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Last update: 2013-06-25

Start Something to Live For

2013-06-25 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)

American author of Aquaponic Gardening Sylvia Bernstein on union of fish and veggies. Publisher of Mother Earth News Bryan Welch's optimism of non-partisan activism. Canada's oil capital shut down by climate change. Radio Ecoshock 130626 1 hour.

Get ready for your new food source: aquaponics. But first...


In Canada, an extreme rainfall event, made worse by a stalled weather system likely powered by an unstable Arctic and climate change, has closed down the country's oil trading capital.

In Calgary Canada, nature accomplished what politics could not. The largest oil company headquarters, including suncor Energy, Imperial Oil and Shell saw their head offices closed, as downtown Calgary was evacuated and left without power for days. Trading in Canadian crude oil stopped.

Alberta towns more than a hundred years old were evacuated, flooded, and wrecked. At least 75,000 people in the major oil-trading capital of Calgary were ordered out of their homes. Most of them do not have any flood insurance, as "over-land" insurance is no longer sold in Canada following the previous record flood of 2005. Billions of dollars of damage to homes, businesses, roads, bridges and all kinds of infrastructure occurred.

The TransCanada highway connecting to the West Coast was shut down for days.

The oil-promoter in Chief, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper flew to his hometown of Calgary, clearly shocked that climate change could affect Alberta itself.

"I’ve seen a little bit of flooding in Calgary before,” he said. “I don’t think any of us have seen anything like this.”

Perhaps if Harper had not shut down climate research facilities, including the Polar research station, and muzzled Canadian climate scientists, he might have heard about research from Rutgers University (Jennifer Francis) showing Jet Stream patterns were stalling due to melting Arctic sea ice. Extreme precipitation events are happening all over the world. Even in Alberta.

The Premier of the Canadian province of Alberta, Alison Redford flew back from New York, where she was promoting the Keystone XL pipeline to ship polluting Tar Sands oil to the United States. She too was shocked at the devastation. Who could have guessed an over-heated atmosphere could hold so much water?


Canadian television anchors and reporters were unable to utter the words "climate change" or "extreme precipitation event" - even as similar floods hit Europe and India. The CTV network reported the strange "blocking high" heating Eastern Canada with summer, while keeping a swirl of storms and extreme rain in the West. The stalled Jet Stream appeared on the map, without explanation.

I'm Alex Smith. This is Radio Ecoshock telling it like it is.

Later we'll hear one brief radio clip, the only major media report I could find, telling Canadians the real cause of the "weird weather" that strikes again and again, now as the new normal.

But first, let's get back to basic solutions for right living.

We'll start with my interview with one of the North American pioneers of a brand new method of clean food production, aquaponics. It has just arrived in North America. I predict within ten years you will be buying organic local produce and fresh fish from neighborhood fish and veggie operations. Or maybe you'll grow it all yourself in your own back yard. Sylvia Bernstein, author of Aquaponic Gardening tells us how.

Later we'll talk with the driving force behind the world's largest outlet for sustainable living: Bryan Welch. He's the CEO of Ogden Publications, publisher of The Mother Earth News, the Utne Reader, and Grit. Bryan explains his optimism in dark times, and why we need it to change the world into the lives we want.


Listen to/download this Radio Ecoshock Show in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Listen to/download my interview with Sylvia Bernstein on aquaponics in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Listen to/download my interview with Bryan Welch, publisher of Mother Earth News in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

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LISTEN DO THIS PROGRAM RIGHT NOW (Courtesy of archive.org)


Sylvia Bernstein in her aquaponic greenhouse in Colorado.

A Google search for "aquaponics" brings about 3,380,000 results. And yet the field is less than five years old in America, maybe 15 years in North America.

Of course, as listener and song-writer Smokey Dymny points out "Chapter 13 of Bill Mollison's Permaculture, A Designer's Manual (1988) laid this methodology out in detail. Permaculture magazines and teaching institutes have followed up with up to date developments in the years since." The permaculture folks used ponds and planting together.

But aquaponics adds a new methodology, growing plants in media like gravel, rather than soil ("hydroponics") and delivering the fish effluent directly to the plant roots in a systematic way.

Here are a few informal notes on the History of Aquaculture from my talk with Sylvia Bernstein, author of Aquaponic Gardening - the premiere book on the subject in North America.


Fish have been feeding land plants since time immemorial, especially when we consider floods. Perhaps the Hanging Gardens of Babylon was an example of the earliest civilized aquaponics. Wiki suggests the Aztecs or people of South China and Thailand practiced a form of aquaponics.

"The development of modern aquaponics is often attributed to the various works of the New Alchemy Institute and the works of Dr. Mark McMurtry et al. at the North Carolina State University.[10] Inspired by the successes of the New Alchemy Institute, and the reciprocating aquaponics techniques developed by Dr. Mark McMurtry et al., other institutes soon followed suit. Starting in 1997, Dr. James Rakocy and his colleagues at the University of the Virgin Islands researched and developed the use of deep water culture hydroponic grow beds in a large-scale aquaponics system.[9]"

- Wikipedia


"The first aquaponics research in Canada was a small system added onto existing aquaculture research at a research station in Lethbridge, Alberta. Canada saw a rise in aquaponics setups throughout the ’90s, predominantly as commercial installations raising high-value crops such as trout and lettuce. A setup based on the deep water system developed at the University of Virgin Islands was built in a greenhouse at Brooks, Alberta where Dr. Nick Savidov and colleagues researched aquaponics from a background of plant science. The team made findings on rapid root growth in aquaponics systems and on closing the solid-waste loop, and found that owing to certain advantages in the system over traditional aquaculture, the system can run well at a low pH level, which is favoured by plants but not fish.

The Edmonton Aquaponics Society in Northern Alberta is adapting Dr. Savidov's commercially sized system to a smaller-scale prototype that can be operated by families, small groups, or restaurants. They intend to further develop the closed solid waste loop.[11]" - Wikipedia on Aquaponics


Here is a large helpful site based on the back yard experimental movement in Australia.

We didn't have time to go into the important role Australians played in developing aquaponics. The Aussies experimented and really made it happen. I doubt we'd have current results without the Australian role. But the real founder of aquaponics is...


The modern practice really began from research starting only 30 years ago, principally by Dr. James Rakocy at the University of the Virgin Islands. Rakocy was an aquaculture specialist who looked at ways to use plants to filter water for fish. "Waste in a contained aquaculture system is a big problem" says Bernstein. People had used water hyacinths to filter fish waste, but Rakocy thought why not grow food instead, like lettuce or tomatoes? That innovation started modern aquaponics.

His system was commercially oriented, called deep water raft-based production.

Rakocy is now retired, after a 30 year career. In the meantime, there was grass-roots experiments in Australia about home and back yard aquaponic gardening. That was more focused on using gravel. Modern aquaponics developed mainly in Australia around 2001 - and became popular in the United States only in the past 3 or 4 years.

Wiki lists ten key principles of aquaponics developed by Dr. Rakocy:

"Ten primary guiding principles for creating successful aquaponics systems were issued by Dr. James Rakocy, the director of the aquaponics research team at the University of the Virgin Islands, based on extensive research done as part of the Agricultural Experiment Station aquaculture program.

“Use a feeding rate ratio for design calculations

Keep feed input relatively constant

Supplement with calcium, potassium and iron

Ensure good aeration

Remove solids

Be careful with aggregates

Oversize pipes

Use biological pest control

Ensure adequate biofiltration

Control pH"

- Wikipedia


Sylvia Bernstein's 2009 book was first widely available book about aquaponics. It is called "Aquaponic Gardening, A Step-By-Step Guide To Raising Vegetables And Fish Together." Find it on Amazon here.

Sylvia Bernstein runs this helpful site with lots of aquaponics info.

Her main web site is: theaquaponicsource.com

Sylvia also plays a pivotal role in a new organization, the Aquaponics Association, founded just about 2 years ago.

They have held conventions for "aquapons" as they call themselves. The next is the 2013 Conference in September 20-22nd in Tucson Arizona, with Joel Salatin as lead speaker.

It is rare for aquaponic practitioners to meet in person. Most of the development and skill sharing for this new field was developed on the Internet. It's an amazing hybrid of high tech communication enabling a new type of safe food production at a time we need it badly.

Their first conference was in Orlando Florida 2 and a half years ago, leading to the founding of this association. They have almost 500 members now and still growing.

In our interview, we also discuss recycling an "IBC Tote" to make fish tanks on the cheap. IBC stands for Intermediate Bulk Container. One whole IBC tote can be made into a 275 gallon fish tank. Or cut it in half to make two grow beds out of it.

But Bernstein warns to check carefully what was stored in that tote before - it must be food stuffs, and not toxic chemicals! Also, the PH of the fish water/plant solution is very important, and so the tote cannot have carried high or low PH chemicals. You can also use blue plastic storage barrels.

Some fish will grow bigger and faster than others, so they don't all mature as a single crop like veggies (at least that's true with tilapia). We also discuss other fish that are more tolerant of cold water, like cat fish and trout, for folks living further north. In Colorado, Sylvia brings her fish tank indoors, from her outdoor greenhouse, during the winter months.

The fish do not smell, just as any other aquarium does not smell. You could do the whole operation indoors, say in a basement, with grow-lights for the plants.


The fish are intriguing (and tasty!) - but don't forget the fantastic results aquaponic growers get with fast-growing production in the plant side of things.

The plant roots are not always submerged in water, but are flooded with nutrients and then drained for air, automatically in repeating cycles - assuming you are using a media like gravel, and not a raft-based deep water culture.

Because the plants get lots of oxygen, water, and abundunt food - they don't have to focus energy on developing large root systems. Their roots may be quite small, and that energy goes into the leaves or fruits we want.

Sylvia adds composting red worms to her media.

There is a wave of interest in America in aquaponics for several reasons - chief among them being food security and food sovereignty. The government is not protecting our food supplies from GMO's, pesticides, hormones and toxic chemicals. Aquaponic production guarantees real organic food safety.

Sylvia is worried about climate change and it's impacts on mass food production. Aquaponics lets her produce her own supply of safe food. Plus...it's fun and good for the mind. Her greenhouse is so alive - with water flowing, fish, plants growing. Also, aquaponics is fantastic teaching tool for neighbors and children to learn biology and natural ecosystem interdependence.

When Sylvia studied agricultural economics at UC Davis, there was no sense of this delicate balance of natural systems. They learned to add chemicals, but never the consequences, like impacts on groundwater, rivers, and dead zones in the oceans.

Her site theaquaponicsource.com has plenty of free info and a community board. But they also have a store where they sell parts, or even a complete turn-key system if you are not the do-it-yourself kind of person, or do not have the time to set one up from scratch.


Find lots of photos of aquaponics experiments at the University of Arizona here.

Note lack of phosphorus in aquaponics system leads to use of greens like lettuce.

"Plant crops in aquaponics are usually limited to lettuce and other leafy crops, since they readily use the nitrogen available as a waste in aquaculture systems but don't need phosphorus (which is not present in aquaculture systems) as many fruiting plants do."

- U of Arizona

But Rakocy grew tomatoes as well... he added calcium, potassium and iron.

Here is a You tube video of Sylvia explaining aquaponics, created by thedailycamera.com

For three bucks you can get a .pdf download with tons of links for aquaponics, from the National sustainable Agriculture Information Service, here.

... and just search for "aquaponics" on You tube to watch hours of people just like yourself, setting up this new form of food production. It's very educational, and very possible.


Before we continue with our drive toward a sustainable world, let's take another quick moment to reflect on the dying path of fossil fuel destruction. Perhaps you've heard the Calgary, the oil-capital of Canada, was more or less shut down by flash flooding and over-flowing rivers.

As fate would have it, I was in Calgary on the night of Wednesday June 19th, as the black skies filled with thunder for almost a dozen hours. Sheets or rain, torrents of rain drenched the city. All the foothills let loose, creeks became rivers, rivers became fast-running lakes filling streets, homes, entire neighborhoods and towns. Fearing the water supply would become contaminated, there was panic buying of bottled water, until the shelves ran dry. As always, few were ready for an extreme rainfall event in the dry prairie.

Alberta is rich with wealth from the oil wells and the Tar Sands. But even that economy will reel from the billions of dollars of uninsured losses. The famous Calgary Stampede looked doubtful, as major stadiums, parks, and the downtown core flooded. Apartment towers stood empty in the dark.

The ruling party of Canada, the party of climate denial, was due to convene their annual conference in Calgary the next week. That was postponed.

Here is a brief clip from the government-supported Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the program Current Events hosted by Anna Maria Tremonti. It's possibly the only report from a climate scientist in the days of non-stop coverage of the Alberta floods. The speaker is Robert Sandford, the EPCOR Chair supporting the United Nations "Water for Life" Decade.

[Excerpt from podcast interview with Bob Sanford and host Anna Maria Tremonti from the The Current, episode "Severe flooding in southern Alberta" from June 21, 2013. Find it here.]

That was Robert Sandford, explaining the science behind extreme rainfall events due to climate change. Even he did not have the courage to suggest we must reduce our emissions of fossil fuels as a solution, speaking instead of adapting to wilder climate swings.

NASA in America, hardly a radical source, confirms we can expect more extreme rainfall events due to climate change. And in this third warmest May recorded since temperature records were kept on planet Earth, flooding in Central Europe cost $22 billion dollars! The Alberta flooding will cost billions of dollars, being likely the most expensive "natural" disaster in Canada's history. Read this story of Calgary's "Manhattan moment" by Andrew Nikiforuk.

Enough. The same madness of denial goes on all over the world. In my opinion, all we can do as individuals who know that physics and nature will not be denied, is to keep pushing the movement toward a sane sustainable society. We are about to talk to an optimist driven by the vision it can be done.


Bryan Welch, publisher and editorial director of Ogden Publications.

This is my second interview with Bryan Welch, the powerhouse behind the Mother Earth News, Mother Earth Living, the Utne Reader and Grit. In addition to his active editorial role in the Mother Earth News, Bryan is CEO of the parent company Odgen Publications. He's right to say that company is the largest media force for sustainable living in the world.

Our first interview was about his book "Beautiful and Abundant, Building the World We Want". It's done very well - but to be honest, I had a hard time agreeing with his positive message, given the flood of bad news I cover on Radio Ecoshock. Plus, as a green, selling "abundance" to the American people seemed like a bad idea. We didn't end on a happy note.

This time, I was in a better space, and understood what Bryan is really trying to say.

As an example: who is reading Mother Earth News? Surely it's mostly liberals, Democrats, environmentalists? Not really Welch tells us in this interview. People who want better food and more self reliance may very well be Conservative, even Republicans. Welch feels he can get the message of sustainability out to a much wider audience if the politics are left out of the mix. That's my take anyway.

As to the idea of abundance, he's not talking about more useless shopping for stuff. It may well be abundance of community relations, of innovation. But we can't have that abundance, he tells us, unless we control population.

I raise the caveat that is we also demand beauty, there should be no dark, ugly holes hidden in the process of our society. For me, that means no destructive strip mining in the Tar Sands or Appalachia, or dangerous tanks of radioactive waste, behind our production and consumption. There should be beauty all the way.

Bryan explains why, despite the flow of negative reports in the media, we may be living in one of the better times for humanity.

This interview was less of a wrestling match, I felt, and better communication of Bryan's vision - which does lead to so much good information and alternative community action in his various publications. Bryan explains his philosophy here, and of course in his book.

Do I agree with everything Bryan Welch, or any of my guests say? Maybe you will disagree with some things. Radio Ecoshock is not a show where guests express my own personal state of mind. It is a platform, your platform, supported by you the listener, to hear the visionary voices, and the real do-ers, helping you make your own life choices.

This is a thought-provoking interview, well worth your time.

Visit Bryan Welch's blog on Mother Earth News here.


Thank you for listening, and being part of Radio Ecoshock. Find out how to support this program at our web site ecoshock.org. Your donations and memberships keep me going.

It also helps me pay for the tons of green audio files we offer on our web site, and from this blog. Downloads cost money, and we get thousands of shows downloaded every week.

I'm Alex Smith. If anything you hear on Radio Ecoshock makes you part of the solution, my job is done. Let's meet again next week.


We end the program with the hit song "Something To Live For" by Vancouver's own Barney Bentall and the Legendary Hearts.

Barney has a fascinating story. He came from an extremely wealthy family, and could have made his own fortune in the family business. Instead, he was lured into Rock and Roll. Not only did Bentall make many of his own hits, and play concerts around the world, he has appeared as a back-up musician for many of the world's most famous artists. Barney Bentall has also supported many non-profit and fund-raising events around Vancouver - so he really does have a "legendary heart".


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Growing the Life You Want To Live

2013-06-18 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)

From the Mother Earth News Fair, we hear about Life on the "Farmstead." Lisa Kivirist turning your dreams of small scale food into a living in Wisconsin. Lisa has tips for us all. Then we go solar with author and speaker Dan Chiras, plus solar electrician Brad Burkhartzmeyer - the questions you would ask are answered.

Download/listen to this Radio Ecoshock Show in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Download/listen to my interview with Lisa Kivirist in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Download/listen to my interview with Dan Chiras in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Download/listen to my interview with Brad Burkhartzmeyer in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Listen to this Radio Ecoshock right now (courtesy of archive.org)


Lisa Kivirist and John Ivanko

Let's meet Lisa Kivirist.

There were so many useful angles to this interview. For one thing, we learn about the transition out of the city. But what will you do there to survive and pay the bills? Lisa and her husband John Ivanko managed a balance of food production, local business, and book writing - successful for the past 17 years.

They've developed and then written about "ecopreneurship" - developing an income from what you love to do - and what is good for the Earth. Oh and by the way, Lisa and John run a "carbon negative business". They soak up more carbon than they emit. Isn't that the only way to a future?

Their latest book is "Rural Renaissance: Renewing the Quest for the Good Life". If you want to learn from this dynamic couple personally, book into their top-rated green bed and breakfast outside Monroe, Wisconsin. Find their web site here.

Just one of the many tips that impressed me: setting a time after the Christmas feasting to really eat up all those supplies you bought in bulk, or stored away from the previous season. A time of buying no food, but working up good recipes from what you have.

Linda is an experienced and engaging speaker, and we had some laughs along the way. Enjoy this one!


Dan Chiras

Radio Ecoshock continues from the Mother Earth News Fair in Puyallup Washington. Does it pay to go solar? Dan Chiras worked alternative energy for three decades, writing 30 books in the process. Dan visited me in the Radio Ecoshock mobile studio.

Dan is a 30 year veteran of the battle to bring clean green energy to America. Currently he's the Director of the Evergreen Institute located in Gerald, Missouri. Dan also has two blogs in Mother Earth News magazine.

His first blog is on building Net Zero energy homes. In fact, if you search for "Dan Chiras Net Zero Energy" you'll land in his Mother Earth News blog. Or you can go to the Mother Earth News web site and find the blog here.

One of Dan Chiras's many books that appealed to me was "Things I Learned Too Late in Life".

His second Mother Earth News blog is called "Dan Chiras on Loving Life". It may sound corny, but Dan thinks a positive love for people and all Nature can be healing for the planet.

Behind all that, are mountains of books, articles, You tube videos, and public appearances by Dan Chiras - absolutely crammed with plans and tips to install everything from solar to wind and beyond.

In our interview, we concentrated on solar energy. One of our previous off-grid guests suggested the real place to start is not solar electricity, but "solar thermal" even just to heat hot water for your home. We talk through all that, and Dan gives us a lot in a short interview.


Brad Burkhartzmeyer

We just have time to squeeze in a few minutes with a very experienced solar designer and installer from Washington State, Brad BurkHartzmeyer.

Brad founded Sun's Eye solar power which has installed lots of solar juice in area of Tacoma Washington, and beyond. It becomes apparent during our interview the importance of checking out the training and credentials of your solar installer. Maybe the guy down the road is not your best choice. Some states require a trained electrician, with more courses on solar installation. Others do not. Buyer check it out!

In the program I only had time for just a sample from my full 18 minute interview with Brad Burkhartzmeyer. We talk about roof angles, solar water heating and more. Get the full interview as a free mp3 download here.

If you've ever considered solar power, give that interview a listen.

At one point I was wondering. Brad suggested the average full solar power system costs between twenty and thirty thousand dollars. Twenty thousand for a solar system? No way I thought. Then I get in my $25,000 car which will break down in three years and costs thousands to run every year. Maybe a lifetime supply of sun power would be a better buy.

Plus, the system will pay for itself, and can even turn a profit, if your local provider allows meters that can run backwards, paying you for the extra power you produce. A nice check coming in.

We know electricity rates will just go up and up. With solar you get a guaranteed low rate, which just gets more competitive as time goes by.

At the Mother Earth News Fair, the whole mobile radio studio was powered by the sun. Join me won't you, in the clean energy revolution?


You can help support this program, at our web site, ecoshock.org.

My thanks to listeners who made it possible to record so many great guests at the Fair.

I'm Alex Smith, saying there's lots more Radio Ecoshock coming next week. Let's meet again then.

We finish up the program with a small slice of sun-loving music by Vastmandana, out of Oakland California.


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Civilization: Change It or Leave It

2013-06-11 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)

Can we return to the primitive? Miles Olson on personal rewilding. Asoka Bandarage on "middle way" out of collapse. Organic grow and cook with Barbara Damrosch of Four Season Farm. Radio Ecoshock 130612 1 hour

Could you leave civilization and survive? Are we permanently plugged in?

I'm Alex Smith Welcome to a mixed bag of greens this week. You'll hear Sri-Lankan-American author Asoka Bandarage's solutions for collapse, plus a classic conversation from the four seasons garden to your dinner table, with one of America's best known organic growers, Barbara Damrosch. But first we try to escape from the voices of society, with author and "professional dropout" Miles Olson, from the Mother Earth News Fair.


Listen to/download this Radio Ecoshock Show in CD Quality (56 MB) or Lo-Fi 14 MB

Listen to/download my interview with Miles Olson (24 minutes) in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Listen to/download my interview with Asoka Bandarage (19 minutes) in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Listen to/download my interview with Barbara Damrosch (15 minutes) in CD Quality or Lo-Fi



Author and vagabond Miles Olson.

The following description is blatantly stolen from the Mother Earth News Fair blurb, for June 1st & 2nd in Puyallup, Washington.

"How to Walk Away from Civilization

Miles Olson is an author, teacher and "professional dropout" who has spent the past decade living in the woods of Vancouver Island.

Workshop Description

Ever wondered what it would be like to head to the hills and try to live off the fat of the land, outside the normal routine of modern life? Author Miles Olson shares his experiences, reflections and musings in rewilding, based on a decade of living intimately with the land and building a "feral homestead" on Vancouver Island.

Other Workshops

Fire by Friction

How to Make a Folded Basket

Speaker Bio

Miles Olson is an author, teacher and "professional dropout" who has spent the past decade living in the woods of Vancouver Island. His experiences have put him at the forefront of the rewilding movement and given him a unique perspective on the relationship between humans and wildness.

Visit www.milesolson.net for more information.

As you'll discover in the interview, Miles struck a long-standing cord with me. As fate would have it, my family owned part of an island in Northern Ontario. I spent two months there, for my first 17 years, without electricity or really much connection to, or news from, the outside world. We seldom wore shoes, and spent a lot of time in the water, like amphibians.

Then in the late 1970's, I went "back to the land" - again in a distant cabin with no electricity for 10 years. So I understood intuitively what Miles Olsen was telling us - about the voices of civilization we all carry in our heads, and what happens when those instructions and demands go silent. Nature awaits our consciousness, but it's not easy making the transition.

If you do, it's just as hard to come "back". The traffic and structured chaos of cities can feel so un-natural. Miles chose to develop a homestead "squat" outside a town on Vancouver Island, with a few like-minded people. He didn't get the standard job and house. Yet somehow he wrote the book "Unlearn, Rewild: Earth Skills, Ideas and Inspiration for the Future Primitive" from New Society publishers.

If Miles Olson writes as lucidly as he talks, this should be a worth-while book. I felt the spark from him, as we met for the first time on radio, at the Mother Earth News Fair.


Author and teacher Asoka Bandarage

You know our environment, species, climate and economy are flirting with collapse. It's global, and needs global eyes. Last week we played a reading by Asoka Bandarage. Now it's time to speak with her.

Is it possible we could be organic, solar-powered humans, and still destroy the ecology of the world? Is there an inner destructive force we need to examine, and change, in order to evolve, or even to survive?

Asoka Bandarage is the author of the new book, Sustainability and Well-Being: The Middle Path to Environment, Society and the Economy published by Palgrave MacMillan.

Find her web site here.

Asoka Bandarage (Yale Ph.D.) is the author of numerous publications in the fields of global political economy, environment, population, women's studies and peace and conflict resolution. She is a college professor and has taught at Brandeis, Mount Holyoke, Georgetown, American and other universities. She has published several books, ranging from an expert analysis of the recent civil war in her native Sri Lanka, to a wide-ranging view of women in the population crisis. She also writes for the Huffington Post.

In this Radio Ecoshock interview, our guest takes us from the early stages of collapse, into a different path, the middle path.

We know little to nothing about Sri Lanka, other than it is near India, was called Ceylon, and suffered both a tsunami and a civil war. For example, did you know that agrichemicals have caused widespread cancer in farm workers in Sri Lanka. Asoka tells us the same disease and death befalls farm workers in other parts of the world, including Central America. The chemical companies and the governments know very well what causes these cancers. Some toxic pesticides banned in North America and Europe are still used in developing countries, sprayed right on workers while they toil in the fields. What choice do they have?

But Asoka Bandarage draws from the Buddhist traditions, finding a way balanced between over-consumption in the industrialized countries, versus the under-consumption of the billion or more very poor people on this planet. No, this isn't the vision of rampant capitalism, or even the "liberal" reports from the United Nations. From her years of experience teaching, travelling and writing - Asoka brings her own unique voice to our global crisis.


Barbara Damrosch of Four Season Farm

Again, here is the description of Barbara from the Mother Earth News Fair brochure:

"Feasting From Your Four Season Garden

Workshop Description

Learn how to grow and store a year-round produce supply. Find out how to raise food without much time, work or garden space, and discover what Barbara Damrosch has learned about bringing that food to the table. In the kitchen she follows the same motto she follows in the garden: If it's complicated, you're doing it wrong.

Speaker Bio

Barbara Damrosch, called the "queen of organic growers" by The New York Times, is one of the nation’s most respected garden experts and writers.

She is the author of Theme Gardens and The Garden Primer, and writes a weekly column for The Washington Post called "A Cook’s Garden." She appeared as a regular correspondent on the PBS series The Victory Garden, and co-hosted the series Gardening Naturally for The Learning Channel.

Damrosch and Eliot Coleman operate Four Season Farm, an experimental market garden in Harborside, Maine, that is a nationally recognized model of small-scale sustainable agriculture.

Visit www.fourseasonfarm.com for more information."

I knew about Barbara, from my previous Radio Ecoshock interview with her husband, Elliot Coleman of Four Season Farm. Here is the listing for that interview:

How to grow food in winter, even in Northern climates. Master gardener Eliot Coleman, from Four Seasons Farm in Bar Harbor Maine, grows (and sells) vegetables year-round, using inexpensive portable "hoop house" greenhouses, with no added heat source. Classic how-to interview, from Radio Ecoshock Show 111207 23 minutes 5 MB

I felt an immediate bond with Barbara. She's a very intelligent woman who has trained her brain on growing things, eating and living on what she grows, and then communicating the whole experience in ways that we can use. That is so valuable, she is nationally and internationally recognized.

We talked about their new project, their first cookbook. It's called "The Four Seaon Farm Gardener's Cookbook". Really it's half a how-to-grow-it manual, followed by excellent recipes for preparing and enjoying what you grew. I've got a copy, and it's a keeper for sure.

During the interview, I raise the problem of busy people trying to grow food and prepare it well. Do we have time really? Barbara was all over that.

She gave us a few tips, ready for her presentation at the Mother Earth News Fair - on how to cook the fast way. I also like her perspective on using different recipes to keep eating the same crop when it comes in - like three or four weeks of asparagus. It's really living on what you can grow, in season.

We just chatted easily. Barbara has a new column in the works, but no big book projects. She wants to get back to Harborside Maine, and just enjoy her time in the garden and kitchen. She's earned that... but somehow I'm doubtful. Barbara Damrosch has been giving so much, to millions of people for so long - can she just live a quiet life? We'll see.


My thanks to the Mother Earth News for arranging some great interviews at their recent fair in Puyallup Washington. There's plenty more for you, in coming shows. I met such unusual and productive people. Even when I had doubts, every guest brought a surprise, a new perspective you'll want to hear.

My special thanks to all the listeners who donated at our blog or web site, so I could afford to get my recording gear to the Fair. I literally couldn't have done it without memberships and donations from listeners like you.

I had access to a Fifth Wheel type trailer, parked right outside the main pavilion on the Puyallup Fair Grounds. I did interviews every hour, with feature presenters, all day. It was amazingly quiet inside this mobile studio - producing radio quality audio with the crowd right outside! Of course it was all solar powered radio, with the 120 Watt solar panel on the roof providing more electricity than I needed. There are four six volt batteries to store the sun's power.

If you like what you hear, you too can become part of the program, at www.ecoshock.org.

I'm Alex Smith, thank you for listening again this week.


Share: Civilization: Change It or Leave It

Will Humans Go Extinct Soon?

2013-06-09 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)

Investigating claims of near-term extinction for humans. Clips from Guy McPherson, John D. Cox, Dr. David Archer. Interview w. John Michael Greer. Analysis of predictions by Malcolm Light of the Arctic Methane Emergency Group (AMEG). Radio Ecoshock 130605 1 hour.

Listen to/download this Radio Ecoshock Show in CD Quality (56 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB)

Listen to/download the 12 minute interview with John Michael Greer in CD Quality or Lo-Fi


Mike Ruppert: "The last time you were on about a year ago, you said essentially at that point, that the only thing that could save us was an immediate cessation of all industrial activity. How much further do we have to go now?"

Dr. Guy McPherson: "I strongly suspect that because of those positive feedbacks, even completion of the on-going collapse will not prevent near-term human extinction as a result of climate change - a scenario that would involve geoengineering, a complete collapse, and 27 other miracles that you might come up with that would actually allow our species to persist beyond another human generation."

That was Dr. Guy McPherson, speaking on Mike Ruppert's Lifeboat Hour on the Progressive Radio Network, April 21st, 2013.

Are you living in the last human generation? Now that the 2012 Mayan Calendar craze is over, there is a new movement claiming we are heading into "near-term human extinction". One group says the Northern Hemisphere will be devoid of people by the 2030's, with the population of the Southern Hemisphere dying out a few years later.

Why? Due to a combination of events caused by climate change. The Arctic will release very high levels of methane gas. It will come, they say, from frozen methane on the shallow sea bed, now exposed by the end of sea ice. And from the land, from rotting vegetation frozen over the ages in the Permafrost, now released.

Methane is at least 20 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. For a few years, it may be as much as 100 times more powerful. If a lot of methane is released in a decade or two, global mean temperature may rise more than 10 degrees Centigrade some say. It could be twice that in the Arctic. Could our complex industrial civilization could survive? It's unlikely agriculture could feed our current billions. Most current species would disappear in the 6th great extinction. Are humans immune to extinction?

Is it happening already? Arctic sea ice is melting more each year. should we try to cool the Arctic, if not the world? That's the view of a small but growing group of scientists and concerned citizens. It's called geoengineering.

Most scientists caution we have not reached such a desperate stage yet. Geoengineering could just make things worse. It's never been done; we don't know the side-effects.

Two weeks ago we had the Australian author Clive Hamilton on Radio Ecoshock. Clive explained the big risks of attempting to block out the sun, called Solar Radiation Management. In his book "Earthmasters" Hamilton describes a somewhat unholy alliance of billionaire Bill Gates, a small clique of worried and respected scientists, some nuclear weapons lab types, and some of the world's biggest oil and coal companies. They are all pushing geoengineering to cool the world.

We are going to investigate near-term human extinction. We'll peer into one of the primary sources of this idea, Malcolm Light, from the Arctic Methane Emergency Group.

You may find some of his solutions outrageous, but they have been presented in all seriousness to the British Parliament. The AMEG group wants geoengineering to start this year, in 2013.

We'll hear who is spreading this ultimate climate despair. Some are people I respect, my friends. Others are from the fringe, the anonymous spaces of the Internet.

I also interviewed a German scientific expert on extinction, and a widely published author. It's a wild mix, as we encounter the strangest and most fearful prediction of human demise.

Oh, and one more thing. I can't give you the final answer. We don't know yet, do we? In fact, as collapsenik Dmitry Orlov writes in his blog, we can never know whether we are extinct!



Let's begin with that voice that tweaked my brain. My Radio Ecoshock Show for December 5th, 2012 was called "On the Road to Extinction." It features a speech by Dr. Guy McPherson, delivered at the Bluegrass Bioneeers Conference in Kentucky. Guy, you will remember, is a qualified natural scientist who left the University of Arizona to pursue his own free speech. I wondered if the extreme statements Guy made about extreme global warming were true. I spent two days cross-checking pretty well everything he said. I posted my results online. His sources all checked out.

None of those scientific papers and authoritative reports said humans would go extinct before 2050. Guy McPherson made that jump, in part due to a frightening scientific-looking paper by Malcolm Light. I'll get to that.

These days Guy's blog "Nature Bats Last" features stories like "The irreconcilable acceptance of near-term extinction" by Daniel A. Drumright, and "On the Acceptance of Near-Term Extinction" by Gary Gripp and "Preparing For Near-Term Extinction" by Carolyn Baker. These people explain how they came to accept that humans are done-for, and soon. How do we cope with living in the end-times? There are others, a growing chorus of others. They take this belief very seriously, as if already proved by science and developments in the real world.

I disagree.

I think humans will still be around, trying to survive a continually warming world, for hundreds of years, if not more. Shortly, I'll explain why. We'll hear about the long human history of end-times thinking from popular author and commentator John Michael Greer. I've got a Radio Ecoshock reading from a new book by Asoka Bandarage about current trends of extinction in aboriginal peoples. Author John Cox wonders if we might choose extinction.

You can hear more of Guy McPherson on near-term human extinction on the Gary Null Show on May 14th, 2013. Find it on here on prn.fm.


Before we go digging into the science of near term human extinction, let's get a different view, this time from John Michael Greer, author of over 20 books and the Arch-Druid.

[Greer interview]

Essentially, Greer points out we've had a string of "end of the world" incidents, from Y2K to the end of the Mayan Calendar. Greer thinks we'll always need a replacement for that kind of thinking, and "near-term human extinction" could be it. He has his own theory of a bumpy decline which he calls "catabolic collapse". Greer was heavily criticized by those who believe near term human extinction is inevitable and is a scientific point of view. When I raised the danger that all sorts of end-times seekers and tin-foil types would pile on board this new idea, participants in the Near Term Extinction discussion site, - yes that's online already - they said "of course, we know that. But that doesn't change the science behind what we are saying."


*** UPDATE: A spokesperson for AMEG (Arctic Methane Emergency Group) says Malcolm Light is no longer a member of the group. Their web site has not been updated (it still lists Light as a member) but he has left. The AMEG plan for the methane emergency no longer includes Light's Arctic drilling and HAARP radio waves as solutions. Calls for other geoengineering, including chemtrail-like spraying of sulphates, remain. ***

Let's look at that science. In his seminal post June 20th, 2012, titled "We're Done", Guy McPherson links to this quote from Malcolm Light: quote: “This process of methane release will accelerate exponentially, release huge quantities of methane into the atmosphere and lead to the demise of all life on earth before the middle of this century.”

McPherson has defended Malcolm Light and the Arctic Methane Emergency Group in a various places, including Transition Voice, the organ of the U.S. Transition Movement.

Now remember, I'm not questioning McPherson's other sources, including Utah Professor Tim Garrett, the International Energy Agency, and a long list of others. I've checked those, and Guy is right. They are frightening predictions of warming up to 6 degrees Centigrade, or more, by 2100 - a climatic catastrophe for sure.

I'm concerned with the conclusion that we will be wiped out, soon, and especially using Malcolm Light of the AMEG group as a source.

Malcolm Light's core article, posted on The Arctic Methane Emergency Group web site is titled: "Global Extinction within one Human Lifetime as a Result of a Spreading Atmospheric Arctic Methane Heat wave and Surface Firestorm".

In what looks like a scientific paper, complete with complex graphs and charts, we find this stunning announcement: "The absolute mean extinction time for the northern hemisphere is 2031.8 and for the southern hemisphere 2047.6 with a final mean extinction time for 3/4 of the earth's surface of 2039.6."

Well that's pretty precise isn't it? On August 2031, say goodbye for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere. There is a lot in this article. I won't call it a scientific "paper" until I can find evidence it was peer-reviewed or published in an official journal.

This theory, and the radical solutions I'll discuss in a minute, were presented to the Britain's Environmental Audit Committee. The UK Parliament responded to this all-party committee's report "Protecting the Arctic". This AMEG paper went beyond the fringe into serious consideration by a major government.

What was the Committee told, as published by AMEG? Quoting from Malcolm Light's article, "This process of methane release will accelerate exponentially, release huge quantities of methane into the atmosphere and lead to the demise of all life on earth before the middle of this century."

We get slightly different estimates of when humans will go extinct in notes to one of the complex graphs in Light's article. It reads:

"Figure 8 shows a different method of interpreting the extinction fields defined by the (12 +-3) + 6% year long lifetime of methane (IPCC, 1992) assumed to have been instantaneously injected into the Arctic atmosphere in 2010 and the lifetime of the globally spreading methane atmospheric veil at different methane global warming potentials. The start of extinction begins between 2020 and 2026.9 and extinction will be complete in the northern hemisphere by 2057. Extinction will begin around 2024 in the southern hemisphere and will be completed by 2087. Extinction in the southern hemisphere, in particular in Antarctica will be delayed by some 30 years. This makes property on the Transantarctic mountains of premium value for those people wish to survive the coming methane firestorm for a few decades longer."

Let's pick up on that key phrase "assumed to have been instantaneously injected into the Arctic atmosphere in 2010". That leads to a building block of the whole theory, and the panic to geoengineer the planet.

An unlikely source has disputed the essential point. Somewhere out there in cyberspace is a person who made tens of thousands of posts on the site democraticunderground.com. She or he used the name "Muriel Volestrangler" - which just happens to be an alias used by British comedian John Cleese.

"Muriel" says Malcolm Light cherry picked the very worst single measurement of methane release in 2010, a startling spike reported by the American agency NOAA, from the Arctic Svalbard base on the day of November 16th, 2010. Light uses that spike for all his subsequent frightening calculations.

But here is what New Zealand blogger, Climate Show radio host Gareth Renowden wrote in his "Hot-Topic" blog about the graph Malcolm Light used:

"The graph comes from NOAA’s Earth System Research Labs Global Monitoring Division’s new data visualisation web page here (you’ll see a CO2 graph first, but click on the menu to the left of the graph to get the methane version). The readings for the last year are preliminary, and shown in brown. The last five data points are so far off the chart that they are almost certainly going to be rejected as being caused by local contamination. That’s happened before — the green dots show when — and at the moment other Arctic sites are not showing a similar rise. However, Svalbard is close to sea floor methane hydrate deposits that are known to be venting gas".

--- end Quote from Gareth Renowden at hot-topic.co.nz

Muriel Volestrangler tells us the data points showing the big methane spike have been revised by NOAA, who always said such measurements were provisional. I checked. The spike is gone. The steady rise over the decades is back. You can see it for yourself at the NOAA site linked above.

Therefore, most of the calculations in Malcolm Light's paper are not based on reality. They show what could happen, maybe, if there was ever a big release of methane in the Arctic, which continued at the new high level. But that hasn't happened at all. There's no doubt about it. Actual methane levels in the global atmosphere have NOT spiked beyond the gradual increase expected. No emergency. Yet. Although it could happen...

Volestrangler finds several more gross assumptions, all for the worst, and unprovable hypothesis in the Malcolm Light paper. Muriel writes:

"But since the basis for it all is a one month anomaly at one measuring station, which has since been counted as a false reading, it is all based on a mistake. He's taken that one month error, and extrapolated it until the world has heated up by 14 degrees C, which he says will therefore be an extinction event."

It's good news if Malcolm's paper is faulty, unless you have an agenda that requires governments to act in panic.


At AMEG we find only this: "Malcolm Light, specialist in earth sciences, blogger at globalwarmingmlight.blogspot.com". He claims a PhD from the University of London, but we are not told in what field.

I checked that blog address, but globalwarminglight has been taken over by companies selling financial services. Dead end.

An article at the Ecologist Magzine describes Light as an inventor and retired professor. Not much information there.

In a post at peakoil.com, Light says of himself: "Malcolm Light, retired Arctic oil, mineral and climate researcher". Getting closer.

I followed up on papers published by Malcolm Light, which he cites in his AMEG posting. Here is one titled "Saline Fluid Flow and Hydrocarbon Migration and Maturation Related to Geopressure, Frio Formation." It's from the place where Malcolm Light worked: The Bureau of Economic Geology at the University of Texas, Austin. He is a petroleum geologist who spent most of his career in Texas preparing information to assist extraction of fossil fuels.

Now we understand the vision that Malcolm Light is advancing to solve the climate crisis - a solution which hardly anyone in the environment community knows about.

Digging around on the Net, we find Malcolm Light has two main answers for the methane emergency. Other scientists like David Archer at the University of Chicago dispute there is any such emergency at this time.


The first he calls "Project Lucy". I found it at the Iowa City Climate Advocates site. In this paper, Malcolm Light gives himself a new description, quote: "Malcolm Light, PhD (Univ. of London), consultant with many years of experience in methane, diamonds and numerous related topics."

Here is Light's solution Number 1. Quote: "Project Lucy therefore aims to design, build and test a microwave transmission system targeting low-altitude methane clouds with the aim of breaking the first C-H bond as soon as the methane erupts into the atmosphere from the Arctic Ocean. The transmitters can be mounted on submarines, planes and after 2015 on boats and drilling rigs when the Arctic ice cap has melted."

Light also calls for the use of HAARP, the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program super radio wave broadcasting facility in Alaska to break up methane. He wants to use the multi-billion dollar secret military facilities, in both the United States and Russia, to emit a very specific frequency. Not only will this break up methane into less harmful chemicals, Light claims. It will create a bi-product of nanodiamonds, tiny flecks of diamonds, in the upper atmosphere, which would serve to reflect more sunlight away from Earth. Lucy in the sky with diamonds.

Malcolm Light bases this whole radio waves kill methane and makes diamonds theory on experiments in making artificial diamonds, under high pressure, in laboratories. No one has ever tried what he suggests. so far I can't find a scientist who can make any sense out of this proposal in the real world. Perhaps someone could try it and see, if anyone would fund the research.

At least I like the idea that radio will save the world! That matches my own hopes with Radio Ecoshock.


Malcolm Light's second way to save the world from the alleged Arctic Methane Emergency is far more dire. Characteristic of the answers seen by a petroleum geologist, or big fossil fuel companies, his solution is to install a massive array of gas drilling rigs in the Arctic, trying to capture methane from the sea and land, before it can rise up into the atmosphere.

This second plot is has the delightful name "The Angels Project". I found this in a PowerPoint presentation by Light, titled "A Proposal for the Prevention of Arctic Methane". "ANGELS" is an acronym for "Arctic Natural Gas Extraction Liquefaction Sales".

The sub-title reads: "A Proposal for the Prevention of Arctic Methane Induced Catastrophic Global Climate Change by Extraction of Methane from beneath the Permafrost - Arctic Methane Hydrates and its Storage and Sale as a Subsidized "Green Gas“ Energy Source".

One slide says:

"This 'methane hydrate gun', which is cocked and ready to fire at any moment, is an extremely serious scenario that will cause abrupt climate change (CCSP, 2008; IMPACTS 2008). Even if this subsea volume of Arctic methane is released over a longer interval of some ten to twenty years it will still result in a massive feedback on global warming and drive the Earth on an irretrievable plunge into total extinction."

Shell Oil, Exxon/Mobil, StatOil, and all the majors will be thrilled to hear we MUST start massive drilling for natural gas in the Arctic, right away, or go extinct!

Light continues:

"After 2015, when the Arctic Ocean becomes navigable (Figure 5. Piomass in Naumer, 2012) it will be possible to set up a whole series of drilling platforms adjacent to, but at least 1 km away from the high volume methane eruption zones and to directionally drill inclined wells down to intersect the free methane below the sealing methane hydrate permafrost cap within the underlying fault network."

He predicts huge methane plumes erupting from certain identifiable areas of the Arctic Sea (from troubled areas of the sea bed). These should be capped instead by drilling rigs, and the energy used instead of oil or coal.

Quote: "Separated methane is stored in LNG tankers for sale to customers as a subsidised green alternative to coal and oil for power generation and for air and ground transport."

And here is how the world will be convinced to burn this methane:

"Support should be sought from the United nations, World Bank, national governments and other interested parties for a subsidy (such as a tax rebate) of some 5% to 15% of the market price on Arctic permafrost methane and its derivatives to make it the most attractive LNG for sale compared to LNG from other sources."

"This will guarantee that all the Arctic gas recovered from the Arctic methane hydrate reservoirs and stockpiled, will immediately be sold to consumers and converted into safer byproducts. This will also act as an incentive to oil companies to produce methane in large quantities from the Arctic methane hydrate reserves. In this way the Arctic methane hydrate reservoirs will be continuously reduced in a safe controlled way over the next 200 to 300 years supplying an abundant "Green LNG" energy source to humanity."

I note the "safer byproducts" of burning methane (natural gas) is carbon dioxide, the global warming gas that lasts up to 100,000 years. Malcolm glosses over that.

So... we will run the world from the Arctic methane erupting from clathrates and permafrost melting? Global warming will force us to capture this massive source of greenhouse gases and convert our society to methane power. Forget about solar or wind power, tidal, or simple changes to drastically lower power use. We'll turn lemons into lemonade as the Arctic warms. We'll spray sulfates too, using aircraft, to cool the Arctic, and hope those radio waves create some reflective "nanodiamonds" in the upper Troposphere or lower Stratosphere to further deflect sunlight. It's a total industrial solution to the woes of industrial civilization.

Think about this for a moment or two. As I say, we are forced to extract and burn still more climate-wrecking fossil fuels or go extinct, Malcolm Light claims. But we only have a limited amount of carbon we can still burn and stay below two degrees. I doubt there is enough left in that budge even to build and install this fleet of Arctic drilling rigs. Never mind the huge emissions required to convert methane into LNG.

No such Arctic drilling has been tried. Shell Oil's attempts last year turned to disaster when they tried to withdraw their rig before winter. It crashed aground in Alaska.

Beyond that, we haven't a clue whether the methane will really appear mainly along certain fault lines Malcolm Light has splashed across a colorful graph in his AMEG paper.

None of that research has been done. Does anyone really believe we can capture meaningful amounts of methane from a geologic release occuring across the vast Arctic tundra, and coastlines tens of thousands of miles long? The whole world economy would have to be converted to drilling rigs to capture a tiny percent of the methane. It doesn't make sense.

Adding it up, it's a huge and possibly dangerous fantasy, with near-term human extinction nowhere in sight.

The UK government responded to the Environment Audit Committee's report by saying they do not envisage an ice-free Arctic in the next few years, or a collapse of the major ice sheets on Greenland.

The Government wrote:

"Geo-engineering techniques for the Arctic at present do not offer a credible long term solution for tackling climate change. Further research is needed to understand how such techniques work and their wider impacts on climate systems. In the meantime, therefore, we remain unconvinced that using 'technical fixes' is the right approach and efforts should not be diverted from tackling the fundamental drivers of global climate change."


There are all sorts of curiosities lurking around in the AMEG plan to save the Arctic, and the world. They suggest the move away from burning dirty bunker oil in ships is a mistake. Ships should burn the dirtiest, most sulfur-laden fuel we can find, to add more sun-deflecting clouds. Commercial aircraft, they suggest, should get fuel additives that create chemtrails to ward off the sun. Unbelievably, they use the word "chemtrails" thus setting off another whole Internet hive of paranoia.

You can download AMEG's plan for the Arctic as a .pdf file here.

In fact, I think a case can be made that Malcolm Lights paper does two things:

First, it creates a story to bring the public, and even environmentalists, on board for massive gas drilling in the Arctic. That's something the big oil and gas companies want badly.

But it also stirs up the noise level around climate change, which may be just as important to the major energy companies. As University of Chicago climate scientist David Archer told us in a Radio Ecoshock interview, once the public becomes over concerned about methane, coming from the far away Arctic, we can forget about our own roles in burning carbon every day, in our cars, homes and factories. It's carbon dioxide that really counts in the long run. Carbon dioxide, not methane, will last determine the heat of the world for the next 100,000 years - for millennia after the short-lived methane has broken down.


Let's hear a few words from David Archer on Radio Ecoshock. Check out this Radio Ecoshock interview from our February 15, 2012 show.

That was climate scientist David Archer, author of the book "The Long Thaw" and an editor at realclimate.org. We talked on the Radio Ecoshock Show February 15th, 2012, as part of my survey of three scientists, including AMEG's Peter Wadams interview here.

Read more about David Archer and the methane debate here at Joe Romm's blog at ThinkProgress.

Perhaps in the next few decades we will see a significant burst of methane from the Arctic. It's something that should be monitored much more. We should spend a billion dollars on research, to determine the real level of threat from the frozen methane in the shallow sea beds, and from melting permafrost on land. I've done several Radio Ecoshock shows about all this, and will continue to do so.

I think AMEG has done some good work. We've had good interviews from ice expert Dr. Peter Wadhams from Cambridge, and Paul Beckwith from the University of Ottawa. Paul taught us all about the jet stream, the latest science. I hope to have him back as a guest.

But I think the paper by Malcolm Light is flawed. It may be based on faulty data and unproven assumptions. At this point it's nothing more than an interesting idea, in the realm of science fiction.

We may very well experience a methane emergency in the Arctic. It's possible without the work of AMEG we might not be watching as we should. Let the group carry on, but without the histrionics about near-term extinction of humans, and re-assessing their role assisting big fossil fuel companies, whether intended or not.

I'm Alex Smith. This is Radio Ecoshock.


I can't wrap up a show on human extinction without saying that other very serious scientists, public policy wonks, and artists are deeply concerned with it. As we learn more about biology, it's apparent that all species have gone extinct sooner or later. You may recall my interview with Dr. Peter Ward about the Medea Hypothesis - that all forms of life are ultimately self-destructive. Find that on our web site with a Google search. Or listen to my 25 minute interview with Peter about the Medea Hypothesis here.

In last week's program, I considered one argument for our survival - that some humans will continue to live directly from nature even if our complex world civilization fails completely. We heard from National Geographic author Scott Wallace, and his book "The Unconquered". If you missed that, download it here.

We hear other ways of facing ultimate threats to our humanity, from the author of a brand new book titled "Sustainability and Well-Being". As I read through my review copy, I was startled to find author Asoka Bandarage says some humans are already going extinct. In fact, the aboriginal people we were counting on may be the first to disappear. In the show I play you a reading from that new book, recorded for Radio Ecoshock by Asoka from her book "Sustainability and Well-Being", published by Palgrave.

We may not go extinct in some wave of deaths, but in smaller collections of endangered humans.

This is another reason why I disagree with the theory of near-term human extinction. It doesn't fit with what biologists know about extinction, unless you believe a Malcolm Light type apocalypse where the whole atmosphere catches fire or the oceans suddenly die.


To understand more, I called up Dr. Franz Essl. He is from the Department for Biodiversity and Nature Conservation, in the Austrian Environment Agency, in Vienna. Essl was co-author of a new paper titled "Europe’s other debt crisis caused by the long legacy of future extinctions".

I intended to play you the interview, but... to be honest the phone line was too poor to get audio easily understood. I apologize to you and Dr. Essl.

Here are some of the highlights of that interview.

Essl began by explaining that species go extinct after a long delay. Quote:

"In ecology there is an understanding that species reaction to changes in environment often follows with considerable delay. That means the impact of changes caused by human activity like habitat fragmentation or habitat loss often translates with a delay of years, or many years, or even with decades to the full loss of species in the given habitat. This is well understood on a local level.

So if a site is being reviewed to a fraction of it's former size we can expect quite a substantiation fraction of species will finally go extinct in this habitat. However we are not aware of a scheme of this phenomenon on a larger scale, so if this applies to the full range of species on a large geographical scale like a continent. This was the reason we started to analyze this phenomenon on a larger scale, to get an idea of how important this might be on a global scale.

What they found was amazing. Changes to ecology say in 1910, before the First World War, determined exinction of a species up to one hundred years later.

The authors chose Europe because most members of the EU had similar record-keeping on biodiversity, records that went back at least a century. European countries also kept track of Red List species, those who were most endangered.

I asked: It seems important for the public to realize extinction is not just about polar bears, tigers or some exotic large mammals in far away places. Are there dangers of extinctions of simple plants and fish in Europe?

Essl said: "If you have a close look on Red Lists in each country in Europe, you see quite a lot of species which are in the most severe categories in the Red Lists, which means they have a strong risk of getting extinct in these countries.

We also analyzed the proportion of species which are Red Listed in Europe. We looked at seven different taxa ranging from fish to mammals, and also to plant species like ?? plants. And what we found was the currently on a national scale in Europe between 20 to 40 percent of species are already considered to be at risk of getting extinct in the future.

So there are many species. Some of them are prominent species well-known to the wider public because of their conspicuousness, or their activity. Others are much more species that are at risk of getting lost at the national scale which are much less known. However they might be very important in eco-function or conferring other benefits to human well-being. So this is really a very important phenomenon.

And I have to say not only a European phenomenon of course. It's also a phenomenon which applies at the global scale. So the IUCN [International Union for Conservation of Nature], which is the global conservation union, which provides Red List assessment on the global scale has found in a recent assessment in the year 2012 that approximately 30 percent of all vertebrate species are being at risk of getting lost globally in the coming decades.

That's really a very important phenomenon that we have created and I am convinced of a global extinction problem.

Thirty percent of all vertebrate species, which includes mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish! Earth's ecosystems, this study found, works at a slower time-scale than humans. We haven't realized the delay factor. Many species we see now are already headed for extinction, determined perhaps a generation ago.

If pre-war social and industrial expansion caused such damage, I shudder to think what the new chemicals released in the 1970's and 80's will do decades from now. Or the mass expansion of cities and industrial agriculture.

Dr. Franz Essl told me:

"I suspect in regions which have just been transformed even more strongly than Europe, recently, like in emerging industrialized countries, for instance China, or other South East Asian countries, or countries who have lost a large fraction of their natural habitat in their recent history like some countries in the sub-tropical and tropical regions, might expect an even more delayed, or more pronounced delay in species loss.

This is particularly worrisome because many of these countries are the mega-biodiverse countries which means the most, or a huge proportion of global biodiversity. And a very strong delay of species extinction. That might mean lots of species are really at risk of getting lost in the long term.

This study did not even try to calculate the impacts of climate change. Socio-economic development itself was enough to drive massive extinctions. Climate change will add to that in the coming century.

The paper "Europe’s other debt crisis caused by the long legacy of future extinctions" was published in April 2013 in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Another take-away from this look at the biology of extinctions, I think, is that humans are very unlikely to go extinct all of a sudden. We may have already set the stage for out extinction, but it may take a hundred or more years to play out. Personally, I think humans will limp along, surviving through changes larger than anyone has dared to imagine.

Make no mistake, I'm deeply worried by the reports we carry on Radio Ecoshock.

The author of the new book "Scatter, Adapt and Remember", Annalee Newitz, thinks humans will survive anything. She looks through our ways of surviving past crisis despite incredible odds.

Even James Lovelock, the British inventor and scientist who years ago warned we were doomed to massive climate change, didn't predict a total end to the species. He speculated humans would end up as a few breeding pairs surviving around the Arctic Sea, the last place cool enough to support our mammalian life form. But given the climate record so far, that would take hundreds of years, if it ever gets that bad.


Perhaps we can only go extinct if we accept that as our fate. Our last clip comes from 2005, by author and long-time Sacramento journalist John D. Cox . Cox was speaking at the launch of his book "Climate Crash: Discovering Rapid Climate Change and What It Means to Our Future". He brought up one of the few cases of extinction in our recent history, namely the Viking settlement on the coast of Greenland. They were hit by climate change, as the times became colder.

Find the full John D. Cox book launch on C-Span here, as recorded July 12, 2005 at the National Academy of Sciences. My clip comes from the Q and A.

John D. Cox asks, why did the Norse fail in Greenland, while the Inuit survived? The Norse failed to adapt, there was a cultural identity which prevented them from learning from the Inuit. They chose to become extinct there. Will we decide to adapt? Or will we decide to stay the same, and thus be extirpated?

Will we choose extinction, even when more natural ways of survival are known, are right before our faces? Are we too inflexible to survive, to wedded to the many fossil powered slaves we all enjoy, from cars to dishwashers and vacation flights?

As John Michael Greer suggests, we may bump down some hard stairs for a few hundred years. I expect plenty of mass die-offs, a decrease in human population, and forced climate migrations. But in 2050, I think my grandson will be alive, and despite all, he'll be glad to be alive. That is the way we are.

Please support Radio Ecoshock if you can, at our web site at ecoshock.org.

I ask you to educate yourself to the challenge, by listening to our scientists and authors in past shows, as free mp3 files on our site. Support your local non-profit radio station, so we can stay on the air.

I'm Alex Smith. Don't give up to near-term extinction thinking. Use wit, love and persistence to change the paradigm. And don't be afraid to have fun.


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WILD HUMANS (doing wild things)

2013-05-27 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)

National Geographic reporter Scott Wallace on trips to deep Amazon for his book "The Unconquered". How oil, gold, and illegal logging chase the last un-contacted tribes. Plus reports on Canadian Boreal failure, serial climate hacker Russ George, and shaping Nature in the city. Radio Ecoshock 130529 1 hour

Welcome to Radio Ecoshock. I'm Alex Smith with a packed show. Are you counting on off-grid humans to survive if we don't? We'll track the last wild humans in a report from South America. You'll hear an update on the reported collapse of the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement, the further adventures of serial climate hacker Russ George, and a debate on trying to re-make nature in your city.

Off we go.


The first 32 minutes of the show is a wide-ranging discussion with Scott Wallace, journalist for National Geographic magazine.

We talk through his book about the last Amazon un-contacted tribes "The Unconquered". Why oil, gold, and tropical timber are corrupting the Amazon, a fundamental source of biodiversity for the planet. Wallace made a three month trip to find signs of "the Arrow People" - plus multiple trips to the Amazon in Ecuador and Peru. At times it was pretty hairy.

I provide an update on the "collapse" of the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement. Following my story 2 weeks ago on the green group Canopy withdrawing, this week the largest forest company, Resolute, quit. We hear from the remaining NGOs that the process may not be dead.

Serial climate hacker and plankton "farmer" Russ George was booted off the Board of the Haida Salmon Restoration Corp. The aboriginal Haida people say they have fired him, George says that's not possible, he owns nearly half the company. An update on the incredible disappearing $2.5 million.

We hear briefly from NOAA lawyer Richard Mannix on the need for an international agency to oversee geoengineering attempts like the Russ George/Haida case.

The show wraps with a sample from ""City Mouse, City Flower: A Discussion of Urban Nature." presented by Erik Hoffner of Orion Magazine.

Listen to/download this Radio Ecoshock Show in CD Quality (56 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB)

Listen to/download my 32 minute interview with Scott Wallace in CD Quality or Lo-Fi



Waorani Hunters, Yasuni Rainforest, photo by Scott Wallace.

What if a solar flare knocks out power to the world? Or the latest disease escapes becoming a great plague? At least we have the consolation there are still so-called "wild" humans out there on the fringes to survive. Or is that just another strangely comforting myth?

We are joined by a man who knows, long-time international journalist and reporter for National Geographic Magazine, Scott Wallace. His latest book is "The Unconquered: In Search of the Amazon’s Last Uncontacted Tribes".

We have a lot to talk about. There's Ecuador's promise to leave Amazon oil in the ground to save the rainforest and global warming. There is the whole issue of biodiversity and whether the great Amazon rainforest can survive - not to mention the last of it's unconquered peoples.

But first, why do we hear so little in mainstream media about South America? Here in the North, it's like the lost continent. Why is that?

Maybe most Western-style people are just interested in others like themselves. But I also wonder if the major newspapers and networks have owners who don't want to talk about very different political systems in South America.


Anyway, Scott brings South America into the picture with his articles in National Geographic Magazine. Check out his April 2013 feature "Mahogany's Last Stand".

In the interview, Scott explains mahogany was running so short in Brazil, that country banned further export of the product. The mahogany loggers moved across the borer into Peru, where central government contol of the Amazon is weak to none. They try. In his blog, Scott tells us the Peruvian cops just seized some illegal timber. But that leaves the local tribes fearing for their lives, afraid of the violent loggers.


We talk about the magnificent Yasuni National Park in eastern Ecuador. Scott writes:

"Downpours are a near daily occurrence throughout the year, and there are few discernible changes of season. Sunlight, warmth, and moisture are constants."

"Over the years, oil concessions have been drawn over the same territory as the park, as economic interests have trumped conservation in the struggle over Yasuní’s fate. At least five active concessions blanket the park’s northern section, and for a poor country like Ecuador the pressure to drill has been almost irresistible. Half of the nation’s export earnings already come from oil, nearly all of it from its eastern provinces in the Amazon."

"In a proposal first put forward in 2007, President Rafael Correa has offered to leave indefinitely untouched an estimated 850 million barrels of oil inside Yasuní’s northeastern corner in a tract known as the ITT Block (named for the three oil fields it contains: Ishpingo, Tambococha, and Tiputini). As payment for preserving the wilderness and preventing an estimated 410 million metric tons of fossil fuel-generated carbon emissions from entering the atmosphere, Correa has asked the world to ante up in the fight against global warming. He is seeking $3.6 billion in compensation, roughly half of what Ecuador would have realized in revenues from exploiting the resource at 2007 prices. The money would be used, he says, to finance alternative energy and community development projects.

Hailed by supporters as a milestone in the climate change debate when it was first proposed, the so-called Yasuní-ITT Initiative has been hugely popular in Ecuador. National polls consistently show a growing awareness of Yasuní as an ecological treasure that should be protected. But the international response to the initiative has been tepid. By mid-2012 only about $200 million had been pledged. In response Correa has issued a succession of angry ultimatums, leading detractors to liken his proposal to blackmail. With the initiative stalled and Correa warning that time is running out, activity on the oil frontier continues to advance through eastern Ecuador, even within Yasuní’s limits. Every day, another bit of the wilderness succumbs to the bulldozers and backhoes.

Read more in Scott's January 2013 article "Rainforest for Sale: The Story of Oil" in National Geographic Magazine.

President Correa of Ecuador is one of the few world leaders anywhere to offer to leave some oil in the ground, to reduce global warming. All countries will have to come to that position to stave off climatic disaster, that we know. The leadership apparently is in the global South.

There were two great droughts in the Amazon Rainforest, of all places, in the last couple of decades. Biodiversity is under threat or crashing. Some climate models show vast swaths of the Amazon rainforest converting to grassland, as a great drought develops there. First it would be logged or burn. If the rainforest goes, cloud formation will change, precipitation for Africa will fall (in another area slated for drought and desertification). Plus, a huge carbon sink becomes a carbon source.

Please check out our conversation with Scott Wallace on Radio Ecoshock.

Visit his web site at scottwallace.com. I recommend watching the little bio clip on that home page.

Find Scott's blog posts for National Geographic here.

Don't forget his book. Scott is a gifted story teller, with important issues to communicate. The book is "The Unconquered: In Search of the Amazon’s Last Uncontacted Tribes"

You can take that Scott Wallace interview as the first installment in a series on human extinction. Next week, we'll investigate the growing chorus saying the human species will go extinct before the middle of this Century. I'll tell you who's behind it, and what real science says. It's a tale with a twist, tune in next week for sure.


Meanwhile I have to update you on stories you heard first on Radio Ecoshock. In our program on the first of May 2013, you heard Nicole Rycroft of the green group Canopy explain why they pulled out of the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement. It was a key effort to preserve at least half of the necklace of slow-growing trees across the top of Canada - now being clear-cut logged by dozens of forest companies.

Listen to/Dowload the Nicole Rycroft interview (Canopy) 22 minutes in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Or watch the Nicole Rycroft interview on Youtube instead!

Rycroft told us after three years of direct negotiations with major logging companies, promises were not kept, deadlines were not met, and not a single hectare of the Boreal Forest was legally protected. Canopy is going back to the 700 companies promising to avoid old-growth timber from Canada's Boreal Forest.

Now the largest forest company, Resolute Forest Products, formerly known at AbitibiBowater, has pulled out of the talks.

Resolute says the environmentalists are asking too much. They would have to close mills, and the impoverished northern aboriginal communities would suffer, if they don't continue massive logging operations in the north of two Canadian provinces, Ontario and Quebec.

Some Canadian newspapers reported the agreement had collapsed, now that Greenpeace, Canopy, and Resolute pulp and paper were out. Other large timber companies have not announced they are leaving the talks, although they may, if they feel they will be at a competitive disadvantage. Three large environment and conservation groups said they will continue to push for protection of the Boreal Forest. One major funder, the Ivy Foundation, put at least five million dollars into this effort.

In the program, you hear a press conference statement by Tod Paglia, Executive Director of Forest Ethics, followed by Tim Gray, Program Director for the Ivey Foundation. I recorded this from a media conference call on May 21st.

Both groups still support the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement process, despite the loss of other major environment and company participants. I don't know if the process can continue, or if they can protect enough of the Boreal to protect the endangered Woodland Caribou.

The real issue, from my perspective, is not just the value of this intact ecosphere of the North - but the big impact rampant logging will have on climate change. The Boreal Forest could turn from being a carbon sink, moderating what is left of our climate, to a carbon source. This huge Northern forest could take hundreds of years to grow back, it it ever does.

Meanwhile, we witness another positive feed-back loop, heating the globe, and created by the human impulse to grab natural resources at any cost.

Environment groups like Greenpeace and Canopy will push Resolute Forest Products to meet the needs of nature. You can help by disinvesting in this rogue company, and making sure your pension plans and corporations are not supporting their products.


From Steve Krivit collection "Russ George Gives Vatican Certificate for Fictional Carbon Credits"

On to another story brought to light by Radio Ecoshock. Over the years I've investigated the claims and activities of Russ George. On September 7th and 14th 2007 I did a two part interview and critique of George's attempt to modify the climate by stimulating plankton blooms with iron. That effort failed. The multimillion dollar stock promotion of his company "Planktos" went bankrupt.

PLANKTOS: Offsets Real and Imagined Planting trees, seeding seas, grabbing CO2, for money. Full show interview with Russell George, CEO of Planktos, controversial carbon offset company. Part 1 of 2. Interview transcript here. Ecoshock Show 070907 1 hr 14 MB

Find a transcript of my full-length interview with Russ George in 2007 here.

PLANKTOS II: THE INTERVENTION Who are they, and will it work? Part 2: three critics respond plus Alex Smith's take. (Ecoshock show 070914 - 14 MB 1 hr) Greenpeace (9 min)Science Unit, ETC Group (9 min), and David Baines (16 min)(newspaper business columnist)

In the middle of October 2012, I did interviews and clips from a Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation press conference at the Vancouver Aquarium. Leaders from the Haida Village of Old Massett attempted to explain to the world press how and why they secretly performed a geonengineering experiment, possible the world's largest, in the Pacific Ocean near their home on the island of Haida Gwaii. The village spent 2.5 million on Russ George's dream to create carbon credits for sale, and allegedly replenish the failing salmon stock. No carbon credits were sold, and it appear the villagers lost their money to this scheme.

Here are the resources from October 2012

"Geoengineering Plankton at Haida Gwaii Serial climate hacker Russ George (Planktos) leads indigenous villagers to dump iron into the sea - a secret geoengineering project off Canada's West Coast. Press conference statements (recorded by Alex Smith) by the Haida Old Massett Village Chief, Ken Rea and Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation President John Disney (16 min) in CD Quality or Lo-Fi; statement by HSRC marine lawyer James L. Straith CD quality or Lo-Fi. See Radio Ecoshock 121024 blog here. Transcript of Chief Rea and Disney at Press Conference. Transcript of Question and Answer period Press Conf. (prepared by Alex Smith)."

Find all the links for that October special on this page.

On April 10th, I announced the offices of the Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation offices were raided by armed officers of the federal agency, Environment Canada. All computers and files were taken away.

Despite this, Russ George told the Times Colonist newspaper in British Columbia that he and the First Nations people would run a second experiment on the wild algae in the summer of 2013.


On April 30th, I attended an online briefing by the American National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration on marine geoengineering, and possible legal barriers against unilateral experimenters like Russ George. It was titled "Ocean Fertilization, Marine Geoengineering and the London Convention/London Protocol".

The audio quality is poor, but you can make out these two quick clips. First, Richard Mannix, a legal expert from NOAA's Office of General Counsel notes the Russ George/Haida Village experiment may have damaged clam beds on the island. The Haida had to dig them up. We don't have scientific proof that was due to the massive plankton bloom created off shore by the experiment.

Second, lawyer Richard Mannix points out there is no central legal authority to regulate or stop geoengineering experiments. Dumping iron into the sea should be controlled by the London Dumping Convention and the London Protocol. But there is nothing controlling who might spray sulfates into the atmosphere, or launch mirrors into space, to reduce sunlight arriving at our planet. Without such an agency, Mannix feels we are encouraging a "wild west" of geoengineering.

I managed to get in a question at the end, saying Russ George promises to repeat his ocean dumping scheme this year, and what could stop him? Mannix replied he was confident the Canadian authorities were investigating thoroughly, and it was possible Russ George could end up in "the slammer". His words.. "the slammer" is slang for jail. We'll see.


The story continues. On May 23rd, the Haida villagers announced on Canadian News Wire they were severing all ties with Russ George. The HSRC said, quote "it has removed Mr. Russ George as a director of the company. In addition, the HSRC has terminated Mr. George's employment as an officer of the corporation."

"Old Massett Village Chief Councillor Ken Rea stated: 'The board and our community has decided to recalibrate this business so that it moves forward in a constructive fashion and effectively responds to legitimate concerns raised by various stakeholders around the world'."

Sounds like Russ is out of a job. But not so fast! Russ George told the Vancouver Sun he can't be fired! George said the Board of the Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation did not have the authority to remove him. We learn from Russ that he owns 48% of HSRC through his own company called "Ocean Pastures Corp." All along we were led to believe it was strictly a First Nations business (and that's why the company claimed it could issue it's own permits).

George promised to keep going on the project. That's moxy! His data and equipment were seized by the Canadian government, with likely legal action pending. The Haida villagers, a potent group to say the least, insist they have severed all ties with Russ George. Village Chief Ken Rea told the Times Colonist "We have parted ways". I would read that more or less as a ban from the island, especially since the senior governing body of the Haida already denounced the experiment. Ken Rea says no plankton seeding experiment will be done this year.

That should end the story, but Russ George never really goes away. He's back on his blog touting his other persona, the amateur physics experimenter with a world-saving technology in cold fusion. His former company D2Fusion went bankrupt years ago. On his blog, George says he's worked on cold fusion since its discovery in 1989. His "work" was making a documentary film about it.

Find a full record of the activities of the two Russ Georges on Steve Krivit's page "Investigations of Russ George's Low-Energy Nuclear Reaction Research (LENR) and Plankton Carbon-Credit Activities".

With the failure of his plankton scheme, again, Russ George could next reappear as a businessman advocate for Cold Fusion. It's never over for Russ George with his big dreams, and multimillion dollar losing schemes.


Moving on, I have one more recording for you. On May 16th, Erik Hoffner of Orion Magazine hosted a web chat called "City Mouse, City Flower: A Discussion of Urban Nature." Guests were Beatrix Beisner, co-editor of the new urban ecology guidebook "Nature All Around Us", Liam Heneghan of DePaul University/Chicago Wilderness Science Team, and Kevin Anderson, proprietor of the blog Marginal Nature.

Find out more about Liam Henegan, both a bio and a video of his talk at New York University, here.

I was intrigued with the struggles and ideas in the discussion between Liam Heneghan, working from an academic planning perspective, and Kevin Anderson, who by day is a water and sewage worker for the City of Austin Texas. Anderson definitely gets his hands dirty, and laments the trend of cutting down "foreign species" to create the imagined past landscape of "native speciers" - during one of the worst droughts in living memory.

We tune in as Erik of Orion Magazine brings up adaptation to urban conditions. Kevin Anderson weighs in with the hot debate: should humans try to engineer nature again, this time right in the cities where we live?

Find the full 80 minute discussion "City Mouse, City Flower: A Discussion of Urban Nature" as an audio file at Orionmagazine.org.

Next week we'll ask the question: are we humans doomed to an early extinction? I hope the answer is "no". You'll hear the arguments as Radio Ecoshock continues to cover the biggest pictures.

I'm Alex Smith. You can support my work at the show web site, ecoshock.org.

Catch up on any programs you've missed as free mp3 downloads at the site. http://www.ecoshock.org/

Please tell your friends about Radio Ecoshock and thank you for listening.


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Who Will Control the Climate of the World?

2013-05-21 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)

Australian author Clive Hamilton on geoengineering & his new book "Earthmasters". Plots by big oil, Bill Gates & nuke scientists. Shocking new science shows Arctic could melt at current carbon levels. Plus world-wide growth of bike sharing with Janet Larsen of Earth-Policy. Radio Ecoshock 130522 1 hour http://tinyurl.com/mg5uj4w

Welcome traveller. Can you handle the truth?

I didn't think so. Me neither.

But it will happen anyway. Science is beginning to prove we have already changed the planet's climate in dangerous ways.

A small group of climate scientists, backed by a billionaire and big oil, are considering taking over control of the climate, to stave off disaster. Then we'll find proof our current 400 parts per million will melt so much Arctic and Antarctic ice, warming up to 8 degrees C, flooding the world's largest cities.

We'll wrap that up with one of the few positive alternatives growing in this disturbed scene: a wave of bike sharing around the world. Includes Europe, U.S., Mexico, South America, China.


Listen to/download this Radio Ecoshock Show (1 hour) in CD Quality (56 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB)

Listen to/download the Clive Hamilton interview on "EarthMasters" (geoengineering 25 min) in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Listen to/download Janet Larsen from Earth Policy Institute on world-wide bike sharing (24 min) in CD Quality or Lo-Fi




Clive Hamilton

Gather round boys and girls as we tell the story of the Earthmasters - the men who would take over from nature, to run the climate of the world. Or do they mean to save us from our fossil-addicted selves?

For all who love a conspiracy, geoengineering has it all. The oil companies, far-right think-tanks, nuclear weapons scientists, and even Bill Gates. But you'll have to hang in, while we first look at a few small problems in their plans.

Our guide is Clive Hamilton. After careers in the Australian public service as an economics and resource advisor, and several stints at Universitites like Yale, Cambridge, and Oxford, Hamilton founded and ran a progressive think-tank called the Australia Institute. Now he's Professor of Public Ethics in a program run by two Australian universities.

You may have heard of books Clive's written or co-written, including "Growth Fetish", "Affluenza", "Silencing Dissent" and more recently "Requiem for a Species: Why we resist the truth about climate change." But his latest is "Earthmasters, The Dawn of the Age of Climate Engineering."

We reached Clive Hamilton in Canberra.

We cover a lot of important points. One of the big questions: if we start cooling the planet, say with Solar Radiation Management, what happens if we stop? Answer: the temperature goes up very quickly in a matter of months or even weeks, as the aerosols are rained out. It could be a jump of several degrees.

That leads to an absolutely key point: the RATE if temperature increase is possibly more important than the overall increase. If we gain a half a degree per decade, some plants, animals and ocean species will have time to migrate further toward the poles, or higher up mountains, to survive. But if there is a relatively sudden jump of one or two degrees global mean temperature, (more in some areas) - then mass extinctions will result. That is one of the supreme risks of geoengineering.

It's easy to picture a scenario where a fleet of aircraft spraying sulfates, or a fleet of ships spraying up salt water continuously, could stop. A financial crash, war, plague, or terrorism could end the program. Then all of the heating we've covered up with geoengineering would strike the planet. No one has a tenable answer for this problem.

A second key issue: who will decide when and how to start geoengineering? A single country could do it, like Russia, the United States, or even Malaysia. It's possible a billionaire could decide to cool off the planet, with no public consultation. In fact, we learn that Bill Gates, the Microsoft Founder, has been pouring millions into a research fund to develop science - and patents! - to cool the planet. Some businessmen hope to make money controlling the technology that could save us from extreme climate change.

The Gates foundation has been advised by two scientists in particular, Ken Caldeira and David Keith. These are highly regarded climate scientists, Caldeira from Stanford and Keith from Harvard. David Keith is a great example of a man who seems to deny climate change, or at least thinks it won't matter to humans, we can adapt - and yet he gets money from Canadian Tar Sands billionaire N Murray Edwards to further the cause of geoengineering. How can Conservatives have it both ways? Another important player in this "geo-clique" is Brad Allenby.

Gates has started several companies investigating geoengineering, one called "Intellectual Ventures". The CEO is Nathan Myhrvold, formerly Chief Technology Officer at Microsoft.

Another associate at Intellectual Ventures is Lowell Wood, a former nuclear weapons researcher at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and protege of the late Edward Teller, inventor of the hydrogen bomb. Before his death, Edward Teller was promoting a scheme to launch millions of mirrors into space to deflect the sun away from the Earth. Teller was a Cold Warrior who also championed the "Star Wars" scheme under President Ronald Reagan. Wood is one of a collection of people who moved from nuclear weapons research into geoengineering. And why not? If you think humans should control the Earth by force, why not control the climate the same way? In fact, some of these men want to control Nature entirely. Former Vice President Dick Cheney or the current Dictator of North Korea would probably agree that's a good thing.

Such schemes reduce sunlight for all creatures on Earth, including our own needs for agriculture. And they do nothing to stop the equally deadly acidification of the oceans from our fossil fuel pollution.

Obviously, big oil and coal companies would love to have a technological solution that lets them burn even more of their polluting produces. In the interview, and in his book Earthmasters, Clive Hamilton tells us how Exxon/Mobil and Shell are investing in geoengineering schemes.

Strangest of all, the right-wing think tank the American Enterprise Institute also backs Solar Radiation Management, or geoengineering, to stave off global heating. The AEI was previously given millions of dollars, and acted to deny global warming was even happening. That's quite a switch, going from denial straight to demanding emergency action to stop climate change!

Clive Hamilton suggests the problem of global warming indicates a failing of the free market system - since the true cost of polluting the atmosphere was never factored in. But now, with geoengineering, the capitalists system tries to vindicate itself by converting a horrible problem into a wonderful victory with technology it controls.

Due to time limitations, we didn't cover technologies to suck carbon dioxide out of the air. People are going to have to buy the book to get that.

Part of the reason Clive wrote the book, and is now touring North America, is to wake up the public and get a real discussion going about who should control this tech, if we ever need it. Naturally, the far better solution is to drastically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions before we lose the climate civilization depends on.

Find out more at Clive's web site.

Now in fairness, we have to say there are genuine and worthy climate scientists who are terrified about the way the climate trap is going. They don't get money from the military or Bill Gates. They just see the Arctic meltdown and species leaving the stage forever, and think "we've got to do something fast". What could we do that isn't too crazy or dangerous?

I think there will be a "climate emergency". We get two years where crops don't grow. It could be floods or extreme heat, whatever. Millions die and there is a call for action. The geoengineers step forward with a plan. Will we be able to say "no"?

That's why I didn't ask Clive about international negotiations or laws. It's still the Wild West of the atmosphere, where just one determined dictator, billionaire, or president could decide to cool the world.


In the last year, scientists discovered a climate record going back over 3 million years - long beyond the ice core records of 800,000 years. Research led by Professor Julie Brigham-Grette, from the University of Masschusetts, Amherst drastically changes our understanding of the world.

Julie Brigham-Grette

She's been studying a meteor-impact lake called El' gygytgyn on the Eastern tip of Siberia.Drilling into a lake in the Russian Arctic, created from a meteor strike ages ago, she found several periods where the Arctic was up to 8 degrees warmer than today. That despite carbon dioxide levels thought to be similar to, or below, today's 400 parts per million. Zoom out on this Google Map to see where that lake is.

The Greenland Ice sheets have repeatedly shrunk to half current size. The West Antarctic Ice Sheet completely disappeared 1.1 million years ago. The sea level was tens of meters higher than today.

All this happened not with carbon levels like the 600 parts per million and above projected by politicians and planners, but at only 400 parts per million, our current level. It appears we may have already arrived at greenhouse gas levels sufficient to drastically warm the poles, make sea ice history, melt Greenland and parts of Antarctica, and flood coastal areas around the world. All that may be only a matter of time.

In the radio show I play a selection of key clips recorded from a You tube video presentation by Dr. Julie Brigham-Grette, at Amherst, in the summer of 2012 - almost a year ago, and yet hardly anyone has heard of these startling findings. Find out more at frontierscientists.com, hosted by University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

I highly recommend you watch this full Youtube video of Julie Brigham-Grette with all the graphs and charts. Scary stuff.


Quick quiz: what way of getting around is growing faster than "any mode of transport in the history of the planet?"

If you said cars, motorbikes, or skateboards... nope. The right answer is "bike sharing". It's almost enough to give us hope - and that's the intention of the the ongoing work called "Plan B" from Lester Brown's Earth Policy Institute.

Here to brighten our day with news about the wave of carbon-friendly bicycle travel around the world is Janet Larsen. She's the Director of Research for the Earth Policy Institute. Over 500 cities world-wide have installed millions of share-able bikes.

Janet Larsen, Earth Policy Institute

There's plenty of bike action in North America, but we start with Europe. They have been the world leaders in urban biking, other than China. A few of us heard about free bikes in Amsterdam back in the day, but those were stolen to be sold off in Eastern Europe. We talk about bicycle solutions today in Amsterdam and Copenhagen.

The Copenhagen "Bycyklen" system just shut down at the end of 2012, as part of "austerity". There was such a big public outcry, the government has now promised a new modern bike sharing system to replace it.

The French were never known for their biking, but Citi Group helped pioneer a sharing system in Rouen that was very successful. Now every tourist to Paris enjoys the great bike sharing system there.

I wince with pain when I think about what happened in China. In the early 1990's, we all saw video of throngs of commuters biking into work in most of China's cities. Now that's been wiped out by the same polluting car culture developed in America, and pushed by many of the same car companies, like General Motors. That car-culture is beginning to fail them. China is still the world's largest bicycle maker, and some Chinese cities have installed a lot of shared bikes, up to 90,000 in one city alone. There are lots of exciting things going on with biking in China.

In our interview, we also look at the challenges facing bicycle transport in Mexico, and innovative programs in Central and South America.


Another whole aspect of this is bike messengers and inner-city deliveries. We have a small fleet of tricycle "freight" bikes operating in downtown Vancouver.

Freight Tricycle Vancouver (photo Alex Smith)

No doubt you've heard that New York City will be opening a giant new bike sharing program later this Spring. The first 5,000 subscriptions for shared bikes sold out quickly. Other cities, even Tusla Oklahoma, are scoring successes with new bike paths and bike sharing.

The list of bike benefits is so long. They offer independence, even if the main grid goes down, or oil prices skyrocket. You help save the climate, and help save your health at the same time. I wonder, is anyone doing the calculations about how fast we need to develop the bicycle transportation network, to be energy secure, and to make a major dent in climate-damaging car emissions?

This bicycle update is part of a series on the positive news coming from the institute, covering everything from clean alternative energy to climate-friendly diet changes. It's called "Plan B" as advanced by the Institute's founder, Lester Brown.

Track it down at earth-policy.org.

============= Please support Radio Ecoshock if you can, at our web site, ecoshock.org And grab lots of our free mp3 downloads of past shows.

Are we out of time? Find out next week, as I look into human extinction. I'm Alex. Thanks for hanging in.


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Unburnable: Risky Fossil Fuel Investments Vs. Climate Crisis

2013-05-15 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)

Two new reports say climate change could cause the next financial crisis. From London, Bob Ward, LSE lead author of "Unburnable: Carbon 2013: Wasted capital and stranded assets." From Australia's Climate Institute, John Connor on coal's risky future. Plus Nancy LaPlaca: why does sunny Arizona burn so much coal? Radio Ecoshock 130515 1 hour.

Could climate change bring us the next financial crisis? Yes indeed, say two new reports. We'll go London to get the low-down on the new report from the Grantham Institute of the London School of Economics. Find out why big institutions like Citi Group, HSBC, the World Bank and the IMF agree: fossil fuel companies have developed a huge bubble based on carbon reserves they can never burn.

Pay attention. Your pension funds and banks are heavily invested in the next financial crash. Everybody is.

From the Canadian Tar Sands to Australian coal pits, energy companies are loading up with yesterday's fuel - until the climate crunch, which is already arriving. John Connor of the Climate Institute says the coal industry is ripe for financial implosion.

I'll wrap up with a quick answer to another bothersome question: why is the super sunshine state of Arizona still burning so much coal? With Nancy LaPlaca.

Remember the few people who tried to warn the world about the mortgage bubble. This is that show for you.


Listen to/download this Radio Ecoshock Show in CD Quality (56 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB)

Listen to/download the interview with Bob Ward, Grantham Institute of the London School of Economics (24 minutes) in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Listen to/download my interview with John Connor, Executive Director of the Climate Institute in Australia (19 min) in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Listen to/download the interview with Nancy LaPlaca on solar vs. coal in Arizona (12 minutes) in CD Quality or Lo-Fi


Any intelligent observer can see we are on a collision course between increasing mega-projects to produce even more coal, oil and gas - and the developing disaster of climate change. Either we make adjustments to our energy system, or we risk trying to live through the planet's sixth great extinction event, without going extinct ourselves.

Why do so many investors, likely including your pension fund, bank, or government - keep pouring billions and billions of dollars or Euros into a fossil fuel industry which has no long-term future? Everybody's making big money - but is it a bubble?

No one doubted the strength of the American home mortgage market, before that fell apart in 2007. It almost took down the whole financial system. But can we really believe the most profitable companies in the world, the oil and coal industries, could collapse?

The climate threat to our financial markets and civilization is no longer a subject just for radical greens. There are ripples of concern right at the core of the largest trading systems, echoed by some of the world's biggest financial institutions. Some say the carbon bubble could bring on the next crash.

In January of 2012, a well-regarded list of power players wrote the British Governor of the Bank of England, warning the London exchange was at the top of a fossil fuel bubble that could break with disasterous consequences. Now Lord Stern and a team of analysts have released a new policy paper that explains the risk.


Bob Ward, Grantham Institute, LSE

In the spring of 2013 stock markets hit new highs. Leading the pack were the most profitable companies in the world, the big oil, gas, and coal companies.

At the same time, polls showed the majority of the public believe climate change is real. What happens when these two opposites collide? According to a new report from leading economists, the carbon bubble will pop, leading to another serious financial crisis.

To explain, I've reached a lead author of the report, "Unburnable Carbon 2013: Wasted capital and stranded assets." Bob Ward is Policy and Communications Director for the Grantham Institute, at the London School of Economics.

This new report is hard to believe. How could big money makers like Shell, Exxon/Mobil and the rest, lead us into the next economic crash?

We talk about this "carbon bubble". I ask how would it compare to the 2007 bubble of U.S. real estate prices, and all the securitization based on those mortgages? Ward says it is smaller than that bubble, because that 2007/2008 crisis involved all the banks, which are central to everything else in our economy.

Still, the over-valuation of these energy companies is not a small problem. Ward tells me the oil, gas, coal, and coal mining companies account for about 20% of the London Stock exchange, and similar numbers for other stock exchanges around the world.

If investors wake up all of a sudden and divest in a panic, say after more rounds of climate-driven violent weather, that could bring a very serious crisis. The Grantham Institute and Carbon Tracker hope their report will give the market time to make the necessary changes over time, rather than in a panic, and avoid a really serious crash.

The ratings company Standard and Poors is looking at how to re-evaluate the energy companies, given the claimed reserves can never be burned. The International Energy Agency (IEA) and the World Bank are now adamant that climate change is a real threat to the world economy, and are looking at action based on this new report. Even banks like HSBC and Citi agree this is a serious problem.

We are told the Bank of England was warned in January 2012 that big reserves claimed by the fossil fuel companies were a threat to the British economy, and the huge UK investment and banking industry.

Almost all of us are invested in fossil fuel companies one way or another. Certainly pension funds seek those big dividends and stock prices. Insurance companies, even our savings are loaned out by banks to big energy corporations. We are all at risk.

Naturally, I was sceptical that governments will act at all. Right now it looks like we'll just burn all the fossil fuels and to hell with coming generations. Literally. Bob Ward doesn't think so. For one thing, climate change is already interfering with the oil, gas, and coal business.

Consider rising seas and violent storms when it comes to offshore platforms and refineries. Think of the oil industry impacts of Hurricane Katrina for example. We also heard from Louisiana just the increased heat and changes in water flows are affecting pipeline operations. And we're just at the start of all that.

Add on the huge costs to government of storms like Hurricane Sandy ($60 billion on an already stressed United States) - and there is just no way our society and economy can go on with "business as usual" - especially if the global mean temperature goes over 2 degrees hotter. At some point, we don't know when, Ward says society will act to try to save what is left of the climate we need to survive. Taking action is not a "political" matter. It's physics and climate science that is based on what we emit. End of story. The fossil fuel companies might as well stop exploration to push up the supposed value of their reserves - because we can't even burn what we have already!

With Carbon Tracker, the Grantham Institute looked at the "carbon budget" - the amount of fossil fuels we could still burn and have at least a 50% chance of staying below the two degree danger zone. It's not much - and nothing like the reserves claimed by these big corporations.

I saved one last question from talking with Bob Ward from the London School of Economics. It's technical financially. I didn't really get it - until I heard John Connor say the same. Big pensions, insurance companies and banks are investing in the whole stock market, without being able to separate out the phony balance sheets of fossil fuel companies. That's a core risk which could shake the whole system. Regulators and analysts, even the ratings company Standard and Poors, are looking for a new metric, a new way to invest in a real future.


John Connor, Climate Institute, Australia

Naturally this affects oil, gas, and coal producers around the world. Australia is the world's largest exporter of climate-damaging coal. Australian mining companies recently announced even more grandiose projects to mine and ship still more.

From Australia, I've reached John Connor. He is the CEO of the Climate Institute in Sydney.

In the Guardian newspaper April 28th, John Connor told journalist Damian Carrington that Australia's coal industry is, quote, "ripe for financial implosion". We discuss how this carbon bubble could burst, and the impact on Australian economy, and the world economy. Find the Climate Institute "Unburnable" report on Australian coal here.

During the interview, John recommended these web sites to follow up:

The Vital Few - a site aimed at accidental climate change investors. That could be any of us, as our banks, pension funds (called superannuation funds in Australia), and insurance companies invest heavily in fossil fuel companies. Find out if your are involved and what to do here.

Connor also recommends the Asset Owners Disclosure web site and listings. It shows which investment companies are backing the energy sources that will wreck out climate. Check it out.


The way I see it, Australia endures another few years of climate extremes, whether it's super fires, record heat and floods. Millions of people call for action, in time with an election cycle. That could bring a crash of coal company share-prices, or even a major bankruptcy for an Australian coal company. Impossible you say? Remember Bear Sterns and Lehman Brothers were invincible too.

Here in North America, the gas industry is frantically drilling more and more fracking wells, even though the price is lower than production costs. I assume it's a scam intended to generate more investment money. Is it possible the same is happening with Australian coal?

Not likely, says John Connor. Unfortunately, there is far too much real coal in the ground. As he says "the Stone Age didn't end because they ran out of stones." In the same vein, Australia won't run out of coal before the climate is absolutely wrecked.

The Australian government is subsidizing the coal boom with extra infrastructure, hoping to generate more jobs and tax money. The government, and the public, are addicted to coal revenues, especially in Queensland. It's pretty much the same picture in Canada with the Tar Sands operations.

The Climate Institute, along with Carbon Tracker, put out their own report on the impacts of Australian coal reserves, versus a change in market evaluation of companies. The big coal companies are quite aware that climate concerns may drive more demands for carbon limitations or carbon taxes. Perversely, this may drive them to get coal out of the ground even faster, to make more money before the market shifts against them. It's the coal rush, and Australian corporations have announced fantastic new plans for mega coal mines and a half dozen new coal shipping ports (some in the Great Barrier Reef!)

The Climate Institute report found two important developments. First of all, the majority of Australian coal companies are NOT owned and controlled by Australian companies. International investors, some from China, have taken over in many cases. This is also a risk: because international money can leave just as quickly as it came. That might happen because regulations in the home country of the capital means coal is no longer attractive. Or the money might move away for other reasons.

Secondly, the Australian coal expansion plans wrongly assume that China and other Asian countries will burn an infinite amount of coal. However, that leaves aside three key developments. China has put in a cap on coal use. China is investing heavily on alternative energy at the same time. Third, the Chinese public is demanding measures to clean up the air, and coal is the main pollutant. For all these reasons, Chinese importations of coal may slow down or even go into reverse. And that doesn't even include the growing awareness in China of the huge costs of climate change.

We are talking about Australia, but this applies to the multi-billion dollar expansion in the works for Canada's Tar Sands. Or the big money bet on Arctic drilling, or dangerous deep-sea drilling. If we look at the huge position of these fossil fuel companies on world stock exchanges - but these two reports say the whole world financial system is at risk, while we gamble on burning more and more fossil fuels.

Big financial institutions like Citi Bank and HSBC publicly admit we face a hidden risk with over-investment in a dead-end economy, based fossil fuels.

Honestly I feel some relief that people in the financial industry are finally talking about the danger investing in climate-killing fuels. When our wallets and bank accounts look as risky as Cyprus, maybe there will be a move out of the fossil catastrophe.


Nancy LaPlace energy activist, Arizona.

In the U.S. Southwest, the State of Arizona has more sunshine than anywhere. It should be the American capital of solar power. But instead big cities like Phoenix are powered by dirty coal. To explain this crazy situation, I've reached Nancy LaPlaca. Nancy was policy adviser to a state Power Commissioner, and now she's looking at taking a run for the Commission herself.

Last year about this time, I visited Page Arizona on the northern state border. I saw the Navajo Coal Power station belching out smoke. The EPA says it's a dirty plant, and needs new pollution control. There is a huge battle over the controls.

Complicating the problem, that Navajo plant contributes millions of dollars to the Navajo tribe. Lots of native Americans work either with the plant, or in the coal mines of Northern Arizona. Can we shut that dirty coal plant down, without tossing even more native Americans into poverty? LaPlaca says yes - because alternative energy produces three times the jobs compared to fossil fuels. There is plenty of sunshine - and wind - in Northern Arizona.

But "coal electrons" are dirt cheap right now. That's partly because of the economic slow down, leading to overcapacity of all kinds of energy. The neighboring state of Nevada is getting out of coal. That means they will purchase no power from the Navajo Coal Generating station.

At the same time, California is also cutting back on coal power. The Los Angeles Light and Power company will stop buying electricity from the Navajo station around 2015. Instead, they are signing contracts with solar power companies in Arizona.

California has a requirement to get about one third of it's energy from renewable sources by 2020. Arizona is far behind, going for lower requirements by 2025.

As always, the big power utilities have a monopoly, and don't want change or competition. Solar power can go up anywhere, and is closer to the user, so there are fewer transmissions costs and losses. Nancy says if the big box stores and commercial buildings start mounting solar panels, the Arizona utilities, which are mainly state-owned, would be in serious financial trouble. In my opinion, if they keep counting on coal, the energy source with no future, Arizona will be in big trouble.

Nancy LaPlaca has been going around Arizona giving presentation to explain the facts of climate and energy life. The Republican Party just issued a press statement calling her "an extremist" because she is calling for renewable energy. I ask you, who are the "extremists" who don't notice Arizona has warmed up over two degrees since 1950. The rains this past year were about one third of normal. The place is drying out and heating up - and coal is the way to go???

Check out Nancy's interview. It's a quick education on coal politics and the reality of new energy systems. Find Nancy's Facebook page, as she considers a run for the Arizona Energy Commision here.


I hope you got the big picture need for a financial reform that protects investors from the fossil fuel bubble. The balance sheets of big oil, coal and gas are swollen with supposed carbon reserves we will never burn. Because the planet will heat up beyond any capability for business as usual, long before the oil, fracked gas, and coal run out.

More exploration is pointless for these companies. Nature and the human enterprise demand a business plan to phase out the fossil fuel economy.

Thank you for supporting Radio Ecoshock, at our web site ecoshock.org. With the help of listener donations, I've created two new You tube videos, based on interviews from this show. Just search Radio Ecoshock on You tube, and select the filter "by upload date" - to get the latest. Feel free to pass those along to people who need to know.

The latest is this You tube video version of my interview with John Betts, on "The Age of Super Fires".

I'm Alex Smith. Let's do it again next week, as we meet the men who want to run the climate of the world.

We end this program with a tune from Political Songwriter, Folk Musician & Union Activist Smokey Dymny. It's called "Talking Global Warming."


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Fracking: Sacrifice Zones of the American West

2013-05-08 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)

Fracking: Sacrifice Zones of the American West. What can other countries expect? Four voices from the Bakken shale lands. Polluting oil & gas extraction impacts in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana & North Dakota. The dark side of the fracking boom. Radio Ecoshock 130508 1 hour http://tinyurl.com/cgkhq8s


Tonight and tomorrow, gas flares burn over the dry and dryer lands of the Western United States. There is a fracking boom exploding rock ten thousand feet down, and miles all around. In Colorado, North Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming villages become overnight towns, big trucks fill small roads, gas floats over prairie and foothills. The last waters in great rivers, reservoirs, and aquifers are poisoned, 50,000 years worth in ten years, billions of gallons a day. The frack water kills the ground it touches, or disappears forever into subterranean Earth.

As climate change works against the browning landscape of the American West, crazed humans use all the water they can find to make still more methane and carbon dioxide, to make more money with oil and gas.

We go to those sacrifice zones. You hear four voices. The ranchers and a native American woman are part of an organization calling for regulations and safety protection. Instead they have the enabling state where fossil fuel companies control the capitol, selling the dream of wealth to the people, while their environment careens beyond reclamation. Farming may collapse, and without drinking water, communities will eventually leave too.

It's happening all over the world, the invasion of the well-drillers, coming as close as 500 feet to homes, like-it-or-not. Ask the disgusted people from Queensland Australia about the fracking blight, or coal seam gas, as they would say. Get ready Britain, where the government sees fracking as salvation. Eastern Europe will be conquered and fracked. People all over North America, and all over the world, need to listen to our speakers today. Because when it's gone, it's gone.

Listen to this Radio Ecoshock Show right now, courtesy of Archive.org


Listen to/download this Radio Ecoshock Show in CD Quality (56 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB)

Free audio downloads: interviews with our guests -

Robert LeResche of Powder River Resource Council and the Western Organization of Resource Councils in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Bob Arrington, Chair of the Energy Committee of the Western Colorado Congress in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Pat Wilson, 4 generation rancher and member of the Northern Plains Resource Council in Montanna, CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Theodora Bird Bear, Fort Berthold Reservation & Dakota Resource Council in CD Quality or Lo-Fi


All music in this program is by the Desert Dwellers, from their new album "Far From Here" - courtesy of Black Swan Sounds. Find the band here.


Bob LeResche is a biologist with lost of experience in Alaska. He twice held cabinet level positions, being in charge of natural resources, executive director of Alaska's Power Authority, and then the state's coordinator for the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Now Bob and his wife are operating a small ranch in Northern Wyoming.

Bob speaks both for the Powder River Basin Resource Council - an area famous for giant coal mines, but now being flooded with rigs for hydraulic fracturing of shale gas and oil ("fracking"). LeResche also spoke for the umbrella group WORC, the Western Organization of Resource Councils.

Parts of Wyoming have become like overnight boom towns as the fracking rigs move in. Bob tells us the previous coal bed methane operations have mostly shut down because of gas fracking. That coal bed methane is mostly in shallower ground, and tends to reduce water in Wyoming's vital aquifers - as does fracking. Since 1992, when the State ruled water use for fossil fuel development was a "beneficial use" - the companies have been pumping "unlimitted" amounts of groundwater, with no accounting or cost. Nobody knows how much has been taken out, or what remains.

From 1997 to 2012, LeResche says a MINIMUM of 309 billion gallons of water was pumped out. Most of that was dumped on to the ground, with little being reinjected. The waste water was generally contaminated with various toxic materials, plus the salt from underground. Even some radioactive materials. Such water dumping destroyed pastures, croplands, and nature zones.

Some of these reservoirs recharge at 0.15 inches a year. That means it would take over 50,000 years to recharge what was taken out in ten years by the Wyoming energy industry. Bob LaResche worries agriculture may be harmed due to lack of water in the future. Even some communities may run out of water and have to "disappear".

About 300 deep horizonal fracking wells were drilled in the Powder River Basin since 2010, with thousands more coming.

After it's all done, Wyoming has at least 100,000 unplugged bore holes, which can lead back to contamination of the underground water supplies. LeResche feels Wyoming is a "sacrifice zone" for the energy needs of the rest of the country, and big company profits.

WORC, the Western Organization of Resource Councils, has put out a report on the misuse of scarce water supplies called "Gone Good, Fracking and Water Loss in the West" Find that here.


Bob is a retired engineer living in Battlement Mesa. That's in Colorado, where up to 200 natural gas wells have been proposed in that one area alone. Bob is Chair of the Energy Committee of the Western Colorado Congress. He testified before the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. Bob champions the health impact assessments of oil and gas, has led local air monitoring efforts, and takes international media around the gas fields. Or find the Western Colorado Congress on Facebook here.

Each of these deep fracking wells can use from 3 to 6 million gallons for every "frack job" - when the explosives shatter the rock below. A single well may be fracked several times. Add this all up for tens of thousands of wells and you get an idea of the tremendous amount of water required by this industry.

In Colorado, the MacKenzie Report showed health impacts from bad air quality up to half a mile away from a fracking operation. But since most land-owners in the United States do NOT own the sub-surface rights, an energy company has the right to come very close to your home and set up a noisy, dangerous, and polluting fracking well. In Colorado they just got legislation requiring a 500 foot setback from homes. Five hundred feet away from your bedroom window!

Some fracking wells are even closer, if the homeowner agrees. Remember, the energy companies do not need your permission to drill those wells. You could be on a peacful ranch, farm, or country retreat and suddenly find yourself in industrial hell for a decade or two. Many people give up and try to sell out - but who would want to buy. There is no compensation for those lost dreams and homes.

Air quality tests of fracking operations in Colorado found lots of volatile organic compounds - like the poisons benzene and toluene, and carcinogens like xylene. The University of Colorado is planning a 3 year study, but that's way too slow and too late. A NOAA study has already showed benzene coming from fracking sites. Some of the fracked water turns out to be radioactive, and contains heavy metals plus salt. Some of it is just dumped on the ground, killing the vegetation. Some is trucked as dangerous cargo over America's highways. Accidents happen.

Doctors in Colorado were poorly trained to recognize health impacts from fracking, and industry-friendly legislation makes it illegal for them to share information about cases.

None of this counts the masses of methane billowing out of fracking wells. Methane isn't harmful to health, but sure hurts the global atmosphere, being at least 20 times more powerful a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

Colorado is drying out, with a recent record of super fires. It's also been hit with drought - even as the fracking industry drains it dry. The State of Kansas won a lawsuit against Colorado for withholding water. The Army Corps of Engineers has agreed to drain out some reservoirs to serve the energy industry.

P.S. Blogger Peggy Tibbetts has a few articles on the Parachute Creek spill and Bob Arrington here.


Next up is a long-time rancher along the Missouri River near Bainville Montana. Pat Wilson's family has been there for over a century. Pat can tell us about the oil and gas rush in the famous Bakken shale field, and draining huge volumes of water from the Missouri River. He is a member of the Northern Plains Resource Council.

Pat does get some money from oil wells right on his family land. But he still thinks the fracking boom is a danger to the community and the environment. He's particularly concerned that the State Legislature is allowing water allocated for agriculture to be used for fracking instead.

The oil-bearing shale in his area is about 9,000 feet (2700 meters) below the surface. You can't see the Bakken oil shale formations on the ground above. There are about 800 Bakken wells in Montana, and another 8,000 in North Dakota. Companies are proposing seven times more wells!

The region only gets ten to fourteen inches of rain annually, so water is scarce even without all this drilling. Even when the State of Montana found 13 illegal water depots, instead of leveling charges, they made it easier for energy companies to appropriate the water!

Pat tells us about the social impacts of having thousands of people showing up, many temporarily, in the area of his home village of Bainville - former population 300. Schools and sewer systems can't keep up. There are two "man camps" on either side of town. There is even talk of building a Marriot hotel there!

You can find a good film about the social impact in this film by the University of Montana.

Read more about plans for super-development of Bainville in the Billings Gazette here. (Plus there's a video of Pat Wilson)

Pat Wilson isn't sure if he is living in a dream or a nightmare.


Beyond the old-time ranchers, humans have been living in the American North West for more than ten thousand years.

Theodora Bird Bear is a lifetime resident of the Fort Berthold Reservation. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Dakota Resource Council.

This is a fascinating interview, for it's insight into how some Native Americans feel about the fracking boom. Theodora tells us some tribal leaders are also involved in businesses serving the fracking industry, so there may be a conflict of interest.

When she attends local meetings of concerned citizens, white people complain they feel like they are being "invaded". "Now they know how we feel" says Theodora, when a federal government is pushing a migration into the West.

We talk about the impact on wild animals. With all the noise, trucks, new roads - deer are hard to find. We don't know how many have been poisoned drinking dumped frack water. In fact, without telling local residents, one company was digging a big pit right near the town to dump oil drilling waste. That was stopped when word got out.

The Fort Berthold Reserve is under Federal Government administration, not State - but Theoroda tells us there is precious little regulation going on. Don't miss this interview! Plus - Theodora offers us some wisdom on how to cope with and get out of this fracking mess.


As the American West continues it's breath-taking drought, what could be crazier than draining away the rivers, reservoirs and aquifers to power the underground war of fracking. To poison the last of the fresh water, with the great rives of the Colorado and the Rio Grande already a dry gulch before they reach the sea. All to fill the sky with more oily carbon dioxide, and gigatonnes of methane, a more powerful agent of climate change.

This is also a human positive feedback effect. The West, which has a history of natural drying cycles, has been triggered into another event by global warming. At the same time, we remove billions of gallons of water from any human reach, and right out of the water table, by polluting it an injecting it deep underground. It's a suicidal reinforcement of the drought.

And of course the product is more and more fossil fuels to heat up the atmosphere even more. It's classic positive feedback cycle created by human industrial civilization Hell-bent on sefl-destruction.

WATCH OUT IN OTHER COUNTRIES: IT'S COMING TO YOU People in the UK, where Saint Maggie Thatcher saved the country with the "dash for gas' in the North Sea, are now being sold on the new miracle of fracked gas. Hopefully they'll hear about the American experience in time to avoid their own sacrifice zones. I'm asking my podcast and online listeners in Europe to pass this program around as well. We may even have some warnings for Canada and Australia, where fracking and coal bed seam gas capture are already well underway.

If you have oil or gas bearing shale deep beneath your country, act early to prevent this trans-generational tragedy. See the new film by Josh Fox, Gasland II. Organize your own groups. Find more info on industry push-back on this film, plus the trailer, here at DeSmog Bog.

Let your elected representatives feel the heat. Protect your water if you still can. Protect your climate. Stop this fracking madness.

I'm Alex Smith. Try out our library of files at ecoshock.org. They are all free. You can donate if you want to. Look for my interview with Robert Howarth - how fracked gas ends up emitting as much greenhouse warming power as burning coal. The Howarth interview and a speech he gave as ASPO (the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas) are both in my Radio Ecoshock Show for November 23, 2011 - found here.

It turns out "natural" gas as "clean fuel" is a bridge to the nowhere of extinction.


Thank you to the listeners who tune in each week, taking your chances on what you find. Opening your mind. I'm Alex Smith, and I am grateful you are there.

Plus a special thanks for those who donated or became a subscribing member for the show. (Find out about that here.) I've used a little of your money to get hardware and software to translate some Radio Ecoshock interviews and shows into Youtube videos - we'll reach a whole new audience.

Find my first-try video, Nicole Rycroft of Canopy on the Boreal Forest - right here.

Or if any problems, directly on Youtube.


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The Age of Super Fires

2013-05-01 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)

The new age of super fires in N. America, Europe, Australia, Asia. Silviculturalist John Betts explains strange unstoppable forest fires. Then Nicole Rycroft, Exec Dir of enviro group "Canopy". Why they quit talks with industry, as logging ravages the Canadian Boreal forest. Plus MD Donald B. Louria says loss of faith in the future can kill. Radio Ecoshock 130501 1 hour.

Listen to/download this Radio Ecoshock Show in CD Quality (56 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB)

Listen to/Dowload the John Betts interview on super fires (24 minutes) in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Listen to/Dowload the Nicole Rycroft interview (Canopy/Boreal forests) 22 minutes in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Listen to/Download Donald B. Louria on loss of faith in the future (11 minutes) in CD Quality or Lo-Fi


In this program.... welcome to the new age of super fires. We talk with silviculturalist John Betts who explains the strange unstoppable forest fires rising up in the United States, Canada, Australia and even Europe.

Then we visit one of the last great intact forests on Earth - the Canadian Boreal. Loggers are chewing it up for paper, clothes, even cellulose in your ice cream. Now talks between industry and environmentalists appear to be breaking down. Nicole Rycroft from Canopy explains.

Top that off with Donald B. Louria, the medical doctor who says loss of faith in the future can kill. So think happy thoughts- or else! I'm Alex Smith, and this is Radio Ecoshock.



Are we entering the age of super forest fires? Our guest is John Betts, Executive Director of the Western Silvicultural Contractors' Association in British Columbia, Canada. He's in the gorgeous lake-side town of Nelson British Columbia - right in the path of the dead pines forest fire threat.

As a leader in an industry devoted to "managing" our forests, often by removing excess undergrowth, John advocates removing "fuel" from the forests before a disaster strikes. In years past, environmentalists have insisted such decay is natural and the woods should be left to their own devices.

Now it's different. With global warming and warmer winters, the Rocky Mountain Pine Bark Beetle has killed off entire valleys of pine trees. They will eventually burn - and some surround communities in the interior of British Columbia, and soon in Alberta too.

The same problem exists in the United States west, due to other bugs and general drying with climate pressures. Just consider the big fires in Colorado in 2012. The fires in Australia also look climate-related.

Betts adds a further cause: namely our success in stopping forest firest, (he calls it "suppression"). Most of these forests, especially in Western North America, were adapted to cycles of fires. The coniferous seeds could withstand a fire and regrow.

We know from studying forest soils there have been periods of fire for many centuries. But now with water bombers and new techniques, we stop them from burning, in our parks, on private lands, and around cities. John Betts says this means an abnormal amount of dead brush builds up beneath the trees. That's a recipe for a "super fire" - one we can't put out, until it burns out, or gets rained out.

In British Columbia, the dead pines can build into a kind of pyramid structure, just like you might build in a fire pit. That burns so hot it kills off any seeds. In fact, it can sterilize the soil even of helpful fungii and bacteria. So the forest doesn't grow back, and the ecology has been damaged.

Australia may or may not be a special case, with the eucalyptus trees and their oil, which act like instant torches. Note the Eucalyptus has been planted in California, in the U.S. South East, and around the Mediterranean. That could be a big mistake.

But with long drought, and excessive heat, we've seen many parts of the world burn as we've never seen in recent centuries. Consider the 2010 great fires in Russia which claimed hundreds of lives. Just previous to that, Serbia had giant fires, as did Greece and Spain. It's an ominous trend, which John Betts says is no accident.

As global heating continues, and the weather systems are thrown out of whack, we can expect a new age of great fires. Now you know the news before it hits your TV screen or headline. Expect it.

Betts advises communities how to prepare. Things like removing brush, or even if necessary, creating fire breaks around towns. And we should stop our home-building invasion of the woods, particularly in fire-ready areas. Having people living there drives more efforts to put fires out, which leads to the danger cycle again. Or people stay and try to fight the impossible flames, and die as they did in Australia. The government there has changed its advice - now telling people to get out, rather than remaining home with garden hoses against the inferno.

We need a lot of discussion and preparation to make sure our communities are safe, and our forests can return to some kind of natural cycle again - if "natural" is still possible in a big climate shift! It's possible some forests will never return, changing over to grasslands. We don't know yet, as we gamble away the future of the biosphere on a small planet.


The non-profit green group "Canopy" doesn't aim for high-profile public attention. Instead, it's been working behind the scenes with over 700 major corporations and media outlets, offering strategies to depend less on paper from old-growth paper. You would recognize big names, like the greening of the Harry Potter series, and major newspaper which are part of their efforts.

Canopy was part of the Great Bear Rainforest deal, and also joined a big initiative trying to save large tracts of Canada's Boreal Forest. That's the giant belt of a Northern forest type stretching from the Yukon to Labrador, but also dipping down into the U.S. mid-west and even New England. The big provinces of Ontario and Quebec hold vast swathes of Boreal forest.

Map of World boreal forest

Map of Canadian Boreal Forest (courtesy borealcanada.ca)

This region is the last stop of serious forest growth before reaching the treeless tundra in the Arctic circle. The same eco-type known as the Boreal in North America is called the "Taiga" in Europe and Russia. It's a green belt of climate control and one of the biggest carbon sinks on the planet.

The Canadian boreal is one of only three great intact forests left in the world - the others being in Siberia and the Amazon. But it's being chewed up by dozens of forest companies doing clear-cut logging.

I asked Nicole, Executive Director and Founder of Canopy: if logging companies cut wood, and that gets sequestered as carbon into things like buildings, or even buried in land fills, that might actually reduce carbon emissions. Plus, we're told new trees growing during reforestation captures carbon. Couldn't logging in the Boreal be a good thing for the climate?

Her answer surprised me. I knew trees in the Boreal take a long time to grow back - as much as two or three hundred years to reach maturity. So the idea that new growth will capture anything like the carbon lost by logging is B.S.

But I did not know that trees change chemically when they are cut down. Living trees hold much more carbon than the lumber made from them.

Canopy has just withdrawn from the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement. That was a consortium of logging companies, environment groups, and foundations talking for the past three years, trying to protect significant amounts of this eco-system, home to the shy and iconic Woodland Caribou.

Industry suspended logging on almost 29 million hectares of Boreal Forest within their alloted areas, and most of that included caribou habitat.

But that "deferment" has expired, with no firm protection for any of it. The companies are talking (for three years!) while they log. Details of where they will log next are not forthcoming. Canopy decided it was time to go back to the paper market customers. Greenpeace made the same decision to withdraw several months ago. The process has lost a lot of claim to legitimacy, leaving Boreal forest protection stranded.

There's a lot more to all this, as covered in our interview. Your own climate could be at stake - give it a listen.

We did see a fairly successful agreement for the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia, but will this Boreal failure cool the whole idea of negotiating directly with polluters and resource companies? Will we see a return to more public activism?


If we lose faith in the future, can that help bring about the catastrophe we fear?

One speaker at the March 2013 conference on Fukushima in New York caught my attention with his off-topic introduction. Donald B. Louria, a medical MD and member of Physicians for Social Responsibility asked "Are we losing our faith in the future? If we do, what are the likely consequences?".

Donald B. Louria MD

Louria was leading in to his studies of the impacts of pessimism, and his book titled “reThink: A Twenty-First Century Approach to Preventing Societal Catastrophes.”

First I play you four minutes from his comments at the "Symposium: The Medical and Ecological Consequences of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident". All the talks from that symposium are now online here.

I think Donald raises a deep problem for us all. To fill out his comments, I'm just going to read directly from Louria's explanation of his book "reThink", as published online in September 2010.


"In 2005 and in 2007, I and my colleagues carried out national studies to assess the perceptions of people about their own future, the future of their country, and the future of the world. The respondents were divided into four age groups – 18 to 24 years, 25 to 44 years, 45 to 64 years, and over age 65. In every age group, more than 80 percent were optimistic about their own futures, but, in every age group, the majority were pessimistic about the future of the United States and the world. Importantly, the majority in each of the four age groupings believed we are not able to solve or significantly mitigate the major problems facing us (such as terrorism, global warming, the potential for nuclear or biologic warfare).

These studies suggested strongly that Americans of all ages are well on their way to losing faith in the future. Since our last survey, more than two years ago, a number of events have occurred that almost certainly will accelerate that loss of confidence in the future, reduce optimism about one’s own future, and increase the pessimism about the future of the United States and the world.

There has been a severe recession and, with it, a terrible toll in lost jobs and diminished confidence.

There is increasing distrust of a Congress that seems unable to deal effectively with our most serious problems. The cynicism about our political system is likely to be profoundly magnified as a result of the Supreme Court decision to allow unlimited and uncontrolled direct political advertising by corporations and unions (and others) in congressional and presidential elections.

The countries of the world, including the United States, appear unwilling to take the necessary actions to avoid catastrophic consequences of global climate change.

We are told that unless health care costs are contained, our healthcare system will eventually bankrupt the country. Yet, despite an extended and acrimonious debate, there is nothing to suggest our government has figured out a way to cope with or prevent this looming disaster.

I fear we are now in great danger of a large percentage of the public having their hopes for the future battered, being overwhelmed by feelings of hopelessness in regard to our ability to cope with the major problems facing the society. If that occurs, there are substantial societal and individual consequences.

* There will be a dramatic increase in the frequency and severity of anxiety and depression.

* There will be a much greater focus on hedonism with increased risk taking and pleasure seeking, including the use of mind-altering drugs, both legal and illegal (alcohol included).

* There will be little attention paid to preventing or mitigating future problems and threats; politicians, even more than now, will focus almost entirely on present issues, thereby making the future even more bleak.

* The depression epidemic will have physical and other consequences with increased incidence of suicide and heart attacks, marital discord, inability to function effectively, and overeating (a well known response to depression) that will exacerbate our obesity and diabetes epidemics.

Make no mistake about it. Loss of faith in the future is very serious business – if widespread enough, it is society threatening.

There is, in my judgement, only one preventive: people, especially young adults, must be convinced that we as a society are still meliorist, that is able to solve the major problems facing us by the dint of our own efforts. That, in turn, means our politicians and leaders must give the perception they are approaching major issues in potentially effective fashion. To do so, they must know when to use and how to use what I have called societally-connected systems thinking. That is why I wrote the book “reThink: A Twenty-First Century Approach to Preventing Societal Catastrophes.

========== end quote from Donald B. Louria

So stay positive - or else!

In my opinion, Louria's book is not aimed at the popular reader, but at experts and decision-makers. Someone needs to go through it a popularize his main thesis. Any volunteers to write a comprehensive review of this book?

Find Radio Ecoshock on Facebook.com/radioecoshock. Our Twitter feed is @ecoshock.

Please support Radio Ecoshock by visiting our web site, at ecoshock.org. My heart-felt thanks to the people who donated or signed up for a membership this week. You are enabling new outreach projects and covering the monthly bills.

I'm Alex Smith, saying join us next week, as we thrash through the big questions and the small answers.


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Burying the Future: Tars Sands, Pipelines, & Melting Arctic

2013-04-25 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)

Canadian scientist Paul Beckwith explains how the Arctic warming emergency is changing your weather. But first, the story of an anti-pipeline media warrior, John Bolenbaugh in his own words. The leaks, scandals and deaths behind Tar Sands pipelines. Radio Ecoshock 130424 1 hour.


Listen to/download the John Bolenbaugh interview (27 minutes) in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Listen to/download the Paul Beckwith interview (28 minutes) in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Feel free to pass on or share those links. For Net use, most people prefer the faster loading/downloading Lo-Fi version.


John Bolenbaugh, anti-pipeline warrior.

Are you sick of hearing about Tar Sands pipelines, from the Gateway project to the Keystone XL? Maybe you should hear from the people who are sick and dying from a leaking pipeline.

Watch this short video of sick residents.

I'm calling up John Bolenbaugh. He's a decorated Navy vet now qualified with Federal Emergency Management Agency, trained to clean up spills. John was hired after the Enbridge pipeline in Kalamazoo, Michigan had the biggest inland spill in the United States. That was on July 25, 2010 - but the cleanup and the story are far from over.

At his web site, John writes:

"...he exposed the truth with video proof, the fact that the Enbridge Company never cleaned up the oil; how they covered it up instead. One year after the oil spill, Enbridge and the EPA said that your kids could swim in the river, and that it was clean enough for you to eat the fish.

Two years later, in 2013, the EPA ordered Enbridge to re-dredge the Kalamazoo river, which cost Enbridge $175,000,000 dollars and proved that both Enbridge AND the EPA lied about the clean-up: The OIL IS STILL THERE. This makes it clear that tarsands oil is nearly impossible to clean up. John is also responsible for proving that over 12 tarsands oil spill sites were still contaminated, needing to be re-dredged, after the EPA and Enbridge had already signed off on them as 100% cleared, cleaned and restored in 2010.

John tells us how he got NPR and the Canadian CTV network to follow him as he demonstrated the oil was still there. Under media pressure, the EPA recently ordered the company to clean up the river.



At 5 min 38 seconds of this video, a Nebraska land-owner claims there is a 1.5% leakage allowed in these pipelines with no need to report on it...

John tells us he heard about that, but didn't see proof until he visited Keystone XL protesters in Nebraska. He was shown web pages from the site of Transcanada Pipeline saying they can't even detect a spill until the pipeline pressure drops at least 1.5%. So there can be lots of bitumen oozing out of faulty welds, nobody knows, nobody reports it, until it starts showing up in the land, water, or a major aquifer.

Transcanada is now controlled by a conglomerate of Chinese corporations. Forget the "Canada" part. Bolenbaugh wonders if China is also interested in gaining rights to the aquifer water (30% of America's fresh water supply by some accounts) via this Keystone XL deal.

Remember, tar sands bitumen is so sticky is doesn't flow like oil. If normal motor oil has a viscosity of 5 or 6, bitumen is at least 11 on the same scale. They heat the pipeline, they pressurize it with pumps, and the companies mix in many, many other chemicals, including toxic benzene, to keep it flowing. All that comes out in small leaks, and big spills.

Bolenbaugh says this mixture from the tar sands is like sandpaper, always wearing away at any weakness in the line. That's what makes the recent crazy to repurpose old pipelines, and natural gas pipelines, to move tar sands bitumen - so crazy! The big spill in Arkansas is a case in point.


In late March, a pipeline built in the 1940's and owned by Exxon broke open in Arkansas near the community of Mayflower. While initial estimates said 5,000 barrels spilled, State Attorney General Dustin McDaniel now says the leak was much larger.

At first Exxon tried to say it wasn't tar sands bitumen from Alberta. Then the truth came out.


Exxon, really Exxon/Mobil, is possibly the world's most profitable corporation, making as much as tens of billions of dollars profit every quarter. But this oil behemoth says it doesn't have to pay for the cleanup because technically it wasn't oil, but bitumen. Under U.S. law, all oil companies pay a certain amount per gallon into a spill cleanup fund. But the legislation technically refers to "oil" and Exxon says bitumen from the Alberta tar sands isn't "oil" - so the world's most profitable company is ducking the bill for this nasty spill. We'll see who ends up paying millions for this "cleanup".

Exxon also claims the oil has not reached the nearby lake, just the "cove" of the lake. Arkansas authorities point out the "cove" is part of the lake. The horror is: this bitumen does not float on top of water, as normal oil or gasoline does, but sinks to the bottom. The entire bottom of any affected river, lake, or presumably in the case of ocean tankers, the sea bed, has to be dug up. Imagine the ecological consequences, cost, and impossibility of really restoring natural habitat.

John Bolenbaugh notes Exxon claimed they shut off their pumping stations within half an hour of the Arkansas spill report. What the company doesn't say is the line will continue to gush out bitumen for a long time, as up to 50 miles of pipeline empties by gravity. It's hard to say how much really came out.

It takes a lot of heat and pressure, plus a toxic mix of poisonous chemicals just to make tar sands bitumen flow. So why are oil companies putting that combination in old, old pipelines? Because they can't get approval to build new ones? John says it works out economically better for these companies to keep pumping, even knowing a spill will happen eventually, since insurance will pay for the cleanup and any lost profits. I haven't confirmed that. Still, it sounds like the nuclear industry: push the the old pipelines until they break, rather than replace them.


John had a whistle-blower lawsuit against the smaller contractor that hired him for the cleanup, after he outed the Kalamazoo Michigan spill. Bolenbaugh tells us the suit was settled. He got some money, without having to keep quiet. John says he spent all that money, and sold the truck he bought to visit other pipeline sites, to pay for protest t-shirts and signs (which he gave away free), and to travel to support people in places like Nebraska.

Now he's broke, and is appealing for donations, in part to help him get to Arkansas to help those people.

I know John is not perfect. But based on what I've seen of John's activism, he should be helped. Bolenbaugh is playing a vital role, helping others defend themselves against spills and abuse by large corporations. He's the real deal.

You can donate at his web site.

Here are some select John Bolenbaugh You tube videos:

1. Testimony of a Police Officer and oil spill victim

2. Environmental inspector calls Enbridge a liar

3. One of many John Bolenbaugh video proofs of buried oil and attempts to stop him from filming


On March 11th, 2013, over 100 young people invaded the offices of Transcanada Pipeline in Westborough Massachutsetts to protest the Keystone XL Pipeline. They carried a coffin to symbolize the Tar Sands burying our future.

Watch and hear the "Digging Us A Hole song" in this You tube video.

More info here.

Music and lyrics by: Melodeego. Hear the whole song, with improved audio, in this Radio Ecoshock program.


Listener support gives me a lot of encouragement to keep going, and expand the number of people we can reach with alternative eco news. My next project is to visit the Mother Earth News Fair in Puyallup Washington June 1st and 2nd. Meet me there is you can (just look for my mobile solar-powered studio).

Your support makes this possible - I hope to get a show or two's worth of handy how-to interviews at the Fair.

Plus I had a minor equipment failure this past week, and your donations helped me pay those costs. Please choose a montly subscription or a donation of your choice from this page. It's listener-supported radio and you can help.


U of Ottawa scientist Paul Beckwith.

While we were fed news about a new Pope, the economic breakdown on the little island of Cyprus, and two crazy bombers in Boston - a major event occurred unreported in the Arctic. It's a very bad sign.

Let's go back to Paul Beckwith. He's the PHD student and part-time professor of climatology and meteorology at the University of Ottawa, in Canada. Paul is also a member of AMEG, the Arctic Methane Emergency Group.

Paul sent me a disturbing video, of the Arctic ice north of Canada and Alaska during the part of winter which should be frozen solid. Instead, we see a mega-vortex of breaking ice, with large cracks of open water. Yes, cracks in the winter ice have happened before, but never on such a scale! The only explanation is that after the 2012 record breakdown of Arctic sea ice, the much thinner regrowth has become unstable.

See the NOAA video based on satellite imagery here.

You can also listen to this excellent interview with AMEG scientist and Cambridge polar specialist Peter Wadhams. Hear how much thinner ice is now, than in the 1970's or even the year 2,000. It's from the Alpha2Omega podcast. Great interview.

Paul Beckwith wrote about this incident in the Beaufort Sea, and what the disappearance of Arctic sea ice (in summer) really means for all of us, in this blog entry.


Beckwith says it is possible the Arctic sea ice cover could disappear this summer, in 2013! Even NOAA, the U.S. government agency, now predicts the Arctic Ocean will be "nearly ice-free" possibly within the next 10 years. They say "nearly" because small bits of ice may hang around the protected Canadian archipeligo (islands) - even while the rest of the polar sea is wide open, and sucking up the Sun's heat.

Paul notes that if you take the same amount of solar energy it takes to melt one gram of ice, and apply that to that water, the water goes up about 80 degrees C!

It's a huge heating affect, which will change the "air-conditioner of the world". With less temperature difference between the Pole and the Equator, the Jet Stream winds that separate our weather systems slow down and become more wavy. Beckwith explains how that brought the recent record cold spring to the UK and parts of Eastern Europe. Is it coincidence, Beckwith wonders, that there was an excess mortality in the UK this spring of more than 5,000 people? The final figures aren't in, but it's possible we are already seeing climate-caused deaths in Britain.

Weather in the Eastern part of the U.S. and Canada also went wonky this year, with late snows and record flooding.

You get an in-depth interview where science begins to make sense for all of us. Paul Beckwith is a cutting edge scientist at the University of Ottawa in Canada. He's willing to speak out. For example, Beckwith wonders whether the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (the IPCC) will stick with models that show Arctic ice disappearing after 2050 - even if it breaks up this year or next? The models have fallen far short of reality, again.


If the Arctic goes ice free, then a group of heavy duty scientists suggest we may have to spray sulfur aerosols into the Arctic, just to save the remaining ice cap - while humans figure out what to do! Yep, that's geoengineering, and I am against geoengineering. But I don't see any good choices here.

Check out this short video with top scientist Ken Caldiera. He too supports saving the Arctic ice with geoengineering.

Other scientists have severe doubts about this kind of geoengineering, saying it could have unforseen consequences. For example, Jim Haywood from the UK's Met Office Hadley Centre just wrote in the journal Nature Climate Change: such fine particles sprayed into the atmosphere could increase horrible droughts in the Sahel region of North Africa.

Even talking about spraying sulfur from airplanes will trigger another popular Internet meme: that governments have been secretly spraying materials into the atmosphere for years. It's the chemtrail conspiracy theory.

So a move to save the Arctic ice doesn't happen on a blank social canvass. A whole group of Net -connected people already suspect it is happening, and may whip up opposition, not understanding the science or consequences at all. Others think global warming is not caused by burning fossil fuels, but by a plot by world bankers through the US government HAARP radio transmitters in Alaska. So there is warming, they way, but we can just keep on driving our SUV's! Any form of denial will do.

My take on HAARP is the U.S. military (and the Russians have a similar project) would LIKE to be able to send storms against an adversay, but probably have not yet managed to do it. I totally doubt (my opinion) the HAARP project is seriously meddling with weather on a day-to-day basis, as claimed by some of the You tube posters. There is zero science to back that up.

By the way, governments ARE openly involved in some kinds of climate modification. Just look at the efforts by China to seed clouds during their drought in Northern China. Plus, the U.S. military HAS published documents about using weather as a weapon of war. Are we already modifying the weather?

Back in the real world, Beckwith points out the sulfur needed in the Arctic to shade that part of the planet a bit is far less than volcanoes emit, and even less than the many coal plants of the world emit every year. We are already geonengineering the planet by using fossil fuels. You decide - but listen to the interview!

I admit trouble comprehending what such a massive change on Earth really means. All through human history the northern Pole has been frozen solid year round. It's part of the story of early exploration, a taken-for-granted feature of Planet Earth. I'm just stunned that a new sea is opening up, even in summer. Are scientists as freaked out as I am? Apparently some are deeply worried.

Do you want to follow up on this? Here is a link to Paul Beckwith's blog on the Sierra Club of Canada site.

His bio says: "Paul Beckwith is a PhD student with the laboratory for paleoclimatology and climatology, department of geography, University of Ottawa. He teaches second year climatology/meteorology as a part-time professor. His thesis topic is “Abrupt climate change in the past and present.” He holds an M.Sc. in laser physics and a B.Eng. in engineering physics and reached the rank of chess master in a previous life."


Please support this program, and all our non-profit radio stations. Your help makes it all happen.

Find a list of the 67 stations broadcasting Radio Ecoshock at our web site, ecoshock.org.

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Thank you for listening, and we'll try it again next week, assuming there is a next week. We finish the program with a slice from Venice Beat's version of "2525".


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Coping: Climate Anxiety. Preparing: Dehydrating Food

2013-04-16 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)

How to cope with climate despair. UK psychotherapist & co-founder of Carbon Conversations, Rosemary Randall. Then a practical alternative to industrial food: learn to dehydrate in season with traditional cooking expert Wardeh Harmon. Radio Ecoshock 130417 1 hour.

Listen to/download this Radio Ecoshock show in CD Quality (56 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB)

Listen to/download my interview with Wardeh Harmon on food dehydration (23 min) in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Listen to/download the Rosemary Randall interview on coping with climate change (29 min)


Our music this week is another tune from the Australian band Formidable Vegetable Sound System. From the album "Permaculture: A Rhymer's Manual" this is "Limits".



What if you woke up one morning and realized humans really have changed the world's climate? We show no signs of stopping this unfolding catastrophe. Maybe you already see it, and cannot bear knowing.

We need help. And a pioneering psychotherapist from Britain says we can help each other. Starting in 2005, Rosemary Randall was was part of a team founding a movement called "Carbon Conversations".

We have a conversation with her now on Radio Ecoshock. You can find "Ro" Randall's blog here.

The Carbon Conversations organization has become widespread. It links up people who want to talk about climate change, and puts them into six meet-ups which use the ideas from psychotherapy to talk through their fears and emotions. But it doesn't stop there. Each person develops their own plan to reduce their carbon emissions. It's a movement that needs to happen big-time in North America, and all over the world.

Rosemary Randall tells us about her pivotal paper "Loss and climate change: the cost of parallel narratives" found here.

The "parallel narratives" is best explained by Rosemary in our interview, but in a nutshell: media and scientists paint an awful picture of what will happen in the future due to climate change; meanwhile we try to live "normal" lives, ignoring the fact that climate change is not a future event, but is already happening now. This disconnection between our every day lives and the awful future actually reduces our motivation to make the large changes necessary (or at least fits in with our comfortable carbon lives?).

So when we focus on the Arctic melting by 2020, or the end of coral by 2050, that may also be a form of denial that cripples real action. Climate damage is happening right now!

Please listen to the interview to get a better explanation from Rosemary. It's important stuff and all too true.

I can't tell you how many times friends and listeners have fallen back on the model of coping with the ultimate loss of death, developed by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. Does that work well for the end of a loved and stable climate? Randall says "no". the Kubler-Ross formula was developed for people who were dying. We need a way to handle the burden of knowing, while we keep on living. So Randall finds more help from a formula developed by William Worden, among others.

J. William Worden wrote the book "Grief Counselling and Grief Therapy" where he outlined "the four tasks of mourning".

Randall has adapted them for dealing with climate change, where we mourn disappearing species, changed places, lost stability of weather, sea level, and so on.

I'd like to pass on two things from that paper. First, we have this helpful table of four steps, each of which can go positive or negative, depending on our choices.

Table 1. The tasks of grief. Adapted from Worden (1983)

1. The task : Accepting the reality of the loss, first intellectually and then emotionally.

Possible negative responses

Denial of the:

- facts of the loss;

- meaning of the loss;

- irreversibility of the loss.

2 The task: Working through the painful emotions of grief (despair, fear, guilt, anger, shame, sadness, yearning, disorganisation).

Possible negative responses

Shutting off all emotion, idealising what is lost, bargaining, numbing the pain through alcohol, drugs or manic activity.

3 The task: Adjusting to the new environment/acquiring new skills /developing a new sense of self.

Possible negative responses

Not adapting, becoming helpless, bitter, angry, depressed, withdrawing.

4 The task: Reinvesting emotional energy.

Possible negative responses

Refusing to love, turning away from life.


Then here is an example from the conclusion of that paper "Loss and climate change." Randall writes:

"My second example is from a public art project. The educational charity Memo is building a memorial on the Dorset coast, made from local Portland stone, to commemorate plants and animals known to have gone extinct in modern times. They describe it on their website:

'The memorial will be a stone monument bearing the images of all the species of plants and animals known to have gone extinct in modern times. It will incorporate a bell to be tolled for all extinct species, including the great many ‘unknown’ species which it is believed perish each year unseen by scientists. The bell will be tolled on the International Day of Biodiversity on 22nd May each year.'"

This memorial to the species project has not yet gone ahead, due to lack of funding. Find out more here, with glorious pictures.

The Independent newspaper in the UK published this powerful article about the Memo project (June 17, 2012)

In the end, Rosemary helps us to understand we are not alone in our anxiety about major changes to the climate, and thus the economy, food system, and the species we love. She offers a method and tips for coping with knowing how serious our situation is. This is already one of my favorite interviews of the year.


It's shocking so many city folk say they are not interested in cooking or preserving food. Don't they eat? Don't they read the headlines about toxic factory agriculture and fast-food restaurants? The awful wave of food-related diseases like diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, obesity, and colon cancer are the result.

Plus, we can save a lot of money, and tons of greenhouse gas emissions, when we grab food cheap when it's fresh, putting it away for times to come.

One of the easiest and best ways to store food is dehydrating. Humans have been doing it for thousands of years. You can too.

Our guest Wardee Harmon lives in rural Oregon. She serves up a wide variety of cooking and preserving courses online from the mysteriously named Gnowfglins.com. We're going to get some good tips from Wardee about drying food.

I can think of so many reasons to have good dried foods around. Someone may get sick, and need fast ready foods. We hope there won't be a big emergency like a power-outage from storms, but that is happening more these days. There really are too many advantages to list them all.

The importance of choosing organic whole foods is obvious. But the "grown locally in season" is so important too. A population who depends on fruit flown in from South America or New Zealand is in for some rude surprises, don't you think?


I asked Wardee about the online traditional cooking courses she offers at traditionalcookingschool.com. That's the same as Gnowfglins.com site, but much easier to remember.

In Wardee's courses, you watch online videos, but also end up with print-it-yourself binders and logs. Knowing how fallible my own memory can be, especially after a year has gone by, keeping track really does seem important.

By the way, GNOWFGLINS stands for "God's natural, organic, whole foods, grown locally, in season".

Wardee let me try out her Gnowfglins course on dehydration, which is still in development. There are about 7 classes so far. Each one has at least one video, showing us how to do things (very helpful). That is accompanied by written documentation and worksheets which we can download and print, to create our own course binders. Other courses also have some audio as well.

Basically, you buy a monthly or annual membership to the Gnowfglins site, which lets you take all the courses plus get help from others in the members-only forums. There was some really good advice in those forums. Most of the participants are women.

I'm hoping more men will get involved in cooking and preserving food. The health statistics clearly show on average mens' diet leads to more health complications later in life, - and we die younger. Can we get more men back into the food dialog, and into the kitchen? If you want to be self-sufficient, it doesn't get any better than being able to prepare, cook, and store your own food.


I want to thank my own source for this interview. I first heard Wardee Harmon on the "Get Real Get Prepared" radio show with Vikilynn Haycraft from realfoodliving.com. That was a great show Vikilynn. Listen to/download Vikilynn and Wardee Harmon talking dehydration here (Saturday March 13, 2013). The show description is here.

Wardee has own show on the Preparedness Broadcasting Network.

Here is an episode of "Know Your Food with Wardee" from April 12th, 2013. It features her meet-up with Gnowfglins folk in Arizona.

There is a prepper network in Canada too. It has handy how-to sensible advice, just as you would expect from Canadians.

The American version seems more prone to God, Guns, and a hidden food supply.


Since we talk about the best food dehydrators in our Radio Ecoshock interview, I'm tossing in this You tube video of a comparison of food dehydrators from recent Radio Ecoshock guest John Kohler. Check that out before you get started.

Watch this You tube comparison of Excalibur and Sedona food dehydrators by John Kohler.

Many people start with the far cheaper plastic round dehydrators from places like Walmart. These do work, and may be a good place to try things out - BUT food tends to drip downward into the heater and fan (which you have to clean up), and they can't dry much at a time. Once you get hooked on food dehydration, you'll want a better machine. Many people say The Exalibur 3900 is the best. It's been around for over ten years, with good reviews. I've concluded city folk starting out should go with counter-top electric dehydrators, unless you are going to get bushels of fruit or veggies at a time. Many of us don't have room for an extra out-building to dry. But a solar food drier should be our ultimate goal if we have the right climate for it. It's natural and adds no greenhouse gases.

The food dehydrating and canning season starts right now. The aparagus and rhubarb are starting to come into the markets at seasonal low prices. In my area, rhubarb costs less than $2.50 cents a pound in the spring, compared to over $5 a pound in late fall and winter. It's a half price sale for anyone ready to preserve natural foods at their best.


The new edition from Sally Fallon and Mary Enig is: "Nourishing Traditions" Revised Second Edition, October 2000.

Here is Part 1 or three from a DVD Video with Sally Fallon on You tube. She is a powerful speaker.

Dr. Joel Fuhrman, M.D. is very critical of the Fallon/Price diet recommendations for meat and fats, especially the Price Foundation suggestion that high cholesterol is good for us.

Here is a big long video (2 hours) of Sally Fallon on "The Oiling of America" re cholesterol and cholesterol lowering drugs.

For a shorter meal, try Sally Fallon on breakfast cereal (extreme cruelty to our grains andthe effects of eating extruded grains) 6 minutes


I asked Wardee Harmon what she meant by "Traditional Cooking". There is more to it. Wardee credits Sally Fallon, co-author of the influential 1989 book "Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats".

Sally and co-author Mary G. Enig co-founded the Weston A. Price Foundation.

According to Wikipedia, Weston Price was, "a dentist from Cleveland, Ohio, whose 1939 book, 'Nutritional and Physical Degeneration', describes the fieldwork he did in the 1920s and 1930s among various world cultures, with the original goal of recording and studying the dental health and development of pre-industrial populations including tribal Africans and Pacific islanders, Inuit, North and South American natives, and Australian aborigines."

You can watch a You tube video of Sally Fallon explaining how Weston Price judged a person's general health by the condition of their teeth. He visited various pre-industrial people and concluded their diets were the main reason their teeth were generally better formed, with fewer cavities than people living in Western economies.

The science behind the writing comes from the other major player in the Weston A Price Foundation, nutritionist Mary G. Enig. She's the real deal, with a PHD in Nutritional Sciences, experience in research labs, and published scientific papers.

However Enig's theory of the benefits of fatty foods, including butter and coconut oil, and her contrarian views that cholesterol does not lead to heart disease, has earned her criticism from other scientists.


Fallon and Enig also take up Weston Price's promotion of fermented foods used by many ancient cultures, as an aid to full digestion of both plant and animal products. You may think of sauerkraut, but there is a whole universe of fermented foods out there. Our guest Wardee Harmon has a new book out on it "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Fermenting Foods". I know little about this, and Wardee has promised to send me a copy. I'll let you know if I try out some of her recipes.


Sally Fallon has a devastating critique of soy products, especially soy milk. The Weston A. Price Foundation lobbies against the use of soy formula for infants. My opinion is: she is correct in this.

Both Fallon and Enig are major forces behind the push to legalize raw milk. They claim pasteurization kills off beneficial nutrients and reduces our immunity. Personally, I just don't know enough to judge those claims. It's my opinion, and nothing more than an opinion, that most mammals stop drinking milk as they mature, and probably we should too. Wardee says the Bible talks about milk drinking, which is an authority for her, and certainly proof that humans have been drinking milk for thousands of years.

From an environmental standpoint, the whole industrial milk system is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions and should be avoided on a mass scale, except for those few people who have pasture land to manage their own cows or goats organically and properly. As we know from Allan Savory, whose work was just featured on Real Time with Bill Maher, proper management of cattle or sheep is one of the few proven tools to take carbon out of the atmosphere, and return it to the soil.

Industrial milk animals are also abused in many ways, and injected with chemicals and antibiotics. I use very few milk-like products, and pour almond milk on my cereal. I don't trust big agribiz meat either, and don't eat it.

Now you have a general idea of what Wardee Harmon means by "Traditional Cooking". Do I endorse all her views? No. Can I learn a ton of things about canning, dehydrating, and organic food prep from her. You bet.

I learned how to graft fruit trees from a Catholic Nun. Simple You tube videos produced by Mormon women helped me prepare my food insurance and live cheaper. So far, I haven't become a Nun or a Mormon. Learn from everybody, that's my motto.


Thank you for listening to Radio Ecoshock. A special thanks to those who supported the broadcast this week. That will help me attend the Mother Earth News Fair in Puyallup Washington at the start of June, to get a lot of how-to interviews for you. Find out how you can contribute here.

I'm Alex Smith. Let's meet again next week.


Share: Coping: Climate Anxiety. Preparing: Dehydrating Food

Green Seas, Good Food, Bad Numbers

2013-04-10 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)

Serial climate hacker Russ George's office raided. Nick Saul takes food banks to a whole new level - feeding citizens during tough times. UC Berkeley political scientist Dr. Martha Campbell - how economists & women's advocates helped enable the next population explosion. Radio Ecoshock 130410 1 hour.


Listen to/download this Radio Ecoshock show 1 hour in CD Quality (56 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB)

Listen to/download the Nick Saul interview (26 min 30 sec) in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Listen to/download download my Martha Campbell interview (25 min) in CD Quality or Lo-Fi


In the summer of 2012, Russ George, formerly of Planktos Corporation, lead the West Coast Haida Nation into a plot to unilaterally dump 100 tons of iron dust into the Pacific Ocean off British Columbia, Canada.

Now the Haida Salmon Restoration Corp offices have been raided by the Canadian government. The raid happened just two days before the Canadian Broadcasting Corp aired a TV documentary about this ocean dumping, and the disappearing 2.5 million dollars from the Haida Nation. Radio Ecoshock was consulted during production.

Nick Saul is author of "The Stop: How The Fight for Good Food Transformed a Community and Inspired a Movement". He developed a template of food justice for the millions in the West being mal-fed by food banks instead of empowered to grow. Includes Nick's notes on how Brazil does better than North Americans feeding the poor.

UC Berkeley Professor Martha Campbell says UN population theory, and the economists, have it all wrong. We can't wait for "development" to rein in population growth. That never happens when the average family size is five kids or greater. How environmentalists and women's groups went off the rails.

Now Ethiopia is headed for 150 million, and Nigeria will have more than the current U.S. population. What could go wrong?



Please consider supporting Radio Ecoshock. I need to raise funds for two specific projects:

1. I'm booked to attend the Mother Earth News fair on June 1st and 2nd in Puyallup Washington. I hope to do a ton of interviews for you - but I could use some help for the gas money.

2. In a longer-term plot, I hope to reach still more people by doing regular You tube videos, including video postings of the Radio Ecoshock Show. That means an equipment upgrade for my studio, including a camera, some lighting, and video editing software.

It seems important to carry the message of climate demise, and social transition to a broader audience.

Your donations can help make this happen. Just go to this page, and choose either "Donate" (any amount) or "Subscribe" (with a monthly automatic donation.) I promise all money raised this year will be spent ONLY on upgrading Radio Ecoshock, to reach more people, and get you even better multimedia interviews!


Nick Saul, CEO of Community Food Centres (Canada)

Finding good food has become a kind of second job for all of us now, as the agri-business and fast-food empire serve up deadly fare. The left-overs from that giant system go to our poorest people through the food-banks. At least that's the old model.

How did food banks move from a stop-gap measure to an acceptable solution? Can they evolve into a real self-sustaining food movement?

Our guest Nick Saul has gone a long way down that road with an innovative food community in Toronto, Canada. With his wife Andrea Curtis, Nick has just published the new book "The Stop: How the Fight for Good Food Transformed a Community and Inspired a Movement".

In a nutshell, Nick describes the sad state of the food bank system. The food is not very healthy, and the "clients" are too often kept in degrading lines, with no input into the system.

Nick Saul transformed one food bank called "The Stop" in Toronto Canada. They began a community garden, to supplement the food and involve poor people in their own food production. Eventually they took over a former transit building to found the "Green Barn" which involves both production and a Farmer's Market. Health services and community were built into the system, partly run by those who needed the help.

Every city can and should do this. That is why after 14 years Nick left The Stop to lead a new organization called Community Food Centres. They are establishing multi-facet food for citizens in a program popping up already in several cities in Canada. It could be a model for any city.

Nick also tells us of the incredible difference in government attitude and support in Brazil. He visited there and found out how a fully-functioning food support system can work. Very inspiring. The book is well worth it.

I also took away the idea that if our current economic system collapses, which is a strong possibility, all of us may have to organize in the ways Nick Saul describes. That makes this an interview for everyone.

Is there a way forward beyond food banks? Can we live without them?

Don't think of this as a Canadian story, though it is that. I found the book has essential ideas for anyone in the Western world, who wants to see food justice done.


Professor Martha Campbell, University of California, Berkeley

It is unthinkable that Ethiopia could double it's population to 185 million people by 2050. But what if that does happen? Can anyone prevent it?

We continue our series on population growth versus the fragile environment. Our guest is a political scientist who specializes in population. Dr. Martha Campbell lectures in the School of Public Health at the University of California Berkeley. She founded and runs the non-profit group Venture Strategies for Health and Development.

I found Martha in an essay in the new book "Life on the Brink, Environmentalists Confront Population". Reading her article "Why the Silence on Population?" my jaw dropped by the second paragraph, where she listed population projections for some of the poorest nations. For example, Pakistan, is just 20% larger than Texas. It is a desert-like country dependent on one major river for water.

Pakistan had 41 million people when I was born, and now 185 million. By 2050, Pakistan is projected to have more people than the United States does now.

The United Nations makes these projections. Of course they don't presume a pandemic or massive starvation will intervene. I ask Martha about all that.

But in just one example, a lot of people think HIV/AIDS has reduced the population in some African countries. Not at all. People have reproduced faster than that disease has killed, especially now that new treatment drugs are becoming available.

Martha says the United Nations and many economists have the population problem all wrong. They say get the economy and education going, and population will level off. In reality, says Campbell, no country with an average family size of five children manages to become developed. The ever increasing kids swamp efforts to build schools, there is very high unemployment of young people, and the economy stalls. Population control comes first!

To emphasize that point, Campbell has written an article "Do Economists Have Frequent Sex?" to show how unreal the various predictions by economists have been on population.

Her other main paper I recommend is "The Impact of Freedom on Fertility Decline".

Why have environmentalists, including Greenpeace, Friends of Earth, and the Sierra Club fallen silent on population, even though the U.N. says the additional people are a fundamental driver of climate change? (No! It's not just consumption in the West!) We have a politically incorrect talk about the reality on the ground in too many countries. How religion, including the new Pope, is preventing population sanity. Why we must criticize part of a culture of patriarchy and failure. It's hot stuff.


Russ George, American businessman

There are many big worries about geoengineering as an alleged "solution" to climate change. Since this program began, I've warned that a single individual, say a billionaire, or a small group of people could decide unilaterally to alter the climate for all of us.

Regular listeners know this happened in the summer of 2012, as the unstoppable Russ George, formerly of Planktos Corporation, lead the West Coast Haida Nation into a plot to unilaterally dump 100 tons of iron dust into the Pacific Ocean off British Columbia, Canada.

Now the Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation offices have been raided by the Canadian government. The raid happened just two days before the Canadian Broadcasting Corp aired a TV documentary about this ocean dumping, and the disappearing 2.5 million dollars from the Haida Nation.

Radio Ecoshock has been part of this story since 2006. The CBC program called me during production, and used some of my investigative journalism into this case of rogue climate hacking.

In 2007, I ran an hour-long interview with Russ, and another hour show with his critics. Along with George-watcher and investigative journalist Steve Krivit, we dug into the mysterious stock manipulation and promoters behind Planktos Corp. That company went bankrupt, a disaster for the investors who were promised fabulous returns on the carbon credits George promised would come from stimulating plankton with iron dust.


PLANKTOS: ALGAE SEEDING FOR CARBON CREDITS Company plans to create plankton blooms to capture CO2. Who are they, and will it work? Part 1: Radio Ecoshock full-show interview with Planktos CEO Russell George (56 MB 1 hr); Transcript of that 2007 Russ George interview here.

Part 2: "The Intervention" 3 critics respond + Alex Smith's take. (Ecoshock show - 56 MB 1 hr) Greenpeace (9 min)Science Unit, ETC Group (9 min), and David Baines (16 min)(newspaper business columnist.)

A description of the end of the Planktos venture is in this December 21, 2007 Radio Ecoshock Show

The new Russ George adventure with the Haida Salmon Restoration Corp. is in this program:

GEOENGINEERING THE OCEAN: SERIAL CLIMATE HACKING Climate hacker Russ George with indigenous Haida villagers dumps iron into the sea - in a secret geoengineering project off Canada's west coast. Press conference by Haida Old Massett Village; interview Karen Wristen Living Oceans; Alex investigates with real scientists; Russ George with Guardian's Martin Lukacs.

Radio Ecoshock 121024 1 hour CD Quality 56 MB or Lo-Fi 14 MB. Blog with links & transcripts here.

I interviewed Jim Thomas of the ETC Group about the ocean experiment in the Radio Ecoshock Show for October 17, 2012.

Exellent wrap-up on Russ George, in both nuclear fusion and plankton credit activities, by investigative reporter Steven B. Krivit.

Watch the CBC TV program Fifth Estate documentary on Russ George here. It's titled "The Iron Man".

When I investigated all this in 2007, another Russ George turned up - this one claiming to be an expert and inventor in the controversial field of cold fusion. Once again, Russ George became CEO of a company which promised to revolutionize energy and heating, while saving the world of course, by doing what had never been proven possible scientifically. I'm looking at a photo of the cold fusion furnace the company D2Fusion promised to deliver to hunrgy stock investors. There was no furnace. That company went bankrupt. Are we seeing a pattern here?

The question of fraud is so hard to prove, partly because it assumes the perpetrator knew a lie was being used for profit. But what if that person sees themselves as a well-intentioned visionary trying to save the environment, using the capitalist system? What if he actually believes his own mythology?


I presumed the Russ George story was over with the double bankruptcy. But he rose again. This time George used a relationship he built with the aboriginal people of Haida Gwaii in the early 2000's, again in a plot to sell carbon credits, this time by planting trees.

That fell through, but Russ George apparently pursuaded tribal leaders they could sequester carbon, and make millions of dollars, by seeding ocean plankton with algae. The theory, unproven by at least a half dozen experiments done by real scientists aboard multi-governmental research ships, was that the algae bloom would sink to the bottom with it's carbon.

Somehow the leadership of a tiny place called the Village of Old Massett cashed in previous government settlement money to raise $2.5 million dollars for a new try in the Pacific. If the villagers were not sold on carbon credits, the story changed. Now they would save the dwindling salmon, returning the fishing industry to the many unemployed native people.

In my Radio Ecoshock show for October 24, 2012 I found a scientist who disputed the whole basis of the Russ George theory of plankton starving for iron dust. Russ George is not a scientist, or even a University graduate, despite being called the Chief Scientist on last summer's ocean dumping experiment.

Canadian scientists say there is no way to prove the latest claims. The Canadian Government says Environment Canada advised the Haida Salmon Restoration group not to try it. Now the government has raided the offices. Russ George complains in his blog:

"Just days before Easter our small village research office in Vancouver was swarmed by 11 officers dressed in all black combat gear, armed and imposing beyond belief (similar to those in the photo above.). In the largest assault/raid in Environment Canada’s history the RAID team rushed into the office of 7 people, counting the 2 grandfathers and 2 women present."

Find an archive copy of Russ's blog entry on the raid here.

What did he expect? - after breaking the moritorium on such experiments, agreed by the London Dumping Convention, specifically after his previous attempts to capitalize on changing our oceans with the Planktos ship Weatherbird II?

Sadly, while George and the Haida may be charged with breaking environmental laws, I don't expect any justice for the highly unemployed people of the Village of Old Massett. Their 2.5 million dollars has disappeared courtesy of a serial dreamer and promoter named Russ George. Watch out if you see him coming again. It seems like nothing but prison could stop Russ George in his mission to save the world while making money.

But George is a small-time operator compared to the multi-billion dollar scams perpetrated on the rate-payers of Europe. They paid for carbon off sets under the World Bank Clean Development Mechanism, to stop climate damaging chemical plants that were never built, or built only to not produce a certain powerful greenhouse gas. Nobody stopped that rip-off for years, and no one was charged.

Even the Government of British Columbia has been making false claims that it offset it's own carbon. Despite a multi-million dollar fund, and many self-righteous green claims by the government, nothing has been offset. It's just like Russ George saying he made the Vatican the first carbon-neutral government in the world. It's all hot air, with nothing behind it.

Sorry, but the whole plan for carbon off-sets and carbon markets fell prey to human greed and self-delusion. We are carbon addicts who will say anything and believe it. The only true solution is to cut the drug off at it's source. Close down the tar sands. Divert military spending and oil subsidies into clean energy. Change our own lives, going carbon free. Anything else is human fraud on a massive scale, setting us up for mass extinction.

As the Arctic melt utterly, and the permafrost gives up it's long-held methane load, there will be more Russ George's to parade across the stage. Will we applaud?

In a coming show, we'll learn more about a call for geoengineering by real climate scientists. They are worried that if we lose the Arctic Ice cap, humans can never recover the climate they need to survive. Stay tuned to Radio Ecoshock.

Please consider supporting Radio Ecoshock. Find out more at our web site, ecoshock.org. Write me any time. The address is radio at ecoshock.org.

That's it for this week. Find all our past programs as free mp3 downloads at ecoshock.org. I'm Alex Smith. Thank you for listening, and please join us again next week.


Share: Green Seas, Good Food, Bad Numbers

Green Medley: Climate, Population, Off-Grid

2013-04-04 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)

American scientist Virginia Burkett: violent weather threats to coastal energy. Activist Dave Foreman on population & immigration. Sheri Koones "Prefabulous & Almost Off-Grid" green building. Radio Ecoshock 130403 1 hour.


Listen to/download this "Green Medly" Radio Ecoshock in CD Quality (56 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB)

Listen to/download the Virginia Burkett interview in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Listen to/download the Dave Foreman interview in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Listen to/download the Sheri Koones interview in CD Quality or Lo-Fi


Dr. Virginia Burkett, USGS

In this show, leading American scientist Virginia Burkett explains how a more violent climate could damage the fossil fuel infrastructure we currently count on. Dr. Viginia Burkett is the Chief Scientist for Climate and Land Use Change at the U.S. Geological Survey. She has been a lead author in past reports for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Dr. Burkett is from Louisiana, and was a specialist there in the oil and gas sector. She well remembers the impacts of Hurricane Katrina, and has studied the impacts of that 2005 storm on offshore facilities, coastal lands ripped away, and damage to both ports and refineries.

Up to one third of all oil imported into America comes through the Gulf States. When those are knocked out, even pipelines supplying heating oil as far away as New England are threatened.

Add in the constant rising seas, and we could see a situation where gas and oil products could be in short supply if climate change brings more violent storms to the Gulf Coast. Burkett expects those storms will arrive again, and more often.

Massive amounts of American highways also run near the coast. The damage to the bridged and highways of the Gulf States was extreme after Katrina. That means food and other supplies may not get through. Where, in these days of bankrupt governments, will we find the money to constantly rebuild coastal highway systems, including the interstates?

Burkett notes that after Katrina, some freight railway traffic was routed further inland, as far as St. Louis, to avoid the coast. We'll see more of that - but then what happens to the passenger rail trains near the coast, where about 50% of Americans live? Freight generally helps pay for passenger lines. The dream of using more passenger trains to help save climate emissions may be endangered by rising seas and storm surges from existing climate change.

In our interview, we also discuss this document: "Public Review Draft USGS Global Change Science Strategy: A Framework for Understanding and Responding to Climate and Land-Use Change", U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, Virginia, Open-File Report 2011-1033, 32 p.


Listen to this Radio Ecoshock show right now.



Dave Foreman

Dave Foremen came to public attention in the early 1980's with his involvement with the Earth First! environmental activist movement. Few people know that Dave worked with more conventional conservation groups in the 1970's, before he realized that wasn't working.

Dave published "Ecodefense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching" - disabling logging and other equipment to save the ancient forests and habitat for wildlife. The introduction is by Edward Abbey. That book is still available online here.

The authorities didn't like that book and that kind of eco-activism. In my opinion, the FBI entrapped him in the early 1990's, by charging Foreman with handing his book (remember free speech?) to an undercover FBI agent investigating the bombing of a power line in the South West. Dave had nothing to do with the bombing, but got labelled with all that by the media. Some people today still think he's guilty because of that media smear. Learn more about that case here.

In fact, Dave Foreman went on to become a Director of the Sierra Club. He left that group in 1998 when Sierra Club renounced it's previous policy of limiting the size of the U.S. population.

In our interview, Foreman emphasizes he is a "conservationist" rather than an "environmentalist". He wants to save room for other species, and does so through his group The Rewilding Institute.

We talk about world over-population, and immigration. Dave just published an essay on all that in the book "Life on the Brink: Environmentalists Confront Overpopulation." Plus he has his own book "Man Swarm and the Killing of Wildlife."

Dave Foreman doesn't hold back. We have a lively conversation which is sure to generate some comments from listeners.

Please remember the views expressed by our guests may not reflect my own, or those of our radio stations. On the other hand, unless we want to see Ethiopia go over 100 million people, and Nigeria to 300 million, we've got to start talking frankly about over-population (before the rest of the species and Nature get wiped out!)


Radio Ecoshock is all about local and hand made. So why the heck am I enthused about factory-built homes?

It all started with my interview and recorded workshop on the Austraian super low energy "Passivhaus" design with architect Guido Wimmers. Google "radio ecoshock and Guido Wimmers" to find that on our site at ecoshock.org. That will take you to a two part workshop on Passivhaus design. Or listen to my 21 minute interview with Guido here.

Guido says in no uncertain terms that we cannot build super tight low energy homes using standard construction on site. They need to be build on jigs, inside, with very strict standards to make everything fit literally seamlessly. It's a new way of looking at Green construction. Plus, there is less waste in the factory production method.

My interest was further stimulated by the new book by Sheri Koones called "Prefabulous and Almost Off the Grid". Sheri uses photos and text to illustrate leading edge prefab homes across the United States - from New England to the South West.

Author Sheri Koones

For example, we find out Christine Tod Whitman, former New Jersey Governor and former head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, built a model low-energy pre-fab home. Sheri Koones describes some of the choices Christine made. The home looks like it has been there for 100 years.

Robert Redford wrote the foreword to this book.

I was also interested to see a prefab go up in Chicago, where the building codes are notoriously difficult to meet.

My wife and I are looking into a green-enabled home at a much lower cost from Marlette homes, a subsidiary of Clayton Homes. That is controlled by Warren Buffett. Apparently Buffett decided factory homes are the future of new buiding at low cost, in times of high energy prices.

Check out the Sheri Koones interview for insight into all that. Find her blog here.

Please remember to support Radio Ecoshock at our web site, ecoshock.org.

Tune in next week, and thank you for listening.


Share: Green Medley: Climate, Population, Off-Grid

From Growing Greens to Fukushima

2013-03-23 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)

Expert urban gardening tips from John Kohler, host of popular "Growing Your Greens" channel on You tube. Then speech by Dr. Helen Caldicott March 12, 2013 on medical and ecological consequences of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. Radio Ecoshock 130327 1 hour


Listen to/download this Radio Ecoshock Show in CD Quality (56 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB)

Listen to/download Helen Caldicott's speech (31 minutes; edited for radio) from the New York City Fukushima symposium in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Listen to/download my interview with urban gardener John Kohler (28 minutes) in CD Quality or Lo-Fi


Hey welcome to Radio Ecoshock. This week it's a best of times, worst of times show.

We start out with John Kohler, the "growing your greens" guy on You tube. John is an enthusiastic learner and teacher about urban gardening. He helped push me further along the path to growing my own and juicing it as great raw plant food. Our interview is full of lots of things you can do. I've posted some links below of my favorite Kohler You tube videos to get you started.

Then it's off to New York City for a dose of the awful truth from the long-term nuclear guardian, Helen Caldicott. In her time to speak on the second anniversary of the Fukushima Daiichi triple melt-down in Japan - Helen lays it out. Due to increased radiation, toxic chemicals, and climate change, life on earth is in the Intensive Care Unit. The aging Caldicott says it's up to us - we are all physicians for the Earth now. It's a powerful speech from a famous force for sanity.

First though, it's time to get you growing your greens.



John Kohler

Here is a whole browsing list of John Kohler "growing your greens" videos on You tube.

I like this one about aquaponics in Oakland.

This one of growing veggies in the winter in Cleveland has a lot to say, I think. We talk about it in our interview.

I learned a few more things about the power of growing sprouts from this pro sprout-grower in Florida. It features Shawn from gotsprouts.com.

Looking for plants for quick salads in winter, inside, with minimum equipment?


How to Make Compost Tea.

Why does John advise against planting potatoes in your urban garden?

How to grow a vegetable garden if you rent your home.

Is plastic bad to use as a container to grow food?

Grow 20 Square Feet of Vegetables in 4 ft Square of Space with the Phytopod Container Garden (245,00 views).

Edible garden on a condo patio.

Suburban homestead garden on 1/10th of an acre.

Suburban Homesteading Edible Victory Garden Edible Estate on 1/10th of an Acre (143,000 views).

Solar powered aquaponic system (plus examples of espalier fruit growing for small gardens)(plus two types of tower growing)(agrotower.com).

City Encourages Upgrooting Grass to Grow Sustainable Vegetable Gardens.

Best Way to Consumer Leafy Green Vegetables (Juicer).

How to Start A Raised Bed Vegetable Garden In Your Backyard - Planning.

Reduce or Eliminate WhiteFly and Aphids with Worm Castings.

Urban Farm in San Francisco Gives Away Thousands of Pounds of Food Free.

How to Keep Cats Out of Your Raised Bed Garden.

How to Build a 4' by 4' Raised Bed Garden From Start to Finish.

Extended Front Yard Urban Vegetable Garden Tour.

Growing Vegetables in the Shade - What Can I Grow?

John's plant-specific videos are hits, on growing cucumbers, or squash (often with over 80,000 views heading to 200,000 each)


His business is discountjuicers.com (only ships within USA). But you'd never know that from watching his "growing your greens" You tube channel. John really does give away all he's learning, without pushing his business at all.

John Kohler founded Living Foods.com

His Facebook page is here.

To get more on John's vision of the healthiest diet visit his site OK Raw

And of course his main "Growing Your Greens" channel on You tube, where you can learn so much.


John has re-inspired me. I was drinking vegetable juice in Los Angeles back in the '70's, and I was growing lots of veggies in the '80s. It's just one of those things that keeps coming back. We learn again, and start again. Sometimes life is more like a spiral than a line through time.

I bought a juicer this week, but not from John. He only sells within the United States. A local drug store chain had a sale on the "Big Boss Vita Press". It's a slow juicer that squeezes the veggies with a rotating auger.

The Breville high speed juicers are great if you are into hard fruits like apples, or maybe carrots or beets. But they don't do well with leafy greens. Plus, a Brevill has an 850 Watt motor, sounding like an airplane in your kitchen. It turns at about 10,000 revolutions per minute. By contrast, my slow-speed juicer needs just 150 Watts, meaning it uses less power. I can run if from my solar panel. The whole process with slow juicing is much more relaxing, I think.

The Vita Press cost me $169 dollars, with a one year in-store warranty, and a two year factory warranty. I seriously considered buying one of the Omega models John shows in his videos. They are probably better quality and may last longer. But like many people, I have a low income. I just couldn't afford more than $300 for my juicer.

I'll let you know how the cheaper one works out. Last night we had a super green drink, including a bargain on organic black Kale. It feels so much healthier than the overdose of bread, cereal, and potatoes I'd been falling into over the winter. I can't wait for the local farmers' market to open. Hopefully by next year we'll be in a place where we can grow most of our own.

John is pretty well feeding himself from a standard house lot in California. He's got several videos of tips for more northern folks, from the compost-heated greenhouse through sprouting greens anywhere inside, in the depths of winter.


For those who heard about my experiment with a little planter with indoor lights, I can report trying a couple of things. First off, I asked myself, what would some listeners do? I tried the Walmart brand planting soil, which promised it would need little watering. That turned out about as useless as I thought it would. The plants were starting to die off, because the soil stays way too wet.

I carefully removed my small plants, chucked the Walmart stuff, and went with a version of "Mel's mix" - one third peat, one third vermiculite (not perlite!), and some compost. I also added some clean sand, heated up in the oven to get rid of any outside life. Small containers benefit from sand, I think, to help drain the soil.

Now my kitchen herbs and lettuce are doing great. I had to cut back the hours of light for the lettuce, and move it back a bit, because it was heading straight to seed under all the light from the T5 flourescent, running 16 hours a day. Things have grown so fast, I had to move the lights up 6 inches in the first two weeks.

I like having the fake sunlight in my studio as I prepare Radio Ecoshock, in the dark spring of rainy Vancouver. Burning just 24 watts, it's not too hard on the atmosphere I suppose - plus all our power comes from hydro-electric dams. Pretty soon we'll have the real stuff from the sun.

My thanks to listeners who responded with ideas for a seed show. I've got something in the works for that. I've also appreciated the feedback on our Facebook page, the blog, and from the contact form on the web site as ecoshock.org. I can't promise to answer everyone, but I read it all. Listeners provide a lot of direction and tips for this program. That's the way it should be. I appreciate your support.

Stay tuned for one of the great voices of the environment, Helen Caldicott.


Dr. Helen Caldicott

Last week I ran selections from symposium "The Medical and Ecological Consequences of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident" New York March 11-12 by Helen Caldicott Foundation & Physicians for Social Responsibility. That program covered 5 key myths about the Fukushima disaster. Things like: It isn't over, the unreported extra dangers to women and small children, and the myth that wildlife is thriving at Chernobyl in the Ukraine, despite the continuing radiation there.

That symposium was full of surprises. The key driving force behind it was the 75-year-old anti-nuclear campaigner, the world-renowned Dr. Helen Caldicott. She helped fund it, along with other medical professionals in the group Physicians for Social Responsibility.

By the second day, Helen was tired. It was her turn to speak. But nothing stops Helen. By the end of her talk, I was touched and restimulated by our duty here, to care for humans, wildlife, and all life. We are part of a giant living planet, attached and responsible. Helen Caldicott reminded me why I make Radio Ecoshock every week, and why you come to listen.

Use the links above to download her speech at the March symposium in New York City. To fit radio time, I removed her reading of a letter from Dr. Arjun Makhijani.

You can view videos of all the speeches as delivered at the symposium here.

I hope Helen is wrong about the future of genetic damage in humans. She says science shows it can take up to 20 generations for the damage from radiation to show up, being carried in recessive genes. If so, the atomic testing, Chernobyl, Fukushima, and every day releases from all kinds of nuclear power plants and nuclear waste - could add up to a future with hundreds or thousands of genetic diseases popping up in humans and wild life. You and I will not live to see it.

I hope she is wrong. But it's probably foolish to bet against Dr. Caldicott, with all she knows. Once upon the world stage, there can be a process where a strong honest person can grow bigger than most of us. That is how I think of her.

Personally I don't believe we are coming to an end, but rather a new beginning with a difficult and strange birth.

Life on Earth is in the intensive care unit, Helen Caldicott says. She passes her torch to us, saying we must all become physicians now, caring for life, for everything that lives. Nothing else in life - not the money, the prestige, the highs - nothing else matters more than we accept this role. We may have to sit up through the night with our patient, with no concern for ourselves.

Nobody around here doubts the night will come. I believe life will continue in a new morning.

I'm Alex Smith. Stay tuned next week for more hope and despair, with some great guests on Radio Ecoshock.

Please support Radio Ecoshock with your donations. You can use PayPal or any credit card, at the upper right of this blog. Would you rather donate a smaller amount per month? Subscribe at our web site, on this page.

Thank you for listening - and for caring about your planet!


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Deadly Myths of Fukushima

2013-03-19 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)

Selections from symposium "The Medical and Ecological Consequences of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident" New York March 11-12 by Helen Caldicott Foundation & Physicians for Social Responsibility. It isn't over. Danger to women, children, wildlife. Radio Ecoshock 130320 1 hour.

Download/listen to the Radio Ecoshock show in CD quality (56 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB)


Last week I sent out by podcast a pathetic audio press conference from the New York City symposium. I called it "Poisoned Flag". Two U.S. sailors tell their stories of being soaked with radioactivity aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan during the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan.

The sailors tell a harrowing tale of being exposed to radiation blowing from Fukushima, over a period of two months, as close as one mile from shore. They were not told of the accident until weeks later, were never properly tested for exposure, received no preventative treatment, and even now get no medical help from the Navy.

Allegedly forced to sign waivers releasing the Navy from any responsibility, the pair are among more than a hundred American sailors suing TEPCO, the Japanese nuclear plant operator.

If you missed that, find it on the Radio Ecoshock web site at ecoshock.org. Click on "past programs" and you'll see this special news audio available for free mp3 download.

Or download the 28 minute press conference here: "Poisoned Flag" in CD quality or Lo-Fi

This press conferences kinda says it all for the common person. We do not get support from the governments allegedly elected to protect our interests. It's easy to see where we all stand when it comes to the military industrial nuclear complex: in the dark and in the radiation zone.


In this week's Radio Ecoshock show we hear straight from the conference "The Medical and Ecological Consequences of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident" held at the New York Academy of Medicine, March 11th and 12th. My thanks to the Helen Caldocott Foundation and Physicians for Social Responsibility for getting out the truth about Fukushima, about the on-going impact of the Chernobyl nuclear plant explosion, and the radiation still with us from atomic testing. We'll hear scientists and activists explode the myths behind the catastrophe of March 11, 2011 at the TEPCO Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear complex.

From speaker Mary Olson, you hear about the unreported higher impact on women, children and babies. We hear a report about disappearing wildlife at Fukushima and Chernobyl from Dr. Timothy Mousseau, Professor of Biological Sciences, University of South Carolina. Arnie Gundersen from Fairwindes, David Lochbaum from Union of Concerned Scientists speak out. Plus everything you wanted to know about Cesium, but were afraid to ask, from Dr. Steven Starr, University of Missouri.

That leave me little time to speak. Please listen to the "Deadly Myths of Fukushima".



Akio Matsumura

This is the huge lie politicians and power companies most desperately want you to believe. I present a clip from the Q and A period, from Akio Matsumura, Founder of the Global Forum of Spiritual and Parliamentary Leaders. Who is he? Lets just say Mr. Matsumura meets with world leaders one on one. As he tells us, when he was invited to dinner with the Japanese Prime Minister, the whole cabinet was invited to join them. What did he tell them?

1. Japanese children will be part of giant nuclear experiment for hundreds of years.

2. Nobody knows where the nuclear fuel has gone, or what state it is in.

Government policies are based on wishful thinking, says Matsumura, because "Fukushima has no time". That is, the radioactive threat will last and last, beyond us and our descendents.

Then Kevin Kamps, Radioactive Waste Specialist for the non-profit group "Beyond Nuclear" demolished the "it's over" myth when interviewed by Karl Grossman Chief Investigative Reporter for VVW Hamptons TV. You'll hear some of that interview.

See that whole series of Karl Grossman interviews at the 2nd year anniversary of Fukushima conference in NYC on You tube here.

In just one of a thousand examples that the Fukushima accident is far from over, just listen to Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds.com in that morning Q and A session on March 11th at the symposium. That's right, 400 tons a day of groundwater is mixing with the loose hot nuclear fuel. The contaminated water is being pumping into hundreds of temporary holding ponds that are not rated to withstand an earth quake over 6.0. Fukushima gets lots of earth quakes.


David Lochbaum, Union of Concerned Scientists

You think so? Think the next nuclear melt-down isn't just waiting for the USA? Here are two quick clips from David Lochbaum, nuclear engineer from the Union of Concerned Scientists, again from that morning Q and A session. He explains the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission can't even enforce the "no-brainers" like putting vents on the aging Mark I reactors (as every other country has done except maybe India).

Or this one: why can't the NRC force the California nuclear reactors to meet the fire codes? They've had about 25 years to comply, and still get granted more time?

Lochbaum says Californians have won the nuclear lottery - they better hope their number doesn't come up like Fukushima.


Mary Olson, NIRS

This is one of the most important lessons of this symposium. A stream of scientists and investigators have found women, girls, and babies are far more sensitive to radiation than the 30 year old healthy male used to set acceptable radiation standards around the world. If you aren't outraged about what you are about to hear, you aren't paying attention.

You get clips from a presentation by Mary Olson, Nuclear Information and Resource Service, Southeast. She spoke on "Gender Matters in the Atomic Age".


Dr. Steven Starr

This talk March 11th is titled: "The implications of the massive contamination of Japan with radioactive cesium" by Dr. Steven Starr from the University of Missouri (and Physicians for Social Responsibility).

Here is a bio page on Steven Starr and another one with some of his history against nuclear weapons.

Find out everything you wanted to know about Cesium, but were afraid to ask. Yep, the kids get it first. Europe and Japan are loaded with Cesium from Chernobyl and Fukushima. A nice dusting hit the American West coast in 2011 too. Cesium never goes away, even though the news media stops reporting on it, and the government stops inspecting food.


Dr. Tim Mousseau

Dr. Tim Mousseau, Professor of Biological Sciences, University of South Carolina. We hear a ten minute excerpt from his talk "Chernobyl, Fukushima and Other Hot Places, Biological Consequences".

The story that Chernobyl has become a wild Eden after the accident was founded on zero scientific studies. Mousseau and his team did the studies. They found one third fewer birds even 25 years after the Chernobyl accident. Many fewer insects and species of insects. There are so few mammals that the Ukraine had to install a petting zoo, to provide for the Chernobyl tourists who came to see all the famous wildlife (but they don't see any).

Same again in Fukushima, except the spiders there are doing better, now that there are so few birds to eat them. Radioactive "Eden" isn't going so well, and won't for hundreds of years.


Some so-called "experts" in the Ukraine and elsewhere in the nuclear establishment tried to suggest the growing death rates after Chernobly were only due to alcoholism or psychological stress. It's important to find out what happened to the wildlife, who apparently don't smoke or drink. We don't know if birds were psychologically depressed on reading news about the Chernobyl accident, but somehow I doubt it. Mousseau blows up that whole argument, and gets us outside the human-centric paradigm. As Helen Caldicott says, we humans are not the only living things with genes to be damaged by nuclear mistakes.


As mainstream media fails to report on this frightening new science of nuclear accidents, we have to depend on independent producers. In coming shows, Radio Ecoshock will bring you more from the conference. Maria Gilardin of TUC Radio San Francisco will also bring you more, at tucradio.org. Another stalwart of nuclear truth telling is Robert Knight, host of 5 o'clock Shadow on WBAI New York.

We'll hear directly from Helen Caldicott speaking at the NYC conference next week on Radio Ecoshock. She promises that a book with the full proceedings will be available in the next 6 months or so. That is very important for the record, as these things get buried so quickly by the pro-nuclear lobby and the mainstream media.

I'm Alex Smith. We are out of time. Join us next week.

Please help pay for this program if you can. Make a donation from our main blog at ecoshock.info - or subscribe to the show with easy monthly donations at our web site. Thank you to all those listeners who make Radio Ecoshock possible.

Alex Smith


Radio Ecoshock


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Citizens Lobby with Life on the Brink

2013-03-12 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)

Life on the Brink ...approaching the vanishing point for climate hope. As emissions hit new record, Citizens Climate Lobby Exec. Dir. Mark Reynolds teaches people to lobby the government for sane policy, like Hansen's "Tax and Dividend". Philip Cafaro on new book "Life on the Brink: Environmentalists Confront Overpopulation." Radio Ecoshock 130313 1 hour.


Listen to/download this Radio Ecoshock show in CD Quality (56 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB)

Listen to/download the Mark Reynolds interview (27 minutes) in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Listen to/download the Phil Cafaro inteview (25 minutes) in CD Quality or Lo-Fi


Kiss your old climate good-bye. That's the word from scientists and measuring agencies on all fronts.

John Vidal of the Guardian was among the first to report that measurements of CO2 in the atmosphere at Hawaii's Mauna Loa observatory hit an all-time new high in February 2013 at 396.8 parts per million.

We are pumping out greenhouse gases as ever faster rates. The increase in 2012 was 2.67 parts per million. That is the second highest on record.

As hope for a "safe" climate "fade away", Mark Reynolds of the Citizens Climate Lobby shows how we can overcome the fossil fuel lobby machine. I didn't believe that either, until Mark explained what they do.

Then a fine new book of essays by environmentalists, some well-known, others new, on the untouchable issue: population. The IPCC knows over-population is one of TWO main drivers of climate change. Why do they only talk about fossil fuels? Why does almost every green group duck talking population (and immigration reform)? Not on Radio Ecoshock, where Philip Cafaro talks about "Life on the Brink".



We are pumping out greenhouse gases as ever faster rates. The increase in 2012 was 2.67 parts per million. That is the second highest on record. The highest was in 1998 at 2.93 parts per million when the Indonesian peat fires made that developing country the third largest emitter in the world.

Scientists used to say we were increasing at 2 parts per million annually. Models were based on that. Now it's heading toward three, and increasing incrementally. The head of the gas measurement program at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Pieter Tans said the increase is from fossil fuel burning, and our chances of staying below the 2 degree C safe level are "fading away".

Other researchers from Oregon State University, published in the journal Science, quote " during the last 5,000 years, the Earth on average cooled about 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit–until the last 100 years, when it warmed about 1.3 degrees F."

Earth is hotter now than it has been for the past eleven thousand years.

So it's on. Should we just cry about it? Probably. But in this program I'll bring you two voices who claim we could still save a livable Earth. They won't give up on the outside chance humanity could turn back toward survival.

Is the fossil fuel lobby too powerful? Start your own lobby. Mark Reynolds tells us how.

Then we'll talk about the unspeakable. Did you know the IPCC admits there are TWO main drivers behind climate change, but only looks at one? Solar power, wind power, carbon capture and storage, nuclear energy, tech, tech, tech, but our guest Philip Cafaro, editor of the new book "Life On the Brink" is ready to face the nasty issues politicians and environmentalists agree should never be mentioned.

Hot Radio for unstable times. I'm Alex Smith. This is Radio Ecoshock.


Mark Reynolds, Executive Director

All the big corporations have lobbyists in Washington. Every Member of Congress has a posse of lobbyists who visit, make donations, or take them on golf vacations in exotic places. And that's not just in America, but in pretty well every country.

When it comes to climate, who lobbies for us? Who will speak for our descendants? Our guest is Mark Reynolds. He's the Executive Director of the non-profit group called the Citizens Climate Lobby.

We find out Citizen's Climate Lobby teaches people how to lobby their political representatives. It's mainly aimed at American legislators, but there is a Canadian chapter as well. This technique could work in any pseudo-Democratic country.

People gather and get a workshop on how lobbying works. It was modelled after the successful "BUILD" lobby blitz, that brought U.S. funding to fight Third World poverty up from practically nothing to many millions of dollars. After the workshop, there are once-a-month conference calls which feature some expert speakers (like Dr. James Hansen of NASA), plus drills in how to get results with elected representatives.

People also learn how to mount an effective campaign of letters to the editor or op-ed writing. Reynolds say politicians really monitor such things. These groups also try to get many different voices on board. Mark suggests someone from the military, or a preacher, may be quite effective when visiting the politician in their home riding. Once a year they do a full blitz on Washington, trying to see every Senator and Congressman about climate change.

Don't just preach to them, says Reynolds. Listen. Find common ground, something you can relate to, before going.

I know my listeners are already asking themselves a lot of hard questions about this. For starters, the people who control the current House of Representatives in America have publicly stated climate change is a hoax, most likely a plot to tax and ruin American freedom. Do climate lobbyists talk to Tea Party denialists?

Indeed they do. The Citizens Climate Lobby has visited climate denier Senator Inhofe from Oklahoma several times. Reynolds has a good story about that in our interview.

What is the Climate Lobby pushing for? Certainly not bogus solutions like carbon trading. They advocate the "Fee and Dividend" approach suggested by James Hansen. People do pay a "tax" on carbon (raising the price of gas for example). But ALL that money is kept away from government. Instead it is paid back to every citizen in a cheque which eases the pain of paying more. I call it bribing people to do the right thing, with their own money.

During the interview, Reynolds mentions "the Pigou club" Find out more on Pigou here, and the club's founder and premise here. Wiki says:

"[Greg] Mankiw has become an influential figure in the Blogosphere and online journalism since launching his blog. The blog, originally designed to assist his Ec10 students, has gained a readership that extends far beyond students of introductory economics. In particular, he has used it as a platform to advocate the implementation of pigovian taxes such as a revenue-neutral carbon tax; to this end Mankiw founded the informal Pigou Club."

Here is an op-ed by Mark Reynolds, explaining how Republicans could support this climate action plan.

I'm so disgusted with politics, I woulnd't believe this lobby idea could work. But Reynolds mostly convinced me this IS a worthwhile effort. Listen to the interview. Check out this workshop with Mark Reynolds on You tube. Then visit citizensclimatelobby.org


Philip Cafaro, Colorado State University

The melting Arctic, that's far enough away. Electric cars or solar cities, that's far enough away too. But talk about fewer babies, those lovable babies, or stopping immigration, and maybe state control of family size - those are bombs that stimulate a kind of self-censorship even greens go along with. Start talking about population control, and even the best listeners start reaching to change stations.

When I add that our guest Philip Cafaro specializes in "ethics", that doesn't help. Ethics is hardly the hot buzzword of the day on TV or social media.

So Philip, we have about thirty seconds to convince our great Radio Ecoshock listeners they need to hear this conversation. Why drag up population, immigration, and birth control, just when we're finally getting the public on board with the reality of climate change?

Personally, I think there is a deep and embedded form of self-censorship at work here. I didn't really look foward to doing this program. The whole issue makes me uncomfortable and unpopular, and that's the point. Stopping climate catastrophe is not all happy thoughts and popularity.

Philip teaches philosophy in Fort Collins, at Colorado State University. He's the co-editor of a new collection of essays called "Life on the Brink, Environmentalists Confront Overpopulation." The contributors are real green leaders, some of them already guests on Radio Ecoshock, like Albert Bartlett, Lester Brown, and Paul Ehrlich. In the book, we hear from the academics, but from activists too, like Dave Foreman of Earth First!, and Captain Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Society.

We start with the contentious issue of immigration. In the United States, new polls show millions of Latinos are concerned about climate change. Now this book seems to be saying we should stop immigration. This is a hot issue not just in the U.S., but in Australia, Canada, the UK, and most developed countries in Europe. Why oh why, would environmentalists get involved in immigration debates? After all, the immigration debate nearly wrecked the Sierra Club of California at one point.

The trouble is: population growth is real and relentless. We can duck it, and the millions more keep coming every month. Earth hit 7 billion humans in 2012, and will be at 8 billion before 2024. The stats are real and undeniable.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says there are TWO major causes of climate change. One is fossil fuel burning, agriculture and deforestation. The other, though they never talk more about it, is population. Pure and simple.

Phil Cafaro, co-editor of the new book "Life on the Brink: Environmentalists Confront Overpopulation" pulls no punches. It's now or never to stop humans from over-running the last of the planet, last stop before die-off.

We could do something about it. It's not quite time to give up. Anyway, giving up is not an option.

Our guest Philip Cafaro is also the president of the International Society for Environmental Ethics, and president of the board of directors of Progressives for Immigration Reform.

The other editor of "Life on the Brink" is Eileen Crist, from Virginia Tech, known for her book "Gaia in Turmoil." The book is published by University of Georgia Press.


As always, please support your local non-profit radio station. One of the best since 1960, WBAI New York is in emergency fund raising mode, to keep their famous transmitter atop the Empire State Building. The station has not yet recovered from being flooded out by Hurricane Sandy. In fact, every non-profit and community radio station needs your help right now. Take nothing for granted. If you love freedom of the airwaves, without corporate control, please get online, or on the phone and put your money where your ears are, to support your local radio station.

A huge thank you to Radio Ecoshock supporters who keep this program on the air.

Rebecca in Australia, your generous donation gave me renewed determination to keep pumping out the awful truth.

I can't thank everyone personally, but listeners around the world make this show possible. I am grateful for donations coming in through our web site and blog. Help yourself to our big library of free mp3 audio downloads at ecoshock.org. Your support has made more than a million downloads of Radio Ecoshock program happen over the years.


Coming up on Radio Ecoshock: the new wave of low-energy homes, and new waves of rising seas - is it still safe to live near the Coast? Plus a suRprise guest who always puts Earth first.

We'll have to squeeze that in with some powerful talks from the conference in New York City organized by the Helen Caldicott Foundation and Physicians for Social Responsibility on March 11th, 2013, two years after the triple melt down in Japan.

Expect recordings from the conference "The Medical and Ecological Consequences of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident" in upcoming Radio Ecoshock shows.

People who subscribe to our podcast should have received a taste with my special news podcast "Poisoned Flag: US Sailors Nuked by Fukushima". Two U.S. sailors tell their stories of being poisoned with radioactivity aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan during the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan.

It's a harrowing tale of being exposed to radiation blowing from Fukushima, over a period of two months, as close as one mile from shore. They were not told of the accident until weeks later, were never properly tested for exposure, received no preventative treatment, and even now get no medical help from the Navy. Allegedly forced to sign waivers releasing the Navy from any responsibility, the pair are among more than a hundred American sailors suing TEPCO, the Japanese nuclear plant operator.

If you missed this 28 minute press briefing from New York, download it here in CD Quality, or in Lo-Fi.

Even CBS News covered it. (Caution: this page can be slow to load, and puts you through an ad first, but still, you get to see the Vets talking Fukushima on TV...)

I don't do many between-shows news broadcasts, but if you want to receive them, click on the podcast symbol at our web site, ecoshock.org. That way you'll be sure to get all our programs, plus the extra podcasts that only go out to subscribers!

At the end of this week's show I squeeze in part of another song from Nimbin Australia. The group is Pagan Love Cult. It's their CSG Song, meaning coal seam gas, also known as fracking methane.

Find some of their music here.

I'm Alex Smith. Thank you for listening.


Share: Citizens Lobby with Life on the Brink

Poisoned Flag: Testimony of 2 U.S. Sailors Nuked by Fukushima

2013-03-11 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)


Two U.S. sailors tell their stories of being poisoned with radioactivity aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan during the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan.

Quartermasters Maurice Enis, and Jaime Plym, now out of the Navy, speak in New York City, at a press conference organized by the Helen Caldicott Foundation and the Physicians for Social Responsibility on March 11th, 2013, two years after the triple melt down in Japan.

In addition to the sailors, we hear from Jeff Patterson, president of PSR, Helen Caldicott, and Robert Alvarez.

Download mp3 in CD Quality (28 minutes).

Download in Lo-Fi


The sailors tell a harrowing tale of being exposed to radiation blowing from Fukushima, over a period of two months, as close as one mile from shore. They were not told of the accident until weeks later, were never properly tested for exposure, received no preventative treatment, and even now get no medical help from the Navy.

Allegedly forced to sign waivers releasing the Navy from any responsibility, the pair are among more than a hundred American sailors suing TEPCO, the Japanese nuclear plant operator.

Get more details at www.helencaldicottfoundation.org. This recording has been edited to improve sound and remove distractions, by Alex Smith of Radio Ecoshock. Expect more recordings from the conference "The Medical and Ecological Consequences of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident" in upcoming Radio Ecoshock shows.


Share: Poisoned Flag: Testimony of 2 U.S. Sailors Nuked by Fukushima

Growing Food Indoors Under Lights

2013-03-05 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)

From herbs to food under new high tech, low-energy lighting. Inventor Philip Be'er. We can lower emissions by growing our own. Plus small scale farmer, author & anthropologist Walter Haugen. Song by Australian band Pagan Love Cult. Radio Ecoshock 130306

Part of doing right, is cutting out the big agri-food machine that is killing people, the soil, and the atmosphere. In this week's program, we'll consider a late winter remedy: growing food under lights. Our guest is Philip Be'er. We start with a show and tell experiment right here in the Radio Ecoshock studio. Later I'll pass on tips from my own career under the lights, plus a conversation with small-scale, low-tech farmer, and anthropologist, Walter Haugen.

We begin with a slice from an ode to the beat poet Neil Cassady, from the Australian band Pagan Love Cult. At the end of this show, you'll bet their full song "Everything I Know".

Sun glasses on. Flick the switch. This is radio that grows.


Download/listen to the Radio Ecoshock show "Growing Indoors Under Lights" 1 hour in CD Quality (56 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB)

Download/listen to the conversation between inventor and Home Harvest Farms owner Philip Be'er (34 min) in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Download/listen to my interview with low-energy small-scale farmer Walter Haugen (11 minutes) in CD Quality or Lo-Fi


My opening guest in the studio is Philip Be'er, owner of Home Harvest Farms in Vancouver, Canada. His company makes durable and portable container garden equipment. Philip also teaches sustainability, so we go beyond business, to talk about our general food supply, and why learning to grow your own makes so much sense these days.

The web site is homeharvestfarms.com.

I ask Philip to describe some of the products he sells, many of which he invented. You see, Philip began as a technical support person on a Kibbutz farm in Israel. As an aside, his farm developed a technique for pasteurizing vegetables (not milk, veggies!) using only hot water. It keeps them alive much longer, but Philip says although the technology is widely used and successful in Israel, it has not emerged in Europe or North America yet. That may be an opportunity for someone.

Be'er has developed stainless steel growing boxes that are deep enough to get good roots. These can be mounted on carts he provides, so you could wheel your plants out when it's sunny and warm enough, and then indoors at night, or during cold weather. Supplement the outdoor light with fluorescent grow lights that use very little energy (see my notes below). I bought the mini model, suitable for a condo table-top garden for kitchen herbs and lettuce.

In another suprising development, Be'er found that many urban gardeners end up having to move their planting area within three years. Perhaps that free lot is being built-over, or the person moves to another part of the city. Rather than losing all the work they put into developing soil, Philip offers portable growing boxes. These can be moved on a pickup truck for example. You could even move your whole growing box, plants and all, to a new location.

The idea of portable gardens has been taken to new extremes in Vancouver, where Sole Foods has several acres of raised boxes temporarily installed on a giant outdoor parking lot near the arena downtown. Sole Foods has hired some of the poor of Vancouver as workers, folks who might not otherwise get a job. The produce is sold to local restaurants, and gets out in other ways. It's been a real winner in Vancouver, and could be applied anywhere. Find it here (warning, this site may be slow to load, but is worth the slight wait.)

You can watch Philip Be'ers new video on You tube "One billion news jobs ... what we are not being told!" right here. And here is his Facebook page.


ALEX'S NOTES ON GROWING INDOORS (with helpful links)

The kitchen grow-box I bought from Philip Be'er. Note the home-built light stand, with the duller flourescent in the background. You can't see much of the brighter new T5 fluorescent - because the reflector is pointing all that light straight down at the plants. You can see the basil and oregano in front, with a new planting of two cilantro plants in the back. These are transplants, just 5 days in the box.

In my mind there is a hierarchy of home agriculture. First and foremost, we do most of our gardening under the sun, as Nature intended it. That's where most of your growing should happen, whether it's on your city lot, or pots on the patio.

Second, we grab the harvest when it's there. Get the book "Putting Food By" to find out how in detail, for every kind of food. Freezing has it's place, especially for the berries, but I still prefer drying food, and canning the rest. That way we don't depend on the grid, or use still more fossil fuels, just to keep our food over the winter. For the root crops, anybody with a yard can build a root cellar, or use a basement to store that harvest plenty, when prices are cheap, and local food abounds.

Only after that, or in unusual circumstances, would I supplement the real solar harvest with food and herbs grown indoor under lights.


It's super legitimate to get seeds and seedlings started early in the spring under a few fluorescent bulbs. Speaking of that, I dragged out my old 24 inch two bulb fluorescent grow lamp from 15 years ago, to compare it to the new model Philip Be'er brought me. There has been a ton of progress in fluorescent grow lamps, mainly due to stimulation from the multi-billion dollar pot industry.

My old fluorescent lamp is big, it has a ballast noisy with a hum, but the main difference is the lack of pure sun-like brightness. The old fluorescents, with 8 watts per bulb, look pale and pasty, compared to the T-5 Sumblaster I got from Philip. That's a single bulb, 24 watts in the 24 inch model. It doesn't hum, is slim and light weight. The T5 comes from a company called "Future Harvest Development" which has a web site here. FHD only sells wholesale, you have to look up your local dealer for their products.

Adding the optional "Nanotech T5 Reflector" forces all the light downward toward the plant. Just eye-balling it, this unit is far brighter, in the spectrums that count, than the old fluorescent grow tubes you may have seen a few years ago. It runs cool too, meaning you can get it closer to the leaves, where it needs to be. One 24 inch light, with an on-off switch, sells for $32 in Canada.

The reflector is another $20. You could make your own out of aluminum foil, but I like the reflector that fits the unit well.

My only beef with the low-end unit I got from Philip at Home Harvest Farms is the wire supports meant to hold up the light aren't reliable. They are just poked into the soil, and when that soil shifts, the light can fall down. I built a light stand using one 2 by 2 and a 1 by 1, both eight feet long, plus 8 screws and one metal "L" bracket. That way I can use cheap chain to raise and lower the lights as the plants start out or grow. Future Harvest also sells a light stand for the T5. It looks better, but I don't think it would extend high enough for the deep trays Philip provided.

My first intention was simply to have some fresh herbs for the kitchen when cooking. In that scenario, you hope the herbs will grow enough that you can pick them without killing the plant. You are NOT trying to get them to flower, and you don't want them to go to seed.

What if I did want to grow some lettuce, and then save the seed? Or even a small bush mini-tomato plant? When the plants were mature enough, I would have to change the light-bulb in the fluorescent. Most plants depend on subtle light signals to fruit or bloom - the kind of redness in the sky that happens later in the season. The normal "vegetative" bulb in my unit is rated at 6400 K. That's "K" stands for Kelvin. It's a standard way of measuring the mix of light waves, known as the color temperature.

Look it up in Wiki.

To stimulate fruit and bloom, I would change to a color temperature of 2700 K. That's more reddy orange. You would have to order that from a local dealer.


LED grow lights are storming into the scene. There's a lot of debate among indoor growers about how well they work, but some swear by them. I haven't tried LED grow lights (yet) but apparently just red and blue lights will grow plants. You can end up with strange science-fiction-like scenes, where plant leaves under lights look rather black, and the whole room looks like a bad acid trip. Remember, plant leaves only look green because that is the frequency they DON'T need, the color they reject. Green lights wouldn't grow anything.

Still... as you can see in the videos below, LED grow lights work, and have several advantages: (1) they run much cooler, reducing the need for a lot fans, ventilation and noise (2) the bulbs are not cheap, but last for years and (3) they use far less electricity (and so produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions). Plus, there is no mercury or heavy metal problem with this lighting system, as there is with CFL's (compact fluorescents).

Good video on growing cucumbers using an LED light You tube

Here is a description of the lights used in this video

Here is a handy article about an operation in the Netherlands using red and blue LED's to grow vegetables indoors

For absolutely weird ferris-wheel growing check out this video

Yep, its the "Volksgarden" (truly "revolutionary") a rotating hydroponic system. Yes, lettuce and tomatoes grow with their roots upside down and moving! It's $2600! From Omega Garden, in Qualicum Beach, British Columbia.

Want to get reallyt technical: this video compares LED light waves to Metal Halides and High Pressure Sodium

But its a sales video - read the comments below too!

Using their lighting type comparison, the LED's use far less power than a standard HID big bulb (say 600 Watts). If run continuously over a year, their 400 Watt LED would use almost $400 less power (at 12 cents a KWH in B.C.) instead of a 600 Watt HID (which issues comparable light).

There are also compact fluorescent grow lights (CFL). Use 2700 Kelvin for flowering. They run very cool, can even be touched by hands. Or just try the 6400 K "daylight" bulbs for vegetative growth, like lettuce or herbs. Note one blog comment: these CFL lamps only emit plant-growing light from the SIDE of the bulb. Hanging them upside down over the plants will deliver very little useful light to the leaves. The CFL bulbs need to be mounted horizonally.


As soon as I set up my little grow box in the studio, I noticed other changes. When you transplant basil, its aroma fills the room for several days, until it settles down. I hope you like basil.

Next the cat showed up. She did not nibble any leaves, these were not on her menu. But kitty likes to lay down in front of the planter, under the fake sunlight, on a dreary day. Sooner or later some unwelcome insects will find my kitchen garden. They always do. I'll have to have some non-toxic insecticidal soap on the ready for the aphids.

Of course having some extra sunlight in the room adds some cheer. I've got the lights on a timer, running 16 hours, with 8 hours of darkness. That has worked well for me in the past, but if you have better info, let me know.

More than a dozen years ago, I did some indoor gardening for about a year. That was therapy really, as I recovered from two operations on my spine. I couldn't get outside, but still wanted to "get my hands dirty" (without growing pot!).

Due to my disability, we had to rent in a poorer part of town. A neighbor pot grower suddenly had to leave his set up, and was selling off grow lights very cheaply. I bought three: two 1,000 watt metal halide lamps (huge growing power!) and one 600 watt lamp. We painted a spare room white and set it up to grow veggies and even a few ornamentals. It was a lot of fun, and good for my health. Therapeutic gardening is a whole other topic - we could spend an hour just on that!

But now I'm looking at vegetative plants, like herbs and salad fixings. I bought some small herbs in tiny pots, already growing, to stock up: two of cilantro (we are Pesto fans here), a basil plant, two oregano, and one thyme. The rest of the planter will go to heirloom lettuce, likely with either very dark or colored leaves, started from seed.

We've already harvested some basil for a home-made pizza - it was really flavorful.

But what if I want more, like the holy grail of indoor gardeners, the tomato. Frankly, tomato plants are over-rated for the watts they consume. Why not plant things like beets, where you can eat the roots and the tops, instead of throwing out most of the plant?

If you want tomatoes, you need more serious lights, in my opinion. A 600 watt bulb would do one plant, or maybe a 330 watt LED light. A thousand watt bulb would grow several large tomato plants. Again, you would have to buy a thousand watt fruiting bulb, at 2700 K, to make it happen.

The electricity expense will never justify the cost of those tomatoes. But you can get fresh heirloom tomatoes when they are ripe, in December or any time. Perhaps if we subtract all the fossil-based fertilizers and insecticides you didn't use, the tractor fuel, and the trucking emissions to bring them north, the carbon cost might even out. If you know anyone who has done these calculations, please write me. The address is radio at ecoshock.org.

As I said, I wouldn't take on the big lights at all if your electricity comes from coal or nuclear fuel.

Could you grow with solar power? Certainly you could, using these modern high-powered fluorescents. The four foot long bulbs put out 54 watts of power. That's twice as bright, without using a lot of juice. You might still need either wind power, or the grid to back you up after a week of cloudy, rainy weather. Growing plants indoors requires dependeable light, every day. Otherwise the plants can stall, and you lose more than just a day or two of growth. Commercial greenhouses use the lights every day without fail.

It mainly depends on where you live. If you are in a sunny region, I'll be you could be growing, even during the cold times, using a combination of a skylight or greenhouse, supplemented with fluorescent grow lights. Please let me know your experiences.


Before we get to our next guest, Philip Be'er brought up one scary point. The real bottleneck to the new local food movement might be seeds. What if we are too successful? Could the non-GMO seed houses keep up? What if a stock-market crash convinces millions of people to tear up their lawns and plant. Will there be enough seeds?

I posed this question to Chris at The Incredible Seed Company, a Canadian outfit the provides heirloom seeds. Chris doesn't sell so-called "Survival Packs", even though he could make some extra money at it. Instead, he recommend you start planting, anything, anywhere, and buy a book on how to save seeds. You can't save the seeds from things your grow from Home Depot seeds or Walmart. Unless it says "heirloom" and "non-GMO" right on the package, they will be hybrid seeds that won't grow true to the form you expect the next year. Your seed-saving will be wasted.

Chris isn't afraid we'll have a sudden seed shortage. He suggests the big seed companies would just divert seeds from farm sales (where bulk sales profits are low) to individual buyers, where profits are higher. That might be tougher for farmers though, and then we'd all pay later?

Just a note to my Canadian and overseas listeners. Many governments have regulations about what seeds can be imported. Some of the most popular American seed companies (like Mypatriotsupply.com) don't ship to Canada at all. Others must make substantial substitutions when shipping to Canada. Make sure you know what you will get. I don't know about rules for shipping seeds to the UK or Australia - if my listeners there know, please tell us!

I need to do a whole program on seeds, the survival packs, saving your own, and the various societies like Seed Saviours, and the Seedy Saturday events put on by an outfit called "Seeds of Diversity". You can help. Please send me your experiences, your recommendations for products or companies that worked for you. Or guests I should interview about seeds, for Radio Ecoshock. Send all tips to my email box: radio @ ecoshock.org With your help, we can do a good program on seeds.


It's fun and helpful to talk with small alternative growers around the country, and around the world.

We're going to pay a short visit to a man I'll call the spread-sheet farmer. His new book is "The Laws of Physics Are On My Side" but he's no physicist, with training in anthropology instead. Walter Haugen is an educated wanderer, and former field worker turned food grower.

As always, I also ask Walter about how we can produce food even when the climate becomes unstable.

Listeners, you can find a new paper published in February 2013 by Tufts University titled "Climate Impacts on Agriculture: A Challenge to Complacency?" It's by Frank Ackerman and Elizabeth A. Stanton. I found that in Walter's blog.

Here is NYT blog article about this paper.

This is where a surprising chapter in Walter's book comes in handy. Walter grows so many different kinds of plants (including nut and fruit trees) that it's hard to keep track of what is actually growing well, when it was planted, how much produce resulted, and all that. So Walter keeps careful track in a common spread sheet.

Haugen learned during his university studies, direct data from the field, carefully noted, is quite important. For example, he weighs his produce every day as harvested, and notes the variety, planting time, and more. His spreadsheet revealed the farm work became more efficient in 2012. What took 2,000 hours of work in 2011 was done in just 1500 hours in 2012.

As Walter says, his book is about one third analysis (including an overview of the history of agriculture) and two thirds "how to" (including really useful tips on a wide variety of specific crops). Haugen spent more than a decade as an itinerant farm worker, helping harvest American crops. Then he went back to University. So he literally offers an educated hands-on perspective that few people have.

Here is the contact info you need to learn more from Walter Haugen. The web site, Walter says, is useful but fairly static. Find out more about his book here. But most of Walter's active writing happens in the Whatcom Country Transition news. Find that here.


Thanks to a listener from Australia, I've discovered Pagan Love Cult, ""The only cult in the world that tries to brainwash its members to think for themselves."


Visit that web site and for a limited time only, hear their inspiring song "You Are Here". We opened the program with a quick clip from their ode to beatnik Neil Cassady. We finish up with a full tune, complete with corporate angst and common folk rising. It's called "Everything I Know". That tune has been stuck in my brain for several days now.

Thanks to all those who donated to Radio Ecoshock this week, from this blog, or from out web site! Please keep it coming, so I can keep the Radio Ecoshock coming your way.

Alex Smith


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How Will We Power the Future?

2013-02-27 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)

In-depth interview with Nobel Laureate Robert B. Laughlin on his book "Powering the Future: How We Will Eventually Solve the Energy Crisis and Fuel the Civilization of Tomorrow." Dr. Rose M. Cory's new science on positive feedback loop discovered in the melting Arctic. Plus song "No Such Thing As Waste" by Australia's Formidable Vegetable Sound System. Radio Ecoshock 130227


Download/listen to Radio Ecoshock 130207 "How Will We Power the Future?" in CD Quality (56 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB)

Download/listen to the Robert B. Laughlin interview (38 min) in CD Quality (34 MB) or Lo-Fi (9 MB)

Download/listen to the Rose Cory interview (17 min) in CD Quality (15 MB) or Lo-Fi (4 MB)

Worried about prices at the pump? Or is it still way too cheap to save a livable climate? Even big fossil fuel executives wonder if we'll find enough energy, or retain an economy to pay for it. In just a minute, we'll encounter a powerful mind who drove through the options and calculations, to arrive at surprising conclusions about powering the future.

I'm Alex Smith. Later in this program, we'll talk with Dr. Rose Cory, lead author of a newly published paper. She found another surprise agent whipping up the production of greenhouse gases in the far North. It's yet another positivie feedback loop in the rapidly changing Arctic. About 24% of exposed land in the Northern Hemisphere is frozen under the surface. That empire of permafrost is disappearing quickly. Scientists estimate ten to twenty percent will melt in this century alone. The latest research says just 1.5 degrees Centigrade over pre-industrial levels will tip the permafrost into a vast melting process, unleashing more carbon dioxide than we have in the atmosphere now.

That is a recipe for climate disaster unseen for millions of years. We are already half way there.

I'll also play you a new song, from an upcoming tour of North America and Britain, by a hot new Australian band. It's good green music for your ears.

But first, this in-depth conversation with a surprising mind, about your energy future.

Listen to this Radio Ecoshock program right now.


Everone knows our civilization is doomed and our kids will be digging through the rubble, for cans of dogfood.

Apparently Nobel Laureate Robert B. Laughlin missed the memo. He wrote the book "Powering the Future: How We Will Eventually Solve the Energy Crisis and Fuel the Civilization of Tomorrow". Laughlin is the Bass Professor of Physics at Stanford University, where he's taught since 1985. In 1998 he shared the Nobel Prize for Physics. His previous books are "Crime of Reason" and "A Different Universe".

This is Alex Smith for Radio Ecoshock. I read the book. I called Robert up to argue with him, and that's a big mistake, because he's smarter than I am. Anyway it's a trap. Robert Laughlin wants us to argue with him.

The old saying is "Don't jump to conclusions." But that is exactly what Lauglin did in writing this book. He presumed humans will find the energy needed in the future, and then figured out how. I stewed over this book, thinking "well he hasn't counted on an economic crash" or "where is the climate damage?"

Laughlin says he expects both. There could be an economic collapse, and serious climate damage. But, he says, humans are more or less the same generation after generation. There is no reason to expect out descendants will be very different from ourselves.

When Laughlin addresses student audiences all over the world, he asks them: "Will we still have cars? Will we still fly? Will there be electricity?" Eventually, they say "yes" - because they envision the same basic desire and need to travel, and to power things.

We get into an intriguing insider's look at all kinds of energy. For example, if Germany doesn't want nuclear power, they are saying "yes" to more Russian natural gas. But gas is still a greenhouse gas, it's limited, and supplies may drop quickly if we are depending on fracked gas. The jury is still out on how fast those fracked wells deplete.

Laughlin, who is at the Department of Physics at Stanford University, seems fairly impartial about nuclear power. After admitting he may have worked on classified nuclear programs (weapons?) - Laughlin says "we haven't had the nuclear conversation yet". Those decisions may come AFTER oil, gas and coal become hard to get and ridiculously expensive. New generations of humans may make very different decisions.

By the way, his Stanford students from Kazakhstan say the uranium trains that used to run to Moscow are now going to China. China has NOT backed away from nuclear energy, even after Fukushima.

We talk about the potential and pitfalls of solar energy. Laughlin is excited about the Andasol I project in Spain, where solar reflectors heat up a salt mixture to a liquid state. That acts like a battery which can store the sun's energy, to generate electricity via steam generators, even after the sun has gone down. Laughlin thinks the same technology could be used to store any kind of energy, even wind power. He's involved in a patent and a project to develop that.

Andasol I solar power station, Spain (courtesy of Wikipedia)

If you doubt what Laughlin says, be prepared to follow up through the last 81 pages of the book - his towering collection of end notes. If we just went through those, it should be worth a degree in itself.

The book "Powering the Future" is provocative, and crammed full of useful perspectives. It was a privilege to spend quality time with Robert Laughlin, and I hope you enjoy our talk as much as I did.


You are tuned to Radio Ecoshock. This is my seventh year producing radio that matters for non-profit college and community stations around the world. You can help keep this big ball of ear waves going, by offering your support at our web site, ecoshock.org. Then share the blog, at ecoshock.info, and our Facebook page at radioecoshock.

Find your local radio station broadcasting Radio Ecoshock here.


Now back to one of our specialties here, keeping you up to date with the latest climate science.

As Robert W. Service wrote: "There are strange things done 'neath the midnight sun." You are about to learn something new going on, powerful but unseen, in the melting far North. This is Radio Ecoshock. I'm Alex Smith.

In the past decade, satellites, scientists, and aboriginals looking at the Arctic find larger areas without snow cover, for longer periods . Arctic heating is greater than anywhere in the lower temperate zones.

A huge portion of planet Earth is frozen, we thought permanently frozen, calling it "permafrost". It's beginning to thaw, and we have fresh science showing new pathways for greenhouse gases to enter the atmosphere.

Dr. Rose Cory

Just out is this paper titled: "Surface exposure to sunlight stimulates CO2 release from permafrost soil carbon in the Arctic" It was published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on January 4, 2013. We have the lead author on the line, Rose M. Cory, Assistant Professor at the University of North Carolina, in Chapel Hill.

In a nutshell, this team of scientists discovered that lack of snow cover is leading to more greenhouse gases releases as sunlight stimulated microbial action on the formerly frozen plant matter of the permafrost.

Vast, I mean vast, Arctic plains in Siberia, the Canadian Arctic, and Alaska, are popping up with new lakes and puddles. These come from a process called "thermokarst" failures. Watch a short video about it here.

Picture a kind of slurry of organic material washing around in streams, run-off and ponds. The real news in this paper is a new actor: the role of sunlight itself. It isn't just the microbes feeding on newly released organic material. Sunlight itself can release greenhouse gases directly. Rose Cory describes how that works.

We knew that exposing more permafrost to the warming Arctic air would result in the release of more carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere. We just didn't understand how it worked, how much, or how fast. Now scientists have new figures to work with - including an estimate 40% higher than previously thought. That's a big number. Here is the quote from the paper:

"Our results suggest that photostimulation will rapidly (days to months) increase conversion to CO2 by an additional 40% or more in thawed and released C compared with that remaining in the dark, and that photo-stimulated bacterial use of this C in natural streams may equal or exceed its degradation in the dark alone."

Rose Cory confirms they have found yet another positive feedback loop in the Arctic - home to more than a half dozen feedback loops already. It's serious news we all need to understand, as formerly snow-covered lands become exposed to the warming Arctic sun.

Read about this new science in the New Scientist magazine here.

Rose says its "jarring" to return from the Arctic, where such major and dangerous changes are taking place, to here home in Chapel Hill North Carolina. Most people in the U.S. (and around the world for that matter) have no idea of the big developments in the Arctic. With your help, listeners, we can spread the word. Tell someone about this research, and make more people into "Arctic watchers".

Radio Ecoshock has a number of programs devoted to the melting permafrost, the disappearing sea ice, and loss of glacier ice on Greenland. I recommend our December 19th show, 2012 "Climate: the Arctic Thermostat Blows Up" and also in 2012, our February 15th program with 3 scientists "Arctic Emergency - Global Threat".

I also did a special from the February 2012 meeting of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science, titled "What If the Permafrost Thaws?"

Please listen and pass those links along.

OUR FEATURE SONG THIS WEEK: "NO SUCH THING AS WASTE" by the band Formidable Vegetable Sound System

A sustainability-based electroswing ukulele show all about permaculture called Formidable Vegetable Sound System is touring through Canada from Australia from May-August. Here are just some of the tour dates:

22nd April- U-Mass for Earth Day, Amherst, MA

26 June - Glastonbury Festival, UK

27 July - Secret Garden Party, UK

2 Aug - Bass Coast Festival, BC, Canada

7 Aug - Shambhala Festival, BC, Canada

If you check out this You tube video, the audience is swaying and dancing.

The album will be launched worldwide on April 6 (with a launch party being held at Ceres Community Environmental Park in Melbourne, Australia.)

Anyone interested in buying the album pre-sale can head to permaculturesongs.com or our facebook page (Permaculture Ukulele)


The process that might do our civilization in is happening right in your city or region. If we had eyes to see gases, we'd see the carbon and methane pouring up into the sky, from our streets, homes, factories, and farms. Billowing clouds of climate change in the making, and very little human change on the ground. Check out a camera technology that makes greenhouse gas emissions visible in this ABC News piece.

Still, green nature pops up in the cracks of the sidewalk. In coming programs we'll cover action in the big picture, and ways a million longing hearts can steer in a different direction, including me, including you.

I'm Alex Smith. Thank you for listening to Radio Ecoshock again. Please support the program, spread the word, and join me again next week.


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Survivor Soul Food

2013-02-19 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)

African American culinary historian Michael W. Twitty interviewed by Gerri Williams on black crops, climate change, & safe seeds. K. Rashid Nuri from Truly Living Well urban farm in Atlanta, Georgia. Music by Mavis Staples ("Down in Mississippi") & Memphis Gold ("Mississippi Flatlands"). Radio Ecoshock 1 hour 130220


All I ask, please help when you can, with a donation or subscription to Radio Ecoshock. The helps pay not just for production, but the tens of thousands of free downloads each month, getting the message out all over the world. Find out more here.

Radio Ecoshock Show "Survival Soul Food" in CD Quality (56 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB)

Gerri Williams interviews Michael W. Twitty 26 minutes in CD Quality (24 MB) or Lo-Fi (6 MB)

Alex Smith interviews Rashid Nuri (24 minutes) in CD Quality (22 MB) or Lo-Fi (6 MB)

This is Black History Month in the United States. It started me thinking about justice, for people and the environment.

We open the program with the song "Down in Mississippi". It is Mavis Staples, singing about her own life, from the album "We'll Never Turn Back". The song includes the guitar-work of producer Ry Cooder. You'll hear the whole thing at the end of this program.

We also play a selection from "Mississippi Flatlands" by artist Memphis Gold. He's from Tennessee, but is now living in Washington D.C. I really appreciate his style. The song is from the album "Pickin' in High Cotton" on Stackhouse Records.

Can we learn from the earliest agricultural workers? Are there Southern crops and techniques that we'll need as climate change develops? Yes on all counts. This dig into an unreported scene will work for listeners in every country.

We've got two fabulous guides. Michael W. Twitty is a culinary historian of African and African American foodways. He's just returned from a tour of the former slave states, living and recording those important self-sufficient ways of growing and cooking food, from seeds through open fire cooking.

Our Washington correspondent Gerri Williams, with her own expertise at the College of Agriculture, sits down with Michael Twitty.

Then it's off to Atlanta George with another remarkable mind. I talk with K. Rashid Nuri about everything from the decline of black farming, to the revival of urban agriculture and organic growing.

We can't do better than Rashid. He's a Harvard Grad who worked for decades in the international food industry, all over the world. Nuri was an adviser to the US Department of Agriculture in the Clinton Administration. Now he's come full circle to head up the Truly Living Well urban farm operation in Atlanta, and the Georgia Organic Farmers movement.

Get ready to learn about adapting to climate change, protecting your own food health, southern living, and the struggle for economic justice.

This is Radio Ecoshock.


Michael Twitty

When the African American Heritage Seed Collection was begun, organizers turned to culinary historian Michael W. Twitty. Michael has just returned from a tour of the former slave states in the American South. He was seeking his roots - and cooking them!

Michael recently met up with Radio Ecoshock Washington correspondent Gerri Williams. As a Research Associate at the College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability & Environmental Science at the University of D. C., Gerri is tuned into African American culture, food production, and the environment.

Gerri Williams

I'm betting you don't know about "slave gardens", or the two foods that may move from the bird feeder to your dinner plate, as climate change develops.

Gerri begins by asking Michael Witty about his well-named "Southern Discomfort" tour.

I found this whole interview fascinating and useful. We pick up tips about adapting to climate change, the importance of natural food, and the crops that you might want to discover.

Michael's histories of African American foodways have been published all over, including his own recipes from beans to pork to "Michael Twitty's Heirloom Cowhorn Okra Soup". Find his web site here.

My thanks to Gerri Williams for knowing the right people, and the right questions.


Rashid Nuri

Why not farm in the city?

Our guest is a Harvard Grad with plenty of big-time qualifications in both industrial and organic agriculture. K. Rashid Nuri worked a dozen years with the world food giant Cargill. He served four years in the Clinton Administration, in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as the Deputy Administrator of the Farm Service Agency and Foreign Agricultural Service. Right now, in Atlanta Georgia, Rashid leads an inspiring urban food farm called "Truly Living Well".

Right in Atlanta, Truly Living Well farms donated land in various plots. They sell top quality produce to high end restaurants, providing more than a dozen jobs for folks who really need the work. Truly Living Well also supplements food for the needy, either at low cost, or even free to those who need it.

We're learning from the survivors, from the deep south, during Black American History Month 2013. I'm Alex Smith. We all want to be survivors, so let's learn from those who know.

I spent some time doing Google searches about African American farming. Almost all of what I found was about history. In 1920 about 14% of U.S. farmers were African American, but by 2007 that dropped to 2%. What happened to the African American farmer?

According to Will Scott, president of the African American Farmers of California, in that agricultural superstate, out of 81,000 farmers, only 400 are African Americans. Will Scott is seen here at TEDx Fruitvale CA in 2011. The African American Farmers of California run a 15-acre demonstration and education farm to interest African-American kids in agriculture.

It seems pretty obvious there was an ugly twist to farming in the history of African Americans and that was share-cropping. For many, it must have an act of liberty just to get away from those farms.

Then it turns out the U.S. Department of Agriculture was turning down farm loans to thousands of black farmers, while giving them to whites. And that wasn't back in the 1950's. We're talking as recently as the 1980's and 90's. A 1.2 billion dollar settlement was finally agreed in 2011. Rashid Nuri is exceptionally well informed on all this, and says it's not satisfactory. A lot of the money goes to lawyers, and people who lost their farms were not fairly compensated. It is known as the "Pigford" case.

One way this discrimination worked: a "good farmer" (likely white and connected) got their loans for planting the year's new crop in January when it was needed. "Others" (mostly black and hispanic farmers) didn't get their loans processed until it was too late to plant, say in April or May. But they had put their farms up as security, and risked losing the land itself, not to mention the harvest they needed to keep on going.

Rashid Nurispoke at the Black Farmers and Urban Gardeners Conference. Some really shocking statistics came out of that. Let me quote a couple:

"Nearly 50% of African American children will develop diabetes at some point in their lives.

About four out of five African American women are overweight or obese.

In 2007, African Americans were 1.4 times as likely to be obese as Non- Hispanic Whites.

Deaths from heart disease and stroke are almost twice the rate for African Americans as compared to Whites."

Just out in the news this past month, is research showing the so-called "Southern diet" is actually lethal. Getting real fresh veggies into the southern diet can literally save lives.

Michelle Obama planted a garden at the White House. She congratulated Walmart when that company announced they would start selling fresh vegetables. But Nuri wonders how "organic" Walmat food is, when it travels all the way from polluted China.

We also discuss whether drought-resistant varieties, that can take the heat, may be needed further north, as climate change becomes worse. Nuri cautions against using genetically modified organisms (GMO's) saying our digestive system has not evolved to handle them properly.

After a distinguished career in agriculture, in many parts of the world, Rashid returned to Atlanta,Georgia to lead the non-profit urban farming operation called "Truly Living Well." Find that at trulylivingwell.com. I want to thank Heather Gray and Nadia Ali of the "Just Peace" program on WFRG, Atlanta for introducing me to Rashid.


Write me, Alex Smith, any time with your tips or feed-back. The address is radio at ecoshock.org I really appreciate your time and attention listening each week.

We began this program with Mavis Staples. I've been a fan of "Pop" Staples and the Staples Singers since I was a kid, but I always got a special thrill when I heard Mavis open up. Late in life, this famous gospel, soul, and civil rights singer released a kind of musical biography in the album "We'll Never Turn Back".

Staples tells us about the struggle for justice, and the strong, deep hope that moved her through it all. The album was recorded in 2007 produced by another favorite of mine, roots and rocker Ry Cooder. Ry's guitar magic is all through this album. So we'll finish off where we began, "Down in Mississippi" with Mavis Staples.

Watch Ry Cooder and Mavis record this album on You tube!


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Living on The Edge

2013-02-12 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)

Dr. Thomas Lovejoy, is the father of "biodiversity". He advises Presidents and the World Bank. Thomas Lovejoy visits Radio Ecoshock. Next science vs. spirituality with Dr. Carolyn Baker She says: go positive in a negative world. Alex investigates why millions of people in America, Europe & Australia can't come up with $500 (300 Pounds). Song "Mother Nature" by Kukulcan. Radio Ecoshock 130213

Radio Ecoshock, living on the edge.


RADIO ECOSHOCK SHOW in CD Quality (56 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB)

Thomas Lovejoy interview (18 minutes) in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Carolyn Baker interview (26 minutes) in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Our feature song this week: "Mother Nature, Mother Earth" by Kukulcan, from their album "Earth"

Listen to the show right now (courtesy of archive.org)


Dr. Thomas Lovejoy

Introducing our next guest on Radio Ecoshock is a problem. It can take 5 minutes to list out his posts, awards, and credentials. His time is too valuable, so I'll spare you most of that.

Back in 1980, Dr. Thomas E. Lovejoy introduced the term "biological diversity" to the world. He's currently a professor at George Mason University, and the Biodiversity Chair at the Heinz Center. Dr. Lovejoy has advised the United Nations, the World Bank, and 3 past Presidents. Beyond that, he's a tireless advocate for endangered ecosystems that have no voice of their own.

Here is Lovejoy's George Mason University bio page, but I find the Wiki entry better.

I first came to appreciate Dr. Thomas Lovejoy when listening to his Reith Lectures 2000 series on the living world. Find the full text of that presentation here.

Here is another speech I've collected, as Thomas Lovejoy opens a United Nations event in Paris in 2010, to celebrate the Year of Biodiversity. Lovejoy warns we are entering the sixth great extinction. Don't miss this powerful overview on climate change and the species. Recorded by Stephen Leahy, environmental journalist. Broadcast by Radio Ecoshock.

Download/listen to that 36 minute Thomas Lovejoy speech in Paris in CD Quality here or in faster downloading Lo-Fi here.

Lovejoy is perhaps best known as a champion for the Amazon rain forest and the creatures there. In this Radio Ecoshock interview, I ask him about another very endangered world ecosystem that gets less press: the African Savanna. The true wide open grasslands of Africa, likely our own human homeland, and the wonder of big species from lions to big herds, is down to just 30% of it's original size. That includes the famous Serengeti. Find out more about the Savanna from Blue Planet here.

The population of Africa is growing and needs to feed itself. Beyond that, countries like China are buying up Savanna to farm - to export food back to Asia. It's a renewal of agricultural colonialism. Add in big impact industry like mining, and climate change, and you can see the days of the fabulous Savanna may be numbered.

I ask Dr. Lovejoy whether we are in the sixth Great Extinction event recorded throughout time. He gives me a cautious "yes", saying we can see the shadow of this event already developing. It's not good news.

I know some listeners will be skeptical of a man who advises the World Bank. In fact, Lovejoy tells me he just had a one hour meeting with the new President of the World Bank last week. Lovejoy assures me President Jim Yong Kim really "gets" the immediacy of climate change. We'll see if the Bank can stop funding coal plants!

When I bring up the regrettable role of George Mason University's refusal to pursue the blatant plagiarism in the Professor Wegman report made to Congress, again Lovejoy says there is new leadership at the University. His basic position is that as a concerned biologist, he has to keep warning and informing whatever leadership exists, always trying to fight for a better chance for the planet.

Along those lines, Lovejoy gives us a three point plan he would give President Obama if he had the chance. First among them is this: two degrees of warming is NOT safe. Even then, we lose the coral reefs, and all kinds of species around the world.

We also discuss whether Nature should have her own rights, as Boliva has just granted her in law.

In my opinion, Thomas Lovejoy is one of the fathers of environmentalism, and protector of the species. It's an interview well worth hearing.


Dr. Carolyn Baker

"The more rational a culture seems to be, the more irrational will be its underside when the dark times come, the veils lift, and more is revealed than most want to see."

Those are the words of Michael Meade, in his seminal book "Why The World Doesn't End". Watch a You tube of Meade about this book here.

It is also the opening quote in another piece called "The Really Big Transition: Saying Goodbye To The Enlightenment, Saying Hello To Consciousness". The author is a friend of this program, Carolyn Baker. Actually, that is Dr. Carolyn Baker, a former psychotherapist in private practice, and former adjunct professor of history and psychology, now living in Colorado.

I hear from Carolyn every day, through her email update of pithy news about a world in trouble. But at the bottom of the page, Carolyn also sends her solutions links with tips about things you and I can do. She's a thought-leader and writer for Transition Colorado.

I invited Carolyn to Radio Ecoshock because I am wrestling with my own problem. Science is telling us humans are in the process of ruining the world for life as we know it. Very few of us are responding. We just keep wasting the planet, polluting the land, sea, and atmosphere, as though there is no tomorrow. Why is reason failing? As we look for alternatives, how can we avoid the pitfalls of past superstition, not to mention the just plain craziness so prevalent on the Internet?

We also discuss the emails we both receive from people who are very distressed about the collapse of the economy and the environment, especially climate change. One person on my Facebook page said she decided not to have children after hearing my program. Another private mail suggested the writer was contemplating suicide.

Carolyn has good advice on how to handle very bad news. In fact, she feels we can turn these challenging times to our advantage, sharpening our "gifts" to help others. She doesn't offer feel good "candy" type advice. Carolyn is hard-headed but human, willing to help others face difficulty. She uses her past training to help counsel individuals and couples who contact her. She gives speeches and workshops all over the country, particularly to Transition groups. Carolyn Baker is a regular writer and organizer for Transition Colorado, and she tells us how it's going there.

It was well worth having her back on the show. I think Carolyn should have her own radio show, maybe the call-in variety. In the meantime, she offers a low-fee subscription daily headline sheet which I use to help me prepare for Radio Ecoshock. It carries some of the tough news mainstream media glosses over, but Carolyn always has a series of practical solutions coming out ever day as well. Get the details on her daily news service here.

One of Carolyn's most famous books is titled "Sacred Demise: Walking The Spiritual Path of Industrial Civilization’s Collapse." Her newest is "Navigating the Coming Chaos A Handbook for Inner Transition".


- a rant by Alex Smith (with real numbers from the real economy)

You know the rich are literally getting richer, while the poor get poorer. In every developed country, there are millions of people who are just one paycheck away from financial disaster.

I'm concerned about those people. You may be one of them without really thinking about it. Even if you are not, if crowds of people get kicked out on the street, can't afford groceries, or turn to crime to get by, that is certainly going to affect all of our lives.

Last week we mentioned Nicole Foss of the Automatic Earth blog. She started out thinking Peak Oil would collapse the economy, and then wondered if climate change might bring a crash first. Now she's traveling to many countries giving lectures saying the economy will crash even without a push by high energy prices and climate disruption.

Nicole is looking at the very big picture, where governments in the United States, the UK and the rest of Europe, are printing billions of dollars out of thin air. Just a push of a computer button, and $40 billion a month goes to the five biggest American banks to buy up their worst loans. That's just a fraction of the real support for industrial civlization, being billed to some future taxpayers.


In Canada, payroll taxes are deducted for something called the Canada Pension plan. That money was actually set aside in a pool which has become huge over the years. The money is actually there, unless there is a global crash where everything is worth nothing.

In the United States, the government also deducts payroll taxes, but never did save that money. They rolled it into general revenues, and spent it on crazy things like foreign wars and oil subsidies. The money isn't there to support American seniors. You've heard of "unfunded liabilities" - well that's one for sure.


The other scam in the U.S., but also in Canada, and the UK, is to hide real unemployment numbers by herding people of all ages back into school, allegedly to improve their job prospects and eventual salaries.

Student loans in the United States have now topped 1 trillion dollars. Of this, about 15% of loans are already delinquent. Bankers expect that at least $200 billion of student loans will not be repaid. This education bubble is approaching the crazy levels set by the sub-prime mortgage crisis of 2007-2008. Except those loans at least had a house attached, while student loans have no equity.

The banks don't need to worry. The Federal Government guarantees all these loans. The banks can loan out billions at low interest rates and the taxpayer is on the hook.

You can see how it happens. A person 30 or 40 years old, a good worker, is suddenly out of work. Their job has been automated or sent overseas.

Counselors and the media say that person needs to be retrained for another job. Anyway, getting tens of thousands of dollars or pounds in loans will pay for the mortgage and groceries while they figure out what to do.

Most do not find work in the field they trained for. Many will end up as waiters or other low-paying jobs, unable to repay the loans. Even so, the government can garnishee their pitiful wages, because there is not way to discharge a student loan through declaring bankruptcy in America, thanks to a law passed during the Bush administration.

It's far worse for youth, in Europe and America. When we count inflation, American college students are borrowing almost twice as much as they did just ten years ago. "According to FICO: 'While the delinquency rate is climbing, the average amount of student loan debt is increasing even faster. In 2005, the average U.S. student loan debt was $17,233. By 2012, it had ballooned to more than $27,253 – an increase of 58 percent in seven years.'"

One percent of the U.S. population has student loans over $100,000.

More than half of graduate students in one survey said they intended to move back in with their parents after finishing University.

University is a place where youth hang out when there are no jobs for them. Most of the supposed job growth has been for people over the age of 45.

I won't even go into the rates of youth unemployment in countries like Italy, Spain, and even France. Probably one quarter of people in those countries will never have a good-paying job.

Meanwhile, millions and millions of people in America, Canada, and the UK are really, really broke. They still watch TV ads for expensive pickup trucks. They may even buy a Starbucks every day. But a rude awakening could be just around the corner, with something as simple as a 1% increase in interest rates. Or a collapse of the unreal prices for stocks these days.


At some point in the year, 77% of all Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. One third of Americans are contributing absolutely nothing to retirement savings. They can't. There is nothing to spare.

One survey found that 28% of Americans have nothing at all in savings for emergencies.

Another survey found 40% of Americans have $500 or less in savings.


Almost half of Canadians are living paycheck to paycheck. Forty seven percent of Canucks are in big trouble if their paycheck is delayed even by a week. That's actually an improvement. It was 57% in 2011.

As the Canadian government has warned, Canadians hold record amounts of personal debt in 2012. Total average debt - not including a mortgage, is around $27,000.

Those levels are rising rapidly, as Canadians keep spending on consumer items, bought with credit cards, or lines of credit on their houses, spending more than their income every year. The household debt to income ratio stood at 164.6 per cent. According to Statistics Canada, the average household debt is $103,000, and total debt load $1.6 trillion. Is that going to end well?


Do I need to tell you how bad it is for the lower income person in the UK? In December 2012, the Independent newspaper reported one in ten families were forced to default on their household debts. Ten million families are in danger, struggling on the edge of that knife-edge, where a missed paycheck or sudden expense breaks them. Millions of families are already behind in their utility bills or home payments.


You would think Australians are doing much better. In some senses, bouyed by mineral exports and such, they are. But the average Australian has the highest household debt compared to disposable income. Higher than anywhere else in the world, and absolute leaders in the amount of credit card debt. The average Austrlian owes the equivalent of $56,000 America dollars, while Americans average out of $44,000.

Just recently, Australians started spending more than their total gross domestic product. Of course many are counting on their high property values as a piggy bank - but what if the market goes down?


Everyone has been sold on the Middle Class dream, if not a route to being really wealthy. They want to live it right now, even if the paycheck isn't there to support it.

If that bubble bursts, and simply common sense says the pyramid scheme must fall eventually. It may break at the top with bankrupt governments and big banks. Or at the bottom with huge crowds of disappointed and yes, even hungry people, in the former "First World" countries.

It could break at the top and the bottom at the same time.

Either way, the old system is primed for failure.

One future is severe civil unrest, as we've seen in North Africa. Crowds in the street. Looting, a break down in social services and then government.

We all need to think about how we would supplement our food and fuel supplies. We need to organize local communities now, that can function even during a break down. We need to begin helping one another right now, with more food banks, barter systems and local currencies, markets for locally grown food. Reach out to those on the edge, with comfort and help. Big government is not going to solve this problem!


I'm not preaching from some safe place. Our major breadwinner was out of work for 10 months. My son-in-law was laid off, but fortunately found a good job a few months later. My own small pension was cut in half.

But we've stayed out of the consumer dream for years. Our home is graced with used furniture, and our closets with some used clothes. We save what little we have, and spend less than we bring in. We've lived poor before. We know how to grow food, chickens and all that. We know how to heat with wood.

Most of all, we know how to link up with others, to trade and enrich our lives with home-made music, child-care exchanges, and all the good things community can bring.

Watch out for the coming tsunami of poverty. But instead of digging a bunker for food, dig a lot of holes, to plant food all over your neighborhood and town. Prepare in the big sense of the word.


I'm putting together a program on African American food and farming in the South. It's an unreported scene. We can all learn a lot from that past and present - including a super report on urban farming in Atlanta from Rashid Nuri, and lessons from the times of slave gardens, from African American gourmet Michael Witty.

After that I have a show in development about indoor growing of food - under lights. I'll be talking with two entrepreneurs who are doing it, and I'll let loose a little of my own experience growing indoors. Food is key to our future, I think, and this may be one way to get city people started, learning what they need to know.

If you have suggestions or tips, please send them along to: radio [at] ecoshock /dot/ org. Or use the Contact form on our web site.

My special thanks to listeners who donated this past week. Your generosity makes if all worthwhile. Find out how to help me keep making Radio Ecoshock here.

If my voice sounds a little different lately, I've had a bad flu. But the show must go on...

I'm Alex Smith, for Radio Ecoshock.

A couple of weeks ago, I managed to play a clip from a song by Kukulcan called Mother Earth. Then my blog got chopped off in a technical glitch, and the band didn't get the link they deserved. This week in my one hour program I play you the whole thing! Thanks for sending me the song guys!

"Mother Nature, Mother Earth" by Kukulcan, from their album "Earth"


Share: Living on The Edge

Has The World Gone Crazy, Or Is It Just Me?

2013-02-09 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)

Journalist and scientist Andrew Freedman: what new science is saying about freaky 2013 weather. Plus Dr. Kathy McMahon "the Peak Oil Shrink." Kathy tells us about Nicole Foss, "sucky collapse", and a surprising turn in her own life. Radio Ecoshock 130206

Remember normal winters? Actually, anyone under the age of 26 has never seen one. Maybe we thought global warming would just add a bit more slush. But January 2013 showed us what "climate disruption" can really do. One January day, people in Chicago were out jogging in 60 degree heat, 15 degrees C, with no snow. Just 30 hours later the temperature dropped 60 degrees F and more, with an Arctic blast for a couple of days.

January was a strange, strange month in the Northern Hemisphere. Here to help us figure out what is going on, we have Andrew Freedman. He's the senior science writer for the respected blog "Climate Central". Andrew is a professional reporter, published widely, and holds a Masters in Climate and Society from Columbia University.

Then you'll join me for a talk with a shrink. With all the bad news, we sure need one. Kathy McMahon is the "Peak Oil Shrink", a clinical psychologist who specializes in energy, climate, and the recovery that looks more like a Depression every day. Kathy tells us about Nicole Foss, "sucky collapse", and a surprising turn in her own life.

Time on and off the couch, with Radio Ecoshock. I'm your audio companion, Alex Smith.


The Radio Ecoshock Show February 6th, 2013 1 hour in CD Quality (56 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB)

My interview with Andrew Freedman, Senior Science writer at Climate Central (20 min) in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

The Radio Ecoshock interview with "Peak Oil Shrink" Kathy McMahon (37 min) in CD Quality or Lo-Fi


Music Credit: "Whose World Is This?" Jim Page.


Andrew Freedman is the senior science writer for the respected blog "Climate Central". Andrew is a professional reporter, published widely, and holds a Masters in Climate and Society from Columbia University.

Andrew Freedman

Freedman tells us Minneapolis, in the Northern State of Minnesota, finally broke a record streak of more than 4 years without going below zero degrees Fahrenheit, or minus 17 degrees C. That stuns me. That is nothing like the northern states winters I grew up with. And it's been really, really strange in Chicago.

People have been enjoying record winter heat, especially in 2012, and then they get battered by weather from some Arctic Hell. In fact, one day the news reported it was warmer at the North Pole than in the northern United States. How could that happen?

We go to the science behind this, starting with something called a "sudden stratospheric warming event". Andrew explains in this great article, which includes a good graphic showing how a dome of warmer air over the Arctic split the cold and pushed it further south.

I picked up on that story January 15th courtesy of this article in the Daily Kos.

Then we discuss one of the big scientific theories out there explaining the strange weather patterns. It was advanced by Dr. Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University. She describes observations connecting the massive sea ice melt in the Arctic with disruptions of the Jet Stream that determine much of our weather.

You can download my September 10th, 2012 interview with Jennifer Francis in CD Quality here, or in faster downloading, lower quality Lo-Fi here.

My blog for that program on the Arctic ice melt, including Francis plus Mark Serreze of the National Snow and Ice Data Center and Arctic specialist scientist Cecilia Bitz (University of Washington) is here.

I've just watched a long video on You tube with Dr. Francis updating her research, at the Climate and Weather conference in Breckenridge, Colorado in early January 2013. She and her team found more evidence that the Jet Stream has changed. If you want to keep up to date with this science, put some time into that video.

More details on that conference presentation by Francis here.

In fact, in my Radio Ecoshock interview with Jennifer Francis, she objected to me calling her paper a "theory". She says it is really just about observations of events already seen.

Here are two important articles about freaky weather science in early 2013, by our guest Andrew Freedman at Climate Central.

1. Not reported by most mainstream news, there was a giant Atlantic storm in January. Andrew reported it here, and the Washington Post Capital Weather Gang did a decent job on it too.

2. Andrew Freedman was also contacted by other scientists who said there could be a tropical link to the strange winter weather. Find that story here, and learn about something called the Madden-Julian Oscillation, or MJO. I didn't know about it until now.

I learned a lot from Andrew, and hope to have him back on Radio Ecoshock.


Listener-supported Radio Ecoshock isn't selling anything. If you've been thinking about helping this program keep going, now is a good time. Find out how, at our web site, ecoshock.org.


Kathy McMahon

Has Peak Oil been postponed by fracking, the Tar Sands and deep sea drilling? Why does our society seem crazier by the day?

Do millions of people hope this system will collapse? How do they cope when it doesn't? How will any of us live with the never-ending bad news about climate change? How do we really feel inside?

For a way to find answers, it's time to check in with the original Peak Oil shrink.

Dr. Kathy McMahon is a clinical psychologist. She is recognized internationally for her writing about the psychological impacts of Peak Oil, climate change, and economic collapse. In October 2010, I interviewed Kathy about the "pathological optimism" of people who think this fossil economy will just go on forever, like a 1950's TV show.

Here is a description of that speech and interview with Kathy in 2010:

PEAK OIL VS PATHOLOGICAL OPTIMISM Why are we "the Doomers" for thinking oil is limited? Clinical psychologist Kathy McMahon ("the Peak Shrink") finds people all over the world are worried about fossil civilization collapsing. In this hot new speech, get answers for our own sanity, in a crazy world. Recorded by Alex Smith. Ecoshock 101029 1 hour CD Quality 56 MB or Lo-Fi 14 MB. End music "End of the Age of Oil" by David Rovics. Extra 20 min interview Alex and Kathy here.


Keep up to date with Kathy McMahon at her Peak Oil Blues blog here!

In this new in-depth Radio Ecoshock interview, we talk about the way aging baby boomers tend to clog up the airwaves and group thinking. Then we look at the plight of young people captured by big student debt. Check out Kathy's excellent article about the stress of student debt here.

Our main topic though is what Kathy calls "Sucky Collapse". It isn't zombies or fighting in the street. It's the slow and tortuous decline of so many things we take for granted. We hear about someone being assigned a second job, with the same pay, and fewer benefits. The cans of soup cost the same, but they are smaller. While we are waiting for some big event, money is worth less, and gas costs more, until the whole system kind of sucks us down.

I first heard Kathy talk about "sucky collapse" on the "C-Realm" podcast by KMO. That's a good place to check, find KMO's interview with Kathy here. Thanks for the idea, KMO!

Nicole Foss, also known as Stoneleigh from the popular financial blog The Automatic Earth just visited Kathy. We get that inside scoop on what Nicole is like, and what she's up to. Kathy will bring out her own personal interview with Nicole soon. And Nicole has a new 4 DVD set of her speeches and more. Check that out here.

Kathy says we need happiness in our individual lives, even if the larger world is grim. Is your own area overpopulated? If not, maybe it's good to have a child. Get it? Dont' confuse your personal life with the global situation. They are related but not the same!

This is your only time on Earth, you have a RIGHT to seek happiness, to live fully as you can, as ethically as you can, but live it! Don't give up when everyone else does.

It's a deep and helpful interview. If any of you have time to create a transcript, I know that would be useful. Email me first, so we don't waste time with duplicate effort. My email address is radio [at] ecoshock.org


Next week on Radio Ecoshock, we'll have more science of course. I'll be talking with one of the big brains on biodiversity, Dr. Thomas Lovejoy. He introduced the world to the word "biodiversity", helped found the PBS series "Nature", has advised Presidents, the World Bank and much more.

But we'll also go back to psychology and even (gasp!) spirituality. Why? It seems even when we know the facts, humans don't act. We'll explore those mental blocks, and the people who get past all that, with the popular speaker, author, and adviser Dr. Carolyn Baker.

Thank you for lending your brain toward recognition and real recovery. As Kathy McMahon said, we have but one life to live.

Grab lots of free audio from our web site. Please donate or subscribe to the program if you can. More info

here. I'm Alex Smith, saying: be kind to yourself, take it day at a time, and find others to help you through the big change.

We go out the way we came in, with Seattle's Jim Page singing "Who's World Is This?"



Share: Has The World Gone Crazy, Or Is It Just Me?

A Warning From the Future

2013-01-29 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)

Coming up in this program: leading scientist Dr. David Karoly says record heat and fires in Australia are a warning to the world. But we are not alone in the big change. Insects may adapt or die faster than humans, as told by "the bug guy", University of Maryland's Dr. Michael Raup. Then Steven Davis explains why climate solutions advanced just 9 years ago are no longer possible. A new report says existing technology is not enough to stem the climate tide. Now what?

Welcome to another full load from Radio Ecoshock.


Radio Ecoshock show 130130 1 hour in CD Quality (56 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB)

Interview with Dr. David Karoly, School of Earth Sciences at the University of Melbourne,Australia in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Interview with Dr. Michael Raupp, University of Maryland Entomologist in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Interview with Steven J. Davis, Assistant Professor Department of Earth System Science, University of California, Irvine in CD Quality or Lo-Fi


Be part of the program. Get the voices of cutting edge science and activism widely heard. Find out how you can help here.


Dr. David Karoly

You've heard about extreme heat and fires in Australia at the start of 2013. Is it climate change? We go now to one of that country's leading climate scientists, Dr. David J. Karoly. He's been a lead IPCC author and advises the Australian government through the Climate Change Authority. After a stint teaching Meteorology at the University of Oklahoma, Karoly is now at the School of Earth Sciences, University of Melbourne.

It must have been a bit of culture shock to teach at the University of Oklahoma - a state known for oil and climate denial. But Karoly was invited there to add climate experise, as he taught Meteorology. While there are denialists in Oklahoma, don't generalize! There are plenty of people in Oklahoma who know fossil fuels are damaging the atmosphere.

Listen to the program online with this player:

I called Dr. Karoly to get a top scientists' guage of the extreme weather there in late December 2012, running all through January 2013.

For a taste of Australia's extreme weather lately, try out this video from the Telegraph newspaper in Britain. Australia's Prime Minister says "whether it's bush fires, whether it's floods, we are being challenged by nature."

Karoly tells us heat record after heat record was smashed. The longest run of heat. Many all-time heat record's smashed. And most worrying of all, likely for the first time the whole continent of Australia was under a massive heat dome. Australia is as large as the continental United States, and comparable to the size of Canada. As in North America, it is common to experience very different weather between the coasts, or north to south. California may be cool, while the Mid-Atlantic states roast.

But this time, the whole of Australia was very hot. The country set an all-time record AVERAGE high temperature, indicating it was above 37 degrees C. or 100 degrees F - everywhere on the entire continent. This is new, and it's not good.

Tune into the whole interview with arguably one of the best climate and weather experts in Australia, a fine scientific mind at work.

More here: What's Causing Australia's Heatwave? (written by authors with the Australian Bureau of Meteorology)

The recent report by the Australian Climate Commission, authored in part by David Karoly, is here as a .pdf : "Off the Charts: Extreme Australian Summer Heat".


Dr. Michael Raupp

Television entertains us with weird weather striking all over the world as the planet warms. We see people coping with drought, flooded out, burned out, or blown away. It's all about us, but we are not alone here. The insects are also responding to climate change.

Here to explain is "the bug guy", University of Maryland Entomologist Dr. Michael J. Raupp.

Scientists studying leaf fossils found greatly increased signs of insect damage during the last great global warming event around 56 million years ago. Is it possible we could see a similar bug explosion in just the next hundred years?

We talk about what insects will thrive as climate change develops, and which ones could be in trouble, just like us. Mosquitoes go to the top of the list, because of the tropical diseases they carry. Are you ready for Dengue Fever?

But agricultural pests are also important. We talk food in the future.

I want to add an alert for all our gardener listeners. Be sure and watch Michael Raupp's You tube videos on pest control, including his useful and fun "CSI Garden Pests". One of Mike's books is "26 Things That Bug Me". And check out Mike's weekly insect update at bugoftheweek.com


Way back in 2004, two Princeton scientists, Stephen Pacala and Robert Socolow, wrote in the journal Science, "[h]umanity can solve the carbon and climate problem in the first half of this century, simply by scaling up what we already know how to do". They broke up the problem of greenhouse gas emissions into sections they famously called "wedges". Each represented a sector of pollution with ways to scale that back over 50 years. The authors called it the "wedge stabilization game."

One author, Robert Socolow reaffirmed wedge theory in a 2011 edition of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Although that same year, Socolow publicly worried that wedge theory made the solutions sound too easy, and so stalled real action.

We didn't do much of anything, except increase emissions. A new article published in the journal "Environmental Research Letters" suggests we've lost that chance, with just those 8 years of delay.

Let's dig into that deeper, with one of the lead authors of the new assessment. Dr. Steven J Davis is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Earth System Science at the University of California, Irvine. He's part of a team of scientists who reassessed the famous wedge theory of solving the climate crisis. Find that article "Rethinking Wedges" in the journal "Environmental Research Letters" published in January 2013.

Or start with this good article by Tim Radford at the Climate News Network.

Radford begins:

"LONDON, 11 January – A nine-year delay in starting systematic carbon emission reductions to stabilise the climate has made the challenge ahead almost impossibly large, US scientists say.

They argue in Environmental Research Letters that a programme of action proposed in 2004 could have been achieved with existing technology. Now it cannot.

'We need new ways to generate the vast quantities of power that we now use worldwide,' says Steve Davis of the University of California Irvine, one of the authors. “Current technologies cannot provide this much carbon-free power quickly enough or affordably enough.”

Ken Caldeira is a climate scientist working for the Carnegie Institution Department of Global Ecology at Stanford University in California. He says: 'It’s not enough to freeze greenhouse gas emissions at current levels. To prevent climate change, we need to stop dumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at an industrial scale.'"


Don't. And don't stop living the only life you have. We are all born into a generation with many circumstances beyond our control. While the world seems to ascend, with a positive spirit, it can also descend, with a general malaise or even despair. Within that national or global cycle, individual lives move by their own tides. You might experience happiness, and should, without guilt.

Coming up on Radio Ecoshock, I'll have an extended chat with Dr. Kathy McMahon, the clinical psychologist who helps people rethink their lives, even in times of great social crisis (whether it's peak oil, climate disruption, or a fall of the fake economy.)

Meantime, Kathy cautions me: this is not the time to give up on the great opportunity of being alive. Enjoy, and remember the future is always constructed from the unexpected.

Thank you for listening. Lots more next week. Be sure to tune in and act out.


Radio Ecoshock


Share: A Warning From the Future

Can We Avoid A Collapse?

2013-01-23 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)

"Population Bomb" author & Stanford University biologist Paul Ehrlich on his Royal Society Paper "Can a collapse of global civilization be avoided?" From Tasmania, forest expert Dr. David Bowman: wild fires drive more global warming. Economist John Talberth suing the U.S. Government over risky ocean oil leases in the Arctic. Three interviews from a world of trouble. Radio Ecoshock 130123


Listen to/download this Radio Ecoshock show in CD Quality (56 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB)

Listen to/download the Paul Ehrlich interview (18 min) in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Listen to/download the David Bowman interview (23 min) in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Listen to/download the John Talberth interview (19 min) in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Welcome to another triple-header with Radio Ecoshock. I'm Alex Smith with three interviews with three great guests.

I'll call Tasmania to learn why it burned and why climate-driven fires threaten all of us. Our guest is world-recognized fire expert David Bowman.

Then we'll investigate why the Obama Administration is rushing to sell off oil and gas rights on the dangerous Outer Continental Shelf. Is that fire-sale meant to fatten a Ponzi scheme of big oil stock prices? Economist John Talberth explains why his group, The Center for Sustainable Economy, is suing the government.

But first Stanford's eminent biologist Dr. Paul Ehrlich (author of "The Population Bomb" and a dozen more) on his new scientific paper, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society. The title of this peer-reviewed paper is "Can a collapse of global civilization be avoided?"

Please don't forget to support Radio Ecoshock. Help pay the bills. Please donate at our web site ecoshock.org, or right here at our show blog at ecoshock.info


Dr. Paul R. Ehrlich

I'll bet you know who Paul Ehrlich is. But just in case: he's a Professor of Population Studies at Stanford University, and president of Stanford's Center for Conservation Biology. Maybe you know him for the world-famous book co-authored with his wife Anne, the 1968 classic "The Population Bomb". Since then Paul, with Anne and other authors, has published dozens of books. In February 2011 we interviewed Paul for his latest: "Humanity on a Tightrope", written with Robert Ornstein.

Now Paul and Anne ask a rather extreme question, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society no less: "Can a collapse of global civilization be avoided?" This peer-reviewed paper was published online January 13th, 2013 in the Biological Sciences section of the Proceedings of the Royal Society.

Climate change is on our minds, especially as America comes out of it's hottest year ever, and Australia burns. Yet there are other big threats out there. In fact, I counted nine developing ecological nightmares in Ehrlich's paper, not counting climate change or over-population.

We can't talk with Paul Ehrlich without population. Humans cannot multiply forever. But population is not the focus of this interview.

There is a disaster porn industry these days. But Paul has published in a journal known for science. Is there science behind the possibility civilization collapsing? A couple of dozen scientists reviewed the work and found it solid. Ehrlich notes that 160 different scientific papers were cited. Indeed, if you just followed up on those papers, you would probably develop the equivalent of a college course in the realities of today.

A good part of this Ehrlich paper is devoted to food production. The Ehrlichs have some suggestions on what could be done to avert a crisis. No food crisis for you? There is for more than a billion humans who do not have enough food today. It could get worse, threatening global stability.

I have to pose an inconvenient question. I interviewed Dr. Timothy Garrett from the University of Utah. Two years ago, he published a scientific, peer-reviewed paper showing only a complete collapse of our fossil-based civilization, right now, could avoid crushing climate change. We are a deadly species creating a mass extinction event. Maybe we should help this suicidal system collapse, instead of trying to save it?

Paul replies that for the sake of the people he loves, and the people he knows, he doesn't want to see such a harsh solution.

Paul told Stephen Leahy of the Independent Press Service "We are all scared." The people frightened are not just scientists, but anyone who either has the expertise, or educates themselves, on the various challenges to our civilization, a system which is far more fragile than we want to believe. By the way, I wouldn't have found out about this paper without the independent environmental journalist Stephen Leahy. Please visit his web site, and support his efforts.

There is far too much to this interview, with one of the grand older men of science and popular culture, to list here. Please listen for yourself.


Professor David Bowman, University of Tasmania

Sydney and Melbourne his more record highs this week, as the Australian super heat wave continues. This is our future friends - so let's tune in for a listen.

The image of kids in the water clinging to a dock, under a fire-red sky, captured the situation. The great Australian heat wave of 2013 also struck the southern-most part of the country, the island of Tasmania. Maybe this is the future anywhere trees grow, as global warming heats the planet.

Professor David Bowman is at the University of Tasmania in Hobart, teaching and researching Forest Ecology. He's a published expert on fire in the earth system.

When Dunalley Tasmania burned, Bowman was out of contact in the bush. He told his research team fire conditions were catastrophic, the worst he'd seen. Just last year Bowman was so concerned about the growing fire risk, he wrote the media a warning (which was ignored).

Listen to the 20 minute Radio Ecoshock interview with David Bowman.

While the public thinks a couple of wet seasons after a drought is a good thing, forest experts around the world know that is the most dangerous time. The rain creates new fuel for bush fires - which are more likely as the planet heats up.

It gets worse when slow-growing tree species get burned over in relatively quick succession. Fires that would normally return in perhaps 75 years come back in 5 years. Bowman says some forest ecologies in the Southern Hemisphere are converting toward super fireweed species. For example the Australian Alps are in danger of an ecosystem change.

The climate impacts from fire soot has also been underestimated in climate models, Bowman suggests. The black particles absorb the sun's heat, raising warming. Fire smoke is a complex mix of chemicals which are also responsible for many deaths around the world. Much more needs to be understood about them.

We also discuss the extreme fire risk of the trend to plant Eucalyptus trees around the world, including in California and the Mediterranean. The Eucalyptus, Bowman thinks, may be a real fire tree.

David Bowman has also been working with an extended family of aboriginal people in Northern Australia over the past 15 years, trying to learn what they know about fire. That relationship is unique, with fire being a part of aboriginal culture. Too bad the colonists didn't learn from them.

Learn a lot in one short interview. This kind of fire becomes a positive feedback effect on the climate. More fires lead to more warming, which leads to more fires.


John Talberth is the senior economist for the Center for Sustainable Economy, which is based in New Mexico.


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Why Is the Economy Shrinking? - Richard Heinberg

2013-01-19 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)

Endless growth is a delusion with consequences...The spiral of climate change, peak energy, and economic crisis, with author Richard Heinberg. Fresh interview on giant new book "Energy: Overdevelopment and the Delusion of Endless Growth". Followed by speech to Chicago Bioneers "Life After Growth: Why the Economy Is Shrinking and What to Do About It”. Radio Ecoshock 130116

Download/listen to this Radio Ecoshock show (1 hour) in CD Quality (56 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB)

Download/listen to Richard Heinberg's speech to the Chicago Great Lakes Bioneers conference (42 minutes) in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Download/listen to my Radio Ecoshock interview with Richard Heinberg (17 minutes)in CD Quality or Lo-fi.

Please donate to Radio Ecoshock from our blog, or from our web site. Your financial help keeps me digging and broadcasting the awful truth.

NEW! 2 part video version of our Radio Ecoshock interview with Richard Heinberg, about the book "Energy: Overdevelopment" featuring images from the big book!

You tube Part 1 (9 min)

Part 2 (9 min)

And now, one with the show.

Richard Heinberg, California.

Eye-popping, jaw-dropping, - I'm out of words to describe the tsunami of agencies and experts admitting our troubles are bigger than our brains.

But this week we're going to step back from brink. I want to explore what it means. But who can assemble the currents of climate change, peak energy, and a delusional economy into a big picture? Richard Heinberg, Senior Fellow at the Post Carbon Institute is one of the few who consistently keeps track of all three. He's the author of 10 books including "The Party’s Over", "Peak Everything", and "The End of Growth".

I start by calling Richard up about a very big new book, and then we'll hear his assessment from his keynote speech at the Great Lakes Bioneers Conference in Chicago. I knew some of the facts Richard brings out, but I didn't know how these forces of collapse interact, or when.


I wanted to give Richard Heinberg Hell for wasting resources on an eight pound monster book - about wasting precious resources!

The book "Energy, Overdevelopment and the Delusion of Endless Growth" is so big, I had to clear off my desk just to look at it. But then I got sucked in, by 2 foot photos of the-wide photos of the nasty industrial mess hiding behind our cars and smart-phones. Why didn't I know it's that bad out there?

The book has huge photos of even larger landscapes, places wrecked by our insatiable need for more and more energy. I began to wonder: why don't we see these images in the media, or in our daily lives? Are they censored, or is it because we don't want to look?

For one thing, Richard points out, if you don't have a private plane, you'll never see most of these energy reserves. They are generally in the out back lands. Plus, since 911, most of these energy farms have private security guards and the threat of being labeled a terrorist if you are there taking pictures.

I've seen horrible photos of the Canadian Tar sands oozing across the scarred landscape, as far as the eye can see. But until this book, I didn't realize the vast impact of conventional oil and gas production. Richard and I talk about "energy sprawl".

I was taken by the paper by the former Director of the C.I.A., R. James Woolsey. He says we are ready to spend billions fighting malevolent groups like Al Queda, but we totally unwilling to even talk about what he calls the "malignant threats" like system collapse of things like our electric grid, or the climate. Richard Heinberg has experienced that unwillingness to look, talk, and act for much of his professional life.

Surprisingly, this book includes green favorites like wind energy and solar farms as "blighted industrial landscape". And yet, despite the hard-headed figures on world energy sources and things like return on energy investment, I was surprised by the photos and essays on the importance of wild places and the species that live there. Is this a return to the old environmentalism?

Along those lines, I notice the flagship web site and discussion spot for the Post Carbon Institute has changed from the well-known "Energy Bulletin" to a completely new site, Resilience.org Richard Heinberg explains why, and notes some of the new resources aimed at helping us all relocalize.

He also says you can read some of the essays from the book online at resilience.org as time develops, from luminaries like Wendell Berry, James Hansen, David Orr, Amory Lovins, Sandra Steingraber, Juan Pablo Orrega and just too many more to mention. The essays are also found in the book "Energy Reader", available from the Post Carbon Institute. This Reader, Heinberg says, is already being used in some college classes.

The book "Energy: Overdevelopment and the Delusion of Endless Growth" was published with the help of the Foundation for Deep Ecology, which also spearheaded other activist large format books, including CAFO (Confined Animal Feeding Operations) and a great rainforest book.

Find the Radio Ecoshock coverage of CAFO - Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations The horrible truth about our meat production practices. Interview with Daniel Imhoff, editor of 2 new books on factory farm production. From Ecoshock 101015 Lo-Fi 4 MB 19 min


How do climate change, energy problems, and the fragile economy interact? And which will hit us worst and first? Let's hear Richard Heinberg add it all up at this keynote speech at the Great Lakes Bioneers Conference in Chicago, on November 2nd, 2012. This was recorded for Radio Ecoshock by Kelly Pierce of the Chicago Independent Media Center. The talk is titled “Life After Growth: Why the Economy Is Shrinking and What to Do About It”. We take you there. Find the links to listen to or download this speech by Richard Heinberg above.

Find Richard at richardheinberg.com. The helpful PCI news and discussion board is resilience.org.

I'm Alex Smith for Radio Ecoshock.

Thank you for listening to the big picture.


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Burning the Future

2013-01-11 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)

Fires in Tasmania, typhoons in the Philippines, Mexican coal criminals - another work week for Radio Ecoshock. Environmental journalist for the Nation, Mark Hertsgaard on book "Hot: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth". Robert M. Hirsch of U.S. Geological Survey on real cause of floods. Radio Ecoshock 130109 1 hour.
Download/listen to this Radio Ecoshock show in CD Quality (56 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB)
Download/listen to the Mark Hertsgaard interview only in CD Quality or Lo-Fi
Download/listen to the Robert Hirsch interview only in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Welcome to another attempt to save reality from a whirlpool of superstition, wishful thinking, and propaganda. You and I will work through the biggest change humanity has ever faced. But what is climate change, and what is not? Can we hear the signal through the noise?
Scientists know the world is warming, seas are rising, and ice is melting. The denial is all over. Economic realists also know the era of never-ending growth powered by fossil fuels is also drawing to a close. Like any population in nature, we cannot grow forever.
Those certainties reveal themselves in a slow grind, and in sudden jolts. There are still a lot of guesses bound to be proved wrong. There is still room for doubt in the details.
Here is just one small example: I have reported on the surge of Jellyfish in many parts of the world, especially in the Mediterranean. Ocean specialists have suggested this could be a result of overfishing, or ocean acidification caused by incessant dumping of carbon into the atmosphere.
But now, a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, or PNAS, says "Recurrent jellyfish blooms are a consequence of global oscillations." Here is an easier to understand version from Science Daily.
One author is Cathy Lucas from the University of Southampton. Another is ocean expert Carlos Duarte who I interviewed in our February 15th, 2012 show.
A careful investigation shows there has been no increase in jellyfish over the past two hundred years. It's a boom and bust species. There was another jelly wave in the 1970's but nobody paid much attention. Another myth bites the dust.
Later in this program we're going to tackle a great divide between some climate scientists, and the flood engineers and experts in the United States. I've covered the wild floods in Nashville in May 2010 when the Grand Old Opry went underwater. There were more floods in Wisconsin and Minnesota that fall.
Are these heavily news-laden flood events a sure sign of global warming? Maybe not, says Robert M. Hirsch, research hydrologist and a former Associate Director for Water of the U.S. Geological Survey.. Hirsch isn't a climate denier. He knows the world is warming, and these floods are mostly human caused - but not from greenhouse gases. It's a tricky problem which will work our brains, as we talk with one of the prominent experts in American river systems and flooding.
If the hydrological cycle is still one of the wild cards waiting to be seen, the promise of growing heat on this planet is as sure as the laws of physics. More carbon in the atmosphere traps heat energy that would otherwise have bounced back into space. We've known that for more than a hundred years.
In just a few minutes, I'm going to chat with one of the best environmental journalists, Mark Hertsgaard. I've been waiting for this talk, while Mark wrapped up key articles for the Nation magazine and just recently Newsweek. While his seven year old daughter waits in the room, Mark has to explain what we will all have to explain to our children: the climate has already been disrupted, and will change still more. Hertsgaard's latest book is "Hot: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth".
I want to welcome our first full-time radio station to broadcast Radio Ecoshock in Australia. 3CR has been one of those activist community stations pounding at the corridors of power and injustice since 1976. That furthers my own vision for a global English-language program as we witness and create the great change, in climate, energy, agriculture, and society, in order to survive the passing industrial civilization.
It's a strange synchronicity. I just wrote an Australian scientist for an interview, saying it seemed like the land down under was getting a break from the weird dangerous weather that struck that continent from 2009 onwards. Then on the fifth of January, starting out the new year in the Australian summer, I hear this from the Australian News Network.
news.com.au clip "Australia Boils as Extreme Heat Hits"
You heard that right. Parts of Australia went hit 47 degrees C and more, that's over 117 degrees Fahrenheit. The average for the whole country was 39, a sweltering 102 Fahrenheit. Find more in this article in the UK newspaper the Telegraph.
Here is what blows me away: the extreme heat was in the South of Australia, not in the tropical North where you might expect it. In the capital of South Australia, Adelaide, the thermometer went over 45 degrees. That's 113. Nobody goes outside of air-conditioned spaces in that kind of heat.
And then there's dear Tasmania, that coolish island pointing toward Antarctica. The Tasmanian capital of Hobart peaked out at 41.8 degrees C, the highest since record keeping began 120 years ago.
That's the kind of extreme we need to watch out for, as this relentless warming develops during the next decade.
The heat wave and lack of rainfall created ideal conditions for brushfires across southern Australia. Tasmania ignited into at least a dozen fires, in a land known for its wet cool forests. At least a hundred homes burned, and a town of Dunalley was destroyed, as we hear from ABC News Australia.
I played a bit of that clip to prepare all of us for the probability that super heat will stimulate burning forests in many parts of the world. Maybe even close to your home. What will you do? The Tasmanian bush will regrow, but some global forests will never regrow, converting over to grasslands, to entirely new ecosystems.
Australia is not escaping this year, from the signs that country is destroying its own living space, by ramping up their coal mining and exports. It's a race to the fiery bottom, mates. No more coal.
Speaking of extremes, here is another wild storm the press in the Northern Hemisphere mostly missed. You've heard about Hurricane Sandy, but what about super-typhoon Bopha? Not so much.
All credit to CNN weatherman Tom Sater for picking up on another climate-powered breakthrough, reported December 4th 2012.
[CNN clip]
This time, only hundreds died in the Philippines, not thousands as in the much smaller Cyclone Washi, aka Sendong in December 2011. This study linked the Philippines storm directly to climate change.
I guess part of my point is there is a southern hemisphere. Big things happen in countries that don't have major international news services. The climate is going out of control outside London or New York. We need a system of monitors, blogs, news and alerts to remind us a global problem is unfolding. There are so many untold stories in South America, Africa, Asia and the Pacific. And so many ears who tune all that out.
I'll wrap up this ramble with just one more story that caught my eye this week. Al Jazeera reports the Mexican drug gang called the Zetas cartel, is moving into coal mining.
Reporter John Holman writes on January 4, 2013:
"On October 7, Mexican marines swooped in on one of the most powerful men in organized crime. But as the navy triumphantly announced the death of Heriberto Lazcano, leader of the Zetas gang, there was puzzlement over where he had been found. Far from the Zeta's strongholds and practically unprotected, he had been watching a baseball game in the small mining village of Progreso.
Theories abounded as to what exactly Lazcano had been doing in Progreso, a one horse town in the wide open spaces of the southern state of Coahuila. Humberto Moreira, ex-governor of Coahuila says that he has the answer: 'Heriberto Lazcano changed from being a killer, kidnapper and drug dealer to something still more lucrative: mining coal. That’s why he lived in the coal region, in a little village called Progreso.'
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Moreira says that the Zetas gang is fast discovering that illegal mining is an even more lucrative venture than drug running.
'They discover a mine, extract the coal, sell it at $30, pay the miners a miserable salary... It's more lucrative than selling drugs.'
The Mexican government has confirmed the drug gangs have infiltrated the coal mines in the State of Coahuila.
Why do I think this matters? It says everything about where we are going.
Sure there is already a criminal conspiracy to mine climate-damaging coal in the United States. In fact, two U.S. Senators have just called for an investigation into the low rates given to big coal mining corporations on publicly owned lands in the Powder River Basin of Eastern Montana and Wyoming.
After a call by western ranchers, the Reuters news service investigated how Cloud Peak Energy Corp, Arch Coal, and Peabody Energy Group got such low royalties, while making a fortune exporting the coal to Asia. Criminal charges are possible.
Everybody with a brain knows it's just as criminal to blow the tops of Appalachian mountains for coal. Plus the coal lobby has their dirty hands in the federal government in Washington for a generation or two, making sure the Environmental Protection Agency doesn't clear up the air too much. Millions have died breathing dirty coal pollution around the world. The Zeta gang could never kill so many as the "legal" coal industry does, or make so many billions of dollars doing it.
But I think organized crime is the future of coal. As more people around the world realize they can't cope with extreme climate damage, they will demand an end to coal. We can't rebuild fast enough from major climate damage, can't find the money or the will. We can't stand the floods, heat waves and droughts. Months of hot cities well over 35 degrees, in the hundreds, will motivate a lot of people. Eventually, many of us can't survive in a four degree warmer world.
When that social tipping point comes, there will be a "War on Coal" just like the failed wars or terrorism or drugs. Where governments try to suppress the last killing mines, organized crime will fill the need. Coal will come out of the "black market", literally the "underground economy". It won't surprise me if a minor war is fought in a coming decade, not to get the coal, but to stop it from reaching the damaged atmosphere.
And how will we survive then? Mark Hertsgaard is here to tell us.
Mark Hertsgaard and daughter
First climate change was coming. Now it's here in storms, rising seas, strange weather and much more. Our guest Mark Hertsgaard first came to my attention with his late 1990's book "Earth Odyssey: Around the World In Search of Our Environmental Future". That came after a quest of many years to find our impact on the natural world. Since then, I've read Mark's leading edge work in Vanity Fair, Newsweek, the New Yorker, and in his current post as environment reporter for The Nation.
Mark's latest book is "Hot: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth". Find his web site at markhertsgaard.com.
We talk about "the end of Pasta", why Latinos, African Americans and youth are the new environmentalists, and much more.
Robert (Bob) Hirsch, USG
Are there more floods? Is it climate change? Our guest is Robert M. Hirsch, a well-known research hydrologist, and high ranking water expert for the United States Geological Survey.
I was surprised to find there is another whole community dealing with the year-to-year reality of floods in the United States.
I've been in correspondence with Geoff Bonnin at the National Atmosphere and Ocean Administration. He's very cautious about assigning a big role for climate change in the remarkable floods we've seen in the past 3 years or so. I'm thinking of The Mississippi River floods in the Spring of 2011, one of the worst recorded in the past century, or the strange 2010 flooding of Nashville.
Hirsch is an expert's expert on this subject. You need to hear his explanation. If I can paraphrase a difficult subject, Hirsch says yes the increased flooding is human caused - but brought about by changes to the water system on the ground. We're talking about paving over so much ground, putting rivers in concrete banks, building subdivisions on wetlands and so on.
Hirsch's study of wild rivers that have escaped this redevelopment shows they have not been flooding more against the historic record. And both Hirsch and Bonnin caution that strange floods, some that appear once in a hundred years, or five hundred, are just a fact of history.
In late 2012, Brisbane Australia and its surroundings experienced what some called "an inland tsunami". It was a flash flood. But Brisbane's streets turned into rivers back in 1893, before there was atmospheric change.
Some of the disagreement with the climate community comes down to a different definition of "extreme rainfall" and a different perspective on how we understand flood events.
Personally, I still have a lot more to learn about this subject, but at least came away with a more scientific caution about making climate change an assumed cause of all the weird weather we see.
I'm Alex Smith. Thank you for listening and tune in next week, as Radio Ecoshock takes on the world.
Please help this radio mission keep going, by making a donation. Find the "Donate" button at the top right of our show blog, or at our web site, ecoshock.org var _gaq = _gaq || []; _gaq.push(['_setAccount', 'UA-37612514-2']); _gaq.push(['_trackPageview']); (function() { var ga = document.createElement('script'); ga.type = 'text/javascript'; ga.async = true; ga.src = ('https:' == document.location.protocol ? 'https://ssl' : 'http://www') + '.google-analytics.com/ga.js'; var s = document.getElementsByTagName('script')[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(ga, s); })(); …


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Dragging Hope from the Mess

2013-01-09 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)

After a look at weird weather around the world, passionate pleas from people victimized by nuke waste & plutonium. Recorded at NIRS Conference Chicago 121201. Then Your Environmental Road Trip film director Ben Evans on great solutions found at the grass roots. Radio Ecoshock 130102


Listen to/download this Radio Ecoshock show in CD Quality 56 MB

Or try the faster downloading, lower quality Lo-Fi version(14 MB)

You can listen to/download just the nuclear segment here in CD quality, or in Lo-Fi.

Here is the 24 minute lively interview with Ben Evans, the Director of "Your Environmental Road Trip" in CD quality or Lo-Fi


Welcome back from the holidays! And what a strange time it was for species in the Northern Hemisphere.

Let's take a quick look at Christmas day 2012 for example. In Southern France, people were sunbathing and swimming in the Bay of Biscay. It was 24 degrees C. or a balmy 75 degrees, 12 degrees above normal.

On the very same day, about 83 people were found dead of extreme cold in the Ukraine. A huge cold snap descended on Moscow, where the temperature dipped to minus 25 degrees Celsius, 13 below Fahrenheit. Russians expect that maybe later in the winter, but not in December. At least 125 people died in the extreme cold there, and dozens more in Poland, which suffered unusual cold.

That continent sized cold wave extended all the way to China. Beijing, temperatures dropped to about 5 degrees Fahrenheit. minus 15 degrees Celsius, the lowest temperature for the area since 1985.

Not in the UK. Britons suffered yet another deluge, in what has turned out to be the wettest year in the history of that famously wet island. Twenty twelve was the year the rain hardly ever stopped.

In the Southern U.S. rare Christmas tornados ripped in. Snow fell in Dallas, just the start of a one-two snow storm that traveled up through the Mid-West to New England and Eastern Canada.

At the end of December, Montreal Canada - a city fairly well-known for heavy snow dumps, experienced the heaviest snowfall in 24 hours ever. Not just for that day in history, I mean the most snow to fall in 24 hours in our records. At least 45 centimeters fell on Thursday, topping the previous high of 41 centimeters in March 1971. That's 18 inches - and over two feet fell in other parts of the Province. That is an extreme precipitation event!

Remember, it was like spring in Eastern Canada and most of the United States in early December, just two weeks previously. Over 400 heat records were set in the U.S. in December, with people in T-shirts at 70 degrees in Chicago, and jogging in shorts in Central Park. A huge change.

There are few instances in major American media revealing the cause of unstable weather. It's a wildly fluctuating jet stream, just as I've been documenting on Radio Ecoshock for some time. Looking at these weather swings in the Northern Hemisphere, I was haunted by the description by Ecoshock guest Paul Beckwith in our December 19th show. Paul nails exactly what is happening.

The European media is generally more up on their science, and less dependent on climate denial. When the BBC looks into Britain's never-ending rain, they find the scientists who explain the big waves of the Jet stream, that stick and stall in certain weather patterns.

Professor Tim Palmer, Oxford

Tim Palmer, professor of climate physics at the University of Oxford, explains: “When the jet stream moves up to the north, and then travels back down to the UK, it brings with it cold air, blizzards, very severe and unpleasant weather from that perspective.

“On the other hand, when the jet stream moves south, then we get these periods of intense flooding, which we have seen through the second part of this year.”

But Professor Palmer says that with climate change, the jet stream could become far more variable.

He says: “The question of how it will change is still a very active research problem, and we don’t have clear-cut answers yet.

“But I think there is quite a big possibility that what we will see is the jet stream undergoing quite dramatic and erratic excursions. And the UK’s geographical position under the jet stream means that we could see the worst of this."

Prof Palmer explains: “I think it is a bit unwise, and possibly even a bit dangerous, to think that the climate of the UK will just gradually warm and we’ll transition to a more balmy southern European climate.

And you'll recall that 2011 was just the opposite in Great Britain. They suffered a major drought that hurt agriculture. Wild, wild swings in extreme weather. What could possibly cause that? Who could have foreseen it?

Scientists have predicted exactly that scenario for more than a decade. Even the staid Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change felt driven to release a special report on extreme weather events in a warming world. Most of them thought, even I thought, we'd see big the really big disruption coming much later, perhaps by 2030 or 2040. But just like the record melt-back of the Arctic sea ice, and the quickening pace of glacier melt, severe climate change is coming much faster than we thought.

As Professor Palmer says, it's a mistake to picture a gradual warming that will make cool places more pleasant and winters a happy season. Instead, we're going to get buffeted by big temperature swings and extreme precipitation events, whether in rain or snow. Welcome to the new normal, when nothing is normal.

All that is going to hurt the plant and animal world. Which means unpredictable food prices as well. Who can predict when the flooded fields will allow planting in Britain, or when the U.S. West and mid-west will get enough water to feed cattle and corn?

These conditions also cost governments more and more. The paralyzed and nearly bankrupt American government still had not passed the sixty billion dollar aid package for Hurricane Sandy victims. That's not to speak of the multi-billions we now know are needed for storm surge protection for major American cities like New York, Washington, and many more.

The British government is also broke and slashing budgets - including the very flood defense money they need right now. As John Vidal reports in the Guardian newspaper December 28th, the UK government is cutting flood protection money. They'd cut 95 million pounds a year until the embarrassing floods in Wales this past October. Now there are bigger promises to spend more over many years, but it's still less than previous governments allotted to flood protection.

My point is simple: due to a combination economic fraud at the highest levels of banking, wild government misallocation of funds, continued militarism and the consumer dream of infinite growth - we are socially fragile just as climate damage is beginning. These are very early days of climate disruption and we are handling it badly if at all.

Our best hope is the continued cost of punishing climate change could divert military spending into climate resilience, concurrent with a demand for a rapid shift away from fossil fuels.

You can comment in this Radio Ecoshock show blog. Or write me with your tips and ideas. My email address is radio [a]t ecoshock dot org.

Don't forget to donate to keep this program going, if you can. Find the donate button on this page.

Meanwhile, watch out for those big waves in the Jet Stream, and hope you are on the right side of the bend. It will help is you can use what you learn on Radio Ecoshock to educate your friends, family, and neighbors to the real causes of the so-called "weird weather".


Next up in this week's show we look at nuclear hot spots all around America. That's partly to honor the world's leading anti-nuclear activist Dr. Helen Caldicott. After 197 shows, Caldicott is ending her radio show called "If You Love This Planet". She wants to concentrate on organizing conferences and books, starting with the Symposium on The Medical and Ecological Impacts of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident, to be held at the New York Academy of Medicine in March 2013. Get the details at Helencaldicott.com.

There is a huge pile of stinking badness coming from the nuclear mafia in the United States. Two states are begging for tons of the worst radiation on earth, deadly plutonium. And a small village in Alaska is the testing ground for a new push of mini-reactors the big corporations want you to swallow, now that their so-called "renaissance" of giant reactors has failed.

Imagine you know and love your state, province or region deeply. You adventure through the highlands, gaze over rivers that seem almost sacred in their beauty. You imagine that timeless gift passing down through the generations. So how do you feel when your government teams up with some mega-corporation to experiment with radioactive materials that remain dangerous for hundreds of thousands of years? When they truck bomb-grade plutonium along your freeways and neighborhoods?

On December 1st 2012, the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, or NIRS held their Mountain of Waste 70 Years High Conference in Chicago, USA. I got this audio courtesy of Dale Lehman at WZRD the free-form radio station operating from Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago.

I play you the introductions to the guests for the panel at the conference, in case you want to download the full audio. Then we get to the fireworks during the Q and A.

The first-rate panelists were no match for the residents and activists that are hopping mad about horrible machinations to irradiate and endanger their home grounds, from South Carolina, through the South West, all the way to Alaska. You have to listen to the pain and betrayal in South Carolina, as the government works on "the factory to nowhere". That will mix super-dangerous plutonium with merely insanely dangerous enriched uranium to create the so-called "MOX" reactor fuel.

ROBERT ALVAREZ, Institute for Policy Studies

As Robert "Bob" Alvarez from the Institute for Policy Studies explains, by the time they finish this five billion dollar manufacturing plant, most of the nuclear reactors that could have burned this MOX fuel will be shut down. Other estimates show the lifetime cost of this boondoggle at $20 to $25 billion dollars.

The reactors only burn about 20% of the plutonium in the fuel, meaning the resulting "spent" fuel is so hot it has to cool for about 150 years before it could be stored in any geological facility, if America had a geological storage facility. That's one hundred and fifty years of babysitting and never failing to cool this radioactive nightmare waste just to power more outdoor lights and consumer electricity waste.

Susan Corbett of the South Carolina Chapter of the Sierra Club was in the audience. She worries the U.S. government-controlled TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) reactors, old as they are, will be ordered to burn this billion dollar MOX fuel.

Even worse, the state of South Carolina is begging for the whole country's nuclear waste, now that Yucca Mountain has failed! That is such treason for Carolinians. We have to ask ourselves why governments go suicidal, even terroristic, on their own people? Only big lobby money and the hope of endless government subsidies could explain it.

The same dangerous plutonium game is going on in New Mexico, where tons of plutonium are being shipped to the Los Alamos facility to make more highly radioactive fuel rods that nobody wants.

We might as well poison the whole Yukon River basin with nuclear waste too. Why leave the Arctic without a whack of radioactivity. Thank you Toshiba Corporation. That Japanese mega-company is trying to sell a village of 800 people a "mini-reactor" to be buried 100 feet below the permafrost (until that melts) in the Yukon River flood plain.


You hear from Nikos Pastos, co-founder of Alaska's Big Village Network. Find their blog entry about the Chicago conference here.

Now that the big reactor "renaissance" has died after the Fukushima melt-downs, expect to fight off these mini-nukes in your backyard.

To know why we don't want any of this, I play you a clip from former industry VP Arnie Gundersen, now with the consulting firm Fairewinds.com. When Gundersen was in Tokyo last spring on a book tour, he grabbed 5 samples of soil in Tokyo and bagged them in plastic. Back in the USA, Arnie had them tested - and all of them would qualify as dangerous radioactive waste under American law. Common soil in Tokyo is radioactive from the Fukushima reactor blow-out. Millions of people are living with radioactive materials - and that will last for centuries.

You can download the full audio for this session from radio4all.net or even the whole series. I found this audio courtesy of Dale Lehman at WZRD the free-form radio station operating from Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago.


What if you could spend a year on the road, visiting all the cool projects in America? You'd interview the big names, and cover the big cities trying to become sustainable. But you'd also hunt down interesting folks socked away on the back roads, with unique projects that really work.

Save your gas money and the greenhouse gas emissions. Now it's been done. You can go on a voyage discovering that unknown country, the really smart America, with a new film. It's called "YERT" standing for "Your Environmental Road Trip". Check out their web site - there is lots to do and see there!

The movie producer is Mark Dixon. A co-conspirator and YERT tripper is Julie Dingman Evans. Our guest is her husband and the film's Director Ben Evans.

This film is loaded. We have lots to talk about. There is a list out a bunch of the famous names interviewed, but the real stars for me are all the creative people I would never have known about, including rural back-to-the-landers, and people with great ideas to make cities where most us live more sustainable.

This is one of the big messages I got out of the YERT film. From bloggers to newspapers, it's all about how awful things are in America. Collapse is right around the corner, and Americans suck. But this film shows just how dangerous it is to generalize about a few hundred million people. To abuse George Bush's slogan, they found a thousand points of light out there in the darkness. It helps tip the doom meter toward the creative solvers found.

Dixon and the Evans attack some of the heaviest subjects without blinking. Yes, we're heading over several final cliffs. And yet I found myself laughing during the movie. The road-trip team seems to be having fun all along. They also take on some Survivor-like challenges as they go along, including packing all the waste they create into their already overloaded car. It ain't easy trying to be green on the road in America!

This is one of the best films of 2012 in my opinion. Lively, full of interesting characters and really helpful suggestions without being preachy at all. You can arrange a screening, or buy the CD at yert.com

Thanks for listening again this week. And welcome to our new Australian station in Melbourne, 3CR 855 AM, starting Sunday January 6th.



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Annual Ecoshock Green Music Festival 2012

2012-12-26 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)

The Radio Ecoshock annual best of Green music festival. Eclectic mix of voices found or sent in by the artists, mood music for a climate-safe, species-friendly world. Radio Ecoshock 121229 1 hour.

Download in CD Quality (56 MB) recommended for this music show.

If you are on a slow connection, you can use this lower quality Lo-Fi version (14 MB)


Welcome to the annual Radio Ecoshock Green Music Festival. All year people send in their favorites, and even original recordings direct from the artists. Everyone has a different taste in music, and I've tried to touch a lot of countries and styles. But really, these are my picks. I have to enjoy the song, before it makes this mix. It's time to reflect on the bad news and the good vibes that only artists can bring us.



[1] Craig Anderton "When the Grid Goes Down"

Watch it on You tube.

We kick off with a vision of dystopia. Craig Anderton wrote and performed "When the Grid Goes Down", thinking of the electric grid knocked out by a solar storm. Radio Ecoshock has covered this awful possibility, where the whole system goes down for month or years. This is remixed and mastered version released in October 2012.

Craig has been doing the music scene a long time. He had three albums out when he was in his 20's back in the 1970's. Craigs a specialist in electronic music and mixing. Find him at craiganderton.com.

This is the mixed and mastered version of "When the Grid Goes Down," and includes a video. Written and performed by Craig Anderton. Drums: Greg Morrow, Damage. Bass: Juliette Duval.


[2] Jack Johnson "Gone"


Back from the brink of disaster, we find the softer Jack Johnson singing about our the vacuum of consumer culture, in this song titled "Gone." Johnson is an American surfer singer with more than five albums out. He organizes the annual Kokua Festival in Hawaii.

See video and lyrics here.


[3] Karen Savoca "Two Little Feet"


Next up "Two Little Feet" by Karen Savoca. Karen stands and delivers with her big bass drum, and the excellent guitar work of Pete Heitzman. Her latest album is "Promise" recorded in their 19th century church studio in the hills of upstate New York. It's available from CDBaby.com - and check out her earlier album "In the Dirt" for some back-to-the-land music. Find more at karensavoca.com.


[4] Rachel Van Zanten "My Country"


I love it when a rocker and singer gets active for what she loves. Rachel Van Zanten is from Northern British Columbia, but she toured 11 years with bands. Now Rachel as a solo artist, writes this powerful anthem "My Country" about the First Nations people and their battle against Tar Sands pipelines and fracking damage to their land.


Official video for this song here.


[5] REM "Until the Day Is Done".


Always biting on the social scence hitmakers REM brought this one out on the album "Accelerate". It's called "Until the Day Is Done"This is the American rock band from Athens, Georgia who conquered the world. After entering the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007, the band split up in 2011.


REM fansite.


[6] Vastmandana "No More Denial"


Out of Oakland, California, from the multi-talented musician and master gardener Dana Pearson, playing as Vastmandana. This sample clip "No More Denial" is one of many pieces Dana provided to Radio Ecoshock from his collection of one-man-band electronic instruments.

Listen to his music as Vastman at soundclick.com


[7] Red Valley Fog "Come Winter"


Part of the new climate awareness music coming out of the folk genre, Singer Ben Grosscup is with the Massachusetts Chapert of the Northeast Organic Farming Association. The song "Come Winter" was written by Ethan Miller, bu Grosscup and his buddy Dan Inglis have the only recording of it.

Find their music here.


[8] Dan Mangan "Sold"


From Vancouver, Canada, Dan Mangan is an award-winning international writer and singer. After his hit album "Nice, Nice, Very Nice" Mangan shone forth with some gorgeous blends of music and dreamy electronica in his newest called "Oh Fortune". His web site is danmanganmusic.com.

We play his song "Sold".


His web site is http://www.danmanganmusic.com -------------------

[9] Gil Scott Heron "Shut 'em Down"


This anti-nuclear song comes from the late African American poet, jazzman, musician and author Gil Scott Heron. He passed in 2011, and is sorely missed. One of Gil's best known spoken poems is "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised." "Shut 'em Down" came out in 1979.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gil_Scott-Heron "Shut 'em Down" came out in 1979. Find it on You tube.


[10] Evan Greer "Even If the End Is Near"


Love for the hardest of times, from Evan Greer and Friends. Evan describes himself as a radical queer social justice singer/songwriter. Greer's home base is in Boston. He or she has sung with all the greats, covered the big causes, and is pushing toward personal greatness in everything from folk to punk. His/her website is evangreer.org. Check out the latest song "I Want Something" but my pick for this show is "Even If The End Is Near".


[11] SkarKat "End of Days"


Next up is the dark "End of Days" from Scarkat. This rapper was born in Dubai, then struggled to make it as an immigrant in Toronto, Canada. I cleaned up this version a bit for radio, but Scarkat sees it all happening. Find him here.


[12] Earthrise Soundsystem "Ajnabee - Stranger"


OK this next short song "Ajnabee" or "Stranger" isn't a green song. I just find this short piece of Indian blend inspiring when things look bad. The music comes from a duo of techno musicians doing a lot of Yoga music for White Swan records: DJ, writer, and yogi Derek Beres teams up with producer/percussionist Duke Mushroom. Derek's yoga sessions have been on all the big networks. And check out their bio to find the astounding list of big name artists who worked with Duke Mushroom.

Their web site is earthrisesoundsystem.com.


[13] Ben Sollee "Panning for Gold"


I'm not religious, and yet this song clicked with me. Maybe it's the disarray we humans make. I heard it first in the new film YERT, Your Environmental Road Trip. Ben Sollee's "Panning for Gold" is from his latest album "Half Made Man" Ben is relatively young, from Kentucky, with a full range ear for performance art. Plus, Sollee plays his own Cello. Check out his song "Bury With My Car", and more at bensollee.com.


[14] Australian kids "Protect the World"


It's time for the kids to sing. It's their future at stake. This group from Australia does a good job with "Protect the World". The music comes from an online video by Shakti Burke for Kyogle Climate Action Network. I found it at generationgreen.tv Search for their Top 6 Environmental Songs and you'll find some good green videos.


[15] Tina Turner. "A Change Is Gonna Come"


We'll end with one of the most famous songs written by Sam Cooke, and first recorded in 1963. This live recording with master guitarist Robert Cray comes from the 1980's, when Tina Turner was touring in Europe. The American superstar Tina Turner can inspire us to carry on. I believe it. A change is gonna come. We will see it through together.


Her official web site.

Catch this on You tube.


Check out our regular programs each week on 63 radio stations in the United States, Canada, the UK, and occasionally Australia. Download Radio Ecoshock by Itunes podcast or from our web site at ecoshock.org. I'm Alex Smith, signing off from the annual Radio Ecoshock Festival of Green Music.

Thanks for being there.


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Climate: Arctic Thermostat Blows Up

2012-12-18 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)

The Arctic thermostat for the world is broken, with record heat & emissions in 2012. Four speakers from Arctic Methane Emergency group film: Peter Wadhams, James Hansen, Natalia Shakhova, and David Wasdell. Plus interview with AMEG member Paul Beckwith from University of Ottawa. How polar ice-melt derails climate of Northern Hemisphere, heading for uncontrollable heating. Radio Ecoshock 121219 1 hour.


Download/listen to the show in CD Quality (56 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB)

Download/listen to the audio-enhanced sound track from the short film "Arctic Methane: Why Sea Ice Matters" 19 minutes in CD Quality or Lo-Fi.

The Paul Beckwith interview (29 minutes) in CD Quality or Lo-Fi.

In this Greenpeace photo, Dr. James Hansen of NASA looks over the ice. Hear James Hansen in this program.


This may not be pleasing holiday fare, but our time together is limited and valuable. Critically important news cannot go unreported, no matter what local tragedy dominates the mainstream headlines.

We are just beginning to understand why the sudden melt-back of the Arctic Sea ice could change the climate of the world. If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, your own weather has changed already because of it.

As we will hear in this program, there is enough methane buried in the Arctic to drive us into an extinction event from runaway climate change, well beyond our ability to adapt.

I'm going to talk at length with Paul Beckwith. He's trained in engineering and physics, but is now working on his PHD in climate science at the University of Ottawa.

That connection began in our Radio Ecoshock program featuring Dr. Guy McPherson on the most alarming climate news. Guy mentioned Beckwith's claim that Earth's mean temperature could go up as much as six degrees in a decade or two. Beckwith confirmed the statement.

Surely it can't be true? So I going to call up Beckwith in Ottawa - hoping to find out more. I also know Paul is part of a group of scientists and activists called the Arctic Methane Emergency Group or AMEG. You can find my earlier interview with one of AMEG's senior scientists, Arctic ice expert scientist Dr. Peter Wadhams of Cambridge University. That's in the Radio Ecoshock show February 15th, 2012. I also interviewed critics of this theory that methane from melting permafrost and shallow northern sea beds pose an immediate emergency for the planet.

In September Greenpeace held a "UN Polar Emergency Panel" in New York.

Find the Greenpeace "Save the Arctic" campaign here. I'll ask Paul Beckwith about all that. But I also hope to get a better grip on how melting sea ice could possibly cause the unstable weather we've seen this year in North America, and Europe. Why did March of 2012 become more like summer all of a sudden? Why do sudden cold snaps hit in Europe, changing from balmy weather to the deep freeze in just a day or two? Why has a massive drought stalled over the croplands of the United States? Have changes in the Arctic destabilized weather in the Northern Hemisphere? We find out.

I'm also going to present for the first time a radio adaptation from a new movie by the Arctic Methane Emergency Group. You will hear from Dr. Wadhams, but also James Hansen, the NASA super-scientist, plus Natalia Shakhova, a Russian scientist now working at the International Arctic Research Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and David Wasdell, founder of the Apollo-Gaia Project.

Here is a link to my intriguing Radio Ecoshock interview with David Wasdell in our December 10, 2010 show "Beyond the Tipping Point"

For some of the science, here is a critical paper on Arctic Methane from one of the speakers in the film, Natalia Shakhova:

Shakhova, N. and I. Semiletov (2012). Methane release from the East-Siberian Arctic Shelf and its connection with permafrost and hydrate destabilization: First results and potential future development. Geophys. Res., Vol. 14, EGU2012-3877-1.

All this comes against a chorus of steadily worse revelations about the prospect of very dangerous climate change developing now and in the decades to come.


As you heard in our recent programs, the possibility of staying below the alleged safety point of two degrees temperature rise has more or less passed away. Reports from the World Bank, the International Energy Agency, accountants PriceWaterhouseCoopers, and many more, show the world is headed to at least a 4 degree warming by 2100, if not sooner.

The year 2012 has been the hottest in the instrumental records. Hotter than the previous tied records of 1998 and 2005. According to Joe Romm at thinkprogress.org, the "very warm November and early December assures record-breaking 2012."

Weather-meister Jeff Masters from the Weather Underground writes "The year-to-date period of January – November has been by far the warmest such period on record for the contiguous U.S.–a remarkable 1.0°F above the previous record."

Not coincidentally, and despite all the expensive international climate talks, world greenhouse gas emissions are not dropping but rising steeply, year on year. The Global Carbon Project, which measures such things, finds global emissions in 2012 set a new all-time record. In 2012 we pumped out an eye-popping 58% more greenhouse gases than in 1990.

I play you a short clip from Corrine Le Quere. She is a Professor of Climate Change Science and Policy at the University of East Anglia in the UK, and the Director of the prestigious British climate modeling agency, the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research.

Corrine Le Quere

That video from the Tyndall Center is here.


"The latest study from the Global Carbon Project shows that the carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels are set to increase again in two thousand and twelve to a record high of 35.7 billion tons of CO2.

And it means that the global emissions now are 58% above the levels they were in year 1990, the reference year for international Kyoto Protocol.

Contributors to global carbon emissions in 2011 were China with 28%, the United States with 16%, the European Union with 11%, and India with 7%.

The 2012 rise in carbon emissions, that further opens the gap between the real world emissions and the goals that are required to keep the global change under two degrees, which is the international agreement.

If the carbon emissions continue the way they are, they are leading to climate change of 4 degrees and above


We the scientific community are often asked what a four degree world would look like. Because after all we have seasons and day and night, so the four degrees really sometimes doesn't seem like very much. But actually, I think that we globally might be able to say with some confidence what one, two and perhaps three degrees looks like. But when you start looking at changes of four, five and six degrees it's really out of bounds of anything that we've experienced in the recent past.

And so these are really, really big changes in the way that the Earth operates. We are talking about warming changes that are really enormous in the climate system and it's difficult to say what this is going to look like, what kind of vegetation transitions we will have, what kind of changes in the soil where we grow our food.

Ice and melt - what does that do for instance for our weather patterns and for the changes in extreme events?

To be honest, such high climate change levels are really so much outside the bounds of experience that it is very difficult to say what such a world would look like. And impossible to guarantee that it would be safe for a population of seven billion and more.

I am worried about the continued increase in global carbon emissions and the consequences for our climate change and society.


Warming will impact the whole world. Graham Readfearn, a correspondent for ABC Broadcasting in Australia tried to look at what that country would look like in a four degree hotter world. His article came out December 10, 2012. I found it at climatchangepsychology.blogspot.ca, one of the blogs I check regularly. The article by Readfearn is on this page (scroll down a bit) here.

Here is one quote from that article:

"In 2008, work by CSIRO found that if there was no action to cut global emissions, the number of days each year over 35 °C experienced in Australia's capital cities would jump dramatically.

For example, Darwin gets about 9 days a year over 35 °C but by 2070 this was projected to rise to 221 -- more than half the year would be above 35 °C. Melbourne would go from 9 to 21 days above 35 °C, and Sydney from 3 to 9

There are similar projections for America. Most cities in America would be sweltering through unbelievable heat waves as the new normal for summer.

ABC Australia's Readfearn continues:

"Professor Jean Palutikof, director of the government-funded National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, believes an Australia 4 °C warmer than today will be a very different place.

'It would just be too unpleasant to be out of doors,' she says. 'People would be living far more enclosed lives. It would be a heavily energy-dependent existence as you have to cool all of those spaces that you put people into.

'You would have to be running your air-conditioners as a matter of course. The huge challenge would be to lay our hands on the energy we would need to maintain our comfort levels.'

Never mind the disappearing coral reefs, all ice and snow gone, forests burning and burning, and mass extinctions of animals, plants, and insects.


We've just talked about 2012 setting a new record for greenhouse gas emissions. The Global Carbon Project measures only emissions from fossil fuels, not from things like deforestation or agricultural emissions. And this projection does not include, as the International Governmental Panel on Climate Change does not include, the methane emissions coming from the Arctic that we will discuss in this program.

A new report released in late November by the United Nations Environment Program says the IPCC MUST report on melting permafrost and methane, including a special report if needed. Yet I've spoken by email with some IPCC reviews who assure me the Arctic methane emergency is NOT included in the upcoming Intergovernmental Panel reports coming out in 2013 and 2014. Again, the IPCC is far beyond not just the science, but actual climate change known to be happening already.


Let's hear what the Arctic Methane Emergency Group has to say in their new film "Arctic Methane - Why the Sea Ice Matters” This compilation of experts includes Dr. Peter Wadhams of Cambridge University, NASA scientist James Hansen, Natalia Shakhova from the International Arctic Research Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and David Wasdell, founder of the Apollo-Gaia Project. The short film was put together by Nick Breeze and Bru Pearce of the new climate communication group Envisionation.

We start with Peter Wadhams, who has been measuring and exploring the Arctic ice for decades. He is president of the International Association for the Physical Sciences of the Ocean Commission on Sea Ice, and head of the Polar Ocean Physics Group at Cambridge University in England.

Find links to all this in at the Emergency Group web site at www.ameg.me


Paul H. Beckwith

Our feature is with Paul Beckwith, a man trained in both engineering and physics, but now devoting himself to the challenge of climate change and climate science. I reached him at the University of Ottawa.

We talk about too many things to list here. In just one instance, I finally understood how changes in the Arctic could create the strange weather patterns we've been seeing all over the Northern Hemisphere. Expect to see a lot more. Don't miss the interview.

After our interview, I checked out the methane maps which show red hot spots hovering over the Arctic, where the gas is leaking out at faster rates. I wondered if that could cause regional warming. Paul responded to my email question saying, quote:

"Yes, methane can accumulate in the atmosphere over the Arctic and affect regional weather there, causing localized warming. A strong polar vortex, with mostly zonal jet streams (moving west to east, very little meridional (north to south) waviness) acts to confine atmospheric gases to that region. More meridional or wavy jet streams with more north-south waviness will not confine the methane as well. Over time, the concentrations would equilibrate throughout the atmosphere; faster with meridional jets and slower with zonal jets.

Since the global warming potential of methane is as high as 170 on short timescales of a year of so then it would contribute to warming there. How much? Well CO2 measurements in the Arctic have reached 400 ppm. Methane flask measurements (Barrow and Svalbard) reached 2200 ppb (=2.2 ppm). Since 2.2 x 170 = 374 ppm CO2e. So the methane there is providing the same radiative forcing as the CO2 there. No way this can be neglected by the IPCC; that would be incredibly misleading and dangerous. It is even at today’s levels the same as the CO2 forcing in the region.

Another way to look at the confinement is directly via the coriolis force (which results in the jets, so same thing really). The coriolis force deflects moving objects to the right in the northern hemisphere (to the left in the southern hemisphere); it is zero at the equator (reason why no hurricanes form right near equator). It is maximum right at the pole on the axis of rotation. This confines air to the Arctic.

Consider the massive cyclone in the Arctic from August 2nd or so to August 10th or so (see my blogs on Arctic news Sam Carana site for details). It was centered near the pole. Every time it started to move southward it was strongly deflected to the right and ended up doing loops around the polar region. Since it was basically confined to the Arctic basin due to this coriolis force it continued to gain/maintain strength for about 10 days since it was fed by warm 20 degree C air from over Siberia.

Many fires were burning in northern Siberia at the time so I suspect that a lot of ash/soot from the fires many have been ported into the pole region also. Who knows, it may have contributed to the drop in albedo on sea ice and over Greenland? What I am getting at is that a packet of air in the Arctic will start moving southward and be deflected to the right and end up curving around and heading back into the region; thus the strong confinement.

For the same reason, a packet of air near the pole will be somewhat constrained to the region and not diffuse to the global atmosphere too quickly.

We also got into a discussion about the benefits and risks of putting sulphur aerosols into the high atmosphere over the Arctic, as a last ditch geoengineering attempt to save the last of the ice sheets. The point would be to try to stabilize weather in the Northern Hemisphere, possibly averting global food shortages, and maybe staving off a runaway climate event from ever-increasing methane releases in the Arctic.

To quote Paul's email:

"Adding sulfur has the purpose of buying us time before the abrupt shift to a much warmer state occurs. It can be done quickly. I suggested a while back that adapting the KC-135 flying fuel tank (for midair refueling of fighter aircraft) to contain liquid mixtures with sulfur and adding nozzles to the umbilicals could quickly and easily deliver the sulfur to the stratosphere.

This method is a short term band-aid that would buy some time to slash greenhouse gas emissions as fast as humanly possible. This slashing is vital since it is the only way to slow and eventually reverse the rapid ocean acidification problem. The sulfur would be in the stratosphere (above normal weather) so would stay there for years, the vortex would somewhat confine it in the Arctic region; we would have to carefully monitor the time between recharges.

Huge amounts of sulfur are injected into the lower atmosphere from smokestacks around the planet. Coal contains sulfur (the worse the coal, the more sulfur there is) and we are pumping ever increasing amounts out. Rain washes it down into the environment, scrubber technology on the smokestacks helps to reduce the problem. What we would put into the Arctic region is negligible compared to what comes out of smokestacks

Here is Paul Beckwith's blog at the Sierra Club of Canada.

Should we do it? Is it time to save the last of the Arctic ice cap? You have to decide.

I'm Alex Smith for Radio Ecoshock. Be sure and visit our web site at ecoshock.org to download all our past programs. Please make a donation if you can, to keep the site full of free downloads for all. Please tell others about this show blog at ecoshock.info.

Thank you for donating your attentive mind to our broadcast this week.


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Victory Gardens Past and Future (with LaManda Joy)

2012-12-12 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)

Food prices are rising due to climate, peak oil & poor economy. Best time to start your city on Victory Gardens. Speech by LaManda Joy to Great Lakes Bioneers tells how. With intro on food prices in Canada, UK, Australia, USA, clips from WWII garden propaganda. Radio Ecoshock 121212 1 hour in CD Quality (56 MB) or faster downloading Lo-Fi (14 MB)

If you eat food, maybe you've noticed groceries costs more and more. Well stock up now, food inflation is just ramping up.

It's not just the extra 200 million mouths to feed on the planet next year. Climate change is already re-arranging your food bill.

In North America, and around the world, one big driver is the record drought in the prime crop production areas of the United States this year. Many meat producers gave up, selling off their herds, temporarily keeping meat prices lower. The current cattle herd is the smallest since 1973. Once that sell-off goes through the supply chain, the high cost of corn and other grains will accelerate meat prices from 5 to 10% higher, according to one Canadian report.

Here is Peter Mansbridge of host of "The National" on Canadian Broadcasting Corporation on December 6, 2012.

"If you are buying extra groceries for the holidays, some experts suggest you also might think about stocking up for the coming year."

Next comes CBC Consumer Affairs reporter Aaron Saltzman [with a report from Canada's premier agricultural university in Guelph, Ontario]:

"According to the University of Guelph's annual food forecast, just about every basic staple will cost more next year. Dairy up as much as 3%; bread up as much as 4%; eggs up as much as 5%; but likely the biggest hike... 'We would expect meat, particularly beef and pork to go up more significantly. We are saying probably as much as 4 and a half to 6%.' The price of pork in particular expected to jump by as much as 10%.

According to the report the main driver behind most of these price increases is climate. The drought across North America this past year was one of the worst in recorded history. Among the hardest hit areas, the Great Plains states in the U.S. - America's bread basket. That drove up grain prices and in turn, the cost of feed and livestock." ...

...For those unwilling to go vegetarian, 'Fill the freezer now, because it's going to get tougher going forward.'

And, he says, if you are wondering how accurate the University's predictions are, last year the forecast was bang on."


Host Peter Mansbridge: "So some predictions there about food prices in the future. What about the prices we've already seen? Here are some numbers to consider. According to statistics Canada, the cost of meat has risen more than 30% in the past decade. Egg prices have risen by 50%. Bakery products are up by nearly 60%. By comparison, fresh vegetables cost about 1% less than 10 years ago."

Don't be thrown off by comforting reports from the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization. Their early December report says basic food prices fell by 1.5% in November. That was partly caused by a massive drop in the price of sugar.

But as the World Bank reports, food prices are currently "stable" but still very high. In fact, expensive food hovering near the record 2008 levels is the new normal. Unlike the UN, the World Bank food price index finds food prices are 7 percent higher than in 2011. Grains are 12 percent higher already from the previous year.

In the United Kingdom, the November Shop Price Index shows food prices up 4.6% from a year ago. Fresh fruits and vegetables are particularly high, causing what the Guardian newspaper calls "a nutrition recession" in Britain.

A series of reports in the Australian press say food prices there will hit a new record high in 2013. The cost of rice, wheat, pulses, edible oils, sugar and vegetables, are all rising in India.

Bloomberg business finds American meat prices are set to go much higher. Quote from Bloomberg: "The drought in the Midwest and Great Plains drove corn yields to a 17-year low and may last at least through February. U.S. consumers will pay 3 percent to 4 percent more for food next year, a half-percentage point above this year’s expected increase, according to the USDA."

It's not just the drought. A weird bout of summer-like weather in March of 2012 caused many fruit trees to bloom early. The return of cold weather killed off the flowers, leading to a drop of the apple crop by as much as 80% in some regions. The world charity Oxfam has a special report on the impact of extreme weather events on the world food supply.


Wait a minute! Didn't I promise you some good news this week?

Sure, if more people can't afford red meat, their health will improve dramatically. Healthy vegetables are still the most affordable option in most places.

But it gets much better than that. We can quickly and cheaply convert most of our major cities into major food production centers. In this program, you will hear how it happened before. And how local urban food production is making a rapid come-back. The kicker is lots of folks are going for more than just the joy of healthy self-grown food. They come for the new sense of community as well.

Most of us can't afford to just kick-off and head to the country. We need some income, at least to make the transition. So like Havana Cuba, after the Soviet empire died and stopped sending oil, we'll have to feed ourselves where we are.

We are going to the City of Chicago, where the American Victory Garden movement was launched during World War Two. And where it is coming back strong. From the Great Lakes Bioneers conference, we have an excellent recording of LaManda Joy, founder of the Peterson Garden Project. She'll tell us about the Victory Garden movement, where MILLIONS of novice growers produced mountains of food for the War effort. How a whole nation can transform into local food production in just one year.

That's not just something that happened in the past. LaManda will tell us how Chicago is organizing once again, to bring back urban food production. Whether you are concerned about economic collapse, climate change, peak oil, or just healthy food - this speech is a message of hope for all of us.

This recording was made by Kelly Pierce of the Chicago Independent Media Center for Radio Ecoshock. Here is LaManda Joy, speaking November 4th, 2012 to the Great Lakes Bioneers.


Download/listen to just the LaManda Joy talk (as broadcast on Radio Ecoshock, 53 minutes) in CD Quality (48 MB) or Lo-Fi (12 MB)

During World War Two, 200 million people gardened, and 40% of produce consumed in America was homegrown.


How do you teach an entire city to grow food?

The Mayor of Boston helped plow up the Boston Commons.

Movie stars became part of the program. Veronica Lake changed her hair from swept over one eye to keeping hair back and out of the way - better for women munitions workers and gardening. The campaign was called "Hair wins the war".

Cartoon characters and superheroes were used to further gardening message.

Popular culture was drafted into the gardening movement - beer drinkers showed having a drink after sweaty gardening. Fashionable gardening clothes were sold from department stores.

Children were brought into the movement by their parents and their schools. Chicago held well-attended harvest festivals and garden parades.

Corporations got involved. Sears started 24,000 Victory Gardens in the Los Angeles area. International Harvester provided the plows in Chicago.

To keep that food year round, there was a mass program of canning. Five billion pints of produce were canned by volunteers every summer during the war. "Pressure cookers and canning supplies were in such high demand that their production was overseen by the government."

"Gardens began sprouting behind sign posts, on railway embankments, in school yards and church yards and in window boxes." Vacant lots and parks were also used - any spare space.

The Office of Civilian Defense was put in charge, with Fiorello La Guardia. His "assistant" was the President's wife, Eleanor Roosevelt - the last person to plant a food garden on the White House grounds until Michelle Obama. Could the Department of Homeland Security start thinking about real food security, and help found local gardens instead?

90% of the participants had never gardened before. This required a massive public training effort through: community groups, film nights on how to plant, educational brochures, talks by experts, newspaper articles. They mounted Kiosks near gardens and in public places to post notices and articles, a kind of social media of the day.

The City of Chicago was broken up into 7 regions, then down to block captains. Each official garden received a decal. There were many more gardens in private yards, and people who didn't want to register of keep the paperwork. 75,000 of these decals were posted in the first year in Chicago, 1942.

In 1942, Chicago had 12,000 community gardens on over 500 plots, covering 290 acres. That doesn't include private or non-registered gardens. By 1942 it was 53,000 gardens on 1500 plots. 14,000 children were gardening.

The first Victory Gardens were in Chicago, and it became a national model. The largest garden there was 32 acres, with 800 families participating.

Chicago passed an ordinance against damaging or stealing from Victory gardens. The fines were $50 to $200, which would be $650 to $2,600 in today's currency.

You can find some of the Victory Garden propaganda on You tube. She also recommends the book "The Twenty Five Dollar Victory Garden" which has an interactive format using the Net. Find You tubes on the $25 Garden here, or follow Joe's blog here. The best way to learn to garden is still from a family member, neighbor or friend. In 2009, Joy tells us, the Internet surpassed books as the second most sought out way to get gardening information.

It's interesting to note that the food shortage and poverty during the Depression of the 1930's was so severe that 35% of the men drafted for World War Two could not be accepted due to malnutrition. LaManda wonders if the numbers might be any different today, perhaps because of obesity and poor diets?

How did Chicago do it? "We had government support. There were overarching organizational structures. There was a donation of space and equipment. There was mass education, promotion, corporate and individual commitment, and recognition."


Inspired by all this, LaManda Joy and her community set out on a campaign of "one percent". The aimed to achieve just 1% of the accomplishments of the World War Two Victory garden movement in Chicago. She found donated space, and got municipal support. Her first organizing meeting was attended by over 50 people. Since then, the "Peterson Garden Project" has grown into a network of Chicago community gardens. Last year in Chicago there were 2600 community gardeners on 690 plots.

The Peterson Garden uses the square foot method. Because there was an old building foundation at the site, there was no topsoil. The gardeners hauled in tons of mulch and soil building materials. It's all organic gardening, and the produce tastes fabulous. Most people remark how different and good the food tastes, versus agribusiness products.

LaManda also praises the Seed Savers Exchange. The Peterson gardeners use a lot of heritage seeds to get the best veggies and fruit.

Meanwhile, the Obama Administration has helped a bit. Michelle Obama planted a food garden at the White House, and then partnered with Wal-Mart in announcing the addition of fresh fruits and vegetables to their line.

The head of the USDA ordered the 30,000 USDA agricultural stations world-wide to either plant a food garden or participate in one.

LaManda Joy finds that many people show up to garden because they are also seeking a way to build community and relationships. With fewer attending Church, and many spending time home alone with electronic entertainment, getting outdoors to garden works well for them. Five percent of the new Victory Garden produce goes to support the homeless and other charities.

Wasn't that a great speech? So much to learn, about how it was, and how it could be now. LaManda Joy is the founder of the Peterson Garden Project in Chicago USA. Find out more at petersongarden.org. Find LaManda's blog here.

You can also watch a LaManda Joy speech at the Library of Congress, recorded May 13, 2011 "Chicago Victory Gardens: Yesterday and Tomorrow" here. It's one hour long. The high quality recording from the Great Lakes Bioneers Chicago conference November 4th, 2012 was made for Radio Ecoshock by Kelly Pierce of the Chicago Independent Media Center. Thanks Kelly, you've set an example for how we all can share important audio.

I'm Alex Smith. I'll be back next week with more food for action. Dig in at our web site, ecoshock.org. And find links to this week's program in the Radio Ecoshock show blog at ecoshock.info. Contribute to our fundraising drive if you can.

Thank you for growing your brain this week.


In our one hour version, we go out with a song by Ewaldy Estil from Haiti. He's a coordinator there for Heifer International, the charity that provides a cow to alleviate hunger. The song is called "911 Trees". Ewaldy says he was inspired by "Plan B" from Lester Brown of Earth Policy Institute.

More videos of Ewaldy Estil here.


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Climate: On the Road to Extinction?

2012-12-04 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)

Are we on the road to climate extinction? Dr. Guy McPherson lays out the case in this speech at Bluegrass Bioneers in Kentucky. Then the World Bank says "Turn Down the Heat". Daphne Wysham on their coal addiction, and Olivia Maria Serdeczny from the Potsdam Institute in Germany, authors of the report for the Bank. Is collapse our best way out of a Hellish future? Radio Ecoshock 121205

Download or listen to the Radio Ecoshock show for this week (1 hour) in CD Quality (56 MB)

Or try the faster downloading, lower quality Lo-Fi version (14 MB)

Guy McPherson talk at Bluegrass Bioneers (edited for radio, 29 minutes) in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Radio Ecoshock interview with Olivia Maria Serdeczny of the Potsdam Institute (18 min) in CD Quality or Lo-Fi


This week on Radio Ecoshock, more revelations of coming climate disasters, as the fossil fuel bubble expands.

Even the World Bank, which funded plenty of big coal plants, admits we are headed for a world 4 degrees Celsius, or 7.2 degrees Faherenheit hotter. We'll talk with Olivia Maria Serdeczny from the Potsdam Institute in Germany, authors of the report for the Bank.

But first, I'm going to toss you into the deep end. If our recent broadcast of Kevin Anderson of the Tyndall Institute shocked you, Dr. Guy McPherson will blow you away. I'm not so sure our industrial system will collapse anytime soon, but I fact-checked everything McPherson said about escalating climate change. He's got it right. You need to hear this.

At the Bluegrass Bioneers conference in Louisville Kentucky November 2nd 2012, Guy gives us the no-holds barred assessment of what we we've been told, and what we haven't, about the developing wreck of Earth's climate. His "good news" sounds pretty bad, but it's better than extinction. I hold my notes and comments to the end of the speech.


Dr. Guy McPherson

His web site is guymcpherson.com

His book is "Walking Away From Empire".

I did a full Radio Ecoshock interview with Guy last June. Our June 19, 2012 show with Guy is titled: "Still Walking Away from Empire". Read that show blog with links here.

I didn't want to run Guy McPherson's speech just to titilate our taste for disaster porn. I fact-checked pretty well every statement McPherson made. My pages of notes have been condensed into an entry for the Radio Ecoshock blog at ecoshock.info. You can chase the links for yourself, and verify what Guy is saying.


I know there are a lot of communicators listen to Radio Ecoshock. I've had email from dozens of print journalists, bloggers, radio hosts, TV producers, film-makers and general social media trouble-makers. So go ahead, dive into those McPherson notes - there are a half dozen big stories in there. Anyone can get an education following up on the reports and sources McPherson gives us in this talk.


Guy referenced a scientific paper in the prestigious journal "Climatic Change" by Dr. Timothy Garrett from the University of Utah. The title is "On the coupled evolution of inflation, wealth, and atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide."

Dr. Timothy Garrett


Garrett interview, from November 19, 2011 Radio Ecoshock show, 24 minutes.

Watch a You tube video version of one Garrett interview here (prepared by Khalid Hassan of Outfield Productions in Pakistan).

In a Radio Ecoshock interview on November 19th, 2010 - Professor Garrett says his research showed only a big economic collapse could save us from the worst of climate change. Here is a transcript from that interview:

"Alex: This is Radio Ecoshock. I'm Alex Smith with Dr. Timothy Garrett, an atmospheric scientist, from the University of Utah.

I'd like to get to the conclusions of your new paper. Based on our past records of energy use and wealth, what does your model show as possible futures?

Garrett: Well, in fact, this was actually stimulated by our past conversation. In my first study, I showed that carbon dioxide emissions and wealth were intrinsically coupled. Without actually decarbonizing the economy by switching to renewables, or nuclear power, at an extraordinarily fast rate, you cannot have wealth without having carbon dioxide emissions. The two go together.

And in fact, since 1970, the relationship between the two has been very, very tightly fixed. Now, that would seem to have implications for the future. Because carbon dioxide emissions accumulate in the atmosphere.

As carbon dioxide emissions accumulate in the atmosphere, some fraction goes into what we call "sinks" in the oceans and the land, but about half of what we emit accumulates in the atmosphere. That is going to create an ever increasing pressure on civilization.

By eating away at civilization's wealth, global warming will actually reduce our capacity to emit carbon dioxide. So there's actually what you would call in Physics a "negative feedback."

So our wealth is emitting CO2, CO2 accumulates in the atmosphere, and then feeds back on our capacity to produce new wealth.

Eventually one could imagine that civilization would enter into a phase of collapse because the carbon dioxide levels are so high, that we are simply unable to produce new goods, without them being destroyed by global warming.

And at that point, perhaps, emissions would go down. Eventually, if civilization collapsed fast enough, then perhaps carbon dioxide levels would be stabilized.

Now you asked me last time, what would be required to keep carbon dioxide concentrations at 450 parts per million. And that's normally what's considered at a dangerous level, let's say during the Copenhagen Accord.

And I made a guess that it would require actually flat out civilization collapse. Based on some preliminary work that I did, and I decided to look into this more deeply. I actually wrote a second paper, where it turns out that it true.

Not only would we have to have civilization collapse starting very soon, like within the next decade or so. But we would also have to have extremely rapid decarbonization, in order to keep carbon dioxide levels below let's say 500 parts per million - twice pre-industrial levels.

In order to keep them below 1,000... Well, without civilization collapse let's say we have continuing health.. let's say the civilization is very resilient to global warming...then carbon dioxide levels are going to go extremely high by the end of this century - probably above 1,000 parts per million.

You think about 1,000 parts per million, that's probably - it depends on what the climate sensitivity really is - but that's something along the lines of 5 degrees Celsius warming at least.

And when we think about 5 degrees Celsius warming, people who are familiar with this, usually start bringing up highly catastrophic scenarios.

In some sense, it's hard to imagine it's hard to imagine how civilization cannot be in pretty dire straights during this century."


In other news, the World Bank has released a new report about climate change. It warns we are heading to a world hotter by 4 degrees C. or 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit, by the year 2100. In fact, as we'll hear in our next interview from the Potsdam Institute in Germany, on our current course of emissions, it might even get that hot by 2060.

That would be devastating, for humans, for our civilization, and for all the creatures on the planet who have evolved to live in the Holocene era, between the great ice ages. In some places, what was a normal summer will become a normal winter. Cities by the sea, like New York, London, and so many others in Europe, China and India will be regularly flooded, if not partially abandoned, due to rising seas.

The great Amazon Rainforest would disappear, along with the coral reef that nuture so much sea life. It's ugly. The report is titled "Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4 degree warmer world must be avoided."


Let's begin with a regular Radio Ecoshock contributor, Daphne Wysham, this time on Aljazeera TV November 30th, 2012, just as the report was released by the World Bank. American listeners of course cannot get this information on TV, due to state or big corporate censorship. The program is "Inside Story Americas" with host Shihab Rattansi, broadcast on Aljazeera TV November 30th 2012.

Both host Rattansi and guest Daphne Wysham (from the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington) outline the many cases where the World Bank funded coal plants, including in Kosovo, South Africa, and India (including the giant Tata Mundra project which is having serious problems.)

The World Bank is ostensibly a public bank, funded by taxpayers in many countries. It is not a private corporation. Until recently, it has been difficult to calculate the billions spent by the World to support fossil fuel projects. According to the Guardian newspaper of November 20th, 2012 - the second largest development bank funding new coal plants is the World Bank, which has advanced $5.3 billion dollars for coal plants in developing countries. It turns out that number is way low.

Daphne Wysham just wrote me to say...

"I actually UNDERestimated how much the Bank has spent on fossil fuels over 20 years [in the Aljazeera interview]. I found this out from a story coming out at Thenation.com. The total over 20 years is $48.8 billion, NOT $20 billion as I said on Al Jazeera. That's a huge difference!"

Read more in this Aljazeera report, complete with a 25 minute video of critics and defenders of the World Banks' fossil fuel record. (Like a criminal record).

The Aljazeera article tells us...

According to the Bank Information Center, a watchdog group, in 2010, the World Bank's funding for fossil fuel projects hit an all-time high of $6.6bn - that's a 116 per cent increase from the year before. Most of those loans went towards coal.

In Kosovo, the bank is financing a coal power station, which will use brown coal, the most polluting sort. The plant will increase the country's carbon emissions up to 400 per cent.

In South Africa, $3.75bn in World Bank loans goes to Eskom, the largest power utility company in Africa.


Now it's time to hear from the Potsdam Institute, who wrote the report "Turn Down the Heat".

Read the report from the Potsdam Institute and the World Bank as a .pdf here.

Olivia Serdenczy, Potsdam Institute

Our guest Olivia Maria Serdeczny is a research analyst for Professors Schellnhuber and Rahmstorf, at the German Advisory Council on Global Change to the Federal Government there. Olivia was part of a team producing the report "Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4 degree warmer world must be avoided." That's from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, released in November 2012. It was written for the World Bank.

Radio Ecoshock interview with Olivia Maria Serdeczny of the Potsdam Institute (18 min) in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Seasoned reporter Chris Hedges did a brilliant piece on this World Bank report, titled "Stand Still for the Apocalypse" at Truthdig.com November 26th.

How about this quote from an Ars Technica assessment:

"The typical summer temperatures would be the equivalent of our worst heat waves. In fact, the specifically note that normal temperatures in Russia would be similar to those of its recent heat wave, which killed 55,000 people and caused massive property damage. Meanwhile, the baseline winter temperatures would be equivalent to our current summers in most areas. Temperatures over land will rise faster than they do over the ocean, and some regions will be especially hard hit. The authors predict that typical temperatures in the Mediterranean will be up by roughly 9°C."

The World Bank had plenty or warning. European Greens and American activists all cried foul when public money was used to build giant coal plants in Kosovo, South Africa, India and more - even as clean energy was ready to go. Now with a new President, Jim Yong Kim, at least the World Bank is asking what might happen.

It's part of a tide of major institutions that have backed the fossil fuel bubble. Now some begin to admit climate disaster can be the result. We'll see if there is any major change in World Bank funding, or if it's already too late.


Radio Ecoshock has been blaring the bad news about climate for the past many shows. But there is a little good news coming. It turns out there are plenty of inventive people all over the world trying out new solutions. Before this month is out, you will hear a lot about ways we can change toward survival.

Hang in there.

I'm Alex. Please turn your friends on to our broadcast, and our web site at ecoshock.org. And please support Radio Ecoshock with your donations if you can.

Thank you for listening again this week.


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The C.I.A., Nigeria and Germany

2012-11-27 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)

Three stories, 3 hosts, 3 continents. Professor John D. Steinbruner on a new report to the C.I.A. about disruptive climate change. Ecoshock's Gerri Williams with Jonathan Kaufman, EarthRights International. Why do big oil companies pay for spills in developed countries, and get away with murder in Nigeria? From Berlin, Daphne Wysham with expert Hans Verholme: the fantastic growth of renewable energy in Germany. Radio Ecoshock 121128 1 hour.


Full show in CD quality (56 MB)

Full show in faster downloading, lower quality Lo-fi (14 MB)

The John D. Steinbruner interview (18 min) in CD Quality or Lo-Fi.

Gerri Williams interviews Jonathan Kaufman of EarthRights on Nigeria (24 min) in CD quality or Lo-Fi

Daphne Wysham interviews Hans Verholme in Berlin (18 min) in CD quality or Lo-Fi


John D. Steinbruner

A new report to the C.I.A. advises the intelligence and security community to prepare for disruption in a warming world.

The title of the assessment from National Research Council is “Climate and Social Stress: Implications for Security Analysis.” You can read the full text of this report here.

In a strange irony, presentation of this report to the C.I.A. was temporarily postponed, as the capital closed down due to a violent storm, Hurricane Sandy.

Our guest is John D. Steinbruner. He's a Professor of Public Policy at the University of Maryland, and chairs the 14-member panel of experts who conducted the analysis for the intelligence community.

If I were in the C.I.A., I would certainly have paid attention to the Russian heat wave of 2010. At least one nuclear reactor, and another Russian military base with nuclear materials were cut off and threatened by fire, which was stopped only by extraordinary measures.


Let's consider climate and government. A major climatic event might destabilize a central government, or it might make it stronger.

Take the case of the Pakistan floods of 2010, which covered an estimated one fifth of the land area in this nuclear-armed country. There could have been social break-down, but my understanding from people in-country was the government looked after its own supporters first, and may have been strengthened by disruption in areas where they had weak control anyway.

Even considering U.S hurricanes, we could say the poor response of the Bush administration weakened the federal government. The anti-FEMA meme (the right wing conspiracy theory that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is planning concentration camps, etc.,) grew stronger after Hurricane Katrina. The idea that central government was incompetent, and less necessary, accelerated after 2005.

By contrast President Obama's team response may have strengthened public perception of the necessity of a strong central government. There was less hostility to Federal aid and demand for more of it.

Given the likely role of warming oceans and rising seas adding to the damage from both hurricanes, we can see the possibility of even worse future climate events affecting the ability to govern all over the world.

Consider Mali, that central African country suffering from long-term drought that may be linked to global warming. Islamic fundamentalists, carrying weapons taken from fallen Libya, have taken over the northern part of the country. The whole of the North Africa Sahel is drought-stricken and at the same time politically unstable.

Dr. Steinbruner and I spend more time looking at the flash point of Pakistan and India. Water needed to irrigate Pakistani crops, to feed the people, is dwindling in the Indus River, as glaciers and snowfall decline upstream in India. The Pakistani government blames its old enemy India, but is climate change the real culprit?

I ask Steinbruner how seriously the C.I.A. takes climate change. That's a difficult question as the Agency just closed its climate change office. Were they ducking Republican attacks on climate, ahead of looming budget cuts across the board in the Federal government? Did the C.I.A. climate operation just go underground (it's what they do for a living)? Or is the Obama Administration just not that interested in climate information? We don't know.

What we do know is the National Research Council report was well received where it was presented, and Dr. Steinbruner hopes it assist all the government agencies get ready for possible "climate surprises" coming up.

Unfortunately, the NRC was only tasked to look at the next ten years. The biggest surprises might come a decade or two later. Climate change is definitely a subject for long-term study and planning.

At least we know: the government has been told.

I have to wonder, how much will the intelligence agencies share with other government agencies, and the public? As we learned from 911, critical information can become compartmentalized. Right now, governments in some countries are either publicly denying climate change, or trying to avoid talking about it. If their intelligence agencies see a real threat, will we even find out in time to protect ourselves?

Climate change is a global problem unfolding in various ways across the world. A massive flood in Beijing or Mumbai might begin a financial or political domino effect reaching us at home. The report suggests a network of rapid information sharing between America, her allies, and other governments - as fast-developing climate events arise. But Pakistan considers things like rainfall statistics a national secret. India wants to sell the info to the U.S. Satellites can only do so much.

John Steinbruner has blogged about a book by Fred Guterl, the Executive Editor of Scientific American. It's called "Fate of the Species: Why the Human Race May Cause its Own Extinction and How We Can Stop It." Find an abbreviated version of that book here at Scientific American.

I ask Dr. Steinbruner whether the panel of National Research Council experts considered the possibility that runaway climate change could bring about the human extinction.


One surprising result of the National Research Council study was the possibility of building better communities.

Climate instability may not be all bad. Tyrants may have a harder time subjugating people where climate stress changes communications and social relations. The victims may unite into new political formations.

Maybe people will develop a larger sense of a shared Earth.

It seems that people engulfed in the climate emergency, whether they live in Asia or the Rockaways of New York - have to create an instant community of self-help. Just look at the way Occupy movement members jumped in to help in the hardest hit areas. They were very effective, without government help.

Maybe we'll see more localization and resilience developing, as big weather events strike with more regularity. Will a more stressful climate change social organization?

John D. Steinbruner has written a lot of technical books on security and public policy, but also a novel "The Secular Monastery". It's an intriguing look at a society where information is used for the public good. That is a novel idea. Find more about that book here.


Jonathan Kaufman

Next we turn to unreported news: huge oil spills continue in Nigeria. In America, BP may pony up over 4 billion dollars in damages for their Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico. But in Nigeria, none of big oil corporations are fined for their decades of pollution. The fisher people lose their livelihoods; vast areas of the Niger Delta are plagued with oil spills and leaks.

But the government of Nigeria gets most of its income from oil revenues, not from taxpayers. Leaders there know where the money comes from, and more or less work for the oil multinationals like Shell, Exxon/Mobil and the usual suspects.

American and European multinationals are dodging the law and wreaking havoc with nature and local people. From the Washington studios of WPFW Pacifica radio, Ecoshock correspondent Gerri Williams reports.

Gerri's guest is Jonathan Kaufman, an attorney with EarthRights International. That organization finds ways to give a voice to the dispossessed, polluted and wronged in countries where justice is in short supply.

Kaufman describes the on-going oil mess in Nigeria, and the lack of redress. America imports lots of Nigerian oil, as does Europe. But hardly anyone covers the corruption and outright murder going on there.

What to do? The Shell oil company is being sued for damages in a local court in the Netherlands.


Others have brought a suit all the way to the American Supreme Court. The discussion there should concern all of us. As you know, corporations have been designated as "persons" - people with rights. The current Supreme Court strengthened those corporate rights in the case of Citizens United.

But as Kaufman explains, there is a law dating back to the pirate days of 1789, as America's fundamental laws were drawn up. As I understand it, any person profiting from illegal action abroad could be brought to justice in an American court. Well.... corporations are "persons" - so this law should apply to big oil companies like Exxon or Shell. All of a sudden, lawyers are trying to argue corporations cannot be held responsible for things like genocide or pollution they cause or fund. They can't have it both ways.

So this is an interview for those interested in the mysteries of Nigeria, but also for everyone following the legal rights corporations are claiming for themselves, versus the public interest.

Find Jonathan Kaufman's blog here.

Gerri Williams did a great job getting this interview.


Hans Verholme

Last summer, Germany - that industrial power of Europe - had enough renewable energy to sustain their entire grid. Daphne Wysham from the Institute for Policy Studies was in Berlin to find out how they did it. Daphne is the long-time Earthbeat Radio.

In Berlin, sitting beside the River Spree, outside the new German parliament buildings, Daphne sat down with energy and climate expert Hans Verholme.

The interview is important, because Verholme describes what works to make a country go for green energy. The population gets involved because they can make money at it too. Distributed energy is more important than giant wind or solar farms, and more resilient.

The struggle to keep the big energy and transmission corporations from ruining the green revolution never ends, Verholme says. But so far it's working in Germany, and Verholme has good advice for people in North America who want that same energy security along with a safer climate.

I wish I had a transcript of this interview. Anyone wanting to volunteer should email me at radio [at]ecoshock.org so we don't get duplication.


Again my thanks this week to all those who donated to keep Radio Ecoshock going. The "Donate" button is at the top right of this blog. Your donations let me concentrate on developing big stories.

The Kevin Anderson show two weeks ago continues to reverberate. Discussion continues on that blog item. Please note I added a link to the full transcript provided by a Radio Ecoshock listener. That's very helpful.

The Cabot Institute, who hosted Anderson's lecture "Real Clothes for the Emperor: Facing the challenges of climate change" posted a video of the whole lecture on this page.

Craig K. Comstock wrote about Anderson's talk in the Huffington Post, and linked to the Radio Ecoshock show.

Another listener sent me a link to another block-buster speech of climate bleakness. I'm working on that for your program next week.

This has been Radio Ecoshock. Find more free mp3 downloads at our web site, ecoshock.org

I'm Alex Smith. Thank you for listening.


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Kevin Anderson: What They Won't Tell You About Climate Catastrophe

2012-11-21 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)

Scientists and officials are not telling the public the awful truth: we are hurtling toward catastrophic climate change. A review, summary and critique of an earth-breaking speech by Prof. Kevin Anderson, Deputy Director of the Tyndall Centre in Britain. Speaking to the Cabot Institute in Bristol November 6th, Anderson told the sold-out crowd our future is not possible. Radio Ecoshock 121114 1 hour.

Professor Kevin Anderson

Are the climate deniers right? Are some scientists colluding with government to hide the truth about climate change? "Yes", according to top British scientist Kevin Anderson - but not the scandal you've heard about. Top scientists and government reports won't tell you we are heading toward catastrophic climate change. Emissions are skidding out of control, leading us to a world six degrees Centigrade hotter on average, much faster than anyone thought possible. Why doesn't the public know?

Why are world conferences still talking about staying below 2 degrees, as though that is possible?

In a devastating speech at the University of Bristol Tuesday November 6th, 2012, Professor Kevin Anderson accused too many climate scientists of keeping quiet about the unrealistic assessments put out by governments, and our awful odds of reaching global warming far above the proposed 2 degree safe point.

In fact, says Anderson, we are almost guaranteed to reach 4 degrees of warming, as early as 2050, and may soar far beyond that - beyond the point which agriculture, the ecosystem, and industrial civilization can survive.

All this comes from one of the world's top climate scientists, plugged in to the latest research and numbers. Kevin Anderson is from the UK's premier climate modeling institution, the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, and the University of Manchester. He delivered the speech "Real Clothes for the Emperor, Facing the Challenges of Climate Change" at the Cabot Institute of the University of Bristol in Britain.

His estimates are backed up by recent reports from the International Energy Agency, and now the global accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers. I also quote from Joe Romm's blog at thinkprogress.org, and a comment by Lewis Cleverdon from Wales, in the Transition blog at transitionculture.org.

I'm Alex Smith for Radio Ecoshock. In this program, I'm going to play selections from Kevin Anderson's latest speech, accompanied by some explanation and references to other sources. Anderson speaks very quickly, assuming a highly informed European audience, and includes some technical data and reports unknown to most of us. So we're going to work through this together.


All music on this program is by Suvarna, with her co-conspirator Ravi, and guest Egyptian percussionist Hossam Ramzy. The album is "Energia" on Etherean Records. Suvarna, a world music maker, has another couple of albums with White Swan Records. We end this Radio Ecoshock show with a special single she sent to Radio Ecoshock. It's dead on. The song is "Atmosphere's Lament".

Suvarna's home page.


For the first time in seven years, I have to ask for your help. I've always paid the whole cost of Radio Ecoshock. Now my income has gone down, while production and distribution costs are going up. You can help this radio program keep going by clicking on the donate button on our web site at ecoshock.org - or on the blog at ecoshock.info - look on the upper right hand side of this page for the "Donate" button. My thanks to listeners who made that donation last week.

Radio Ecoshock is the second biggest environment show anywhere. We run the world's largest free green audio download site. Won’t you become part of the program?



This week's show on Kevin Anderson in CD Quality (56 MB).

Or try the faster downloading, lower quality Lo-Fi version (best to share on social media...)


A Radio Ecoshock listener made this transcript of the talk, as a .pdf file.


Here is a 58 minute radio edit of Anderson's speech for those wanting to rebroadcast. It could be even shorter if you cut the intro and provide your own.

This version is also great for busy people downloading the speech for their IPOD, mp3 player, phone or whatever. To save space you can use the "Lo-Fi" version, which is less than 14 megabytes.

Find the complete and full original speech, just over an hour long, as recorded by Alex Smith here. My thanks to Chris at Sheffield IndyMedia for telling me about this important lecture in advance.

Find the helpful slides (including the graphs) for this Kevin Anderson speech here.

You may also want to check out Kevin Anderson's first chapter of a recently published book, “Climate, Development and Equity”.

That's available online here: Kevin Anderson: “Climate Change going beyond dangerous: brutal numbers and tenuous hope”


Anderson begins his talk with a source that is hardly known as green or radical. Fatih Birol, Chief Economist and Director of the International Energy Agency has warned on our current energy pathway the global mean temperature will rise by 3.5 degrees C - over 7 degrees F - over pre-industrial levels by 2040. For those counting, that's just 28 years from now. The IEA predicts 4 degrees rise by 2050, and 6 degrees by 2100.

In his book, "Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet", and the National Geographic series based on the book, Mark Lynas says at +4 degrees C "Southern Europe will become unlivable due to extreme heat. The West Antarctic ice sheet will melt away and add another 5 meters to global sea level." At +6 degrees C, the Amazon forest long ago burned in a giant fireball, and all the polar ice melted, Lynas simply says "we will all be dead." The short You tube version is here.

Fatih Birol of the IEA says we have only five years to change our energy system - or have it changed for us. We'll talk more about that short time frame later.



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Dirty Overload - Overpopulation to the Tar Sands

2012-11-21 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)

Film-maker Mike Freedman says we've hit "Critical Mass" toward extinction by over-population. Bill McKibben tells me why everybody in the world needs to battle the Tar Sands. Council of Canadians founder Maude Barlow links dirty energy to dirty politics. And native leader Caleb Behn on his fracked land, poisoned lives, and linking up around the world. With previews from film "Fractured Land". Radio Ecoshock 121121


Radio Ecoshock show November 21st, in CD Quality (56 MB)

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MIKE FREEDMAN ON HIS NEW FILM "CRITICAL MASS" (overpopulation) in CD Quality or Lo-Fi


Athabasca-Chipeweyan leader Caleb Behn (10 min) in CD Quality or Lo-Fi


Council of Canadians founder Maude Barlow with Tar Sands overview in CD Quality or Lo-Fi


Director Mike Freedman

To make a bomb, you need critical mass. In the nuclear world, "critical mass" is the amount of radioactive material required, in the right shape, to create a self-sustaining chain reaction, and maybe a devastating explosion.

Millions of people around the world are wondering if we are heading toward that moment. Film maker Mike Freedman set out to document the really big picture, the forces that could culminate in disaster for humanity, and most living things.

Mike and I began by talking about another short documentary he posted on Vimeo about the Occupy London protests. It's called "Between Two Mirrors - Occupy London".

Several of Freedman's interview subjects have been on Radio Ecoshock, including Robert Rapier, Bill Rees, Richard Heinberg, and John Michael Greer. But he has Bill Rees and zoologist Desmond Morris, author of the "The Naked Ape", talking about population. It's a cast of alternative thinker all-stars, on a nearly taboo subject these days. Even environment groups don't want to touch overpopulation - despite the huge impact an extra 80,000 or 200,000 new bodies a day has on this small planet.

Desmond Morris talks about the meme of "we'll go to space". Great, but by then, we'd have to launch 200,000 people a day! That's a lot of space ships. The film "Critical Mass" is pretty well finished in production, but needs to raise another $30,000 to pay for the rights for all the wierd and wonderful archival footage Mike Freedman weaves in. Find out how you can help launch this film at critcalmassfilm.com


Then we go to the Tar Sands, plus the network of proposed mega-pipelines which will let them double in size. Not to mention super-tankers on Canada's stormy west coast, or going out of Vancouver's gorgeous harbor. NASA scienstist James Hansen clearly says if we burn all the oil from the Canadian Tar Sands, it's game over for the planet's climate (at least for us mammals). Now the American government has just agreed to big leases in Utah to start a Tar Sands operation there. Don't do it Utah! Listen to the growing mess of poison in Alberta Canada.


Caleb Behn at TedX (video here)

Listen to Caleb Behn, the lawyer-in-training and native leader who grew up in the Athabascan region. Behn's talk to a few hundred people in Burnaby B.C. (a suburb of Vancouver) on October 25th was short and bittersweet. A people already weakened by colonization is being systematically poisoned by air and water pollution from the Alberta Tar Sands.

I mix in some clips from the new film "Fractured Land" by Damien Gilles. That isn't out yet. Find a trailer at fracturedland.com.

As a British Columbia resident, even I didn't know the full extent of gas fracking in the remote north eastern part of the province. It's the world's biggest single fracking operation. The government just ran a multibillion dollar power line up to the region, bringing electricity for the first time, just to power all the gas fracking rigs (and maybe a mine or two). The wild land there is being industrialized at a huge rate, while whole rivers of water are turned into toxic waste. It's painful just to hear about it.


Bill McKibben was there. His speech has already been posted at radio4all.net by the Redeye Collective.

In the Q and A, I asked McKibben why my many American listeners should bother with what is happening in a remote part of northern Canada? "They don't call it global warming for nothing." McKibben replied. You can debate about second hand smoking, but second hand carbon warms our whole world. Folks in from the far Pacific Islands right to the Rockaways of New York all pay the heavy price of burning the world's dirtiest energy, the Tar Sands oil.


The program ends with Maude Barlow, famous in Canada and the world. She founded the Council of Canadians, co-founded of the world water rights group Blue Planet Project, is a founding member of the San Francisco–based International Forum on Globalization, and a Councillor with the Hamburg-based World Future Council. Barlow has written more than a dozen books.

Barlow gives us a frightening overview of the Tar Sands, the pipelines that will release this dirty oil to the world, and the dirty politics behind it. A worthy listen.


We got a good response to our first-ever appeal for donations. It was great to get support from all over the world, from Australia to Scandinavia.

American listeners were especially generous. Happy Thanksgiving to all those in the States.

Radio Ecoshock is about half way to the amount needed to fund the program into the New Year. If you would like to contribute, please hit the donate button on the upper right of this blog.

You can use PayPal, or any credit card (you don't have to be a member of Paypal.) Please remember to fill in the amount first, and THEN choose your country, to get the right options to continue.

Last week's program on Kevin Anderson set a new record for blog reads and downloads. Apparently a lot of people know the climate situation is worse that we have been told. The Cabot Institute at the University of Bristol is working on a video version of the event. I'll let you know when that is ready.

Coming up: we'll talk about climate change spooks, and then a program to help you grow your own food right in the city.

Alex Smith

Radio Ecoshock


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Ravaging Tide or Renewable World?

2012-11-07 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)

SUMMARY: Can big cities like New York or Washington protect against storm surge and rising seas? Three interviews. Mike Tidwell, author of "The Ravaging Tide: Strange Weather, Future Katrinas, and the Coming Death of America’s Coastal Cities." Professor J. Court Stevenson, University of Maryland, on city surge defenses around the world. Daphne Wysham interviews German Green Parliamentarian Hermann Ott: leading the way to renewables before climate collapse. Radio Ecoshock 121107 1 hour.

FREE DOWNLOADS: Download/listen to show in CD Quality (56 MB)

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You can listen to individual interviews from the program, in CD quality or Lo-Fi.

Author and activist Mike Tidwell in CD quality or Lo-Fi

Professor J. Court Stevenson, storm surge expert in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Hermann Ott, German Green Parliamentarian in CD Quality or Lo-Fi


As the American election plays out, we start out with this quote from famed NASA scientist James Hansen:

"Neither party wants to offend the fossil fuel industry. They want to win the election. And they know the power of the fossil fuel industry. You can’t turn on your television without seeing these advertisements about clean coal, clean tar sands, and the claim that there’s more jobs associated with fossil fuels than with other energies. That’s of course not true, but they’re hammering that into the voters heads.

And so if anyone challenges the fossil fuel industry, they know they’re going to lose the money that they get from the fossil fuel industry. And secondly, they’re going to have the fossil fuel industry against them in the election....

... The politicians are not willing to say that we cannot burn all the fossil fuels without guaranteeing a different planet — and cheating our children.

That was NASA scientist James Hansen, speaking on the Young Turks on Current TV.

I'm Alex Smith. No matter who gets elected in the United States, the fossil fuel companies won. This year, big oil, coal and gas made more money than anyone in the history of money. A Supreme Court decision called "Citizens United" let big corporations spend hundreds of millions to fund politicians.

But there was another judgment made recently. In the court of nature, reality has spoken. Deny climate change all the way to the bank, but we will all pay billions, even pay with our lives, as Earth's climate is destabilized. The residents of New York and New Jersey got an ugly taste of the "different planet" James Hansen has warned us about for the past 25 years.

Can we protect New York City from the next big surge of the rising seas? What about Washington and Baltimore? What happens to all that expensive real estate with ocean-front views? We'll talk with a scientist about storm surge controls around the world. It will cost tens of billions, but as always, the cost of doing nothing is even more.

Of course, we can still prevent the worst by switching to renewable energy. Daphne Wysham brings us a key interview from Germany, where renewables are booming. Hermann Ott is a Member of the German Federal Parliament. But even he knows renewables can't power our current over-amped civilization.

But first we're going to hear from the man who wrote the book on New York, predicting the whole mess we've just seen in a book published six years ago, Mike Tidwell.

Ah New York. Let’s warm up with Billy Joel's "Miami 2017" - rewritten for New York after Sandy, and performed live at the NBC Red Cross fundraiser November 2nd.

MIKE TIDWELL, author and activist.

Who could have foreseen the amount of damage Hurricane Sandy caused in New York City and New Jersey? Mike Tidwell sure did. A half dozen years ago Tidwell published his book titled "The Ravaging Tide: Strange Weather, Future Katrinas, and the Coming Death of America’s Coastal Cities".

Mike is the founder and director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, a grassroots nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness about the impacts and solutions for global warming in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. He's also a film-maker and award-winning environmentalist. According to his web site bio: "In 2003, Tidwell received the Audubon Naturalist Society's prestigious Conservation Award. Two years later he received an honorary Doctorate of Letters from Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, Louisiana."

We began by talking about Tidwell's predictions for New York City attacked by a storm surge - 6 years before it happened. It was dead on. You can check for yourself, by reading for free the online version of "The Ravaging Tide" at the Chesapeake Climate Action Network web site. Tidwell tells me the paperback edition even had an illustration of flooded New York City. Simple geography shows what could happen, and it did.

Mike used the same techniques to study and write about the impacts of a hurricane on New Orleans. That was published in 2003 - two years before Katrina struck - in his book "Bayou Farewell, The Rich Life and Tragic Death of Louisiana's Cajun Coast".

As so often happens in human affairs, people just weren't ready for those books, until the worst happened.

On behalf of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Mike Tidwell held a national press briefing about what could have happened if Sandy had turned further South, into the Washington, Baltimore, and general area of Maryland and Virginia.

He was backed by two scientists from the University of Maryland. Dr. William Boicourt, Professor of oceanography, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Sciences spoke about the unique possibilities for storm damage both in New York and New Jersey, but also further south in Maryland and D.C.

The second speaker is our second guest in this show, Dr. Court Stevenson, Professor of coastal ecology and sea-level rise, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Sciences.

Read about it here. Find a copy of that press conference audio here. Note the audio begins part way through Mike Tidwell's opening remarks.

In the press conference Tidwell explained a new concept that everyone needs to grasp, after Hurricane Sandy. I'm talking about the continual line in scientific circles, echoed by the press, saying "You can never blame a single storm like Sandy on climate change". Mike explains the new way of looking at such events, as proposed by George Lakoff, the well-known professor of linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley. Lakoff just wrote a piece in the Huffington Post, saying Sandy was "systemically caused" by climate change. Read that here. It's important, because it helps us get through the insanity of seeing event after event so obviously driven by climate change, but cautious scientists have not found a way to say so.

We need to get the concept of "systemic causation" out to more scientists, and the public, fast enough to stem the rising tide of climate disasters.

Mike Tidwell goes on to explain several climatic factors which lined up to make Sandy into something worse than seen before. Key is the ocean heat. Sandy tracked north following a Gulf Stream that was about 3 degrees C hotter than normal for this time of year. That allowed Sandy to gain power, even at the end of October, quite late for a storm to go that far north. In fact, the interior low pressure of Sandy was lower than any storm ever measured north of Virginia.

Maybe Fox News and Mitt Romney don't believe in climate change, at least not this week for Mitt - but insurance companies sure do. Mike Tidwell tells us that in 2006, All State insurance stopped issuing new policies within 20 miles of the Atlantic coast, due to the higher risk of storm damage. They specifically talk about climate change.

Likewise, Tidwell received a notice from his own insurance, Travelers Insurance. They said rates for coverage near the coast must go up, due to higher risks associated with climate change. Travelers included a brochure showing the typical American house, with a tornado and dark storm clouds all around. They cited information from the re-insurance giant Swiss Re, about climate change.

Mike notes that this message did not come from Obama or Al Gore. It comes from businesses that are neither Republican nor Democrats, but firms with their own money at risk.

However, the insurance companies are caught in a difficult bind. They don't say too much against the fossil fuel companies as the cause of this developing destruction. That is because insurance corporations make money not on your premium, but on investing that premium in the stock market, among other places. Where can you make good money on stocks? By investing in oil, gas, and coal companies. So the insurance industry ends up investing in the very businesses that could put them out of business. Tidwell hopes that industry will wake up, and begin to criticize the fossil fuel companies for destabilizing the climate.

I suggested to Mike that talking about "the Coming Death of America's Coastal Cities" is pretty provocative. Is there really a possibility we'll have to abandon some coastal cities?

Although Tidwell suggested that attention-getting subtitle came from his publishers, he hopes that humans can turn things around before the climate goes that far astray. But "yes" if we burn all the fossil fuels we can get, as currently, the sea will rise more than 10 meters by about 2020, or 30 feet, if the ice on Greenland melts. At that point, most of the cities on the eastern and western seaboards would have to be abandoned. There is no surge gate possible to protect against that kind of sea level rise.

Sea level has already gone up one foot in one hundred years, and that rate is accelerating. That is one reason Sandy hit New York City and the Jersey Shore so badly. Even with the emissions we have now, scientists expect the sea level will go up three feet, or one meter, by 2100. That means our current high tide becomes a permanent high tide. The next "normal" will be far above what we have experienced now, even in Sandy.

Our listeners will get some information about building defenses for major cities from Professor J. Court Stevenson. But it seems to me, now that we've failed to control carbon emissions for so long, now we have to fight a war on two fronts. We've got to try to protect the big cities, at a huge cost, at the same time as we re-tool our entire energy system and transportation too. In a time when governments are already going broke, should we just concentrate on one or the other, adaptation or mitigation, like switching to renewables?

Mike says due to the warming we have already created in the oceans, some adaptation will be required, no matter what. New York city will require flood gates, as London has, to survive the coming decades.

Outside the cities, wealthy people, and some ordinary retirees, have been building more and more housing with ocean views. Maybe the wakeup call by Hurricane Sandy could be another blow to the American real estate market, as these ocean front properties become a liability instead of million-dollar investments. That's a blow to the fragile economy nobody is talking about yet.

The whole world economy is built on sea-side city ports. The great metropolises of the world, from London to New York, Shanghai, Los Angeles, and Bombay - they are all built right on the sea. To be honest, I'm wondering if that one-two combination of steadily rising sea levels adding to more extreme storms will just deal our civilization some kind of knock-out punch. What do you think?


Could New York have been saved from the storm surge of Hurricane Sandy? Can we protect other cities, like Washington D.C. or Baltimore? What about the rest of near-coastal residents?

Dr. J. Court Stevenson is a Professor of coastal ecology and sea-level rise, at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Sciences. Because Stevenson has traveled the world looking at storm surge and defenses against sea level rise, he brings a unique and informed perspective.

The devastation in New York State and New Jersey from Hurricane Sandy was shocking, but was it predictable? Professor Stevenson admits he knew professionally this could happen - but the violence and damage wrought by Sandy caught many professional off guard. Nobody expected so much, so soon.

In the audio interview, we go into a discussion about what New York City could do to protect itself against this happening again - which could even be next year for all we know. It's complicated by the three entrances to New York Harbor. One main channel is used by most shipping - so this would need more flexibility and speed in opening and closing.

Although it's expensive, Stevenson seems to prefer the option just being installed to protect the city of Venice. Venice has had flood problems from tide surge for about 30 years. Often the famous medieval plazas are flooded, along with palaces and shops. The city is raising some plazas, and some buildings have installed a way to insert board thresholds to deter lesser flooding.

But the main defense of the city will be huge flood gates which lie on the bottom until they are filled with air. They rise quite quickly to block an incoming storm surge. Such a device for the main channel for New York City could cost as much at ten billion dollars, Stevenson suggests. But that would be repaid by stopping the damage from a single storm like Hurricane Sandy, which may cost much more. There is always a problem of finding political and popular will to spend large amounts of money, and keep building for years and years all the levees and protection required, but what choice is there?

In Britain, the City of London built their flood control gates on the Thames River. Known as the Thames Barrier, it was built following deadly floods - which is often the case: cities don't spend big money to build defenses until after a disaster. And sometimes not even then. Construction on the Thames Barrier began in 1974, and was mostly finished by 1982. Find the Wikipedia entry on it here.

However, due to rising seas and more violent storms, the rotating cylinders in the Thames Barrier may not be able to handle coming surges of sea water. The British are actively looking at ways to boost the current system, or replace it, to protect London.

The Dutch have the greatest system of flood control. They have worked on it for many decades - otherwise large parts of the Netherlands would be under water. Studying the Dutch system is very time consuming. Professor Stevenson has been over there, but it's hard to take it all in. The city of Rotterdam has a flood surge gate, but Stevenson doesn't think that design would be as good in America.

The whole river delta of Bangladesh is prone to flooding from tropical cyclones. In the Northern Hemisphere we call these great storms "hurricanes" while in the South they are called "cyclones".

Bangladesh does what it can to prepare for such flooding, but building large surge control gates seems far beyond their national budget. So the poor people living there will suffer most from the rising seas we in the West have caused by burning so much fossil fuel.

One application Stevenson described caught my ear. In Bangladesh, they built storm shelters that are about 24 feet above ground level, and strong enough to withstand cyclone winds. People can go there during the storm, and have a platform for the week or more it takes for the water to recede. The shelter doesn’t protect anything below, it just saves lives.

At first glance, that sounds like something the residents of the New Jersey shoreline could have used. Of course we know most people should have evacuated to higher ground. They had four days of serious warnings. Then we wonder, if the government builds storm shelters, would that safety net just encourage more people to stay and "ride it out" instead of evacuating? In my opinion, the whole phrase "ride it out" should go out of use, as it's a dangerous phrase meaning "risking death". It's sad to think the American culture of distrusting government (as valid as that might often be) and individualism means people can't get out of the way of a major hurricane.

Getting back to the interview with Court Stevenson, he tells us about the risk if such a super-storm turns further south. The main part of Washington D.C. is high enough to avoid flooding, but the famous plazas at the shoreline, with many historical buildings, would be submerged if the surge was 14 feet as it was in New York. Even the basement of the National Archives, holding many treasures, could be flooded.

But could such a storm surge happen in the smaller space of Chesapeake Bay? Both Stevenson and Maryland oceanographer Dr. William Boicourt agreed it is possible. The Bay has certain characteristics that can create a tidal "resonance" that could reverse the flow of the river all the way up to Baltimore, which could also flood.

Once again, it should be possible to build flood protection for D.C. and Baltimore, but at a cost of billions. That needs to be seriously studied, now that we are committed to sea level rise and hotter oceans that power big storms. There is less to anchor the flood gates - and we need to be very careful about the rich marine life in Chesapeake Bay, and the Potomac River. Stopping or changing water flows might be damaging to the natural system around there.

Stevenson tells us the U.S. Navy, which has a big base at Norfolk Virginia, is very aware of sea level rise and the threat it poses.

When the federal disaster preparedness agency, FEMA, looked into protecting D.C., they wanted to reclassify some areas as flood prone. Local business owners were against that, as they feared their insurance rates would go up.

North Carolina proposed a law that would permit planning agencies from using future projections of sea level rise. Only the past could be considered. This is a bit like the legendary British King Canute standing at the sea, forbidding the waves to come in. He got wet. Stevenson says that law died in the house, but it's a tragic example of the resistance to facing climate reality.

The Maryland coast flooded badly in 1933. It's interesting to note that storms were not given official names until the end of the Second World War.

Virginia is doing somewhat better in its preparation for rising seas, but nowhere near enough.

Similarly, when the issue of where to build along the low coast comes up, States often call on a panel which has some scientists, but generally more real estate developers. It's no surprise their judgments are generally to build, build, build. Will that be reconsidered now? Should all other tax payers be hit with the costs of bailing out those who recklessly build in flood zones along the Atlantic? In some areas, it might be cheaper for the government to buy out property owners who cannot sustain their location. It's called "managed retreat". Learn those words of the future. But should we all pay for that?

I ask Professor Stevenson if this flood "hardening" is just a stop-gap measure, considering the high sea levels coming, as we fail to restrain our greenhouse gas emissions. He agrees, we must combine things like flood gates with drastic cuts in emissions. There is no mechanical way to stop a big rise in sea level, other than abandoning parts of coastal cities.


On the other side of the Atlantic, it seems like a different planet. Politicians, the media, and the broad public long ago accepted the science of climate change. Under the stress of depending on imported energy, Germany and Denmark decided to make the switch to renewables.

But in Germany, progressive parties like the Greens were elected. They didn't want to rely on big corporate power either. So Germany set a severe target: to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to just 40 percent of their 1990 levels by 2020. Germany is ahead of schedule. In a period during the summer of 2012, they were able to power their entire electrical needs from renewables alone - in the most highly industrialized nation in Europe.

Daphne Wysham, long-time host of Earthbeat Radio, is now with the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington D.C. She travelled to Germany and Denmark last summer to discover how this renewable energy renaissance happened. Here Daphne speaks with Hermann Ott. He's a lawyer with the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy - but on leave, while he sits as a Member of the German Federal Parliament for the Green Party.

Find the Hermann Ott interview transcript here.


In the radio show, we go out as we came in, with more from Bill Joel at the Hurricane Sandy benefit concert live in New York November 2nd, hosted by NBC for the Red Cross. The song is "Miami 2017" and I found it on You tube. The whole concert was supposed to be available online at the ABC site, but it seemed stuck when I tried to view it. Maybe there were just so many people trying to watch it?

By the way, downloads of our programs doubled in October, going over 50,000 shows downloaded in one month. My thanks to everyone who listened and shared our programs.

The bandwidth costs are going up. If you can help keep this ball rolling, getting some sanity out there, please hit the new "donate" button on our blog, or at the web site, www.ecoshock.org

I'm Alex Smith. Thanks for listening, and caring about our world.


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Sandy: Storms in the Emergency Room

2012-10-30 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)

Storms in the Emergency Room - Hurricane Sandy, coal & nukes - it's not pretty. From D.C. as storm hits, Earthbeat's Daphne Wysham on the climate connection. From Australia, Greenpeace's Georgina Woods on huge coal expansion. Then a Canadian plan to dump nuclear waste right next to Lake Huron & world's biggest running reactor. Radio Ecoshock 121031 1 hour

Download/listen in CD Quality (54 MB)

Or the faster downloading, lower quality Lo-Fi (14 MB)

MUSIC THIS SHOW: clips from:

"Secrets" by Xavier Rudd.

Or it your prefer the live acoustic version...

Rudd is coming to the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver on November 16, 2012.

"When the Grid Goes Down" (by Craig Anderton)

This one is really about what happens after a big solar flare knocks out the electric grid behind civilization. It's all in the You tube video. I did a Radio Ecoshock feature on this possible catastrophe on November 5th, 2010, 15 minutes of audio here. But this time I played it for the millions without power on the U.S. east coast and Canada, thanks to Hurricane Sandy.


Welcome to Radio Ecoshock - the world's emergency room. At least that's what it feels like lately, as we begin to taste the high carbon future on Planet Earth.

North Americans are bragging about pumping out more oil from dirtier sources, even as drought kills off the crops, and now a humongous record Hurricane spins up the East Coast. We talk with green radio reporter Daphne Wysham just as the storm hits in the American capital, Washington D.C.

How is the brand new climate spiking these storms with steroids? I'll tell you what top scientists are saying.

At the other end of the world, following fires and floods of their own, the Australians are straining to break their own dismal carbon record. My head hurts trying to understand why such nice people want to double their coal exports. Australia is already the biggest coal exporter in the world, keeping black smokestacks in Japan, Taiwan, China, and now India pouring out more and more carbon dioxide into the overloaded atmosphere. We get the goods down under from Greenpeace Pacific Atmosphere and Energy Campaigner Georgina Woods.

You get to breathe that pollution, and we all get hit with the climate damage.

I'll wrap up with another story with warning sirens all over it. Canada is already building its own "Yucca North" - a porous hole where they'll dump nuclear waste. The best they can do is the worst they can do: the supposed deep geologic deposit is just limestone caves right beside the Great Lakes - up water from millions of people in Chicago, Cleveland, Buffalo, Toronto and Montreal. Brennain Woods of NorthWatch tells us how the aging Bruce Nuclear plant - the largest running nuclear complex on the planet, threatens the whole world.

I'm Alex Smith. Take a deep breath. We're all heading into a state of ecological shock.


Let's start with the story covered by every network, with the part they leave out: global climate disruption makes deadly and costly storms like Hurricane Sandy much more violent. More than two decades ago, scientists told us this would happen. Now it's here.

How does it work? First, you need to know: we've created far more heat on this planet than we feel on land. The world's great oceans are absorbing more than half the heat held in by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

The Gulf Stream, that great ocean current running off North America's East Coast, until it warms Britain and Northern Europe, is heating up.

According to the UK Met Office, the government body measuring such things, there is a huge area off the mid-Atlantic coast that is 2.3 degrees Fahrenheit, or 1.3 degrees hotter than average. That doesn't sound impressive, but that much heat over a giant expanse of ocean is tremendous.

But it gets worse. The Gulf Stream itself is currently 5 degrees Fahrenheit above normal. Hurricane Sandy cruised up this Gulf Stream, gathering up both energy and extra water moisture in her half-continent sized clouds. As meteorologist and former storm chaser Jeff Masters tells us, the Atlantic was unusually warm right to the end of October, making Sandy stronger and wetter.

Did the record amount of open ocean in the Arctic this summer help the Atlantic stay warmer longer? Scientists aren't sure yet. Jennifer Francis of Rutgers, a recent guest on Radio Ecoshock, says the blocking weather in the last two weeks is consistent with what her team observed from the melting of sea ice in the Arctic. Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmosphere Research agrees the Atlantic currents are 5 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than normal, and he attributes 1 degree of that is directly due to global warming. But he doesn't believe the Arctic melt this summer and fall contributed to it. The jury is still out on that - but the vast majority of scientists agree mega-storms like Sandy are more likely to become the new normal, due to climate disruption by human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases.

Of course there are skeptics, some of them well-paid by the fossil fuel lobby.

For example, Patrick J. Michaels of the Cato Institute, who we know has received lots of money from the Koch Brothers and others in the powerful oil and coal lobby, says a storm like Sandy could have happened on a cooling planet as well.

He writes Andy Revkin of the New York Times:

"I predict confidently that we will survive Sandy, which should not be a tropical cyclone at landfall."

Another ploy used by the climate deniers is to find papers showing there were big storms hundreds of thousands or millions of years ago. In many of those cases, carbon dioxide was high then too, and there was a "hothouse" world. And anyway, so what? We're dealing with now, and humans have ramped up the odds of getting a lot of big storms in a short period of time....

Meanwhile, on the ground, what was it like? On Monday night, as the big storm landed in Washington D.C., I spoke with Daphne Wysham. As the cell phone towers swayed, she called for calm.


FROM WASHINGTON, AS THE STORM HIT, DAPHNE WYSHAM, long-time host of "Earthbeat" on Pacifica radio.

It's official. Hurricane Sandy is the largest storm ever to have crossed north of Virginia, greater even than the famous Nor’easter of September 1938, known as "The Long Island Express".

The mainstream media is delivering the news while keeping up the great American silence about the role of climate disruption in this unprecedented storm. That's what we're going to talk about with Daphne Wysham, host of the long-running green radio show "Earthbeat" and now a Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington.

I reached Daphne in her home in D.C., just as Hurricane Sandy washed ashore on Monday. We talk about what it's like to live it out.

You can find links to Daphne Wysham's article about growing past the pat TV coverage of storms, and our need to be frightened. Instead, we need to look at the deep recurring patterns in these disasters, augments by a warming world. Read that at Firedog Lake here.

Here is another great article by Wysham - the Six Stages of Climate Grief published in the Huffington Post.

With Daphne, I mentioned the recent study by Munich Re - the insurance company that sort of insures smaller insurance company. This is the company that sees the big bills after weather disasters. They report that North America in particular has been hit by violent weather, and they think climate change is a big part of that picture.

Find the Munich Re press release here.

You can read more about it in Elizabeth Kolbert's article in The New Yorker. She's always a good read.

Kolbert writes:

"A couple of weeks ago, Munich Re, one of the world’s largest reinsurance firms, issued a study titled “Severe Weather in North America.” According to the press release that accompanied the report, “Nowhere in the world is the rising number of natural catastrophes more evident than in North America.” The number of what Munich Re refers to as “weather-related loss events,” and what the rest of us would probably call weather-related disasters, has quintupled over the last three decades. While many factors have contributed to this trend, including an increase in the number of people living in flood-prone areas, the report identified global warming as one of the major culprits: “Climate change particularly affects formation of heat-waves, droughts, intense precipitation events, and in the long run most probably also tropical cyclone intensity.”

Another good read: "Climate Change Sandy says to US, 'Take That, Idiots!'" in the Huffington Post.

Daphne and I briefly discuss the on-going argument in scientific circles: did the huge Arctic sea ice melt of 2012 help make Sandy larger? Jennifer Francis of Rutgers says "probably yes" while Kevin Trenberth thinks not. You can find more on that in this blog entry by Joe Romm from Climate Progress.

And check out this article about Kevin Trenberth on warming seas fueling big storms. Trenberth, who I trust, writes:

"The sea surface temperatures along the Atlantic coast have been running at over 3C above normal for a region extending 800km off shore all the way from Florida to Canada. Global warming contributes 0.6C to this. With every degree C, the water holding of the atmosphere goes up 7%, and the moisture provides fuel for the tropical storm, increases its intensity, and magnifies the rainfall by double that amount compared with normal conditions.

Global climate change has contributed to the higher sea surface and ocean temperatures, and a warmer and moister atmosphere, and its effects are in the range of 5 to 10%. Natural variability and weather has provided the perhaps optimal conditions of a hurricane running into extra-tropical conditions to make for a huge intense storm, enhanced by global warming influences.

Andy Revkin's Dot Earth blog has more input from scientists, both pro and con, about the link between Hurricane Sandy and climate change.

Jeff Masters, one of the most dependable storm writers on the Net, at wunderground.com, explains the connection between warming ocean waters and bigger storms in this post.

Jeff writes:

"Sandy to feed off near-record warm waters off the mid-Atlantic coast

During September 2012, ocean temperatures off the mid-Atlantic coast in the 5x10° latitude-longitude box between 35 - 40°N, 65 - 75° W were 2.3°F (1.3°C) above average, according to the UK Met Office. This is the 2nd greatest departure from average for ocean temperatures in this region since reliable ocean temperature measurements began over a century ago (all-time record: 2.0°C above average in September 1947.)

These unusually warm waters have persisted into October, and will enable Sandy to pull more energy from the ocean than a typical October hurricane. The warm waters will also help increase Sandy's rains, since more water vapor will evaporate into the air from a warm ocean. I expect Sandy will dump the heaviest October rains on record over a large swath of the mid-Atlantic and New England.

Hurricane rains and climate change

Hurricanes are expected to dump 20% more rain in their cores by the year 2100, according to modeling studies (Knutson et al., 2010). This occurs since a warmer atmosphere holds more water vapor, which can then condense into heavier rains. Furthermore, the condensation process releases heat energy (latent heat), which invigorates the storm, making its updrafts stronger and creating even more rain. We may already be seeing an increase in rainfall from hurricanes due to a warmer atmosphere.

A 2010 study by Kunkel et al. "Recent increases in U.S. heavy precipitation associated with tropical cyclones", found that although there is no evidence for a long-term increase in North American mainland land-falling tropical cyclones (which include both hurricanes and tropical storms), the number of heavy precipitation events, defined as 1-in-5-year events, more than doubled between 1994 - 2008, compared to the long-term average from 1895 - 2008. As I discussed in a 2011 post "Tropical Storm Lee's flood in Binghamton: was global warming the final straw?", an increase in heavy precipitation events in the 21st Century due to climate change is going to be a big problem for a flood control system designed for the 20th Century's climate.

A lot of us have wondered what it will take to get American politicians and media to finally admit climate change is here, and we need to act fast to salvage a livable climate. Some frustrated scientists and green activists think only a major disaster will force this change in thinking. Apparently the big drought of 2012 didn't do it. Even when the Arctic sea ice melts, that doesn't change our plans to drag even more fossil fuel out of the ground. Do you think Hurricane Sandy will help people wake up to climate disruption?"

During the Republican National Convention, presidential candidate Mitt Romney scoffed at efforts to stop rising seas. Now that the storm surge from Hurricane Sandy is threatening the American North East as never before, Bill McKibben of 350.org suggested Romney might want to rethink that. Find the best Bill McKibben article on Sandy here.

Even if we discount the role of global warming in this particular storm, this is a prime example of what the future will look like, as rising seas contribute ever higher storm surges along the U.S. East Coast.

We're also seeing how small our grid-dependent system becomes, when nature starts to roll out her awesome power. I can picture a future when the U.S. economy, and people around the world, just aren't going to be able to recover from being battered by climate disruption.

Of course, some of the scenes from the East Coast, from closed down transportation to empty food shelves and dark homes, will just fuel the growing myth of a Mayan or Christian end-of-days. There is a risk that mythology will grow instead of public acceptance of climate science.


You might think humans would learn from disasters like this. Apparently not yet.

Australia suffered a terrible drought for years, ending farming in parts of the country. The Black Saturday bushfires of 2009 killed 173 people. Then torrential rains flooded out coastal cities and towns.

No matter mate. Australia is steaming full ahead to expand their coal exports into world climate-wrecking status equal to Canada's infamous Tar Sands. Here is what you haven't heard.

Let's tune in to what is happening "down under", with Georgina Woods, Senior Climate and Energy Campaigner for Greenpeace Australia Pacific.

[Woods interview]

Australia is already the world's largest exporter of climate-killing coal. When you add up the thermal coal (for electricity and heat) and the coking coal (to make steel) it's been around 300 million tons of coal a year. Australia is keeping Japan going. Japan is a huge coal importer. But Australian coal also powers Taiwan, more of China every year, and now India.

An Indian company GVK Group just bought into one of the biggest coal conglomerates, run by the climate denier billionairess, Gina Rinehart. Rinehart buys newspapers and TV stations, and then installs deniers like Andrew Bolt into prime time. I feel sorry for the Aussies as this coal-powered media creates a big fog about climate change science.

The other big commercial competitor in Australian media is Rupert Murdoch. His Fox News outlets in America continually shout down climate change. It's obvious the Australian media has been polluted by coal smoke.

What shocks me about the rapid expansion of coal and climate denial in Australia. It seems like such an insult to all those who lost their lives in the horrible fires, big floods, and agricultural droughts that have struck Australia time and time again in recent years. How can anyone doubt the climate is changing after all that?

Then we have the simple fact that the Great Barrier Reef, a treasure to Australia and the world, is bleaching and dying mainly due to global warming. Are Australians ready to let these great coral reefs die, to provide more short-term jobs in the coal mining industry?

Apparently: yes! The government and corporations have just announced a giant new coal find inland in Queensland called Galilee.

They want to set up nine new coal mines there. Currently the biggest coal mines in Australia churn out about 30 million tons a year. Just two Galilee coal mines will produce twice that, 60 million tons a year.

Of course they'll need 5 new coal ports to ship it all out. Several of them are located right in the World Heritage Area allegedly protecting the Great Barrier Reef. These coal ships will navigate the coral reefs, and if there is an accident, it all goes into the coral. Blighty!

Greenpeace Australia has just released a new report "Cooking the Climate and Wrecking the Reef". Find it here.

Greenpeace writes:

"If these mines proceed, when they reach maximum production, the emissions from burning the coal would be 705 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. If the Galilee Basin were a country, it would be the seventh biggest emitter of carbon dioxide pollution from burning fossil fuels in the world.

And apart from becoming a key driver in global warming, these mines will also exact a terrible cost on farms, water supplies and coastal communities."
If all that Australian coal gets burned, that alone could take the carbon dioxide in the world's atmosphere from the current 394 parts per million, to 550 parts per million. We'd be back to the dinosaur climate, with sea level rise over 100 meters!

Find out more on the Greenpeace campaign to stop the coal disaster in Australia here.

That just can't be allowed to happen. The Australian farmers are gathering up to stop their fields from becoming open pit coal mines. Their alliance is called "Lock the Gate." They are also trying to stop coal seam gas.

Australians are getting used to coal revenues in their economy, and to fund everything from hospitals to opera halls. Meanwhile, they can kiss the Great Barrier Reef goodbye, and get ready for the fires and floods to come, produced by that very same coal. It's a dirty business. Australia has limitless solar energy - time to convert to clean, mates!


We started out this program with sirens wailing, as Nature is wheeled into the emergency room. We'll go back to Canada, to Ontario, where nuclear madness is in full bloom. It's only a matter of time until the Great Lakes are irradiated, with millions of people downstream and downwind. And the radioactive trucks are already rolling down the public highways all over North America.

They are calling it "Yucca Mountain North" except it's even worse than that. Canada's most populous Province of Ontario has a dangerous plan to bury radioactive waste from 20 giant nuclear power plants. They want to toss it in limestone caverns right beside one of the Great Lakes. We've reached Brennain Lloyd of the non-profit group "Northwatch" to find out more.

Bruce Nuclear Power station, Ontario Canada.

A publicly-owned Crown Corporation of the Province of Ontario wants to build a "deep geologic repository" right beside the Bruce Power nuclear complex. They are proposing a relatively shallow set of caves - in limestone! That's not like granite or even salt. Limestone is relatively porous.

There is already a waste storage facility there. Now they want to truck in all the "low-level" and "intermediate level" waste from Ontario's 20 reactors. "Intermediate level" is still highly radioactive. It's just everything except the nuclear fuel rods themselves. So it might include things like the filters used to gather radionuclides from the cooling pools. Or parts of old or refurbished reactors. It's very hot stuff.

All of this will just go into limestone caves in their original shipping containers. That's not much protection for the millions and millions of people who live down-lake and downstream in the Great Lakes.

People in Michigan and even Illinois (listening Chicago) could find their water radioactive after a leak. Ditto for the whole Great Lakes coast of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York State (Cleveland, Buffalo). On the Canadian side, the millions living in Toronto and Montreal are downstream. It's super risky, and hardly known to the world.

The Bruce Power nuclear power station is scary enough by itself. Two of the reactors were shut down for safety reasons for 17 years. Now they are back online, after being refurbished, making eight reactors running. That is supposedly the largest number of reactors in a single site anywhere in the world. The design for these Candu reactors is straight out of the 1960's. They've had problems, and then more problems, all along. Why is Ontario still counting on these antiques for nuclear power, after what we saw at Fukushima? It is crazy.

Brennain Lloyd tells us the Province of Ontario, the most populous in Canada, has plenty of alternative energy projects on the go. One of the world's largest solar power facilities just opened in Ontario. Some of those green projects are stopped by the giant subsidies governments pour into these old reactors. Just think what those billions of dollars could go with alternative energy.

[Brennain interview]

I lived in Ontario for years. We were always nervous one of these plants was going to go. The Candu reactors were designed in the 1960's and haven't changed since. The giant Pickering reactor sits right beside the millions of people living in Toronto. It’s been plagued with problems and shutdowns. The Darlington Reactor complex was upwind from my country retreat. You couldn't get away from nuclear worry. I had to move away from all that.

Find out more, and how to help stop this nuclear madness here.

And read this fantastic article "Deep trouble: Nuclear waste burial in the Great Lakes basin", published: Friday, October 12, 2012 by Jim Block, reporter for "the Voice" "Serving northern Macomb & St. Clair counties".

It will curl your hair.


So Hurricane Sandy is just a metaphor for our current condition, to the state we are in. Right now, we are the storm. Someday, when the black clouds clear, maybe we'll all be the rainbow. Don't despair. We need you, each and every one.

One mind awake can become stronger than a thousand zombies sleepwalking in a dying civilization.

I'm Alex Smith. Thank you for listening to Radio Ecoshock, and thank you - really - for caring about your world.


Share: Sandy: Storms in the Emergency Room

Ocean Geoengineering: Serial Climate Hacking

2012-10-23 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)

Serial climate hacker Russ George (Planktos) leads indigenous villagers to dump iron into the sea - a secret geoengineering project off Canada's West Coast. Press conference statements by the Haida Old Massett Village Chief, interview with Living Oceans' Karen Wristen, Russ George clips from interview by Guardian's Martin Lukacs. Radio Ecoshock 121024 1 hour.

Here are the audio files for this week's program:

CD quality (56 MB)

Lo-Fi (faster download, lower quality, most popular, 14 MB)

AUDIO FROM THE PRESS CONFERENCE, Vancouver October 19th. Recorded by Alex Smith.

Old Massett Chief Ken Rea and Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation President John Disney (16 min)

CD quality or Lo-Fi

HSRC Attorney James L. Straight on the legality of the project (11 min)

CD quality or Lo-Fi

The raw audio of the question and answer period with reporters (28 min)

CD quality or Lo-Fi

There are also two transcripts from the press conference. One transcript is of the Chief Rea and John Disney statements. The second transcript is the Question and Answer period.


The world was stunned last week to find a small village of indigenous people had performed a massive experiment off the Pacific Coast of Canada. To no-one surprise, the so-called "rogue climate hacker" Russ George was a lead actor.

How did the salmon beliefs of the Haida combine with the long-time dream of the former CEO of Planktos Corp? Why would an economically challenged village of 700 people spend millions on a high-tech, high risk venture?

As nature shows signs of dying, we can expect more desperate acts.

This is Radio Ecoshock. I'm Alex Smith.

The Old Village of Massett is on the north end of the islands of Haida Gwaii, formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands. It's a hamlet where First Nations people have suffered 70% unemployment the past 15 years. The village on an inlet is partly sheltered from some the strongest storms in the world, washing the island rainforests much of the year.

The salmon runs of Haida Gwaii are much more than the main source of food. There are salmon ceremonies, rich salmon art, the whole culture is infused with this emblematic fish. But the salmon have almost stopped coming. That is why one Haida village was willing to risk millions of dollars on a scheme mainstream science had already abandoned, and formally condemned.

The Haida people were known as fierce warriors, making slaving missions down the Pacific coast in their great sea going canoes. They are are still proud and respected in British Columbia.

The villagers were dealing with one of the world's most persuasive men, a big dreamer certain he knows how to fix the planet, with limitless nuclear energy, with protected forests, or by conquering the oceans for humankind as new fields to be farmed.

Russ George

Russ George fought for years to mount an experiment dumping iron into the open ocean, to create a massive plankton bloom. He almost made it in 2007, with the Weatherbird II. His company, Planktos, came tumbling down amid over-blown claims that never materialized.

Two needs, two dreams met. The Haida villagers set to sea again, longing almost mystically to see the return of their salmon, by feeding tons of iron as a stimulant to plankton. Russ George was onboard the rented fishing boat "Ocean Pearl" promoted to the title of "Chief Scientist".

The evidence indicates Russ George is not a scientist at all, as most people understand that word. He's a social artist, almost a savant, maybe a visionary, but I wouldn't call him a scientist, as I will explain.

Were people misled? Was money misspent by a poor community? Is the world one-step closer toward trying to redesign the land and the sea, in the wake of industrial pollution? We'll hear the voices of those who were there, and investigate some claims, evaluated by real scientists.

I will not demonize anyone here. These are human players, with something to give us, some huge lessons written on the real living canvass of history. We are not talking about tobacco or oil barons killing millions, but rather well-meaning people who perhaps went too far. You will hear for yourself, and reach your own conclusions.


We'll start with an extraordinary event. The unauthorized scheme to fertilize the ocean was uncovered by the ETC Group while at an international conference on biodiversity in Hyderabad, India. Suddenly on October the 15th, the ETC Group broke the story in Britain's Guardian newspaper.

The Haida group involved, and Mr. George, were caught off guard, as a storm of media broke upon the little island community. Representatives from the Old Village of Massett traveled down to Vancouver, to face a solid wall of TV cameras, well-known national newspaper reporters, and this radio producer.

Village of Old Massett Chief Ken Rea

I'm going to play you now my recording of Old Massett Chief Ken Rea, and the Village administrator John Disney, at the press conference October 17, in the Vancouver Aquarium. The event was hosted by Vancouver lawyer Joe Spears. I'll run this straight through, withholding my comments to the end.

Rea/Disney transcript here.

You've just heard Old Massett Village Chief Ken Rea, and village administrator John Disney, explain their venture to drop iron into the Pacific Ocean. They had two goals: to provide more food for salmon, and to claim valuable carbon credits.


I must add the main government on Haida Gwaii, the Council of the Haida Nation, has renounced any involvement in this scheme. In a letter published October 18th, 2012, we read the following:

"The Hereditary Chiefs Council and the Council of the Haida Nation are in no way involved in artificial fertilization through dumping of iron compounds in the ocean around Haida Gwaii.

The consequences of tampering with nature at this scale are not predicable and pose unacceptable risks to the marine environment.

Our people along with the rest of humanity depend on the oceans and cannot leave the fate of the oceans to the whim of the few.

President of the Haida Nation, Guujaaw

It is signed by the President of the Haida Nation, Guujaaw, and the 8 members of the Hereditary Chiefs Council. Read that statement here.

So it is unfair and incorrect to say "The Haida did this". As Chief Ken Rea told the world press, this experiment was undertaken only by the single village of Old Massett, acting on its own authority.

How could that happen? A little later we'll get an explanation of the politics of aboriginal rights, from none other than Russ George. It's an eye-opener on how this little group bypassed every Canadian authority, issuing its own permits, almost as a sovereign village.


First, we should look at the money trail.

When asked where a tiny village with sky-high unemployment came up with two and a half million dollars for a high-seas adventure, this is what Chief Ken Rea said in the press conference Q and A.

From the Press Conference Q and A (full transcript here)

"CBC [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation]: Whose money is it?

Ken Rea: It's the community's money.

CBC: ??? from the taxes, from the government, or transfers? What's the biggest source of money?

Ken Rea: We've had monies available from other funding sources that belong to the community. We've had money from proper management and shared revenue sources from various resources. And we've, over careful management over many years we've built up a reserve. "

Considering the money belonged to the villagers, and some of it came from Canadian taxpayers, this is hardly a transparent answer.


Living Oceans Society Executive Director Karen Wristen

A Canadian ocean NGO, the Living Oceans Society, released documents from Massett Village, and from the North Coast Community Credit Union, detailing the application for a loan of two million dollars for the Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation.

You can find a copy of the internal emails and financing documents for the Old Massett Village here.

I interviewed Karen Wristen, Executive Director of the Living Oceans Society - the group who found online documents detailing the $2 million loan application by Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation (HSRC) to the North Coast Credit Union. That Credit Union's due diligence raised questions about ocean fertilization, the legality of the project, and the scientific credibility of Russ George. Read what they had to say. There is also a proposed budget breakdown for the project in those papers.

The Living Oceans Society also warned Environment Canada on August 19th that a geoengineering experiment was on-going, giving them the name and location of the ship. Apparently nothing was done.

Wristen, herself a lawyer with experience in environmental case law, concludes there is no big monetary payback possible from this project - the people of the Village of Massett stand to lose a lot of money. The salmon, she says, "got a very expensive lunch".

As you can tell, there are still a lot of questions about the way this money was allocated, the wisdom of the expense, and whether these millions can ever be repaid.


Despite talking so much about salmon, which were certainly on the minds of most villagers, documents and interviews show the larger hope of repayment was to come from selling carbon credits.

There is a theory that plankton will capture more carbon dioxide from the air. Then on dying, that carbon will fall with them to the deep sea bed, where it will be sequestered. If done on a large scale, this might somewhat reduce the carbon dioxide pumped into the air by polluters. Major polluting industries, especially in Europe, will pay a price for each ton of carbon captured.

As you will hear later, Russ George believes with 100 percent certainty that creating plankton blooms does capture carbon dioxide. And now he claims this latest venture proves it beyond any doubt.

The fact that Russ George does not express scientific caution, and has never published any peer-reviewed evidence of his claims, is one sign that he is not following the accepted scientific method.

Other trained ocean and zoological scientists, some of them onboard previous plankton seeding tests run off government ships, have cautioned that carbon dioxide may not be reduced, or not sequestered long-term, or that other greenhouse gases like methane and nitrous oxide may be produced. The consensus of world scientists is that plankton seeding should not be done. Committees for international Conventions representing 192 countries recommended a moratorium on such activities.

None of that deters Russ George. Through his former company Planktos, George was so confident of success that he pre-sold carbon credits, even to the public online, long before he captured any carbon dioxide. I can't find any indication that money was returned when George's company forests were not planted in Hungary as promised, and his ship the Weatherbird II did not dump its iron.

When we investigate the tangled web of corporations and corporate shells set up by Russ George, along with the convicted Canadian financier Nelson Skalbania, we become even more leery of George's claims.

In fact, there are several versions of Russ George. The first is a tree-planter, and his experience is strong there. But you can also find Russ George in his persona of a self-taught nuclear scientist, expert and businessman in the field of nuclear fusion. His company D2fusion sold stocks, which crashed, and promised products, which never appeared. On You tube there is a presentation by DR George to the American Chemical Society in 1999.


But Russ is no doctor. That's just his initials: D R George. Why doesn't he correct people who address him or post him as Dr. George?

In the Old Massett Village presentation you heard earlier, Russ George was touted as the Chief Scientist on board the Ocean Pearl. I think that is misleading.

What is a scientist? In the 1800's, many scientists were gentlemen of leisure investigating basic things. They made many discoveries. But today, in a very complex world, we developed a university system which trains scientists. It takes many years to earn a PhD in any field, including life sciences like biology, zoology, and oceanography.

Russ attended the University of Utah for a few years and apparently dropped out without a degree. That is, he does not appear to be a university graduate. Most people would find that surprising in the resume of a "Chief Scientist".

Another part of the definition of a modern scientist, is the requirement to develop theories which are published in peer-reviewed journals. That is a check and balance system to make sure facts follow theory.

As far as I can find out, Russ George has never been published in an accepted peer-review journal. So he can make quite extraordinary statements, and the rest of the scientific community has not checked them.

None of this denies Russ George is an extraordinary man, even a brilliant one. I see him more as a social and media artist, with an ability to learn the language of scientific disciplines. He is also a visionary, with the strength to inspire people - even a small village of people on the wild side of the ocean. Visionaries also have their limitations. Some believe in their vision 100%, without any doubt, or desire to check with others.


For example, let's start with this founding statement repeated often by Russ George over the year, and given again in the Power Point provided by the Old Massett Village for the Vancouver press conference. That slide says:

"Over the past half-century there has been a decline in atmospheric dust deposition from the deserts and dry lands of Asia - the most important season[al] source of iron for the North Pacific Ocean."

Really? I wondered if such a study had even been done. Looking in the references for these slides, the first is a paper "Atmospheric global dust cycle and Iron inputs to the ocean" by Natalie M. Mahowald of Cornell, and a half dozen other world experts.

Natalie M. Mahowald, Cornell University

I read the paper. It didn't say anything about the decline of dust from Asia to the Northern Pacific. The paper is a key summary of all the top dust science, a survey to see what is known. It talks about research, and looks at two more important questions: has the chemistry of industrial-laced air changed the availability of iron to plankton in the sea? And will climate change alter dust deposition?

Baffled, I wrote to Natalie Mahowald over the weekend. She gave me a helpful reply almost immediately.

First, I asked, is this dusty statement by Russ George, echoed by the Haida village, true?

Her reply: "Probably not. More important than dust is soluble iron from Asia, which is likely to have increased."

Second: could such a statement be derived from that paper?

Answer: "I don't think there is anything in that paper on this."

She adds: "There is almost no data describing the trends in dust coming from Asia over the whole 20th century. There is some evidence that dust maximized in the 1950s in Chinese dust sources (e.g. Mahowald et al., 2007), but this is not true of all of Asia and that data is only available after 1950 or so.

What is more important for ocean iron, is the amount of soluble iron going into the ocean, not dust or total iron. Several studies have suggested that economic growth in Asia has substantially increased soluble iron inputs to the North Pacific by direct emission of soluble iron from anthropogenic emissions (e.g. Chuang et al., 2005) or by supplying acids like sulfate, which make the dust iron more soluble (Meskhidze et al., 2003) and we estimate from that an increase in North Pacific soluble iron inputs from atmospheric deposition (e.g. Luo et al.., 2008; Mahowald et al., 2009).

Mahowald continued: "In this region, sedimentary sources of iron are likely to be quite important, so that inputs from the atmosphere may not be driving phytoplankton growth (e.g. Lam and Bishop, 2008).

Thus, overall I would say, no, I do not agree that soluble iron inputs to the North Pacific have decreased over the 20th century, but rather have likely increased but the uncertainty is large."

So what! you say? Everything in the story of this ocean seeding experiment depends upon this fundamental premise that nature is not doing its job. Less dust is falling, the plankton are starving for iron, and that is why we must go out to sea and spend millions of dollars dumping iron into the ocean.

But here we have the venture's cited world expert saying that is probably not true, more iron may be available anyway due to industrial pollution. There is inadequate scientific information to make sweeping statements about a decline.

With Russ George, you can be inspired if you want, but you have to check every detail of what he says. It's a heady cocktail of three quarters truth, well worth listening to, and one quarter exaggeration bordering on blarney.


Surely we are not just dealing with volcanos and dust when it comes to salmon decline. It's a shame the Old Massett people couldn't wait for the upcoming release of a comprehensive report by the Cohen Commission inquiry into the disappearing sockeye salmon.

In my opinion, and not only in my opinion, the Old Massett Village leaders are also over their heads. For example, during the press conference, two actual ocean scientists from the University of British Columbia were allowed one question each, with no reply. Note there were no microphones for the press, just one mic for the presenters, carefully controlled by two of their lawyers present.

Maite Maldonado, University of British Columbia

Again I wrote to a person who asked a question at the press conference, but was not allowed to comment. She is Maite Maldonado, a professor in the Earth, Ocean and Sciences Department at UBC. Maite is also familiar with the fisheries on the Pacific Coast, and a Canada Research Chair in Phytoplankton Trace Metal Physiology.

Maldonado says the Haida Salmon Restoration project leaders were greatly over-simplifying a complex living system. After quoting from the most-cited paper on the volcanic ash and anomalous plankton bloom of 2008, by Hamme et all 2010 , Maite concludes the bottom line is that YES, a volcanic eruption in 2008 enhanced phytoplankton production in the subarctic Pacific that late summer/early fall, but there is NO evidence to support that this phytoplankton bloom in August 2008 resulted in the high salmon returns of 2010.

In fact, the non-scientist Russ George may have missed the target altogether on two counts. First of all, Hamme et al concluded from their study of the Alaskan volcanic eruption and plankton bloom of 2008, hardly any carbon dioxide was sequestered, "implying that even large-scale iron fertilization at an optimum time of year is not very efficient at sequestering atmospheric CO2.”

Maite Maldonado adds other studies and citations showing the real cause of the sockeye salmon decline is still unknown to science. Their best guess does not focus on alleged starving salmon out at sea, but rather the growth conditions for juvenile salmon as they emerge from the coastal waters. There is plenty of plankton for them there Maldonado says, and real scientific studies indicate there must be other factors in that near-shore environment affecting longer term survival.

Maite writes: "Salmon survival has been linked to the quality of feeding and growing conditions during their early marine life (from smolt to adult), while the smolts are transitioning from the rivers to the open ocean. So the conditions in inlets and sounds are key."

As our guest Karen Wristen said earlier, this Haida Salmon Restoration project may only have provided a multi-million dollar lunch.

OK, it's time to play some Russ George reality, but as I hope I've shown, apply some healthy scientific doubt to everything.

Russ George is talking with Guardian newspaper journalist Martin Lukacs.

What was the rationality for secretly pouring iron into the ocean? George explains that to Lukacs, and I run part of the clip for you in this radio program.

Guardian journalist Martin Lukacs

Martin Lukacs broke this story in the Guardian about the Haida Salmon Restoration venture breaking UN rules.


How could a single Haida Village perform geoengineering without getting any government permits? They claim they are the government.

This is amazing. Essentially Old Massett declared itself to be the world's first sovereign village! Russ George tells Lukacs that due to a 2005 Supreme Court of Canada decision, the Haida have the same rights as the Government of Canada.

But the Haida Nation (which distanced themselves from this scheme) is like a federal government with two main provinces: the Village of Skidegate, and the Village of Old Massett. These two sub-groups apparently also consider themselves to be sovereign governments, Russ George told Martin Lucaks.

That was the rationale for Old Massett to write its own laws, and to ISSUE ITS OWN PERMITS for this Haida Salmon Restoration project. Russ George says "you choose your regulator". He chose the same group that were taking the loan, paying the bills, and running the whole experiment on the ocean. They didn't feel the need to apply to the Canadian Government, or the Province of British Columbia, for the environmental and other permits anyone else would need, for a ship leaving a Canadian port.

That explains a lot. When asked by reporter Lukacs where these self-issued permits are, George replies they are hanging on the wall of his Vancouver office.


The fishing vessel Ocean Pearl

Who were the scientists on board? I asked that question at the Press Conference. At first they dodged it, claiming privacy issues, and then gave me a very short list. Here is that exchange:

From the press conference transcript:

Joe Spears [lawyer for HSRC]: Alex Smith from CFRO Radio.

Alex Smith: Please name the scientists that were on board the Ocean Pearl for this project. You mentioned science.

Joe Spears: The question is: name the scientists on board the fishing vessel Ocean Pearl. John? Jason?

Jason is the Operations Officer and I know he spent many weeks at sea and it was really sunny once in the four weeks I think, and there was only a thirty foot groundswell happening. So Jason?

(talk among organizers, including Disney and Spears): "Russ for sure."

Jason McNamee: Hi. Yeah we had a number of scientists. We had a number of scientists on board. Uh, obviously Russ George was one or our scient... key scientists.

Other journalist: Could you also possibly include their training? What their scientific background is?

Jason: I don't have their CV's with me.

Joe Spears: I think there's a question of privacy of individuals. We'll get you that information and on the video that's on here, you'll see the deck hands and the technicians that are walking around trying to deploy equipment at sea. So there was lots of people. I think we can, we'll get that information. It's not a guess; we don't want to guess here.

(Jason starts to leave the microphone)

Alex Smith: So you are not answering the question?

Jason McNamee: Russ George was our Chief Scientist. Right. We've got Peter Gross who is our Senior Oceanographic Engineer. He also doubles as our Sonar expert.

We had a plankton biologist on board named Tegan Sime. The chemist on board... I did some of the chemistry work, and we had a number of technicians. A lot of our work was collaborative, and so a lot of the technical work was done on the ship.

Asked the same question by journalist Martin Lukacs, Russ George replied with a very short list, long on bafflegab.

All the crew were undergrads, with Russ George as the supposed Chief Scientist. They had minimal training in the high tech equipment on board, and at one point required direct coaching by satellite by Professor Doug Campbell at Mount Allison University. Several of the crew listed their qualifications as technical geeks in things like audio. Apparently, there was not a single doctorate level scientist on the ship.


Why does this matter? It all has to do with confidence in the gathering methods, and the chain of custody.

At the press conference, we were told Russ George was not present because he was too busy analyzing data. So Russ George, whose record we know too well, is in charge of all that data? John Disney told the press "some" of the data would be released for verification by independent parties. Will only supportive data be released? Who knows?

Russ George bragged to one reporter that 100 PhD dissertations would emerge out of the data he had collected. I doubt it. Who will trust it?


Russ George denies there is any Convention or even a moratorium against ocean fertilization.

May he's right. Maybe the holes in International Law are so big that every village encountering hard times around the world can start out to change the whole Earth to suit themselves.

This Haida Salmon Restoration project is a wake-up call to governments to act before it is too late. To at least regulate, with criminal penalties, rogue geoengineering. We manage to investigate and penalize many crimes, no matter where the act takes place, but not unilateral changes to species, the biosphere, or the ocean? We need real laws for the high seas.

Meanwhile, Russ George continues his pursuit of fame and recognition. In the Martin Lukacs interview George describes trips to the World Bank in Washington, and to the Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome. When asked if the HSRC was getting funding from the World Bank, George replied no, it cost "us" money to go there and make a presentation.

Who is paying for those travels? The poor of Old Massett Village, for the next ten years? These finances should be more transparent.


But don't worry. Russ George is 100% certain their experiment has disproven all scientific fears. He gives Lukacs a laundry list of past criticisms and scientific worries about plankton seeding - and says all of that is disproven by his new data.

There is no absolute certainty in science. But Russ George offers it to us, just as he offered absolution to the Vatican for their carbon sins. You can't make this stuff up in Hollywood.

Vatican presentation by Russ George on You tube here.

By the way, the Vatican's carbon emissions are still up there in the atmosphere, but the planned "Vatican Forest" in Hungary was never planted. Maybe the Vatican should repent and drastically slash their emissions instead. Maybe we all should do that.


I did say Russ was often also right. In a clip from the Lukacs interview, he tells us our personal carbon pollution is killing the ocean far more than overfishing.

George is also right to warn us the oceans are dying, and that climate change is the major cause.

But come clean about your science credentials George. You are a brilliant fast-learner, a self-taught man. That's a lot. You don't need the misleading labels.


Intelligent or not, I can't follow Russ George, or the Haida villagers, to their ultimate goal.

Saying the ocean is dying, George tells us humans must take over these last wild places on Earth. We'll convert the open ocean into "pastures" like agribusiness on the seas, farming plankton and the fish. We'll dump iron every year. I'm thinking maybe we'll introduce new genetically modified species, who knows? The dying ocean is ours to play with and command.

Russ George explains all that to Martin Lukacs in a clip in this Radio Ecoshock program.

Is that your vision? It's not mine.

I'm Alex Smith.

My thanks to Martin Lukacs of the Guardian for putting his reporter's audio notes into the public domain. Martin Lukacs of the Guardian, who broke this story with the ETC Group. Lukacs placed over an hour of that recording in the Public Domain at archive.org. Part 1 here. Part 2 here

Download this show as a free mp3 from our web site ecoshock.org

Thank you for listening, and join me next week.


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Covert Geoengineering & Women Against Tar Sands

2012-10-17 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)

Jim Thomas of ETC Group on rogue geoengineering off Canada's West Coast by Russ George, former CEO of Planktos. "She Speaks: Indigenous Women Speak Out Against Tar Sands". Eriel Deranger & Freda Huson + Suzanne Dhaliwal co-founder of UK Tar Sands Network. World's most polluting project and pipelines threaten rivers, Great Bear Rainforest, and wild West coast. Radio Ecoshock 121017 1 hour

Here is your download list for this program:

Download/listen to full 1 hour program in CD Quality (56 MB)

Download/listen to full 1 hour program in faster download/lower quality Lo-Fi format (14 MB)

Download/listen to Eriel Deranger (16 min)

Download/listen to Fred Huson (17 min)

Download/listen to Suzanne Dhaliwal (13 min)


Hear 11-year-old child activist Ta'Kaiya Blaney from the "She Speaks" event. She started campaigning for Nature at age 9, starting with the Tar Sands. Since then she's been in two films and spoke at the Rio +20 conference in Brazil.

This recording from the September 21st event in Vancouver, courtesy of Redeye Collective, includes her hit song "Shallow Waters" so you might want to download the CD Quality version. 15 minutes.

Download/listen to Ta'kaiya Blaney in CD Quality.

Download/listen to Ta’kaiya Blaney in Lo-Fi.


Download/listen to Jim Thomas from ETC Group on covert geoengineering (15 min) in CD Quality or Lo-Fi.


Russ George, former CEO of Planktos and D2Fusion

Russ George, the one-man geoengineering phenomenon, strikes again! And despite an ocean dumping and geoengineering ban by 192 countries, George has help from Canada and the U.S.

This time the green-talking former CEO of Planktos Corp didn't just dump some red paint off the back of rocker Neil Young's yacht, as he did in 2002. He's secretly added 100 tons of iron sulfate to the ocean off Canada's West Coast.

In 2007, Radio Ecoshock did a full one hour interview with Russ George, followed by a second program with his critics, including Pat Mooney of the ETC Group. Interest is huge. The Pat Mooney interview has been downloaded at least 20,000 times.

After Planktos went down in flames, amid accusations of shady promoters and stock manipulation, Russ George faded from the public eye.

But he never stopped dreaming he could help stop climate change using ocean life.

George wants to make money by seeding the world's oceans with iron to stimulate algae growth. Now the ETC Group has revealed his latest plot.

Radio Ecoshock speaks with Jim Thomas from the ETC Group, which at a Biodiversity Convention conference in Hyderabad India, heard rumors a geoengineering experiment had already occurred off Canada's West Coast. The group investigated.

Jim Thomas, Research Program Manager, ETC Group

They found serial ocean dumper Russ George was back at his game, this time claiming to have dumped 100 tons of iron sulfate into the Pacific Ocean. It was about 200 kilometers west of the mid-coast island of Haida Gwaii. George says he created an algae bloom covering about 10,000 square kilometers of ocean.

No one knows what effect this will have. Several nations conducted a series of similar experiments, with real senior scientists onboard, but stopped due to concerns raised about unknown impacts.

Jim Thomas said dumping iron into the ocean has not been proven to permanently sequester carbon, may in fact release other greenhouse gases like methane and nitrous oxide, and could remove oxygen further down in the sea, killing off other forms of life. Even noxious algae might grow as well.

As a result of this, and other work by environmental groups, scientists and governments - partly in response to earlier attempts to change ocean life by the private company Planktos, headed by Russ George - 192 nations agreed to BAN OCEAN SEEDING EXPERIMENTS, and then to declare a moratorium on geoengineering experiments.

During the Planktos adventure, which Radio Ecoshock chronicled thoroughly, both Spain and Ecuador closed their ports to Russ George and his ship the Weatherbird II. They wanted no part of his schemes.


But in the summer of 2012, Russ George set sail in the rented fishing boat "Ocean Pearl" from a Canadian port. He claims the National Research Council of Canada was aware of his project, and supported it. Some junior Canadian scientists went on board to watch the results. A Canadian company contributed equipment called "Ocean Gliders".


Even worse, the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration gave Russ George very expensive measuring devices, including ocean buoy bots.

So two countries who agreed to halt ocean dumping and geoengineering in the ocean helped this amateur carry out a private geoengineering scheme. The Biodiversity Convention and the London Dumping Convention obviously need far more enforcement mechanisms, and more support from major players like the U.S., Canada and the UK, says Jim Thomas.

There have been a few exposes about the questionable dealings of Russ George, in Canadian and world newspapers, and on Radio Ecoshock, in 2007 when he attempted a previous ocean dumping plan. George was also head of a company pushing cold fusion, a technology that never materialized, despite being pushed in the over the counter stock trade. Find Steve Krivit's investigation into the many claims of Russ George here.

The ocean dumping company Planktos was backed by the disgraced (and convicted) Canadian financier Nelson Skalbania. Russ George promoted his plankton scheme to green groups without success. He managed to persuade the Vatican to use his company to off-set their carbon credits, even though he could not produce any proof that any carbon had been saved by his company.

This time, George persuaded a former commercial fisherman, now acting as a consultant for a small Haida village, in the Canadian coastal islands known as Haida Gwaii, formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands. That was John Disney. The two managed to find funding said to be over 2.5 million dollars for the venture, dubbed the Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation.

I don't yet know where the money came from. Was it from the Haida tribe (who still wrestle with poverty for some of its members) - or from the Canadian government? Who paid for this carbon salesman to play with our common oceans, against all international agreements?

Be sure and hear my interview with Jim Thomas. My previous interview with Pat Mooney of the ETC Group has been downloaded over 20,000 times. It's important stuff.

You'll find a one hour interview with Russ George, where I confront him with claims made but not fulfilled. That blog entry, "Planktos: Offsets Real and Imagined" is here.

Download/listen to the matching 1 hour radio program here.

Then there is "Planktos II: The Intervention" - a full program with three guests who out the man, his questionable promotion of a cold fusion company, and his banned-from-trading man behind the scenes, Canada's Nelson Skalbania.

My guests in that 2007 program are Dr. David Santillo the Greenpeace scientist, Pat Mooney from the ETC Group, and Vancouver Sun business investigator David Baines. It's a tale of intrigue and misrepresentation that may have happened again - this time to a prominent First Nation in Canada.

Listen to/download that program here, and read the blog here.


This is one of my biggest fears about geoengineering. A single country could just start pumping sulfur pollution into the atmosphere, or even launch a rocket full of mirrors to block out the sun. Now we see it could just be a small scientific lab or even a member of the public determined to save the climate their way. It's a free-for-all, likely to involve more desperate measures as the climate deteriorates. We should be frightened by the example Russ George sets.

This "rogue geoengineering" in the Pacific is shocking behavior by Canada and the United States, both of whom agreed to the ocean fertilization ban, and limits on geoengineering. It's a disappointment from a respected West Coast tribe, the Haida - who have been environmentally progressive. Did they not look up George's record as a promoter who does not deliver?

I'm not disappointed in Russ George. Everyone expected this driven man to try and try again. Russ George thinks he's right, and everybody else is wrong. The publicity and the millions raised for each project, as the would-be "Doctor" or "Senior Scientist" sails again is all gravy to him. Russ George is a one-man ocean wrecking ball, and the poster-child for why we need ocean enforcement, and a real moratorium on geoengineering.


Stay tuned for another industrial crime. Indigenous women in Canada are raising their voices against the polluting tar sands, and the pipeline releasing their poison to the world. Others talk about indigenous people, trying to adopt that culture's wisdom. On Radio Ecoshock, First Nations people speak for themselves.

Who cares about another pipeline in Northern Canada? When it threatens to pump dirty Tar Sands oil to China and the world, everyone needs to know.

Those who know best are the native people living close to the biggest source of industrial pollution on the planet. And those depending on the thousand streams risking poison from the Northern Gateway Pipeline from Alberta through British Columbia, to the pristine Great Bear Rainforest and coast.

First Nations women are taking the lead in speaking up for their communities, and the future. If the Tar Sands power Asia and America, climate catastrophe is assured. We can't let that happen.

Now you will hear First Nations speakers recorded September 21st in Vancouver. A UK activist also reports in on the international campaign to stop Tar Sands madness.

I'm Alex Smith. There's not much more I can say. Our future and our children are at stake.

We start with Eriel Deranger, Communications Director for the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, neighbors and victims to the monstrous Tar Sands operations in the north of Alberta, Canada. She was recorded at the event "She Speaks: Indigenous Women Speak Out Against Tar Sands" recorded in Vancouver on Sept 21st, by the Redeye Collective at CFRO Coop Radio. (Thanks Jane!)

There was a parallel "She Speaks" event against the Tar Sands in Toronto.

This is Radio Ecoshock, with a special on the Canadian Tar Sands, and the fight against the Northern Gateway Pipeline proposal that endangers the northern wilderness and the wild west Coast. Our next speaker is Freda Huson of the Wet’suwet’en Nation about a resistance camp built to protect the land from the Northern Gateway Pipeline.

The Northern Gateway pipeline would send highly toxic tar sands crude through 1,000 mountain rivers and streams, across the Great Bear Rainforest, to a narrow fjord at Kitimat, British Columbia. All that risk to feed the oil addiction of the United States and Asia, from the world's largest single source of pollution, the Canadian Tar Sands.


Suzanne Dhaliwal, activist

What can you do where you live? Listen to these ideas from the Tar Sands Network in the UK, represented by activist Suzanne Dhaliwal. She's speaking against the Northern Gateway Pipeline, proposed by energy giant Enbridge, to carry highly toxic Tar Sands crude. Enbridge has just revealed they had 31 pipeline leaks since 2002.

Coming from a background of climate activism and her interest in protecting wilderness for herbal medicines, Suzanne Dhaliwal was in the UK, attending a climate camp, when she really realized what the Canadian Tar Sands were all about. She had partly grown up in Canada, and like most Canadian, never grasped the climate-killing importance of the Tar Sands, or their impacts on both wilderness and especially the First Nations people.

This drove her to co-found a network in the UK to oppose investments in the Tar Sands. Big pension funds and British banks bailed out by the taxpayers were heavily invested in oil companies in the Alberta Tar Sands. They started actions toward disinvestment, and more tar free communities. Suzanne has some good ideas on how you could oppose the Tar Sands, wherever you live.

I'm Alex Smith, asking you to organize however you can to make more "tar sands free" communities, and to stop the spread of this climate-wrecking madness.

This has been Radio Ecoshock. Download this and all our programs from our web site at ecoshock.org.

Thank you for listening, and caring about your world.


Share: Covert Geoengineering & Women Against Tar Sands


2012-10-12 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)

Three guests. Rob Stewart, Director of movie "Sharkwater" and now his latest "Revolution" - is the ocean dying? An international media briefing by Lester Brown of Earth Policy Institute about rising food prices & his new book "Full Planet, Empty Plates". Wes Regan on urban farming in the poorest neighborhood in Canada. Radio Ecoshock 121010

Download/listen to this Radio Ecoshock show in CD quality 56 MB.

Download/listen to this Radio Ecoshock show in Lo-Fi 14 MB. Coming up this week: an interview with Rob Stewart, Director of movie "Sharkwater" and now his latest "Revolution" - is the ocean dying? What can we do?

You can see food prices going up. It's happening around the world, stressing budgets and leading to foodless days for millions of the world's poor. You'll find out why in an international media briefing by Lester Brown of Earth Policy Institute about rising food prices & his new book "Full Planet, Empty Plates". Only on Radio Ecoshock.

We finish up with as Wes Regan of Vancouver tells us about urban farming in the poorest neighborhood in Canada.


Rob Stewart blew into world consciousness with his award-winning indie film "Sharkwater". Sharkwater was one of the biggest selling Canadian films ever. It ricocheted all around the world. We start with the latest developments in saving the sharks.

As a result of that movie, and Stewart's unrelenting campaign, over a hundred countries and many more cities have banned shark fin soup - the alleged delicacy wiping out the ocean's top predator. Shark fin soup is banned at all Chinese government functions.

Now Stewart is back for a much bigger fight, the fight of our lives: how to steer a death-wish civilization in a better direction. His new movie, four years in the making, was released at the Toronto International Film Festival and again at the Vancouver Film Festival. It's called "Revolution".

The film has experts saying coral reefs could be mostly dead in 40 years or less. I've just seen a You tube lecture by Professor Alexander Tudhope, a geoscientist and climatologist from the University of Edinburgh. He seemed less certain of the coral fate, suggesting they could die off, but it's still possible they may adapt enough to survive.

Stewart cites Charlie Veron, aka John Veron, a heavily awarded Australian scientist who warns on current path, the Great Barrier Reef will be dead in 20 years... and Katharina Fabricius, lead scientist at the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences.

These scientists are also part of the "Coral Triangle Initiative"


A key moment in the movie is when Stewart should have been celebrating his moment of triumph. Sharkwater was finally being showed in China, in Hong Kong, where shark fin soup is served. Its possible 100 million Chinese people will see it. But an audience question stumped him, almost invaliding his years of work: why struggle to save the sharks, if scientists say most big fish in the world could become extinct as early as 2048.

That extraordinary prediction is published science coming from a team led by Dr. Boris Worms at Dalhousie University in Eastern Canada. Radio Ecoshock covered that in 2006. Find my blog and the audio here.

Outfield Productions from Pakistan turned it into a You tube video found here.

Stewart was tossed into the much larger problems which threaten the world's oceans. The largest of all, not just for the great coral reefs (nurseries of the sea), but for all creatures which form either shells or skeletons, is ocean acidification. He sets out on a journey to find out more.

The need for "revolution" comes from the inability of world governments to do anything at all to save the oceans. Only a major change to the system, Stewart concludes, can save the oceans, and us. The only group he can find that isn't invested in the present system is youth and children. They are the best hope.

There is a hugely moving scene with Felix Finkbeiner, age 13, founder of the group Plant for the Planet. Finkbeiner is organizing youth to plant hundreds of millions of trees.

In some ways Stewart needed the same underground film techniques so successful in "Sharkwater". Why do we still need to slink around without permits, to document the greatest threat to humanity and all species?


We also discuss his relationship with another ocean defender, Captain Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Society. Watson is currently a wanted man, living on one of his ships in an undisclosed location. Costa Rica issues an international arrest warrant, claiming Watson had endangered a fishing vessel that was finning sharks, part of the research done for Stewart's film. German acted on that warrant, even though it is doubtful Watson would receive a fair trial in Costa Rica, and despite widespread German support for his actions to save marine species.

Paul Watson skipped out on a $300,000 bail bond, and went out into international waters, in the open sea.


Even though "Sharkwater" was phenomenally successful, Stewart still had trouble financing the movie "Revolution".

Rob was painted green for Fill the Hill C-Day for Powershift in Ottawa Canada in 2009, just prior to the Copenhagen talks. Suddenly his funding promises dropped from 5 million dollars (he planned a 3-D underwater spectacular) to just $150,000. Rob packed his bags and cameras and went out on his own to film.

We learn Stewart has just published a book as well. It's called "Save the Humans". The book takes us into the back story of making both Sharkwater and Revolution, being partly biographic.

As Stewart works insane hours getting his message out, traveling the world, he has started a new environment group, the United Conservationists.

You can find the film web site at therevolutionmovie.com

I loved the movie. It's deep and necessary. I hope it storms the world.


Lester Brown is one of the world's treasures and truth-tellers. Decades ago he founded the World Watch Institute, which issued comprehensive annual State of the World reports.

One of Lester's specialties has always been monitoring world food supplies, crop production, and the growing catalog of threats to the global food supply. He went on to found the Earth Policy Institute.

On September 27th, Brown held a briefing for world media about our current situation, and his new book "Full Planet, Empty Plates, the New Geopolitics of Food Scarcity." I recorded it, and got permission to broadcast it to you.

Our situation is not good. The world's largest food exporter, the United States, has just gone through a record drought (which still continues into October). Crop production is down, and world food reserves are far below what they should be.

Food prices, especially for grains, have risen around the world. Usually when that happens, there is political instability as well.

In North America and Europe, the consequences are not so grave. We spend much less of our total income on food, and most of the cost of food is actually in processing.

In the developing world, more than a hundred million people actually schedule "foodless days" (you can call it a "fast" is you want) because there isn't enough for the table. In parts of Asia and Africa, at least 75% of all income goes directly for that day's food. There isn't any room for price increases.

Lester Brown goes on to catalog the many challenges we face in trying to feed 80 million more people every year. For example, many countries are already over pumping their aquifers. They have to go deeper and deeper, burning expensive diesel fuel for pumps. Some wells are going dry, and some rivers are going dry.

Add in climate change, with missed monsoons, droughts, storms wiping out crops, and you see the potential for a very unstable world.

This press briefing is loaded with facts mainstream media doesn't bother to tell you. Don't miss it.

There are lots of links and related downloads there, including the complete set of data sets.


Find a bio of Wes Regan here.

There are mysterious gardens appearing in Canada's poorest urban neighborhood - Vancouver's downtown East Side. And why is a business group pushing local food?

Some Downtown East side residents have seen their share of problems. Along with the newly arriving condo owners, there is a mix of alcoholics, drug addicts, the disabled, the unemployed, and people who have been disadvantaged or abused. Some are First Nations.

Our guest is Wes Regan, Executive Coordinator of the Hastings Crossing Business Improvement Association in Vancouver, Canada. Wes toured internationally as an actor and musician, before becoming an urban geographer. He's a founding member of the Vancouver Urban Farming Network, and the Urban Aqua-Farm Society.

We start with a little patch of vacant land in an area known for poverty and drug abuse. Squeezed between two old buildings, this lot on Hastings Street in Vancouver's Downtown East Side used to be covered in garbage. Now it's covered with food. It is a new urban garden.

Too often, we think of business being hostile to green initiatives. But Regan coordinates the local Business Improvement Association. It is an unlikely marriage, but works well when progressive business is involved.

Wes tells us about the Vancouver Urban Farming Society, and Sole food farm.

This is community supported agriculture, the CSA model. But there is a new wrinkle: people can pick the amount of food they need that week. That works especially well for the poorest people, many of whom live in government-subsidized rooming houses with no kitchens.

Some of the workers in these gardens earn a little money, even though they could likely not hold a 9 to 5 job. It's an important green job supplement. Other gardens have been set up specifically to help recovering people heal. There is much more to these urban farms than just the economics and production.

Wes Regan is also part of the Urban Aqua-Farm Society. Are there really aquaculture operations in the city of Vancouver? No large ones yet. There are some experimental ponds and barrels.

Urban farming tends to focus on raising greens and other veggies. But if we want true self-sufficiency, we need proteins as well. Some of that can come from beans, but raising fish or other marine life in our cities could fill the protein gap.

Many of us picture urban farming as a pass-time for yuppies, people with money. We talk about urban farming as part of the solution to poverty. It is working in Detroit and many other U.S. cities as well, where empty housing was bull-dozed, and tractors are now at work.

Don't hungry people, drunks, or vandals just steal the food or wreck the gardens? Wes can't recall any such incident of vandalism. It seems just trying to cope with extreme poverty, the area has built up its own community rules and spirit. People support these gardens, and other guerilla planting.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and his Council are supportive. They want to make Vancouver the "greenest city in the world". How could we make the same case to less sympathetic municipal governments? Wes says a straight case of economics can be made, and explains how.

Regan co-authored the 2010 report "Advancing Urban Farming in Vancouver" which you can find here.

------------------- That's it for Radio Ecoshock this week. Find us on Facebook and you can share each and every program with your friends. We need to get the word out fast to save what is left of the natural system. You can help. Feel free to download our show from the web site ecoshock.org Pass them around as mp3's or CDs.

I'm Alex Smith. I appreciate the helpful emails, tips, and links sent in by listeners. Just click on the "Contact" button on our web page to send your message. Thank you for listening and caring about our world.



Tough Transition

2012-10-03 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)

From "The Farm" in Summertown, Tennessee, deep green thinker and activist Albert Bates on Tough Transition. Then one of the pioneers of localization and sustainable community, Dr. Mark Roseland. Alex reports on new ocean/climate movie to save... us. Rob Stewart's film "Revolution". Radio Ecoshock 121003.

Download 1 hour program in CD Quality (56 MB)

or faster download/lower quality Lo-Fi (14MB)

This week we're still talking about social change to save the environment and ourselves. From "The Farm" in Summertown, Tennessee, deep green thinker and activist Albert Bates on Tough Transition - how to make a local community work - even if people can't agree on why it must.

Then we're going to one of the fathers of movements like Transition and localization, Dr. Mark Roseland in his 1992 book "Toward Sustainable Communities" became a handbook for local and regional politicians, non-profits, and citizen groups. Now it's out in a Fourth Edition, with a goal of providing, quote "Solutions for Citizens and Their Governments."

We'll get a call for Revolution from the maker of the movie Sharkwater. Rob Stewart says the species we need to save now is us. I've just seen his new film "Revolution". It's the ultimate challenge, literally our do or die time to save ocean life, and all life, from mass extinction. Our coverage of the dying oceans continues.

All coming your way this week, on Radio Ecoshock. I'm Alex Smith.


Just like organisms, there are simple people. Others, like Albert Bates, are complex. He's a former attorney, a designer, bio char expert, author, speaker, and an international and local organizer. Albert has lived at the famous intentional community called "The Farm" in Summertown, Tennessee since 1972. His book "Climate in Crisis" was published back in 1990, with more following, like "The Post-Petroleum Survival Guide and Cookbook" in 2006, and "The Biochar Solution" in 2010.

In last week's program, we heard from successful Transition Towns in New England. That's easy enough with progressive voters. Albert, can it be done in a conservative "Red State" like Tennessee?

I've called up Albert to ask him about forming a Transition community in the rural Republican South.

When "The Farm" began in 1971 - it was part of the hippie movement. Bates tells us when the collection of school buses arrived from Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco, in rural Tennessee - to local residents it seemed like Martians landing. Over the course of a generation, there has been a general acceptance and interaction between The Farm and its surroundings.

You can learn more about "The Farm" in Albert's book "Voices from The Farm" (1998) co-authored with Rupert Fike.


One sign of that was when Hohenwald Tennessee became the 25th Transition Town in America. That was accepted by all the local politicians, County Commissioners and so on - even though, as Bates tells us, practically none of the locals accepted the human-induced climate change or Peak Oil.

So how did they do it? The Farm organized a regular film and speaker night. Sure they showed "An Inconvenient Truth", but one of their most successful nights (garnering 130 people from a population of 4,000) was about "Financial Permaculture". In a very hard economy, people wanted to know how to improve their financial situation, and learned about permaculture almost as a side subject.

In fact Hohenwald had many Swiss settlers from the late 1800's. The Transition organizers were able to draw on a common community value of "frugality". It's frugal not to waste things, and so recycling and other ways to avoid waste are acceptable. It's a fantastic lesson: find out what your community values, and help deliver that as a road to transition.

In a bit of humor, one of their speakers was David Bloom, who explains how to make your own alcohol for energy and other uses. That was quite popular in rural Tennessee, where moon-shining is traditional. But the Transition group also brought in the Republican speaker Catherine Austin Fitts, who is quite aware of things like the energy decline.

Albert wrote an excellent book on the subject "The Post-Petroleum Survival Guide and Cookbook".

In Lewis County Tennessee the Transition group set up a community kitchen and a business incubator. Bates suggests it's better to fund local small business with funds raised in the area, instead of depending on big banks headquartered far away. They initiated their first local currency, namely "Chamber Bucks" which could be spent at any business that was a member of the Chamber of Commerce.

Now with Peak Oil and a rotten economy, we're seeing a surge of very different folks, some with guns and deep basements. Is "the great change” going to work with such different actors? Even the publishers of Mother Earth News have noticed an increase of survivalists and preppers in their readers. They want to grow their own food and make things themselves, in preparation for collapse.


I ask Albert Bates about the relationship between the Eco village Network, where he has been a leader, and Transition Towns.

First, let's look at what Wiki says about Albert and the Eco village Network:

"Bates has played a major role in the Eco village movement as one of the organizers of the Global Eco village Network (GEN), and served as GEN's chairman of the board (from 2002 to 2003) and president (from 2003 to 2004). He was also the principal organizer of the Eco village Network of the Americas and served as its president (from 1996 to 2003). In 1994 he founded the Eco village Training Center, a "whole systems immersion experience of Eco village living."[1] He has taught courses in sustainable design, natural building, permaculture and technologies of the future to students from more than 50 nations."

Bates is one of the teachers in Eco village training at The Farm, as well as teaching at Gaia University.

Essentially Bates suggests the Eco villages are like living laboratories. People experiment with ways to live together, sharing skills, learning how to produce locally. Some of the valuable lessons from those social experiments are applied more broadly in Transition Towns.


Albert is one of the first to point out there are no islands of security, even in an intentional community. If the rest of the society is falling apart, or even suddenly starving, they will come to take what you've got. It's a long-time point of discussion, which Bates labels the "Zombie Apocalypse" problem.

When I lived in a community of back-to-the-landers in the early 1980's, we often talked about what to do with starving city refugees. One local intentional community - a group of Russian Catholic nuns, decided they would put away lots of extra food and clothing, to welcome people who arrived.

For what it's worth, the historic record in Soviet Russia in the early 1930's, when the cities were starving, didn't work out that way at all. Instead, the army sent out trucks to take away all the grain, including the seed stock for the following year, plus any livestock and food they could find, hauling it back to the cities. The farmers and rural communities starved to death by the millions. It's in the Robert Conquest book "The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine" published in 1986.

Anyway, unless there is a massive solar flare knocking out the grid, I don't expect Western civilization to collapse that quickly. It's far more likely our over-extended system will decline more slowly.


As Bates knows all too well, the American South is experiencing record numbers of super-hot days, and recurring droughts. I ask what is the The Farm doing to prepare for a changed climate?

Albert describes the various ways they are collecting water, and more importantly, preparing their soil to hold more water and use it intelligently. This includes experiments with the Keyline system of agriculture, and using bovines to enrich both soil and water following the ideas of Allan Savory. It's also called "Mob Grazing". To learn more, listen to my 24 minute interview with Allan Savory in 2011 here.

The Farm is expecting 50 or more days where the temperature climbs above 100 degrees each summer - the range where plants stop growing and just go into a defensive dormancy. In the future, the Farm may see 5 or 6 months without rain. They are trying to get ready for all that, for the plants, the animals, and themselves.

Bates does travel around. He speaks at a lot of green fairs, to conferences, and international gatherings. Albert learned about global warming when he was researching deep injection of chemicals into the ground, in his former incarnation as an attorney. He spoke to his young Senator for Tennessee, one Al Gore, and then published his book "Climate in Crisis" in 1990, making Bates another of the pioneers of climate change.

To offset some of the carbon produced in traveling, way back in 1985 he established The Albert Bates Forest.


In general, Albert thinks the Transition Town movement in America has been held back by media fog and mistaken ideas of making everything "American" instead of learning from other parts of the world. There are many more Transition Towns and Eco Villages in Europe, Asia, and the rest of the world than in the U.S. It appears Sri Lanka alone has more Eco villages than the U.S.A.

Follow Albert Bates on Twitter @peaksurfer and his blog is peaksurfer@blogspot.ca.

You can find a lot more Albert Bates links, including some of his fascinating past writing and interviews, here.

Download the 22 minute Albert Bates interview from Radio Ecoshock in CD quality or Lo-Fi. - and pass it on! --------------------------------


We've been talking about Transition, from Europe through New England to the American Deep South. There is more to come, we can't stop talking about what to do, except to get busy doing it.

This wave has been building since at least 1992. As we'll hear, the few expert pioneers have become a big network of community builders, around the world. I'm going to challenge you to tune in, with a slightly different language, with new ears, to one of the pioneers of localization and sustainable community, Mark Roseland.

It's a messy world. We are bombarded by negative stories. Big governments fail to make our lives better, or save us from threats like climate change.

Many of our Radio Ecoshock guests say only local governments are worth your political attention. That's why you need to hear Mark Roseland. He's been advising local governments how to build on a human scale, for cities that can keep going through many challenges.

Dr. Mark Roseland is Director of the Simon Fraser University Centre for Sustainable Community Development, and he is a Professor in the Resource and Environmental Management Program.

Roseland came to world attention back in 1992 with the release of his best-selling book, "Toward Sustainable Communities: Resources for Citizens and Their Governments." That book is being released in a Fourth Edition by New Society Publishers in September 2012.

Mark Roseland on You tube



We talk for a minute about the strange resistance to becoming more sustainable. Unbelievably, in rural America, and even a few people in the Occupy movement in the United States, are afraid any move toward sustainability is just part of a United Nations plot to take over the world. They think everything is part of "Agenda 21" which came out of the first Rio Conference in 1992.

I ask Dr. Roseland point blank: "Are you part of a plot to take over the world?"

Then we both laugh. It's such a weird distortion. The United Nations has hardly managed to do anything, except a lot of good charitable work in the poorest countries. There is no U.N. army ready to conquer the world. In fact, in some U.N. sanctioned military actions, it's the U.S. Armed Forces in command.

That doesn't stop fringe talk show hosts like Alex Jones from drumming it into weak minds that the U.N. is out to take their liberties and the environmentalists and "sustainability" is out to take away their freedom.

One of the alleged villains is something called the ICLEI - the International Council For Local Environmental Initiatives. That is a vehicle where local governments can talk to one another to find out what works. Perfect for localization, and yet some Americans who allegedly want independence have convinced their governments to stop paying for membership!

I think some paranoid Americans are missing a chance at their best allies. They attack Transition Towns as a communist plot. But the same people call for local action, participation in local governments, and prepping for disasters.

Roseland knows where this attack on sustainable communities is coming from: the Tea Party movement (partly funded by the notorious fossil fuel billionaires the Koch brothers) and the Republican Party itself. Back in January 2012 the Republican Party targeted ICLEI as villains to be defunded and fought off if they are elected. It's a political ruse, working against the best interests of America and Transition.


When Roseland published his book "Toward Sustainable Communities" back in 1992, it quickly became THE handbook for local governments, NGO's and interested citizens. There were only a few academics and institutes working on sustainability.

Now in unstable economic times, topped up with rampant energy costs and climate disruption, there are literally thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of non-profits, local governments, academics, college-level courses, and resources of all kinds on making sustainable communities.

Roseland realized the movement was so big, and growing so fast, no resource book could hope to keep up. That is partly why at the Rio+ 20 Conference he announced PANDO. That's a kind of combined database and network for the sustainable community movement. Find it here.

PANDO is named after a giant community of aspen trees in Colorado that are all linked as one big organism by their joint root systems. It may be the largest single organism on land, and it's quite resilient.


As a long-time Professor at Simon Fraser University, in Burnaby Canada (part of Greater Vancouver) - Mark Roseland has been a guiding light in the redevelopment of the mountaintop where that university is situated. Amid some controversy, the University decided the system of staff and students living elsewhere, requiring giant parking lots, needed to be converted to a livable and sustainable community.

Now there are residences, a school, and other services right around the University, called "Univercity". Mark tells us about one day-care center which is not just net zero, but actually contributes more to the environment than it takes. Is that more expensive? No, it cost less than a conventional building.

There is a lot more to this interview. It's not in the usual activist language you hear on Radio Ecoshock, but it cuts exactly to what we are all really trying to accomplish in the real world: creating sustainable communities.

Look for Mark's new Fourth Edition of his classic "Toward Sustainable Communities: Solutions for Citizens and Their Governments." from New Society publishers.

Download the 25 minute Mark Roseland interview from Radio Ecoshock in CD quality or Lo-Fi.


During this show I play brief clips from Neil Young's song "Rumblin'" that's from his 2010 album "Le Noise", and earlier clips from Brian Eno's instrumental "The Big Ship", in the album "Green World".

There is a rumbling'. That kind of low noise of something big coming, but we can't quite tell what. The mass media news is one big distraction. As the headlines scroll by, I have this creepy feeling there are big stories not being told.

One of them is pretty simple. We have built a consumer machine that is chewing up the planet, spitting out toxic waste. Most of the greenhouse gases we pour into the sky are being sucked back into the ocean. Radio Ecoshock guests like paleoclimatologist Peter Ward have made one thing clear. The ocean makes the oxygen we breathe, the ocean determines the weather, and in the big picture, the state of the ocean dictates the big biological clock of abundance or mass extinction.


Today, I saw more graphic evidence the ocean is far more disturbed than our weather. Rob Stewart set out to save the sharks from the lunacy of shark fin soup. His audience, and then the ocean experts, told Stewart he's missed the big story.

Despite the success of his first film "Sharkwater" Stewart had to battle to make his second. He spent another four years travelling to the biological hot spots of the ocean, and to the dead zones. What he learned inflamed him. Stewart found out what we all know in our hearts: we need a big fast change in our economy, culture, and hearts to save not the sharks, not the polar bears, but ourselves. He's calling for nothing less than Revolution. That's the title of his new film.

The movie has just been released at the Toronto Film Festival, and again at the Vancouver Film Festival. It's a full-length bundle of astounding underwater photography, followed by a quest to find out who can stop our civilization from self-destructing.

We are introduced to creatures hidden below the waves. Like a relative of the Octopus that is smarter than your house cat. Crazy and adorable animals that only Nature could dream up.

Their world is dying. The ocean is becoming acidic. It's getting hotter, and it's filling up with plastic and chemicals. The single biggest threat to all sea life, greater even than deforestation, is the way we dump fossil carbon into the atmosphere. Estimates range from 33 up to 50% of all the carbon dioxide we emit goes into the ocean. Everything that makes a skeleton, from tiny plankton through coral to all fish and sea mammals, are endangered by ocean acidification. If we can't control our emissions, quickly, we can't save life in the sea.

Stewart rediscovers what I found out in 1990: the oceans campaign is the climate campaign is the oceans campaign.

So the shark man ends up at two U.N. climate conferences. Both fail miserably. Dependent on consensus, with a negotiations wrecker like Canada, out to promote the dirty Tar Sands oil, the talks go nowhere.

You and I aren't changing much either, even though we know. Stewart glumly tallies up his own carbon pollution, and it's too much. Just like me.

Who isn't invested in the climate death machine? The children. They will bear the ruined climate. Child activists are springing up all around the world. Stewart tirelessly reaches out to them, informing, warning, inspiring youth as our best hope.


Next week I'll bring you a full interview with Rob Stewart underground film-maker, and unlikely revolutionary.

We'll also hear from Lester Brown of the Earth-Policy Institute. He's got the facts on rising food costs at home, and food-less days abroad.

And we'll continue our Transition series, as guest Wes Regan describes food localization in the poorest neighborhood.

We opened Radio Ecoshock this Fall with Gareth Renowden. He and co-host Glenn Williams have managed a new edition of "The Climate Show" bridging the time gap between London and rural New Zealand. Check out the new program at theclimateshow.com

Another tip from the film Revolution: only you can educate yourself. Sorry, whatever school you went to didn't teach what we all need to know. The government won't tell you. Media plans to distract you.

As the hard facts roll away the delusions of a mass suicide pact, I encourage you to dig, dig, dig. You can get college level knowledge free in You tube and Google lectures. Watch the TED talks. Bulk up your list of blogs that tilt toward natural reality.

You can find every back show of Radio Ecoshock on our web site at ecoshock.org. Please tune in, and spread it around. Use those links, Facebook, Twitter, everything. Hand out copies to neighbors or on the street. Talk it up.

Some of the world's best experts teach us. We have to strip away layers of ignorance and greed. We need to know the truth, and then we need to act on it. Nothing else will save a livable future for our descendants. That IS the big story.

I'm Alex Smith. This has been Radio Ecoshock. Join us next week.


Share: Tough Transition

Transition Yourself

2012-09-29 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)

Ideas from America on starting a Transition Town. Ruah Wennerfelt, Steve Chase & host Mark Helpsmeet in live stage conversation. Plus Greg Pahl, author of "Power from the People, How to Organize, Finance, and Launch Local Energy Projects." Max Keiser & Stacy Herbert on corporate corruption. Music: "In Your Eyes" by Peter Gabriel. Radio Ecoshock 120926 1 hour.

The climate has gone rogue, energy prices are threatening, and the economy sucks. You know the elections aren't going to make it better. Why wait for government? You can protect your community and yourself by helping your town withstand the shocks.

Download/listen to Radio Ecoshock for September 26, 2012 in CD quality (56 MB) here.

Or use the faster downloading, lower quality 14 MB version here.

This program is about the Transition Town Movement and local power.

We begin with a half of an hour-long dialog with Ruah Swennerfelt and Steve Chase on the Transition Town movement in New England.

It's a rebroadcast of "Sprouts", radio production by independent community media. Last July, host Mark Helpsmeet of "Spirit in Action" hosted a live event Transition Town dialog in Rhode Island at the University of Kingston. It was originally broadcast on WHYS-LP in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, as part of Northern Spirit Radio. WHYS also broadcasts Radio Ecoshock.


The opening of the Sprouts segment contains part of the song "The Turning of the World" performed by Sara Thomsen (written by Ruth Pellam) & "I Have No Hands But Yours" by Carole Johnson.

The show closes with the Peter Gabriel classic "In Your Eyes" (this You tube from a live concert from the 2003 Growing Up Tour in Filaforum, Milan, Italy. Or try this live classic recording Papa Wemba & Peter Gabriel


Our discussion of Transition in New England and Europe was recorded in front of a live audience, in early July, in Rhode Island at the University of Kingston.

One guest speaker is Ruah Swennerfelt, former long-time General Secretary of Quaker Earthcare Witness. She is currently involved with the Transition Town implementation in Charlotte, Vermont. Find her Transition US blog here.

Both our guests are involved in Quakers in Transition.

Steve Chase is Director of Advocacy for Social Justice and Sustainability at Antioch University New England. Steve talks about the Transition Town in Keene, New Hampshire, where their slogan is: "for local people concerned about peak oil, climate change, and a dysfunctional and unjust global economy - who want to respond with vision, courage, and creativity."

Helpsmeet asks how people who have very different political beliefs can work together in a Transition movement. One way is to stress "resilience" rather than the eco word "sustainability".

For the Quakers, the prospect of "energy famine" (as fossil fuels decline, become too expensive, or are taken over by others) can easily lead to resource wars. In this way, Peak Oil can really be a "peace" issue.

In Europe, some Neo-Nazi's took up the name "Transition" applied to their town. Partly in response to austerity in some European countries, this group agreed we have to learn to live on less, and so there is a need to keep immigrants out, using racist rhetoric.

In response, Transition US posted some core values, including posting local group constitutions on the Transition US web site.

It's ironic, because unlike the Nazi leadership cult, Ruah says success comes because Transition is a leaderless movement. Leadership is shared as well.

Having fun together is "a really core principle" says Ruah. Have fun, not long dreary meetings.


Keene New Hampshire had a ground-breaking for a new food coop in mid-2012. It already has a thousand members in a town of 25,000.

They have around 20 community-supported agricultural projects in their area, which allows for more local food production. They now have a farmers' market and a winter farmers' market.


What's the hurry? asks host Mark. Is it just concern with oil supplies?

There are many reasons, says Ruah, but she doesn't think of it as all doom and gloom. In permaculture, she says, the solution is found in the problem itself.

Ruah still has a car, but is always aware of her pollution, that she is helping cause more global warming. She wants a group to help develop less harmful local transportation schemes. Like biking to a collector bus van, which leads to a larger bus to the city of Burlington, Vermont.

Central is the idea that we will have to learn to live well on less. Perhaps much less. Fossil fuels will be less available, cost more, and the damage they cause will become more and more apparent. But also, the idea of global equity, which is central to global peace, demands Western people use fewer resources, allowing the poorest people to get the basics.

In most cities, there is only 3 to 5 days’ worth of food. After that, if the trucks don't roll in, people run out of food. Local food production increases the ability to absorb coming shocks in the food production and delivery system, for whatever reason.


Ruah describes how to start a Transition Town. There are three books now available to help: the first one was "Transition Handbook" by Rob Hopkins. You'll have to get that one used from online services, as it is out of print. The Transition Culture blog now advocates buying "Transition Companion" also by Rob Hopkins. There is a third: "Transition Timeline" by Shaun Chamberlin published in 2009.

Here is the description of "Transition Timeline" from transitionculture.org

"The Transition Timeline lightens the fear of our uncertain future, providing a map of what we are facing and the different pathways available to us. It describes four possible scenarios for the UK and world over the next twenty years, ranging from Denial, in which we reap the consequences of failing to acknowledge and respond to our environmental challenges, to the Transition Vision, in which we shift our cultural assumptions to fit our circumstances and move into a more fulfilling, lower-energy world. The practical, realistic details of this Transition Vision are examined in depth, covering key areas such as food, energy, demographics, transport and healthcare, and they provide a sense of context for communities working towards a thriving future.

The book also provides a detailed and accessible update on climate change and peak oil and the interactions between them, including their impacts in the UK, present and future. Use it. Choose your path, and then make that future real with your actions, individually and with your community. As Rob Hopkins outlines in his foreword, there is a rapidly- spreading movement addressing these challenges, and it needs you.

Also see Rob Hopkins in a 17 minute presentation "Transition to a World without Oil" at TED, on You tube in 2009.


In 2011, Ruah visited Transition communities in 10 different European countries, as well as a "Transition France" conference and a "Transition UK" conference. All the communities took different steps, or in different order, to adapt to where they lived.

There is even Transition Paris. They broke down into smaller transition communities within the larger city. They had a central hub to serve these smaller groups.

They do the same thing in Transition Los Angeles and Transition Barcelona.

Find Transition Barcelona in Spanish or in English.

One group in England had members map out where food trees, like peak and apple trees, were accessible and perhaps not harvested. They asked homeowners for permission to harvest the fruit, rather than let it be wasted.

In Charlotte, Vermont they have an "Asset Directory". They took a survey of community skills, to allow skill-sharing. It also hooks up people who want to learn skills, whether it's canning, small scale farming or whatever.

Steve Case points out that social movements are not like corporate franchises. You don't buy a license to become a Transition Town. There are about 1,000 formal transition initiatives around the world.

They have workshops on how to deal with difficult people. We are a "cussed species" and sometimes the culture doesn't help us.

We need an outer transition to reconfigure our communities with resilience, an energy descent plan, to live without damaging the climate, and live on less and less.


When Rob Hopkins wrote the Transition Handbook around 2008, he advanced "the theory of anyway". Even if climate change isn't as serious, or oil continues longer than thought, or the economy limps along - we'll still be living and eating better with the transition town, with a more resilient economy. You'll feel better with more local democracy, more skills, and more community involvement - no matter what happens.

The international site for Transition Towns is here.

The local producers and buyers try to reduce food miles, and the use of pesticides and fertilizers which are petroleum based. Like Ruah, Steve Chase says the challenges of energy depletion and economic downsizing also contain the solutions. For example, one water treatment plant in New England was getting swamped by sudden inflows of water. This problem was solved by installing micro-generators on the intake pipes. Now that plant is self-sufficient, generating its own energy from the former "problem".

They plan to have about 12 transition trainers in New England this year, to offer weekend workshops. Beyond this basic training there is a new training workshop called "Transition Thrive" (what to do next, after getting your group going).

Transition groups in Scotland are incorporated to do community business, like community bakeries. Ruah recommends the book "The Town That Food Saved". It's about Hardwick Vermont.

It's important to partner with town or city government. Their local government had one immediate problem: too many parents drove kids to school even though school buses are provided. It caused dangerous congestion, and more climate change. How to make riding the bus cool for kids? Now that's a challenge!

Transition may say "don't wait for government" but groups still work with existing governments to get things done, says Steve Chase.

In Keene, they have awareness raising "Transition Tuesday". One success was showing the film "A Convenient Truth" about Curitiba Brazil. That town transformed itself. See a short trailer for A Convenient Truth here.

People need to see examples of what is possible, Chase says, rather than only hearing the dire consequences if we don't do something. Once you begin to think creatively, all the problems seem like opportunities.


In our second half hour, our guest is Greg Pahl, author of the new book "Power from the People, How to Organize, Finance, and Launch Local Energy Projects."

We all worry about future energy supplies - and the climate cost of what we've got now.

We have to choose between big utility mega-projects, or toss some solar panels on the roof, right? Wrong, according to Greg Pahl. He gives examples of community-based energy projects from the West Coast to the East Coast.

Greg tells us about two projects: a solar community installation in Ellensburg Washington State, formed in 2006; and the Fox Islands Wind Project in Vinalhaven Maine.

The Fox Islands project is three wind turbines funded and owned by the local community, instead of a distant big corporation. Pahl says local energy not only helps unite a community, it also helps the local economy in these hard times.

We even talk about what condo owners and apartment dwellers can do to make communities more energy self-reliant. For example, one condo association in Chicago voted to install solar on their roof-tops. Other people can support larger local energy projects.

Pahl also notes that sometime moving is the right thing to do. You could either move to a more energy efficient house, build one, or - as we talked about in last week's Radio Ecoshock show "Heading to Air Conditioned Hell" - move to a part of the country or world which requires far less energy for heat or cooling.

Local energy initiatives do not have to be huge. For example, instead of building a dam which deforms river ecology, your town or group could use run-of-the-river power generation.

Greg Pahl isn't a fan of hydrogen. That really isn't an energy source, but a type of storage and transmission. It currently takes so much power to pry hydrogen out of water, that the hydrogen process is a net energy loser.

We talk about financing local energy projects. Don't discount the possibility of funding from local banks or credit unions, Pahl says. "Crowd funding" will also be legal in the U.S. for energy projects in 2013, with new regulations coming from the SEC, as part of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act.

"Power from the People, How to Organize, Finance, and Launch Local Energy Projects" is from Chelsea Green Publishing and part of the Post Carbon Institute’s Community Resilience Series. Find out more at gregpahl.com

We started out this program with information on how to turn your community into a Transition Town, with examples from New England. Next week we'll find out this transition movement transcends many different political views. The famous alternative thinker Albert Bates joins us from The Farm in Tennessee. Albert tells me Transition can succeed in a Red State, thick with Republican voters, even in very rural communities. We'll find out how.

As you know, the Transtion Movement started out in the UK with Rob Hopkins and his community. If you have local experiences you would like to share, be sure and send me an email with a short description of what is going on. We can share that with listeners, or perhaps you can be a guest on Radio Ecoshock, sharing what works. Maybe you would like to suggest someone I should call as a guest. There are two ways to get in touch: email me - the address is radio@ecoshock.org. Or go to our web site at ecoshock.org and click on the "contact" button to send me your message.

When it comes to Transition, we all have a role to play, and a voice to speak. I appreciate hearing from you.


We have a little time left to pass on this gem from another in my list of must-listen radio. This is from the "Truth About Markets" radio program, broadcast from Resonance FM in London. Co-hosts Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert have been warning for years the banking and corporate system are corrupt. They pretty well coined the term "banksters" back in the day when people still trusted banks and the markets.

In this 5 minute clip, Max - who worked for years in the markets, and designed sophisticated trading software, and Tracy talk about new studies on one law for the rich, and another for you and I.

The research they discuss shows that corporations who pay big lobby bucks are far less likely to be investigated, and if they are caught, get much more lenient sentences. There is academic research to prove that. Listen and learn.

Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert from the August 11th "Truth About Markets" show (Episode 325) on Resonance FM, London . Resonance FM also broadcasts Radio Ecoshock every Tuesday at noon.

Their web site is maxkeiser.com Use the search box on the home page to searchg for "Truth About Markets" to listen or download.

By the way, Max Keiser and Stacy are one of the few finance experts who also warn us about climate change, rather than denying it. It's refreshing.

You've been listening to Radio Ecoshock. I'm Alex Smith. Our web site is ecoshock.org.

We'll finish this show with the classic by Peter Gabriel "In Your Eyes" (links above). Something in the words and melody stuck a chord in my heart this week.

Look after one another, and thanks for caring about your world.

Alex Smith


Share: Transition Yourself

Heading to Air Conditioned Hell

2012-09-17 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)

Who knew air conditioning could add another 20% to the world's emissions? High power use and nasty refrigerants. Stan Cox, author of "Losing Our Cool". Guus Velders, Netherlands Environment Agency, expert on ozone and climate. Michael Sivak, U. of Michigan, on global expansion of air conditioning. Music: "Mercy" by The Dave Matthews Band. Radio Ecoshock 120919 1 hour.

Download this show CD Quality mp3 (56 MB)

Download this show in Lo-Fi mp3 (14 MB)

Stage one: the Earth gets hotter and hotter due to growing greenhouse gas emissions.

Stage two: humans cool themselves artificially with machines.

Stage Three: air conditioning makes the world even hotter, until we run out of fossil fuels to run the machines, or extinction takes us down.

It's an obvious progression, another adaptation to what we've done. I counted air-conditioning as a minor factor, another irritant to living systems. Now I've learned it's a major vector, a force that could help tip us into runaway climate change.

Everybody knows air-conditioners suck up lots of energy, most of it powered by coal. We've heard rumors a billion people in Asia are buying them. I've known for 20 years the refrigerants are super global warming gases - but those tiny amounts hiding in the back of our refrigerators and air-conditioners can't amount to all that much...

Wait until you hear the truth about air-conditioning. We've got three powerful interviews. Stan Cox is author of the best guide, a book called "Losing Our Cool". His latest article in the Guardian newspaper gives us the global picture.

Dr. Guus Velders is from Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, and he advises world bodies on ozone depletion and climate change.

Dr. Michael Sivak from the University of Michigan wrote the best studies on the global growth of air-conditioning.

We wrap up with a new song from The Dave Matthews Band which captures our situation so well. It's called "Mercy" - hear the whole song at the end of the show.

Are we heading to air-conditioned Hell? I'm Alex Smith. Tune in to our guests this week, and find out for yourself.


This week we're looking at air-conditioning. Are we heading into artificially cooled caves as the outdoors becomes unbearably hot? In some places, anyone who can has already abandoned the summer streets, travelling between air conditioned rooms in air conditioned cars. If the grid fails, or electricity becomes too much, what then?

All the while, the gases used to cool your food in ships and trucks, in a billion refrigerators and hundreds of millions of air conditioners for homes, malls, offices and factories, is escaping into the upper atmosphere, like a blanket warming the world.


In November 2010, Radio Ecoshock interviewed Stan Cox, author of an excellent book on the over-all impacts of air-conditioning, titled "Losing Our Cool". We mostly talked about the United States, how air conditioning has changed the way people interact, and the huge amount of energy wasted.

Stan's authority on air-conditioning has gone global, just as air-conditioning is exploding in the developing world, including China and India. His most recent article for Yale 360 was republished in Britain's Guardian newspaper. It's a scary read, with a little known twist that could help tip us into runaway climate change.

Stan Cox is a senior scientist at a non-profit agricultural research institute in Salina, Kansas.

This past June I was in Page Arizona. It has hardly rained there for two years. The temperature was 104 degrees in the shade - 40 Celsius. It was punishing. When people stopped for coffee, they left their vehicles running to keep them cool. The streets were deserted by ten in the morning, it was just too hot. Everyone spends the day hiding in some air-conditioned building.

I asked whether there will be a mass exodus of people from the American South, when electricity prices get too high. Now we're into a series of record hot years, the hottest July in American records - how long can the Sun Belt residents keep their cool?

Stan's article for Yale 360 - I read it in the Guardian - took us out of America, and into a whole new world of air conditioning. Where is the big growth of air conditioning now?

Northern India just suffered the world's biggest power blackout. Electricity for 700 million people went off, for a few days. A lot of that was due to demand for air conditioning. We talk about India's love-affair with cooling, powered by coal.

Then we cover the growing A.C. giant of the world: China.


Of course, we could always listen to Rush. Maybe he's not high on a hundred painkillers any more, but Rush Limbaugh's brain takes him on some strange excursions. I play you a quick clip, as Rush explains how air conditioning makes you think global warming is happening, even when it's not.

Thanks Rush. It just FEELS hotter because we have air-conditioning...Never mind all those temperature records measured by new-fangled thermometers. Or the melting poles. Who needs science when we've got you! Try Radio Ecoshock instead.


Why are we using super global warming gases, thousands of times more powerful than carbon dioxide in air conditioners? Let's find out, from Dr. Guus Velders.

I found out about Guus from the Guardian article by Stan Cox.

Let me give you one astounding paragraph from that article in the Guardian newspaper published on July 10th 2012. This blew my mind:

"According to a recent forecast by Guus Velders of the Netherlands' National Institute for Public Health and the Environment and his colleagues, refrigerants that accumulate in the atmosphere between now and 2050 (increasingly HFCs, mostly from refrigeration and air conditioning) will add another 14 to 27 percent to the increased warming caused by all human-generated carbon dioxide emissions. "

So we're not talking about all the greenhouse gases coming from generating electricity to power billions of air conditioners, as frightening as that is. No, this Dutch report is just about the refrigerants, the chemicals hiding in the back of all our refrigerators and air conditioners - adding as much as another 25% to all our warming of the planet!

Could the cooling chemicals in your refrigerator or air conditioner help tip the world into massive heating? "Yes" says expert Guus Velders, as billions more units are sold in the developing world, using the same chemicals.

Dr. Guus Velders is an expert's expert. He works at the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency as a senior scientist on ozone depletion, climate change, and air quality. Velders advises the Dutch Government, the European Environment Agency, and makes assessments for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations Environment Program and more.

As you know, the science of how small amounts of a chemical can radically change the heat-trapping ability of the atmosphere isn't new. The Irish scientist John Tyndall made this discovery as early as 1860. But now we are using relatively new chemicals, known as CFC's and HFC's. Perhaps we should lay the groundwork with CFC's, also known by the DuPont trade name "Freon" - and their role in damaging the ozone.

To stop this ozone damage, the Montreal Protocol, first agreed in 1987, called for a ban on CFC's, with some exceptions for developing countries. The cooling industry provided a replacement that was safe for consumers, but not for the climate.

Moving to 2009, in this You tube video Velders said the Montreal Protocol accomplished more to control climate change than the first stage of the Kyoto Protocol. But he warned we needed to reign in HFC's or lose any progress. At that time, Velders reported HFC emissions could be the equivalent to 6 or even 8 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide each year, by 2010.

In my reading of graphs presented in his 2009 paper, HFC consumption by developing countries appears to reach the same levels as developed countries around 2015 to 2018. The radiative forcing from HFC use in developing countries equals all developed countries a little later, around 2025 to 2030 - but then takes off upward in a very steep curve, indicating big impacts on the climate.

http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2009/06/19/0902817106.abstract We talked about how these refrigerants escape. Velders gives the example of the hundreds of millions of car air conditioners. Because there is so much shaking during travel, about 15% of car refrigerants escape into the atmosphere every year.

Refrigerators and air conditioners are always being replaced. While some European countries have strict provisions for recapturing the coolants for incineration, most of the world just dumps the old machinery. The refrigerants escape into the atmosphere, adding super warming gases.

Dr. Guus Velders is also a published expert on the relationships between ozone damage and climate change. In fact, he was a lead author in an IPCC special report on ozone depletion and climate change.

That's a subject that stumps many people. Countless well-meaning people say we have to stop the ozone hole to save the planet from climate change. The public gets the two issues confused, and they are very different.


Dr. Michael Sivak is the director of Sustainable World-wide Transportation at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. He's looked at the energy we use to heat and cool, coming up with useful suggestions for where you might want to live, who's next for the air-conditioning boom, and how the world should count carbon emissions.

We take a lightening tour through three of his papers. The earliest is called: "Where to live in the United States: Combined energy demand for heating and cooling in the 50 largest metropolitan areas."

It's intriguing. Energy costs, with the exception of natural gas, just keep going up. Around 35 million Americans moved around last year anyway, according to the U.S. Census Bureau 2011.

Where should people go to pay the lowest energy bills, and reduce their climate footprint? Sivak found people in San Diego have the lowest energy footprint, while places like Milwaukee have the highest.

That paper was published in 2008. Since then, we've had some scorching years, with milder winters - with more to come as the climate changes. According to Sivak's work, from Florida right across the South, Americans already use more energy for cooling than heating. If the world warms a few degrees, places like New England might require less energy?

Then we move to the global scale, with Michael Sivak's article titled "Potential energy demand for cooling in the 50 largest metropolitan areas of the world: Implications for developing countries."

In the U.S. Sivak found heating homes still using more energy than cooling. Does that hold true for the biggest world cities? Not at all. The developing mega-cities are toward the south, with much hotter climates. Cooling demands must have been a factor in last summer's world's largest blackout across Northern India.

Now more people live in cities than in rural areas, and that trend is accelerating. We know leafy, natural landscapes add cooling, while cities develop a "heat island" effect which raises temperatures several degrees. Add in the trend toward higher incomes, and global warming - I worry people will need air conditioning in cities, just to survive. That will make climate change and energy shortages even worse.

Perhaps you've seen rankings of countries based on their emissions per capita. Michael Sivak says those aren't fair, unless we also count each nation's real need for heating and cooling. That's in a recent publication in "American Scientist", written with Brandon Schoettle. The article is called "Accounting for Climate in Ranking Countries' Carbon Dioxide Emissions". In a way, Michael, is building on his earlier studies.

He seems to be saying, people in other countries have a right to be as comfortable as we are. If we ever agree on a fair distribution of greenhouse gas emissions, we have to count that in. That isn't necessarily bad for developed countries. Americans may have a right to a certain amount of energy because their climate demands it - while a balmy Pacific island state does not.

Calculating carbon allowances based on heating and cooling needs seems like common sense. We'll see if international negotiators pick up on this.


Remember, in our current rush to air-condition everywhere, Dr. Gus Velders estimates that by 2050, the burst of energy use combined with super warming gases in the refrigerants, could add up to 20% of our current total emissions. It doesn't take much to tip a climate into a new hothouse age. Maybe that will do it.

In the movie sci-fi movie "Brazil" by Terry Gilliam, every home and indoor space is climate controlled by machines. Otherwise, who could stand what is lurking outdoors. We may be there already. As our first guest Stan Cox told us, it took a generation for Americans to install 100 million air-conditioners. Fifty million were sold in China in 2010 alone.

The strange thing is: as Elizabeth Rosenthal makes clear in her excellent series in The New York Times, we have much safer alternatives. Commercial installations (like shopping malls!) could use ammonia as a coolant. They just have to keep the ammonia outside.

Watch this New York Times video with Elizabeth Rosenthal to get the images and facts on the cooling mania.

Even carbon dioxide itself can be a refrigerant, and there are others. Greenpeace developed a "green fridge" that was manufactured in Cuba. I've seen one and it works great. The industry could switch over tomorrow if there was enough public awareness and demand.

You can even find You tube videos of how to hook up an air conditioner to as little as 600 watts of solar panels, keeping a house cool enough for comfort without burning fossil fuels.

As we feel the rumble of the on-coming climate train, I'm not going to count on prayer alone. Activism and action can preserve a livable world. Next week, we'll hear about the beginnings, in localization and the transition movement.

I'm Alex Smith. You can contact me through our web site at ecoshock.org I always appreciate your feed-back, tips, and ideas.

Radio Ecoshock isn't a music show, even though good sound often sustains me. But when I heard this new song by The Dave Matthews Band, I had to share it with you. It's called "Mercy".…


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ARCTIC MELT DOWN Scientists Speak Out

2012-09-15 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)

In 2012, the Arctic Sea Ice hit a stunning new record low. Rutgers scientist Jennifer Francis explains how this changes weather for billions of people in the Northern Hemisphere. Plus the Director of the Snow and Ice Data Center, Mark Serreze on record and what it means, and analysis from polar scientist Cecelia Bitz, U of Washington. In depth, direct from top scientists. Radio Ecoshock 120912 1 hour.




It's been called the Arctic Death Spiral. All time-lows for polar sea ice have been shattered this year.

A new record Arctic sea ice melt-back occurred in August 2012 ( a month earlier than ever before), with more to come in September. To me, this may be the largest single impact of human activity on the planet. It's hard to exaggerate how big this story is.

In early September, it looks like the last of the Arctic ice is hovering around the large chain of islands in the Canadian Arctic, to the West of Greenland. The West side of the Arctic Ocean is wide open, the fabled Northwest Passage along the Canadian Coast is clear with some ice around McClure Straight. The sea ice has melted away from the entire Russian coast along Siberia.

Sooner or later, there will be no sea ice in the Arctic in the summer months. Professor Peter Wadhams of Cambridge, previously a guest on Radio Ecoshock, now predicts we could see that open Arctic Ocean as soon as 2015.

All the 24 hour power of the summer sun will pour into the polar ocean, instead of being reflected back into space. A new article in the Journal "Nature" reports parts of Arctic Siberia are already releasing far more carbon dioxide and methane than previously thought.

The National Snow and Ice Data Center says lack of sea ice could drive heat up to 900 miles further inland, threatening to melt the Permafrost. Most scientists agree that would trigger runaway global warming, well beyond anything humans could do to stop it.

It's an Arctic Emergency, plain and simple - a warning sign Earth's climate is tipping into a new hothouse age.

We need all the facts we can get, and I've lined up three of the best scientists for this week's show. We'll talk with atmospheric scientist and polar expert Dr. Cecilia Bitz from the University of Washington. We'll get the latest figures, and tips for tracking the polar ice yourself - from the Director of the National Sea and Ice Data Center, Dr. Mark Serreze.

But first, I want you to hear the Rutgers University scientist who is stirring up meteorologists, TV weather people, and government insiders. Dr. Jennifer Francis says the melt-back of Arctic sea ice is already affecting the climate of the whole Northern Hemisphere.



CD Quality



CD Quality



CD Quality


Jennifer Francis is a Research Professor at the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, at Rutgers University, in New Jersey. She is an atmospheric scientist who specializes in the Arctic. Dr. Francis has many published papers, and don't miss her important presentation on You tube from the Weather and Climate Summit, held at Breckenridge, Colorado in January 2012. The New York Times also interviewed her about a new observation: melting Arctic Sea Ice has changed our weather further south.

The idea that sea ice could modify weather in the American Mid-West, the UK, or China, is hard to grasp. In school, we were never taught about waves and rivers in the atmosphere, like the Rossby waves, or the Jet Stream.

Spend the time on this in-depth video: Jennifer Francis presenting at the Weather and Climate Summit last January. Pretend you are going back to college - to find out how the world works now that global warming is melting the Arctic. You'll be surprised how much sense strange winters, and the daily weather forecast starts to make sense, after you've seen this.

One big surprise for me in this Jennifer Francis interview: I assumed that the summer sea ice melt would be a driving factor in things like the record heat waves in the U.S. this past summer, the big drought there, and the wet summer in the UK and Northern Europe. But Francis says the main impact of less sea ice comes as the ice refreezes. That releases heat, builds up a big high pressure zone around the poles, and impacts WINTER WEATHER in the Northern Hemisphere.

The summer weather, Francis suggests, is more changed by the record early snow melt in Arctic lands this spring and summer. Mark Serreze confirms there was a record snow melt this year, exposing a lot of land, across Russia, Canada, and Alaska, to much more heat. That is one of the biggest unreported stories of this year. We've all be staring that sea ice melt, without also looking at the huge melt back of snow, much earlier than normal, on land.

We've heard warnings that retreating ice means a change in the salt content of the sea, which could produce more climate changes, if the Gulf Stream warming New England and Northern Europe weakens. Jennifer Francis says that is such a slow long-term process, we don't have to focus on that now. It can be a positive feed-back loop as changes in the ocean develop, but not a big change. The movie "The Day After Tomorrow" looked impressive, but it's simply not possible to see such a big change in a small time scale. We can dial that down - for now!

Finally, I asked Dr. Francis how other scientists are receiving the theory her group proposed. She replied it's not so much a "theory" as a paper of observations. That is, their science is not based on models, but on actual reporting of events in the Arctic, and the behavior of the Jet Stream.

Frankly, this year's record melt of the summer sea ice leaves me with a sense or horror. Dr. Francis says we should all be shocked and worried about such a big change in the way Earth systems work.


When it comes to the Arctic, one of the first stops for both media and scientists is the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder Colorado.

Radio Ecoshock is pleased to have as our guest the NSIDC Director and Senior Research Scientist, Dr. Mark Serreze.

The capability scientists ask for most is for better ways to measure that ice thickness. Is the United States working on improved ice monitoring? Yes, Serreze tells us - but the most useful satellite for measuring Arctic ice is no longer there - and the next one won't be launched until 2016.

We also discuss the fact that America has only one operational polar class ice breaker. Russia has about 17. The U.S. rents a Russian icebreaker just to reach their Antarctic base. All the scientists I talked to would like to see at least one more Arctic icebreaker - especially if there is going to be more ship traffic and oil drilling in the Arctic.

You might think with less ice we need fewer icebreakers - but Serreze explains why the need is greater than ever. To build a new icebreaker could cost as much as half a billion dollars - money that might be hard to find in these fiscally challenged days. It's possible there might be no search and rescue, security patrols, or oil spill cleanup help from the United States.

Way back in June 2008, the NSICS warned heat from the Arctic Ocean could penetrate up to 900 miles inland! Let's take a snip from that release.

MEDIA ADVISORY: Permafrost Threatened by Rapid Retreat of Arctic Sea Ice, NCAR/NSIDC Study Finds

"The findings point to a link between rapid sea ice loss and enhanced rate of climate warming, which could penetrate as far as 900 miles inland. In areas where permafrost is already at risk, such as central Alaska, the study suggests that periods of abrupt sea ice loss can lead to rapid soil thaw.

Thawing permafrost may have a range of impacts, including buckled highways and destabilized houses, as well as changes to the delicate balance of life in the Arctic. In addition, scientists estimate that Arctic soils hold at least 30 percent of all the carbon stored in soils worldwide. While scientists are uncertain what will happen if this permafrost thaws, it has the potential to contribute substantial amounts of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

As wrap up the Serreze interview, he gives us all helpful tips on how to use their fabulous web site to keep tabs on the Arctic. There are easy to click maps and information sheets for the non-scientist. If you have the expertise, you can even download their raw data to run your own models. It's a tremendous resource.


Our last guest on this Radio Ecoshock Arctic special is Dr. Cecilia Bitz. At the University of Washington, she is Associate Professor in the Atmospheric Sciences Department, an Affiliate Physicist for the Polar Science Center, and part of the Program on Climate Change.

Dr. Bitz studies the role of sea ice in the climate system and its impacts on wildlife. She's also investigating Arctic ice in past climate change, and works with models attempting to predict the future.

I ask her how we know global warming is causing this Arctic ice disaster, and not some other force, like Sun spots, or natural ocean changes. It turns out about 30% of the record melt of sea ice is due to natural causes - particularly the North Atlantic Oscillation.

But the other 70%, according to Bitz and many other experts, is due to human made climate change.

I find it interesting to note another scientist at the University of Washington, Jinlun Zhang, points out Antarctic Sea ice has NOT retreated, and temperatures have not risen there very much. Why is the Arctic experiencing astonishing change, while most of Antarctica is not? Bitz says the West Antarctic Peninsula is experiencing extreme warming and ice loss. But the main part of the Antarctic continent is surrounded by oceans, unlike the Arctic Ocean surrounded by big land masses. That is the principal difference. The details also include the different mixing patterns and currents around Antarctica. That Southern Pole will lag significantly behind the Arctic, when it comes to global warming.

I know Cecilia Bitz works on climate models. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was not alone in missing how quickly this sea ice melt happened. If climate models serve as our eyes into the future, why did they fail us, and what can we do to improve them? We discuss that.

It's a pleasure to talk over the whole Arctic situation with such a scientist.


Arctic methane - new study says methane from the Arctic "an order of magnitude larger" than previously estimated, from Eastern Siberian sea.

George Monbiot has some really handy Arctic facts in this column in the Guardian newspaper (UK)


Is the Arctic Ocean set to warm and change the world climate? Never mind. Big oil is getting ready to party. Greenpeace warns Arctic drilling will tip the planet into weather extremes, and spills there can never be cleaned up. I play a quick clip from Greenpeace saying oil drilling in the Arctic, now that oil burning has destroyed the summer sea ice, is "obscene".

That is followed by a slice from Democracy Now, as host Amy Goodman interviews Greenpeace Director Kumi Naidoo. He is live on the deck of the Russian Gazprom Arctic drilling rig, doing what Executive Directors never do. Naidoo is hanging under a high pressure fire hose, as the activist group protests that ice-hardened Russian drilling rig.

Greenpeace protesters were also arrested in Moscow, in a concerted effort to wake up the Russian public to the threat of Arctic oil drilling.


We're out of time. Maybe really out of time - for the sea ice, for the polar bears, for the Arctic environment, for the climate as we know it. I urge you to wake up your neighbors, your local and regional politicians, your national candidates. Don't shut up. Pass on the news, talk it up, blog it up, use social media and all the media.

Make copies of this program, to play for groups, or just hand them out on CD. Download it free from the Radio Ecoshock web site at ecoshock.org.

See you next week, as we head to air-conditioned Hell. Then we'll transition to real local solutions where you can play a big part.

I'm Alex Smith. Thanks for listening, and caring about your world.


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Looking for an End

2012-09-05 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)


Waiting for a resolution to the triple crisis of climate, energy and the economy? Alex interviews Gareth Renowden, co-host of New Zealand's "The Climate Show" on the big stories. From Beijing, Li Yan, Greenpeace East Asia climate coordinator, on China's emissions and coal dependence. Plus "Tip of the Iceberg News" points you to important blog posts and audio you may have missed. Music from Deva Prewal. Radio Ecoshock 120905 1 hour.

Welcome back to another season of Radio Ecoshock! I am your tour guide, Alex Smith.

In this week's program we travel the world. From New Zealand, we'll hash out our disturbed weather, with the co-host of The Climate Show, Gareth Renowden.

Then it's off to Beijing, for a report straight from China. Greenpeace Asia Campaigner Li Yan is our guest.

We'll cap that off with "Tip of the Iceberg News" - my welcome back round up of world-shaking developments, pointers to great audio, blogs and articles, and four big trends in the alternative/activist scene.

Our music artist this week is Deva Premal. Find her at White Swan Records, or at her web site here.










Coming back from my annual vacation, I find the world as mad as ever. So much happened, I need help just trying to grasp it all. Who better than Gareth Renowden, co-host of "The Climate Show" out of New Zealand? Gareth is a climate blogger, truffle specialist, farmer, radio personality, and now author of a new sci-fi book titled "The Aviator, the Burning World".

Gareth and I agree the top story is the record ice melt-back in the Arctic. We'll be doing a special on that next week, with super specialists like Jennifer Francis from Rutgers, and Mark Serreze from the National Snow and Ice Data Center. Tune in next week for that on Radio Ecoshock.

We also talk about another under-reported story: the serial drowning of major cities in Asia by extreme precipitation events. In the Philippines, Manila suffered a major flood, and then Beijing China got six months of rain in 24 hours. Even the capital of the African country of Niger ended its horrible drought with half a year's worth of rain in a day.

I raise this question with Gareth? I've just been going through a study which shows humans tend to be pessimistic about other people, but optimistic about themselves. We worry about an unstable climate, but think it won't really affect me that much. That may be one reason why even developed countries refuse to plan for things like heavy rainstorms or rising seas. Do you see signs we are getting ready for what is coming?

Gareth replies, no, not for what he thinks is coming. But some countries are adding risings seas into their planning process - unlike legislators in one southern U.S. state which specifically prohibited including any global warming planning. New Zealand for example, is looking at how they might protect their coastlines from rising seas.

"The Climate Show" has been out of production since last spring. Co-host Glenn Williams, formerly a radio reporter for Radio New Zealand, has moved with his family to London England. His broadcasting gear has just arrived in the UK. Gareth expects they will work through the technology needed to hook up again (each in a different day, spanning the globe) to produce more Climate Shows. It will be tricky, considering the pair do both an audio and video recording at the same time, but all things are possible in the Skype world. Regular guest John Cook of skepticalscience.com will join them as well.

We move on to look at Gareth's new science fiction book. It's now on Amazon.com and amazon.uk, as well as Smashwords, with more outlets to come. From the book's web site:

"Here’s how cover designer Dylan Horrocks described The Aviator on Facebook.

"Gareth Renowden’s novel The Aviator is a light-hearted journey (by state-of-the-art airship) around a world transformed by climate change and subsequent political collapse. Rock God Evangelists, super-rich survivalists, back-to-nature primitivists, heavily armed luddites, goats with the secret of eternal youth, and a horny artificial intelligence with a taste for bluegrass and classic Hollywood films; The Aviator is a Gulliver-esque romp through a future we hope won’t come to pass. It’s out soon, with a cover by yours truly."

Find out more here.

I think science fiction is a great medium for trying to pull together a future no one has ever experienced. We are heading into decades of fundamental changes in our climate, our energy and resources. It's going to be hard to understand, and very disruptive to our economy, agriculture, everything we do.


Toward the end of the interview, I ask whether New Zealand might be one of the best places to escape to, when climate change hits in full force. Renowden says their location, and the surrounding cooling sea currents, should keep their two big islands habitable. But no country is an island, as they say. If the rest of the world becomes destabilized, life in New Zealand will be hard as well. At least they still have a large farming industry. Maybe New Zealand could still feed itself.

Gareth says he thinks Al Gore may have started the idea that South Sea Islanders forced out by rising seas would relocate in New Zealand. There have been some discussions, but it's not as settled as that. However, just because of the economics, there are more New Zealand citizens on some Pacific Islands than original Polynesians. In any event, as the largest and wealthiest country in the region, it does seem likely people from atolls that flood as the seas rise will become climate refugees to New Zealand.

You can listen to/download my interview with Gareth Renowden (25 minutes) here.


It's hard to believe a hard action organization like Greenpeace could even exist in state-controlled China. But Greenpeace China has been there since 1997.

Let's face it. Emissions have dropped slightly in the former biggest polluter, the USA. The largest global warmer is now China. Maybe that's not surprising as the world's most populous country industrializes. Not only are they bringing their own people up into middle class lifestyles we all wanted here - there continue to be "the world's workshop" producing consumer goods as well.

What can we do? I had an illuminating talk with Li Yan. She's the East Asia coordinator for the Atmosphere and Energy Campaign, based out of Beijing.

I'm sorry I don't have time to transcribe this important interview. But you can download or listen to it separately here (20 minutes long).

Coal continues to be the big reason China's emissions are so high. Western media, and too many bloggers, keep plugging the meme that "China is opening one new coal plant a week". Li Yan says about 52 coal plants did open during the peak of electrification back in 2008 or 2009, making an average of one a week - but coal plant construction has dropped since then. It's no longer true.

The government is also taking steps to close the smaller and older inefficient coal plants. Those produced way too many emissions compared to the energy produced.

China has also become the world leader in production of alternative energy. They have installed more wind power than any other country on the planet. However, Li Yan says even though China is also the world's largest maker of solar panels, only about five percent of that production is installed in China. The rest is exported to Europe, North America and the rest of the world. Greenpeace is calling on China to install more solar power at home.

We had a fascinating discussion about the way state-run media reports on climate change. In North America, we hear lots about the strange weather, and weather disasters, while reporters and weather people studiously avoid saying the words "climate change" or "global warming". We even take bets when watching TV, to see if they can get through a whole story about the drought, or record heat waves and fires, without ever mentioning the underlying cause. Some of the talking heads we do get, especially on Fox, are only there to deny there is any climate change.

Li Yan says state TV, radio and press accepts climate science, without a doubt. China has suffered terribly from drought, heat, and floods. In July, the capital city of Beijing got about 6 months’ worth of rain in just 24 hours a day. It was the heaviest rainfall in Beijing in 60 years, with 10 killed. The streets and homes were flooded. If this can happen in the most developed city in China, the capital, people there are wondering how bad it will get.

Climate change is often given as the reason for these weather disasters on state TV, but Li Yan say, they do not go all the way and connect the cause to coal burning. That could be improved.

Coal is one of the number one targets of Greenpeace's atmosphere campaign in China, and throughout Asia. The Chinese people are suffering from terrible air pollution, and coal is the main culprit. It also helps poison both the soil and the water. This localized pollution, as opposed to global warming, is one of the primary concerns of the Chinese people.

We hear a lot of third party opinions about China, and some outright hostile propaganda - so don't miss this chance to hear straight from Beijing, with Li Yan of Greenpeace.


Pointers to hot material you may have missed...

There's no way to do anything but skim over some world-shattering news, along with developments in the alternative movement. And so...it's time for..."Tip of the Iceberg News!...!!"


The macro-economy is sinking. The United States is set for a leveraged buyout, Bain Capital style. That's where you raid a company, or country with a few million in campaign donations, load up the victim with unrepayable debt, while paying out big-time fees heading for a tax-free trip to the Cayman Islands.

Get the details from one of the best pieces of American journalism in a generation, Matt Taibbi's article "Greed and Debt: The True Story of Mitt Romney and Bain Capital" in the online version of Rolling Stone Magazine.

In Europe, Spain is going down. So far about 17% of all the money in Spanish banks has left the country. One bank has already been nationalized. The others bought billions in Spanish government debt with bail-out money poured in by the European Union.

Spain makes Greece look tiny in comparison. Spain's collapsed economy and real estate is a sink-hole threatening to drag down the even larger magnificent Ponzi debt scheme of Italy - and then it's a sleigh ride all the way down for the European Union.

China is holding a garage sale, and still can't get rid of overstocked warehouses. It seems their overseas customers are broke. The government has announced more money printing to save their economy once again. Production is down, people are losing their jobs. It's very serious - for China, and for the whole world economy.

In the U.S., helicopter Ben Bernanke has already offered bailout number 3 - billions more dollars hot off the government printing presses and into the hidden accounts of bankers and hedge funds. You know it's bad when the bailouts come. Don't sit up late waiting for your check.

Despite all that, I don't expect a big crash any time soon. Remember, even after the 50 billion dollar Ponzi fraud by Bernie Madoff was exposed and documented, it took another 8 years for the man to fall. See the documentary film "Chasing Bernie Madoff" with whistleblower Harry Markopolos. You'll see how the system never works to protect you.

Here's a link to the trailer.


While the big news is about the melting Arctic, runner-up is the giant drought this year in America.

When the Mississippi dries up, so that barges can't make it up the river, you know we are in trouble. Cattlemen sold off their beef, as feed prices soared. Expect cheap meat now; stick it in the freezer, because next year is going to make you want to become a vegetarian. Do it! It's good for you, and good for the planet.

America is the world's grocery store for the over-populated poor. Even though food prices are already rising, the Obama administration has not changed the policy of diverting huge amounts of corn into ethanol production. We'll burn up some family's dinner, just getting to the corner store for a soda.

Get ready to grow your own, or at least make friends with farmers.


Hey, Fukushima is so yesterday. Except this Japanese triple nuclear melt-down just keeps ticking along, like a slow motion atomic bomb.

Check out this collection of You tube clips from the Japanese news service NHK. It's hard to believe how poorly the Japanese are responding to the world's worst nuclear accident.

This same source, listed as NibiruMagick2012 also does an interesting news update, which includes things like volcanoes, storms, and climate change news. Don't let his nickname throw you off. I've got some good tips from his You tube channel, with pretty well daily news blasts that ordinary news doesn't carry. His channel is here.

The Japanese government announced they will study the health impacts - great idea, starting only 18 months too late. The government is also going to allow foreign experts to offer ideas. They are negotiating with the International Atomic Energy Agency. The IAEA is the body responsible for pushing nuclear power around the world, so they should unreliable. But it's better than just relying on Tepco and the government in Tokyo.

In a surreal move, various government agencies are already planning an alleged "clean-up" of the Fukushima region, even though radioactive cesium has a half-life of 30 years. The other elements released in the accident, up to an including both uranium and plutonium, last hundreds of thousands of years. We are already seeing artist's conceptions of green spaces and new industries in the radioactive hot zones. It's pathetic, a terrible lie for Japan.

According to nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds.com, the reactor cores are likely no longer molten, just brilliant hot metal blobs that ran way no one knows where. The 3 reactors buildings are still unapproachable without risking lives. They are still building up explosive hydrogen daily, and require nitrogen to be pumped in to avoid more explosions. An earthquake or any technical problem with the pumps, the gerry-rigged pipes, or the electricity supply, could still lead to more radioactive explosions.

Tepco, the operator, has attempted to strengthen the Reactor Four fuel pool building, also wrecked in the explosions. All that fuel, from 40 years of operation, plus the hot fuel bundle just removed before the accident, is still balanced dangerously several stories above the ground. Another major earth quake could drop all that fuel, likely poisoning central Japan, including Tokyo, and likely the whole northern hemisphere. They've had plenty of earthquakes since. The government is moving far too slowly to get the fuel out.

Radioactive water is still leaking all over the site, including into the turbine halls. We don't know how much has reached the water table, or the Pacific Ocean. The Japanese government either doesn't know, doesn't want to know, or doesn't want to tell you.

Other than that, Fukushima is doing fine. You must listen to a great radio podcast with anti-nuclear campaigners Helen Caldicott interviewing Arnie Gundersen, in the free August 20th podcast. Download it from ITunes, or from this page at radio4all.net Just right click the red arrow at the bottom of the page to download this essential podcast of "If You Love This Planet".

I play a short excerpt in this Radio Ecoshock show where Helen calculates up to 3 million people could die from the Fukushima accident radiation. Gundersen counters it might "only" be 1 million, since about two thirds of the radiation was blown out into the Pacific, instead of back on to the Japanese mainland. Lucky weather saved many Japanese people, but huge numbers will still die prematurely due to radiation. The damage will pass down through several generations.

And don't miss this article in Counterpunch. It details how the Japanese Yakuza - the gangsters - are providing disposable workers for TEPCO to help "clean up" Fukushima. According to the article, Japanese criminal organizations have been involved in the nuclear industry for a long time.


I'm seeing four big trends in the alternative/activist/Occupy scene.

A rising tide of people realizes climate change, energy depletion, and economic collapse are inevitable.

Trend One: there is a chorus of famous writers, bloggers, and scientists who are publicly mourning the passing of the Holocene age, and our descent into the Anthropocene - the age brought about by humankind. Many of our favorite plants and animals will not survive the change. Everything will shift underneath us, like a climate quake.

Author Chris Hedges, returning as I am from a summer get-away in Nature, has a touching piece titled "Life Is Sacred". Find it at the truthdig blog at the Rolling Stone Magazine web site. Or find the link in my blog at ecoshock.info. Hedges knows we are already on the path toward ecological destruction, at least in human terms. Like me, he fears for the times of his children.

Trend Two: As I've covered in past Radio Ecoshock shows, with guests like Paul Kingsnorth - there is an even louder chorus calling for a quick downfall of the industrial system. As one of my listeners wrote in email, many believe human extinction is on its way. We need to consider a hospice society, making the way out less painful, perhaps even more joyful.

Carolyn Baker of "Speaking Truth to Power" has written a great article on Collapse Fatigue. Lots of commentators on blogs like Zero Hedge are becoming jaded about any predictions of a financial collapse. The whole mad Ponzi system, which Max Keiser calls the "Casino Gulag”, just keeps on dancing in midair. Until, like Bernie Madoff, some outside force or even intervenes, and the music stops?

Trend Three: Some fairly famous figures and movement leaders are bailing out. It's not just that people are burned out, hitting their heads against the immovable wall of human insanity. They are going quiet, moving to rural areas in some cases, or just hanging out in cities. It's like an "Atlas Shrugged" - abandoned but not by industrialists, an extinct breed supplanted by corporate raiders - but by those seeking an alternative.

Michael C. Ruppert was the subject of the movie "Collapse".

Last April Ruppert left the online community he helped found, at collapsenet.com. Collapse Network is still going, check it out. I subscribe to their pay news service, and find it really handy.

Now Ruppert has gone to Colorado with his dog. Mike hasn't exactly gone silent. He still has his popular radio program at PRN on Sunday evenings. But he's out of here.

I know others. It's a really bad sign when activists and leaders decide it's futile.

Trend Four: Related to all the above, many people are now seeking out spiritual practices as way to cope with the unbearable weight of knowing. Ruppert is trying a mix of American Indian shamanism and Alcoholic Anonymous.

Two leaders from Transition US, Michael Brownlee and Lynette Marie Hanthorn are proposing "Deep Transition". They are seeking ways to digest our lurch into mass suicide. It is really a new beginning, a hard evolution into a type of humanity that can live in nature?

Download that Lifeboat Hour show on Deep Transition, September 2nd edition guest hosted by Carolyn Baker here.

I'm worried, in our distress, some people will turn away from science and activism, toward ancient superstitions that took us centuries to overcome. There's a lot to talk about here, and we will, in the coming season of Radio Ecoshock.


In our next Radio Ecoshock show we hear three top scientists on the record melt-down of Arctic sea ice. One guest will be Jennifer Francis, the Rutgers University atmospheric scientist who leads observations on the way the sea ice melt is changing our climate, throughout the Northern Hemisphere. It's some of the most urgent science on the block, with your life in the balance.

We'll also hear from Dr. Cecelia Bitz, helping us understand how the Arctic climate works, and why it matters so much. Plus Mark Serreze, the Director of the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center - explaining the new record low levels of ice. It's the biggest story in many thousand years.

After that, you'll get a surprise special on the unbelievable tipping point developing as we air-condition the planet. Followed by a whole program on developments in what I see as our only response for now: the transition town movement.

Personally, I spent a month at our rural village retreat. We added more insulation, 120 Watts of solar power, a handy garden shed, and a large garden fence - six feet high to keep out the deer and other pests.

My most important time was spent getting to know more of my neighbors there. Small communities are still functioning, with people helping people. I like it, and hope to move there.

It's not much, but that's about all I can do at this point. I'm back in the city, diving through news, reports, and truly helpful tips from listeners like you. Write me any time. The address is radio [at] ecoshock dot org.

Gear up for another nail-biting season, with Radio Ecoshock.

I'm Alex Smith. As always, I thank you for listening, and caring about your world.


Share: Looking for an End

Burning Down the House

2012-07-01 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)

http://bit.ly/LWIN2K Our feature interview this week is with Daniel Rirdan, author of a new book “The Blueprint: Averting Global Collapse.” You can download/listen to that interview in CD quality or Lo-Fi. Our second guest is Brita Belli, Editor of E Magazine, and author of their cover article “This Is Your Ocean on Acid”. Almost half the show is my own news report on climate, the failure of media to report it, and some good news about the growth of Radio Ecoshock, as we wrap up this season. Music: "Burning Down the House" by the Talking Heads. Radio Ecoshock 120704 1 hour.


1. This is the last new Radio Ecoshock show for this season. We are offering radio stations and downloaders 8 replay programs. They are the most downloaded, most popular shows of the past year.

2. Find those shows, in several formats here: http://www.ecoshock.net (or on our main web site, http://www.ecoshock.org)

3. Radio stations, at Ecoshock.net you will find both the one hour straight through version (choose “CD quality”) or two 29 minute halves, allowing you time for Station ID and announcements.

4. The next new Radio Ecoshock program will be released September 5th. There will be no podcasts or posting until then. All shows are also posted on Pacifica Audioport, in addition to Ecoshock.net.

Download/listen to this complete Radio Ecoshock show in CD quality (56 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB)


As I prepared this program, Colorado is burning. So are parts of Utah, where I was just camping. It's everything we've been warning about on this program literally for years. Climate change has struck. Normal isn't a word we'll get to use again in our lifetimes.

In America, 1011 heat records fell in one month. In Coweta Oklahoma, a kid managed to fry bacon on the sidewalk. Firefighters had to wait for nightfall to even get close to the fires. Mostly, nothing human, not even machines, could approach the towering walls of fire.

In Toronto Canada it's been summer since April. Millions of people are sweating it out in filthy smog.

You've heard it is sweltering in a stormy heat all up and down the U.S. East Coast. In fact, 25 states have temperatures over 100 degrees (38 C) this week. About 4 million people in the Washington D.C. and Virginia area lost electricity in storms that ran up to 90 mile an hour winds, stronger than some hurricanes. So those folks have to endure the heat and humidity without air-conditioning. Welcome to the future.

I recall talking with Stuart Staniford, author of the "Early Warning" blog, about how much heat humans can take as a species. It turns out if the humidity is quite high, we can't survive sustained temperatures of 35 degrees C, even with fans or whatever. We can't perspire enough, and that is our last ditch cooling mechanism. People die in high heat because of that, especially if night time temperatures don't drop low enough to recover a proper core temperature.

Thank goodness the Virginia Legislature passed an Act banning global warming!

The NASA map for May shows excess heat all over the world, except for the Pacific Northwest and Australia, which are colder than usual. Everybody else is getting a double helping of 100 degree plus heat, 38 degrees C in the shade. Globally, it was the hottest land temperature in May ever.

Funny, I haven't heard much from the global cooling guys lately. Nobody is buying those lies any more. But the usual billionaires plan to stuff it down your throat anyway.

In Australia, where climate change has driven drought-stricken farmers to suicide, where roaring fires have killed hundreds - the country's richest woman, Gina Rinehart, is trying to take over Fairfax, the big newspaper and television chain that Rupert Murdoch doesn't own.

Gina loves climate denier Ian Plimer, and wants another denier, Andrew Bolt, promoted to top spot on television. It's a board room battle with respected Australians pleading for a little sanity in the daily paper, maybe with editorial independence.

Just like the Koch Brothers in the USA, billionaires can drag off both media and politics to suit their need to pollute for profit. Maybe it would be a good thing if Rinehart can turn Australia's media into a climate denier circus. It would be the last act of newspaper suicide in that country. Young people, whose future is being ruined, know better. They are already moving to social media and the Net. Once the big lie is flouted in their faces, it could be the end of newspapers down-under. Credibility gone.

Not that American or Canadian media are doing any better. Covering the Colorado fire story, the weathercasters blow up the horror of the heat, and the high winds, without ever mentioning climate change. Apparently they've never heard of climate science.

There should be some kind of aware do the major TV networks for the number of times they can report obvious climate-caused damage without ever mentioning the truth behind it. Everyone can win that award. See Joe Romm's excellent summary of the horrible media cover-up at thinkprogress.org.

We'll have to hand out another prize for dumb journalism for every reporter who doesn't know the West is also burning because the Pine Bark beetle and other borers killed off entire forests. Nobody even mentions this!

That beetle problem is straight out of global warming. The winters haven't been cold enough to kill off these pests. Every forest worker, the logging companies, the State governments, everybody knows warmer winters have killed off masses of trees. Now they are burning, what a surprise! The reporters, or their editors, need to be spanked for leaving that out.

Still on climate, extreme rainfall events are coming too fast to report them all. Duluth Minnesota was drowned, but how about Florida! Tropical storm Debby, not even a hurricane, dropped 5 to 7 inches of rain over three days. Towns nowhere near the sea, a lake or a river - flooded, as water erupted out of the ground.

Super storm cells washed over the Midlands of Britain. Flash flooding all over England and Wales in the past week, called "Biblical".

We've got some ideas from science about why it burns, or dumps tons of rain or snow, for weeks - why the weather stalls. Scientists think the melting sea ice in the Arctic has disrupted the Jet Stream. In his blog "Early Warning" Stuart Staniford has a great explanation.

It turns out the Jet Stream, travelling high above the Earth, is bent into ox-bow-like waves as the planet turns. In a nutshell, these are called Rossby Waves. We'll have to do a whole Radio Ecoshock show on them. The Rossby waves used to undulate with some regularity over the Northern continents, bringing a mixture of weather systems, including heat, cooler periods, and rain. Our agriculture is built on them.

At a Weather and Climate Summit in January, Rutgers oceans scientist Dr. Jennifer Francis advanced the theory that more open water in the Arctic is impacting these Rossby Waves. The result is much slower movement of more extreme weather patterns, called "blocking". It's been documented several times since 2007. That may explain the months-long extravaganza of heat and drought over Texas and Oklahoma last year, and the strange summer in March over Eastern North America this year. It's wild to think that melting Arctic sea ice could even be part of the burning American West.

I'll toss a link to the video of the Jennifer Francis presentation into my blog at ecoshock.info. Check it out. Be the first on your block to actually understand why the weather is so messed up.

Here is a copy of the paper on Arctic melt impacts on our weather.

Also check out "Weird Winter March Madness" - from the Yale Climate forum

Part Two has more on Rossby waves with Jennifer Francis and Jeff Masters

Oh yeah, the Arctic sea ice is the lowest ever recorded for this time of year, lower than the jaw-dropping record of 2007. Of course you saw those headlines, the big TV news stories about that. Not!

Under the remaining ice, so thin it is almost translucent, scientists have discovered vast pools of algae growing under the Arctic ice. They've never seen it before. We have no idea how that will impact the algae feeders who arrive later in the real summer. Or why it's there. Normally, and there is no normal anymore, algae doesn't get enough light to grow under the ice.


But hey, as you are packing up the kids and photos in your five minutes to evacuate, the head of Exxon/Mobile says "don't worry!".

At a meeting of the Council on Foreign Relations, Exxon/Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson said global warming is happening, but it's quote "manageable." He admits burning fossil fuels are causing the climate to change. Too bad Exxon funded so many climate deniers for so many years, saying it isn't happening, or humans aren't causing it.

Tillerson told the well-connect big wigs, quote “As a species that’s why we’re all still here: we have spent our entire existence adapting. So we will adapt to this,” ...“It’s an engineering problem, and it has engineering solutions.”

Rex Tillerson says we'll adapt. So get busy adapting, because this big oil company needs to keep making billions of dollars in profits every quarter. No matter what.


By the way, the nuclear disaster at Fukushima continues to percolate along. Debris is hitting the West Coast of both the United States and Canada. Some of it will be radioactive. Canada has no plans and no budget to clean any of it up.

Meanwhile the nuclear operator Tepco finally sent some workers into the super-dangerous Reactor Number One. It's been too radioactive to approach, but they got a sensor down below the former reactor container. What did they find? The highest levels of radioactivity yet. It's over 10,300 millisievert an hour. That's enough to quickly kill humans, making them sick within minutes.

Agence France Press laconically reports "Demolition of the three reactors, as well as the plant's No. 4 unit, is expected to take 40 years and will need the use of new technologies."

That is, new technologies that don't exist yet. The Japanese explain the sky-high readings are due to problems with the nuclear fuel. Problems? Everybody knows the reactor melted down, and then melted through its containment. Nobody knows for sure where the lava-like nuclear material is right now. Is it percolating on the concrete floor? Will it go through to hit the water table? Or just out into the Pacific Ocean?

Stay tuned for the Fukushima cliff-hanger. There are two more reactors just like that. Under extreme international pressure, the Japanese have announced they will speed up efforts to remove nuclear fuel rods from the semi-demolish fuel pool in Reactor Number Four. Radio Ecoshock was one of those voices, with nuclear expert Arnie Gunderson warning a collapse of the Reactor Four fuel pool could be a world-poisoning event, and near final for large parts of Japan, including Tokyo.

Several listeners made that Gunderson Ecoshock interview into You tube videos, like this one, which have many thousands of views. When it really matters, the word gets around.


This week, thanks to a listener tip, I heard a podcast from The Guardian newspaper in the UK. In it, Dr. Bill McGuire, a volcanologist and specialist in quakes and volcanoes, explains how global warming will destabilize the Earth's crust due to three factors:

One: in some places, as under the remaining glaciers of Iceland, there exist volcanoes which have been more or less "corked" by the mass of ice over it. When that ice cover melts, they blow. That isn't the case near Fukushima Japan.

Two: as ice over a mile thick melts in places like Siberia or Greenland, the pushed-down land rises, causing quakes, and underwater landslides that lead to tsunamis. We can't rule this out as a factor at Fukushima.

Three: the melted water goes elsewhere in the world, distorting our orbit slightly, but also causing different pressures, especially in places under the ocean where the crust is thin, or already in transition (being "subducted").

Again, I wonder... I have read elsewhere that the sea is not level. More water is drawn to areas with heavy layers of ocean crust, especially to certain types of rocks. Simple calculations of mass draw more water to such places. The sea is more than two dozen feet lower in a place in the Indian Ocean, where the underlying crust has less mass. It is a couple of feet higher around the island of Japan, where very dense rock under the sea has lots of mass. So Japan attracts more of the glacier melt water, as sea levels rise.

Did the added mass of the melting Arctic glaciers help trigger the massive undersea earthquake and resulting tsunami that wiped out the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors?

Here is a link to an article about it.

Find the audio here.

I'd heard about this human-induced change to geology. But until I listened to the podcast, I didn't really GET it.

McGuire says the rapid temperature rise in the Arctic will lead to a period of geological destabilization, featuring volcanoes, quakes, and tsunamis much more than we have experienced. He cautions these will not happen in places where the pre-existing stress point, loose underwater slopes, or volcanoes do not already exist. The global melting just exacerbates that situation, and causes them to bunch up into a much shorter period of time. We'll see more surprising and destabilizing events.

Geologists and paleoclimatologists have already found several periods of melt-caused instability going back millions of years. We had one period like it between 10 and 20 thousand years ago, when the big North American and Eurasian glaciers melted back, over a thousand years or so.

None of this is good for the nuclear industry, with so many plants built in quake prone zones, or right near the ocean where a combination of rising seas, more violent storms, and increased tsunamis will surely cause more Fukushimas.

I could spend the next hour just reporting the warning signs of extreme ecological collapse, leading with the demise of the climate as we know it. Should we just give up? Is there a way out?


We go to an interview with Daniel Rirdan. He’s one smart cookie. Daniel tells us he was planning on writing a book about humanity on trial. As he worked on our Defense, Daniel realized there just may be some ways out of a global ecological and social collapse.

Rirdan did tons of research (he’s an interactive map guru). Can solar energy really power the world? Is there a technology to take out billions of tons of carbon dioxide from the air, to save the last of the polar ice? Apparently all that is possible.

I know there will be complaints about this interview from people who are fundamentally opposed to a “technical fix”. But Rirdan isn’t advocating dangerous nuclear power, or spraying sulfur in the clouds. His tech solutions really are the kind we’d like to see. He’s done the number crunching, and really extended existing green tech to find a way.

Daniel has a series of half a dozen videos on his web site. If you like your info that way, go through it, see what you think. The book contains all the details, charts and connections to back up the videos. Start with this trailer.

Given the mess we are in, along with Dr. David Suzuki who recommends this book, I think we have to listen closely to ways to save ourselves, and the natural world, from a giant change in both climate and the species (i.e. mass extinction). This is no time to close off our ears, I say.


Earlier in this program, I lamented the shallow coverage of forest fires in the Western United States, and extreme rainfall events all over the world. It's as if scientists didn't write papers warning this would happen as the atmosphere is polluted with carbon dioxide. They did warn us. And most of the public still don't connect the dots, thanks to a criminal collusion between news and weather reporters, and their corporate advertisers and owners.

Take this case, raised by Joe Romm over at Think Progress.org. The headline is: "Kardashians Get 40 Times More News Coverage than Ocean Acidification". The folks at Media Matters counted up the stories. It's a solid wall of reporting about these no-talent gossip babes, and a tiny sliver on page 92 telling the good folks at home one minor detail: our carbon pollution has changed the chemistry of the vast ocean.

Oh yeah, and by the way, in teeny tiny print, we'll lose the coral reefs, a bunch of sea food you love, and plankton at the base of the whole world food web. Did ya hear about what Kim said after her latest divorce? What was the size of the settlement, and who is sleeping with her ex?

Trying to save the reputation of at least one little pocket of the media, E Magazine did a cover story on ocean acidification in June 2012. We're going to talk to the author and editor of that green journal.

I interview Brita Belli, the Editor of E Magazine, one of the few green journals to survive the advent of the Net. Brita wrote an excellent cover article about ocean acidification, and we talk about the three main reasons why we have to care really quickly.


We are wrapping up this season of Radio Ecoshock with this program. During the summer, I've picked out the most downloaded programs from the past year, the ones that broke through and still stand tall, for our summer broadcasts.

As I look back over the past year, there have been a lot of good things happening for Radio Ecoshock. We added over twenty stations, including the prestigious WPFW in Washington D.C., and Resonance FM in London. More and more Net stations are picking up Radio Ecoshock. We have two based in New York alone, including the rapidly growing Progressive Radio Network.

I've found other stations are picking up occasional shows, or just some feature interviews. Thanks to KBOO in Portland for running a show recently. C'mon Oregon listeners, write KBOO and get Radio Ecoshock on the air every week!

Ditto to my Australian listeners. Would you write 4ZZZ in Brisbane? They are on the edge of becoming our first station in Australia. Give them a push.

Every station matters to me. You matter to me. That's why I do the show.

Just this month we launched the new Radio Ecoshock web site. It's still in its infancy, but Carl has given me some really powerful tools to develop the site next fall. We still have gazillions of programs and other green audio for you to download as free mp3s. Load up your computer, IPOD or mp3 player for the summer at ecoshock.org. And we finally have a search engine for the site.

Thanks to another volunteer, we have a better blog at ecoshock.info. It's easier to read, and I can include photos of my guests.

Our podcast list grew by a third this year. That's a solid base of listeners and communicators who tend to pass on the program to others. We are slowly developing our Facebook community, and this year Radio Ecoshock began tweeting out every new show. It's a start.

We added about a dozen videos to You tube this year, with the help of fans. I'd love to see every show up there, but I just can't do it all. My first love is making a great radio show for you. That is what I pour my life into. The rest comes as it can.

All in all, Radio Ecoshock has grown in a bunch of different media this year, partly because the fringe issues I started covering back in 2006 are now flying in everybody's face. It's too big to deny. The question starting next September is: what are we gonna do about it?

Stay tuned for the best of Radio Ecoshock this summer, some shows you missed, some scientists and activists that need to be heard again. I'm Alex Smith. Thank you so much for listening.


Share: Burning Down the House

Planet Shift - No Return

2012-06-27 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)

http://bit.ly/LRE1Ue Twenty one scientists say Earth approaches a "state shift". The ecosphere may change rapidly, never to return. Interview with Dr. Arne Mooers. Planetary boundary talks at Rio+20 w. Oxfam's Kate Raworth, & Johan Rockstrom of Stockholm Resilience Institute. Interview w. Australian green home builder John Morgan. Radio Ecoshock 120627 1 hour.

Listen to/download this 1 hour program in CD quality (56 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB)

Welcome, welcome to a full helping of warnings, despair, good humor, and one man's example to the world.

I'm Alex Smith, with so much audio we must orient and load up quickly. Direct from the alternative presentations at the Rio Plus 20 conference, you will hear two short hot speeches on the economy that's never counted, and the assault on a new science of planetary boundaries. Independent environmental journalist Stephen Leahy sent us the exclusive audio of Kate Raworth and Johan Rockstrom in Rio.

Then we'll journey to Australia. The self-sufficient John Morgan tells us about his 9 star home that needs no furnace or air-conditioner. Plus a look at Australia's new carbon tax, coming into effect July 1st.

But first, a group of 21 scientists, from very different fields of study, produced a special briefing for the Journal Nature, ahead of the meeting of world leaders in Rio de Janeiro for the second Earth Summit. They concluded Earth, our planet home, could be heading for a massive shift, a new state not seen for millions of years. It's spine-chilling, so I'll need to call on my radio side-kick for this program, none other than Charles Prince of Wales.

[Charles quote one] That is from Prince Charles, as he addressed the Rio leaders by video link, on June 19th, 2012. Watch it on You tube.

Charles demanded scientists and other experts come out of their silos to assess what is really happening in the world. That is exactly what happened when a group of scientists were organized by the Berkeley campus of the University of California. We go now to one of the participants, Arne Mooers of Simon Fraser University.


Listen to/Download the Arne Mooers interview (18 min) here in CD quality or Lo-Fi.

The technical review of the paper published in Nature is here.

Here is a quick summary about this paper, from the Simon Fraser University Press release:

"Study predicts imminent irreversible planetary collapse

June 06, 2012

Using scientific theories, toy ecosystem modeling and paleontological evidence as a crystal ball, 21 scientists, including one from Simon Fraser University, predict we’re on a much worse collision course with Mother Nature than currently thought.

In approaching a state-shift in Earth’s biosphere, a paper just published in Nature, the authors, whose expertise spans a multitude of disciplines, suggest our planet’s ecosystems are careering towards an imminent, irreversible collapse.

Earth’s accelerating loss of biodiversity, its climate's increasingly extreme fluctuations, its ecosystems’ growing connectedness and its radically changing total energy budget are precursors to reaching a planetary state threshold or tipping point.

Once that happens, which the authors predict could be reached this century, the planet’s ecosystems, as we know them, could irreversibly collapse in the proverbial blink of an eye.

'The last tipping point in Earth’s history occurred about 12,000 years ago when the planet went from being in the age of glaciers, which previously lasted 100,000 years, to being in its current interglacial state. Once that tipping point was reached, the most extreme biological changes leading to our current state occurred within only 1,000 years. That’s like going from a baby to an adult state in less than a year,' explains Arne Mooers. 'Importantly, the planet is changing even faster now.'

The SFU professor of biodiversity is one of this paper’s authors. He stresses, 'The odds are very high that the next global state change will be extremely disruptive to our civilizations. Remember, we went from being hunter-gatherers to being moon-walkers during one of the most stable and benign periods in all of Earth’s history.'"

One of the take homes from this key interview is this: many of us (including myself at times) believe we can stop polluting and things will go back to "normal". The 350.org campaign seems to imply this as well: if we remove CO2, we can go back to Nature as it was.

This new study by the 21 scientists points out a grave risk: in fact Nature makes sudden shifts for which there is no return.

Arne Mooers gives the simple example of the cod fishery off Canada's East Coast. Everyone presumed if we stopped over fishing the cod, they would return. It didn't happen. Why? Once this upper predator fish was removed, a completely different ecological system moved in, with different species. Things don't go back to where they were.

It's a sobering thought. Mooers says their work cannot absolutely predict a planet-wide ecological shift will happen, or when. It has happened rapidly in the past. We may be seeing some signs, but scientists are not even sure there are a series of warning signs. We may not be able to predict it.

The main idea is a big game changer. Previously, even in reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) climate models assumed incremental change. For example, if you know sea levels are rising 3 centimeters a year, you can say what the sea level will be in the year 2100.

This paper suggests natural systems don't work along nice predictable curves like that. Things go along in one way, as they have more or less for the last 10,000 years - but then the climate can experience a big shift, along with the whole ecosphere. Some species disappear, as they are now. Others replace them. Nothing returns the same.


In the campaign to stop or at least limit climate change, what about the economy? Why is Europe skirting collapse? Why are billions of people starving while the rich dine sumptuously on the consumer buffet?

Here is 8 minutes with Kate Raworth of Oxfam, explaining her growing "doughnut" campaign at the Rio +20 side conference. She was recorded live by independent journalist Stephen Leahy, who sent the audio directly to Radio Ecoshock. Thank you Stephen.

Kate explains three giant loop-holes in the way economics is taught in schools. For example caring for families has no economic value (they say). The environment is not factored in. Listen to her short speech - it got enthusiastic applause from the inspired crowd.

Listen to/download these two Rio +20 speeches (17 minutes total) in CD quality here or Lo-Fi here.

Find Kate Raworth's blog on "Doughnut Economics" here.


But wait. There's more. No doubt you've heard scientists led by the Stockholm Resilience Institute have compiled a chart of 9 planetary boundaries we must not cross, if our civilization is to survive. The citation for the original article published in Nature in 2009 is here.

Get the real goodies direct from the Stockholm Resilience Institute here.

That includes an embedded video of Johan Rockstrom explaining the concepts in a TED presentation. It's all just common sense, backed up by the work of thousands of scientists. Yes, there are limits to what we can do to Nature and still survive as a civilization. Is anybody surprised by that?

Apparently "yes". The science of planetary boundaries is now under attack by pollster Ted Nordhaus and the hostile mis-named "Breakthrough Institute."

Here is the Breakthrough Institute attack.

Be sure and read the comments below, which trash this release.

We uncovered Ted and former green cross-over Michael Shellenberger in two Radio Ecoshock specials back in 2007, as this duo proclaimed "environmentalism is dead". Here are the links to programs exposing these two, their alleged "institute", and their funding.

Plotting the Green Death 1

Plotting the Green Death 2

Keep in mind that Ted Nordhaus is not a scientist. He is a pollster. But hey, that's good enough to unseat years of scientific work by some of our best! Just sow a little doubt, delay some more, and keep those corporate mega-profits rolling in.

As Stephen was recording Johan Rockstrom of the Stockholm Resiliency Institute, backroom dealers were stripping out any reference to "planetary boundaries". Lazy leaders were quick to jump on the anti-science being pedaled by the Breakthrough Boys. Anything to keep the killer society going. Listen in, as Johan Rockstrom speaks in Rio.


Now, off to Australia!

I really like this interview with John Morgan. In a rural area outside Victoria, in South Eastern Australia, John built a comfortable and affordable home that requires no furnace, no air-conditioning, and no power lines.

Listen to/Download the John Morgan interview in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

In a recent Radio Ecoshock interview with Dr. Guy McPherson, we learned maintaining a comfortable shelter for human bodies is a principal driver for the continuing use of fossil fuels. We create a lot of climate damage just to keep our homes cool in the heat, and warm in winter.

Despite a reputation as a coal exporting country, Australia is stimulating better housing as a way to cut greenhouse gas emissions. With the farming industry and the fabulous barrier reef threatened, Australia has developed a Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme.

Our next guest is going to explain it, and how he gained 9 out of ten stars in his owner-built home.

John Morgan's eco-house is found in a rural area near Victoria, in South Eastern Australia. As we spoke at the end of June, John is dealing with the cold of the Australian winter.

Morgan house in Australia

This is Morgan's next generation experimental home. He's been working away at this since the late 1960's, and people are still talking about his previous homes, like his self-sufficient house located at Musk near Daylesford in Central Victoria.

As he explains in our interviews, John doesn't want to be dependent on the grid for electricity or water. He says things like:

"My electricity falls down on me from the sky, so I store it in batteries".

"My fresh water falls down on me from the sky, so I store it in tanks".

"I live with high levels of comfort and low levels of cost".

"I generate zero carbon emissions - so why doesn't everyone do this?"

"It is not rocket science".

John is a physicist, and has taught electronics and technical trades, so he does have expertise, even though he is not a rocket scientist.

A whole host of consideration goes into building this latest home. For one thing, John reverses the Australian trend of putting brick or stone on the outside of a house, and then timber framing inside. His wood and lots of insulation are on the outside. The inside walls have lots of masonry, to build up thermal mass to store the heat or cold.

There is a greenhouse tucked on one corner of the place. When needed, he can funnel heat generated there, even on a sunny winter day, into the main house. John is also growing seedlings to reforest part of his 20 acres (formerly a sheep paddock) - plus some of his own food.

John has over 3,000 Watts of solar power on the place, and enough battery power to keep him going for several cloudy days.

The bonus of this place: it isn't all the expensive. I ask John if we need to be millionaires to be self-sufficient. Not at all. Morgan estimates his place cost about $165,000 Australian dollars in 2008 - about the same now in American dollars. That would be considered low cost for a new home anywhere, and it includes his solar power kit and giant water storage tanks (fed by roof collectors).

To meet that price, which he hoped would encourage others, John did away with anything fancy in the way of architecture. His home isn't meant to look impressive. It just leaves him comfortable, with no bills to pay - not bad in these deteriorating economic times, with ever-rising energy prices.

You can find out more about John from his contributions to this blog from the rural Australian town of Ballarat.

Here are some more super-efficient Australian home projects to check out.

Building Our 9 star home (blog) in Preston, Melbourne Australia

See also the Permablitz, a permaculture blitz "Eating the suburbs - One backyard at a time" in Melbourne

Here is another one, built in Vale, Perth

Another one in Perth

Here is a quote to explain the Australian rating program:

"What is a 9-star energy rated house? According to the NatHERS scale – the federal government-administrated Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme that was introduced to assess the potential thermal comfort of Australian homes on a scale of zero to 10 stars – occupants of houses rated at or around the 10-star mark are unlikely to need much, if any artificial cooling or heating. At the other end of the scale, a zero-rated house means the building shell does practically nothing to reduce the discomfort of hot or cold weather.

As the NatHERS website points out, houses built in 1990 averaged about 1 star on the scale. And before the introduction of national energy efficiency regulations for houses in 2003, less than 1 per cent of Australian houses achieved 5 stars. These days, however, the average “well-designed home” is now being built at around 6 stars."

We are out of time. I'm Alex, saying thank you for accompanying me on this hard journey. May we meet in a better world.

For more free green audio, visit our web site.…


Share: Planet Shift - No Return

Still Walking Away From Empire

2012-06-19 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)

http://bit.ly/KSydIX Author of "Walking Away From Empire", Professor Emeritus Guy McPherson left University of Arizona to go off-grid in New Mexico, in a community-based alternative lifestyle. With clips from new film "Somewhere In New Mexico Before the End of Time". Talk of collapse, transition, and revival. Radio Ecoshock 120620 1 hour.

It's beyond the point where a few doomer voices says our way of life is rotten, that industrial civilization is driving straight toward catastrophe. Most of us can see the signs ourselves.

But we are addicted to fossil power, sliding back daily into the easy life. Why can't we change, or at least walk away?

Dr. Guy McPherson did just that. He left his position as a Professor of Natural Resources and Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at the University of Arizona. Guy is now a focal point for people searching for survival, transition, and a reality-based way of life.


Before we get into this program, here are some helpful links:

Guy McPherson’s blog “Nature Bats Last”.

For the movie "Somewhere in New Mexico, Before the End of Time" on You tube, or Indiegogo.

Mike and Karen Sliwa were inspired by Guy McPherson, but decided to take a different route, touring the world working on organic farms. These labor exchange stays are called "WWOOFing" (World-wide Opportunities on Organic Farms). Mike and Karen talk about their encounter with Guy in this You tube video. Follow "Chasing A Different Carrot' for the WWOOFing adventures of Mike and Karen Sliwa. Mike Sliwa says he doesn't agree with McPherson about how soon the industrial system will fall, but knows an alternative society must begin to grow right away.

Guy tours around the U.S. giving lectures, mainly for college audiences. He is after all a well-known and respected Professor. For example, watch Guy McPherson lecture on the "Myth of Sustainability" at Muskegon Community College, Feb 15, 2012 here. (1 hour 23 min)

There are lots more Guy McPherson videos and audio interviews on the Net.

For years I've been a fan of McPherson's blog "Nature Bats Last". I almost made it to his experimental acres in the New Mexico hills. I hoped to interview him at home, as one of his tourists, but we ran out of time and gas money on the northern edge of Arizona. It was over 100 degrees there, 38 degrees Celsius in the shade, in early June. There was a huge coal plant nearby. My first question for Guy: can Arizona survive without air conditioning?


McPherson says Arizona will do just fine, but he has doubts that most Arizonans could make it without artificial cooling. Of course people could design homes to protect them from extreme heat, which includes things like lots of insulation, proper window placement and covering, fans and "swamp coolers" running on solar power, and the old standard: cool basements.

Forget about Arizona. With places like Chicago and Toronto hitting 35 degrees C. (95 F.) on the first day of summer, with super-high humidity and awful pollution - pretty well all Earthlings will have to learn the basics of staying cool in a heated world. Even the Arctic can get too hot for comfort during the summer.

Maintaining an operable body temperature is one of "the four basics" that Guy McPherson says we need. The others are clean water, safe and nutritious food, and a supportive human community.

I think the question of "body temperature" is one of the biggies in our fossil fuel dependency. In the South people need to keep cool enough. In the North it's a matter of getting through the winter. As far as I know it's not really possible to heat millions of homes in Chicago or Toronto with solar or wind power.

I have to wonder, can we really keep hundreds of millions of North Americans, Russians, or Northern Europeans alive without fossil fuels? I doubt it, and so does McPherson. Our cities are unsustainable when we factor in dwindling fossil fuels (appearing as higher and higher prices, with more and more environmental risk in production.


There are signs we are already past peak oil. For example we are forced into greater and greater environmental risks... like the Tar Sands, Gulf of Mexico spill from deep water rigs, Arctic drilling, gas fracking, and mountain top removal coal mining. If we had plenty of easy oil left in the big reserves, or were discovering major new fields, none of those risky and expensive energy plays would be happening.

Guy McPherson learned about Peak Oil in the early 2000's, when he was still a Professor teaching at the University of Arizona. But when he began to tell is students about the huge social risks of Peak Oil and climate change - he was asked to stop teaching.


Listen to the interview to hear a classic story of how truth-telling is silenced in American Universities. Professors have freedom of speech - as long as they don't use it to tell an anti-corporate narrative, or warn students about the big challenges coming.

The University started paying McPherson to stay home, without teaching - that is, to shut up. His own department banned him from teaching.

When McPherson became "Emeritus" (a former Professor), and moved to small acreage in New Mexico to experiment with "agrarian anarchism" - a strange rumor surfaced at other universities that Guy McPherson suffered from a mysterious brain disease. That disease was never named, nor was the rumor backed up by anything.

Guy says anyone leaving "normal" life is labeled crazy. But what happens when "normal" is crazy? When our daily actions contribute to a system that is driving a couple of hundred species into extinction every single day? That is melting the Arctic ice, wierding out weather beyond crop limits, killing off the bees, introducing more plastic than plankton into the oceans, and endangering entire nations with blown up nuclear reactors?

If we leave that dangerous "normal" behind - that makes us officially "crazy"? It all sounds like old Stalinist times to me. We know who the real crazy people are - the billions who pollute the Earth, driving mass extinction.

More than a decade ago, Guy McPherson began to suspect the trends and risks of extinction are so great that humans likely will not survive for many more generations.


The only practical solution, McPherson says, is a wide-spread collapse of the global industrial system. Only a giant economic Depression, where trade stops and banks close, could possible cut emissions fast enough to save us. Only an end to the consumer society could save enough of the natural world to continue supporting large mammals like ourselves.

Keep in mind that McPherson is a published scientist with specialties in biology, the environment, and evolution. Find his blog "Nature Bats Last" at guymcpherson.com.

With his knowledge, to be able to "look at myself in the mirror", Guy left one of the most protected and financially rewarding jobs: being a tenured university Professor. For the last four years, he had to learn a whole new skill set.


You may not be surprised to learn that a lifetime in academia teaches a person nothing about erecting small buildings, growing food, or caring for animals. Life many back-to-the-landers, Guy had to learn all that from scratch, with some help from neighbors who knew.

That is one reason I encourage listeners and readers to start learning those skills now. It takes time, and some mistakes, to learn how to provide off-grid shelter, to feed yourself and family, and to build community. Start now, as much as you can, where ever you are, even in the city. Grow in pots on your balcony. Become part of a community garden. Take those building supply company free courses, and volunteer where you can, building your repertoire of real survival skills. Given the instability of the financial world, starting in Europe, but maybe going global, now is the time to start.

You can learn a lot by just reading through Guy McPherson's blog. Go back through the years, looking the photos and videos, reading how he prepared gardens against pests, the outbuildings, the water sprinklers, the solar powered wells. Lots to learn there.


McPherson captured some his life journey in his latest (2011) book, "Walking Away from Empire: A Personal Journey".

The word "empire" is not accidental. In the interview Guy says his former city of Tucson is "at the apex of empire". Why? All the city's water comes in by canals through the desert hundreds of miles long. All the food is trucked in. The energy comes down long power lines. Without the whole industrial complex, Tucson cannot survive.

The energy supplies, and all the consumer products, depend ultimately on the vast network of military bases built up by America, now dedicated to protecting its corporations and their harvesting of both resources and cheap labor from around the world. That empire, now copied by many other nations, including Europe, Brazil, Russia, and China among many others - it a pattern of living that presupposes killing off the natural world as a consequence.

Personally, I don't see this as just an American empire. Canada has its own imperial activities. For example we direct major mining companies all over the world. Of course most of the European countries still have not just the history, but the corporate activities of empire as well. It's kind of an industrial mega structure, where half the world's people live in endless poverty, while we take their resources or even their working lives. What is the future of the industrial empire?

McPherson says there are other ways to live, and our needs are far less than what the average Western person demands. His experiment in living, along with his neighbors, is an attempt to live in a sustainable way.

The use of "clean" energy like solar power is just a bridge to true sustainability, says McPherson. When we add in the energy needed to make solar panels, and the toxic batteries, they are not a viable long-term solutions.


McPherson has become an inspiration to hundreds if not thousands of people. One visitor in 2011, Mike Sosebee, was inspired to make a film about Guy and his neighbors. The film "Somewhere in New Mexico, Before The End of Time" is due out this fall. I've played several clips from the movie in this Radio Ecoshock show.

One important clip is with Mary Burton Reisly. Several decades ago she purchased 18 acres of New Mexico highlands - with an all-important right to 2 acres of water - for about $68,000. You couldn't hope to buy it for that price now! Mary Burton allowed and participated in the development of a series of communal buildings and self-built homes on the property. It was developed as a land-trust as an ideal, until recently Mary Burton formed the land trust for real.

This communal experiment has really flourished. There was some debate about putting in electric power, but that was rejected, making everyone too dependent on a dangerous industrial system. You'll find out more about this in Mike Sosebee's film, but I do run one clip in the Radio Ecoshock show with Guy McPherson.


Guy turns us toward the work of one of our previous Radio Ecoshock guests, Dr. Timothy Garrett from the University of Utah. Garrett has done studies and calculations showing only a complete collapse of our industrial economy can save us from a climate catastrophe.

We did two interviews with Tim. The first interview in 2010 is here. Or watch a You tube video version of one Garrett interview here (prepared by Khalid Hassan of Outfield Productions in Pakistan). In the second, he told us about doing more study, and writing a second paper, because he couldn't really answer a question I had asked him before. Even a humble radio interview can stimulate new science. Find that second Garrett paper here. That second Garrett interview is embedded in this Radio Ecoshock show titled "An Atmosphere of Crisis".

Here is an easy to understand lay summary of Garrett's theory in an article "Is Global Warming Unstoppable?" McPherson admits it is hard to call for the pain and suffering of what amounts to a Great Depression, and almost unimaginable social dislocation - as a good thing! But our current suffering, and the suffering of all the other species, is worse - and getting worser, if you'll pardon that abuse of English.


Now I'm going to ask a hard question. It is based on my own experience as a back-to-the-lander and self-sufficiency guy. In the late 1970's, I thought the whole thing would collapse or blow itself up with nuclear war. I had ten great years growing our own food and heat, without electricity. But the system carried on, killing off even more of the planet. What happens if industrial civilization surprises you too, if it keeps going another hundred years, while you are waiting out in the hills?

There is a lot of flexibility and wealth built into the Western-style industrial culture. Industrial society might last much too long, right until the horrible eco-crash. The other reason people leave rural self-sustainability is because they become old and need medical care. How will people in these off-grid communities handle that? Do survivalists, catastrophists, or self-styled "doomers" really count on the hospital system to somehow be there? These questions are hot button issues in many off-grid and experimental communities.

We don't have answers yet, other than to hope that better food, a lower stress life with regular exercise will mean less need for the old medical system. Many believe in alternative holistic medicine anyway. And we know hospitals themselves are dangerous places to be these days, with people catching diseases they didn't come in with.


Guy McPherson also talks about Sherry Ackerman being in the film, along with others leaving "normal" lives. Sherry and Guy write for Transition Voice at transitionvoice.com.

Find Guy's regular columns at Transition Voice here.

His post for June 11, 2012 "The Age of Consequences" might serve as a good summary for the basis of this Radio Ecoshock interview. It begins:

"As we continue into the centuries-old, but only recently acknowledged era of destruction and extinction, it’s apparent the current model is not working. Largely too fearful of individual retribution to disrupt the industrial culture that's making us sick, making us crazy, and killing us, we hang tightly to the only system we’ve ever known. Pathetically reluctant to consider what lies beyond the omnicidal industrial machine, we cling to a system that has failed to nurture the living …"


Total communes are very rare in America. Most of the rural communities I've visited seem to be composed of self-contained homesteaders who meet up to exchange skills and produce. In our interview, Guy advocates and explains "agrarian anarchy". The agrarian part is pretty easy, but most Americans have been terribly propagandized against "anarchy".

Anarchy doesn't have to mean masked people breaking windows in some urban protest. Agrarian anarchy has a long history in practice, and in literature, in Europe, South America, and North America. Some agrarian anarchist names you may know are Henry David Thoreau, Edward Abbey, and the alternative historian Howard Zinn. Read Guy McPherson's defense of this way of life here.


Part of my unpleasant job, as an alleged truth seeker on Radio Ecoshock, is to ask questions at the back of people's minds. Here is one. If the biosphere is crashing, along with the climate, as you say: why not just live the good life as long as we can? If it's so hopeless, why not party, or at least live comfortably, until we can't?

Guy says lots of people ask that question, and it's not easy to answer. We have to dig deep inside to decide what kind of people we are. Can we really live without a conscience toward the rest of the creatures, the Earth, and all future generations?

Anyway, McPherson points out, Americans are already leading pretty selfish "Hedonistic" lives. Most of us do whatever we want, no matter what the long term consequences may be. It's already the big party, the bonfire of the vanities, so maybe we need to try another option, like living sanely, alongside others trying to do the same?

It seems to me, part of the function of what Guy is doing, and his local community is doing, is to seed a lot of necessary ideas into the rest of the hive. People come, and they go, but they go with experience of living off the grid, with ways to grow our own healthy food, to make do if the corporations don't provide a pre-packaged life. Is your community a kind of transition nursery?


One of the things I really like about Guy: he doesn’t stop communicating. There is a whole school of survivalists who sneak off to some secret bunker, while writing off all the blind ants living Wal-Mart lives. Guy has not given up on reaching the people still stuck in the dying paradigm. And he says he's not interested in the "Mad Max" fantasy of the future.

People suspect they are part of the killer system, maybe even keeping it going with their jobs. If they want to walk away, how do they start? We talk a bit about that.

In this feature length interview, we share time with a person I consider a kind of soul-mate, even though we have never met in person. Dr. Guy McPherson is a Professor Emeritus at the University of Arizona, now living in rural New Mexico, experimenting to find a truly sustainable life.

Despite our shared pessimism about the industrial system, this turned out to be a positive encounter. There are alternatives, and Guy McPherson wants to do more than find them - he wants to live them, passing on what he discovers.

I'm Alex Smith, for Radio Ecoshock.


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Time of the Techno Fix

2012-06-12 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)

Download Show. Michael Huesemann, co-author of "Techno-Fix: Why Technology Won't Save Us or the Environment" interviewed by The Extraenvironmentalist. Then "Alternative Radio" founder David Barsamian recorded in Vancouver: what should we do? Radio Ecoshock 120613 1 hour

Welcome to Radio Ecoshock. I'm your host Alex Smith.

Before we begin, here are a couple of links you may want, to follow up on this week's show:

This week's Radio Ecoshock show (1 hour) in CD Quality (56 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB)

The Extraenvironmentalist podcast Episosde #37 (1 hour 54 minutes)

David Barsamian speech in Vancouver, Canada April 15, 2012 as recorded by Radio Ecoshock 1 hour 16 min - in CD Quality (70 MB) or Lo-Fi (18 MB)


Regulars may have noticed I've been a day late posting new shows at our web site ecoshock.org. Or the program blog at ecoshock.info is not as full as usual. That is because I've been on the road in the United States for the past few weeks.

As a person concerned about carbon emissions, I've avoided long distance travelling since 2003. That's hard for a natural gypsy and world-traveller. I settled in a relatively energy efficient condo, in the progressive city of Vancouver, used mass transit, and made a once-yearly pilgrimage to a camp site in the mountains every summer.

Now I'm a carbon super-sinner just like you, and I'm not totally sure why. We left the city to go back to the land in the late 1970's, living without electricity, growing most of our own food, and all of our own heat. That was before we knew about climate change. Few followed that example.

Again, I can see that humans are not responding even to the simple idea of minimal human living in cities. Sure we recycle, maybe turn off a few lights, cycle or walk more.

In winter, the cities could not exist without fossil fuels. In the Southern U.S. - where record heat came again this spring - millions depend on air-conditioning to survive.

There are much better alternatives. We've covered quite a few on Radio Ecoshock - like the "Passivehaus" homes that need no outside heat or cooling. I'll be talking to such a home-builder in Australia in a couple of weeks. Our pioneer ancestors obviously lived without fossil fuels or chemical pollution, but with much smaller cities, and most folks in rural farms.


In my latest tour, I asked Americans if they thought the climate was changing. I was unable to find a single person who doubted it. People became very alive talking about the strange weather. Many had experienced storms, droughts, floods, fires, heat waves in March, and so on. Only a few wondered if it was just a passing phase of Nature. Most believed humans had triggered a change.

You would never know it; from reading the local papers which I purchased everywhere we went. I found crime stories, hatred of the poor, hatred of the government, and no inkling of a serious problem, other than reports of odd weather.

Nor did I see any significant signs of change in the dozen Western States I visited. Twice we saw wind farms. Once I saw solar panels on a single building. Big cars and trucks are plentiful, while people complain bitterly about the cost of gas. People are worried about the economy, but not about the environment. They don't seem to see the big changes ahead for all of us. Gas will not run out. Most people think we'll still farm as usual, buy whatever we want at the supermarket. It's too bad the river is too polluted to swim in. But really, those environmentalists have gone too far, making it harder to fish and hunt, making crazy rules, making us all feel guilty. That is what is out there.


In Southern Utah there are natural wonders of red sand stone: the deep canyon walls of Zion, the amazing hoodoos at Bryce. All of that comes from the time about two hundred million years ago when the hot house world was encircled by tropical deserts. Eventually, the giant sand dunes hardened into stone, were uplifted, and then eroded by water.

Climate scientists and those who study deep time warn we can return to those giant deserts. In fact, there are already slowly forming, as the Mediterranean area dries out, the forests die and burn, to become like the Sahara to the South. Scientists like Jonathan Overpeck from the University of Arizona has already warned, on this program and in many papers and reports, that a long-term drying has struck the U.S. Southwest. It could last hundreds of years, or thousands of years. Australia also has vast areas formerly farmed that are now drying and burning. Desertification is the curse of China. Even the Brazilian rainforest experienced two massive droughts in the last 15 years.

Long-time listeners will recall Dr. James Lovelock's summary of British climate models which predict a band of desert dry lands stretching around the globe in a few centuries, as the world heats up at a record rate.

All this has happened before, but never so fast, and never triggered by the actions of a single species.

It's not just the climate. In a recent show we covered the damage to plants by our industrial pollution, a chain of nitrous oxide producing low-level ozone. One of my long-time correspondents, and music contributors, Dana Pearson, was discouraged. Like many, he thought we could transition a modern society using solar power and other non-fossil energies. Find Dana's music at soundclick.com or just search for vastmandana.

I've just had a different sad report from another show volunteer, Kris Kanaly who is helping improve the graphic design of our Radio Ecoshock blog. With no budget at all, Radio Ecoshock couldn't function without our volunteer help.

I wrote Kris about my climate pessimism. I said considering our utter dependence on machinery and electrons, we will likely burn everything, all the oil, all the gas, all the coal, no matter how dirty, destructive and expensive the methods might be.

His reply surprised me twice. First, at the Arkansas River, where he likes to camp, swimming has been permanently banned. The culprit is not climate change. The cause is water polluted to toxic levels by agricultural runoff. You know, excess nitrogen, animal dung, pesticides and other nasties. They can't or won't stop it. The pollution is just part of our massive Confined Animal Feeding Operation food system. You want it at the supermarket, cheap. Forget about swimming or drinking in another big river. Too bad for the other species killed off. It's another case of our systemic destruction of Nature.

The second surprise was just as extreme. Where I found Arizona drying up, this Spring Oklahoma is inundated with rain. This in a state which experienced several years of record droughts, along with neighboring Texas. Sure, climate change should really be called climate disruption. Swings in rainfall should be expected, with severe precipitation events becoming the world-wide norm.

But Kris is suspicious there are other causes. He sent me the Weather Modification Annual Meeting Program Agenda, held in Las Vegas, Nevada, from April 25th to 27th, 2012. This is not about conspiracies to change the weather using the secretive HAARP antenna farms in Alaska. Nope, and we are not talking about Chemtrails either. The purpose of this meeting is to discuss making rainfall in the Southwest. It's the first step of local geo-engineering. These scientists, government reps, and corporations hope to contradict the trends of climate change, or at least adapt the atmosphere to fit the needs of industrial agriculture.

We hear about using aerosols - airborne particles, to add rainfall in Colorado. Or "Low-level Atmospheric Stability during Icing Periods in Utah, and Implications for Winter Ground-Based Cloud Seeding." Wyoming has a pilot weather modification project.

There seems to be an attempt at regulation, through the Atmospheric Water Management Standards Committee. I have no idea how much, or if any, public protection, or protection for nature, is built into that community. Frankly, I'll bet most of you had no idea weather modification is being employed in the Southwest. I didn't know.

The grand-daddies behind a lot of this rain-making seem to come from Texas. You've heard how the last few years of drought, especially in 2011, killed off the range cattle industry, dried up lakes and reservoirs, and cost many billions of dollars of crop losses in this mass producing agricultural state. Everything from rice to carrots went downhill when the rain just stopped in Texas, to be replaced by unbelievable record heat waves for not weeks, but months.

There are massive cloud seeding operations in Texas. Everything from satellites to "duel polarization radar" are used to measure and time things. It's a big and growing industry, which fully acknowledges the climate is changing, and drought is part of the picture.

Those crazy Americans? Not really. The Las Vegas conference heard reports on weather modification in Canada, Australia, Japan, and France.

It's called the technical fix. Like all technical fixes, there are always unforeseen consequences. Kris in Oklahoma believes their unusual spring rains are the result of Texan weather modification being a little too successful, right at the moment. The intended rain may be blowing into Oklahoma instead. Thanks for this heads up Kris. Find his excellent graphics work at Kanalydesign.com

So the boys are playing with the sky, trying to fend off what Texas refineries and all our fossil dependency will bring. I'm going to play you part of a long podcast about the problems of depending on a technical fix. It's from Justin Ritchie and Seth Mozerkatz hosts of "The Extraenvironmentalist" Episode number 37. The dynamic duo interview Michael Huesemann. Huesemann and his wife co-wrote the book "Techno-fix" - the antidote to the whole movement of techno-optimism.

At the end of the program, I'm also going to play you a slice from long-term lefty broadcaster David Barsamian on what we can do. You can download his whole speech as I recorded it in Vancouver, from our blog or our web site.

Like me, Barsamian is no wild optimist about our chances. Here is a teaser from the question and answer period I recorded.

[Barsamian on doomed future and possible socialism]

First, let's go to Arizona, the end of my journey, to hear from Dr. Michael Huesemann, the research scientist, in an interview for The Extraenvironmentalist. As that interview is almost two hours long, we'll go for some of the juicy bits about the belief that technology can save us from the death spiral of technology.

[Techno Fix Part One]


A group of 21 scientists have just published a grim forecast in the journal "Nature". Using various models, and the science of times past, the group concludes we are headed for an environmental melt-down of epic proportions. I'll be interviewing one of the paper's authors in a coming Radio Ecoshock program.

This study is just one of many warning us our fossil-based industrial civilization is not just unsustainable, but suicidal for ourselves and the whole range of planetary life. Sure something will survive, but life as we know it seems like a temporary burst, like a bloom of algae that chokes off its own oxygen. The road-side fast food joints, long-distance golf and sex tourism flights, everything trucked in from everywhere - it's a thin veneer of a life form that is unlikely to last more than a few short generations.

Or will humans pull out a technical miracle, like a pill that cures some complex fatal disease? That's the subject of this week's program, the dogged belief that technology can save us. Back to Dr. Michael Huesemann as interviewed for The Extraenvironmentalist.


If we are waiting for a predictable collapse of an unstable financial system, a toxic regime of food production, and the inevitable end of affordable fossil fuels - what should we do in the meantime?

That's the questions I asked long-time alternative broadcaster and author David Barsamian when he spoke in Vancouver on April 15th, 2012.

David Barsamian has many claims to fame in the counter-culture. He transcribed a series of long interviews with popular social critic Noam Chomsky into books standing the test of time. In fact, over several decades, Barsamian interviewed social historian Howard Zinn, the late Edward Said, and many of the underground heroes of our time. His latest books are "How The World Works" with Noam Chomsky, and "Occupy the Economy" with Richard Wolfe.

Barsamian was also a pioneer in using small radio stations to broadcast the news and views silenced by the mainstream press. In the mid-1980's he developed the syndicated weekly series called "Alternative Radio", based out of Boulder, Colorado and carried by 125 stations in the United States and Canada.

Barsamian was sponsored in Vancouver at the downtown campus of Simon Fraser University, by the South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy. The topic was "Media and Democracy". His speech covered current issues in the Middle East and a refreshing update on the continuing difficulties of covering sensitive problems in alleged Democracies. Over decades, David has covered India where most reporters seldom ventured. On his latest visit, trying to document the discovery of mass graves in the disputed Kashmir region - Barsamian was immediately deported on his arrival in India.

I recommend you download Barsamian's speech from the Radio Ecoshock features page at ecoshock.org - or find a link in my blog for this program at ecoshock.info. As far as I know, Radio Ecoshock has the only online recording of this speech.

Keeping within the themes of our program, I'm going to skip ahead to the Question and Answer period. After David outlined the many reasons for the decline of the West, and the developing twilight of the American Empire, he suggested a new dream is developing.

Here is the end of that April speech in Vancouver:

[Barsamian quote, another world is on its way.]

Given all the problems we've covered in this Radio Ecoshock program, and more than a hundred previous shows, I had to ask the obvious question. It the West, and the American Empire are tottering toward decline or collapse, what should we do in the meantime?

[Alex and Barsamian exchange]

Google David Barsamian or "Alternative Radio" to hear more. And check out theextraenvironmentalist.com.

I began this program by thanking two show volunteers, Dana Pearson and Kris Kanaly. I'll finish with a huge thanks to Carl Hartung, who saved the Radio Ecoshock website from extinction, and keeps serving up terabytes of free downloads for all the listeners, from ecoshock.org. Find a like to Carl's site at the bottom of every web page at our site.

We are out of time. I'm Alex Smith. Join us next week for more of the awful truth.


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Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist

2012-06-06 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)

Has environmentalism failed? If so, what do we do next? That's the question faced by three panelists, former Ecologist magazine deputy editor Paul Kingsnorth from the UK; American deep green activist and writer Lierre Keith; and eco-philosopher David Abram. The host of this web conference is Erik Hoffner of Orion magazine.

In this week's program, three deep green activists ask and answer the perennial question: what are we supposed to do in a world hell-bent on destroying Nature.

We are playing "Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist" - a three way discussion organized by Orion magazine's Erik Hoffner.

Please don't assume I agree with everything said. This discussion, from a web-chat hosted by Erik Hoffner of Orion Magazine, made me think hard. It uncovered both dark and light hidden in our daily worries. Let it work on you.

The discussion is based on Paul Kingsnorth's seminal article of the same name, "Confesssions of a Recovering Environmentalist" published in Orion Magazine. Basically, Paul explains why he thinks the environmental movement has failed, and why he can no longer be a part of that. But that is far too simplistic a summary. Paul's analysis is deep and striking.

I won't try to summarize Lierre Keith's contribution (that would be hard!) - other than to say she takes the more radical position that we should stop this killing civilization in it's tracks, before it wipes us - and all the other species - out.

Lierre advocates activism something along the lines of Earth First! and suggests that violence may even be necessary, if nothing else works, to save the Earth. Lierre has some of the passion of youth, the generation that really will suffer the consequences of our actions, and the further perspective of feminism (much needed).

David Abram is one of the most interesting green thinkers anywhere. He's been going at this since the 1970's, mixing therapy, Jungian thinking, Gaian theory and aboriginal knowledge to find new paradigms for human existence on Earth. David recoils from the idea of violence. He, like myself, feels the current system is already based on extreme violence, and would react even more harshly. Non-violence is what Abram wants, and he sees it could work, as it worked for Ghandi in India.

Here is David Abram's web site at Wild Ethics. We've had Paul Kingsnorth on Radio Ecoshock in our December 2009 show titled "Uncivilized". Here is that 28 minute interview with Paul as an mp3 in CD Quality (25 MB) or Lo-Fi (6 MB)

Here is a link to Paul's web site, and more information about his "Dark Mountain Project".

In a critical exchange in Grist magazine, Paul recently announced he is withdrawing from the climate movement. I can't do that. My kids and grandson need me to keep trying. To go down in defeat if I must. (Our end music theme for this week is "White Flag" by Dido).

My thanks to Erik Hoffner and Orion magazine for putting together this brilliant discussion. I listened to this discussion at least 6 times, making tons of notes. You might want to do the same.

In addition to Orion Magazine, you can also find Erik publishing eveywhere from Grist to Common Dreams. Or check out his photography.

Stay tuned to other Orion Magazine web events, both upcoming and archived, here.

I'm Alex Smith for Radio Ecoshock. Thank you for listening, and caring about your world.


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What If the Permafrost Thaws?

2012-05-29 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)

http://bit.ly/L0DzFo There is more carbon frozen in far North than in all living things & the atmosphere. It has begun to thaw. Interview with Prof. Antoni Lewkowitcz and Academy of Science speech by Dr. Charles Koven. Radio Ecoshock 120530 1 hour.

Gas pipelines in Siberia are rising out of the ground, while in Alaska oil pipelines sag.

Houses and factories built on permafrost are tipping. Evergreens are slanting in so-called "drunken forests". Under the whole north, land is becoming unstable as the climate warms.

I'm Alex Smith. We're going to find many answers to a simple question: What if the permafrost thaws?

I attended a conference session on that very subject, with expert scientists, at this year's meeting of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science. We'll hear the latest.

But it was rough going. After the session, which was technical and carefully hedged with scientific doubts, I ran into the soil expert for the European Union, Luca Montanarella. I told him, in spite of all I'd heard, I still didn't know whether we should be worried or not.

"You'd like to worry, wouldn't you?" Luca replied, "But we have many more things to worry about now, further south."

Of course Luca is Italian. There were riots in the streets of Italy. The government had fallen, and the banking system might soon follow.

In the course of preparing this program on permafrost, I ran into as many opinions as experts. The permafrost may thaw over hundreds of years. The carbon stored there will come out slowly, one said. Another suggested when that thaw comes, it will already be too late for our civilization, ruined by a changed climate further south.

Other scenarios predict 50 to 80% of permafrost will thaw during this century. Maybe the released greenhouse gases will only equal ten or twenty years of our current emissions, one of our guests says. Only!

Another brand new scientific paper suggests permafrost melt may have caused the great mass extinction 55 million years ago.

We've never seen it. The frost was supposed to be permanent, and has been during human time on Earth. Now the signs of big changes are all around in the Arctic. What is coming? We can only model the future, with very imperfect tools, and guess the rest.

Before we dive into expert level testimony about the latest science, let's start with a more user-friendly Radio Ecoshock interview.

See my detailed notes below on my interview with Antoni Lewkowicz from the University of Ottawa. He's one of the world's recognized experts on permafrost, and yet quite good at explaining these issues to the public.

See my detailed notes from the Lewkowicz interview below. Our theme music this week is from Laurie Anderson's latest album.

The big question for this program, and for the world, is "What if the Permafrost thaws?"

I was unable to find a figure for the amount of the world soil and rock that is frozen. The BBC clip we ran earlier claimed 60% of Russia is permanently frozen ground. There is some permafrost in the Andes of Chile, but most is obviously in Russia, Canada, and Alaska. The United States Permafrost Association estimates about 25% of Earth's surface is frozen, and permafrost may account for up to 40% of all soils on the planet.

As you hear from Dr. Lewkowicz, interest in these frozen northern soils and rocks dropped - until scientists began to calculate a carbon budget for the world. The Wikipedia entry, which is still under construction, says this:

"The most recent work investigating the permafrost carbon pool size estimates that 1400–1700 Gt of carbon is stored in permafrost soils worldwide. This large carbon pool represents more carbon than currently exists in all living things and twice as much carbon as exists in the atmosphere."

Maybe so, but as we'll learn from our next expert, not all of that will reach the atmosphere. And we don't know how long it could take to get there.


Dr. Charles Koven is a permafrost and soils expert in the climate sciences department of the Berkeley National Lab in California. Along with the renowned Canadian northern soils expert Charles Tarnocai, Dr. Koven was asked to present at the February meeting of the National Academy for the advancement of Science session called "What If The Permafrost Thaws?"

I recorded that session in Vancouver. You can order the whole recording as an mp3 from aven.com as item number AS219.

I'm going to play you some select audio from the Charles Koven talk. It isn't easy, for you and me. First of all, Koven was speaking to experts, not the public. Second, to be frank, neither Koven nor Tarnocai are good public speakers. I think it's too much to ask of our best scientists that they also be master speakers. They spend years in a forbidding field, literally in the cold, and more years working through tedious data in the lab. Their many scientific papers are their voices.

So I've selected the best, and edited out some of the repetitions and pauses, for better radio listening.

Before we begin, you'll also need to understand a few phrases and tools used when trying to answer these difficult problems of permafrost. Dr. Lewkowitcz gave us a leg up. We found out there is no sharp dividing line on a map where permafrost ends, but fingers and islands jutting out from a completely frozen polar area. There is now a free book "The Soil Atlas of the Circumpolar Region" available from the European Union.

There are three different major types of soil, and that matters, since each releases more or less carbon when exposed to decay. As a group these are called Cryosols, in the World Reference Base for Soil Resources, or sometimes Gelisols in official soil lingo.

Complicating it all: the permafrost can be shallow, or very, very deep. You might think that once ancient plant material is buried many feet or meters below the ground, below the reach of living roots, it would stay there. But as anybody in cold winters knows, the soil is always heaving. In the Arctic, with summer surface melt and extreme winter cold, soil layers are tossed about in a process called "cryoturbation". You'll hear about that in the Charles Koven talk.

In the program, I play you a quick clip from Steven Chu, currently the Secretary of Energy for the United States, in the Obama administration. Dr. Chu explains that once the permafrost reaches a certain pace of thawing, it will continue to feed more warming and melting, no matter what humans do. Obviously he takes thawing permafrost seriously, as should we all.

Finally, since we won't know the climate impacts of permafrost melt until it's much too late, the best we can do is make models from huge masses of scientifically collected data. Talk of complex climate models can turn off a lot of radios, I know. I'm only including a short bit on that, from Dr. Koven, because I think you need to get a feel for what we know and don't know. And how good the guesses are so far.

There are at least a dozen serious teams of climate modellers, some running football field sized buildings stuffed full of super computers. Everything from weather records, ocean temperatures, chemical formulae, ice formations, soil types, and even areas of permafrost are fed into these computers, trying to forecast what happens if we burn all the oil, coal and gas, or just some of it.

The results, as you know from the periodic reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, are divided into possible scenarios, with varying levels of confidence. Dr. Koven quickly references the latest models used for the upcoming IPCC assessment - called CEMa, short for Climate Envelop Matching. He also talks about the RCP Level 5 scenario, which is a "moderate" projection of 500 parts per million of carbon dioxide equivalent in the atmosphere by the year 2100. And the RPC 8.5 scenario, which would take us beyond 4 degrees of warming by 2100 - the pedal to the metal scenario of human greenhouse gas emissions.

Hang in there through that modeling talk, and you will be rewarded by some courageous assessments of what really happens if the northern lands thaw. Plus a surprising and controversial suggestion that Arctic methane may not be the boogeyman some suggest.

Good luck to us all. Here are selections from Charles Koven speaking at the American Academy for the Advancement of Science meeting, on February 19th, 2012.


When we think of planet Earth, we don't picture a frozen planet. But a huge area underground is always icy. We call it the permafrost. You won't find it in your backyard, unless you live in the far north.

Geologists and other scientists have only begun the task of cataloging this underground world. Now, as Earth warms, we all need to know. Because if all the carbon locked up in the north is released, our climate, and our civilization will change beyond recognition.

Professor Antoni Lewkowicz is a central figure unraveling this mystery. From the Department of Geography at Canada's University of Ottawa, Lewkowicz studies, leads doctoral researchers, and advises international groups on permafrost. He's a co-author on a new paper on the impacts of climate change on permafrost in Canada.

Why care about the permafrost? 3 reasons

1. it's a good thermometer. Unlike measuring air temperatures, which is tricky, measuring deeper in the ground is more solidly known. We know the melting is real, permafrost doesn't lie, proves global warming is happening.

2. Large emissions of carbon could result from melting, but we don't yet know how much. It will affect people all over the world. We know there are massive stocks of carbon locked up there - but how long will it take to be released?

3. It costs money. Governments, corporations, and individuals have to spend money to protect infrastructure or deal with changes in the ground, from "drunken forests" to sagging pipelines, to tipping buildings and sinking roads.

For example within 100 miles of the border between the Canadian Yukon and Alaska, the Alaska Highway is full of dips and rises from melting permafrost. That highway is a huge investment by both countries and continuing costs will be high. It already costs tens of millions to maintain the Alaska Highway.

Coastal erosion, as frozen ground gives way, is also a huge problem. Most of the Northern settlements are on the coast. The First Nations aboriginal people were dependent on fishing and hunting sea mammals - now their settlements are either tipping over, or in some cases, falling into the sea with coastal erosion.

Longer ice-free season can lead to bigger waves and more storms. Erosion can be tens of meters per year in some cases.

The depth of permafrost is quite variable. At the far northern tip of Canada at Ellesmere Island the permafrost is several hundred meters thick, probably five to seven hundred meters thick. Its temperature is about minus fifteen.

As you go south, it gets thinner. In the far north, the permafrost is continuous, under everything. Further south, some places have permafrost, others not. It becomes dispersed and localized.

Again, in some areas the organic material, which could be released as either carbon dioxide or methane, has been accumulating for thousands of years. In other areas it may be just hundreds of years. It’s like a jig-saw puzzle with many different pieces.

Parts of Alaska were not glaciated in the last great ice age, and continued growing plant life. Those accumulated much more organic material. This was gradually incorporated in the frozen ground, to be stored without decay.

Lewkowicz is a lead author of a new paper published in the Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences. The title is "Climate and Ground Temperature Relations, Sites Across the Continuous and Discontinuous Zones in Northern Canada, with co-authors Jennifer Troop and Sharon Smith, from the Geological Survey of Canada. As part of the International Polar Year, which ended in 2009, they developed a new series of bore hole temperature readings.

As you would suspect, the climate does determine ground temperatures. While some of the far North is still very cold under the surface, a little further South is just below zero, on its way to melting. These scientists were able to form a continent-wide reading of the permafrost.

I raised the fascinating videos showing up on You tube of thousands of new small lakes appearing in Siberia as the permafrost thaws there.

Although there is very strong warming in Canada, particularly in the Mackenzie Valley, Professor Lewkowitcz doesn't think Canada is experiencing the rather sudden appearance of so many lakes as in Siberia. In the Western Canadian Arctic average annual temperatures have risen by as much as a degree Celsius in a decade.

Some Canadian peat lands are decaying relatively rapidly and you can see that through satellite photos.

In one area of discontinuous permafrost areas in the Southern Yukon and Northern British Columbia, half the sites measured have thawed since 1964.

But if we go to the extreme North, like Alter Bay, the ground may be a degree warmer, but it has only moved from about 14 degrees below zero C. to perhaps 13 degrees. It is relatively warmer, but now where close to thawing yet.

Scientists prefer to use the word "thaw" rather than "melt". Lewkowicz gives the example of a frozen turkey. If you thaw a turkey, you still have it to eat. If you melt something, it's gone. Permafrost isn't just ice. It can be only frozen rock for example. That may thaw without melting. Technically, "permafrost" is defined by sub-zero temperature for two or more years, no matter what is frozen under the surface. Professor Lewkowicz just attended a post Polar Year conference in Montreal. The hot topic was: how much carbon will be released as the permafrost melts? There is a lot of new research into this question, partly because we don't yet have firm answers. We don't know.

We do know that where the organic material decays without water, it will release carbon dioxide. If the decay happens in water, methane is released instead. So there are many further calculations about how much comes out of lakes, bogs, and swamps - versus how much material will thaw and rot in simple exposed ground.

The second big question is: how fast will it happen?

Again this is complex, and one factor is water. If ponds form, as they do in Siberia, that water efficiently transfers the heat from the Sun and warmer air down into the ground. More greenhouse gases will be released there. This can become a positive feedback effect, where smaller ponds warm to form larger ponds, and so more warming.

Regarding the coming greenhouse gas emissions from thawing permafrost, Lewkowicz says "We don't have the answer yet, but we know it's a really, really serious question."

There is a potential for a positive feedback effect, where thawing permafrost releases warming gases which melts more permafrost, increasing that cycle at a faster rate.

Like the melting Arctic Sea Ice, "it's difficult to imagine how we can revert to a previous condition" [of permafrost]. "It's quite difficult to thaw ground, but it's actually quite difficult to freeze ground... once we thaw it, I don't know how we are going to freeze it again."

I think this is a key point about thawing permafrost. There isn't any realistic geo-engineering scheme to reverse it. The area of permafrost is so huge, and the amount of energy require to freeze it so gigantic, this process is beyond human control, once we initiate the warming and thawing process. It is an irreversible change to the planet.

Lewkowicz says there will still be permafrost left in all our lifetimes. The question is how much, and what will the impacts of the thawing be?

Listen again to this show, or pass it around as a free mp3, from our program archives at ecoshock.org.

Should we worry about the permafrost thaw? Maybe not today or tomorrow. The big thaw is happening slowly. It will define the history of the planet. As the Russian expert Sergei Kirpotin of Tomsk University says: the process is already underway. We can delay it, with smarter energy choices, and greenhouse gas control, but unless a miracle happens, over the next century or three, planet Earth will thaw.

I'm Alex Smith for Radio Ecoshock. I appreciate your patience and your brain power. Thank you for caring about your world.


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As Darkness Flourishes

2012-05-23 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)

http://bit.ly/LaQVgW Josh Tickell, Director of "The Big Fix" reveals the continuing BP Gulf oil spill cover-up. S. Dutta on mega coal plant construction binge in India. "GM Food Song" by Superweed. Conclusion of tar sands speech by independent scientist Dr. David Schindler.



From the high desert, from the dry falls of ages past, this is Alex Smith. We have a full menu of audio for you this week.

You'll start out with a main course of awful truth about the continuing BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Director Josh Tickell joins us for a look at his dark reality pic "The Big Fix".

Then we go to the coal disaster you never hear about. The government of India has teamed up with one of its biggest corporations to build some of the largest coal plants on the Planet. S. Dutta reports from Delhi about the Tata Mundra mega plant. Their lives and your climate in one big story.

I'll play you a fine activist song about GM foods and wrap up with more from my recording of Dr. David Schindler's breakout speech against the Canadian Tar sands.

Bon appetite.


Sales of oil and gas leases are the second largest source of revenue to the United States government. About forty percent of that happens in the Gulf of Mexico.

As we learn in this interview with Josh Tickell, only the Internal Revenue Service brings in more (from taxes, with a much bigger overhead). Is it any wonder the fossil fuel industry has so much control over the government?

There is hardly any oversight. That is why BP was allowed to drill in deep waters on the edge of a ridge in the Gulf of Mexico, even after companies like Exxon had abandoned drilling efforts there. The area was known to host pools of explosive gas as well as the oil.

Tickell goes over a long list of illness suffered by cleanup workers and many residents of the Gulf states. Skin rashes, asthma, and many other chronic conditions popped up after BP poured millions of gallons of the toxic oil dispersant Corexit into the Gulf. Exactly how many million gallons is still in dispute.

The Corexit was carried toward the shorelines, where waves and winds whip it up into water droplets which hit Gulf residents, to this day.

Tickell says despite the multi-million dollar advertising campaign saying the beaches are all clean, there are still workers cleaning beaches, and popular beaches have closures now and then. Tickell, who grew up in Louisiana, in a Cajun family, dug into "cleaned up" beaches and found lots of oil deeper in the sand. It isn't just a metaphorical "cover up", he tells us, but the oil is really just covered up for now.

We go into the Obama deception, the multibillions of shareholder profits paid out by BP even during and after the spill, why the military was co-opted by BP and more.

Josh Tickell first came to prominence after driving his grease-powered "veggie van" across America. That became the film "fuel". Now with wife Rachel, "The Big Fix" is winning acclaim at film festivals around the world. It got a standing ovation at Cannes. Our Radio Ecoshock correspondent in Washington D.C., Gerri Williams, saw it at a film festival there. She said the audience was wowed, and recommended this interview with Josh Tickell.

Since many standard theaters are afraid of blowback from the powerful oil industry, it may not play near you. Fortunately, the DVD will be available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Netflix and ITunes in June. Or you can get it directly from the film web site, after the June release, at thebigfixmovie.com


You know Americans are blowing tops of Appalachian Mountains for dirty coal power. Warren Buffet's endless coal trains flow from the America West.

In early May, activists from Vancouver, including two prominent academics, Dr. Bill Rees of the ecological footprint, and energy expert Mark Jaccard, were arrested stopping a coal train there.

Everybody knows China built a coal plant a week. So why don't we hear about the mega mega coal plants springing up in India? Now you will.

Mr. S. Dutta joins us for an in-depth report from India about the growing coal binge there.

The coal mining industry is mainly nationalized, run by the government of India. Politicians have promised to electrify the country, and coal is their main fuel, even as India is hit hard by climate-driven drought, floods, and heat waves.

The center of attention now is the giant 4 gig watt Tata Mundra plant in Northwest India (Gujarat State). It is right on the coast, in one of the most ecologically sensitive and productive areas. Further inland is the great desert, so most people live and work on the coast.

The poorest people, small farmers and fisher people, will be most directly hurt by construction and operation of the many coal plants planned at Tata Mundra.

I ask Mr. Dutta to compare the many anti-coal plants there, and the Occupy movement in the West. Although many people have been arrested at both, there are major differences. The coal-powered electricity will benefit the middle and upper classes, so they are supporting it. The many poor people are those protesting. They do not speak Hindi, the language of their government, and are not consulted or compensated. These poor people need the help of non-profits like the one Mr. Dutta works for.

We go into the larger energy picture of India with lots of facts and figures which may surprise you. Along with the many coal plants either under construction or planned, goes a lot of corruption of land sales. The power will go to fuel shopping malls, which the poor people can never dream to visit. It's a deep interview, with many angles you should hear.

Before we go to our exclusive recording of Dr. David Schindler on the Tar Sands, you'll want to hear this smart new song about a dangerous idea: genetic modification of your food. From You tube, here is the band Superweed.


A few weeks ago I played you part of a daring speech by one of Canada's most prominent and honored scientists, Dr. David Schindler. He spoke out about the many dangers of the Canadian Tar Sands, in a speech to a packed audience at the Wosk Centre in Vancouver. Here is David Schindler wrapping up, about the deformed fish, the fake restoration promoted on TV, and the lasting cost to us all.

For example, The First Nations people of Northern Alberta, who depend on fish to live, complained they were finding some too deformed to eat, or even feed to their dogs. Schindler set up a collection point, and in just the first year found fish with tumors, fish with two tails, fish with one big eye and so on. He concludes these are the product of embryos poisoned by tar sands waste.

Still on the subject of fish, we hear another scandal. When a mine pit is finished, the big corporations are allowed to fill them in with tailings, and then add 10 meters (about 32 feet) of water. They call this restored "fish habitat" - even though nothing can live in them. Starting 17 years ago, the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans have approved over 25 of such "fish lakes". The first one from 17 years ago shows no signs of life, much less fish, but the Federal government doesn't care, Schindler says.

The Caribou stocks of the Tar Sands area have been wiped out. Under the law, they should have been treated as endangered species, but the Minister in charge says Canada has lots of caribou - we'll just stuff in some new ones later, when the lands are restored.

Schindler says very little has been restored, and even those projects are an ecological failure. Supposed forests are sparsely treed. The companies try to restore peat bogs - but the tailings are too salty, at least ten times too salty, to host the peat bogs. Instead of 300 species, the "restored" lands are lucky to host a few dozen.

Meanwhile paid "green" spokespeople like Patrick Moore appear on TV and You tube showing off the restored lands. Schindler says real biologist laugh when Moore points out a pleasant yellow plant as an example of new growth. The plant is exotic, shouldn't be there, and is known to accumulate cyanide.

The whole "restoration" game is a Ponzi scheme. The oil companies have saved about 10% of the cost to restore the easiest lands, those built up with removed top soil (not the toxic tailings). Schindler says Canadians under forty years of age will be stuck with the cleanup bill in years to come.

I doubt restoration will ever happen. As the oil runs out, or becomes too expensive for an industrial economy, these ravages lands will be abandoned, with their toxic lakes and pits, a scar the size of a small European country, left on the planet, as signs of a past oil age.

My thanks to Simon Fraser University for permission to record this speech. Dr. David Schindler is an award winning Canadian scientists, of international renown. That he would speak out at this point shows how bad the Canadian Tar Sands situation has become.

The big fix on the Gulf oil spill, the push for coal in India, Tar Sands propaganda - the fossil fuel industry is flourishing - while the species and climate thrash toward catastrophe.

Now you know, but knowing is only half the battle. Action is up to you.

I would say knowing is less than half the battle - but the with all the propaganda paid for by the fossil fuel industry, and the bought-out mainstream media, it is a bit of work to find out what is really going on. That is why I do Radio Ecoshock. To help you know.

Visit our new web site at ecoshock.org.

From Wi-Fi somewhere in America, I'm Alex Smith, thank you for listening and caring about your world.


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Why Are Forests Dying?

2012-05-13 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)

http://bit.ly/J1iHNJ Forests around the world are dying from insects, fungus, drought, heat. Drivers are climate change & ozone pollution. New Jersey activist Gail Zawacki on ozone damage to trees, crops & our lungs. University of Illinois scientist Lisa Ainsworth on FACE CO2 impacts study.

A startling documentary from the public broadcaster ABC Australia explores dying forests. It is happening around the world, in Europe, Asia, Africa, South America and all down the West Coast of North America. Call it bugs, call it fungus, call it drought and record heat. Call it climate change and plain old pollution.

Whether it's satellite photos, or walking through the dying woods, it's heart-breaking. Why are forests dying around the world?

I'm Alex Smith. I've covered climate change in so many Radio Ecoshock programs. Later in this program we'll talk to a key scientist, Lisa Ainsworth, about misplaced expectations that rising carbon dioxide levels will green the planet and feed billions more people.

But first we are going to ground with a citizen activist from New Jersey. Her trees, and all our trees, are weakened and dying from a much simpler cause: plain old pollution. The air looks cleaner, but all that industrial exhaust is still deadly to plants - and our lungs.

The trees are talking to us, but we just aren't listening.

Gail Zawacki is speaking out on the pollution that is killing trees, shrubs and crops - despite all the government back patting on supposedly cleaner air.

First we have to remember there is good and bad ozone. The saying is "Good in the sky, bad nearby." The ozone in the upper stratosphere protects all living things from harmful ultraviolet light from the sun. That was the worry of the ozone hole.

Lower down near the ground, we have what is called "tropospheric" ozone. That is part of the smog, but ozone itself is invisible. It's a type of oxygen, but it has three oxygen atoms instead of two.

As Gail tells us, there are no factories spewing ozone - that is what makes it so difficult to control. Tropospheric ozone is created in an air-borne reaction with other chemicals called "precursors". The main precursor is nitrogen - and we are the nitrogen civilization. We release it from burning fossil fuels, but laying billions of tons of nitrogen on farm fields as fertilizers, and many other sources.

Another precursor is a group of "volatile organic compounds" also known as VOC's. Our industrial society creates plenty of VOC's, especially from the chemical and refinery industries. Some consumer and household products, including paints, also release VOCs.

It turns out trees can release VOC's as well. That is how Ronald Regan was infamously able to claim that trees cause pollution. However, natural forests existed for millions of years without producing harmful smog or dangerous ozone levels. We do that.

Ozone is a "reactive" substance. It oxidizes everything from plant leaves to granite monuments, all of which begin to deteriorate.

Please listen to the Gail Zawacki interview to learn how ozone impacts trees, shrubs and crops. (It also harms our lungs, especially anybody with breathing problems. That's another whole story.)

The leaves begin to shut down. You can find black stippling, or sometimes they "bronze" - turning color well before the fall. Then the plant cannot perform the photosynthesis it needs. As a result, trees and shrubs are weakened, and less able to prevent diseases (like a fungus) or insect pests from doing damage.

We may see the immediate cause of tree deaths as caused by a fungus or boring beetle, but the tree is weakened by ozone damage. Zawacki, and the Australian documentary, compare the dying tree situation to HIV. The AIDS damaged immune system may die due to pneumonia, but the real driver was HIV.

Agricultural agencies, and forest departments, know all about ozone damage. They have pictures on their web sites. But other government agencies hardly ever talk about it. We have been told air pollution in the West is all cleaned up, but really the ozone plague goes on and on.

Gail has wrapped up all her research on the ozone threat in a really great document titled "Pillage, Plunder & Pollute, LLC (A Global Glut of Invisible Trace Gases is Destroying Life on Earth)" It has lots of illustrations and links. You can download it as a free .pdf - or buy the print version from Amazon. It was a real education for me, and part of the reason we asked her to come on Radio Ecoshock.

Gail writes: "This is really well known to the USDA, and by the international scientific community. In fact the USDA in cooperation with many academics at universities has been engaged in research for years, trying to develop ozone "resistant" or "tolerant" crops.... Ozone is also of concern for farmers, not only because it reduces the yield but also quality of protein, minerals etc. - so it also means ruminants like cows and pigs are getting less nutrition for the amount eaten."

In the Journal Nature, I found a paper saying tropospheric ozone has increased 35% over the last century.

The 2003 paper by Wendy Loya and others says increased ozone levels hurts both forests and crops, even when carbon dioxide is increased, as we expect in the coming decades. They conclude "Our results suggest that, in a world with elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, global-scale reductions in plant productivity due to elevated ozone levels will also lower soil carbon formation rates significantly."

You can also keep learning from Gail by visiting her blog "Wit's End".

At the close of our interview, I ask about her continued support of the Occupy movement. Gail tells us the mainstream media totally failed to report the May 1st Occupy march in New York City. It was at least tens of thousands of people, filling major avenues as far as you could see. Newspapers and TV played it down, saying the protest "fizzled". Hardly what those attending experienced.

When I asked Gail about solutions to the ozone problem - we had a pause. We would need to cut down on nitrogen use, and nitrogen-producing crops like soy and peas. Chemical factories would need different processes, and the whole fossil fuel burning society would have to find clean alternatives. It's a huge job. I suppose awareness of the problem is a good start.

Here is another of Gail's sites on dying trees.

I also recommend this article from her blog, with a critique of the Australian TV documentary.

In this Radio Ecoshock program you hear a couple of clips from the ABC Australia television program Catalyst which aired on April 26th 2012. Find the the video and a transcript here.

Our theme music this week is Canadian folk artist Bruce Cockburn, "If A Tree Falls" performed live in Montreal in 2005. We also heard brief clips of "I Talk To The Trees" by Thomas L. Thomas in 1950, and updated by Masha Qrella from her album "Speak Low" Berlin 2007


Whether you accept climate change science or not, nobody disputes the fact that carbon dioxide levels are growing in the atmosphere, as we burn fossil fuels. That changes the way plants grow.

Various experts, including some climate modelers, count on increased plant growth as carbon dioxide rates go up in the atmosphere. Others have promised that is how we will feed a more heavily populated planet. Is it true?

Our guest is Lisa Ainsworth, Assistant Professor of Plant Biology and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Crop Sciences, at the University of Illinois. She is co-author of one of the most cited papers on the effects of increased carbon dioxide on plant growth.

She is working with the FACE method of spraying increased carbon dioxide up around the trees, which are more or less in a wild setting. This is better than the former greenhouse methods, because the open air setting allows for real variables such as rain, sunlight, and wind. The official meaning of FACE is "Free Air Concentration Enrichment"

Early climate models depended on greenhouse measurements of extra plant growth with added carbon dioxide. They projected up to 30% increase in plant growth on earth by 2100 with CO2 at 550 parts per million. With the ever-increasing fossil fuel use, scientists now project we will reach 550 ppm CO2 by 2050 instead.

However, the FACE testing shows extra growth due to increased CO2 is less outside, than in greenhouse settings. The increase might be 15%, and it varies according to the crop. The difference is important, because early climate models assumed extra plant growth would soak up a lot more carbon than will really happen.

It turns out plants have worked out several different ways of handling carbon dioxide intake, as evolution continued. For example, most trees have not yet reached their saturation point. If the CO2 increases, they can use more of it. Dr. Ainsworth describes how this works, for what are called "C4" type plants. They will benefit from more CO2, and so will such crops as rice and wheat.

Contrast that with plants like corn and sorghum. These developed a type of super-concentrator for CO2, before it goes into photosynthesis. They are already getting as much CO2 as they can handle. Adding more to the atmosphere will NOT increase their growth. The same applies to the grasslands of the Savannas - one of the largest biomass types on the planet.

One of the limitations of the FACE method is it has only been studied in Western-type countries like the US, Japan, and New Zealand. There have not been open-setting tests in the tropics, where most of the biomass of the planet is. That leaves a huge hole in our knowledge, and a big question mark about how tropical forests and savanna lands will respond to more CO2. We'd better find out quickly, because it takes at least a decade of testing, and 2050 is not that far away.

Not only do we want to know if the extra CO2 will help us feed the expected new billions of people arriving on the planet. We also want to know how it will affect all the natural plants, from forests to grasslands. Plus, there is a feed-back effect that could help us, or not, if plants can soak up more of that carbon dioxide. Add in the predicted droughts and desertification around the sub-tropics, and the forest die-offs we covered earlier, and we see that extra plant growth may not reduce our carbon dioxide laden atmosphere. They may even add to it, becoming a carbon source rather than a carbon sink.

There is so much we do not know, but we have discovered a closer look at the coming reality through FACE, and through scientists like Lisa Ainsworth.


the FACE experiments (Ainsworth et al)

Also, recommended by Ainsworth in interview: SoyFACE (Soybean Free Air Concentration Enrichment) at University of Illinois

and at the Oakridge Nat'l Lab (database of results)

Find out more about rising CO2 levels and plants in this Nature article. Here is a worrying article: Australia's trees may not survive excess carbon dioxide

And see this Sydney Morning Herald video of the FACE experiments in Australia.


As reported by the BBC, Spring is coming earlier than ever, and plants are blooming sooner, according to new research just published in the journal Nature. British scientific bodies and nature lovers have kept such records going back to 1875. Spring is now at least 5 days earlier, with some plants flowering eight times faster than climate models predicted.

The insects are keeping pace, breeding earlier and more often.

In the Australian documentary "Dying Trees", there is a shot of a forest in Spain that suddenly died. The whole thing. Even though I've seen millions of dying trees with my own eyes, right here in British Columbia, I was shocked. That one photo, and all it means, hurt me deep inside.

I'm Alex Smith, your reporter. As I limp off to lick my green wounds, the forests call out to us. Will anybody hear?

Don't forget our new web site, at ecoshock.org…


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Is It Too Late for Environmentalism?

2012-05-10 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)


Peak oil, the energy crisis and the "climate hurricane" with expert Robert Rapier. Then green law professor Michael M'Gonigle explains "Exit Environmentalism" - leaving the old campaigns, and maybe society, behind. Radio Ecoshock 120509 1 hour.

Give up hope and exit out of environmentalism? In the UK, deep greener Paul Kingsnorth says he's leaving the climate movement, which is lost anyway. Who else is on the way out the door?

This week we'll hear a challenging interview with one of the co-founders of Greenpeace International. Michael M'Gonigle has been battling since the late 1960's. He teaches environmental law at the University of Victoria in Canada. Two hosts from the podcast "The Extra Environmentalist" interview Michael for Radio Ecoshock - about his new strategy which he calls "Exit Environmentalism". Just in case, we'll top that off with a shot at techno-optimism.

But first, I'll talk with chemical engineer and biofuels specialist Robert Rapier

We go at the fundamentals of the energy crisis - peak oil, Asian demand, speculation and all that. Rapier compares greenhouse gas emissions from Asia to an unstoppable hurricane. I don't agree with everything all our guests say, but Robert takes me closer to "exit environmentalism" with his clear cold logic about the real world we live in.

Brain stimulation from Radio Ecoshock. I'm Alex Smith.

Download just the Robert Rapier interview (CD quality 22 min)

Download just the Michael M'Gonigle interview (26 min CD Quality).


How realistic are biofuels as a replacement for oil? Are we headed for energy independence - or an energy crash?
Robert Rapier would know. He's got 20 years’ experience as a chemical engineer, working with all kinds of fuels. Currently Robert is Chief Technology Officer at Merica International, a renewables and forestry company based in Hawaii. Rapier is also Managing Editor of "Consumer Energy Report", and a regular guest on mainstream media. His latest book is "Power Plays, Energy Options in the Age of Peak Oil".

I called up Robert after reading his article "Why the Debate Over Global Warming Is Academic". It's a new perspective, and I grilled him on it. Here is part of Robert's reply in the Radio Ecoshock interview:

"What is likely to happen is our emissions will probably continue to decline somewhat from here. But Asia-Pacific's emissions are going to continue to grow unabated.

It's not only Asia-Pacific. Africa, the Middle East, South America - all these developing regions are rapidly increasing their fossil fuel consumption. I say it [climate change] becomes "academic" because while we debate and debate how we're going to get our emissions down, the emissions just continue to climb.

The reason I liken it to a hurricane - you know we can talk about whether climate change is going to be really bad and disastrous and so forth, just like when we watched hurricane Katrina come in. The night before it came in, I told my wife, I said 'I'm afraid this is going to destroy New Orleans.' But one thing we didn't talk about is 'Well, how do you stop the hurricane?'

And that's what I see in Asia-Pacific right now. The reason I say it's "academic", I don't see a viable way to stop them from increasing their fossil fuel consumption because they are already at such a low level per capita. So I've likened it to a rich person trying to tell a poor person to live within their means. The poor person is just trying to scratch out a living and increase their standard of living, while the rich person has already done that. We've already increased out emissions from a very low level, and we've gotten to a very high level. We just don't have nearly as many people as they do.

The technology does not exist. No country has developed to a high level of development without fossil fuels. So to imagine that it can be done, we are imagining something that has never been done before.

I offer two points of minor disagreement. First, the people of China and other countries are suffering terribly from air pollution. They may begin to demand clean energy just to preserve their health and their lives. Second, there is a limited amount of oil, and even coal, left. Eventually the pressures generally known as "peak oil" may limit the amount of fossil fuels, and make them uneconomical to use.

I could have offered more reasons, such as an utter economic collapse - which always cuts emissions, or severe and continuing damage from a destabilized climate, which either convinces people and governments to change, or again destroys the infrastructure required for supporting the food system and or industrial society.

Finally, there is always the dreamer's hope that humans will come to understand they are wrecking the future and make a choice to do otherwise.

Robert Rapier offers us some tough realities though. The average American uses 22 barrels of oil a year. To give up one or two barrels may not be that difficult, with some not too painful lifestyle choices. The average Chinese person uses two barrels a year, Rapier tells us. That second barrel may be used for things like the tractor, the irrigation pump, or heating a home. Nobody is going to want to give that up, almost no matter what the cost is. Low fuel consumers are going to be willing to pay much higher prices per liter or gallon, and keep burning it, because they need it so badly.

Frankly, it's very discouraging news in the context of fighting climate change. Rapier is not alone in feeling that battle is lost. I begin the program with a quote from Paul Kingsnorth, the UK deep green thinker behind The Dark Mountain Project.

"And also coming to the conclusion, and it was a very difficult conclusion to admit to myself, but I think lots of people are starting to admit it to themselves now - coming to the conclusion that a lot of the problems that we are facing can't be solved, in the sense that we would like to solve them.

For example, we're not going to stop the climate changing. We're not going to stop the mass extinction event that we're in at the moment. Hopefully we can prevent it from getting any worse than it has to get but we're in it, and it's happening and it's too late to do a lot of things about it.

Is that realism or pessimism? The quote comes from an Orion magazine podcast that I hope to play for you later this season on Radio Ecoshock.

As I have a grandchild that I love, I cannot give up. We are in it. It is happening. But we must do all we can to prevent the worst from happening, and I believe we can.

Continuing with Robert Rapier, I draw on his expertise in biofuels. Can biofuels replace fossil fuels? Absolutely not, he says. The maximum we can expect is ten to twenty percent replacement. Rapier isn't shy about discussing the negative trade-offs with some biofuels, like corn ethanol. He suggests the "holy grail" of biofuels is algae production. That doesn't use up land space, and may be biologically sound. However, so far algae production is not economical on any meaningful scale. More research and development needs to be done.

We also discuss the difference between methanol and ethanol. Methanol is derived from natural gas, so it is not a substitute for fossil fuels. It was tested fairly widely in California a couple of decades ago, and found to be a good fuel. The industrial production methods for methanol are well known. But methanol had less political support. Ethanol has the widespread support of the farm lobby, so politicians like it.

Both ethanol (which is derived from plant material) and ethanol are more corrosive than the gasoline we use now.

At one point, U.S. taxpayers were subsidizing European fuels containing ethanol. The subsidized fuel was blended in the U.S. and then exported to Europe. That ended when the subsidies for ethanol expired at the end of last year.

I ask Robert Rapier about the media hype that America will re-emerge as a world energy giant, due to the "trillions of barrels" of reserves in places like oil shale. Rapier says the U.S. will always be an oil importer, as long as it is able. The so called "reserves" are really rocks containing the beginnings of oil, left unfinished by geological processes. It takes a lot of energy just to finish the process.

Rapier compares these "reserves" in the oil shales of the West, in places like Utah and Wyoming, to the gold in the sea. Yes, there are trillions of dollars’ worth of gold flakes in the oceans. No, we don't have any economical way to retrieve that. Ditto the inflated dreams of billions of barrels of potential oil locked up in the stones of the West.

I highly recommend the Robert Rapier interview. Here is his regular column at Consumer Energy Report.


I first heard Michael M'Gonigle's talk on "Exit Environmentalism" in a badly recorded You tube video speech at the University of Victoria. It seemed too important to waste. Seth Moser-Katz and Justin Ritchie volunteered to do this interview for Radio Ecoshock, as part of their longer podcast called "The Extraenvironmentalist". Just Google that, or go to extraenvironmentalist.com.

University of Victoria You tube "Exit Environmentalism" Part 1 61 minute delivered October 27, 2011.

Part 2 Critique and answers 63 min

Be sure to check The Extraenvironmentalist web site for an extended version of this interview with Professor M'Gonigle.

In the interview done for Radio Ecoshock, M'Gonigle questions several aspects of the green model of expectations. For example, we protest and lobby for legislation to be enforced by governments. But that regulation seldom happens - because the legislators depend on the polluters for campaign donations, but even deeper, because governments themselves are the biggest spenders on the growth model that needs to be kept in check. It's pretty profound when a University teacher of green law says the legal system can't work to save us from environmental catastrophe.

I've known Michael M'Gonigle's work for some years. He was one of the founders of Greenpeace International, and then Chair of the Board of Greenpeace Canada. We interviewed Michael about his push to green universities around the world, as models for our next generation of leaders. But M'Gonigle might be the first to say, despite his lifetime of work, we have failed. Mass extinction is already developing, and the climate is already spinning up, possibly out of any control. He works his way through our fallacies, trying to reach new answers. Check out this powerful interview.

In this Radio Ecoshock show we had time for just a quick sample from another podcast from The Extraenvironmentalist. Seth and Ritchie interview Dr. Michael Huesemann author of the book "Techno-Fix". That is Episode number 37.

The Techno-fix podcast runs 1 hour 54 minutes, and I've sliced out a couple of sample running less than 10 minutes. It's definitely just a scratch of the surface, a teaser to encourage you to hear the whole thing.

Still wondering what to think? Is it realistic and cool to hope? Even if the ship is sinking, I must keep on bailing. We'll have more dialogs on the way forward in coming Radio Ecoshock shows, plus news about the three crises: climate change, the energy crisis, and the fragile economy. Keep tuned to Radio Ecoshock at our new web site, at ecoshock.org.

I'm Alex Smith, thank you for listening.


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2012-05-04 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)


From Oregon State University, Kathleen Dean Moore delivers an artful talk about our attack on Nature, and hope of reviving love instead. Recorded in Vancouver. With readings from her work & original songs by Libby Roderick and Tempting Eve.

I record a lot of speeches, and listen to many more. This talk by Dr. Kathleen Dean Moore of Oregon State University is one of the best speeches of 2012.

The title was "It's Wrong to Wreck the World: Climate Change and the Moral Obligation to the Future". The presentation was organized by Simon Fraser University, in their Continuing Studies in Science and Environment program.

Kathleen spends every summer on a remote island off the coast of Alaska. She's in touch with Nature there, and at home in Oregon. In this artful, moving speech, we get some readings from her work - examples of why her books are so popular.

Find out more about Kathleen Dean Moore at her blog at riverwalking.com

Her latest book, a collection of 1500 short essays about our obligation to the future, is called "Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril." The writers are among the most famous people in the world, all speaking for the rights of the next generation(s).

"Morality" sounds boring. This speech surprised and moved me. It will do the same for you.


The program also premieres a new original song by Libby Roderick: "The Lifeboats Are Burning", and a song inspired by a Radio Ecoshock Show - "We Are" by the new band Tempting Eve in Sydney Australia.…



The Beginning of The End

2012-05-01 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)


Economic collapse will come before peak oil or climate disruption, says investment guru Chris Martenson, author of "Crash Course". Matthew Stein, author of "When Technology Fails" explains how a solar flare could cripple society and set off 400 Chernobyls - and how we could fix it. Alex rants against 2012 mythology. Radio Ecoshock 120425 1 hour.

Sorry, it's a long blog this week. Blame it on our guests - they had too many good things to say!

If you want to quickly download the interview separately, here they are, in CD quality (larger file) and Lo-Fi (faster download, lower quality)

CHRIS MARTENSON INTERVIEW (22 min)http://www.ecoshock.org/downloads/economy/ES_Martenson.mp3




Most of us have a gut worry about the state of governments, big banks, and big finance. Like we'll wake up one morning with nothing.

Our guest Chris Martenson trained as a scientist, but retrained in business. He made good money in the investment world with a big American corporation. Then the Martenson family life changed dramatically. We'll ask him why, and then pick his brain about things we all wish we knew.

In a talk at Oxford University in 2010, the very wealthy investor Jim Rogers told students to forget about financial careers, and go study agriculture or mining. In a way, Martenson made a similar transition. He tells us about his journey from the business world to a rural life.

Investments weren’t going his way, and when Chris investigated money and high finance, he didn’t like what he saw. He and his family moved out of the rich enclave of Bridgeport Connecticut to a more rural location. Now they are involved in self-sufficiency and community building.

But Chris continues to be one of the more popular financial bloggers on the Net. He also podcasts with another top Net blogger, Mish Shedlock. His “Crash Course” advising people how to prepare for a much more difficult financial and social scene has sold very well.

There is a lot of stress out there about banking, and broke governments. A growing group of blogs, radio hosts, and just plain folks wish it would all just end somehow. Some are cheering for a collapse. Chris says “Be careful what you wish for.” He isn’t hoping for a crash, but thinks the current system cannot go on indefinitely. Most of us, says Martenson, should prepare for a lower standard of living.
The never-ending question is: WHEN will the stuffing hit the fan. I've just read an analysis by Charles Hugh Smith, in his blog "Of Two Minds." The article title says it all: "When Does This Travesty of a Mockery of a Sham Finally End?" Charles says various historic cycles show a major collapse around 2021. The problem is, and this is always the case, we can see the financial system is totally unsustainable, but so far the central banks and governments have managed to keep the dance going much longer than any of us thought possible. Nobody can say whether the readjustment will come this month, this year, or even in this decade.

It is even possible we may not see a really big collapse in our lifetime (depending upon your age now). I thought it might all go under in 1981, when New York City and Chrysler went bankrupt. Interest rates went to 22% and folks lost their homes. But it all limped on.


Scientist Tim Garrett wrote a 2009 paper saying without a complete collapse of industrial civilization, out-of-control climate change was inevitable. He based that on a historic formula about the relationship between energy and wealth. More energy makes more wealth, less energy makes less.

Find a transcript of my 2010 interview with Professor Garrett here. Or listen to this audio interview.

Chris Martenson talks about the relationships between energy availability and wealth. Basically, without energy, we can’t build much of anything else in the way of an industrial society, or even feed the current world population.

I ask Chris for his position on human-induced climate change. Too many finance gurus have either denied climate change, or said it doesn’t matter. Martenson is much more clued into the environment. He sees climate change as a long-term problem, with peak oil biting sooner, and the financial system the most pressing short-term problem.

On his blog at chrismartenson.com, you ran a two part series by Gregor MacDonald called "The Race for BTU's". The second part requires a paid subscription, but check out the first part, there is lots there for you.

Martenson dismisses claims that North America will become an oil giant once again. He’s very knowledgeable about such things as the oil shale in Utah, and the Bakken oil field. The trillions of barrels of oil claimed is much different from the amount we can actually get out without expending more energy than it is worth. Martenson says America will always be an oil importer, as long as it has the money to buy.

One of the stories I've been following is the bottleneck of refineries. Three refineries on the U.S. East Coast have closed, because the oil they were built for is too expensive or going elsewhere else now. We're down to the heavy oil, and we don't have refinery capacity connected up. It’s a sign of the shift that happens during peak oil, and it’s happening now.


Many people expect a destabilizing blow to come from high gas prices at the pump. I think it may come in the grocery store. There is potential damage to this year's crops from lack of snow cover in the Prairies. A big part of the South and East are experiencing drought conditions, among a host of other problems. I ask Chris if he expects a food crisis in coming times. Martenson recommends having “deep pantries” with enough food to outlast a temporary food shock.

How much pressure is the average North American feeling because of increased consumer demand in Asia? In a resource-defined world, do we have to give up everything they gain? Martenson says “yes” – our standard of living will drop, even as poorer people in Asia gain just a little each.

When trying to model the future, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change develops several possible scenarios. I ask Chris for his plausible scenario where the current macro-financial system melts down fairly quickly. What would be the warning signs, if any, and what would we as ordinary people, the kind who need work for our next paycheck, - what would we experience?

Most of our listeners believe the science of climate change. A lot of us think M. King Hubbert was right about peak oil. But hardly any of us understand the giant dinosaurs bumping around in the secret night of high finance. Derivatives give us the shivers. With the help of people like Chris Martenson, all of us need to get smart about the economy. That is partly what the Occupy movement is about.

We got some good advice, from Chris Martenson, the investment expert who is not afraid to look a bear in the face. You can find a lot more on his web site, chrismartenson.com.


We have a fascination for disaster, don't we? It sells in the movies and the news. Fearing the future is part of our evolutionary brain that got us this far.

Mathew Stein doesn't just think about it. He plans, writes, and advises how to survive emergencies and crisis of all kinds. With his MIT training in engineering, Mat's built off-grid homes that would probably survive hurricanes. His books include "When Disaster Strikes: A Comprehensive Guide for Emergency Planning and Crisis Survival", and his giant reference work "When Technology Fails: A Manual for Self-Reliance, Sustainability, and Surviving the Long Emergency".

First we talk about a possible quick planet-wrecking event, and then get a few tips for surviving a long period of troubled times.

Mat Stein, welcome to Radio Ecoshock.

I've listened to several of your interviews, and listeners have written in asking to hear you. We finally get a chance to talk.


Surfing through Google news just a week ago, I saw brilliant NASA images of a giant solar flare. It was beautiful. But in the Huffington Post you warned there could be a problem if one of those big solar storms hits the Earth. Mat explains this danger better than anyone else, I think.

You can find a Radio Ecoshock feature on the risk of solar storms here. But that was prepared before the Fukushima triple nuclear meltdown in Japan. Now Mat Stein fills in the details about a risk of 400 nuclear melt-downs around the world. It could happen!

If you are new to solar storms – they are the big flares that come from the sun from time to time. Whether we experience damage depends on whether that part of the sun if facing Earth at the time.

Listen to/download the 2010 Radio Ecoshock feature on solar storms here. Or read this transcript.

The worst solar storm we know of happened in 1859. It’s called “the Carrington Event” named after Lord Carrington who happened to see it occur on the sun. Three days later the world’s telegraph lines were hit with an electro-magnetic pulse which set off some fires in stations, and knocked out many lines. Other than that, there weren’t a lot of wires.

In 1921 there was a solar storm so large it lit up the night-time sky from the North Pole all the way south to the Caribbean for 3 nights, and from the South Pole up to Samoa – that’s most of the world, except the Tropics!

As Mat Stein points out, most of the big cities in North America had their own electrical grids – there was no national power grid in 1921. There were some problems – and Mat says that why Penn Station burned.

Fast-forward to today. Since the 1970’s, the United States alone has built over 100,000 miles of high voltage lines. These would act like a big antenna drawing the electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) toward the hundreds of big transformers which regulate the national grid.

Many of those transformers would be blow out. “Just get some more” – you might think. But each weights hundreds of tons, and was custom made. Only two factories in the world make them. Freeways have to be closed to move one in. A Congressional panel found it could take two to ten years just to replace the transformers in America. But the Americans would have to compete with Europe, China, and everyone else for the limited production. We don’t even have enough copper in stock to make them. And the rate of production assumed a normal world – not one that closes down with no electricity.

Without that electricity, refineries and filling stations stop running. Trucks laden with food for cities stop running. And cities no longer have food warehouses. The food you eat Monday was in a truck the previous Thursday. Starvation and riots would occur.

But the most serious problem of all is this: as we found out at Fukushima, nuclear reactors require outside power to cool the core, and spent fuel, even after an automatic shutdown. After a big solar storm, 400 nuclear reactors around the world might not have cooling power, after their diesel fuel runs out.

Most American plants have up to 30 days of diesel fuel. So after a month, there could be 400 Chernobyl size nuclear accidents around the world. It’s hard to know how many living things could survive that. The radioactive damage would last for millennia.

The wild thing is a congressionally mandated EMP Commission studied this problem. In their report, they found just $1 billion could help protect the America grid. There is a type of giant vacuum tube technology that can quickly isolate transformers from the electric pulse. Apparently, solid state electronics cannot react fast enough, but the old vacuum tube tech can. That’s the kind of great info we get from Matthew Stein, who is an MIT-trained engineer.

It’s a mark of our cavalier attitude, or tendency toward mass suicide, that this small amount of money has not been invested to protect the electric grids of the world! It’s just half the price of one Stealth bomber – but the Commission’s recommendations have not been implemented. We are totally exposed to the next solar storm.

We are talking with disaster expert Mathew Stein about events that happened in the past, and will happen again. We just can't say when.

We started with a low probability, super-high risk event we call a solar storm, which could cause nuclear reactors around the world to melt-down. Again, here is the link to Matt's article "400 Chernobyls: Solar Flares, EMP, and Nuclear Armageddon".


Then we move on to another projected event with no fixed date. I've spoken to several guests who expect just-in-time shipping methods that feed us all, could stop on short notice for a number of reasons. It could be a war, super-storms, a new virus, or a sudden economic break down, like the one that almost happened in 2008.

Let's assume we don't fall into violent anarchy if the industrial system stops for a while. Our better intentions come out, and we want to survive as communities. Before we get to some solutions, I ask Mat: “What are the early challenges we face, when technology fails?”

If anybody is an expert on that question, it is Matthew Stein. His huge book “When Technology Fails” has just been updated. It’s like an encyclopedia of work-arounds you’ll need if the lights go out.


In an emergency, some people go into non-responsive shock. We saw it in New Orleans after Katrina, in Asia after big tsunamis, and in towns blown away by hurricanes or tornados. But other folks come alive in an emergency. They go into over-drive to organize for survival. Is it from thinking about these things in advance, or do you think it's social or genetic differences that freeze some folks, while empowering others?

Mat thinks it’s a mix of factors, and impossible to predict who will become a leader if a disaster strikes. He has examples of those survival leaders in his books.

Let's imagine a major Western city is heavily damaged and cut off from outside help for some time. It could be an earthquake that brings down all the freeways and ports. It could be after a nuclear attack, or even a deadly virus.

What will the real survivors do? Do they organize people, or hide in holes with provisions? I suppose that depends on the nature of the threat. Personally, during a plague or super-virus, I wouldn’t head out to self-organize with my community. I’d stay home with my food stash.

But after a quake, we’d all be out there helping the wounded, and trying to build new shelter and water supplies.


As you know James Howard Kunstler has written at least two novels about times after the oil supplies have run out. One was "World Made By Hand". Kunstler isn't talking about a sudden disaster, but a long slide when energy becomes more expensive, harder to find, and then gone, for most of us. He calls it "the Long Emergency". In the interview, I ask Mat how his ideas work into that scenario of a long, slow descent.

We wrap up with a simple question I ask myself, and like you ask yourself. Why do we focus on such negative futures?

Mat replies he’s a kind of realistic optimist. We need to look honestly at the problems to figure out solutions. He thinks we will muddle our way through most challenges, although nothing is guaranteed.

Some serious people, including major scientists, have suggested humanity may not survive, joining the procession of other species into extinction. I can’t believe that, but perhaps we are programmed to always believe in human survival. Anyway, I express my hope at the end of this blog.

Much of our future fate may depend on this question: If our current high-energy globalized life-styles are fragile and unsustainable, can we picture a different way of living?

Our guest Mathew Stein has worked for renewable energy, sustainable growth and alternative healing techniques. Find his web sites at matstein.com, stein-design.com and www.whentechfails.com.

If you really want to know what to do if the lights go out, make sure you have a copy of Mat's latest encyclopedic work called "When Technology Fails: A Manual for Self-Reliance, Sustainability, and Surviving the Long Emergency".

We'll have to have Mat Stein back, to get more tips. He’s a really useful guest for all of us.


I'm Alex Smith with an important message.

Pull up a chair; you may want to be sitting down.

Despite what you may have heard, the end is not coming in 2012.

A big solar storm is possible. As Mat Stein said, that could possibly end civilization as we know it. But that's a high risk, low probability event. Don't quit your day job waiting for it, unless you want to quit your day job anyway, and have another plan to make a living.

An economic crash is possible, but far from guaranteed. I expect the banks to be open next week, next month, and probably next year. This civilization has a lot of momentum. We humans have the flexibility to keep going.

Even when three reactors melted down on a small island, millions of people went back to their regular jobs and lives.


That is the real problem. A growing number of scientists say without an economic crash, we will continue to wreck the world, in some ways that cannot be repaired, and may not be survivable for mammals. Our biggest problem may not be that the world will end this year, but that it won't.


Millions of humans are responding to this existential threat with a strange desire to see the collapse of absolutely everything. Money will be worthless, anarchy will be the norm.

There are really odd ideas are popping up all over the Internet. Our new means of mass communication by and for the masses has also exposed an echo chamber for the weirdest fringes.

Look, I could build up a really solid following by telling you this is the last week of Radio Ecoshock. The collapse is coming this week, so stock up on some food and water, because the whole system is going down.

I could probably do that every week for a few years, and still have a loyal following. It's like the bands where the lead singer collapses, the audience is worried, but somehow the star revives, and struggles back by sheer will power to play three more songs. That is old "stage magic".

Even worse, the magic of the Internet is connecting up a style of medieval thinking and emotion I hoped we'd left behind us. No, a strange dark planet is not about to appear and envelope us in evil. The distant Pleiades stars are not driving human affairs. Here is a good video which debunks most of the 2012 claims - but bail halfway when the scientific answers against star alignments, unknown planets etc ends - and gives way to a Christian explanation that old-fashioned Medieval-style "devils" are to blame! (Sigh).

David Icke can pack theatres with his stories of evil reptiles in human form. David Wilcox claims he's channeled alien voices which will be revealed in a television special with President Obama - a 2 hour special no less! - this year.

We don't know why the Mayans ended their calendar in 2012. They didn't say. We do know that Sony Pictures is milking popular superstition to sell lots of box office tickets on that fear. Sony has a long-running Net and You tube campaign to make you afraid this year. Fear sells, and while millions are packing into the 2012 fantasy, the multi-billionaires continue to rake in more of the world's wealth unseen.

As always, plenty of Christians also believe they will be physically lifted off the Earth, as the Anti-Christ goes into a last battle this year. They've believed that for two thousand years.

I'm calling B.S. on all that. The truth is horrifying enough. We have serious changes to make, and these 2012 rumors are just distractions.

It is true our industrial system has taken fragility to the max, to wring out billions more in profits for the few. You should have some fallback food and water around the house, or at least deep pantries as Mat Stein suggested. I also recommend having a little money at home, in case the ATM's stop working, as Chris Marten son said. But neither of these guests promises this is the year of collapse. The end may not be nigh. Sorry, but 2012 is just another year. I expect to be making useful radio programs in 2013.

Let's list out a few real problems:

One: We continue to grow the human population even though we can't feed those already here.

Two: we are wasting the limited resource of fossil fuels, leaving little for coming generations.

Three: we can't burn what we have, because we are wrecking the atmosphere with pollution that threatens all life on Earth

Four: even if we could burn them all, we are hacking down and poisoning the natural life-support system in other ways, from pesticides to plastics filling the oceans. The richness of life on Earth is going extinct.

Five: our economic system is unfair, to the majority of people on the planet now, and to the next generations. When we create trillions or quadrillions in debt we are lying to ourselves, and borrowing from the future. That is unsustainable and will collapse, whether suddenly or slowly. Nobody knows when.

Six: we continue to use nuclear technology, for power and weapons, even after their irreparable danger and terrible consequences are fully known.

Seven: Although we have limited our past history of all-out war, militarism continues. Social and family violence continue.

Which leads to our central problem: in all of the above, we are showing an inability to respond to reality - to do something about these situations, even when solutions exist. Instead, we continue to adopt and spread fantasies which do not address reality. These delusions make it less likely we will survive our self-made challenges, and more likely our children and grandchildren will suffer more.


I don't know if you've ever heard of Boise Idaho. It's in the middle of the United States, sort of. I've just looked through their high temperature records from 1973 to 2011. The highest April temperatures are generally around 80 degrees, or about 27 Celsius. The top was in 1987, when Boise hit 88, or 31 C.

Last week it was 32 degrees, or 89.6 degrees in Boise. In April. Then it went higher, into the 90's. That is just one of the tens of thousands of heat records which continue to break across much of North America this year. There was hardly any snow in Eastern North America. See my recent program "Summer in March" with guests Jeff Masters from the Weather Underground and Joe Romm of Climate Progress (now at thingprogress.org).

The TV weathermen just call it strange, or weird weather. They seldom call it global warming. Even scientists have said for years you can't call any one season "climate change".

Now the leading American climate scientist, the man who warned Congress of this coming change in 1988, says the heat events in recent years are due to human activity. NASA's Dr. James Hansen, along with Makiko Sato and Reto Ruedy, has published a new paper called "Public Perception of Climate Change and the New Climate Dice".

It's a game changer. Without going into detail, this paper explains how we can now know, scientifically, these extreme weather events would not have happened without human modification of the climate, by burning fossil fuels. The dice are loaded, and they will continue to come up "hot" many more times than "cold".

That means our climate, and life for all living things timed to the seasons, will get stranger and stranger. We are committed to at least a century of climate disruption, and warming for hundreds, if not thousands of years.

In future shows, I'll be looking at ways we can adapt, while still fighting to contain the damage.


I should have given up hope. This is not an option for me, as long as I love my children, and hold my grandchild. You shouldn't give up hope either. We can make a significant difference. We can make a better society. We can live better with nature.

But we can't do it by indulging in a mass psychosis where aliens are causing all our problems. Or by hoping to see the end times. Please, let's keep our minds clear, even as others fall into delusions or despair.

The sun will rise tomorrow, in 2013, and 2100. Despite difficult times, many many people will experience love, happiness, and fulfillment, even as they struggle to make a better world. Join that party, join them, join us.

I'm Alex Smith, for Radio Ecoshock.

Find out more, at our web site, ecoshock.org


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Fire! In A Crowded World

2012-04-18 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)

http://bit.ly/JfocDr Wild fires from climate change cause still more warming. Three experts from American Academy for the Advancment of Science meeting February 19th recorded in Vancouver by Alex Smith. Michael Flannigan, U of Alberta on fire and climate. From UBC medical unit, Dr. Michael Brauer on health impacts and personal protection during smoke events. Tasmania's Fay Johnston' estimation of global annual deaths from landscape fire smoke. Radio Ecoshock 120418 1 hour.

I've been working on the latest science about wildfires and climate change. The plan was to save the broadcast for summer, when the fires start.

Nature isn't waiting. From the first week of April major television networks like CBS reported wildfires all the way from New England, Long Island, down through Virginia, into Georgia - the whole East Coast.

This follows a winter with very little snow. New York got 20 inches less than normal. It's all gone, as places like Boston sizzled into the 90's at the very end of winter. Gardeners started to feel like planting a month early. Farmers feared a continuing drought, with no snow to water the land before seed time.

Forget about normal. Wildfire season started ridiculously early this year in North America, in the first week of April.

TV and news reported thousands of heat records set in the Eastern United States, without ever mentioning "global warming".

It's time for the Radio Ecoshock special, my recordings of a special session on fire and climate. The fire experts gathered at the February conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Vancouver 2012.

You'll hear how fires make a hotter climate which feeds more fires, the cycle of positive feedback. An internationally recognized wildfire expert, Dr. Michael Flannigan reports on the latest science and experience in the field. Flannigan also describes a new risk that could tip the climate of the world.

You may have a personal stake in this. Anyone with lungs does. From the University of British Columbia School of Medicine, Dr. Mike Brauer explains new ways of tracking dangerous smoke, which can travel thousands of miles, across international boundaries. I like Brauer's talk, because he also tells us how citizens can protect themselves during a smoke event.

Finally we'll hear from Dr. Fay Johnston from the University of Tasmania. She was part of a team asking the big question: how many people die from fire smoke every year? The answer, and the places most at risk, may surprise you.


Let's get the big picture, from one of my favorite wildfire experts. Dr. Mike Flannigan is a Professor of the Department of Renewable Resources at the University of Alberta, and Senior Research Scientist at the Canadian Forest Service. His PHD is from Cambridge. He also trained in meteorology. Flannigan is Editor-in-chief of International Journal of Wild land Fire, and part of the U.S. Assessment on Global Change. Mike is a leader in newly formed Western Partnership for Fire Science.

In the program you hear excerpts from my recording of Mike Flannigan's presentation at "Forest fires in Canada: Impacts of Climate Change and Fire Smoke" delivered Sunday morning, February 19th, 2012, in a special workshop at the American Academy for the Advancement of Science general meeting in Vancouver.

Nobody says more in fewer words than Flannigan. When huge fires erupt, in Canada or internationally, Mike often gets called in. He begins by exploring the fire in Northern Alberta, Canada, where a town called Slave Lake had one third of the place burned out, including the municipal buildings the libraries. Video of that fire appoaching the town here. Photos of the aftermath here. And this could happen to any town or city. Hundreds of homes were burned in Kelowna British Columbia in 20003. I don't have to tell anyone in California or Texas about the huge risks from out-of-control wild fires.

Australians know how deadly fires can be.

Slave Lake had to be evacuated. There was no way to fight such fires, and they moved fast with ferocity. Satellite images show the Slave Lake fire was actually the smallest of four infernos raging at the time.

Remember the fire leader in Texas who said "No one alive has seen fires like this". Except we are seeing them more and more, especially after heat events.

Mike Flannigan makes it clear that climate change is a contributing factor to these fierce fires. The underbrush is tinder dry, even in spring-time. The hotter weather creates a longer fire season. Heat also induces more lightening, which ignites the wild fire.

It's a positive feed-back cycle, at least in the near-term. The burning forests release all the carbon previously held in vegetative matter. Tree trunks are mostly carbon. That release of carbon, and the extra black soot, all drive more warming.

A few years after the fire, perhaps 7 years later, new growth will re-absorb some of the carbon back from the atmosphere. The fire zone changes from a carbon source to a carbon sink. But in the meantime, climate change has been further ramped up.

If you ever wanted to know the basics of wild fires, and why we hear more about them, or get hit with smoke from faraway places, Mike Flannigan is the man to learn from.

You can download my Radio Ecoshock interview with Mike Flannigan in May 2011 from the program titled "FLOOD FIRE WIND - Climate Shift" at ecoshock.org. (13 minute interview)

About two weeks after this broadcast, you can download a free mp3 of Mike Flannigan's full speech at the triple AS from our Climate 2012 page. All of today's speakers will be there in full.


Can we say there are more fires now than at any time in human history? What about fires in the past hot ages, in previous greenhouse worlds? I listened to two presentations on the history of fire by Douglas Woolford, from Canada's Wilfred Laurier University, and Richard Routledge, Simon Fraser University.

The science was too complicated for radio broadcast. I came away thinking the field of fire archeology is still very young. Do we know enough to answer those questions, to compare our future to the distant past of fire?

I came away from these American Academy presentations thinking we just don't know enough yet. You can dig further into the research that has been done, by downloading those two speeches (for a fee) from aven.com.

We do know that fire smoke travels huge distances, sometimes smudging out part of a continent. In the soot below, human lungs don't do very well. As we'll hear in our third speaker, hundreds of thousands of humans die every year from inhaling smoke from natural and agricultural fires.


But first, you should hear this Canadian medical expert Dr. Mike Brauer. He explains big advances in predicting the smoke plumes, so people with breathing difficulties can be warned. It's almost like tornado warnings, only more accurate. Pharmacies can know to stock up on inhalers. And Brauer ends with tips you can use to protect yourself, if smoke fills your air.

Mike was introduced by session organizer Charmaine Dean, of Simon Fraser University.

In the radio program, you hear major excerpts from Mike's speech.

In the first part, Mike explains several methods to predict where fire smoke will go. That's important to know if you are a health planner, a hospital worker or doctor, if you have health problems like asthma, - and if you just want to protect the lungs of yourself and your family.

I became even more interested in the second segment, as Brauer explains the public health efforts, and personal things we can do to protect ourselves. If there are going to be more fires, and more smoke, we all need to learn about this.

A smoke plume can travel hundreds of miles over a place like California, or New England (from Canadian fires). Whole parts of Asia have been covered in smoke - like the times Malaysia and Singapore went under a smoke cloud from fires in Indonesia.

We know, from Brauer's study, that in Western-style economies, visits to doctors’ offices and pharmacies will go up. Those places need to stock up on inhalers and other medicines.

People with certain ailments or low lung function need to stay indoors, with the windows closed. Driving around does not help, as Brauer says the smoke is actually worse inside the car.

Brauer struck a chord with me when he recommended simple HEPA air filters for people's homes. I have had one running for the past five years, because we live in a high traffic area. We used to need to dust the place way too often, now much less.

That air filter was running when the wave of radioactivity hit the West Coast about a week after the Fukushima nuclear plants blew up. About a month later I changed out the filters, which were no doubt radioactive. It saved our lungs a bit.

These filters also reduce indoor smoke from fires by about 65% Brauer says. That's better for everybody.

Once again, this is another reason to have at least a few days’ worth of food stocked up too. Nobody needs to go out to the store.


Our final presenter in this week's special on fire and climate change is Dr. Fay Johnston, a physician and environmental epidemiologist at the Menzies Research Institute in Tasmania, the Down Under of Australia. Here is a link to one of her smoke assessment projects. And here is a link to a public article "Fire Smoke Important Contributor to Deaths World-Wide".

Her topic for this session of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science is: "The Estimated Global Mortality Burden Attributable to Landscape Fire Smoke".

Let's find out who really pays the ultimate price for advancing fires in a crowded warming world. We only have time for a few excerpts.

First, what is a "landscape fire" and who is studying it?

Dr. Fay Johnston describes the first attempts to quantify the impacts of global wildfires.

As she says: "a world without fire does not exist." It is natural, but not when humans create the fire conditions, and then set those fires. Her team estimated about 90% of "landscape fires" around the world are set purposely by humans. We do it to clear new land for things like soy beans or palm oil.

Africa is a central location for fires. It is part of their agricultural cycle. The old crop is burned off to prepare for the new one. Radio Ecoshock has had other guests explain that method of agriculture is adding to global warming.

As far as deaths go, we find out there has hardly been any study in the developing world, where most of the fires are, and most of the death happen. To measure health impacts, Johnston's group had to use pollution studies generated in major smoggy cities. It turns out those impacts on lungs work pretty well for people smoked out in the jungle as well. Still, just like medical research, we take studies from the First World and apply them to developing countries, hoping it will work. There's no money to do the research in the heavily populated places where it is needed most.

Isn't that always the case, in this unfair world? Whether its medicine or smoke, almost all research is funded and performed in the developed world, where a minority of Earth's population live and die. It may take another generation to see how climate change and fire do their dance in the most populated, and the most plant rich places on the planet.

To be honest, this study finds smoke deaths from landscape fires are far less serious than deaths from smoking tobacco.

Whereas several millions die because of tobacco, this study estimates about 340,000 people a year die from landscape fires. Around 10,000 of those are in South America, where relative population is low. Over a hundred thousand are in the Sahel region of northern Africa. More than a hundred thousand die each and every year from air-borne smoke in Asia but that is still fewer than die from cooking over smoky fires indoors in Asia.

Two weeks after broadcast, you can find the full speeches by Mike Flannigan, Mike Brauer, and Fay Johnston on the Climate 2012 downloads page at ecoshock.org. My thanks to the American Academy for the Advancement of Science for allowing me to record on February 19th, and to Simon Fraser University for organizing this session on forest fires, smoke, and climate change.

Our music in this program was from the 1968 hit "Fire" by Arthur Brown. News clips were from NBC12 Richmond, and CBS evening news.

I'm Alex Smith.

Tune in next week for our next big adventure into the future - on Radio Ecoshock.…


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The Worst Problems In The World

2012-04-10 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)

http://bit.ly/HqmRdo Could the collapse of the fuel pool at Fukushima Reactor #4 endanger the Northern Hemisphere? Nuclear industry executive Arnie Gundersen explains. Then a top Canadian scientist exposes a scandalous government cover-up of poisons moving from the Tar Sands to dying aboriginal people. David Schindler speech excerpts. Plus a climate rant by comedian Lee Camp.

The nuclear accident at Fukushima Japan is far from over. Three reactors continue to melt-down and now there is a storm of international worry about nuclear fuel pools tottering in blown up buildings. The whole Northern Hemisphere is at risk right now.

I'm Alex Smith for Radio Ecoshock. We are joined again by nuclear industry expert Arnold Gundersen, of Fairewinds Associates.

Arnie Gundersen, a year ago, warned us here on Radio Ecoshock, and to anybody who would listen, that a world-scale catastrophe was lurking in the nuclear fuel storage pools of both reactors Three and Four, at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant in Japan.

Why is this story finally getting wider attention, a year later?

The Japanese press, which has been following the government line, is starting to break out. On April 2nd, Takao Yamada, Expert Senior Writer for the Mainichi paper, said, quote: "The 7-story building itself has suffered great damage, with the storage pool barely intact on the building’s third and fourth floors. The roof has been blown away. If the storage pool breaks and runs dry, the nuclear fuel inside will overheat and explode, causing a massive amount of radioactive substances to spread over a wide area. Both the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and French nuclear energy company Areva have warned about this risk."

And check out this translated video from Japanese TV!

We also had the unusual case of Japan’s former ambassador to Switzerland, Mitsuhei Murata, speaking at a public hearing of the Budgetary Committee of the House of Councilors on March 22, 2012. He told the Swiss if the Reactor 4 fuel pool collapses, the cooling water for all six reactors would be shut down, as well as for the nearby spent fuel pool with another 6,000 fuel rods.

Another Japanese diplomat, Akio Matsumura is also blogging about this.

It is very surprising that Japanese officials are speaking out. Why now? Do they know something we don't?

It seems to me, and many Radio Ecoshock listeners from all over the world have written me about this - that the whole world is sleep-walking through this potential global catastrophe. They want to know: Why isn't there an international emergency action plan, to save us from a nuclear disaster which would make Chernobyl look small in comparison?

The average person thinks the Japanese could just dig an in-ground pool, move the fuel rods into a safer place, and then cover all that with a containment building. Why aren't they doing that?

So we have debris over the fuel rods, a broken crane, broken fuel rod assemblies, and a building so shaky any attempts to fix things might cause the building to fall. Is it possible we have a situation which cannot be solved?

Over at MSNBC, Rachel Maddow says Reactor 2 is an example of a technology which has no solution. Humans can't get near such high radioactivity. Even robot electronics fail in such circumstances. The Japanese require a technology that hasn't been invented yet. Should we even be using nuclear technology, if unsolvable accidents can happen?

It is time to think the unthinkable. Arnie walks us through what could happen if we wake up one day, and the Fukushima Dai-ichi Reactor 4 fuel pool collapses.

Arnie tells us the Brookhaven National Laboratory in the U.S. issued a study on the impacts of a nuclear fuel pool fire.

Here is a good article summary of that 1987 Brookhaven study by Stuart Staniford.

In this article from the New England Centre for Investigative Reporting, we find "A 1997 [actually it was 1987] study by the Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island concluded that a pool fire at a plant like Millstone Nuclear Power Station in Connecticut or Pilgrim Nuclear Generating Station in Massachusetts could kill 100 people instantly and another 138,000 people eventually. Some $546 billion in damage would result, the study said, and 2,170 square miles of land could be contaminated."

From the selfish point of view of someone living on the West Coast of North America, and for everyone in the Northern Hemisphere, it seems the key point is whether there is a major explosion, driving radioactive materials into the stratosphere. That's what it takes to spread these poisons right around the world.

Gundersen says it is unlikely there would be an explosion if the #4 Fuel pool collapses. But dangerous "hot" particles would still be sent around the world, because within two days of the collapse, the Zirconium and radioactive metals (like Cesium and Plutonium) would burn at a very high temperature, sending particles high into the air. The result would be an everlasting disaster for Japan. Arnie thinks it could create a no-man's land 50 miles across the country, perhaps destabilizing the government.

The famous anti-nuclear activist and pediatrician Dr. Helen Caldicott just said in a speech: if there is a major nuclear release from Fukushima, she would evacuate her family from Boston, and head back to her native Australia, or anywhere in the Southern Hemisphere. Would it be safer south of the equator? Likely, as there is much less mixing of air from the Northern Hemisphere to the Southern. All the countries in the Northern Hemisphere would suffer radioactive fallout if this happens.

We can't evacuate the Northern Hemisphere. The explosion at Reactor 3 showed we have 5 to 7 days before radiation hits the Pacific Coast of North America. Personally, I would definitely leave Vancouver. We get a lot of rain here, so the hot stuff is going to wash into our open water reservoirs. They would be poisoned for hundreds of years. I would try to get east of the Rocky Mountains, to a drier place, with a source of fossil water from deep underground.

What would you do?

In the 1950's, all children were trained in civil defense in case of nuclear attack. It was lame, but it was something. Do you think world governments should be teaching everyone the basics of trying to avoid the worst exposure to radiation, in case Fukushima blows? We would all have to stay indoors, with the windows shut. You should buy a couple of HEPA air cleaners right now, I think. The economy would collapse. Do you have food stored for such an emergency? I hope so.

Surely there must be a better way to reduce our risk of having an accident that would damage the Planet more or less forever in human timescales. What can be done at Fukushima?

Arnie says the nuclear power game is set up so each country handles safety and any accident as an internal affair. But when an accident threatens us all, we need to pressure our own governments to formulate an international response, to help the Japanese acts as fast as they can.

In the interview, Arnie Gundersen, who was an executive at a company which installed nuclear fuel racks in those very same types of reactors, lays out three ways to handle this emergency. None of them are great, but his suggestion to make a smaller fuel canister, and start moving the rods out to an already existing in-ground pool on the site, sounds best to me. It would be slow and painstaking, but would begin to make us all safer every day.

Maybe an earthquake won't strike near Fukushima in the next few years. However, on February 14th, Dapeng Zhao, geophysics professor at Japan’s Tohoku University, published a paper in "Solid Earth", a journal of the European Geosciences Union.

Here is a good article summarizing that paper, in Common Dreams.

Zhao said the giant earthquake in March of 2011 had reactivated a seismic fault close to the Fukushima nuclear plant. Using the latest scientific techniques and measurements, the paper warns another big earthquake could strike even closer to the plant.

Washington's blog concludes "Scientists say that there is a 70% chance of a magnitude 7.0 earthquake hitting Fukushima this year, and a 98% chance within the next 3 years."

In a radio interview with Dr. Helen Caldicott in early February, Gundersen estimated a quake of 7.0 or greater could cause the Reactor 4 fuel pool to collapse.

What have the Japanese done so far to strengthen the building, and could they be doing more?

We have to remind ourselves, we might just get lucky. Maybe the Reactor 3 and 4 buildings will keep standing for few years, while the Japanese invent a solution. We didn't have a major nuclear war so far, maybe we'll squeak through this one. But are our chances good, or not so good, the way things are going?

Robert Alvarez, an expert with the Union of Concerned Scientists, has tried again and again to warn us: this isn't just a problem in Japan. The American reactors have built up even more stored fuel rods, some of them over earthquake fault lines, all of them requiring non-stop cooling, and none of the storage pools have containment if there is an accident.

The spent fuel risk in America is even greater in Japan. Why is no one talking about this?

Arnie Gundersen has not heard of government meetings or plans to get faster action to protect the world against yet another giant nuclear catastrophe at Fukushima. We need citizens organizing everywhere, pushing their governments to stop ignoring the threat, or playing along with Japan, to stop being polite about the danger. I'm sure many people in Japan would welcome international pressure to get faster action.

We could compare this reactor accident to the horror of thermo-nuclear war, hanging over our heads. It took a generation of protests, and a fallen empire, to reduce that threat. A nuclear war is still possible, but it's less likely.

But we don't have a long-time frame, 30 years, to stabilize the Reactor 4 fuel storage pond. I'm surprised we got through this year, and I'm not sure about the next one. Can we scrape through again?

Listen to/download the Arnie Gundersen interview (26 minutes) in CD Quality... or Lo-Fi.


I'm Alex Smith and I'm angry. There are lots of sick and ugly things in this world, along with tremendous beauty and love. But there are two giant projects which I know offend God, if there is one.

The first is blowing the tops of mountains, and plowing the rubble into Nature's valleys. The second is the largest and most polluting industrial project on Earth: the Canadian Tar Sands.

The big oil companies are spending millions, even hundreds of millions of dollars, to convince you they produce what they call "ethical oil". It's everywhere. News columnists blather on about the wonderful "oil sands" and why we can't live without them. Never mind the full page ads from tar sands companies in the same newspapers.

I can't even go to a movie without seeing Hollywood-quality ads with butterflies and forests all around the new clean green Tar Sands operations.

Here is the other side of the story - a quick clip of a talk by Mike Mercredi, an aboriginal man from Fort Chipewyan, downstream from the Tar Sands.

(In the audio, Mike lists out his relatives that are dead or dying of cancer, which was unknown to them in previous generations, before the Tar Sands came upstream of their drinking water and fishing grounds)

I recorded that in 2008, when we had no experts to back him up. Listen to the whole Radio Ecoshock program "Climate Terrorism: The Tar Sands" 3 speakers recorded December 5th in Vancouver, listed on our 2008 show archive page at ecoshock.org.

As you will hear in this program, they are lying about being able to reclaim land to their former natural state. The oil companies and the governments who collude with them are faking and hiding the health effects.

The whole tar sands operation is a world-scale Ponzi scheme which will bankrupt future generations with the costs of clean-up, - if any remediation is possible. Or they will do what most mining companies do: leave a massive open scar upon the earth, all for the quick quarterly profits of foreign multinationals.

Why says so? According to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and his Environment Minister, anyone who criticizes the Tar Sands is just a foreign-funded radical - unpatriotic environmentalists.

Let's meet one of those radicals. Here is the introduction to Dr. David Schindler, before his speech in Vancouver, on March 28th, 2012. The intro is by John Pierce, Dean, Faculty of Arts, Simon Fraser University.

(audio: Schindler helped discover that phosphorus from detergents and water treatment plants was killing the Great Lakes; he proved acid rain was coming from coal plant pollution; he's recently done a study of Tar Sands pollution. Schindler has an Order of Canada, is a member of the Royal Society, and has many, many honors.)

That's the wild-eyed radical the Prime Minister fears. A life-long scientist who helped clean up the Great Lakes from phosphorus, who proved the source of acid-rain, a world-recognized and heavily awarded expert, David Schindler.

David is no fly-in academic from New York. He lives in Northern Alberta. He's fished in the many streams threatened by the proposed Enbridge northern pipeline. He's measures the water and the air, finding pollution governments denied.

In the program I summarize some of the surprising revelations in this speech, bolstered by selected audio. For example, did you know the tiny amounts of supposedly reclaimed lands can never be returned to their previous state, because the mine tailings are too salty?

I also didn't realize the biggest source of pollution is actually air-borne. We'll learn all that and more in this work-shop from Canada's top Tar Sands expert, a quiet but devastating critic of the world's dirtiest source of oil.

* Tar Sands chemicals flood local rivers, probably explaining higher levels of cancer in aboriginal Canadians downstream. The government won't investigate the many deaths there.

* The former Alberta caribou herds will never return.

* The forests are being stripped in an area projected to be larger than the state of Florida.

* Countless tons of methane are burned and released just to get oil out of the sands. More global warming gases.

* The corrosive raw oil is carried in a network of pipelines, tankers, trucks, and famous spills. It's an industrial spider web reaching down into the United States, indeed all over North America.

* Wherever you live in the world, the Tar Sands are wrecking your atmosphere, as the single largest industrial source of greenhouse gases on the planet.

* The damage can be seen from space, and will last for thousands of years.

Welcome to your secure energy source, your damned "ethical" oil.

David begins with the tailing ponds, some of which are just meters away from the Athabasca River. According to Tar Sands Watch, every square meter of oil-bearing bitumen mined creates six square meters of tailing. These are tossed into toxic lakes now covering more than 55 square kilometers, over 13,000 acres and growing rapidly. The tailing dyke of just one company, Syncrude, is the second largest dam in the world. Only the Chinese Three Gorges Dam is larger.

Here is David Schindler...
[SH1_TailingsAthabasca etc. 1:38]

David then makes several key points.

First, development in both the Tar Sands operations, and in the surrounding town and infrastructure has far outstripped any planning process or regulation. It's a wild-west anything-goes oil rush. As that building boom grew, the size of planning and regulatory bodies needed to keep pace. Instead successive governments have cut funding, to the point that hardly anything is monitored, regulated, or planned.

Second: while the many foreign corporations make obscene multi-billions in profits, the Canadian public gets less and less of the revenues. Governments, with political parties heavily funded by oil companies, kept reducing the percentage going to the Canadian public. Later, we'll find the whole cleanup bill is mounting, as reclamation is stalled for decades. Young Canadians will pay those astronomic bills.

[SH2_FastDevleopment_massiveprofits 4:43]

From the recording March 28th, in Vancouver, here is what David Schindler says about "ethical oil".

[SH3_Ethical_Oil 2:58]

OK, now we are going for a long walk through David Schindler's presentation. He talks about cancer in the Native people; how the industry-sponsored river testing found NOTHING, no contaminants from super-polluting smoke stacks. His own team of scientists found a wide range of heavy metals and toxic polycarbonates the industry and government somehow failed to detect.

David Schindler all along gives you the big picture references that nobody else is talking about. For example, there are two giant chemical complexes called "the upgraders" which process the raw bitumen. These are sending out pollution for 50 miles around. It accumulates on the snow, and on the frozen rivers, until the fast Spring melt supercharges all the waters with toxic chemicals. It's the quiet science of the horrific.

[SH4_ScienceTesting 17 min]

That was Dr. David Schindler, an internationally renowned scientist working in Canada, talking about his team research into pollution from the Tar Sands. This was recorded by Alex Smith at the Simon Fraser University Wosk Centre in downtown Vancouver on March 28, 2012.


I hope you got one of the stories Schindler explained. As I understand it, Dr. Schindler and other scientists could not accept the industry-funded government approved study saying that NONE of the dirty pollutants from the tar sands operations could be measured in the Athabasca River or its tributaries. They found the alleged testing set up measuring stations either upstream of the operations, or far down river near the river mouth at Lake Athabasca, where dilution would be greatest. The testing method had a baseline, or used techniques, which eliminated low levels of contaminants.

Three scientists, David Schindler, Jeff Short of NOAA, and Peter Hodson, a toxicologist at Queens University took their own samples. These included sites near the Tar Sands operations.

This independent team used better testing methods. They found low levels of many, many toxic substances, especially near the so-called upgrader plants, where air pollution is strong and obvious. This is a scandal! The First Nations people living downstream from the tar sands complained for years their families were dying of cancer. Industry and the government told the victims there was no pollution in their water.

After the not-so-mysterious cancer deaths of the First Nations people, and after two decades of warnings from scientists, here are the results of the health impacts study done by the Canadian government: nothing!

They don't investigate. They don't care. There are billions of dollars of profits to be made every year. That is what matters.

You aren't going to hear the dirty truth about the tar sands from any authority, and certainly not from the millions spent on propaganda by the multinational oil companies digging out the tar.

We are out of time for this week, but not out of ammunition. In an upcoming Radio Ecoshock show, you'll hear more from famous scientist David Schindler. He'll tell us why the heavily advertised "restoration" of the scoured landscape is fake. Remaking nature is not possible, and it's not going to happen.

The native people like Mike Mercredi know. They live there, eating the polluted fish, breathing the polluted air.

[Mike Mercredi clip 2]

Keep your ears out for more on the Canadian Tar Sands, the world's single largest source of pollution, on Radio Ecoshock.


We also have a short rant by New York Comedian Lee Camp. Here is a comedian who knows that global warming is not all that funny, but it's real. We run a short 2 minute clip from Lee's podcast "A Moment of Clarity" available on You tube.

I'm Alex Smith. Thank you for getting real about your world.…


Share: The Worst Problems In The World

Relapse and Recovery

2012-04-04 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)

http://bit.ly/HsX2ac A fresh update on Japan after the tsunami and nuclear accident with Warren Karlenzig. Is it a chance to build new green cities, or a vision of what we all face as the oil runs out? Then a quick interview with anti-nuclear campaigner Helen Caldicott, and Marsha Coleman-Adebayo at the Occupy the EPA protest in Washington. We conclude with an invitation by Susanne Moser to "get real" about our difficult future as we destabilize the climate.


Download this 24 minute interview... in CD Quality or faster download in Lo-Fi.

Do you worry about an energy shortage, a nuclear accident, or a severe economic hit? Welcome to Japan, which is dealing with all three, following the deadly Tsunami and nuclear accident in March 2011. PCI Fellow Warren Karlenzig just returned from the damage zone, with this radio report.

We have a new report from Warren Karlenzig, who just toured Japan with a United Nations group. As the founder of Common Current, Warren advises city and national governments on sustainability. He's a Fellow of the Post Carbon Institute. In 2009, Radio Ecoshock broadcast Warren's speech at a Vancouver panel on building green cities.

We can't get to the impact of the nuclear accident, or Japan's exciting prospects for green energy, without first giving respect to the people who live with the tragic loss of more than 20,000 lives, of whole towns, and a large part of the country. Warren gives us some insight on how are people in Japan are handling unimaginable stress.

Are there immediate lessons we can learn about surviving a large-scale disaster? How much help comes from government, and how much from self-organization by the citizens?

One of the hot button issues in Japan is the national government's plan to redistribute tsunami wreckage, including material contaminated with radioactive waste, all over the country.

With almost all nuclear reactors out of service, how are the Japanese dealing with the lack of energy? Fifty two out of fifty four reactors were out of service when Karlenzig toured Japan, and the 53rd was shutting down the day of our interview.

The Japanese are scrambling to import more LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) - and burning more coal - but there is still a massive energy short-fall.

It turns out their response could be very close to our future as oil becomes too expensive for most uses, if we can get oil at all.

The Japanese generally were either not heating buildings, or just keeping the pipes from bursting, while wearing winter coats inside. For a special meeting, a kerosene heater was brought in. Only the most necessary energy was used.

Karlenzig says the sudden failure of the Japanese energy supplies is comparable to a peak oil shock.

There an opportunity in Japan to rebuild new green cities and towns. Two cities have proposed "smart growth" models. One is pursuing ideas for renewable energy, and zero emissions. Find the details, and photos from the tour of Japan, in Warren's blog article here.

This reminds me of the astounding Japanese recovery after World War Two. Most cities were flattened, and energy was in short supply. Yet Japan rebounded with new factories, new technologies, and more efficient production.

But there are still major roadblocks to recovery in the region hit by both a tsunami and a triple nuclear melt-down. For one thing, young people were already leaving the central East coast region, which was known mainly for tourism, fishing, and agriculture. Young people were going to larger cities, seeking more modern employment, in computing for example.

This disaster has made the youth drain much more serious. With no work, hardly a place to live, and few prospects, many of the young people needed for rebuilding have left.

Warren raises another challenge. Japanese society tends to organize with male administrators. Women, and the elderly, did not attend most planning meetings, and appear not to be consulted about the new vision for a future. Karlenzig says experience shows real planning has to involve everyone, with meetings, questions, and working through the process. That is not happening in Japan, yet.

I was surprised to learn that after one year reconstruction has not yet begun! One reason is shocking: the land has not yet settled enough to rebuild. Many parts of the Eastern coast are still sinking. Land is sinking anywhere from a few inches, to several feet. With continuing aftershocks, in fact with a continuing wave of serious earthquakes ranging over 6.0, still happening, things are not yet settled for rebuilding.

One personal note: Warren Karlenzig was offered home-made meals with organic food. But should he eat things grown in a radioactive area? All the tour members were concerned. One official told Karlenzig the local mushrooms were much more radioactive than Tokyo was admitting. There are also reports that rice, the staple of Japanese food, is also contaminated.

The simple act of eating can feel threatening, after a nuclear accident.

Be sure and listen to this interview with sustainable cities expert Warren Karlenzig. Keep track of Warren at commoncurrent.com.


On March 30th, various groups united to march on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. They were protesting the lack of regulations and enforcement to protect the environment, and people's health.

One of the co-organizers was a former EPA employee, and whistleblower, Marsha Coleman-Adebayo. You can hear our previous Radio Ecoshock interview with Marsha here.

This time our Washington D.C. correspondent was on the scene for the march. She interviewed Coleman-Adebayo. We only had time to run this short selection.


Gerri Williams: "I'm speaking with Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, one of the co-organizers of the Occupy EPA march that is going to be taking place. Doctor could you tell me about your motivation for this march, the reason behind it, and what you hope to accomplish."

Marsha Coleman-Adebayo: “I think it's incumbent upon our entire community to really start fighting for an environment that's healthy. And not an environment, and particularly not an EPA [Environmental Protection Agency], that's not controlled by corporations. One of the problems that we have in our community is that the EPA is not taking care of its business.

It's important for African Americans and people of color to become involved with the environmental movement. We are really the first victims of environmental injustice. Our homes are sited closer to environmental facilities than any other homes. Our children are more likely to have lead poisoning or neurotoxic levels of lead in their brains. Our children are more likely to have learning disabilities. Breast cancers in African American women tend to be a bit more stubborn than in Caucasian women. So we are really the first victims of environmental injustice, and it is so important that we become involved.

Recently a report was issued by Deloitte consulting firm that said it takes EPA 15 years - 15 years! - to handle a Title Six complaint.

Now a Title Six complaint, it's a complaint by a community about a facility in their community. Fifteen years is a lifetime in the history of a family. Which means that the agency has turned its back on communities of color that are suffering under the weight of industrialization.

So we have decided to say 'Enough is enough'. We are going to fight for our families and for our communities, and fight for our health. And as far as we are concerned this Administration has really not heard yet the voice of the people on this issue.


An important guest speaker at the Occupy EPA rally was the famous anti-nuclear activist Dr. Helen Caldicott. She never fails to warn us that the two headed nuclear dragon still waits to attack us, much worse than terrorism.

Vast nuclear weapons systems are still on hair-trigger alert in many countries. New nations are still joining the nuclear club.

This weapons complex is married to nuclear power - one supports the other. Here is a short transcript, just part of the seven minute interview with Dr. Caldicott speaking to Gerri Williams of Radio Ecoshock.


"I don't think people are accepting it [nuclear power] now after Fukushima. In fact I saw a poll yesterday in the New York Times that said that about 60% of Americans now are cautious and wary and concerned about nuclear power. That's post-Fukushima, which shows that the nuclear industry have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in the past few years, saying that they are the answer to global warming - even though they cause global warming in their own right because they are undergirded by huge industrial infrastructure, mining, milling, enriching uranium and building reactors - that produce a huge amount of CO2 and global warming gases.

They advertise in Scientific American, on NPR [National Public Radio] all over the place. Which was really wicked. I rang NPR and said 'Why are you taking these ads from the nuclear energy industry?' And they couldn't really answer me. Money. 'Underwriting' they call it but it's advertising.

But now the Fukushima accident I predict will lead to the end of nuclear power, not just in Japan, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, which have all said 'No'. But China, America... and also when you have a meltdown, and I tell you when you have Americans dying either of acute radiation illness and leukemia - that's it. So it hasn't hit you yet. Do you have to wait until it hits you until you develop some common sense, and do the right thing?


"The new reactors are much, much more dangerous, by orders of magnitude that the present light water reactors. Because they are fueled with Plutonium, where one millionth of a gram is a carcinogen. They are cooled by liquid sodium which explodes when exposed to air. So if you get a hole in a pipe you get a meltdown. And five kilos or ten pounds of is critical mass [the level required for a nuclear explosion]. So if you've got a hundred tons of plutonium in a nuclear reactor, and you lose the coolant, and there's a meltdown, and you get ten pounds of plutonium together, and you get critical mass, and a massive nuclear explosion scattering tons and tons of plutonium to the four winds. It's the most ghastly, hideous machine I could ever imagine. They are the new 'safe' reactors."

There is more. Download this 7 minute interview with Dr. Helen Caldicott in CD Quality or Lo-Fi.


Let’s get real about our situation.

As David Orr put it: "This is not the time for illusion or evasion; it is time for transformation".

In our Radio Ecoshock interview we talk about an article, part of an upcoming book. The title is: "GETTING REAL ABOUT IT: MEETING THE PSYCHOLOGICAL AND SOCIAL DEMANDS OF A WORLD IN DISTRESS".

Our guest is the author, Dr. Susanne C. Moser. She is a researcher and consultant from California, associated with Stanford University. Susanne was previously a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and with the Union of Concerned Scientists. She currently has her own research and consulting company in California.

I learned about Susanne's article from a link provided by Carolyn Baker, at carolynbaker.net.

I've looked forward to our talk, ever since I read her refreshing look at where we really are. I ask you a few impossibly difficult questions, but only because Susanne was brave enough to raise them.

Before we get to her prescriptions for living in a sick civilization, she picks out one particular illness as a case study. We could be talking about mass extinctions, or running out of fresh water - but Moser chose the problem of climate change as her example. That is her area of expertise, where she can make the best case study of the ways we fail to look at reality.

After making a convincing case we are hurtling toward completely unknown lives, in a climate never seen by any human, Moser suggests there are two roads ahead. She calls them two kinds of transitions.

But first, I hit a real stumbling block. Moser writes about "environmental leaders".

I wonder if there are any. I see environmentalists, who are more or less powerless in the current political economy. I see leaders who are mostly bought by big fossil fuel companies, and other corporate interests. An "environmental leader" sounds like a hybrid that doesn't exist yet. Who is she you talking about?

Listen to the interview for her answer. For one thing, she is writing a chapter for the upcoming "Sage Reference Handbook of Environmental Leadership." But Moser goes much deeper, looking at the roles we all can play.

Let's imagine that whole populations realize we are in a biosphere on life-support. They elect leaders to save us from more losses, if not extinction. Moser doesn't pull any punches. She says any new system will have to live through, "enormous losses, human distress, constant crisis, and the seemingly endless need to remain engaged in the task of maintaining, restoring, and rebuilding - despite all setbacks - a viable planet..."

Here is another thorny issue we discuss: once people realize a couple of generations have ruined the known natural world, what the heck are we going to do with all the blame? Do we hang a bunch of geriatric "climate criminals"; do we declare an amnesty, or what?

I think the world of mass media, especially advertising, but also the industrial consumer system, has infantilized the whole population - all of us. We don't know how anything is produced, we just wait for it to come, and we don't count all the costs. So how do we transition a whole species away from being irresponsible children, to become responsible adult Earthlings?

Even though Moser's article "Getting Real About It" is aimed at environmental leaders, it is useful for everybody. I think that's why it's bouncing around the Net so quickly.
Download this 23 minute interview with Susanne Moser in CD quality or Lo-Fi

Under our program ending, you can hear the international artist Ariel Kalma, with "Spirit Dancer". Check out his work, as the father of disco, and electronica. Good stuff.

As always, thank you for listening, for daring to think about the tough problems of our times.

Alex Smith
Radio Ecoshock…


Share: Relapse and Recovery

Summer in March

2012-03-27 :: noreply@blogger.com (Alex Smith)

http://bit.ly/GRGbPD Summer in March? I ask the experts, Joe Romm of Climate Progress, and Jeff Masters of the Weather Underground. Then we visit with Professor Raymond De Young.

When we get exciting weather, it's hard to beat the Dr. Jeff Masters blog at the Weather Underground. Jeff has taught meteorology, he's been a Hurricane Hunter for NOAA, and still watches storms and all forms of strange weather.


Here is a link to Jeff's key blog post on "Summer in March".

In the interview, I also reference this article from Andrew Freedman of Climate Central. His piece was titled "Global Warming May Have Fueled March Heat Wave Odds." And this is what Dr. James Hansen of NASA has been saying: we wouldn't see these extreme heat events so often, without the greenhouse gases we've added to the atmosphere.

Also at wunderground.com, your weather historian Christopher C. Burt posted some neat graphics and a thorough listing of the new heat records set. Our listeners from the Mid-West, through New England and all of Eastern Canada can find the new and old records here.

And it wasn't just in North America. The UK Telegraph headline Friday March 23rd: "UK to be as Hot as the Sahara This Weekend." Britain hit 20 degrees C, a balmy 68, the day before, a temperature normally seen in June.

You can find Bill McKibben (350.org) talking with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! about the weird March weather here.

I also like this blog entry at the Washington Post from "the Capital Weather Gang".

For more on impacts on crops, here is another radio piece from IPR.

CBS did a decent piece on the impact of early Spring/summer weather for allergy sufferers.

Lo-Fi (4 Megabytes)

CD quality (13 MB)


Summer in March... is it a preview of global warming? Our guest has a Ph.D. in physics from MIT. He was a top advisor for energy efficiency and renewables in the Clinton Administration. Joe Romm is author of the book "Hell and High Water". But many of us know him as the world's best climate blogger over at ThinkProgress.org.

Here is Joe's great piece on the March heat wave. He's so good at summing up for busy people, targeting what really matters.

On the agricultural damage caused in Texas by the big heat and drought of 2011, see Joe's other post here.


CD Quality


Young climate scientists have heard enough from old weathermen and fake experts. A group of real scientists rolled out this quick song on You tube. My thanks to VR in Colorado for this G-rated version.

Here is a link to the clean version of "I'm a Climate Scientist" as a You tube video (OK for FCC broadcast regs). My thanks to VR in Colorado for creating the fun clean version for Radio Ecoshock.


Raymond De Young is an academic who isn't working for a military think-tank, or explaining why we should just keep climbing the consumer ladder. His "Localization Reader" will likely fall into hands that get dirty in gardens, and active in your community.

De Young is Associate Professor of Environmental Psychology and Planning, in the School of Natural Resources and Environment, at the University of Michigan.

DOWNLOAD RAYMOND DE YOUNG as a separate interview (24 minutes)
In faster downloading Lo-Fi

In CD quality

I came upon Raymond's work through the psychologist Carolyn Baker. Carolyn has the "Speaking Truth to Power" web site, and a great alternative headline news service. She passed on an article about how to survive our knowledge of a society under extreme stress - with a technique as simple as a walk in the park. The article is titled "Restoring Mental Vitality in an Endangered World: Reflections on the Benefits of Walking".

This really struck a chord with me. I walk through some trees, or along a stream, every day of the year. I've had a few almost hallucinogenic moments just looking at the delicate patterns in a patch of weeds. Should we worry about all the millions of minds who have departed for electronic screens, living in electrons?

Here is where to find Raymond's blog "The Localization Papers".

Along with Thomas Princen, De Young has selected a bunch of useful papers on relocalization, for a new book, "The Localization Reader, Adapting to the Coming Downshift" coming from MIT Press.

I like the mix of papers. You get classic works from people like M. King Hubbert, Joseph Tainter, Ivan Illich, and Wendell Berry. But they've also captured some of the new relocalization voices like Sharon Astyk and Rob Hopkins.

In our interview, I ask what De Young means by "downshift". It turns out it may be a more positive substitute for "collapse." De Young describes it more like deciding to shift down a gear in a car, as we shift downwards in our unnecessary consumption of resources, indeed of the Earth.

In the end, we get back to the problem of surviving the tidal wave of bad news, hitting us every day. I ask De Young how he copes, and is there more the