Faith When it Counts

February 28, 2007

Matters of faith are becoming more important to me as I get older. This isn’t the case for everyone of course, but it is happening to me. I was raised in a pretty liberal mainline denomination, drifted away in my later teenage years, spent most of my twenties either not thinking about such things at all, and only getting re-interested in the subject once I had small children and entered the ‘is this really all there is?’ phase of my life. I’m still investigating things and, being an compulsive reader, will probably continue to do so for quite a while. As we enter the Long Emergency, I think religion and spiritual matters in general will become more important in many people’s lives.

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Shifting to the Downscaling Paradigm

February 24, 2007

I’ve been reading a lot of interesting items online recently that for some reason seem to be coalescing into a common thread in my brain.

  • Fellow Groovy Green contributor Miranda has an interesting post on our culture’s sense of entitlement, and how it’s furthering our destruction of the planet and leading to overconsumption of our non-renewable resources. On a personal scale, we buy into the incessant marketing of non-essential crap that we are programmed to think we ‘need’ to live the ‘good life’ and show others how hip and wealthy we are. On a macro-economic scale, nations are treating commodities in a similar way, with the additional twist that for them, it’s a zero-sum game. Regardless of whether you look at oil, grain, industrial metals, freshwater or other resources, there simply isn’t enough of anything to go around anymore, and the dominant economic nations of the world have embarked on a mad scramble to secure what they feel they ‘need’ to thrive. With the exception of Iraq, most of these activities are happening under the media radar so far; how long that will remain the case is anyone’s guess.

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My February Reading List

February 20, 2007

Winter is loosening it’s short-lived grip on Minnesota, and as such my reading list has switched from doom & gloom to food.

I’ve been on a Michael Pollan kick lately. I’m on the library wait list for “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” and based on how fast my priority ranking changes, I should be able to read it next fall. Alas… In the meantime, I’ve been reading some of his earlier works. “Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education” is a collection of essays based around Pollan’s forays in gardening for the first time since childhood. “A Place of My Own” likewise covers his construction of a small writing studio from the viewpoint of an amateur. Both books are part philosophical explorations as much as narratives of his actions. Pollan is a great writer, and I can’t wait to get ahold of “Omnivore’s Dilemma,” which has been highly praised here and elsewhere in the blogosphere.

Having read “Nourishing Tradtions” again recently, and done more research on modern food, I’ve been curious to learn more about what exactly goes into the foods we take for granted and eat everyday. “The Crazy Makers: How the Food Industry is Destroying Our Brains and Harming Our Children” bills itself as the “Silent Spring” for food additives. I’ve only just gotten into this book, but the author, Carol Simontacchi, lays out a comprehensive argument about how over-processed foods and chemical additives are having a negative effect on both our overall health and the development of small children. The book covers the usual suspects, MSG, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Aspartame, etc. It seems to agree with the information the Weston A. Price Foundation supports, and as such I have high hopes for the rest of the book. More on this in a later post.

As you may know, there is a lot of disagreement regarding aspartame. Some groups feel it is a safe replacement for sugar in food products, while others think that it is a dangerous neurotoxin that should be banned. Janet Starr Hull supports the latter viewpoint in her book “Sweet Poison: How the World’s Most Popular Artifical Sweetener is Killing Us – My Story.” Again, more on this in a later post.

Spring is coming, and I’ve also got my head buried in seed catalogs. More on that later as well.


Full Spectrum Dominance and the End of the World

February 20, 2007

F. William Engdahl has written a new essay on the stealth renewal of the Cold War between the US and Russia. It’s a long article but very interesting, especially in light of the periodic news reports that highlight the proposed installation of US missile defense systems in new NATO members in Eastern Europe. I thought that the crackpots who dreamed of a ‘winnable’ nuclear war had long ago faded into retirement and history, but apparently not.

Engdahl, the author of “A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order.” doesn’t write new articles all that often, but the ones he does publish are always of high quality. US saber rattling seems to be picking up rather than slowing down as Bush enters the twilight of his presidency, and while executing a ‘first strike’ on either China or Russia seems like madness to most sane people, there are those who see such actions as just another move on the global chessboard.

Caesar will not go quietly into the night, apparently, and the great game continues. It’s hard to see who would ‘win’ such a conflict, but it’s easy to see who would lose.


Syriana

February 19, 2007

Syriana

I hardly ever get out to movies anymore, so I’m usually far behind the curve when it comes to recent releases. We finally got to the top of the wait list for Syriana at the local library and watched the movie over the weekend.  Well, I watched the movie while my lovely bride worked on stamping some greeting cards while occasionally stopping to watch as well.

It was good; confusing, fast-paced, and probably bewildering to folks who are not already well-versed in the issues of oil geopolitics, but overall it was a good film.   It had tangential peak-oil references, and a pretty hard-nosed look at global economics and politics.

My wife was somewhat taken aback by the portrayal of the power elite at work both in the government and big business.  “Do you think that’s really the way we do things?”  she asked.  I told her that while this was a Hollywood movie, it was probably a pretty accurate picture of the Machiavellian decision making that goes on in the halls of power around the world.   Five percent of the world’s population using 25% or so of the world’s energy in a power-constrained world is not a formula for making nice with everyone.

I’m probably one of the last people to have seen this, but if you haven’t checked it out yet, it’s worth two hours of your time.


High Grain Prices Driving Up Food Costs

February 17, 2007

“We’re not the only meat company facing this, and we’re not the only food company facing this,” Jeffrey Ettinger, chief executive of Austin-based Hormel, told analysts Friday. “It’s kind of a national decision that’s been made to subsidize domestic production of ethanol, somewhat at the expense of what consumers are going to pay for food.”

So, if you’re able to get E-85 for $2 per gallon, but your food bill has jumped by 25-50%, is it worth it?


Defining Collapse

February 16, 2007

Anytime Richard Duncan posts an update to his Olduvai Theory (OT), it gets quite a bit of attention from the peak oil crowd, myself included. The Olduvai Theory details Duncan’s vision of a collapse of society… it’s an attention grabber because it predicts a collapse that is both swift and devastating. It’s a powerful vision, which is why it gets so much notice, but it’s only one plausible scenario of what may await us in the future. Other e readers some perspective on several of the possible futures that await us.

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Another Reason Why Climate Change Won’t Be Fixed In Time

February 14, 2007

Syndicated columnist Jonah Goldberg wrote a whopper of an op-ed that was printed in the Strib this week.   Goldberg, who is also a writer for the conservative/neocon magazine National Review, wrote that the prosperity we can gain by not fixing global warming is worth a degree or two rise in global temperatures.  The wealthy can sit in their climate-conditioned bunkers in the future and revel in their good fortune, counting their gold while the rest of the planet swelters.

I’ll give Goldberg points for laying out his argument in plain and simple language, but I still think he’s off-base.   I would venture to guess, though, that his line of thinking is probably popular among big business, since the effect of future profits is eaiser to gauge than the effect of a numerically small rise in temperature.

Once again, the mindset of short-term gain trumping long-term sustainability rears its ugly head.


Bad Water and Unintended Consequences

February 13, 2007

I’m not sure how far the news has gotten, but if you haven’t heard, a huge swath of the eastern Twin Cities area has had their municipal water supplies contaminated with perfluorobutanoic acid (PFBA) that appears to have leaked from an old 3M Plant in Cottage Grove, MN. PFBA was used to make a number of products, including Scotchguard, and is part of a family of chemicals known as perfluorochemicals, or PFC’s. The story has generated a lot of commotion locally, since most of southern Washington County is affected. The monitored levels are pretty low in the water supplies, and officially PFBA has no known short-term health effects. Not much is known about the long term effects, though, which is worrisome to the affected residents.

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What’s Your Motivation?

February 12, 2007

I was contacted out of the blue last week by a grad student doing a research project on the peak oil movement. I’m not totally sure how she found me, since I’m hardly a central figure of the ‘movement,’ nor does my blog generate enough site traffic to make it one of the main sits out there. I’m guessing that any of the big sites get more hits in an hour than I’ll get in a day or more. Anyway, we had a short chat, and she asked me several questions regarding my motivation for blogging, and how I got interested in peak oil. I gave her honest answers to her questions, and hopefully I didn’t come off like too much of a crackpot.

The interview made me think about why I am doing this. Long story short, the data behind both peak oil and climate change is compelling to me, and I don’t see a whole lot of urgency in the mainstream media. This blog gives me a chance to share information with other like-minded people, and it allows me to get this stuff off my chest without boring friends, family and co-workers to death. A few years ago I had no idea how to cook (other than from a box), nor did I have any clue how to garden or do much anything else that wasn’t very technical. I’m a computer geek by vocation and upbringing, and for the longest time I eschewed anything that smacked of domestic work or manual labor. After deciding that our current high-tech world has a relatively short shelf life, I’ve started to get to work learning more practical skills for a low-energy world. If I can learn how to do this stuff, so can you.

I’ve updated my ‘All about MEOW’ page with some more information about what makes me tick and what influences my writing. If you’re curious about that at all, I invite you to check it out, along with the booklist and reources pages.

My main motivation is to learn the skills to keep my family alive and relatively comfortable no matter what occurs.   If you’re  a regular reader of the site, I’m assuming you have similar worries for the future.  What’s your motivation?


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