Friday, April 24, 2015

ANS -- Beyond capitalism and socialism: could a new economic approach save the planet?

This is about a new way of looking at the economy. 
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Beyond capitalism and socialism: could a new economic approach save the planet?

A holistic approach to the economy is necessary to avoid social, environmental and economic collapse, according to a new report by the Capital Institute
water pollution
 Dead fish clog the Rodrigo de Freitas lake in Rio de Janiero, Brazil. Scientists claim that the fish were starved of oxygen because of pollution. A holistic approach would look closely at the environmental impacts - such as a fish die-off - of economic activities Photograph: Fabio Teixeira/Pacific/Barcroft

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Jo Confino

Tuesday 21 April 2015 16.52 EDTLast modified on Wednesday 22 April 201510.37 EDT


To avoid social, environmental and economic collapse, the world needs to move beyond the standard choices of capitalism or socialism. That's the conclusion of a new report released Wednesday by US think tank Capital Institute.

The non-partisan think tank argues that both systems are unsustainable, even if flawlessly executed, and that economists need to look to the "hard science of holism" to debunk outdated views held by both the left and the right.

Jan Smuts, who coined the term "holism" in his 1926 book, Holism and Evolution, defined it as the "tendency in nature to form wholes that are greater than the sum of the parts". For example, in the case of a plant, the whole organism is more than a collection of leaves, stems and roots. Focusing too closely on each of these parts, the theory argues, could get in the way of understanding the organism as a whole.

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Viewed through this perspective, the capitalist tendency to isolate an economic process from its antecedents and effects is fundamentally flawed. The Capital Institute, created by former JP Morgan managing director John Fullerton, says that society's economic worldview has relied on breaking complex systems down into simpler parts in order to understand and manage them.

For example, this traditional economic view might view automobile manufacturing separately from the mineral mining, petroleum production and workers on which it relies. Moreover, this view might also not acknowledge the impact that automobile manufacturing has on the environment, politics and economics of an area. Holism, on the other hand, would view the entire chain of cause and effect that leads to – and away from – automobile manufacturing.

The Capital Institute report, titled Regenerative Capitalism, emphasizes that the world economic system is closely related to, and dependent upon, the environment. "The failure of modern economic theory to acknowledge this reality has had profound consequences, not the least of which is global climate change," it says.

A long chain of cause and effects

According to the Capital Institute, the consequences of this economic worldview are vast and far reaching, encompassing a host of challenges that range from climate change to political instability.
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For example, the current capitalist system has created extreme levels of inequality, the report says. This, in turn, has led to a host of ills, including worker abuse, sexism, economic stagnation and more. It could even be considered partly responsible for the rise of terrorism around the world, the report claims. In other words, this inequality has become a threat to the very system that is creating it. Without radical change, the report warns, "the current mainstream capitalist system is under existential threat".

What is needed now, the Capital Institute argues, is a new systems-based mindset built around the idea of a regenerative economy, "which recognizes that the proper functioning of complex wholes, like an economy, cannot be understood without the ongoing, dynamic relationships among parts that give rise to greater wholes".

In practice, this might lead to close analysis of supply chains, investigations of the effects of water use, circular economy initiatives, community economic development work or a host of other sustainability efforts.

While some people associate holistic thinking with mystics or hippies, the worldview is borne out in ways that are measurable, precise and empirical. "Universal principles and patterns of systemic health and development actually do exist, and are known to guide behavior in living systems from bacteria to human beings," the report says.

Holism also can be used to study "nonliving systems from hurricanes to transportation systems and the internet; and societal systems including monetary systems". Not surprisingly, the theory underlies other scientific and social tools, such as system theory and chaos theory.

A radical shift

This holistic approach flies in the face of a great deal of long-held beliefs. For example, while decision makers usually focus on finding a single 'right' answer, holism focuses on finding balanced answers that address seemingly contradictory goals like efficiency and resilience, collaboration and competition, and diversity and coherence. Taken from this perspective, holism wouldn't approach global economics from a capitalism-or-socialism perspective, but rather from a capitalism-and-socialism perspective.

The report emphasizes the importance of innovation and adaptability over rigid structures and belief systems. It also embraces diversity, suggesting that, instead of trying to find a globalized one-size-fits-all approach to change, it is vital to recognize that each community consists of a "mosaic of peoples, traditions, beliefs, and institutions uniquely shaped by long term pressures of geology, human history, culture, local environment, and changing human needs".

Ultimately, the report argues, a holistic perspective emphasizes that we are all connected to one another and to the planet, and therefore need to recognize that damaging any part of that web could end up harming every other part.

In business terms, what would this sort of revolutionary shift in business look like? The Capital Institute, which presented a white paper at Yale University's Center for Business and the Environment on Tuesday, says innovators and entrepreneurs around the world are already responsible for thousands of sustainability initiatives and movements that are helping to re-imagine capitalism, such as social enterprises, B Corps, impact investing, slow food and localism.

The report says that, while some critics view these as "disconnected feel-good activities outside the mainstream capitalist system", they are, in fact, "in alignment with the regenerative economy framework". Collectively, it claims, "these forces provide living proof that a new regenerative economy is emergent".

Beyond movements of change, the institute points to a number of individual initiatives that show how the world could change for the better. For example, Mexico's Grupo Ecologico has worked to fund impoverished small farmers and ranchers, giving them the economic freedom to preserve and regenerate their own land.

Similarly, Australia's Bendigo Community Bank splits its net income with local community enterprises. It directs a portion of community branch earnings toward grant making, giving local leaders the opportunity to become active players in their communities.

Community development is also a primary concern for Chicago's Manufacturing Renaissance, which is forging unusual partnerships among government, labour unions, educators, the private sector, and civil society to create programs that support the region's advanced manufacturing sectors.

Fullerton says there is great potential ahead if society can change its collective mindset: "This is a monumental challenge that holds the promise of uniting our generation in a shared purpose. We now have a more rigorous understanding of what makes human networks healthy – this alone constitutes an amazing opportunity. It is time to act. Our actions, now, will most certainly define the nobility of our lives and our legacy. This is the great work of our time."

The rethinking prosperity hub is sponsored by DNV GL. All content is editorially independent except for pieces labelled "brought to you by". Find out more here.

ANS -- Zombies of 2016

The Republicans are proudly "not reality based".  Especially when it comes to how economics actually works.  Here are some comments on this situation from Paul Krugman.  An easy read.
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The Opinion Pages | OP-ED COLUMNIST

Zombies of 2016

APRIL 24, 2015

Paul Krugman


This story is included with an NYT Opinion subscription.
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Last week, a zombie went to New Hampshire and staked its claim to the Republican presidential nomination. Well, O.K., it was actually Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey. But it's pretty much the same thing.

You see, Mr. Christie gave a speech in which he tried to position himself as a tough-minded fiscal realist. In fact, however, his supposedly tough-minded policy idea was a classic zombie ­ an idea that should have died long ago in the face of evidence that undermines its basic premise, but somehow just keeps shambling along.

But let us not be too harsh on Mr. Christie. A deep attachment to long-refuted ideas seems to be required of all prominent Republicans. Whoever finally gets the nomination for 2016 will have multiple zombies as his running mates.

Start with Mr. Christie, who thought he was being smart and brave by proposing that we raise the age of eligibility for both Social Security and Medicare to 69. Doesn't this make sense now that Americans are living longer?

Paul Krugman

Macroeconomics, trade, health care, social policy and politics.

No, it doesn't. This whole line of argument should have died in 2007, when the Social Security Administration issued a report showing that almost all the rise in life expectancy has taken place among the affluent. The bottom half of workers, who are precisely the Americans who rely on Social Security most, have seen their life expectancy at age 65 rise only a bit more than a year since the 1970s. Furthermore, while lawyers and politicians may consider working into their late 60s no hardship, things look somewhat different to ordinary workers, many of whom still have to perform manual labor.

And while raising the retirement age would impose a great deal of hardship, it would save remarkably little money. In fact, a 2013 report from the Congressional Budget Office found that raising the Medicare age would save almost no money at all.

But Mr. Christie ­ like Jeb Bush, who quickly echoed his proposal ­ evidently knows none of this. The zombie ideas have eaten his brain.

And there are plenty of other zombies out there. Consider, for example, the zombification of the debate over health reform.

Before the Affordable Care Act went fully into effect, conservatives made a series of dire predictions about what would happen when it did. It would actually reduce the number of Americans with health insurance; it would lead to "rate shock," as premiums soared; it would cost the government far more than projected, and blow up the deficit; it would be a huge job-destroyer.

In reality, the act has produced a dramatic drop in the number of uninsured adults; premiums have grown much more slowly than in the years before reform; the law's cost is coming in well below projections; and 2014, the first year of full implementation, also had the best job growth since 1999.

So how has this changed the discourse? On the right, not at all. As far as I can tell, every prominent Republican talks about Obamacare as if all the predicted disasters have, in fact, come to pass.

Finally, one of the interesting political developments of this election cycle has been the triumphant return of voodoo economics, the "supply-side" claim that tax cuts for the rich stimulate the economy so much that they pay for themselves.

In the real world, this doctrine has an unblemished record of failure. Despite confident right-wing predictions of doom, neither the Clinton tax increase of 1993 nor the Obama tax increase of 2013 killed the economy (far from it), while the "Bush boom" that followed the tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 was unimpressive even before it ended in financial crisis. Kansas, whose governor promised a "real live experiment" that would prove supply-side doctrine right, has failed even to match the growth of neighboring states.

In the world of Republican politics, however, voodoo's grip has never been stronger. Would-be presidential candidates must audition in front of prominent supply-siders to prove their fealty to failed doctrine. Tax proposals like Marco Rubio's would create a giant hole in the budget, then claim that this hole would be filled by a miraculous economic upsurge. Supply-side economics, it's now clear, is the ultimate zombie: no amount of evidence or logic can kill it.

So why has the Republican Party experienced a zombie apocalypse? One reason, surely, is the fact that most Republican politicians represent states or districts that will never, ever vote for a Democrat, so the only thing they fear is a challenge from the far right. Another is the need to tell Big Money what it wants to hear: a candidate saying anything realistic about Obamacare or tax cuts won't survive the Sheldon Adelson/Koch brothers primary.

Whatever the reasons, the result is clear. Pundits will try to pretend that we're having a serious policy debate, but, as far as issues go, 2016 is already set up to be the election of the living dead.

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A version of this op-ed appears in print on April 24, 2015, on page A27 of the New York edition with the headline: Zombies of 2016. Order Reprints| Today's Paper | Subscribe

Monday, April 20, 2015

ANS -- Food in Uncertain Times: How to Grow and Store the 5 Crops You Need to Survive

This is an interesting way of looking at gardening.  It's also interesting that we seem to be getting back to a "back to the land" movement.  Maybe it's the Boomers retiring?
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Food in Uncertain Times: How to Grow and Store the 5 Crops You Need to Survive

The key is learning interdependence, not independence.
By Makenna Goodman / Chelsea Green Publishing
April 15, 2015

In an age of erratic weather and instability, it's increasingly important to develop a greater self-reliance when it comes to food. And because of this, more than ever before, farmers are developing new gardening techniques that help achieve a greater resilience. Longtime gardener and scientist Carol Deppe, in her book The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times, offers a wealth of unique and expansive information for serious home gardeners and farmers who are seeking optimistic advice. Do you want to know more about the five crops you need to survive through the next thousand years? What about tips for drying summer squash, for your winter soups? Ever thought of keeping ducks on your land? Read on.

Makenna Goodman: Many gardeners (both beginners and more serious growers) come across obstacles they might not have planned for. In your new book, The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times, you talk about the need for real gardening techniques for both good times and bad. What is the first step toward achieving this kind of resilience?

Carol Deppe:
The basic issues are getting more control over our food, getting lots higher quality and more delicious food, and enhancing the resilience of our food supply. There are three ways to do that. The first is through local buying patterns and trade. A second is through knowing how to store or process food that is available locally, whether we grow it ourselves or not. The third is gardening. In The Resilient Gardener, I talk as much about storing and using food as growing it. I love gardening, but not everyone is in a position to garden every year of their lives.

However the person who has learned to make spectacular applesauce or cider or apple butter or pies can often trade some of the processed products for all the apples needed. Buying local food supports local food resilience. A couple hundred pounds of gourmet-quality potatoes tucked away in the garage -- potatoes that you have learned to store optimally -- represent serious food security, whether you grew them or bought them from a local farmer right after the harvest. Our buying and trading patterns and our skill at storing and using food as well as gardening are all part of our food resilience. All can serve as the starting point to begin taking greater control over our food.

So the first thing I would say is, garden if you can and if you enjoy it. Whether you garden right now or not, though, learn more about how to store and use the food that is grown locally. Lots of times, it is storing and using that is more of the missing link than gardening. Most gardeners know how to grow field corn. But most don't have the knowledge to turn corn into gourmet-quality fast-cooking polenta or savory corn gravy or even cornbread (without using wheat or other things they can't grow), let alone fine-textured cakes. Most gardeners can grow potatoes. But most don't know how to store their potatoes optimally. Most can grow blue potatoes. But most try to prepare their blue potatoes just like whites or reds. Few know how to turn a blue potato into spectacularly delicious food. In The Resilient Gardener, I spend as much time on how to store and use food as how to grow it.

We humans trade. We enjoy it, and it greases the social wheels. Sometimes we use intermediaries like money, sometimes not. Sometimes the trades are formal. Sometimes we call it gifts. I trade or sell or gift part of the best I have. Part of the best of others comes back to me. My friends, neighbors, and exchange networks are part of my resilience. I aim for greater self-reliance. I like to enjoy doing more for myself. And I love to garden, and to grow food. But I don't aim at "independence." Healthy humans are never independent. We are interdependent. What we want is to be self-reliant enough to hold up our end of honorable interdependence. Our skill at growing, storing, processing, using, or trading food can all be part of our contribution to honorable interdependence.

Neanderthal stone tools, interestingly, are all found within a few miles of where the rocks originated. And the tools didn't change very much over time. ButHomo sapiens that lived at the same time had tools made from rocks that were clearly traded over long distances. And H. sapienstools changed and developed rapidly. We traded our ideas along with all our stuff. Any Neanderthal tribe that met a sapiens tribe was one tribe against an entire species. I'm a Homo sapiens, and I follow Homo sapien traditions. I aim for appropriate self-reliance, not for independence. Independence is for Neanderthals.

MG: It's kind of a relief, actually, to think about gardening outside the realm of those perfect photos so prevalent in other gardening books. For people who have day jobs taking them away from their farms and gardens, resilient gardening might seem like a miracle. How would you compare resilient gardening to more traditional forms?

CD: Much of our garden writing is about the gardens of rich people who have employees to do the work. Even non-rich people with full-time jobs and no hired help are encouraged to take the gardens of rich people as the model. Beauty and showing off and ornamental plantings and huge high-maintenance inedible lawns have mattered more than food, for example. I'm not rich enough and haven't the time or inclination for that sort of gardening. I delight in all the knowledge about plants, ecology, and gardening we have today. But I take peasants as my basic model. I aim to be a modern peasant. I focus primarily upon growing food, especially upon staple crops and crops of special nutritional value. And I want lots of delicious food for the least possible work.

In addition, in the real world, things are always going wrong. These can be private or personal, such as an injury or family emergency that removes your labor from the garden for a while. Or they can be financial. Loss of a job can mean you really need to know how to get most of your food from the garden, not just fruits and vegetables. I also look at things over a thousand years. Over that kind of period, humans experience mega-crises of various kinds.

On average, the Pacific Northwest experiences two or three mega-earthquakes per thousand years, for example, which would destroy our roads and bridges and cut us off for years. Many kinds of natural and societal disasters occur over such time frames. Gardeners who know how to grow food can be reservoirs of knowledge, skills, and seeds for their communities. For this, though, the gardeners need to know how to grow staple crops, that is, calories and protein, not just fruits and vegetables. In good times, gardeners don't necessarily need to grow all their staple crops. But in good times, resilient gardeners learn to grow and use some of their staple crops so that they at least know how.

The resilient gardener knows we have our ups and downs, as individuals, families, societies, and as a species. The resilient garden is designed and managed so that when things go wrong, they have less impact. Most gardens are good-time gardens. They self-destruct rapidly if deprived of our labor. They depend upon constant imports of fertilizer and seeds. They need relatively stable weather. The resilient gardener has learned to operate with minimal external inputs, and in a world where climate is changing and weather is more erratic. The resilient gardener knows how to save seeds. The resilient garden is one that thrives and helps its people and their communities survive and thrive through everything that comes their way, from tomorrow through the next thousand years.

MG: In an era with unpredictable climate conditions -- hurricanes, floods, droughts, etc -- what, in your opinion, is the most widespread condition today's gardeners face? Why do you think this is?
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CD: The unpredictability itself is the greatest problem. This summer, for example, is the coldest summer I have ever experienced in Oregon in 30 years. By mid-August there had been only one week all summer that had any days above 90°. Many days in June and July didn't even make it to 80°. Meanwhile, much of the East Coast had a record-breakingly hot summer.

For the last fifty years, the weather patterns have generally been unusually stable. Our modern gardening and agricultural practices actually depend upon that stability. Our farms and gardens have become good-time farms and gardens. They are likely to fail just when we need them most. We now need gardens and farms that survive and thrive in the face of greater unpredictability.

Wild erratic weather is typical of climate change, and is much more important to gardeners and farmers than a fraction of a degree's change in average global climate. However, humanity has made it through the transition from relative stability to instability in climate before, for example, in our adjustment to the erratic weather of the Little Ice Age. There are agricultural patterns and methods we have developed in the past when we needed them that we can relearn and expand upon today.

MG: Gardening for resilience, as you discuss, also means choosing your crop varieties for optimum self-reliance and hardiness. What's the most fantastic quality of each of the five crops you talk about in your book -- potatoes, corn, beans, squash, and eggs?

CD: Potatoes are a great source of both carbohydrates and protein. They have protein levels comparable to the most protein-rich grains by the time you adjust for water. They yield more carbohydrate per square foot than anything we can grow in temperate climates. They yield more protein per square foot than anything we can grow except beans. They have good levels of vitamin C and significant amounts of calcium and other minerals. They are the easiest of all staple crops to grow. They yield much more carbohydrate and protein than anything else per unit labor. Small grains take fine seed beds, meaning tillers, tractors, or draft animals.

Anyone with a shovel can grow potatoes. And potatoes can be grown on rough land, land just converted from lawn or pasture or patch of weeds. Grains usually require special grinding equipment. Anyone who can build a fire can cook potatoes. Potatoes grow well in places too cold or wet for grains. Potatoes are far more impervious to nasty weather than grains. Cool or cold or wet stormy weather that can harm, delay, or even destroy, corn, squash, and other summer crops are likely to make the potatoes grow more happily than ever. So growing both potatoes and other crops provides a balance that provides resilience. Potatoes yield well on limited fertility, too. And in most areas of the country, they can be grown unirrigated, even where all other summer crops require irrigation.

People these days tend to remember the Irish Potato Famine, when late blight destroyed the entire Irish potato crop. But we should also remember that the potato was one of the major saviors of Europeans during the Little Ice Age, a crop that was central to their adjustment to the erratic weather associated with climate change, a crop that yielded year in year out, decade in decade out before there were any problems. European populations suffered famines and disease epidemics because their grain crops couldn't handle the colder, wetter, stormier, less predictable weather. After incorporating potatoes into their repertoire, European populations thrived and expanded, erratic weather, Little Ice Age, or no.

Potatoes are delicious. With all the varieties and flavors and cooking methods, we can eat potatoes every day and never get tired of them. Nate and I grow major amounts of potatoes. And with our sophisticated but low-tech storage methods, we have prime potatoes for eight or nine months of the year. Remembering the vulnerability of the potato to disease, though, unlike the Potato-Famine-era Irish, we grow many varieties, we have learned to save potato seed with near-certified-seed level of proficiency, and we use potatoes as only one among several staple crops.

Grains and beans are the ultimate survival crops because they are so long-storing. It is stored grains and beans we would need if a planet-wide disaster such as a comet strike or mega-volcano wiped out agriculture worldwide for an entire year or more. Grains are not as easy to grow as potatoes, though. We grow corn, the easiest of all grains to grow and process on a small scale. Corn is also, in areas where it grows well, by far the highest yielding of the grains. In addition, unlike the small grains, you can grow corn with nothing but a shovel or heavy hoe. You don't need a finely tilled bed as is needed for the small grains. We grow special people-food grade gourmet-quality corn that is completely unlike anything you can buy commercially. Cornbread and polenta are our major carbohydrate staples during late spring and early summer after the potatoes and winter squash are gone, and they provide variety year round.

Most of our corn is very early varieties that dry down during August instead of needing to be irrigated heavily then. They can make a crop on no irrigation, and a good crop on just two or three irrigations. We also grow a little late flint corn. It has to be watered all August and finishes late, full into the rainy season. We grow our pole beans on the late corn most years. And the pole beans need irrigation all season anyway.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

ANS -- New Alzheimer’s treatment fully restores memory function

This is going to take a while, but it sounds promising.  It'll probably be too late for me.....   :-)
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Image: 3Dme Creative Studio /
New Alzheimer's treatment fully restores memory function

Of the mice that received the treatment, 75 percent got their memory functions back.
18 MAR 2015

Australian researchers have come up with a non-invasive ultrasound technology that clears the brain of neurotoxic amyloid plaques - structures that are responsible for memory loss and a decline in cognitive function in Alzheimer's patients.

If a person has Alzheimer's disease, it's usually the result of a build-up of two types of lesions - amyloid plaques, and neurofibrillary tangles. Amyloid plaques sit between the neurons and end up as dense clusters of beta-amyloid molecules, a sticky type of protein that clumps together and forms plaques.


Neurofibrillary tangles are found inside the neurons of the brain, and they're caused by defective tau proteins that clump up into a thick, insoluble mass. This causes tiny filaments called microtubules to get all twisted, which disrupts the transportation of essential materials such as nutrients and organelles along them, just like when you twist up the vacuum cleaner tube.

As we don't have any kind of vaccine or preventative measure for Alzheimer's - a disease that affects 343,000 people in Australia, and 50 million worldwide - it's been a race to figure out how best to treat it, starting with how to clear the build-up of defective beta-amyloid and tau proteins from a patient's brain. Now a team from the Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) at the University of Queensland have come up with a pretty promising solution for removing the former.

Publishing in Science Translational Medicine, the team describes the technique as using a particular type of ultrasound called a focused therapeutic ultrasound, which non-invasively beams sound waves into the brain tissue. By oscillating super-fast, these sound waves are able to gently open up the blood-brain barrier, which is a layer that protects the brain against bacteria, and stimulate the brain's microglial cells to activate. Microglila cells are basically waste-removal cells, so they're able to clear out the toxic beta-amyloid clumps that are responsible for the worst symptoms of Alzheimer's.

The team reports fully restoring the memory function of 75 percent of the mice they tested it on, with zero damage to the surrounding brain tissue. They found that the treated mice displayed improved performance in three memory tasks - a maze, a test to get them to recognise new objects, and one to get them to remember the places they should avoid.

"We're extremely excited by this innovation of treating Alzheimer's without using drug therapeutics," one of the team, Jürgen Götz, said in a press release. "The word 'breakthrough' is often misused, but in this case I think this really does fundamentally change our understanding of how to treat this disease, and I foresee a great future for this approach."

The team says they're planning on starting trials with higher animal models, such as sheep, and hope to get their human trials underway in 2017.

You can hear an ABC radio interview with the team here.

ANS -- Al Gore Teams Up with Tea Party to Fight Solar-Hating Utilities

This is fun: Al Gore and the Tea Party are joining up to defend solar energy.
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Al Gore Teams Up with Tea Party to Fight Solar-Hating Utilities

Alex Nussbaum, Bloomberg
April 14, 2015  |  19 Comments
[]  Print

NEW YORK -- If you go far enough left or right on the American political spectrum, you end up in the same place: trashing utilities for trying to kill the solar-power revolution.

If you're Al Gore, former Democratic vice-president and climate change activist, you blast Big Power for"using the atmosphere as their sewage infrastructure" to suck up carbon emissions and trying to shut down competition. The industry is waging a "war on solar," he told investors Monday at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance conference in New York City.

If you're Debbie Dooley, a national Tea Party activist who says state laws discriminate against residential solar, you tell the same audience that Americans want "energy freedom" and not "government-sanctioned monopolies" that tell consumers where they must buy power.

In back-to-back speeches, the political Odd Couple struck surprisingly similar tones on clean energy's future, even if Gore dwelled on renewables' role in avoiding catastrophic global warming while Dooley didn't use the words "climate change" at all, focusing on consumer choice.

"This is a battle that we will win," said Dooley, a board member of the National Tea Party Patriots group. "I am literally floored with the response I have been getting from conservatives with the right message."


Only minutes earlier, Gore told the audience that "we are going to win this struggle and the business community is leading the way." He cited investments in wind, solar and battery technology as transformational to the energy business in the U.S.

The fact these two forces from opposite ends of the spectrum are coming together reflects a maturing in the environmental debate, with a search on for leaders who can deliver the message to different communities, said Andy Hoffman, director of the Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Michigan.

"The issue of climate change has to be framed in a way that it's salient to people, and it has to come from people they trust," Hoffman said at the conference. "The Green Tea Party is framing it around freedom. The whole challenge is how we make it something that resonates with people."

Consensus Forming?

If there's a consensus forming, it's still hard to tell in Washington, where the new Republican majority in Congress has vowed to block President Barack Obama's environmental agenda. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from coal- rich Kentucky, has urged states to refuse to implement proposed rules on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. McConnell called Obama's proposal "job-killing and likely illegal," according to a statement March 31.

Yet public opinion surveys suggest Gore and Dooley may be on to something. Nationally, 77 percent of U.S. adults supported funding research for renewable energy, while 61 percent said utilities should be required to generate some power from clean- energy sources, according to a survey by Yale and Utah State universities released last week.

Those numbers held steady from the Deep South to liberal Massachusetts, said the report, which was based on interviews last year with 13,000 people.

By contrast, opinions on whether global warming is happening were more polarized, with Republican-leaning regions more skeptical than Democratic areas.

Georgia Work

Dooley, chairwoman of the Atlanta Tea Party chapter, joined with Democratic-leaning environmental groups two years ago, defeating a Georgia proposal to levy a fee on solar-panel owners for their use of the electric grid.

In Florida, she's pushing a ballot initiative that would allow individual homeowners and businesses to sell their solar power directly to tenants and neighbors, a right now reserved for electric companies. Utilities have opposed those measures, saying they risk losing income needed to keep the grid stable for all consumers.

Dooley said she doesn't mention climate change in her arguments to fellow conservatives, since the words can "shut down the conversation." She's found big government a much better target.

" Solar equals independence ­ solar equals freedom," she said. "Tea Party activists don't like strong centralized units. There's nothing more centralized than a utility, than the government telling you what power to buy."

Gore sounded like he was reading off the same script.

"People want their own opportunity to shape their own future, and renewable energy is part of that," Gore said. "There is a war on solar with these legacy utilities, and coal companies using their historic political power, campaign contributions and lobbying to pass the most ridiculous laws and tax the people who want to put solar panels on their roof."

Copyright 2015 Bloomberg

Lead image: Stocklight. Credit: Shutterstock.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

ANS -- What the climate movement must learn from religion

This is a shortish article on how to convince the unconvinced about the reality of climate change.  I wish it had more examples of what it wants us to do, but it's a great start.  It wasn't written by Sara Robinson, but was suggested to me by her. 
Find it here:  

What the climate movement must learn from religion

George Marshall
When preaching to the unconverted, activists need to offer the road to Damascus, not guilt and blame
Billy Graham's congregation
 A Billy Graham rally. 'In evangelical crusades people are called upon to step forward to accept a change in their life – what Billy Graham called the "altar call", or a moment of public commitment.' Photograph: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

Saturday 4 April 2015 05.00 EDT



Last September 40,000 people attended London's largest ever climate march. This was a big achievement for an issue that struggles to catch people's attention. After all, as psychologists point out, it is notoriously hard to mobilise people around issues that are invisible, uncertain, set in the future and require them to make sacrifices.

Or is it? This Easter, more than 2 million people will attend church in Britain to celebrate the Christian resurrection. They will agree to constrain their most primal drives in return for long-term rewards that are not just uncertain but fundamentally unknowable.

Put this way it seems obvious that the climate movement might learn some important lessons from religions – the world's oldest and, in many countries, fastest growing movements. But to say so is anathema and contravenes two rigidly policed boundaries: one between science and faith, and the other between liberal environmentalism and conservative religions. Climate scientists are particularly keen to keep well away from the language of belief. Australia's chief scientist, Ian Chubb, complains: "I am asked every day 'do you believe in climate change?' But it's not a belief. It's an understanding and interpretation of the evidence."

Evidence, though, comes in many forms. Social research shows clearly that the scientific data of climate change has proven unable to galvanise action. Cognitive psychology, supported in recent years by brain neuro-imaging, provides plentiful evidence that our analytic reasoning may accept the data but that we are only compelled to act by emotional triggers based on our values and core identity.

"Belief" is a poisoned word, mocked by sceptical pundits like Nigel Lawson who calls climate change a "new religion" Comparing empirical science with spiritual revelation is absurd and denigrates both sides. Climate change is not a belief. But it is a conviction: a condition of strongly held opinion, attained through a process of evaluation, leading to a commitment. We know virtually nothing about how people achieve their climate conviction because scientists and activists always assume that it is absorbed, as though through osmosis, by reading a book or watching a documentary. If Christianity were promoted like climate change, all it would need would be a few Gideon's Bibles and a website.

However, religions understand the process of conviction very well. They have to. The world's great religions are the winners from thousands of competing religions that managed to find the formulae for moving, exciting and persuading people.

Because climate activists do not recognise conviction, we do not recognise despair

Few have continued the experiments more consistently than the evangelical preachers who compete every day in the cultural marketplace for new converts and donors. Among them is Joel Hunter, the charismatic pastor of Northland church, the 30th largest "megachurch" in the USA.

Hunter preaches often, over the objections of his conservative church members, that climate change is a threat to God's creation, which he shares with them as a personal "epiphany". Hunter is an exceptionally skilled social organiser – having built his own congregation to over 15,000 – and enthusiastically accepted my invitation to draw out some key lessons for the climate movement.

For Hunter conviction needs to be carefully nurtured. The creation of a supportive community is essential. Only with this can people openly express their doubts and be offered help to "walk through it together". He then brings people to a moment of choice and invites them to make a public commitment. In evangelical crusades people are called upon to step forward to accept a change in their life – what Billy Graham called the "altar call". Finally, Hunter says, demonstrating this commitment to the unconvinced should then become a central part of people's activism.

John Houghton is the founding co-chair of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and a Methodist lay preacher. In 2002 he created an "altar call" for US evangelical leaders – many of them deeply sceptical about climate change – following a week of scientific study and prayer at Oxford University. Among those attendingwas Richard Cizik,then the lead political spokesperson for the National Association of Evangelicals, and one of the most powerful figures in the Christian right. To the horror of his colleagues, when Cizik returned he began talking about his "road to Damascus conversion to climate change" all over the US media. Like Houghton, Professor Brian Hoskins, the director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change, argues that scientific information needs this transformative moment. "Often what we do is provide the landscape in which Saint Paul can have his moment. We are creating the ether in which people can have that illumination."

Illumination? Conversion? Witness? Epiphany? These words never appear in the discussions of how we might engage people with climate change. Campaigners adopt some of the components – attending a march is a form of public commitment – but without understanding the entire package. Our websites and blogs proliferate, but we invest little in building a real-life community. We talk incessantly with each other but avoid looking beyond our own tribe.

We must reclaim the climate change debate from the political extremes

Because environmentalists do not recognise conviction, we do not recognise despair or grief. We have contempt for doubt and no one is ever at hand to "walk through it together". We expect people to deal with their hopes and fears in isolation, constrained by a socially policed silence and given no encouragement other than a few energy-saving consumer choices and the odd petition. Nor is there any discussion of forgiveness for ourselves or our forebears. As Hunter pointed out to me, we give people a heavy moral load of guilt, responsibility and blame, but no way out. The critics are right in this regard – if climate change really were a religion, it would be a wretched one, offering guilt, blame and fear but with no recourse to salvation or forgiveness.

Our understanding of climate change is built on scientific evidence, not faith. The faith displayed in the churches, mosques, and temples on every street is built on a deep understanding of human drives and emotions. Only when we put these different parts of our psyche together can we achieve change; to say to anyone who will listen: "I've heard the science, I've weighed up the evidence. Now I'm convinced. Join me."

Saturday, April 04, 2015

ANS -- You Cannot Be A Republican And A Christian

Here is a short article showing, briefly, how the Republicans have gone so far from where they started that they might as well be in another universe. 
Find it here:

SAT JUL 21, 2012 AT 12:00 PM PDT

You Cannot Be A Republican And A Christian

bySquareForceOne Follow
No one in American life today proclaims their allegiance to Christ more conspicuously than those who have rejected most of what Christ actually taught: Republicans. The modern Republican Party's hell-bent embodiment of nearly everything Christ warned against has become so serious that we have to call it out. You cannot be a Republican and a Christian.

Of course, it wasn't always this way. There was a time, maybe even as recently as the early 1990s, when to support the Republican Party was not altogether evil. And further back, of course, things were even more different. As Garrison Keillor once reminisced, Republicans used to be:
moderate, business-minded civic boosters and unapologetic patriots who were the linchpins and bulwarks of small towns across the Midwest, the enthusiastic backers of projects for the civic good, usually in partnership with the town liberals (the librarian, the bar owner, a lawyer or two, the Methodist minister, the banker's wife). These Republicans were uniters and diehard optimists and persons of compassionate conscience, inveterate doers of good deeds.

Even today, there are probably some Republicans who still fit that description. The problem is that they are for all practical purposes invisible in American public life, and if their party found out about them, they would be hounded out of it. If they dared to compete in the lunatic talent show of Republican primary politics, they wouldn't stand a chance.

The reason that you cannot be a Republican and a Christian is that today's Republican Party doesn't appear to stand for anything but what Christ strenuously rejected, like organized violence, self-righteous division, and greed. To say the least, this is hard to square with Christ's teachings and example. I am not a Christian, and I'm certainly no Biblical scholar, but you don't have to be. It's not hard to tell the difference between who is and isn't really a Christian, and Republicans, you're not.

• In Christ, we're talking about someone who said turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39) and that all those who take the sword will perish with the sword (Matthew 26:52).

• We're talking about someone who warned "judge not, that ye be not judged" (Matthew 7:1) and urged people not to look for a mote in someone else's eye while they have a beam stuck in their own (Matthew 7:3).

• We're talking about someone who said, "woe unto you that are rich!" (Luke 6:24) and, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." (Mark 10:25) Did Jesus ever have anything good to say about people who hoard wealth?

I know that many of Christ's teachings are open to interpretation, but so many of the people who make a point of asking "What would Jesus do?" seem to have no interest at all in the most likely answers. It's ironic that they have sometimes been referred to as "values voters," since their values are so devoid of value, at least from the Christian point of view. Their main interest in Christianity seems to be an expectation of being rewarded in the afterlife despite bad behavior while alive. And as for their leaders, beware wolves in sheep's clothing (Matthew 7:15). Most atheists and agnostics are truer Christians than this crew.

The impossibility of squaring what Christ actually taught with the words and deeds of today's Republican so-called Christians is what makes this all fair game. These people are hypocrites. These people conveniently ignore most of what Christ actually said. Christ would scold and hold these people accountable for their reckless and downright evil behavior--and many of them, given a chance, would re-crucify Christ if he came back today and taught the still-radical ideas he apparently advocated.

You can't have it both ways. You have to choose, because, today, you cannot be both a Republican and a Christian.



religious bigots

In response to the controversial laws in Indiana and other states
that allow bigoted people to claim religious privilege to be bigoted,
I want to quote Anne Johnson of The Gods Are Bored:

"Selling to sinners, you see, isn't a sin."

Find it here: