Enough is enough…..

30 07 2014

This little video came past me during a heated disussion over at The Conversation.  I have to say, it’s one of the very best things I’ve seen in a long time, it almost gives me hopium!  It originated from http://steadystate.org/enough-is-enough

The standout statement for me, who submerges himself in all this stuff and finds it harder and harder to learn something new was this:

“Growth is a substitute for equality of income.  So long as there is growth there is hope, and that makes large income differentials tolerable”

And who said this?  Henry Wallich, former Governor of the Federal Reserve…..  of course as the film reveals, equality of income is also a substitute for growth…  This film also deals with the predicament of debt well.  Tim Jackson, whose lecture on growth is featured elsewhere on DTM makes an appearance also.

Also making an appearance in this film is the idea of Guaranteed Minimum Income, a notion first introduced to me by my own son!

Also of interest, to me at least as a former member of the Australian Greens, is the appearance of a woman by the name of Natalie Bennett from the Green Party of England and Wales.  I really really wish the Australian Greens would explain their economic policies better.  Or at all.  I cannot ever remember either Bob Brown or Christine Milne doing anywhere near as good a job as Natalie Bennett does…..

All in all, I can’t recommend viewing this enough….  and it should be shared widely.





Collapse has begun…….

29 07 2014

Lock the Gate’s Central Queensland spokesperson, Ellie Smith, says the decision by Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt to approve the Carmichael Mine effectively admits that the mine will affect the Great Artesian Basin.

“You can’t build one of the biggest coal mine’s in the world without doing great damage to ground and surface water systems and the communities that depend on them,” she said.

“It’s not possible for any conditions to protect the bushland and water systems in the region from a mine this size – it is quite simply not safe and not appropriate.”

“Environment Minister Greg Hunt has ignored his own panel of top water scientists and is putting the Great Artesian Basin at further risk by allowing mine dewatering to drain the Basin.”

She warned investors of the risks involved in the project.

“If the conditions set by Minister Hunt and the Queensland Government are adhered to it will be a number of years before work can start at the site. Adani’s aggressive push into the Galilee Basin will fall apart when they begin to try to implement the promises they’ve made to the government.”

“Adani has a dreadful history of environmental vandalism yet both the state & federal government choose to ignore this”, she said.

So there you have it.  Nothing left now but a revolution, because nothing else will cut it……..





New Zealand’s Southern Alps have lost a third of their ice

29 07 2014

As if we needed more proof, along comes this shocking article I just had to share with my readers.  When Glenda and I visited New Zealand in 1975, there was no lake, or if there was, it was so small as to be an insignificant part of the landscape because I can’t remember one being there…..  this article is republished from The Conversation.

The Conversation

A third of the permanent snow and ice of New Zealand’s Southern Alps has now disappeared, according to our new research based on National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research aerial surveys. Since…





The completeness of it all

28 07 2014

Pedal Bin at well over a thousand degrees....

Pedal Bin at well over a thousand degrees….

Born of the Earth, Fired with the Sun

Born of the Earth, Fired with the Sun

I just had to share this latest post of Steve’s…… especially seeing as we just did a firing of our own; Glenda has again entered the Flying Arts competition, which she didn’t win last year, but some of her work was accepted for the travelling exhibitions. Let’s hope this year’s “Born of the Earth, Fired with the Sun” gets accepted…… or even better, wins! We could use the cash for when we move to Tassie.

Tonight my Fingers Smell of Garlic

I love the completeness of it all.

We have had all our firing partners back again for the unpacking of last weeks woodfiring. A lot of nice pots come from the kiln and everyone makes a line of human-chain to pass them all the way to the top of the kiln shed. It’s a slow process, as each and every pot is examined and discussed all along the way. 

These potters have helped pack the kiln with all of their own work. They have stacked the wood and stoked the fire. Shared meals together and stayed up all of the night in shifts to see the firing successfully reach the bright white heat of stoneware temperature, then fired down to a safe state, where the kiln could be left to cool un-attended.
Now we are all back together again to experience the un-bricking of the door. Cleaning and carefully stacking all our home-made, hand-made…

View original post 745 more words





Money rules….

28 07 2014

Over the past 15 or 20 years, society switched from being a society to being an economy.  Today, everything has a price, and nobody does anything anymore unless there’s “money in it”.  Take Universities; fifty years ago, one could go to University, for free, and just learn….  that’s what Universities were always for.  To learn.  Today Universities are all about money, and learning how to make money.  I clearly remember our son, who at the time was doing his first science degree, coming home from University one night, scathing of the number of people studying ‘business studies’ or economics or any number of other money making pursuits on offer at these institutions.

Alex now has two science degrees and a Master….. and can’t get work.  It was, admittedly, bad timing on his part, Australia has elected an anti-science government that only believes in making money and measuring everything society, oops I mean the economy, does in dollar terms.  An economy does not need scientists, it needs bean counters….  so funding for Australia’s premiere scientific organisation, CSIRO, is being defunded, and is now starting to sack scientists.  Just when we need them most.

Putting a price on everything was brought home succinctly the other day by George Monbiot who wrote:

So just at this moment, this perfect moment of the total moral and ideological collapse of the neoliberal capitalist system, some environmentalists stumble across it and say, “This is the answer to saving the natural world.” And they devise a series of ideas and theories and mechanisms which are supposed to do what we’ve been unable to do by other means: to protect the world from the despoilation and degradation which have done it so much harm.

I’m talking about the development of what could be called the Natural Capital Agenda: the pricing, valuation, monetisation, financialisation of nature in the name of saving it.

Sorry, did I say nature? We don’t call it that any more. It is now called natural capital. Ecological processes are called ecosystem services because, of course, they exist only to serve us. Hills, forests, rivers: these are terribly out-dated terms. They are now called green infrastructure. Biodiversity and habitats? Not at all à la mode my dear. We now call them asset classes in an ecosystems market. I am not making any of this up. These are the names we now give to the natural world.

How much longer this sad state of affairs can continue, no one knows, except that it can’t possibly last much longer.  Here is the latest shock from Bloomberg….:

For the past two decades, growth in the global economy spelled higher revenues for the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. Not any more.

The CHART OF THE DAY shows how last year was the first since 1993 that the value of OPEC’s total crude exports didn’t track the direction of global gross domestic product. The bottom panel shows how the group supplying about 40 percent of the world’s oil fetched lower average prices and also shipped fewer barrels year on year.

So there you have it……  the beginning of the end of the ‘bumpy plateau’ that shapes Peak Oil is about to end, and the beginning of the inexorable backside of Hubbert’s Curve is at hand.  This is as good as it gets, and all the things we value in dollars will soon be worthless.

Also of interest, and pertinent to the collapse of the plutocracy, I recently discovered this article….

Written by Nick Hanauer (a Seattle-based entrepreneur – never heard of him before now…), this telling article is a wake up call for his 0.1%er mates of his… He starts off by displaying his credentials as a filthy rich plutocrat – “You probably don’t know me, but like you I am one of those .01%ers, a proud and unapologetic capitalist. I have founded, co-founded and funded more than 30 companies across a range of industries—from itsy-bitsy ones like the night club I started in my 20s to giant ones like Amazon.com, for which I was the first nonfamily investor”, writes in the middle “I see pitchforks”, but ends with “If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It’s not if, it’s when.”

Wow……..  are they actually waking up to themselves?  Notice how he claims to be a 0.1%er, not a 1%er..?!

Gulfstream V – in case you didn’t know!

Here’s what I say to you: You’re living in a dream world. What everyone wants to believe is that when things reach a tipping point and go from being merely crappy for the masses to dangerous and socially destabilizing, that we’re somehow going to know about that shift ahead of time. Any student of history knows that’s not the way it happens. Revolutions, like bankruptcies, come gradually, and then suddenly. One day, somebody sets himself on fire, then thousands of people are in the streets, and before you know it, the country is burning. And then there’s no time for us to get to the airport and jump on our Gulfstream Vs and fly to New Zealand. That’s the way it always happens. If inequality keeps rising as it has been, eventually it will happen. We will not be able to predict when, and it will be terrible—for everybody. But especially for us.

George Monbiot seems to believe in the pitchforks…..  he ends his piece with “Well, ladies and gentlemen, it is no mystery… what do we do instead?  It is the same answer that it has always been. The same answer that it always will be. The one thing we just cannot be bothered to get off our bottoms to do, which is the only thing that works. Mobilisation.”

Never mind the pitchforks…….  bring back the guillotine!





The ‘pre-Holocene’ climate is returning – and it won’t be fun

25 07 2014

Republished from the Conversation.

A string of events earlier this year provided a sobering snapshot of a global climate system out of whack. Europe suffered devastating floods, Britain’s coastline was mauled, and the polar vortex cast…


The polar vortex played havoc with Niagara Falls (and much of the rest of North America too). EPA/Rick Warne

A string of events earlier this year provided a sobering snapshot of a global climate system out of whack. Europe suffered devastating floods, Britain’s coastline was mauled, and the polar vortex cast a US$5 billion economic chill over America. Meanwhile, an abnormally mild winter in Scandinavia disrupted bears’ hibernation; while Australia was ravaged by fires and record-breaking heat.

These happenings give us an idea of what life must have been like in the lead-up to the Holocene Epoch, living on the brink of seismic change, amid a series of abrupt climate shifts.

As the archaeologist Steven Mithen wrote in his book After the Ice:

People were thin on the ground and struggling with a deteriorating climate … massive ice sheets had expanded across much of North America, Northern Europe and Asia. The planet was inundated by drought, sea level had fallen to expose vast and often barren coastal plains. Human communities survived the harshest conditions by retreating to refugia where firewood and foodstuffs could still be found.

Since then, we have been lulled into a false sense of security by the ensuing 10,000-odd years of peaceful, stable climate during the Holocene itself. This has allowed us to tame crops and livestock, and to come together to form communities, villages and, ultimately, cities.

But the calm and tranquil Holocene has now been replaced by the Anthropocene – heralding a return to a volatile and destructive climate. Truly, we have woken an angry beast from its slumber.

From ice age to rapid warming

When the last ice age began to teeter 14,700 years ago, meltwater began to pour into the oceans, raising levels by up to half a metre per decade. The sea moved inland like a slow tsunami.

But after a hesitant couple of millennia of warmer conditions, the cold was back with a vengeance, turning western Asia and Europe into ice empires. This event, dubbed the Younger Dryas, derived from the collapse of the ice walls on Lake Agassiz in North America, sending freshwater flooding into the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. As a result it cut back the Gulf Stream, returning the planet to cool and dry conditions in a matter of decades, with the average Northern Hemisphere temperature plummeting by 7C.

These cold conditions lasted for about 1400 years. Then, just as rapidly, the warm and wet conditions returned, marking the beginning of the Holocene about 11,700 years ago.


Extent of the glacial Lake Agassiz roughly 7900 years ago. Several millennia earlier it dumped freshwater into the oceans, causing widespread cooling. Chris Light/Wikimedia Commons (derived from USGS data), CC BY-SA
Click to enlarge

Stable era

Since then, the world’s climate has remained remarkably stable – boring, even. The relatively static shorelines have made farming, fishing, towns and cities possible.

Humans have got used to thinking that this is a natural state of affairs. But, as James Hansen has declared, “it’s our relatively static experience of climate that is actually exceptional”.

Of course, there have been divergences from the norm, although these have thankfully been few and far between. One was 5000 years ago, when the Sahara went from a land of hippos and giraffes to desert in a mere 100-200 years.


In geological terms, the Sahara became a desert overnight. GaetanP123/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA
Click to enlarge

That event was caused by gradual changes to the Earth’s orientation towards the Sun. It shows us that even when the forces are gradual, the climate may not always respond gradually but instead can move in juddering, unpredictable shifts.

At about the same time, seismic change was happening in our own midst, with the eruption of Mount Gambier sending an ash plume up to 10 km high – an event that would have partially obscured the Sun.

Eruptions like this were the main cause of climate variability in the Holocene, causing cooler, drier episodes such as the “Mediaeval little ice age“.

Things are different now

Now, however, carbon dioxide has reached levels not seen for at least 3 million years, and fossil fuel emissions have become the dominant driver of the changes to our climate. In a world potentially several degrees warmer than the one that spawned our civilization, we had better ready ourselves for some surprises.

This isn’t alarmism; it’s just sensible risk management. Retired US Navy Rear Admiral David Titley, now head of Penn State’s Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk, pointed out that governments still spend money on defence, despite the declining number of people killed worldwide in war. He told the US Congress that “we rightly invest in our security and defence as one component of hedging against unknown or unlikely security risks”. Inaction on climate change violates that same fundamental risk-management principle.

What’s nature ever done for us?

Of course, nature will carry on regardless, albeit savaged. As the MIT physicist and humanities professor Alan Lightman has noted, “tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions happen without the slightest consideration for human inhabitants”.

Yet if we turn our backs on nature, while at the same time climbing the population hill to nine billion, we will create a horrid future for humanity’s survivors, with ongoing wild species extinctions and a world polluted by human-invented chemicals.

Some have predicted that, within just two or three centuries, we could be alone except for pets, chickens, livestock, and an unknown suite of microbes and freeloaders such as mice and cockroaches.

For a sneak preview of this “biosimplification”, look no further than the swathes of European countryside where there has been a crash in bird populations – no songs, no glimpses of plumage, just an eerie silence – as a result of the wholesale ripping up of hedgerows, draining of wetlands and ploughing over of meadows robbing farmland birds of their homes and sustenance in order to boost farming production.

That would leave us living in a drab, crummy landscape where surviving native plants cower in small niches away from the weeds; zoos exhibit a lost fauna; and biophilia is reduced to watching carp.

It’s surely a trajectory that’s worth getting off.





Peak Footwear

18 07 2014

I was reminded to write about this subject some weeks ago when a Tassie friend of mine started listing essential things needed post crash.  On that list was footwear.  Shoes and boots, to anyone thinking like me of moving to a colder climate, are high on the list of essential things.  You can get away with walking around bare feet in Queensland for most of the year, but I suspect in Tasmania it would be out of the question, especially during the wet Winter season…….

So why write about footwear you ask…..  can’t I afford to buy sturdy boots to walk around the property?

Look around today at what people wear on their feet, and you will see shoes entirely made of plastic – read OIL.  Joggers and even loads of cheaper footwear these days are no longer made of leather.  I expect that with oil still being relatively cheap, plastic is still not as dear as leather.  Personally, I can’t wear plastic shoes, they make my feet smell for starters, and I know it’s not a personal problem, because I can wear leather shoes with woollen socks for days on end without even washing the socks with zero foot odour.  It’s definitely the plastic, and I include synthetic socks here.

So what will happen come the day oil becomes too precious for food production?  Will Nike stop making plastic shoes?

Years ago, as I was still contemplating building our house, I decided it was time I bought myself some steel capped boots; safety on a building site is always in my mind, and wearing such boots has saved my toes many times from dropping concrete blocks and heavy pieces of timber on them.  Today I wear such boots as a matter of fact, the additional steel toe never really costs much more, as I will show further down this article…..

At about that time, we were planning a trip to the snow in the old Lada Niva; so I thought now was a good time to buy some boots, I could wear them in the snow, and wear them in at the same time.  Being scroungers, we started shopping for ski gear at op shops – we did after all have to buy stuff for four of us.  One of the op shops we visited had ‘never worn’ steel capped boots going real cheap.  They looked brand new, in their original boxes…  I tried them on, and I was rapt……  great looking boots for half the price of really new ones.

However, within just two days, the soles started completely falling apart……  now I don’t normally return things at op shops, but these were supposed to be ‘brand new’, and there were more in the shop, so I took them back and the op shop gladly replaced them.  The very next day we left for our epic trip.  When you drive a couple of thousand kilometres, you don’t tend to do a lot of walking, but soon enough, the soles on these boots started falling to pieces too, just sitting there behind the wheel of my car!  I was not impressed…..  buying shoes at Thredbo is not how one gets a bargain, let me tell you!!

To cut to the chase, I eventually bought a pair of Blundstones in Brisbane, and they lasted me many many years while building, climbing up ladders, dropping aforementioned concrete blocks on them, etc etc…..

Never worn, gathering dust

Never worn, gathering dust

heel peeling off

heel peeling off

But then, another boot buying event sparked my attention on the looming footwear problem.  At a nearby hardware store, they were selling shedloads of Makita tradies’ boots.  Normally costing $160 a pair (and we are talking maybe 2005), these quadruple stitched steel capped suede boots looked like they were worth $160, and they were going for $69!  So I stupidly bought three pairs, thinking I’d now be set for life, bootwise.  I even bought Glenda a pair.  My mate Dean down the road in Cooran did the same thing I recently discovered as we were discussing these self destructing boots…..

My Blunnies were starting to seriously wear out by now (but not falling apart…) and I switched to the Makitas.  Within six months, to my horror, they too started falling apart.  So I took them back.  The store exchanged them for new ones (I discovered they had bought Makita’s entire stock as Makita was getting out of all work apparel), but within a fairly short time, they too were falling apart.  I checked the as yet never worn spare sets….. and they were cracking too.  What on Earth was going on?

Old faithfuls..

Old faithfuls..

..falling apart with still plenty of tread

..falling apart with still plenty of tread

I decided that as my last set of Blunnies had served me so well, I’d buy another pair from the local farm produce store that stocked them.  To my amazement, the boots started falling to bits.  Some energetic googling found that shoes are now pretty well exclusively soled with Polyurethane, which has a shelf life of approximately five years, regardless of wear and tear.  Talk about planned obsolescence….  So, I reluctantly returned those boots too.  What I had also learned from google is that most boots have a stamp on the sole that tells you when the boot was made, usually consisting of a ring of numbers from 1 to 12, and the year in the middle with an arrow pointing to the month of the year the item was made.  So if your boot has a stamp saying 12 with an arrow pointing to 3, your shoe was made in March 2012.  Armed with this information, I rummaged through the shop’s entire stock of Blunnies my size, found the newest ones possible and went home.  Almost on queue, they fell apart five years after the manufacturing date.  I can’t tell you now exactly how long I wore them for, but it couldn’t have been more than a couple of years.  So I bought another pair somewhere else, this time Blundstone’s top of the range waterproof steel capped boots for the princely sum of $129.  So you see, it’s not like I was skimping….  I really did go for quality.  Unfortunately, three years on, these are now too badly cracked to wear, and they are definitely no longer waterproof.  More googling determined that Blundstone warn consumers about ‘Hydrolysis’…

What is hydrolysis damage?

Hydrolysis damage occurs when moisture builds up in the thousands of air bubbles found in the soles of the footwear.  If not worn for a considerable amount of time, or stored correctly, the moisture build-up causes the soles to break down.  If stored for an extended period of time, footwear with a polyurethane sole should be kept in a cool dry spot.

And I’m not the only one who’s discovered this problem…….

It now appears one cannot buy anything not soled with that dreaded Polyurethane crap.  And why would a quality brand use material for its soles that has “thousands of air bubbles“?  So two days ago, I bought a $30 pair of Chinese made steel capped boots from Aldi.  I’m sick of wasting my money on expensive shoes that don’t last the distance.  Even if I only get 12 months wear out of them – at least I know they are brand new this time! – then they will have been better value than anything I’ve bought over the past few years.

This, however, does not solve the problem of what we might be wearing in the future when shoe shops are far away, there’s no fuel to supply them let alone drive there, and we are left to our own devices for footwear.

I find it hilarious that when confronted with collapse, most people put toilet paper at the top of their list of things that will be hard to do without……  I’m much more concerned about footwear.  Some enterprising persons who know about leatherwork are likely to become highly prized members of any community if you ask me.