The Shoppingtrix

30 11 2013

For Australian readers who may not know what “Black Friday” is, it is the Friday following Thanksgiving in the US.  On that day, shops offer huge discount sales, and American shoppers go nuts…..  This piece is reblogged from but I thought of Australian Christmas shopping when I read it…..


Black Friday (Blue Pill) vs Buy Nothing Day (Red Pill)

Blue Pill enjoy shopping and blissful ignorance. Red Pill stop shopping, start living, be free.

The Shoppingtrix

NBAeus: Let me tell you why you’re here. You’re here because you know something. What you know you can’t explain, but you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life, that there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is, but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to Not Buying Anything. Do you know what I’m talking about?

Neo: Consumerism.

NBAeus: Yes. Consumerism is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work… when you go to church… when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.

Neo: What truth?

NBAeus: That you are more than a worker drone and consumer, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into wage slavery, consumer debt, and an endless shopping cycle. Into lifestyles that are excessive, unsustainable, and unlikely to bring happiness. The truth is out there, but it is your choice whether to accept it or not.

The Choice

Take the blue pill and you take the easy way out. You will ignore harsh realities and live in blissful ignorance.

You brave the elements and traffic jams to do your Black Friday shopping with thousands of other frantic bargain hunters. You continue consuming and do not notice that you are not happy. Ecological limits, notions of our fair share of the Earth’s resources, and moderation don’t exist for you. You desire more.

Take the red pill and you will have a free-thinking attitude. You will wake up from the “normal” lifestyle of work/shop/sleep/repeat.

You will observe Buy Nothing Day and spend the day doing things that actually make you happy. You awake to the fact that the thing wrong with the world is conspicuous consumption and greed. You see the individuals and institutions that are destroying life and freedom, and you develop ways to distance yourself from them. You desire simplicity.

Go with the red pill and you prefer the truth, no matter how gritty and painful it may be, because you know it is the way to freedom.

An ancient Zen philosopher said something that relates to what happens if we choose the red pill. The philosopher talked about how he did not do what other people do, did not have what other people have, and did not think the way other people think.

He was talking about how he was different from those who choose the blue pill.

“Do not think the red pill is easy” the free-thinking philosopher warned, “because to take it is to walk through a pit of fire.” I have found this to be true in my own life, and I have the burn marks on the soles of my feet to show for it.

It is hard going against the grain, but the rewards for doing so are ample and worthwhile. Don’t listen to advertisers that are blue pill pushers. Listen to your soul. Answer its pleas and choose the red pill.

NBAeus: This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe.

You take the red pill – you continue to visit Not Buying Anything and I show you how joyous simplicity can be.

Incubator Mk III

29 11 2013

Having dispatched all the eggs  from incubator MkII, I set about reconfiguring the whole affair to make it more energy efficient, and available to more eggs in one hit.  Over the past month as I eagerly awaited the birth of our ducklings, I put a lot of thought into how I could improve it.

The first thing I decided to do was improve the insulation, so I cut up another polystyrene box and inserted new walls on the inside.  This also decreased the volume of air to heat, but also decreased the floor area for eggs.  Can’t have everything I guess….  To improve the top, I simply used two lids, and did away with the glass window altogether.  The hatching process is so slow, you hardly need a window to see what’s going on!  I tried using glue between the two lids only to discover it dissolved the polystyrene, but it doesn’t need it anyway, the lamp batten holds it all together.

Halogen light bulb

The next thing I decided was that having the light at one end and the eggs at the other wasn’t so clever (so much for copying youtube makers of incubators – I can show them a trick or two now…!)  As an aside, I had already replaced the original incandescent bulb after it blew within two weeks, something I had sort of predicted would happen due to the frequent cycling it was subjected to in the MkI version.  The bulb in service now has a halogen lamp inside the glass bulb, which they reckon makes 40W of light with only 28W of electricity.  It works.  They have a two year warranty, so if they blow early because of how I’m using them…..  I’ll test the waters!


Rewired in the double lid

Because the heat received from the bulb is proportional to the square of the distance from the bulb, any eggs half the distance from the lamp as compared to those furthest away actually cop four times the heat, potentially either cooking the close ones, or underdoing the far ones.  So I moved the bulb to the middle of the lid.  That meant the control unit also had to be in the lid, needing just a quick rewire……  which caused me to spectacularly blow the lamp and trip the circuit breaker and safety switch!  The connectors on the back of the control unit are very close together, and I hadn’t pushed the active wires in far enough before tightening up the screws, and they must’ve touched the neutral wires, causing a dead short.  Ah well…. at least I proved all the safety devices in the meter box work!  And no one got hurt.  Second time around I used my multimeter to make sure it wouldn’t happen again.  Once bitten and all that…….

IMG_0544IMG_0543Now that the bulb is in the middle of the box, the water bottle I had put there for thermal mass could not stay there, so I replaced it with four 700mL glass bottles, and placed one in each corner, equidistant from the bulb, with no lids, allowing for evaporation to maintain humidity levels.  Doing it this way means I actually have a fair bit more control, because I can now adjust humidity by adding/removing lids to suit……

With sawdust in the bottom of the box instead of hay, I made a slight hollow in the middle such that the eggs at the bottom in the middle are closer to being the same distance from the lamp as the eggs that are at the far ends.

This new configuration allows for some twenty eggs to be in the box (twice as many as last time), and all things being equal and assuming that roughly the same proportion of eggs are fertile, we should have another six ducklings for Christmas.

Once the temperature of all the box’s contents had settled down, I timed the cycling of the lamp, and was utterly gobsmacked at the improvement.  The MkII box took around one minute to reheat from 37.3°C to 37.6°C, but the MkIII version does it in…… NINE SECONDS!  In fact, so much thermal momentum is built into the system now, that after the lamp goes off at 37.6°C, it actually momentarily builds up to 37.8°C before cooling back down to 37.3°C in about two minutes and forty seconds.  The new incubator should therefore use less than 20% of the energy the last one did.


Very cute…… AND delicious!

The newbies are now out on the front lawn in their protective cage, enjoying the 36°C scorching the BOM have forecast for today….. boy am I glad I don’t live in an incubator!  They’re eating and crapping just fine, and should make a nice dinner in three or four months time………

Incubator Report

27 11 2013

Well…….  the incubator did its job.  Three ducklings were born over the past 12 hours, but whether or not I will continue expending my precious solar power on this remains to be seen, because out of ten eggs, that is pretty much the success rate I have been getting with naturally incubated eggs.  I just broke the remaining seven eggs, and it was obvious not one of them had been fertilised, so the problem isn’t with the hens being good mothers, it’s the drakes making poor fathers!  I may give it one more go, after I reconfigure the whole thing with extra insulation and the light in the top in the centre of the box to give me more space for eggs.

The whole exercise was actually quite an eye opener.  Having delivered kid goats here, we were expecting that compared to

First tiny holes

First tiny holes

mammalian live birth egg hatching would be simple as…..  well nothing could be further from the truth!  From the time we started hearing the very faint tapping noises of the littlies trying to get out to the actual hatching took two days.

At hatching time, some 30% of the egg is air trapped in a void at the pointy end.  The duckling breaches this to start breathing, and starts tapping at the shell until it too is breached to get more air.  Eventually, the tiny tap tap taps turn into a small hole big enough to see the little creature inside.  But that is just the start of it.  Duck eggs have a tough and thick membrane inside them, and this must be disposed of before the shell can be cracked.

Internet research clearly states that interfering at this stage to help the little critters is a bad idea.  They are still

First one out

First one out

attached to what’s left of the yolk sac, and have to consume this as energy to perform the miracle of birthing.  Early separation from the yolk weakens the bird, and may kill it.

As they approach time to completely hatch, the weirdest thing occurs…..  they suck the yolk sac up their cloaca, giving them enough food and water storage to last up to 48 hours, just in case that’s how long it takes for the whole clutch of eggs to hatch.


Two down, one to go

The humidity at this stage is critical, because if they dry out too much, they can end up literally glued to the inside of the egg shell.  I had managed to control the environment inside the incubator to a pretty constant 37.5ºC (the black wire in the pics is the temperature sensor) and 80% humidity, but as the poor things started to look like they’d been struggling for a bit too long, Glenda the midwife decided to take charge by easing the shells with tweezers and administering water to unglue the poor things.  Not really sure what was not going right here….  but Glenda prevailed, and they all hatched successfully.

Free at last!

Free at last!

I was lucky enough to actually witness the last one hatching, and get photos of it all…

The three hatchings were staggered, with several hours between each one, and it’s fascinating to watch their development after leaving the egg.  The poor things come out utterly exhausted and just lie there for half an hour covered in gunk and looking like the proverbial ugly duckling.

The first born amazingly started preening the younger ones.  He’s started eating even, and may soon look like the cute fluffy yellow ducklings we all perceive as normal as he gains strength and preens himself dry.  As I type, I can hear them all chirping away inside the box!

“Lies – damn lies – and statistics”

27 11 2013

The quotation “Lies – damn lies – and statistics” is often attributed to Benjamin Disraeli, the 19th century British Prime Minister, but it’s far from certain he was the originator of this saying.  Recently, however, the Australian Bureau of statistics released its prognostications (read, own set of lies?) on the future of Australia’s population…. and what a clueless bunch they are!  No one at the ABS has read the Club of Rome’s Report obviously, nor do they seem to be aware of Climate Change, because some of their ‘prediction’ seem to me to be totally without environmental grounds.

As I published quite some time ago, world population, for all sorts of reasons discussed everywhere on this blog, is bang on target to start collapsing around 2025.  Now it could be argued that Australia, being a rich nation with loads of resources, might begin its path to population reduction somewhat later, but there is no way known that it will double by 2075…..  we can’t feed all those already here without fossil fuels, and there is no doubt, at least in my mind, that by 2075 fossil fuels will be no more than a faint memory in the people’s minds as they wonder what we were thinking as we squandered the whole lot on trivial pursuits like flying to overseas holiday destinations and driving oversized cars, merely because we could.

Highlights from the ABS projections include Perth overtaking Brisbane in 2028.  REALLY?  Where will all those people get their water from?  Desal plants (thousands of them…)?  Powered how?  In 2028, Australia will have already reached oil exhaustion, and may well have virtually none to do things with….  If I had to take a punt, I would guess Perth would begin to be abandoned by 2028.

How about this pearler…: “Melbourne and Sydney should be neck and neck by 2053, with 7.9 million people each.”  My guess is that there may be no more than “7.9 million people” in the WHOLE of Australia by 2053…..

AND: “The population of the Northern Territory is projected to grow from 240,000 people in 2012 to 360,000 people in 2040 (a 51 per cent increase)”  Sure……  it’ll be at least 2 degrees hotter by then, cyclones will be occurring with monotonous regularity, and there will be no energy to run airconditioners.  Sounds like just the place to be……

“Population projections are based on assumptions of future levels of fertility, life expectancy and migration, which are guided by recent population trends” continues the press release…..  Someone should tell the ABS that recent trends are on steroids, and these steroids are about to disappear.

About the only thing they got right was “Tasmania’s population is tipped to level out by 2040, and then begin falling”.  By 2040, most Australians may well be living in Tasmania.  Just saying……

Just in case you’re interested, there’s a little interactive toy here you can play with that demonstrates their predictions by capital cities.

‘Sleepwalking to Extinction’: Capitalism and the Destruction of Life and Earth

23 11 2013

Reblogged from

“even if we immediately replaced every fossil-fuel-powered electric generating plant on the planet with 100% renewable solar, wind and water power, this would only reduce global GHG emissions by around 17%.”

When, on May 10th, scientists at Mauna Loa Observatory on the big island of Hawaii announced that global CO2 400ppm
emissions had crossed a threshold at 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time in millions of years, a sense of dread spread around the world and not only among climate scientists. CO2 emissions have been relentlessly climbing since Charles David Keeling first set up his tracking station near the summit of Mauna Loa Observatory in 1958 to monitor average daily global CO2 levels. At that time, CO2 concentrations registered 315 ppm. CO2 emissions and atmospheric concentrations have been rising ever since and have recently passed a dangerous tipping point: 440ppm.

For all the climate summits, promises of “voluntary restraint,” carbon trading and carbon taxes, the growth of CO2 emissions and atmospheric concentrations have not just been unceasing, they have been accelerating in what scientists have dubbed the “Keeling Curve.” In the early 1960s, CO2 ppm concentrations in the atmosphere grew by 0.7ppm per year. In recent decades, especially as China has industrialized, the growth rate has tripled to 2.1 ppm per year. In just the first 17 weeks of 2013, CO2 levels jumped by 2.74 ppm compared to last year.

Carbon concentrations have not been this high since the Pliocene period, between 3m and 5m years ago, when global average temperatures were 3˚C or 4˚C hotter than today, the Arctic was ice-free, sea levels were about 40m higher and jungles covered northern Canada; Florida, meanwhile, was under water along with other coastal locations we now call New York, London, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Sydney and many others. Crossing this threshold has fuelled fears that we are fast approaching converging “tipping points” — melting of the subarctic tundra or the thawing and releasing of the vast quantities of methane in the Arctic sea bottom — that will accelerate global warming beyond any human capacity to stop it.

“I wish it weren’t true, but it looks like the world is going to blow through the 400 ppm level without losing a beat,” said Scripps Institute geochemist Ralph Keeling, son of Charles Keeling.

“At this pace, we’ll hit 450 ppm within a few decades.”

“It feels like the inevitable march toward disaster,” said Maureen E. Raymo, a scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, a unit of Columbia University.

Why are we marching toward disaster, “sleepwalking to extinction” as the Guardian’s George Monbiot once put it? Why can’t we slam on the brakes before we ride off the cliff to collapse? I’m going to argue here that the problem is rooted in the requirement of capitalist production. Large corporations can’t help themselves; they can’t change or change very much. So long as we live under this corporate capitalist system we have little choice but to go along in this destruction, to keep pouring on the gas instead of slamming on the brakes, and that the only alternative — impossible as this may seem right now — is to overthrow this global economic system and all of the governments of the 1% that prop it up and replace them with a global economic democracy, a radical bottom-up political democracy, an eco-socialist civilization.

Although we are fast approaching the precipice of ecological collapse, the means to derail this train wreck are in the making as, around the world we are witnessing a near simultaneous global mass democratic “awakening” — as the Brazilians call it — from Tahir Square to Zucotti Park, from Athens to Istanbul to Beijing and beyond such as the world has never seen. To be sure, like Occupy Wall Street, these movements are still inchoate, are still mainly protesting what’s wrong rather than fighting for an alternative social order. Like Occupy, they have yet to clearly and robustly answer that crucial question: “Don’t like capitalism, what’s your alternative?” Yet they are working on it, and they are for the most part instinctively and radically democratic; in this lies our hope.

Capitalism is, overwhelmingly, the main driver of planetary ecological collapse

From climate change to natural resource overconsumption to pollution, the engine that has powered three centuries of accelerating economic development, revolutionizing technology, science, culture and human life itself is, today, a roaring out-of-control locomotive mowing down continents of forests, sweeping oceans of life, clawing out mountains of minerals, pumping out lakes of fuels, devouring the planet’s last accessible natural resources to turn them into “product,” while destroying fragile global ecologies built up over eons of time. Between 1950 and 2000 the global human population more than doubled from 2.5 to 6 billion. But in these same decades, consumption of major natural resources soared more than sixfold on average, some much more. Natural gas consumption grew nearly twelvefold, bauxite (aluminium ore) fifteenfold. And so on. At current rates, Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson says that “half the world’s great forests have already been levelled and half the world’s plant and animal species may be gone by the end of this century.”

Corporations aren’t necessarily evil, though plenty are diabolically evil, but they can’t help themselves. They’re just doing what they’re supposed to do for the benefit of their shareholders. Shell Oil can’t help but loot Nigeria and the Arctic and cook the climate. That’s what shareholders demand. BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and other mining giants can’t resist mining Australia’s abundant coal and exporting it to China and India. Mining accounts for 19% of Australia’s GDP and substantial employment even as coal combustion is the single worst driver of global warming. IKEA can’t help but level the forests of Siberia and Malaysia to feed the Chinese mills building their flimsy disposable furniture (IKEA is the third largest consumer of lumber in the world). Apple can’t help it if the cost of extracting the “rare earths” it needs to make millions of new iThings each year is the destruction of the eastern Congo — violence, rape, slavery, forced induction of child soldiers, along with poisoning local waterways. Monsanto and DuPont and Syngenta and Bayer Crop Science have no choice but to wipe out bees, butterflies, birds, small farmers and extinguish crop diversity to secure their grip on the world’s food supply while drenching the planet in their Roundups and Atrazines and neonicotinoids.

This is how giant corporations are wiping out life on earth in the course of a routine business day. And the bigger the corporations grow, the worse the problems become.

In Adam Smith’s day, when the first factories and mills produced hat pins and iron tools and rolls of cloth by the thousands, capitalist freedom to make whatever they wanted didn’t much matter because they didn’t have much impact on the global environment. But today, when everything is produced in the millions and billions, then trashed today and reproduced all over again tomorrow, when the planet is looted and polluted to support all this frantic and senseless growth, it matters — a lot.

The world’s climate scientists tell us we’re facing a planetary emergency. They’ve been telling us since the 1990s that if we don’t cut global fossil fuel greenhouse gas emissions by 80-90% below 1990 levels by 2050 we will cross critical tipping points and global warming will accelerate beyond any human power to contain it. Yet despite all the ringing alarm bells, no corporation and no government can oppose growth and, instead, every capitalist government in the world is putting pedal to the metal to accelerate growth, to drive us full throttle off the cliff to collapse.

Marxists have never had a better argument against capitalism than this inescapable and apocalyptic “contradiction.” Solutions to the ecological crisis are blindingly obvious but we can’t take the necessary steps to prevent ecological collapse because, so long as we live under capitalism, economic growth has to take priority over ecological concerns.

We all know what we have to do: suppress greenhouse gas emissions. Stop over-consuming natural resources. Stop the senseless pollution of the earth, waters, and atmosphere with toxic chemicals. Stop producing waste that can’t be recycled by nature. Stop the destruction of biological diversity and ensure the rights of other species to flourish. We don’t need any new technological breakthroughs to solve these problems. Mostly, we just stop doing what we’re doing. But we can’t stop because we’re all locked into an economic system in which companies have to grow to compete and reward their shareholders and because we all need the jobs.

James Hansen, the world’s preeminent climate scientist, has argued that to save the humans:

“Coal emissions must be phased out as rapidly as possible or global climate disasters will be a dead certainty … Yes, [coal, oil, gas] most of the fossil fuels must be left in the ground. That is the explicit message that the science provides. […] Humanity treads today on a slippery slope. As we continue to pump greenhouse gases in the air, we move onto a steeper, even more slippery incline. We seem oblivious to the danger — unaware of how close we may be to a situation in which a catastrophic slip becomes practically unavoidable, a slip where we suddenly lose all control and are pulled into a torrential stream that hurls us over a precipice to our demise.”

But how can we do this under capitalism? After his climate negotiators stonewalled calls for binding limits on CO2 emissions at Copenhagen, Cancun, Cape Town and Doha, President Obama is now trying to salvage his environmental “legacy” by ordering his EPA to impose “tough” new emissions limits on existing power plants, especially coal-fired plants. But this won’t salvage his legacy or, more importantly, his daughters’ futures because how much difference would it make, really, if every coal-fired power plant in the U.S. shut down tomorrow when U.S. coal producers are free to export their coal to China, which they are doing, and when China is building another coal-fired power plan every week? The atmosphere doesn’t care where the coal is burned. It only cares how much is burned.

Yet how could Obama tell American mining companies to stop mining coal? This would be tantamount to socialism. But if we do not stop mining and burning coal, capitalist freedom and private property is the least we’ll have to worry about. Same with Obama’s “tough” new fuel economy standards. In August 2012 Obama boasted that his new Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards would “double fuel efficiency” over the next 13 years to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, up from 28.6 mpg at present — cutting vehicle CO2 emissions in half, so helping enormously to “save the planet.” But as the Center for Biological Diversity and other critics have noted, Obama was lying, as usual.

Four tonne Ford Excursion

First, his so-called “tough” new CAFE standards were so full of loopholes, negotiated with Detroit, that they actually encourage more gas-guzzling, not less. That’s because the standards are based on a sliding scale according to “vehicle footprints” — the bigger the car, the less mileage it has to get to meet its “standard.” So in fact Obama’s “tough” standards are (surprise) custom designed to promote what Detroit does best — produce giant Sequoias, mountainous Denalis, Sierras, Yukons, Tundras and Ticonderogas, Ram Chargers and Ford F series luxury trucks, grossly obese Cadillac Escalades, soccer-kid Suburbans, even 8,000 (!) pound Ford Excursions — and let these gross gas hogs meet the “fleet standard.” These cars and “light” trucks are among the biggest selling vehicles in America today (GM’s Sierra is #1) and they get worse gas mileage than American cars and trucks half a century ago. Cadillac’s current Escalade gets worse mileage than its chrome bedecked tail fin-festooned land yachts of the mid-1950s! Little wonder Detroit applauded Obama’s new CAFE standards instead of damning them as usual. Secondly, what would it matter even if Obama’s new CAFE standards actually did double fleet mileage — when American and global vehicle fleets are growing exponentially?

populationCO2In 1950 Americans had one car for every three people. Today we have 1.2 cars for every American. In 1950 when there were about 2.6 billion humans on the planet, there were 53 million cars on the world’s roads — about one for every 50 persons. Today, there are 7 billion people but more than 1 billion cars and industry forecasters expect there will be 2 to 2.5 billion cars on the world’s roads by mid-century. China alone is expected to have a billion. So, at the end of the day, incremental half measures like CAFE standards can’t stop rising GHG missions. Barring some technical miracle, the only way to cut vehicle emissions is to just stop making them — drastically suppress vehicle production, especially of the worst gas hogs.

In theory, Obama could simply order GM to stop building its humongous gas guzzlers and switch to producing small economy cars. After all, the federal government owns the company! But of course, how could he do any such thing? Detroit lives by the mantra “big car big profit, small car small profit.” Since Detroit has never been able to compete against the Japanese and Germans in the small car market, which is already glutted and nearly profitless everywhere, such an order would only doom GM to failure, if not bankruptcy (again) and throw masses of workers onto the unemployment lines. So given capitalism, Obama is, in fact, powerless. He’s locked in to promoting the endless growth of vehicle production, even of the worst polluters — and lying about it all to the public to try to patch up his pathetic “legacy.” And yet, if we don’t suppress vehicle production, how can we stop rising CO2 emissions?

In the wake of the failure of climate negotiators from Kyoto to Doha to agree on binding limits on GHG emissions, exasperated British climate scientists Kevin Anderson and Alice Bows at the Tyndall Centre, Britain’s leading climate change research center, wrote in September 2012 that we need an entirely new paradigm:

Government policies must “radically change” if “dangerous” climate change is to be avoided “We urgently need to acknowledge that the development needs of many countries leave the rich western nations with little choice but to immediately and severely curb their greenhouse gas emissions… [The] misguided belief that commitments to avoid warming of 2˚C can still be realized with incremental adjustments to economic incentives. A carbon tax here, a little emissions trading there and the odd voluntary agreement thrown in for good measure will not be sufficient … long-term end-point targets (for example, 80% by 2050) have no scientific basis. What governs future global temperatures and other adverse climate impacts are the emissions from yesterday, today and those released in the next few years.”

And not just scientists. In its latest world energy forecast released on November 12, 2012, the International Energy Agency (IEA) warns that despite the bonanza of fossil fuels now made possible by fracking, horizontal and deepwater drilling, we can’t consume them if we want to save the humans: “The climate goal of limiting global warming to 2˚C is becoming more difficult and costly with each year that passes… no more than one-third of proven reserves of fossil fuels can be consumed prior to 2050 if the world is to achieve the 2˚C goal…” Of course the science could be wrong about this. But so far climate scientists have consistently underestimated the speed and ferocity of global warming, and even prominent climate change deniers have folded their cards.

Still, it’s one thing for James Hansen or Bill McKibben to say we need to “leave the coal in the hole, the oil in the soil, the gas under the grass,” to call for “severe curbs” in GHG emissions — in the abstract. But think about what this means in our capitalist economy. Most of us, even passionate environmental activists, don’t really want to face up to the economic implications of the science we defend.

That’s why, if you listen to environmentalists like Bill McKibben for example, you will get the impression that global warming is mainly driven by fossil fuel powered electric power plants, so if we just “switch to renewables” this will solve the main problem and we can carry on with life more or less as we do now. Indeed, “green capitalism” enthusiasts like Thomas Friedman and the union-backed “green jobs” lobby look to renewable energy, electric cars and such as “the next great engine of industrial growth” — the perfect win-win solution. This is a not a solution. This is a delusion: greenhouse gasses are produced across the economy not just by power plants. Globally, fossil-fuel-powered electricity generation accounts for 17% of GHG emissions, heating accounts for 5%, miscellaneous “other” fuel combustion 8.6%, industry 14.7%, industrial processes another 4.3%, transportation 14.3%, agriculture 13.6%, land use changes (mainly deforestation) 12.2%. This means, for a start, that even if we immediately replaced every fossil-fuel-powered electric generating plant on the planet with 100% renewable solar, wind and water power, this would only reduce global GHG emissions by around 17%.

What this means is that, far from launching a new green-energy-powered “industrial growth” boom, barring some tech-fix miracle, the only way to impose “immediate and severe curbs” on fossil fuel production/consumption would be to impose an EMERGENCY CONTRACTION in the industrialized countries: drastically retrench and in some cases shut down industries, even entire sectors, across the economy and around the planet — not just fossil fuel producers but all the industries that consume them and produce GHG emissions — autos, trucking, aircraft, airlines, shipping and cruise lines, construction, chemicals, plastics, synthetic fabrics, cosmetics, synthetic fiber and fabrics, synthetic fertilizer and agribusiness CAFO operations.

Of course, no one wants to hear this because, given capitalism, this would unavoidably mean mass bankruptcies, global economic collapse, depression and mass unemployment around the world. That’s why in April 2013, in laying the political groundwork for his approval of the XL pipeline in some form, President Obama said “the politics of this are tough.” The earth’s temperature probably isn’t the “number one concern” for workers who haven’t seen a raise in a decade; have an underwater mortgage; are spending $40 to fill their gas tank, can’t afford a hybrid car; and face other challenges.” Obama wants to save the planet but given capitalism his “number one concern” has to be growing the economy, growing jobs. Given capitalism — today, tomorrow, next year and every year — economic growth will always be the overriding priority … till we barrel right off the cliff to collapse.

The necessity of denial and delusion

There’s no technical solution to this problem and no market solution either. In a very few cases — electricity generation is the main one — a broad shift to renewables could indeed sharply reduce fossil fuel emissions in that sector. But if we just use “clean” “green” energy to power more growth, consume ever more natural resources, then we solve nothing and would still be headed to collapse. Producing millions of electric cars instead of millions of gasoline-powered cars, as I explained elsewhere, would be just as ecologically destructive and polluting, if in somewhat different ways, even if they were all run on solar power.

Substituting biofuels for fossil fuels in transportation just creates different but no less environmentally-destructive problems: converting farm land to raise biofuel feedstock pits food production against fuels. Converting rainforests, peatlands, savannas or grasslands to produce biofuels releases more CO2 into the atmosphere than the fossil fuels they replace and accelerates species extinction. More industrial farming means more demand for water, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. And so on. Cap and trade schemes can’t cut fossil fuel emissions because business understands, even if some environmentalists do not, that “dematerialization” is a fantasy, that there’s no win-win tech solution, that capping emissions means cutting growth. Since cutting growth is unacceptable to business, labor and governments, cap and trade has been abandoned everywhere.

Carbon taxes can’t stop global warming either because they do not cap emissions. That’s why fossil fuel execs like Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil (the largest private oil company in the world) and Paul Anderson, CEO of Duke Energy (the largest electric utility in the U.S.) support carbon taxes. They understand that carbon taxes would add something to the cost of doing business, like other taxes, but they pose no limit, no “cap” on growth. ExxonMobil predicts that, carbon tax or no carbon tax, by 2040 global demand for energy is going to grow by 35%, 65% in the developing world and nearly all of this is going to be supplied by fossil fuels. ExxonMobil is not looking to “leave the oil in the soil” as a favor to Bill McKibben and the humans. ExxonMobil is looking to pump it and burn it all as fast as possible to enrich its shareholders.

Hansen, McKibben, Obama — and most of us really — don’t want to face up to the economic implications of the need to put the brakes on growth and fossil fuel-based overconsumption. We all “need” to live in denial, and believe in delusions that carbon taxes or some tech fix will save us because we all know that capitalism has to grow or we’ll all be out of work. And the thought of replacing capitalism seems so impossible, especially given the powers arrayed against change. But what’s the alternative? In the not-so-distant future, this is all going to come to a screeching halt one way or another — either we seize hold of this out-of-control locomotive, or we ride this train right off the cliff to collapse.

Emergency Contraction or Global Ecological Collapse?

If there’s no market mechanism to stop plundering the planet then, again, what alternative is there but to impose an emergency contraction on resource consumption?

This doesn’t mean we would have to de-industrialize and go back to riding horses and living in log cabins. But it does mean that we would have to abandon the “consumer economy” — shut down all kinds of unnecessary, wasteful and polluting industries from junkfood to cruise ships, disposable Pampers to disposable H&M clothes, disposable IKEA furniture, endless new model cars, phones, electronic games, the lot. Plus all the banking, advertising, junk mail, most retail, etc. We would have completely redesign production to replace “fast junk food” with healthy, nutritious, fresh “slow food,” replace “fast fashion” with “slow fashion,” bring back mending, alterations and local tailors and shoe repairmen. We would have to completely redesign production of appliances, electronics, housewares, furniture and so on to be as durable and long-lived as possible. Bring back appliance repairmen and such. We would have to abolish the throwaway disposables industries, the packaging and plastic bag industrial complex, bring back refillable bottles and the like. We would have to design and build housing to last for centuries, to be as energy efficient as possible, to be reconfigurable, and shareable. We would have to vastly expand public transportation to curb vehicle use but also build those we do need to last and be shareable like Zipcar or Paris’ municipally-owned “Autolib” shared electric cars.

These are the sorts of things we would have to do if we really want to stop overconsumption and save the world. All these changes are simple, self-evident, no great technical challenge. They just require a completely different kind of economy, an economy geared to producing what we need while conserving resources for future generations of humans and for other species with which we share this planet.

The spectre of eco-democratic revolution

Economic systems come and go. Capitalism has had a 300 year run. The question is: will humanity stand by and let the world be destroyed to save the profit system?

That outcome depends to a great extent on whether we on the left can answer that question “what’s your alternative?” with a compelling and plausible vision of an eco-socialist civilization. We have our work cut out for us. But what gives the growing global eco-socialist movement an edge in this ideological struggle is that capitalism has no solution to the ecological crisis, no way to put the brakes on collapse, because its only answer to every problem is more of the same growth that’s killing us.

“History” was supposed to have “ended” with the fall of communism and the triumph of capitalism two decades ago. Yet today, history is very much alive and it is, ironically, capitalism itself which is being challenged more broadly than ever and found wanting for solutions.

Today, we are very much living in one of those pivotal world-changing moments in history. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that this is the most critical moment in human history.

We may be fast approaching the precipice of ecological collapse, but the means to derail this train wreck are in the making as, around the world, struggles against the destruction of nature, against dams, against pollution, against overdevelopment, against the siting of chemical plants and power plants, against predatory resource extraction, against the imposition of GMOs, against privatization of remaining common lands, water and public services, against capitalist unemployment and precarité are growing and building momentum.

Today we are riding a swelling wave of near simultaneous global mass democratic “awakening,” an almost global mass uprising. This global insurrection is still in its infancy, still unsure of its future, but its radical democratic instincts are, I believe, humanity’s last best hope.

Let’s make history!

This article is an excerpt from Smith’s essay, “Capitalism and the destruction of life on Earth,” published in the Real-World Economics Review.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Destroys Shepherd’s Life and Sheep

22 11 2013

Reblogged from

The Matrix knows no bounds.  And they say Canada’s a civilised country………  HOW do we stand up to these criminals?

I am not a criminal. I’m a shepherd, farmer and writer who has been preserving rare breed Shropshire sheep for the last 12 years and farming various other heritage breeds and vegetables for the last 30.

Then, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) descended …uninvited… into my life, onto my farm, and forever changed the course of both. They killed my beautiful ewes and their unborn lambs to find out if they were healthy. They were.Now they are dead.

The CFIA and Minister of Agriculture ignored over 5,000 people who signed a petition to stop the killing. Their massacre of my rare genetics resulted in the Shropshire population falling to fewer than 80 heritage females left in all of Canada.The domino effect since they appeared has been devastating, it’s been a downward spiral from their first invasion. I keep telling myself “There are worse things”, and hang on.

Now the CFIA has charged myself, raw milk activist farmer Michael Schmidt and 2 others with numerous criminal charges including conspiracy, all for allegedly trying to save Canada’s heritage sheep.I now have no income, no transportation, and am battling depression and post traumatic stress. I’m facing foreclosure and an astonishing $100,000. dollar legal defense fee for the upcoming criminal trial.
If convicted, I face up to 12 YEARS IN JAIL and fines of $1.5 million.

It’s not easy to admit, but pride aside—I need help.

It’s up to all of us to change unreasonable policies that prevent our food and farming freedom and destroy our agricultural biodiversity. We must protect our heritage breeds, our heirloom seeds, my farm…other small farms.This dismal chapter of mine is just a detail—I’m not going to lay down just because I’m cold or broke or steamrollered by government. I am standing up, despite them.

If I lose the farm—they win. And that would be another of their many wrongs.Please help me keep my home – and keep the farm going. Any help you can offer WILL make a difference!

You can find the whole story on or on the Save Our Shrops Facebook Page . With your help, we’ll breathe life back into this farm once again.Thank-you so much… please help spread word of this situation and share.


By M. Jones

THIS is how you Send a Message to Big Coal!

20 11 2013

Reblogged from

Ben Pennings

Ben Pennings

Big Coal? We’re talking the biggest. The Galilee Basin is the biggest proposed coal complex in the world. The numbers are staggering, frightening; well past the point of insanity.

The great news is that the nine mines planned are very marginal economically. The ‘quality’ of coal is low, the price of coal is low, and the debt levels of many companies involved are high. However, a company called Aurizon is planning to bail out the debt-ridden company GVK, allowing them to dig up the first 2 mines. These mines alone would be responsible for carbon pollution 6 times that of the UK.

A broad cross-section of the mainstream environment movement have signalled their intentions towards Aurizon, but thus far been pretty much ignored. Millions of emails have gone unheard. Aurizon continues unabated towards investing billions to mine the Galilee Basin, before solar makes it completely economically unviable.

The Over Our Dead Bodies campaign is adding a new dimension to the decision-making processes of Aurizon, and has garnered significant interest from both the company and police. Aurizon now face sustained direct action and civil disobedience strategies, on top of the increasing pressure from mainstream groups. The campaign is blatantly honest, starting to document the number of activists in Australia and globally who will do whatever it takes to stop Aurizon.

Activists started the campaign by stealing a ‘carbon bomb’ from their offices, visiting the CEO’s mansion (twice) and messing with their football sponsorship. All in one weekend. While also hunger striking! But the real deal is still to come.

How can activists be honest with Aurizon about what may be on the way? Go along to their AGM of course! I was one of twelve activists who bought enough shares to attend and ask questions that were not the usual fare. For the first time in AGM history (as far as we know), activists asked audacious questions to directly challenge a company about the security, insurance, industrial action and recruitment costs related to direct action by environmental activists – providing an honest warning to shareholders of risks the company has thus far refused to disclose.

A multi-organisation protest was also held outside the AGM venue. Police inside and outside the AGM outnumbered protesters two to one – uniformed, plain clothes, photographers and high-ranking officers. Walking from our briefing to the venue, the anti-terrorism police made their presence known, greeting me by name. As did other officers throughout the morning. Nice to be loved! Here’s one of the anti-terrorism police ‘Aaron’ (real name is Bruce) talking to an activist on the day.

DSCF6840 med

Activists know they can’t stop Aurizon’s plans through appealing to their ethics or values. Those who have tried have failed. The chair of the board John Prescott confirmed this belief when answering the first question:

“The fundamental business of this company is transportation, the majority of it by heavy haul rail systems, and a key part of that is certainly the carriage of coal… it is a fundamental part of this company’s business to carry coal for interested customers. It is a perfectly legitimate activity and it is one that to withdraw from would not be in the interest of shareholders, customers, employees, and the communities in which we serve.”

He also admitted to shareholders in this first exchange that Aurizon “have not made any estimates” when asked about the costs of activism by organisations with many millions of members. This is an important admission but the point needed to be laboured. The next question about their security strategies got right to it:

“It seems to me that Aurizon are very vulnerable to direct action strategies from environmentalist groups. Given you have thousands of kilometres of rail line and have difficult to secure facilities around the country, what strategies do you have in mind to secure what seems to be in-securable?”

 After questions about climate change, water and the future of coal, it got serious with a question about targeting the board and executives:

 “As Aurizon’s planned investment in the coal mines in the Galilee Basin (involves releasing) truly massive amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, threatening life as we know it on this planet, such a radical step calls for a radical response. Are you aware that over two hundred activists from one group alone have thus far committed to use direct action against the Aurizon Board of Executives to remind them of their personal responsibility regarding runaway climate change; and given they claim to have home addresses of most of the board members and senior executives, and considering activists have already visited the CEO’s home twice, are you concerned that executives and board members will leave the company if they are seriously challenged in their homes and neighbourhoods about these responsibilities, their responsibilities beyond Aurizon, responsibilities to the future of all of our children, our grandchildren, the community, country and the world we live in?”

Despite protestations, a further audacious question was asked, this time about stopping trains with cardboard boxes:

“In 2011, an activist stopped a coal train in New South Wales using a lightweight box contraption. Now he was inside that box, but it’s easily conceivable that you could stop a coal train with an empty cardboard box. Now given you’ve got thousands of kilometres of track, how do you envisage oversight over those tracks and managing that; I can see it would be quite easy for activists to stop coal trains and get away with it scot free. So is there a cost each time a train is stopped like this, and have you factored those kinds of costs into your business plans?”

Just by chance, this happened to be outside the building when shareholders left the meeting.



You can imagine the company (and some shareholders) were not too happy with such questions. The chair of the board said repeatedly that they would not divulge security strategies, but it seemed reasonably clear such strategies did not exist. But the shareholders did respond with applause to the question about coal dust, public health, and the excessive salary of the CEO:

“My question is to Lance Hockridge, CEO, and my concern is about dust. I’ve been reading a bit in the media the last few months about coal dust coming from wagons and about the particles, and the doctors and health experts’ concerns about the dust particles; the larger ones and the smaller ones which can get lodged in the lungs and in the bloodstream and the concern, particularly for children… My question, given that Aurizon has so far refused to cover the coal wagons and that there is quite a bit of public outcry about this issue is, Lance, you earned $6 million more than the average Australian last financial year, would you personally be willing to donate some money to stop the damage to public health, and if not, would you personally live on a railway line and breathe in what you transport?”

That question was bound to be popular but this question hit a different nerve:

“Are you concerned that once environmental activists start direct action strategies that your unionised staff will undertake industrial action due to perceived safety risks? Have you factored in these potential massive costs to your investment in the Galilee?”

A shareholder responded to this, saying she was “absolutely appalled at the suggestion that lives would be put at risk because of ideological beliefs.” I jumped up to defend this activist before question time ended. It is Aurizon in fact who are putting millions of lives at risk over an ideological belief, the belief that profit by any legal means trumps ethical considerations, or a livable planet for that matter.

After the AGM some shareholders spoke freely with activists. Many were concerned about climate change, coal dust, and the shortening future of the coal industry. Aurizon have since sent a strongly worded legal letter, threatening a Supreme Court injunction against Generation Alpha, Over Our Dead Bodies and their ‘members’. What a shame that Generation Alpha is a Facebook page, Over Our Dead Bodies is a website, and neither have members!

Aurizon write that they are ‘disappointed’ in us, and if we do what they say we’ve threatened, we’re in big trouble! But now they just have to wait and prepare, knowing they can do little to stop the next move by the 221 (and counting) activists who have said “Over Our Dead Bodies”


Written by Ben Pennings. Please consider supporting the campaign with your time or money here.