcy over his gambling debts. Through the efforts of heroine Sally Mottram, the dying former mill town of Potherthwait resurrects itself by joining the international Transition movement. Like Transition Towns all over the world, residents breathe new life into their community by reviving local food production, installing solar energy projects, rejuvenating local businesses and general community building.

Although our own efforts to launch Transition Town New Plymouth haven’t been quite as spectacular as Potherthwaite’s, I found it reassuring that Mottram struggled with many of the same quirks and foibles trying to organize her friends and neighbors.

Nobbs acknowledges his stepdaughter and her husband for inspiring him to write the book. Both are heavily involved with the French Transition movement.

I can’t wait for it to become a TV series. Imagine a sit-com about political activism and social change.

 

Link to Transition New Plymouth Facebook page: Transition New Plymouth

The Politics of Hemp

3-types-cannabis2

The farm bill Obama signed in February 2014 included an amendment to legalize industrial hemp production for research purposes. The amendment allows State Agriculture Departments, colleges and universities to grow hemp (defined as the non-drug oilseed and fiber varieties of Cannabis) for academic or agricultural research purposes. However it only applies only to states where industrial hemp farming is already legal under state law.

As of September 15, 2014, nineteen states had passed laws to provide for hemp pilot studies and/or for production as described by the Farm Bill stipulations.

Six states (Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Vermont, Tennessee and South Carolina) have gone even further, with legislation nullifying the longstanding federal ban on hemp cultivation. All six states allow farmers to produce hemp for the commercial market.  A year ago, the Obama Justice Department quietly signaled that they wouldn’t prosecute marijuana use in states that had legalized the drug for recreational and/or medical use. Thus far the same hands-off policy seems to apply to states that have legalized hemp production.

The Fiber Modern Synthetics  Replaced

Hemp cultivation is big business. Even though it hasn’t been grown in the United States for decades, America is one of the fastest-growing hemp markets.  In 2011, the U.S. imported $11.5 million worth of legal hemp products (mainly from China), up from $1.4 million in 2000. With the recent anti-smoking movement and declining tobacco exports, hemp is high on the list replacement crops for tobacco farmers.

Industrial hemp is one of the most versatile plants known to man. Hemp fiber is used in the production of paper, textiles, rope, sails, clothing, plastics, insulation, dry wall, fiber board and other construction materials; while hempseed oil is used as a lubricant and base for paints and varnishes, as well as in cooking and beauty products.

Hemp: Proven Alternative to Petroleum-Based Synthetics

hemp

Hemp-based paper, textiles, rope, construction materials and plastics are the tried and true low tech alternative to modern synthetics that consume large quantities of fossil fuel during manufacture. Prior to the industrial revolution, the vast majority of textiles, clothing, canvas (the Dutch word for cannabis), rope and paper was made of hemp.

Before the invention of the cotton gin in the 1820s, 80% of the world’s textiles, fabrics, and clothing were made of hemp. During the nineteenth century, hemp was the main ingredient of 75% of the world’s paper. Until the US government passed a crippling hemp tax in 1937, most bank notes and archival papers were made of hemp (owing to its greater durability) and most paints and varnishes were made from hemp seed oil.

The Conspiracy to Kill Hemp

Hemp first began losing ground in 1850 to cheaper substitutes made of cotton, jute and sisal. Prior to 1917, hemp had to be processed by hand, involving huge labor costs incompatible with mass commercial production. After George W Schlicten automated hemp processing in 1917 with a new machine called the hemp decorticator, Henry Ford set up the first biomass fuel production plant in Iron Mountain Michigan. His intention was to run his Model T on hemp-based ethanol.

ford_quote_about_use_of_hemp_product_smart_marijuana_use

All this was happening at the precise moment that the munitions company DuPont was patenting synthetic fibers (nylon, rayon, Dacron, etc) and plastics derived from petroleum. Hemp posed a major threat to DuPont’s ability to market these synthetic fibers for fabrics, rope and other products because hemp was so cheap and readily available. The chemical giant also had a commercial interest in replacing hemp-based paper with paper produced from wood chips (they held the patent on the sulfates and sulfites used to produce paper pulp) and in replacing ethanol with gasoline as the major fuel source in automobiles (they held the patent on tetraethyl lead, which allowed gasoline to burn more smoothly in the internal combustion engine Ford designed to run on ethanol).

The main co-conspirators in the plot to kill hemp included DuPont, William Randolph Hearst (who owned a logging company and a paper manufacturing plant) and Andrew Mellon, president of Mellon Bank and DuPont’s major financier.

In 1930, Mellon, as US Secretary of the Treasury, created the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and appointed his nephew Henry Anslinger to run it. Between 1935 and 1937, Anslinger and a handful of DuPont’s cronies in Congress secretly wrote a bill to tax hemp production.

Meanwhile Anslinger and Hearst orchestrated a massive media campaign demonizing a dangerous new drug called marihuana that supposedly turned Mexicans and black jazz musicians into crazed killers. Anslinger and his cronies rushed through the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 on a Friday afternoon before any lawmakers had a chance to read it. Only a handful realized the crippling effect the new law, which would also tax hemp, would have on the hemp industry.

In 1970 the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act was declared unconstitutional and replaced with the Controlled Substances Act. The latter official equated hemp with the drug marijuana (even though they come from very different plants*) and enacted an official prohibition against hemp cultivation.


*Industrial hemp (Cannabis sativa, variety sativa) is a tall, skinny plant with few major branches below the primary branches at the top. It has seven long thin leaflets and is grown in rows a foot apart. It produces good quality fiber and has a tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration of 1% or less. Marijuana plants (Cannabis sativa, variety indica), in contrast, are short and bushy and must be spaced six feet apart for optimum growth. They have five leaflets, with three of them nearly twice the width of hemp leaflets. They produce negligible usable fiber and have a THC concentration of 4-20%. See image above.

photo credit: arbyreed via photopin cc

Also posted at Veterans Today

How to Tell Where Your Food Comes from

barcode

Consumers in North America and Europe are consciously opting for nationally – or better still locally – grown foods as a way of reducing fossil fuel use and carbon dioxide emissions. Increasing concern over “food miles” (i.e. the distance their food travels before reaching their table) has led the US Congress to enact country of origin labeling (COOL) on fresh beef, pork, lamb, fresh fruits, nuts and vegetables. The right of the US government to require COOL was recently upheld by the World Trade Organization, in response to a complaint by Canada and Mexico. The WTO ruling is confusing, as the secret tribunal that decides such matters also ruled the COOL labeling requirements the US was requiring were excessively burdensome. See WTO Dispute Settlement.

Although COOL labeling is not required on frozen, canned or processed foods, the country responsible for manufacturing an item is indicated by the first three digits of the bar code. The latter is used universally in automated checkout systems.

Deciphering the bar code:

  • 00-13 USA & Canada
  • 30-37 France
  • 40-44 Germany
  • 49 Japan
  • 50 UK
  • 57 Denmark
  • 64-Finland
  • 76 Switzerland and Liechtenstein
  • 93 Australia
  • 94 New Zealand
  • 480–489 Philippines
  • 628 Saudi-Arabia
  • 629 United Arab Emirates
  • 690-695 China (including Hong Kong)
  • 740-745 Central America
  • 750 Mexico
  • 885 Thailand
  • 893 Vietnam

Consumers need to be aware that China, Hong Kong, Thailand and Vietnam have no food inspection regulations. Thus there is no guarantee food manufactured in these countries is safe.

For more country codes go to EAN codes

photo credit: jDevaun via photopin cc