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Marx’s Labor Theory of Value: Bad Science and Bad for Ecological Socialism

Value and Socialist Distribution

Marxists need a scientific theory of value. I do not make that statement because I think it is controversial. I make it because I am not convinced that Marx provided one. By “scientific” I mean a theory that identifies an empirically detectable and measurable property that gives value to commodities, and a theory that is consistent with fundamental propositions of other relevant sciences, such as physics and chemistry. I do not reject the labor theory of value out of hand, and I do not believe that my criteria necessarily lead to rejection of everything Marx had to say about value theory. I am willing to consider the possibility that labor produces a value-endowing property, but to understand labor’s role, if any, in producing value, we must do more than repeat the familiar bromide that “labor creates value.” And we should keep in mind (while being careful not to conflate use value and exchange value) that Marx himself said: “Labour is not the source of all wealth. Nature is just as much the source of use values as labour . . .”1

A scientific theory of value must answer these questions: In what way does labor serve as a source, or the source, of value, if it indeed does so? Is understanding value strictly a matter of quantifying physical properties produced by labor, or are other factors involved? How are quantities of labor and other relevant properties, measured? Do these quantities correlate with measurable quantities of value, and if so, how? Besides helping us understand how commodities acquire value and how value is measured, a scientific understanding of value is critical for implementing what I call the socialist principle of distribution.2  If we cannot understand and measure value, then we cannot implement the principle, and if we cannot do that, then we cannot have socialism; furthermore, we cannot have communism either, not if we think of communism as a mode of distribution that develops out of socialism.

What is the principle of socialist distribution? It has been expressed in many ways, but the gist of it is that under socialism the worker is supposed to receive a “fair” distribution, that is, he receives from society a quantity of goods and services equal in value to the labor he has performed, minus deductions for public purposes such as social insurance, public schools, reinvestment in public enterprises, or construction of public infrastructure, just to name a few. This contrasts with capitalist distribution in which the worker receives less value than he has contributed due to capitalist expropriation of surplus value at the point of production, which is supplemented by other expropriatory methods such as fraud, debt, rent, wage discrimination, taxation by the capitalist state, neoliberal austerity, full or partial privatization of public enterprises, and so-called corporate welfare.

In “Critique of the Gotha Program,” Marx expressed the socialist principle of distributive justice when he said that in the primary stage of socialism, the worker receives:

a certificate from society that he has furnished such and such an amount of labour (after deducting his labour for the common funds), and with this certificate he draws from the social stock of means of consumption as much as costs the same amount of labour.3

This distributive principle presupposes the ability to measure quantities of labor, which are equated with quantities of value.

Other versions of the socialist principle have been influenced by Marx’s formulation, but they are not identical to it. Article 12 of the 1936 Constitution of the USSR states: “The principle applied in the U.S.S.R. is that of socialism: From each according to his ability to each according to his work.”4 Many socialist constitutions contain similar expressions. 5

The Soviet formula is worded differently than the statement in the Gotha Program. It speaks of distribution according to work, and thereby alludes to different kinds of work with presumably differing values, but it does not explicitly mention quantities of labor. What does this imply? Does the principle assume that different forms of work produce the same or different quantities of value, and what about differences in the quality of labor? Socialist countries that adopted the principle “to each according to his work,” did not practice equal compensation for all forms of work. This suggests they did not think all types of work had the same value. Recognition of quantitative and qualitative differences in various forms of work is likely the basis of that distinction.

Quantitative and qualitative differences were recognized as a matter of principle in socialist countries, and this was used to justify higher compensation for work considered above average in those terms. In Fundamentals of Marxism-Leninism, a 1960s training manual for Soviet cadres, differences of quantity and quality are said to determine both the size and quality of the rewards that workers receive.

In socialist society, the bulk of material and cultural values are distributed in accordance with the quantity and quality of labour expended by each worker in social production. Those who work more and better receive a larger and better reward for their work from socialist society.6

Obviously, this presupposes criteria for determining both quantitative and qualitative values of various forms of work, so that higher forms can be identified and given greater compensation. This raises many questions. What are the criteria for measuring the quantity and quality of labor? Can these things be measured directly or are they reducible to a more fundamental quantity?

For Marx, the difference between high and low-quality labor is apparently reduced to the production of lower and higher quantities of value. Marx developed the distinction in Capital. In explaining this distinction, I will take the basic proposition of Marx’s labor theory of value for granted: quantities of labor produce corresponding quantities of value; thus, it is clear that Marx reduced quantities of value to quantities of labor, which is in keeping with a labor theory of value.

In Capital, v. I, Marx distinguished simple and complex labor. Simple labor “is the expenditure of simple labour-power, i.e. of the labour-power possessed in his bodily organism by every ordinary man, on the average, without being developed in any special way.” Complex labor, by contrast, has an above average value-creating power that “counts only as intensified, or rather multiplied simple labour, so that a smaller quantity of complex labour is considered equal to a larger quantity of simple labour.”7  Complex labor is higher in quality in the sense that it expends more labor power in a given time than simple labor and therefore creates more value. For example, if a simple laborer and a complex laborer both work for an hour, the latter produces a higher quantity of value than the former.

In Capital, v. III, Marx offered concrete examples of simple and complex labor. He used day labor as an example of simplicity and goldsmithing as an example of complexity.8  Commercial workers were classified as complex laborers due to their knowledge of “commerce and languages, etc.” Marx wrote: “The commercial worker proper belongs to the better-paid class of wage laborer; he is one of those whose labour is skilled labour, above-average labour.”9  Skilled mechanics were included among complex laborers in a footnote to Capital, v. III, written by Engels.10  These examples reveal that complex labor is trained and educated labor; apparently Marx viewed this as the basis of its higher value productivity.

Evidently, Marx assumed that “simple” jobs, say, ditch digging or repetitive work in manufacturing, are less “complex” than the work of goldsmiths, mechanics, and commercial operatives. What characteristics do these forms of work possess which make them “above average” in complexity? They are more valuable, it will be said, but this is a mere tautology since value and complexity have already been equated. We need to know what Marx meant by complexity and why complexity is more valuable, in the sense of knowing what quantities complexity is reducible to (if any), and how these quantities are measured? How did he know that complexity of labor produces more value than simplicity? Did he just intuit this as self-evident? Granted, intuition (if that is what Marx used) can be correct, but he did not show why his intuition is correct. In the examples, complexity seems to mean a greater number of required skills; the complex job has more dimensions, more steps that must be mastered; it requires more training, education, and knowledge to perform than “simple” labor.

Does work that requires more training and education in and of itself produce more value than work requiring less? Has Marx drawn a distinction without an explanation? To merely repeat that complex work is more valuable because it represents more labor in a given time, and it represents more labor just because it is more complex, is a blatantly circular explanation. Once again, we are back to the fundamental problem of measuring quantities of labor and explaining how those quantities produce corresponding amounts of value—in short, the problem of value creation and measurement.

Creating and Measuring Value in Capital

Marx is usually called a materialist who was trying to put socialism on a scientific basis. Therefore, we shall expect the labor theory of value developed by Marx in Capital, v. I to identify the value-creating property of labor, whatever it happens to be, as a physical characteristic that serves as the quantifiable basis of exchange value. This is a reasonable expectation of any scientific theory, but will it be borne out?

In Capital, v.1, Marx begins his discussion of the labor theory of value by stating that two commodities of equal exchange value must share a common element that is present in both in equal magnitudes. If our assumption about Marx’s intention to develop a scientific theory is correct, he must be preparing to describe a physical and therefore quantifiable element.

Let us now take two commodities, for example, corn and iron. Whatever their exchange relation may be, it can always be represented by an equation in which a given quantity of corn is equated to some quantity of iron, for instance, 1 quarter of corn = x cwt of iron. What does this equation signify? It signifies that a common element of identical magnitude exists in two different things, in one quarter of corn and similarly in x cwt of iron. Both are therefore equal to a third thing, which is neither the one nor the other. Each of them, so far as it is exchange-value, must therefore be reducible to this third thing.11

We should expect Marx to explain what this presumably physical element is, how it is measured, and on what basis he claims to know of its existence. But he offers this astonishing proclamation instead:

This common element cannot be a geometrical, physical, chemical, or other natural property of the commodities.12

Marx just said that the value-endowing element is not and cannot be a physical property. He did not bother to explain why he thinks this is the case, but it follows that he must believe commodities can have non-physical properties, does it not? This appeal to an immaterial element should cause profound consternation among those who think Marx had a scientific theory of value, scientific in the sense of making empirically testable claims about the nature of value, claims that can be nothing other than materialistic. Despite all the talk about Marx’s materialism, his theory is obviously based on an immaterialist metaphysics, which holds that all commodities share a common non-material property that gives them exchange value. Marx is not a materialist after all, at least not when it comes to exchange value. I will leave it to others to explain how an historical materialist can be an immaterialist regarding value creation, since analysis of changes in various modes of value creation; i.e., modes of production, are the basis of historical materialism.

If the value-creating property is not physical, then what are its properties, how are these properties known, and how is it possible to measure them if they are indeed non-physical?

A use-value, or useful article, therefore, has value only because abstract human labour is objectified or materialized in it. How then is the magnitude of this value to be measured? By means of the quantity of the ‘value forming substance’, the labour contained in the article. This quantity is measured by its duration, and the labour-time is itself measured on the particular scale of hours, days, etc.13 “Abstract human labor,” according to Marx, is the “value forming substance” that is “materialized” in commodities. How does Marx know this? It is evidently a conclusion of pure reason that is not further analyzable. But how can an immaterial element (an abstraction) become materialized and take up residence in a physical commodity (like the word becoming flesh)? What a confusion of categories! The problem is only compounded by this additional description of the common element:

As exchange-values, all commodities are merely definite quantities of congealed labour-time.  14

Here the value forming substance is described as “congealed time,” specifically labor time; apparently “congealed labor time” is used synonymously with “abstract human labor.” It seems strange to speak of time in this way. Can other kinds of time also “congeal” such as sleep time or mealtime? Or does the fact that labor time is spent working endow it with a unique (and fantastic) physical property that allows it to congeal? What can even be capable of congealing except material substances with specific physical properties? Marx does not say. What could he say? We are faced with an apparent contradiction: exchange value is an immaterial property and yet it congeals; the thing that congeals is time. But time is not form of matter that can alternate among various states, such as the classical states of solid, liquid, gas, and plasma, or the many high and low energy states discovered by modern physics. To say that time, which is a dimension of reality and not a state of matter, can “congeal” is to say that something immaterial can do that which only matter can do; it is an assertion that surpasses all understanding.

Marx’s treatment of the subject in Capital, v. II, exhibits this contradiction:

The substance of value is and remains nothing more than expended labour-power – labour independent of its particular useful character – and value production is nothing but the process of this expenditure.  . . . The process of production disappears in the finished commodity. The fact that labour-power was expended to create it now appears in the form that the commodity has the following concrete property: it possesses value. The magnitude of this value is measured by the amount of labor expended; the commodity value cannot be resolved into anything further, and consists of nothing more.15

There is no talk of congealed time in this passage, but the contradiction is apparent in that value is spoken of as a “concrete property” when we were assured in Capital, v. I, that value is a non-physical property (what can a concrete property be if not physical?). The term “congealed labour” appears soon after the above passage, when Marx makes the following comment on surplus value:

Over and above them both there is still the surplus value. This has in common with the value component that replaces the variable capital advanced in wages that it is a value newly created by the workers – congealed labour.16

Here Marx speaks of congealed labor rather than congealed time. To this writer, it is a significant difference: a theory in which “labor” congeals rather than “labor time” is a different theory. Did Marx have two theories or is it just one muddled theory? “Congealed labor” denotes a process that becomes congealed, whereas “congealed labor time” denotes a dimension, but Marx does not seem to be aware of this distinction. Alternate phrasings also appear in Capital, v. III; sometimes Marx writes “[t]he value contained in a commodity is equal to the labour-time taken in making it”17; at other times he refers to “the amount of labour contained in it” [the commodity].18  He might have thought the two phrases – congealed labor and congealed labor time – are synonymous, but they are not. It is a characteristic of well-formed scientific theories that terms are precisely defined and used consistently. Marx’s theory fails to meet this standard.

Try as I might, I cannot find any reason to accept either his “congealed labor time” or “congealed labor” terminology because both phrases seem equally nonsensical. Congealability is a property of physical substances, is it not? Melted fat, for example, “congeals” at the top of chicken soup as it cools, and blood with sufficient clotting factors “congeals” (coagulates) into a scab; both are examples of matter changing from liquid to solid. But again, time is not a state of matter; it is a dimension that does not change states. As a succession of moments, this dimension is a pre-condition that is necessary for matter to undergo qualitative changes from one state to another, such as water freezing solid then melting back into liquid or evaporating into gas. The fact that time provides the context in which matter changes states does not entail that time is a physical substance that congeals or undergoes other physical changes, likewise with so called “labor time.” To reiterate, Marx had no justification for saying that labor time can congeal into commodities, thereby giving them exchange value. Time cannot congeal into anything, let alone a commodity. Likewise, with “labor,” which denotes a process that consists of a series of activities. The activities are engaged in by physical beings and, of course, take place in time, but this does not mean that specific actions or entire sets of actions are physical substances that congeal like chicken fat.

The theory doesn’t make any more sense when applied to concrete situations. How would Marx use it to explain why one commodity has a higher exchange value than another? According to him, if it takes 10 times more labor time to produce a pair of pants than it takes to produce a box of paper clips, then the pants are 10 times more valuable than the clips. And if, in a given time, your labor produces 10 times the amount of value that mine does, then your labor is 10 times more valuable than mine. Why? Congealed labor time is the active ingredient, so to speak. Marx has to say that the pants have 10 times more abstract human labor time congealed in them, because your labor congealed more time than mine did. It also follows that your labor is more productive than mine, and this can be explained in two ways: it is either faster or it is more complex. How else could it create more value in the same amount of time?

Why is this a terrible explanation? Marx’s talk about congealed time (and congealed labor) has already been exposed as nonsensical, and a nonsensical explanation is not an explanation at all. Still, we might wonder if Marx’s theory really is so terrible. If we assume labor time is the measure of value, does it not follow that something that takes more time to produce is more valuable than something that takes less? It certainly does, but the conclusion follows only if we assume from the outset that labor time is the substance and measure of value. This is an obvious circular argument because the premise that needs to be proven is assumed to be true at the outset. When nonsense is acceptable, then all other forms of nonsense are acceptable as well; we might as well say that the patron saint of commodities conferred a larger blessing on the pants than on the paper clips, and that this blessing was manifested at a ratio of 10:1.

Keep in mind: Marx did not say that value comes from time spent laboring in some ordinary language understanding of “labor time.” He said more valuable commodities contain a larger amount of congealed abstract human labor time. That is why the pants have a higher exchange value than the box of paper clips. Please show me where I can find this congealed time, this “value-forming substance” among the fibers, dyes, tools, equipment, and energy used in making the pair of pants. It can’t be done, not because science has not yet found a way to detect the presence of this substance, but because the existence of such a substance is impossible in principle.

The obvious conclusion is that when Marx speaks of congealed labor time, he is talking nonsense. Before you condemn me for being uncharitable to Marx, consider this: what can talk of congealed time suggest except a quantity of time spent laboring in which the time itself hardens into the object that is being created? If anyone can explain to me what this means, how it occurs, and show it to me happening, I will abandon this criticism, but I do not think this is likely to happen.

Matter, Energy, and the Labor Theory of Value

Let us spend no more time – congealed or otherwise – on this embarrassing muddle. Labor is not a substance; it is a process performed and undergone by substances, by human workers and the products they work upon. This might seem like a mere truism, no more “substantive” than Marx’s talk of congealed time, but at least I can take you to a workshop, farm, or factory and show you an actual labor process happening. If Marx were there, he would have to say, “labor time is congealing here,” and if we responded – “What!?” – he would have no answer. To say that labor time is a substance makes about as much sense as saying that running time is a substance, and that a fast runner produces more of a substance called “running time” than a slow one. Of course, work and running obviously take place in time, which is a necessary condition for the unfolding of all processes, but that doesn’t help Marx’s argument. You may insist on talking about “labor time” as if you have made a great discovery, but it is unnecessary because everyone knows that labor requires time. I will insist on this, however; although value is created during time spent laboring, labor time is not the thing that creates or endows value; rather it is the dimension in which value is endowed.

We said that labor is performed by a human worker, a physical being, upon another physical being, an object that we call a commodity. Time is a precondition of these events. It must be something that happens during this time that gives the commodity its exchange value. What happens? Workers consume and apply energy in orderly, planned, and desired ways to enhance and transform the useful properties of matter. The result is a commodity with exchange value. Rationally directed energy consumption is the common element that Marx was seeking.

Labor is the alteration of matter through the rationally governed consumption of energy. Thus, the labor process requires ability and skill, in addition to energy and matter. Since matter and energy are equivalent (E = mc2 after all) we can reduce this to the statement that commodity production requires the skillful use or consumption of energy. Since the law of the conservation of energy also applies here, we will understand “consumption” to mean the transformation of energy from one state into another, with no net gain or loss of energy and, correspondingly, the consumption or transformation of matter, again with no net gain or loss. Movement, changes of state, and consumption occur, but not creation in the sense of bringing substances into being out of nothingness nor annihilation in the sense of transforming substances from being into nothingness. Acquisition of skill also requires energy consumption, and again this consumption must be rationally directed to the desired end; therefore, in the case of labor the rational consumption of energy, a special case of energy consumption, is not further reducible.

We have reduced the statement that commodity production requires matter, energy, and skill to the statement that it requires energy and skill. We can shorten this to the statement that commodity production requires energy consumption, because the mental effort of acquiring and applying skill is a form of energy consumption. Skillful energy consumption contrasts with the non-rational consumption that occurs in nature, in the Sun, for example (as far as we know).

The amount of energy consumed is the irreducible component of value. The exchange value of any commodity is therefore reducible to the amount of energy expended to produce it, not the amount of time taken to expend that energy. Quantities of value do not correlate to quantities of time; they correlate to quantities of energy expended in a given time; the quantity of energy is the “common element” shared by the quarter of corn and the hundred weight of iron that Marx spoke of in Capital, vol. I. This includes the energy embodied in the substance and the energy required to transform the substance in the desired way. Obviously, greater or lesser amounts of energy can be expended in the same amount of time; the quantity depends on the form of energy and the skill of the worker. Skill, regardless of its degree of complexity, moves, allocates, or transforms energy and matter, but it does not create these things anew. Energy is the value-endowing ingredient of the labor process. It has a dual role in the process as both transformer and thing transformed.

Rationally expended energy is the “common element” of all commodities. The amount of expenditure represented by the finished commodity is its objective exchange value. From the worker’s standpoint, the sum of energy that he consumes while working, plus the amount of energy required to maintain himself as a worker, constitutes the value of his labor. This is also the quantity of value (matter/energy) owed him in exchange for his labor. This quantity can be expressed in any units you like – gram calories, kilogram calories, joules, British thermal units, etc. – provided we have a technique for measuring in terms of the unit in question and a method for converting into other commonly used units. In-depth treatment of the practical problems entailed by this theory are beyond the scope of this paper; however, it should be noted that measurement of human energy expenditure is a developed science with a history reaching back to 1919 with the formulation of the Harris-Benedict equation for estimating an individual’s basal metabolic rate.  19  The results of that science show without doubt that manual or simple labor requiring lower levels of training and education requires higher energy expenditures than intellectual or complex labor requiring higher education and training. Thus, there is no justification for wage discrimination against simple labor in our theory of value as energy expenditure.20

This is a rethinking, not a rejection, of the labor theory of value. It has the advantage of identifying the empirically observable and measurable feature of labor – energy expenditure – that endows a commodity with value. As a move toward a scientific theory of value, it is superior to Marx’s unscientific attempt to explain value by appealing to the existence of an unobservable value-endowing substance called “congealed labor time,” or sometimes just “labor time.” It is also consistent with the basic principles other scientific disciplines, such as physics and chemistry, which recognize the existence of matter and energy as physical substances and study the physico-chemical processes that fuel the transformations of the various states of matter. The theory is also compatible with the methodological principles of empiricism, which frown on explanations that postulate the existence of unobservable entities. This is real materialism, not a faux materialism disfigured by Hegelian metaphysical (and ultimately bourgeois) philosophical remnants. Removal of congealed time as a feature of Marxism can only improve its standing among the sciences.

Marxism and the Crisis of the Anthropocene

There is a connection between Marx’s theory of value, especially his overvaluation of complex or intellectual labor in contrast to simple or manual labor, and the procreationism, productionism, and consumerism that are core ideals of the original bourgeois Christian civilization. Marx (unwittingly?) adopted these ideals whole cloth.21  His vision of socialism strives to be truer to them than capitalism could ever be by striping them of their class character and democratizing them. These ideas have helped blind Marxists to the tight logical relationship between class struggle and ecology. Marx’s labor theory of value is implicated in this problem because productionism and consumerism are enabled and justified by the high consumerist privileges allegedly due to highly skilled workers who perform complex labor. Procreationism is a result of viewing people in advanced countries, with their large numbers of highly-skilled workers, as the crowning glory of humanity: the more there are, the better; the more they produce and consume, the better.

If Marxism is going to stay relevant in the twenty-first century and beyond, it must provide a theoretical basis for building forms of socialism and communism that can survive in the Anthropocene epoch. The term refers to our contemporary period in which modern economic systems are exerting increasingly harmful effects on Earth’s natural systems. Classical Marxism, Marxism-Leninism, and their numerous variants, share with capitalism this productionism, consumerism, and procreationism: a desire for unlimited expansion of production, consumption, and population that thrusts society toward environmental crisis.22 This outlook views nature mainly as a source of use values to be assimilated into the production process. It fails to appreciate nature as a delicately balanced complex system that harbors all life by providing its material basis. Unchecked, these tendencies lead to severe environmental degradation as the productive forces are developed and production and consumption increased. This condition afflicts any modern system, whether socialist or capitalist, that combines vast power to utilize and transform nature with the failure to perceive the consequences as threats to the viability of natural systems, species, and individual life forms. Socialism and communism must distinguish themselves from capitalism on this point by ridding themselves of productionism, consumerism, and procreationism. Societies that aim to liberate human beings from capitalism must have a clear understanding of the dangers posed by these interrelated phenomena and a definite plan for harmonizing the twin goals of meeting society’s material needs while preserving its organic and inorganic foundations. Marxism must place primary importance on the fact that the world’s irreplaceable ecosystems count as fundamental material needs of all life and the basis of material and cultural wealth. To accomplish this, Marxism needs new concepts and principles that elucidate the direct but overlooked relationship between class struggle and ecology.

Textual Evidence of the Problem: The Economic Purpose of Communism

Present at the dawn of Marxism was the tendency to view development as an unqualified good and to ignore its negative effects on nature. Consider The Communist Manifesto’s paean to the awesome productive forces unleashed by capitalism:

The bourgeoisie, during its rule of scarce one hundred years, has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all proceeding generations together. Subjection of Nature’s forces to man, machinery, application of chemistry to industry and agriculture, steam-navigation, railways, electric telegraphs, clearing of whole continents for cultivation, canalisation of rivers, whole populations conjured out of the ground—what earlier century had even a presentiment that such productive forces slumbered in the lap of social labor?23

The Manifesto says that an immediate goal of the communist revolution is to make the proletariat “the masters of the productive forces of society.”24 It assigns to the new ruling class the task of using state power “to increase the total of productive forces as rapidly as possible.”25  These are the same productive forces that the bourgeoisie used to subject nature to the needs and designs of their class. This talk of subjugating nature is dangerous because nothing about socialism, in and of itself, guarantees that the proletariat will act with more wisdom toward nature than the bourgeoisie.

When the socialist revolution converts capital into the common property of society, only the class character of the property is changed. The potential of the mode of production to destroy the environment remains unchanged, despite it being socialized. Abolishing the class character of capital does not alter its disposition toward nature.26

Socialism does not guarantee environmental sustainability. Misuse of the productive forces to destroy nature remains just as much of a danger as it was under capitalism. In the primary stage of socialism, the struggle to free the new society from the remnants of capitalism must prioritize plans to build an ecological socialism. Ecology is therefore one of the primary missions of the class struggle, but the Communist Manifesto is blind to this, perhaps excusably blind given the period in which it was written, but blind nonetheless.

The danger of unbridled productionism and consumerism was apparently unrecognized by the later Marx as well. In the Critique of the Gotha Program, he envisioned the “higher phase of communist society”—sometimes referred to as “full communism,” as a time when the productive forces have expanded far beyond the already colossal extents of the capitalist and early socialist eras, when cooperatively produced wealth flows so abundantly that it can be distributed “to each according to his needs.”27  This implies the continuation of productionism and consumerism (and why suppose any limits on procreation?) under communism, while the environmental implications remain unacknowledged.

The productionism and consumerism at the heart of Marx’s conception of post-capitalist society is exacerbated by Lenin’s gloss on the Gotha Program which views communism as the period when “an enormous development of the productive forces” makes wealth so plentiful that:

[t]here will then be no need for society, in distributing the products, to regulate the quantity to be received by each; each will take freely ‘according to his needs’.  . . .  Everyone will have “the right to receive from society . . . any quantity of truffles, cars, pianos, etc.28

Lenin surpassed Marx by predicting that under communism consumer goods would be produced in limitless quantities completely free for the taking. We leave it to the reader to contemplate the environmental devastation that would result from unrestrained production and consumption of automobiles, not to mention truffles, pianos, etc. Some might try to dismiss these passages as instances of a revolutionary exuberance that had no effect on the actual practices of socialist countries. The extensive and easily accessible history of ecocidal development in these countries belies this view and exposes environmental practices under socialism as no better than under capitalism overall; the reader is urged to investigate this independently, since a full review of the history is beyond the scope of this paper.

Besides practice, we should consider theoretical discussions during actually existing socialism. Fundamentals of Marxism-Leninism describes socialism as “an era of tempestuous development of productive forces” when “the socialist state considers that its main purpose is the expansion of production in order to provide a continuously rising living standard for the population.”29  This breakneck development will enable “the Soviet Union and the other socialist countries to undertake with full confidence the task of reaching . . . a level of consumption surpassing in every respect that of the most highly developed capitalist countries.”30  Socialist consumerism is but a prelude to the glittering consumerist paradise that will arrive with full communism. Following Lenin, the supply of goods will be so plentiful that controlling the amount of consumption will be unnecessary.31 People will assess their own needs and simply take as much as they want; there will be “no need to determine which needs are reasonable and which are not.”32  Nor should there be any worry about natural limits on growth. Shortages of raw materials, for example, will never occur because ever advancing agriculture, more intensive exploitation of lands and oceans, and creation of synthetic materials will be enough to satisfy every imaginable need.33 With no barriers to expansion, communist consumerism will be limitless.

Critics might accuse the author of ignoring passages from the Marxist canon that express serious regard for ecological issues. These might include: the recognition that humankind is fundamentally part of nature, as well as discussions on overcoming man’s alienation from nature found in numerous passages in the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844; complaints about a lack of urban planning, air pollution and other unhealthy living conditions in the proletarian districts of English cities described in Engels’ Condition of the Working Class in England  34, and in his Dialectics of Nature the recognition that “humans and nature exist in a coevolutionary relationship” and man should not become too smug about his victories over nature because “For each such victory nature takes its revenge on us.”35; the oft-cited discussion in Capital, volume 1, chapter 15 of soil depletion under capitalist farming caused by disruption of the “metabolic interaction between man and the earth” as well as the view that capitalist agriculture undermines “the original sources of all wealth—the soil and the worker”36; and the declaration in Critique of the Gotha Program that: “Labour is not the source of all wealth. Nature is just as much the source of use values . . . as labour, which itself is only the manifestation of a force of nature, human labor power.”37 Lenin’s enthusiasm for establishing nature reserves should also be mentioned here.38

Nevertheless, a set of disconnected ad hoc comments and policies does not amount to a mature theoretical treatment of and comprehensive policy toward ecological issues, nor does it temper, override, or repudiate the productionism, consumerism, and procreationism at the heart of the Marxist-Leninist conception of socialist and communist society.

Toward a Genuinely Ecological Marxism

 A convincing and effective ecological Marxism must amount to more than a tacked-on addendum without clear logical connections to the fundamental principles and revolutionary orientation of Marxism. These connections do exist. The Class Struggles in France contains Marx’s famous discussion of “The Four Alls” in which he explains that the task of the proletariat during the transition from capitalism to socialism is to abolish all class distinctions, all relations of production, all social relations, and all ideas that spring from capitalist society.39 Classical Marxism indeed viewed itself as much more than a mere logical extension of the bourgeois Enlightenment, sans economic classes, but it did not always realize this vision. Poductionism, consumerism, and procreationism are anachronistic leftovers from the philistinish, unscientific, and mindless optimism of the bourgeois Enlightenment, meshed with the capitalistic logic of profit maximization. Together they entail complete expropriation and commodification of nature for use in the valorization process. Ecocide is inherent in the logic of both profit maximization and the maximization of consumption. As required by the four alls, classical Marxism should have rejected bourgeois ideals such as unlimited production and consumption. They must be rejected now.40

There is nothing in the logic of Marxist socialism that necessitates such an error, especially provided the errors in Marx’s labor theory of value are overcome. The fundamental purpose of socialism, as understood by the founders of Marxism, is to organize society to cooperate in and coordinate its efforts to satisfy the material and cultural needs of its members and to return to workers the same amount of value that they invest in society, minus absolutely necessary deductions or unavoidable losses. This immediately raises questions about the extent of material and cultural production entailed by the word “satisfy.” Does ecology dictate limits on what is permissible here? Evidently it does. Historically, Marxists and Marxist-Leninists have had a weak grasp on this question and its answer. They apparently thought there was no need for any strictures on production and consumption, including the production of human beings (Chinese Marxism notwithstanding), but there really are objective limits dictated by the requirements of Earth’s ecology. Therefore, the dangerous and simplistic goal of perpetual quantitative increases in material living standards should be removed from Marxism and replaced by the explicit recognition that the achievement of socialism’s purpose is impossible without healthy ecosystems. Taking this necessary condition into account, it follows that the purpose of socialism is cooperation in the satisfaction of society’s material and cultural needs to the degree compatible with the preservation of nature. The idea that socialism and communism should place caps on production, consumption, and population growth, must become core guiding principles of Marxism in all its forms if they are to remain relevant in the Anthropocene.


(1) Marx’s labor theory of value overvalues labor power in the sense that it erroneously believes that human labor is the creator of a potentially infinite expansion of value. The realization that labor manipulates quantities of matter/energy, which may then be identified with quantities of value, rather than creating value, per se, disconnects compensation from the notion that its purpose is to remunerate acts of pure and potentially infinite creativity. When we cease to view human beings as “creators” of value rather than users and appreciators who need value, we reduce them from the bogus, quasi-divine status conferred on them by the more Promethean strains of the Enlightenment, to the lesser, but more honest status of normal living beings. Workers are then viewed as beings with needs that are worthy of respect, consideration, and satisfaction, but with no right to place their needs and wants above the health of the whole living system of Earth and its biosphere.

(2) To reiterate: Labor does not “create” value. It reconfigures pre-existing quantities of matter and energy to serve useful purposes. These purposes are not strictly class neutral. In capitalism they serve the capitalist class’ interest in profit maximization; under socialism they must satisfy the material and cultural needs of the working class within ecological limits. The importance of labor’s power to manipulate matter should not be underestimated, but it is not value creation, per se. Economic value is not a substance in and of itself. Therefore any such value judgments and value hierarchies based on them that are not grounded in quantifiable energy expenditures should be viewed with a high degree of skepticism. “Value” is not a uniquely independent substance, but this does not mean it is purely fictitious. It is an epiphenomenon of the labor process, of the rationally directed use of energy, and is real as such. But value in its original and grounding manifestation, the dual form of matter and energy, pre-exists human and all other life forms. The worker is an arranger and discoverer of values, but not a creator. Nature is the source of all values, not only use values, as Marx erroneously believed.

(3) In this concept of ecological socialism, the fundamental principle of socialist distribution that the individual receives from society a quantity of value equal to what he has contributed to it, remains in force; the difference is that value is reinterpreted in materialist terms as energy expenditure and return that on expenditure. Marx’s understanding of value as congealed labor time is rejected as an idealistic Hegelian reification of the concepts of labor and time that is incompatible with materialism.

(4) The distribution scenario for the primary stage of communism sketched by Marx in “Critique of the Gotha Program” is therefore rewritten:

He receives a certificate from society that he has consumed such and such an amount of energy (after deducting part of this amount for the common funds), and with this certificate he draws from the social stock of means of consumption as much as costs the same expenditure of energy. The same amount of energy which he has given to society in one form he receives back in another. But all expenditures must take place within quantifiable ecological limits.

The principle for the higher phase of communism is reworded:

From each according to his ability to each according to his need, within the limits of nature’s capacities!

(5) This reformulated theory of value requires reinterpretation of the concepts of exchange value, surplus value, price, and fair compensation. Exchange value is reinterpreted as the amount of energy required to produce the commodity; surplus value as the amount of energy contributed by the worker to the production process that exceeds the quantity of energy that he receives in return for his labor. Fair compensation now means an equal energy exchange between the worker and the owner of the productive enterprise, minus deductions necessary to maintain the enterprise and other socially necessary subtractions; under socialism the owner will be the whole society. Since ecology is logically prior to all society, this principle applies whether the owner is a capitalist, a class, an alliance of classes, a state, or a free association of workers.

(6) The only justification for differences in compensation is measurable differences in energy expended by workers during the labor process. This replaces Marx’s standard of labor time and the distinction between simple and complex labor. Compensation differences based on differences in the quality or complexity of different forms of work are unjustified in these terms. Justification requires demonstration of a quantifiable difference among forms of work. For example, if a construction worker expends more energy than an accountant, the former is owed higher compensation than the latter, if not, then not. Society may choose to use compensation differences to encourage quality improvements or the acquisition of complex skills, but such considerations are matters of social utility that violate the reformulated principle of socialist distribution if they are not justifiable in material terms. In this interpretation, the priority of socialist distribution is to return to individuals the amount of energy they have invested in society, minus necessary deductions. Adherence to this principle is incompatible with distribution regimes that promote either poverty or wealth by returning to workers either less or more than the amount of energy they have contributed. Furthermore, it has been argued that there is no scientific basis for such distinctions, contrary to Marx’s erroneous belief that complex labor necessarily has greater objective value because of its higher “value creating” capacity. In a socialist society, compensation differences permitted for reasons of social utility must be minimized and regulated to prevent capitalist restoration.

(7). Marx’s view that smaller quantities of complex labor are equal to larger amounts of simple labor is justified only if there is evidence that complex labor consumes more energy than simple labor. But there is no such evidence. The evidence is overwhelmingly to the contrary: simple manual labor requires higher energy consumption than complex intellectual labor.41  The reformulated theory of value provides no justification for a compensation hierarchy favoring complex intellectual labor over simple manual labor.

(8) The fact that some forms of work involve manipulation of higher quantities of energy than others does not entail that workers in those fields expend more of their own metabolic energy during their work or as part of their labor in acquiring and maintaining their ability to perform high-energy work; nor are they entitled to higher compensation because they “create” higher energy fields. Energy and matter, in conformity to their respective conservation laws, are neither created nor destroyed. These fundamental constituents of our material reality may be transferred or transformed from one state into another by the worker, but unlike Shiva, the human worker, whether of hand or brain can neither create nor destroy matter and energy. Since value is reducible to quantities of energy, the conservation laws also apply to value. Strictly speaking, the view that labor creates value is erroneous. Labor manipulates quantities of matter and energy and thereby manipulates quantities of value. New methods of manipulating value are discovered during the labor process, but human beings do not possess the power of creating matter, energy, or value out of nothing. 

(9) Since the universe is composed of a pre-established quantity of matter and energy, the labor process in the broadest sense is the act of directing finite quantities of energy. The process can be exploitive (capitalism) or cooperative (socialism).

(10) A reasonable socialism aims to meet each person’s material needs (emphasis on needs, not wants) in quantities that correlate with the society’s productive capacity, preservation of its ecological foundations, and the functioning of society within known ecological limits. The reinterpreted theory of value promotes this, while Marx’s theory discourages it. Any deviation from these limits that favors intellectual workers (or any other social stratum) on the erroneous assumption that they contribute more labor or “create” more value than other workers is unjustified. Socialist society must respect objective energy values and the dialectic of needs and limits. It cannot shirk its responsibility to meet fundamental material needs, but it must prohibit breaking ecological limits to provide so called elite strata (intellectual workers or even elite populations such as North America or Western Europe) with extravagant compensation levels that they are erroneously judged to deserve under the old labor theory of value.

(11) In this concept of value, over consumption of energy by favored social strata that exceeds their actual contribution to society, is dealt with by limiting compensation to the quantity of energy contributed by the worker. This does not preclude the possibility that specific forms of energy, such as fossil fuels, may come under additional regulations required for maintaining a healthy ecology. Yes, a socialist society must return to workers what they invest in society, but it would be madness to give so much that its ecological foundations are destroyed in the process. The point is for socialism to fill basic needs, not unlimited wants.

(12) The primary concern of socialism must not be to provide human beings with limitless material abundance. It must strike a balance between material needs and known ecological limits, and the conception of need must evolve with changes in our knowledge of ecological limits. Socialism must fairly compensate workers for the energy they contribute to the common good, but whether this results in material abundance is a secondary concern. It must be decided how much growth is compatible with a thriving environment. Because the material world is ultimately entropic (as expressed by the Boltzmann entropy equation (S = k log W), life’s flourishing requires temporarily decreasing entropy through matter/energy inputs, both natural and rationally directed; consequently, there must be a sense of limits to disruptive growth, a preference for permitting nature to exist undisturbed, and recognition of the importance of letting things be.

(13) Consumption must be understood as compensation for one’s material contribution, not a reward for virtue of any kind (which must be its own reward if it is to remain virtuous); otherwise, talented workers, and this includes those who are talented at self-promotion, fraud, deception, theft, violence, and gluttony, will take the vast bulk of social goods for themselves and condemn other to second class status as the deserved outcome of their inferiority; in the process they will destroy the biosphere with their voracious consumption, which they view as “just” reward for their limitless superiority. Capitalism and the old productivist/consumerist socialism, with the groundless distinctions between work deserving of high and low rewards, must be rejected. A scientific socialism, scientific in the sense that it takes other sciences seriously (including climatology and ecology) must be about limiting human consumption, not unleashing it. Consumption must be within the limits defined by climatology and ecology, rather than the Promethean consumerist aspirations of classical liberalism, nineteenth-century Marxism, twentieth-century Marxism-Leninism, and Socialism with Chinese Characteristics. This might seem unfair to Chinese socialism, which promises to build an “ecological civilization” amid rapid and massive development; but it is too soon to tell whether this promise will prove empty; what is certain is that it has already made a substantial contribution to the global climate crisis by releasing what are now world-leading quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere.

(14) The idea that scientific socialism must be compatible with other sciences requires clarification. It does not mean that socialists must acknowledge the established assumptions and findings of all sciences and explicitly agree with them. (Does it matter whether socialists know and accept the latest findings of actinology, otology, tribology, etc.? Probably not.)  It is enough for socialists to take account of established theoretical principles and empirical findings in all sciences that bear directly upon their project and take care not to violate their principles, unless they can show that the established principle is incorrect and must be abandoned. I mean by “established” principles and findings those that have withstood scrutiny so far and which have not been convincingly refuted by any other science, including Marxism. Marx should be criticized, for example, when he talks about labor time as a congealable ingredient that the labor process adds to the material substance of the commodity. This conflicts with a fundamental proposition of modern physics which views time as an immaterial dimension of reality, not an ingredient that can be added to things by some process or other, such as labor. If Marxists cannot provide convincing reasons to prefer their assumptions about time to those of modern physics, then the traditional Marxist theory of value should be reformulated in terms compatible with physics. On the other hand, if Marxists can refute standard physics by rigorously demonstrating that time should be regarded as a substance (the substance of value as Marx called it) then physics should adapt to Marxism, but this does not seem likely.

(15) Besides the need for an empirically defensible theory of value, Marxism must be kept relevant in the newly named Anthropocene epoch. This name denotes the present age of planetary environmental crisis. It is now clear that the intractable environmental problems facing humankind are the result of human activities, especially the complementary economic and scientific developments that have taken place since the Industrial Revolution (at the very latest). A terrifying increase in human power to devour the environment has occurred, causing a constellation of problems that includes: air, water, and soil pollution; global warming and climate change; human overpopulation; resource depletion; the global destruction of habitats; and mass extinctions. The stress on the material bases of life has killed vast numbers of organisms in what is called the Sixth Great Extinction.42 There is even some concern that Homo sapiens may not survive the Anthropocene. No one is sure whether life can survive if industrial civilization continues its trajectory toward unlimited economic growth, or whether humans, if they do survive, will be forced to revert to the lower consumption levels that characterized early- or pre-industrial eras. If Marxists can develop a theoretical and practical program for dealing with the problems of the Anthropocene, the world will flock to it; otherwise the world will look to capitalist solutions such as liberalism, neoliberalism, social democracy, and fascism for solutions. This will happen regardless of how dangerous and absurd it seems to Marxists.

(16) A scientific theory of value is necessary not only to bring Marxism in communion with the other empirical sciences, it is also a prerequisite of an ecological Marxism, which is in turn crucial to Marxism’s relevance in the Anthropocene. It must replace Marx’s “labor mixing” theory, which is a holdover from natural rights-based, labor-mixing theories of bourgeois political economists.43  It is scientifically correct that Marxists aim to replace these ideological mystifications with empirically verifiable propositions; it is also a wise political strategy, because science-based political strategies, like all human endeavors informed by the relevant scientific disciplines, actually stand a reasonable chance of achieving the intended results.

  1. Marx, Karl. “Critique of the Gotha Program.” In Robert Tucker, ed. The Marx-Engels  Reader, 2nd ed. p. 525–541. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1978 (1875),  525.
  2. Lenin used the term “socialism” to describe what Marx called the “first phase of communist society” and “communism” to denote Marx’s “higher phase of communist society.” I have followed this practice when I have considered it convenient to do so. Thus,  I refer to the distributive principles of the lower and higher phases as the “socialist principle of distribution” and the “communist principle of distribution,” respectively. For Lenin’s usage see The State and Revolution, Chapter V, §3-4; for Marx’s, see “Critique of the Gotha Program,” Part I, §1. For an objection to this practice see: Layton, Richard. “No Marx!Dissident Voice. April 9, 2015.
  3. Marx, “Critique of the Gotha Program,” p. 530.
  4. Constitution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Moscow, 1936.
  5. Cf. Simons, William B., ed. The Constitutions of the Communist World. The Hague:  Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1984.
  6. Kuusinen, O.V., et al., ed. Fundamentals of Marxism-Leninism. Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1963, p. 584.
  7. Marx, Karl. Capital, vol. 1. New York: Vintage Books, 1977 (1867), p. 135.
  8. Marx, Karl. Capital, vol. III. London: Penguin Books, 1991 (1898). p. 241.
  9. Ibid. p. 414.
  10. Ibid. p. 414 – 415, n. 39[a].
  11. Marx, Karl. Capital, vol. 1, p. 127.
  12. Ibid. p. 127.
  13. Ibid., p. 129.
  14. Ibid. p. 130.
  15. Marx, Capital, v. II, p. 462.
  16. Ibid. p. 464.
  17. Marx, Capital, v. III, p. 133.
  18. Ibid. p. 1006.
  19. Harris, J. Arthur and Francis G. Benedict. A Biometric Study of Basal Metabolism in Man. Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Institution, 1919. There is an extensive literature on human energy consumption in daily life, work, and recreational activities.  A small sample includes:  R. Passmore & J. Durnin. “Human Energy Expenditure.” Physiol Rev. 1955 Oct; 35(4) 801–840; T. Church et al. “Trends over 5 Decades in U.S. Occupation-Related Physical Activity and Their Associations with Obesity.” PLoS ONE.  2011 May; 6(5) 1–7; M. Mansoubi et al. “Energy Expenditure during Common Sitting and Standing Tasks: Examining the 1.5 MET Definition of Sedentary Behavior.” BMC Public Health. 2015: Article number 516; S. Bilici et al.  “Energy Expenditure and Nutritional Status of Coal Miners: A Cross-Sectional Study.” Archives of  Environmental & Occupational Health. 2016; 71(5) 293–299; R. Griffin, et al. “Gluttony and Sloth? Calories, Labor Market Activity, and the Rise of Obesity.” Journal of  the European Economic Association. 2016; 14(6) 1253–1286; J. Deyaert et al. “Attaching Metabolic Expenditures to Standard Occupational Classification Systems:  Perspectives from Time-Use Research.” BMC Public Health. 2017; Article number 620.
  20. Calories burned by a 185 lb person in 30 minutes in the following occupational activities: computer work – 61; light office work – 67; sitting in meetings – 72; desk work – 78; bartending/serving – 173; general construction – 244; coal mining – 266; masonry- 311; general steel mill – 355. From: Harvard Health Publishing. “Calories Burned in  30 Minutes by People of Three Different Weights.”
  21. For procreationism see Marx’s discussion of Malthus in Capital, v.1, p. 766–767, and his remarks on surplus population in Capital, v. 3, p. 324–325). Procreationism is a remnant of Judeo-Christian traditions, retained and gradually transformed into a human rights issue by some religious and secular liberals in bourgeois societies. This aspect of the tradition was abandoned by bourgeois clerics such as Malthus, who prescribed anti-procreationism as a solution to the poverty and misery of the surplus working-class population. Marx’s view is that there is no natural limit on human population. The immiseration of so-called “surplus populations” in capitalism is due solely to the exploitive relations of production in that system. Marx’s procreationsim grows out of the connections between Marx’s views on population, the higher value ascribed to intellectual workers by his labor theory of value, and his productionist/consumerist sympathies. Like capitalism, Marx’s socialism requires perpetual reproduction of producers (with an emphasis on highly skilled intellectual workers) and consumers in unlimited numbers to facilitate perpetual economic growth.
  22. For an early example of his productionism/consumerism see the section on “The Meaning of Human Requirements” in Marx’s Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844.
  23. Marx, Karl, and Frederick Engels. Manifesto of the Communist Party. In vol. 6 of Karl Marx, Frederick Engels: Collected Works, 477–519. New York: International Publishers, 1976 (1848), p. 489.
  24. Ibid. p. 495.
  25. Ibid. 504.
  26. Ibid. p. 505. Except for a line on “improvement of the soil generally” as part of a program to expand agriculture, the manifesto’s 10-point program gives no indication that ecological concerns will play a role in the transition from capitalism to communism.
  27. Marx, “Critique of the Gotha Program,” p. 531.
  28. Lenin, Vladimir I.  The State and Revolution. In vol. 25 of V. I. Lenin: Collected Works, 385–497. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1964 (1917), p. 473.
  29. Kuusinen, et al., Fundamentals of Marxism-Leninism, p. 544, 569.
  30. Ibid. p. 570.
  31. Ibid. p. 705.
  32. Ibid. p. 706-707.
  33. Ibid. p. 700.
  34. Engels, Frederick. The Condition of the Working Class in England. In vol. 4 of Karlarx, Frederick Engels: Collected Works, 294–596. New York: International Publishers, 1975 (1845), passim.
  35. The “coevolutionary” remark is from Clark, Brett and Richard York. “Reflections in Honor of the Twentieth Anniversary of Levin’s and Lewontin’s The Dialectical Biologist,” Monthly Review 57 (1) (May 2005): p. 13–22. The quote on victories over nature is from Engels’ Dialectics of Nature. London: Wellred Publications, 2012 (1883), p. 182.
  36. Marx, Capital, v. I., p. 637–638.
  37. Marx, “Critique of the Gotha Program,” p. 525.
  38. Foster, John Bellamy. “Late Soviet Ecology and the Planetary Crisis,” Monthly Review 67 (2) (June 2015): p. 1–20.
  39. Marx, Karl. The Class Struggles in France: 1848-1850. In vol. 10 of Karl Marx,  Frederick Engels: Collected Works, 45–145. New York: International Publishers, 1978 (1850), p. 127.
  40. Chinese socialism is an exception to the charge of procreationism; both the one-child policy and the recently adopted two-child policy firmly reject it.
  41. See note 20.
  42. Cf. Kolbert, Elizabeth. The Sixth Great Extinction. New York: Henry Holt and Comany 2014.
  43. For an early labor mixing theory see John Locke’s discussion of property in chapter 5 of The Second Treatise of Civil Government.

Dammed Good Question about the Green New Deal

Hydroelectric power from dams might be the thorniest question that proponents of the Green New Deal (GND) have to grapple with. Providing more energy than solar and wind combined, dams could well become the backup for energy if it proves impossible to get off of fossil fuels fast enough.

Rivers and lakes are an integral part of human existence, with virtually all major inland cities being located next to one of them. They provide water for drinking, bathing, food, and medicine. Their sustenance is not just for humans but for untold numbers of tiny organisms, insects, reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals. Rivers integrate plant and animal life forms and connect human communities to each other.

As capitalism grew, rivers transported huge quantities of lumber from clear cuts, oil from under the ground and coal ripped from mountains. Rivers have been used for trash disposal, as if carrying it somewhere else would make it vanish. Nor can rivers make industrial and agricultural poisons disappear but can only carry them until they create huge dead zones. Victors of battles have let rivers float human bodies to remind those living downstream of their military prowess.

The advent of electricity meant that those seeking to dominate nature found an extraordinary tool at their disposal – hydro-electric power from dams. There are 57,000 large dams in the world and more could be on the way. Thus, it is important that GND advocates clarify whether they support building more dams or endorse a moratorium on their construction.

Dams were an integral part of economic expansion under Franklin Roosevelt’s original New Deal. Building new dams continued past FDR, providing about a third of US electrical power in the 1950s. That has declined in the twenty-first century, mainly because of expanded fossil fuel use. The greatest wave of global dam-building has been since World War II and 80% of their current use is for hydro-power. Dams have fragmented over two-thirds of long rivers.

One of the most infamous is Brazil’s Belo Monte Dam on the Xingu River. Planned in 1975, it would be the second largest dam system in Brazil and the fourth largest in the world; but opposition stalled it. It was revived during the presidency of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and tension over its construction mounted under Dilma Rousseff’s government. In May 2016 the first turbine went online; 16 main turbines were functioning in September 2019, and completion is scheduled for 2020.

Mongolia hopes to use dams as part of a strategy to move away from fossil fuels. It’s action plan is called the “Green Development Policy,” which seems to echo “Green New Deal” proposals of western countries. The Selenge River, a transnational body of water originating in Mongolia, contributes over half the water to Russia’s Lake Baikal which is so huge that it contains about “20% of the worlds unfrozen fresh water.” Area lakes are already shrinking due to water withdrawal and Lital Khaikin writes that “encroachment of heavy industry threatens the fragile balance of the Baikal and the river-systems that are connected to it.”

With many calling for expansion of large dams, it is necessary to consider what this would mean for river life forms, people living next to or downstream from dams, economics of hydro-power, climate change and unforeseen dangers. Here are 10 potential problems with dams.

1. Dams destroy species and disrupt balances between species that make up ecosystems.

According to International Rivers: “The number-one cause of species extinction is habitat loss.” Due to the assault on rivers, freshwater ecosystems probably have the highest reduction in biodiversity, higher even than those on land.

The decline of a species often has ripple effects on other species. When salmon reproduction is interrupted on the lower Snake River Dams in the Pacific Northwest orcas may starve because so few reach the ocean. River dolphins of the Yangtze were the first human-caused extinction of dolphins, due to construction of China’s Three Gorges Dam. Less well-known examples abound. The Kihansi Spray Toad of Tanzania became extinct in the wild because of the Kihansi Dam in the southern Udzungwa Mountains. The dam reduced the spray zone around the waterfall by 90%, dooming the toad.

Plants, are likewise threatened by dams. Rowan Jacobsen’s 2019 article describes how the Falls-of-the-Ohio scurfpea, whose habitat was limited to a few Ohio River islets, became extinct in the 1920s due to dam construction. Another 2019 Scientific American article explains that 85% of bugs along the Colorado River lays eggs along its banks. As water levels go up and down according to power needs, the insect eggs often get too dry to survive, upsetting the balance between species in the ecosystem. This is particularly unnerving because a 2017 paper in PLOS ONE documented a greater than 75% decline in flying insect mass in Germany.

The plants and animals mentioned here are a small cross-section of known species rendered extinct by dams. The key phrase is “known species:” It is impossible to know how many reptiles, amphibians insects, microorganisms and even birds and mammals which were never discovered no longer exist due to dams. It is also unclear how these extinctions affect broader ecosystems.

Why do dams have such devastating consequences for life forms? They block fish migration and sometimes “completely separate spawning habitats from rearing habitats.” Still water in a dam’s reservoir is a profoundly different environment than flowing water in a river to which species have adapted over millennia. Sediments are critical for maintaining river life downstream but accumulate at the bottom of the reservoir. As International Rivers explains, “Changes in temperature, chemical composition, dissolved oxygen levels and the physical properties of a reservoir are often not suitable to the aquatic plants and animals that evolved with a given river system.” Industrial and agricultural chemicals that settle and concentrate in the reservoir are not healthy for fish and other living things.

2. Dams drive people out of their homes.

Those of us who grew up watching American TV in the 1950s and 60s had a steady diet of troops driving Indians off the landscape of the country’s West. An even more effective tool of America’s ethnic cleansing was undermining the species on which Indians depended, such as buffalo and fish. Roosevelt’s New Deal promised that building dams would help lift people out of poverty. Unfortunately, the Hoover Dam took reservation land from Yuma Indians during 1933-35. By the early 1940s, 22 dams were planned for North Dakota which required evacuating 20,000 people, including many Indians.

In Mexico, building 4000 dams from 1936 to 2006 involved the removal of 185,000 people. As Brazil built Belo Monte, the government claimed that only 16,000 people were displaced. But those affected indicated that a more realistic number was 40,000. As dams expanded, they pushed an estimated 80,000,000 out of their homes globally.

3. Dams undermine indigenous cultures.

Cultural traditions are often closely connected to specific plants, animals, landmarks and bodies of water. When the New Deal’s Grand Coulee Dam robbed land from Native Americans, it broke their connection to salmon. Little known in the western world are efforts by Mongolia to expand dam construction in its norther provinces on the Selenge River and its tributary Eg River. The proposed Shuren Dam on the Selenge would flood sacred heregsuurs (graveyards) and archaeological sites in neighboring areas. The Egiin Gol Dam on the Eg would cause extensive displacement which would include Mongolian herder communities whose link to (Omul whitefish) would be severed. Though opposition led to both projects’ being canceled in 2017, what remains is Mongolia’s hopes to attract foreign investment from multinational corporations seeking resource extraction and hydro-electricity to power mining operations. Similar projects are reaching their tentacles across the planet.

Re-emergence of stagnant plans is exactly what happened with the Belo Monte Dam, which was only a gleam in investors’ eyes in 1975. Its enormous displacement of native peoples required destroying their ways of life. When it was being massively opposed, a coalition formed between the Munduruku and other Amazonian tribes of Juruna, Kayapo, Xipaya, Kuruaya, Asurini, Parakana, and Arara who occupied the main construction site of the $14 billion undertaking.

In June 2013, Munduruku leaders released a letter (translated by Glenn H. Shepard) which included the following:

We know how the law of nature works through the teachings of the ancients … animals teach us things that we don’t know, and we can interpret the messages … The animals warn us of dangers that are about to happen… Non-Indians say these are just superstitions but it is for real… You should not play with nature: for us, this is very dangerous… All animals have have mother-spirits, whether fish, or forest animals, birds, plants, fire, earth, wind, waters, even spirit beings, they all have lives… We have sacred places along our Tapajós river and we, the Munduruku, do not disturb these places… What government is this that is speaking against us? And declaring war to finish us off in order to then give our lands to the big landowners, agribusiness, hydro-electric dams and mining companies?

4. Dams affect far more people than they displace.

People do not have to be pushed out of their homes or watch the flooding of sacred places to be affected by dams. An estimated 400-800 million people in the world who live downstream from dams lose access to clean water, are poisoned by industrial development, and watch resources such as fish shrink along with the quantity of water flowing through rivers. Especially those living in tropical areas can experience an increase in diseases such as malaria, filariasis, yellow fever, dengue, and schistosomiasis.

5. Conflicts over dams result in the arrest and killing of earth protectors.

Since 2009, the massive growth of dams in Mexico led to the arrest of over 250 and at least 8 deaths. Global Witness tabulated that “dams and other water resources” were the third leading industries (behind mining and agribusiness) to be associated with deaths of environmentalists in 2018.

Dams have also been linked to imprisonment and/or killings in many countries, including Burma, China, Colombia, Ethiopia, Guatemala and Sudan. The greatest number of indigenous people massacred was when 440 were killed “to make way for Gautemala’s Chixoy Dam in 1982.” Extreme civil rights violations will undoubtedly rise in proportion to efforts to expand hydro-electric power.

6. Dams can increase the likelihood of wars over water resources.

Any time a river runs through two or more countries, there is a potential conflict over dam-building, especially if hostile relationships already exist. Shortly after Pakistan was created, on April 1, 1948 India began taking water from canals that went into Pakistan. The following month, the Dominion Accord required Pakistan to pay India in return for removing water. But a permanent solution was stalled until 1960 when Jawaharlal Nehru of India and Mohammad Ayub Khan of Pakistan signed the Indus Water Treaty. Many disputes were settled via the Permanent Indus Commission. But in 2017 India built the Kishanganga Dam in Kashmir and developed the Ratle hydro-power station in the Chenab River despite objections from Pakistan. With Narendra Modi’s siege of Kashmir, dams can only intensify hostilities.

Access to water is central to tensions in the Middle East. The Tigris-Euphrates basin, which includes Turkey, Syria, Iraq and western Iran, is rapidly losing water. Conn Hallihan writes “For Syria and Iraq, the problem is Turkey and Ankara’s mania for dam building. Since 1975, Turkish dams have reduced the flow of water to Syria by 40% — and to Iraq by 80%… Israel also takes 87% of the West Bank aquifers, leaving the Palestinians only 13%.” Water conflicts will get worse over time – by 2030, 4 out of every 10 people in the world may not have access to water.

Rivers cross international borders of 145 countries, not all of whom get along well. Rivers crossing 9 to 11 countries include the Congo, Nile, Rhine and Niger. Like nuclear power plants, dams would be sitting duck targets during a no-hold-barred war, especially for a country deprived of water due to its opponent’s dam.

7. Dams contribute to climate change.

It would be a tragic irony if dams were used to combat climate change because they are a huge source of greenhouse gases (GHGs). Currently, rivers remove about 200 million tons of CO2 from the atmosphere annually, both by carbon absorption and by carrying silt to the sea where it feeds plankton. Yet, dams interfere with rivers’ being a carbon sink and increase their functioning as a carbon source in multiple ways.

Building the giant Hoover Dam required 6.6 million tons of concrete. The larger Grand Coulee Dam required 24.3 million tons. Since enormous heat must be used to produce concrete, each ton manufactured releases one ton of CO2 into the atmosphere. In addition, producing steel to reinforce the concrete and build other dam components requires enormous heat, resulting in CO2 releases. Of the tens of thousands of large dams in the world, these two required creating 30.9 million tons of CO2 just for the concrete: building dams has taken a huge bite out of the carbon sequestered by rivers.

In addition to CO2 release during manufacture of building materials for dams, organic matter rots in their reservoirs and produces the potent GHG methane. Far from being a minor source of carbon, this methane is estimated to “account for 4% of all human-made climate change, equivalent to the climate impact of aviation.”

Third, dams interfere with rivers’ transporting silt and nutrients downstream, which impairs their ability to remove carbon. Finally, some hydro-electric projects can create higher GHG emissions than coal-powered plants producing an equivalent quantity of electricity. Putting these together, dams are hardly a clean, green, carbon-free energy machine.

8. Dams increase differences between rich and poor.

Approval for building dams often begins with investors’ going to politicians who act as a link between them and the population. Politicians promise that the project will bring wealth to all. By the time it becomes clear that this is not happening, the politician is out of office or distracting people with another big promise.

In 1933, construction of the New Deal’s Hoover Dam meant pushing the Yumas off their reservation land so that a boom in energy production could swell corporate profits in the US Southwest. As a sop for losing the reservation, Yumas received five acres apiece with assurance that they could grow more crops due to new irrigation systems. Meanwhile, land was “sold to whites in 40- to 100- acre parcels.”

Construction of the Belo Monte Dam reflects a common occurrence. Though thousands of Indians were displaced, the energy created did not benefit them, but businesses such as aluminum smelters.

Since they can be constructed in small quantities, wind and solar power are often the best source of energy for sparsely populated areas. In contrast, “large hydro-power dams depend on central electric grids, which are not a cost-effective tool to reach rural populations, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Himalayas.”

9. Dams cost much more than promised.

Many factors feed into making dams hyper-expensive. The most obvious is construction costs which amounts to $2 trillion since 1950. A small country persuaded to use hydro-power as its major source of energy can find that the average cost overrun of 96% leaves it more indebted to and controlled by international lenders than it ever anticipated.

Dams lead to more dams. As investors and industrial manufacturers and mine owners reap riches from one dam, they have an incentive to construct more. This contributed to the US Colorado River’s being fragmented by at least 60 dams. Awareness that the Belo Monte Dam would make more upstream dams economically viable was a major source of opposition to it.

A third reason for dams’ being more expensive than promised is that maintenance is hardly, if ever, fully accounted for. Silt eventually interferes with the dam’s functioning. Turbines malfunction, cracks occur, design flaws appear and maintenance can be insufficient. For a combination of reasons, over 1000 dams have been removed in the US and the price of removal is rarely mentioned in cost projections.

The fourth, and most costly source of expense overruns for dams, is when they break. This brings us to the last of 10 problems. When negotiating over price, the construction company is highly unlikely to admit its life expectancy.

10. Dams break.

Unlike the extinction they cause, dams are not forever. And with today’s standards for privatized construction, they can be expected to last for shorter time periods than Roman coliseums and vastly less than Egyptian pyramids. As Worster wrote:

Steel penstocks [structures that carry water from the forebay tunnel to the power house to run the turbines] and headgates must someday rust and collapse. Concrete, so permanent-seeming in is youth, must turn soft and crumble. Heavy banks of earth, thrown up to trap a flood, must eventually, under the most favorable circumstances, erode away.

On March 14, 2019, the Spencer Dam on the Niobrara River in Nebraska, which was 90 years old, broke due to heavy rain and flooding. The community was left wondering if a missing person had been drowned.

Americans who are old enough might remember the February 1972 collapse of the Buffalo Creek Dam for coal waste that burst and sent water flowing into nearby mining towns, drowning 125. In June of the same year the Canyon Lake Dam in South Dakota got clogged with debris until it broke and downstream communities around Rapid City lost 238 lives.

Failure to learn from these events led to completion of the Teton Dam in southeastern Idaho. Scientists wrote of dangers of putting a large structure in one of the most active earthquake zones in the US, adjacent to cracked and fragile canyon walls. In less than a year after completion it began springing leaks and in June 1976 it collapsed, killing 11 people and 13,000 cattle and washing away homes and a billion tons of topsoil.

The New England Historical Society documented the first major disaster as the Mill River Dam collapse of 1874 which caused 139 deaths. The worst such disaster in the US happened only 15 years later when warnings regarding the South Fork Dam near Johnstown, Pennsylvania were followed by its collapse, which killed 2209.

Eric Fish penned the disturbing story of the 1975 Banqiao Dam collapse, by far the most deadly the world has experienced to date. As part of the “Harness the Huai River” campaign, the dam was completed in 1952 in China’s Henan Province. By the 1970s, thousands of dams had been built across China. Scientific studies warned that projects could raise Henan’s water tables over safe levels. More warnings were issued that deforestation and mining could further increase the danger of building yet more dams in an earthquake-prone zone already fraught with landslides. Committed to rapid economic growth, the government ignored the warnings.

Cracks appeared almost as soon as the reservoir began filling up. With Soviet help, the structure was reinforced and it was called the “Iron Dam” to assure everyone of its safety. Nevertheless,

on Aug 5, 1975, a typhoon collided with a cold front over Henan and dropped the area’s average yearly rainfall in less than 24 hours. The 106 cm of rain that fell that day dwarfed the 30 cm daily limit the dam’s designers had anticipated. Witnesses said that the area was littered with birds that had been pummeled to death by the intense rainfall.

In an effort to mitigate downstream floods that were already severe, Banqiao was ordered not to fully open its sluice gates early in the storm. Then communication lines were knocked out, leaving operators guessing as to how the situation outside was unfolding. By the time the gates were fully opened, it was too late. Water was rising faster than it could escape.

A hydrologist had recommended building 12 sluice gates (which let water flow out at the base of a dam), but only 5 went into the final design and they were partially blocked by silt. Collapse of the Banqiao unleashed a 50 km/hour tidal wave down the river that knocked out 62 additional dams. Entire villages were swept away within minutes. One survivor recalled “I didn’t know where I was – just floating around in the water, screams and cries ringing in my ears. Suddenly, all the voices died down, leaving me in deadly silence.”

During the six hours that water poured out of the reservoir 26,000 lives were lost. Those living downstream soon envied the dead. The same torrent that flooded the reservoirs also washed out roads and knocked out rescue communication systems. When the rescue teams finally arrived, they found people standing on rooftops, holding onto trees or stranded on bits of dry land. They had kept themselves alive by eating tree leaves, animal carcasses that floated by or scavenged food that was often rotten. Hunger was joined by disease and summer heat.

For every person who died after the initial dam collapse, five more died from disease or plague. The total estimated death count was 171,000.

Perhaps the greatest tragedy of the Banqiao is that the same dynamics for economic growth that laid its foundations continue to flourish. In 2011, Zhang Jinxuan, director of the Nujiang National Development and Reform Commission, spoke of China’s growth: “We must proceed. The resources here are too good. Not to develop is not an option.” China has thousands of dams at risk of breach, either because they are wearing out due to age or they are newer with poor construction. Zhou Fangping, with the Water Resources Department of Guangdong Province, has serious worries about the huge quantity. He told China Economic Weekly:

We have so many rivers to manage and so many irrigation and water conservancy projects. If there’s only one project, we can handle it, but there are so many… either we promise to complete all the projects but we don’t actually meet the targets, or we finish them all but with sub-standard quality.

China is hardly the only country which refuses to learn from Banqiao. Scientists still make recommendations that are ignored, either from a corporate desire to make more profits or from a bureaucratic state desire to expand its power. In the US, 24 of every 25 US dams are privately owned, with financial incentives to minimize repairs. Across the globe, more and more industrial plants full of toxic chemicals are located next to rivers, increasing potential hazards of flooding. Decision makers refuse to understand that climate crisis means that weather events which cause dam disasters are becoming more frequent and more extreme. They continue to build multiple dams on the same river. They seek to assure their citizens that past disasters were due to design problems and that “Generation Next” dams will be safe.

After thousands of years of warnings from philosophers and religious prophets that humanity can live prosperously by having less grandiose desires, political leaders insist that happiness flows from a fountain of possessions, which, in the 21st century, is a fountain of energy. The more power that leaders have over other people, the more power they seek over nature. Instead of trying to work with nature to strengthen local communities, they cling to technocratic ideologies that “bigger and more complicated” is better. If a previous dam broke, they fail to see the problem as the dam’s existence – they insist that if the next dam is bigger, with more concrete and more electrical parts, then the river can be controlled.

Though efforts to subdue rivers have long caused problems, modern capitalism has transformed this pathological view to cultural psychopathy. Psychopathy reflects a lack of guilt or shame over the damage that one causes. A corporation is a social entity which is unable to feel guilt or shame for undermining the survivability of humans and millions of other life forms.

After thousands of years of disrupting natural water flow, which has been exponentially accelerated during recent decades, it is past time for humanity to restore rivers and streams while maintaining a high quality of life. This is why “500 organizations from 85 countries call on governments, financiers and other institutions to keep large hydro-power projects out of their initiatives to address climate change.”

A critical question addresses what would happen if the goal of eliminating fossil fuels usage within 10 years cannot be accomplished with solar and wind power. It is becoming increasingly obvious that the massive growth of solar/wind technology cannot expand at such an enormous rate in this time period, and, if it were seriously attempted, it would cause disastrous ecological and human health problems. Though every source that provides data on sources of energy assigns different percentages to each sector, a reasonable estimate is that in 2018, global energy was supplied by 85% fossil fuels, 7% hydro-power, 4% nuclear power and 4% solar and wind power. Hydro-electric power from dams and nuclear power are obviously next in line for huge increases in sources of energy if solar/wind cannot replace fossil fuels rapidly enough.

There is another option; but GND plans are silent on it. That option is called “energy conservation.” It includes using vastly less energy by having compact communities that require less transportation, smaller home space that requires less heating and cooling, less production of energy-absorbing gadgets designed to fall apart or go out of style and a shorter work week via manufacturing less junk.

GND enthusiasts need to say which road they advocate traveling. Should we build more dams and nuclear plants even if that means sacrificing biodiversity and human health? Or, would it better to abandon the dream of infinite economic growth? Are GND proponents willing to consider the possibility that life would be better for all species, including humans, if corporations and governments are not allowed to increase energy production? If so, we might even save a few aquatic ecosystems.

Crisis after Crisis and Still the Citizen in Capitalism Follows the Paymaster as God

I’ve been running into a lot of soft democrats and confused environmentalists lately who are all up in arms about things that really don’t mean diddly-squat in the scheme of things. You know, the presidential election (sic), all the perversity of not only Trump, but Holly-dirt, Mainlining Media, and the billionaire class, and this rotten society that still after 400 years of slavery and after a thousand treaties with indigenous peoples broken is as racist as ever.

Southern California Communist Party of USA:


More so racist in a time of supposedly more information and revised histories of this raping class of people who brought their sad, swathed-in-money-and-subjugation religion to these teeming shores. And other shores, too.

We’ve got people taking a hard position on …  we have to ban plastic straws and we have to ban grocery bags and we have to do something with all that plastic out there … when the positions should be centered around global justice, global poverty, the military industrial complex that is the purview of dozens of countries now, many of which are dealing with abject poverty — Pakistan, India, err, USA!

We never ever talk about the military, because that’s taboo, off limits, sacred cow of the Empire, even folks wearing Birkenstocks and bamboo underwear. Or mining operations by UK, French, USA, Australia, and Oh Canada.

Canadian Mining Companies Are Destroying Latin America1

Canada Mining Companies in Latin America Have Blood on Hands. An injured protester flees as riot police use tear gas and batons to disperse a protest

Canadian mining activity in Latin America has skyrocketed over the past decade. Acting on 1994’s North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Canada signed agreements with several Latin American countries to facilitate easy access for resource extraction. Those countries include Peru (2009), Colombia (2011), Panama (2013), and Honduras (2014). As such, five of the top ten locations for Canada’s international mining assets in 2014 were Latin American countries.

According to Natural Resources Canada, the value of Canadian mining assets abroad reached $148.7 billion in 2012, accounting for 66 percent of all Canadian mining assets.

Canadian activities in Mexico are especially pronounced. With nearly 200 companies in operation, Mexico is the top destination for Canadian mining investment outside of Canada. In Guerrero, terror, violence, and intimidation are a daily occurrence and the gold is said to be cheap and easy to mine. Indeed, Canadian companies such as Goldcorp, Newstrike Capital, Alamos Gold, and Torex Gold Resources all have a strong presence there.

So many of my friends want to move to Canada, cuz that paradise is so humane and loving! I try to talk sense in them, so they change the subject:

So, they spend countless hours thinking of ways to collect the plastic and incentivize schemes to have the stuff shredded and put into road asphalt. Ways to get that “precious plastic” into those 3-D printing machines.

Twisted up like pretzels, they go on and on about the ways we the people shall be/should be putting our effort/money in cleaning up our mess, err, created by corporations, and the plastics industries, which is just another front for the chemical industry, which is tied at the umbilical cord to the oil industry, since everything we do now is cooked and polymerized from that fossil goo we have so become not only addicted to but galvanized into.

Our human shit is bound up with plastics, and our food and air and soil are flogged with chemical after chemical, until all the residues and off-gassing and concomitant synergistic coalescing of physiological side effects have so altered Homo Sapiens before we are born that this is a massive, uncontrolled Doctor Frankenstein and Doctor Moreau  experiment  with outcomes we already see and feel:

  • lower sperm count in young boys and men
  • more than half of USA population cut with chronic illnesses
  • mental disturbances in more and more kindergartners and 1-12 students
  • allergies in more and more kindergartners and 1-12 students
  • more and more physical and intellectual anomalies in more and more kindergartners and 1-12 students
  • more collective passivity in the culture collectively — i.e. Stockholm Syndrome for the masses as their/our leaders-bosses-criminal politicians perpetrate the largest theft of human, monetary and ecological resources the planet or any country has ever seen
  • more and more dis-connectivity of certain melanin-starved racists to begin both mass suicides and mass shootings, as they see more and more people they are against while they continually self-medicate and calorically/chemically-abuse their own selves and zygotes
  • more mass delusion of the massive popular (insipid, droll, infantile) culture that takes more and more time and money away from individuals and families until they are indebted to the millionaire and billionaire class — the same class they now bow to, look up to, regal, valorize

Think about it for a second — Capitalism means we the people take it a million times a day, and we then believe we are the problem, we are the destroyers of the planet (we the 80 percent). We believe collectively that the corporations are mostly benevolent, that Stockholders R’ Us and that companies are people too!

I have had zero choice in all the plastics in 99 percent of the shit I have to have to be a writer, social services worker, contractor, naturalist, etc. Plastic in my car, around my car, even though it’s 2000 Chevy Metro, three-banger five speed with 220,000 original miles?

The externalities and economies of scale WE the PEOPLE pay for. It’s gotta stop —

Even though plastic is destroying our oceans, big corporations are being given money to produce cheap plastic. Taxpayers pay more than 90% of the cost of recycling, while huge subsidies are placed on fossil fuels, the major building block for plastic. This is unfair: we need to take bold action now.

Corporations should pay for the damage they cause. Only then will they be forced to create environmentally friendly alternatives. Fossil fuel companies received subsidies of $5.3tn (£3.7tn) worldwide in 2015, China alone provided subsidies of $2.3tn. As plastic is made out of fossil fuels, these are effectively colossal plastic subsidies.

Rather than being paid to pollute our waters, the polluters should pay for their plastic waste to be recycled. Currently that cost is covered by the taxpayer, but instead the cost of recycling should be part of the cost of the plastic itself – with the additional money being transferred to local governments to pay for recycling. The government should reward retailers who develop new sustainable ideas, and raise charges on packaging that is difficult to recycle. This would reduce the demand for deadly plastics among producers and retailers.

I could go on and on, but for brevity’s sake, I will shift this essay into the arena of just what is important to people in a time of mass surveillance, mass extinction, mass shootings, mass criminality of the FIRE brand class (sic)  — Finance Insurance Real Estate. What really is important to people who scoured Facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter and the infinite sound byte website and endless drivel of Youtube, TED-X and those top 10 “news” sites where all the news is unfit to send over the Internet.

If one were to have a one-on-one talk with supposedly enlightened ones, who care about the environment, know what the politics are and are on board for some massive change, they still get it so wrong, so dangerously wrong. Commie is not a good thing to them, and more and more greenies are telling me how they worry about China/Asia coming over the Pacific to take away the great resources from Canada and USA, since our (sic) North America is blessed with resources, blessed with money, blesses with less impacts from global heating.

It’s so sad, so sad, that the collective DNA of America still defaults to many of the myths and lies of both sides of the manure pile — anti Chinese, anti-Russians, anti-North Koreans, anti-Syrians, et al.

Then we drift into the prostitute line up on mainstream TV, prognosticating on who would be the best to replace Trump. Haha. It is a viscous carnival circle jerk, with all sorts of caveats on who is better than whom, and in the end, it’s always Biden would be the best, since the polls say that — oh the polls!

“We believe to put our time and money and brain-power into understanding the issues and priorities is where we can most have an impact,” Gallup Editor in Chief Frank Newport told Politico. Let other operations focus on predicting voter behavior, the implication went, we’re going to dig deeper into what the public thinks about current events.

Still, Gallup’s move, which followed an embarrassingly inaccurate performance by the company in the 2012 elections, reinforces the perception that something has gone badly wrong in polling and that even the most experienced players are at a loss about how to fix it. Heading into the 2016 primary season, news consumers are facing an onslaught of polls paired with a nagging suspicion that their findings can’t be trusted. Over the last four years, pollsters’ ability to make good predictions about Election Day has seemingly deteriorated before our eyes.

Out of all those “candidates,” I still hear from liberals here on the coast of Oregon say, Mayor Pete. “Oh, we want Mayor Pete!” This is that other disease that should have been listed above in the bullet points — some guy, who is a declared homosexual, who went to Iraq on his own in the US military, and he’s proud of it. These people don’t even bend knee for Bernie or Tulsi, because, alas, that Mad comics book guy might be the feminized or neutralized face of their own boys. Go Pete, right!

Here, some fun:

Bizarrely, at least for someone who needs to win Ohio, Florida, and North Carolina to be elected president, Mayor Pete began the evening with a long description of his Rhodes scholarship at Oxford (England, not Old Miss), where he took “a first in PPE” (philosophy, politics, and economics) at Pembroke College. (William Pitt the Younger and Monty Python’s Eric Idle are among its famous graduates.)

Acting like a kindly thesis adviser during orals, Capehart carefully went through each line of Mayor Pete’s curriculum vitae, just so the audience would not miss the fact that after the years at Harvard and Oxford, Pete also got his ticket punched as a 29-year-old mayor in South Bend and as an ensign in the U.S. naval reserve, in which he was deployed as an intelligence officer to NATO command in Kabul.

Oh, and by the way, he also worked as a consultant for McKinsey and, more recently, found time to write his memoirs, Shortest Way Home.It’s painting/writing by the numbers, so any aspiring candidate can sound like the father-dreaming Barack Obama (“A river is made drop by drop”).

In the end Mayor Pete will fall victim to what so far has delivered him to the presidential jamboree—the paper chase of credentialism.

Without Harvard, Oxford, McKinsey, and Afghanistan on his resumé, Mayor Pete would look more like an overly bright Jeopardy! contestant than a presidential candidate. (Alex Trebek: “He’s the mayor of a midwestern city and in his spare time he wants to be president. Let’s give a big welcome for Pete Buttigieg….”)

But with so many golden tickets in his background, after a while, when voters ask about what it will take to cut the $1 trillion blown on Homeland security or the best way to lower carbon emissions, they will want to hear more than Pete’s self-directed love songs. Whitman said, “I and this mystery, here we stand,” but he wasn’t running for president.

Thus, as Requiem for a Lightweight: the Mayor Pete Factor
by Matthew Stevenson points out, this guy, Mayor Pete, is the guy your old mother might like.

The heart of it is many women of the democratic party species think of some soft guy, some dude who goes on and on about his marriage vows, who is trapped in his own small world of faux intellectual pursuits — Rhodes Scholar, Oxford, and with a complete disconnect from the problems in his South Bend — as the leader of the world? Because of their perverted Trump, this fourth grade thinker, the art of the bad deal, the man who admits to all of the gross things and ideologies — they want, what, an opposite of the un-man Trump with another guy who is certainly not capable of real political work?

Democrats have no idea why Trump is in (voter suppression, and such illegalities) and why a good chunk of Americans are supporting his perversion. They don’t get that their own beds are messed up with that perversion — God, Country, Tis of Thee. Really, liberals have not fought hard enough in their own circles and families.

Just today, at Depoe Bay, working the naturalist volunteer gig, where I wander around the tourists gawking at the gray whales blowing real close by, I was talking with some guys from The Bay (Oakland-San Fran). They looked like partners, and the funny thing, they had this old guy in the car, one of the dude’s father.

These two thanked me for my naturalist talents, and fortunately, I also chime in while talking whales, dolphins, porpoises and seals and sea lions the connection to ecology and the lack of ecological health with the politics of deception.

Yeah, they hate Trump, make fun of Trump, and both men are articulate, probably in the Silicon Valley bubble of good times and big bucks. But, alas, they found out quickly I was more than just a cetacean naturalist under the auspices of a national organization that demands no politics in our spiels . . . when they know I am more than anti-Trump and that I have done my despicable stint in US military, worked in prisons, worked in immigration refugee outfits, and that I teach they want me to “have a talk with my dad back there — he’s so fucking pro-Trump.”

Out here watching these leviathans, as long as a school bus, 80,000 pounds, eating mysids the size of one rice grain to the tune of a ton a day, they wanted me to have a chat with the old guy, a chat that would end up in maybe the old man’s heart attack or stroke.

This is it, though, the end of discourse, the fear of having real conversations with embedded souls who have been sold down the river of stupidity and demigods and felons like Trump.

I also drive an old Honda Shadow, 1100cc, black, and most bikers or old men and women on $30k Harley’s, they too are MAGA. So, when I drive into a pub or bar with a bunch of weekend bikers, I don’t fear those conversations.

Hell, my Canadian mother always told me to hold steady and say it like it is. No fear, isn’t that some meme to sell some wasteful product!

Ahh, then I talked with an Italian family, and the father/husband, Justine, talked with me, wondered about Oregon, about the state’s politics (seems progressive, until you leave Portland). He said that in Italy, there is no environmental movement, that the news hardly covers climate change and food insecurity, and that in reality he is afraid for his 14-year-old daughter who was in the car with her mother. The mother thanked me for the whale tips, and she smiled when she saw her old man getting a primer on America, albeit, on the world according to an ecosocialist.

An Italian wanting to know why his own country’s media (controlled by a few Mafioso) haven’t done their job? More of the same in EU, in the colonized countries, those former-empires, now just little men and little women of old. The Media control the message!

I’ve had a few talks over the weeks with citizens from France, Germany, Portugal, Brazil, UK, etc. Hands down, they all have told me they have never had conversations in their vacations here about the things I broach. You see, it’s not anti-Trump that does it. It’s anti-Corporation, anti-Military, anti-Media, anti-Capitalism alongside pro-Green, pro-Socialista, pro-Ecosocialism, pro-retrenchment, pro-Global Collective Strategy, pro-Lock-Them-Up (we know who the “we” are, don’t you know). Most Americans, when talking with foreigners, do not get into the facts about this flagging empire. Maybe most don’t know the facts herein.

Just grounding people today who lean toward “play nice green,” who lean toward Tulsi or Beto or Pete, well, the jig is up.

Back to acceptable male characters:

The feminization of men and this homosexual bias (in favor of) that many in the democratic party parlay into what they believe are serious credentials to tackle climate change, to go after the banks, after the trillionaires with our loot, to draw down US military spending, to draw down the empire, to retrench during a time of hate and loathing inside climate change, well, this speaks volumes why Americans by and large are afraid of themselves, and have no stomach for hard work and the at least gutsy project of ecosocialism, even the work of one Howie Hawkins.

They would give Buttigieg the entire ranch, in this daft belief that a soft man, a cerebral (whatever that means) man of youth, is somehow capable of tackling these blood-sucker Republicans, their brawny lobbyists, and their perfectly criminal billionaire masters.

Forget Bernie, and they won’t touch Elizabeth Warren. Crazy liberals, man, with this Mayor Pete thing.

At least this millionaire Yang has some guts on the reality of global warming:

Here, on National Propaganda Radio, Andrew Yang:

Yang’s answer to his doom and gloom descriptions of the economy and many other problems is a universal basic income proposal he’s calling the “freedom dividend” — $1,000 a month to every U.S. citizen 18 years and older.

“Donald Trump is our president today, in large part, because he got some of the problems right, but his solutions are the opposite of what we need. His solutions were we’re going to build a wall, we’re going to turn the clock back, we’re going to bring the old jobs back,” Yang said. “We have to do the opposite of all that. We have to turn the clock forward. We have to accelerate our economy and society as fast as possible. We have to evolve in the way we see work and value.”

Most politicians will say, “We can do it; we can beat it.” I just told the truth [at the second Democratic debate], which is that we’re only 15% of the world’s emissions. Even if we were to go zero carbon, the Earth would continue to warm in all likelihood because of the energy composition of other countries. Now, I take climate change very, very seriously. It’s an existential threat to our way of life. Apparently, I might take it more seriously than even some other people who believe it’s serious because I think it’s worse than anyone thinks.

So I think we should move toward renewable energy sources as fast as possible but also proactively try and mitigate the worst effects and even try and restore our habitat in various ways by reforesting tracts of land and reseeding the ocean with kelp, marine permaculture arrays and things that can help rehabilitate what we’ve done — because right now, the Atlantic Ocean is losing 4 to 8% of its biomass every year. Then you can do the math on that — it’s a catastrophe in the making.

It is worse than these shills and candidates and their corporate backers are saying. Way worse, and for Yang to state that, well, he gets my applause in a field of ameliorators and idiots who want to go all hopey-dopey and pull some shit that we still have time.

We need just to pull down some of the carbon, 1.2 trillion trees planted.

Fox Maple Woods in Wisconsin.

There is enough room in the world’s existing parks, forests, and abandoned land to plant 1.2 trillion additional trees, which would have the CO2 storage capacity to cancel out a decade of carbon dioxide emissions, according to a new analysis by ecologist Thomas Crowther and colleagues at ETH Zurich, a Swiss university.

This is a powerful talking point for any candidate — fucking trees, man, it’s not rocket science —  and think of the world class diplomacy and goodwill this multi-country project would engender. Instead, we have criminals like Trump and his crony in Brazil, Bolsonaro, throwing their bizarro words out into the ether making a Hitler seem so-so cultured and hip to a more effective propaganda:

Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro says non-governmental organisations may be setting fires in the Amazon to embarrass the Brazilian government after it cut their funding, despite offering no evidence to support the claim.

record number of fires — 72,843 — were recorded in the Amazon this year, according to The National Institute for Space Research (Inpe).

But conservationists have blamed Mr Bolsonaro for the Amazon’s plight, saying he has encouraged loggers and farmers to clear the land.

“This is a sick statement, a pitiful statement,” said Marcio Astrini, Greenpeace Brazil’s public policy coordinator. “Increased deforestation and burning are the result of his anti-environmental policy.” Bolsonaro, a longtime sceptic of environmental concerns, wants to open the Amazon to more agriculture and mining, and has told other countries worried about rising deforestation since he took office to mind their own business.

In this context, it seems easy for democrats to hail Mayor Pete or Ms. Harris or Tulsi Gabbard has real home-run hitters in the game of life.

End ICE and CBP? That is one step, certainly easier than planting trees, or about the same?

The greens just can’t go far enough — and reference the above point that greenies out here in Portland’s haunts, the Oregon Coast, believe “they” will be coming to and flooding into the USA to get “our stuff.”

Last month, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and Senator Kamala Harris released their Climate Equity Act – the first draft of a critical component of a Green New Deal. The act aims to protect marginalized communities as Congress attempts to “address” climate change by creating a system that gives environmental legislation an equity score based on its impact on “frontline communities.”

By their definition, frontline communities include people of color, indigenous and low-income people, as well as groups vulnerable to energy transitions – like rural, deindustrialized, elder, unhoused and disabled communities. The proposed bill would also create an Office of Climate and Environmental Justice Accountability, which would “work with” key federal departments – including the Department of Homeland Security, or DHS – which houses FEMA as well as predatory immigration agencies like Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

As the intensity of the climate crisis grows, migration will also increase. A 2018 report from the International Organization for Migration estimates 405 million people will be forced to emigrate by 2050. As lawmakers consider how to equitably respond to climate catastrophe, it’s critical that they do so with a clear vision in mind. Any definition of frontline communities must also include current and future undocumented immigrants. And a plan for climate justice cannot leave room for “working with” agencies like ICE and CBP, which should instead be abolished.

DHS has already laid out its response to climate change: a path that requires increased border security and deportations – all to preserve a status quo that harms people of color. A 2012 report from the department clearly elaborates how they imagine climate change will impact their role. “Over time,” the report states, “the Department will expand its planning to include potential climate change implications to securing and managing our borders, enforcing and administering our immigration laws, and other homeland security missions.”

The job of some of us is to rat out the lies, and lately while listening to Democracy Now (not the best, but for now, the only M-F single hour on the Internet, dealing with issues close to my heart, albeit, still pushed through the meat grinder that is a Soros World) I have been messing with LinkedIn people. The amount of trash from Barrons, Bloomberg, Forbes, NYT, WaPo on LinkedIn tells us who the paymasters are of this Microsoft thing which I end up linking into while listening/watching an hour’s worth of new here on the Oregon Coast. I have somehow connected (sic) to more than a thousand, and I am sure to play a little bit of havoc in many of the colonized’s minds.

For instance, I will get from some “sustainability officer” that Lightsource BP is doing great great things. This outfit is British Petroleum, and in fact, it’s more than greenwashing. It’s green pornography — selling a company as sustainable when it is involved in crimes against humanity and tax fraud and accounting fraud and the biggest single oil spill in the world in the Gulf of Mexico.

But in America, and Canada, this kind of crap leads the way in the minds of Americans — so happy millionaires and billionaires are taking control of the future!

BP (formerly known as “British Petroleum”) is a global oil, gas and chemical company headquartered in Britain and responsible for the largest environmental disaster ever in the United States, the April 20, 2010, blowout of its Deepwater Horizon oil well in the Gulf of Mexico (discussed in more detail below). The company owns numerous refineries and chemical manufacturing plants around the world.  BP is the United Kingdom’s largest corporation. Its global headquarters are in London, and its U.S. headquarters are in Houston, Texas. Its major brands include BP, AmPm, ARCO, and Castrol. The company reported in 2012 that natural gas makes up more than half of BP’s energy production, making us the largest producer and supplier in the U.S.

Access the BP’s corporate rap sheet compiled and written by Good Jobs First here.

Other BP spills and disasters

But when you engage with these people who vaunt the Exxon’s and US Forest Service and the BP’s of the world, they accuse one (me) of nay-saying, of being radicalized, of being outside the normal box. And, in one case, “Nuff said . . . you’re from Portland . . . can’t wait for the big one so I can have some beachfront property in Arizona.” This from people on LinkedIn who tout themselves as business leaders, members of their business round-tables in their respective locales.

Oh Americans . . . Oh Canadians . . . what a terrible lot we have become!

Except, when getting a cogent and smart response to one of my tame DV pieces: One Woman’s Research on Aquatic Bioinvasions, Seaweed, Wave Energy — The doors that science strives to unlock

Excellent article. I really enjoyed it as I have your others over the years at Dissident Voice. Interesting writing style that morphs with the subject.

I live at the other side of North America in Nova Scotia, whose capital is at the 45th parallel, about the same as Oregon. Part of our Canadian province has a shoreline with the Bay of Fundy which has the highest tides in the world for all practical purposes for a decent sized body of water, about 43 feet rise and fall almost twice per day. Capturing some of that energy has been the holy grail for decades. One of my Physics profs was gung-ho about it all back in 1964. It is caused by a resonance phenomenon not unlike the kids swilling the bath water back and forth until it slops over the ends, so detuning that is a big consideration to take into account. Fiddling too much with the physical size and shape of the bay could either cause even higher tides – or lesser ones. God knows what will happen with sea level rise.

We have had a functioning 25MW tidal generator for some decades at the end of the river that flows into an inlet of the bay, said inlet being twenty miles long and five wide itself. But that is small beans compared to what the main bay could provide.

Several multi-million dollar projects in recent years have had equipment ruined by the tides and particularly currents during trials and these were only proof of concept underwater machines of no huge size. So things have ground to a halt for the time being with the last company, Irish of all things, going bankrupt and leaving a broken machine in the waters. I’d be a bit worried about fish kill with that underwater propeller gizmo you illustrate – recent machines here look nothing like that.

We are served by a Federal Government’s Bedford Institute of Oceanography performing similar investigations I would presume to those you describe in the article but over the North Atlantic and up into Frobisher Bay, and locally have invasive species such as green crab ourselves.There are, however, marine “national park” areas along our Atlantic coast and up into the Gulf of the Saint Lawrence.

On land we are subject to similar depredations of forest clear-cutting you so clearly describe about Oregon but that is provincial rather than Federal jurisdiction and land owners run the local politicians as was ever the case, but on the whole I’d say our population is somewhat more green aware than seems to be the case in the US. And we are rural, the total population being under a million with great dependency on the ocean and little industry. Overall it ain’t a bad spot but likely to be coastally submerged by rising ocean waters soon, unfortunately. The rest of Canada tends to think of our Atlantic Region area as Hicksville and gives us a paternal pat on the head now and then, and frankly we like it that way. Being left alone, that is.

The Oregon connection I have is an old acquaintance from the US East Coast who lived in Nova Scotia for a time 50 years ago, and then went west. I recently recommended your blog to her.

Keep it up. You are an evocative writer.

Best, Bruce Armstrong

Now, that’s the ticket, really, getting pugnacious and pertinent commentary from afar. Indeed, and what Bruce says I didn’t say because part of my writing is about working for a rag that highlights coastal things to do, coming, staying, buying and doing. I pitched a column, Deep Dive, to allow for a longer form of people feature. Luckily, it’s been a green light, but I itch, oh do I itch, to go on the stream of consciousness and maybe off the rails for some polemics, but I understand audience awareness, the rhetorical tricks of Cicero. Ethos, Pathos, Logos!

As an ecosocialist and communist of the ultimate kind — democracy, freedom, collective consciousness and action, food, air, water, education, health, transportation for all — I understand that the science I described in the piece is tied to more of the same: making money from taxpayer coffers, utilizing land grant schools and their faculty and professional staff for free consultations and studies, and putting R & D into all the wrong baskets — that’s what blue energy is. Waves? Tides? Rivers? Whew, the conversation is always plumbed close to technology as savior, AI as implementation, robotics as freedom.

We are in many dire crises, and when we have a single look at some wave energy, as the article briefly covered, all stops are put back into the dialogue. The feature around the marine biologist did hook more into invasive species and the benthos — what’s happening at the bottom of the sea. That is the love of my life — the sea, ocean, marine systems. Thanks, Bruce, for the pugnacity in your timely and parallel observations in your comment to me.

Of course Howie Hawkins’s work and undying struggle to be heard as a Green Party Presidential candidate is worthy of DV, and thanks to DV, here it is: On Day One, the Next President Should Declare A Climate Emergency

I have a tough time getting people to read Howie’s statements and platform without the rejoinder — “Yeah, that stuff is really going to get through Congress, the Senate, ALEC and the Corporate powers!”

Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one’s understanding without guidance from another.

—Immanuel Kant, What is Enlightenment? (1784)


What Is Energy Denial?

The fiftieth anniversary of the first Earth Day of 1970 will be in 2020. As environmentalism has gone mainstream during that half a century, it has forgotten its early focus and shifted toward green capitalism. Nowhere is this more apparent than abandonment of the slogan popular during the early Earth Days: “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.”

The unspoken phrase of today’s Earth Day is “Recycle, Occasionally Reuse, and Never Utter the Word ‘Reduce.’” A quasi taboo on saying “reduce” permeates the lexicon of twenty-first century environmentalism. Confronting the planned obsolescence of everyday products rarely, if ever, appears as an ecological goal. The concept of possessing fewer objects and smaller homes has surrendered to the worship of ecogadgets. The idea of redesigning communities to make them compact so individual cars would not be necessary has been replaced by visions of universal electric cars. The saying “Live simply so that others can simply live” now draws empty stares. Long forgotten are the modest lifestyles of Buddha, Jesus and Thoreau.

When the word “conservation” is used, it is virtually always applied to preserving plants or animals and virtually never to conserving energy. The very idea of re-imagining society so that people can have good lives as they use less energy has been consumed by visions of the infinite expansion of solar/wind power and the oxymoron, “100% clean energy.”

But… wait – can anyone really challenge the belief that solar and wind power are inherently clean? Yes, and that is the crux of the problem. Many have become so distraught with looming climate catastrophe that they turn a blind eye to other threats to the existence of life. Shortsightedness by some who rightfully denounce “climate change denial” has led to a parallel unwillingness to recognize dangers built into other forms of energy production, a problem which can be called “clean energy danger denial.”

Obviously, fossil fuels must be replaced by other forms of energy. But those energy sources have such negative properties that using less energy should be the beginning point, the ending point and occupy every in-between point on the path to sane energy use. What follows are “The 15 Unstated Myths of Clean, Renewable Energy.” Many are so absurd that no one would utter them, yet they are ensconced within the assumption that massive production of solar and wind energy can be “clean.”

Myth 1. “Clean energy” is carbon neutral. The fallacious belief that “clean” energy does not emit greenhouse gases (GHGs) is best exemplified by nuclear power, which is often included in the list of alternative energy sources. It is, of course, true that very little GHGs are released during the operation of nukes. But it is wrong to ignore the use of fossil fuels in the construction (and ultimate decommissioning) of the power plant as well as the mining, milling, transport and eternal storage of nuclear material. To this must be added the fossil fuels used in the building of the array of machinery to make nukes possible and the disruption of aquatic ecosystems from the emptying of hot water.

Similarly, examination of the life cycle of producing “clean” energy reveals it requires machinery that is heavily dependent on fossil fuels. Steel, cement and plastics are central to “renewable” energy and have heavy carbon footprints. One small example: The mass of an industrial wind turbine is 90% steel.

Myth 2. “Clean energy” is inexhaustible because the sun will always shine and the wind will always blow. This statement assumes that all that is needed for energy is sunshine and wind, which is not the case. Sunshine and wind do not equal solar power and wind power. The transformation into “renewable” energy requires minerals which are non-renewable and difficult to access.

Myth 3. “Clean energy” does not produce toxins. Knowledge that the production of fossil fuels is associated with a high level of poisons should not lead us to ignore the level of toxins involved in the extraction and processing of lithium, cobalt, copper, silver, aluminum, cadmium, indium, gallium, selenium, tellurium, neodymium, and dysprosium. Would a comparison of toxins associated with the production of clean energy to fossil fuels would be an open admission of the dirtiness of what is supposed to be “clean?”

Another example: “Processing one ton of rare earths necessary for alternative energy produces 2,000 tons of toxic waste.” Similar to what happens with Myth 2, toxins may not be produced during the operation of solar and wind power but permeate other stages of their existence.

Myth 4. “Clean energy” does not deplete or contaminate drinkable water. Though water is usually thought of for agriculture and cooling in nuclear power plants, it is used in massive amounts for manufacturing and mining. The manufacture of a single auto requires 350,000 liters of water.

In 2015, the US used 4 billion gallons of water for mining and 70% of water comes from groundwater. Water is used for separating minerals from rocks, cooling machinery and dust control. Even industry apologists admit that “Increased reliance on low ore grades means that it is becoming necessary to extract a higher volume of ore to generate the same amount of refined product, which consumes more water.” Julia Adeney Thomas points out that “producing one ton of rare earth ore (in terms of rare earth oxides) produces 200 cubic meters of acidic wastewater.”

Myth 5. “Clean energy” does not require very much land usage. In fact, “clean” energy could well have more effect on land use than fossil fuels. According to Jasper Bernes, “To replace current US energy consumption with renewables, you’d need to devote at least 25-50 % of the US landmass to solar, wind, and biofuels.”

Something else is often omitted from contrasts between energy harvesting. Fossil fuel has a huge effect on land where it is extracted but relatively little land is used at the plants where the fuel is burned for energy. In contrast, solar/wind power requires both land where raw materials are mined plus the vast amount of land used for solar panels or wind “farms.”

Myth 6. “Clean energy” has no effect on plant and animal life. Contrary to the belief that there is no life in a desert, the Mojave is teeming with plant and animal life whose habitat will be increasingly undermined as it is covered with solar collectors. It is unfortunate that so many who express concern for the destruction of coral reefs seem blissfully unaware of the annihilation of aquatic life wrought by deep sea mining of minerals for renewable energy components.

Wind harvesting can be a doomsday machine for forests. As Ozzie Zehner warns: “Many of the planet’s strongest winds rip across forested ridges. In order to transport 50-ton generator modules and 160-foot blades to these sites, wind developers cut new roads. They also clear strips of land … for power lines and transformers. These provide easy access to poachers as well as loggers, legal and illegal alike.”

As the most productive land for solar/wind extraction is used first, that requires the continuous expansion of the amount of land (or sea bed) taken as energy use increases. The estimate that 1 million species could be made extinct in upcoming decades will have to be up-counted to the extent that “clean” energy is mixed in with fossil fuels.

Myth 7. “Clean energy” production has no effect on human health. Throughout the centuries of capitalist expansion workers have struggled to protect their health and families have opposed the poisoning of their communities. This is not likely to change with an increase in “clean” energy. What will change is the particular toxins which compromise health.

Creating silicon wafers for solar cells “releases large amounts of sodium hydroxide and potassium hydroxide. Crystalline-silicon solar cell processing involves the use or release of chemicals such as phosphine, arsenic, arsine, trichloroethane, phosphorous oxycholoride, ethyl vinyl acetate, silicon trioxide, stannic chloride, tantalum pentoxide, lead, hexavalent chromium, and numerous other chemical compounds.” The explosive gas silane is also used and more recent thin-film technologies employ toxic substances such as cadmium.

Wind technology is associate with its own problems. Caitlin Manning reports on windmill farms in the Trans Isthmus Corridor of Mexico: “which is majority Indigenous and dependent on agriculture and fishing. The concrete bases of the more than 1,600 wind turbines have severely disrupted the underground water flows … Despite promises that they could continue to farm their lands, fences and security guards protecting the turbines prevent farmers from moving freely. The turbines leak oil into the soil and sometimes ignite … many people have suffered mental problems from the incessant noise.”

Though the number health problems documented for fossil fuels is vastly more than those with solar/wind, the latter have been used on an industrial scale for a much shorter time, making it harder for links to show up. The Precautionary Principle states that a dangerous process should be proven safe before use rather than waiting until after damage has been done. Will those who have correctly insisted that the Precautionary Principle be employed for fracking and other fossil fuel processes demand an equivalent level of investigation for “clean” energy or give it the same wink and nod that petrochemical magnates have enjoyed?

Myth 8. People are happy to have “clean energy” harvested or its components mined where they live. Swooping windmill blades can produce constant car-alarm-level noise of about 100 decibels, and, if they ice up, they can fling it off at 200 miles per hour. It is not surprising that indigenous people of Mexico are not alone in being less than thrilled about having them next door. Since solar panels and windmills can only be built where there is lots of sun or wind, their neighbors are often high-pressured into accepting them unwillingly.

Obviously, components can be mined only where they exist, leading to a non-ending list of opponents. Naveena Sadasivam gives a few examples from the very long list of communities confronting extraction for “clean” energy components: “Indigenous communities in Alaska have been fighting to prevent the mining of copper and gold at Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay, home to the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery and a crucial source of sustenance. The proposed mine … has been billed by proponents as necessary to meet the growing demand for copper, which is used in wind turbines, batteries, and solar panels. Similar stories are playing out in Norway, where the Sámi community is fighting a copper mine, and in Papua New Guinea, where a company is proposing mining the seabed for gold and copper.”

Myth 9. No one is ever killed due to disputes over energy extraction or harvesting. When Asad Rehman wrote in May 2019 that environmental conflicts are responsible for “the murder of two environmental defenders each and every week,” his data was out of date within two months. By July 2019 Global Witness (GW) had tabulated that “More than three people were murdered each week in 2018 for defending their land and our environment.” Their report found that mining was the deadliest economic sector, followed by agriculture, and water resources such as dams in third place. Commenting on the GW findings, Justine Calma wrote “Although hydropower has been billed as ‘renewable energy,’ many activists have taken issue with the fact large dams and reservoirs have displaced indigenous peoples and disrupted local wildlife.”

GW recorded one murder sparked by wind power. Murders traceable to “clean” energy will certainly increase if it out-produces energy from fossil fuels. The largest mass murder of earth defenders that GW found in 2018 was in India “over the damaging impacts of a copper mine in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.” Copper is a key element for “clean” energy.

Myth 10. One watt of “clean energy” will replace one watt from use of fossil fuels. Perhaps the only virtue that fossil fuels have is that they are more efficient than solar/wind power because they are relatively easy to store for use. It is not nearly so easy with solar and wind power because they are intermittent, which means they can be collected only when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing. Thus, solar/wind energy must be stored and retrieved by complex processes, all of which result in substantial loss of energy. Additionally, the wiring characteristics of solar panels means that tiny fragments such as dust or leaves can block the surface.

Therefore, their efficiency will be much less under actual operating conditions that they are under ideal lab conditions. A test described by Ozzie Zehner found that solar arrays rated at 1000 watts actually produced 200-400 watts in the field. Similarly, Pat Murphy notes that while a coal plant operates at 80-90% of capacity, wind turbines do so at 20-30% of capacity. Since they perform much lower than expected, both solar and wind energy require considerably more land than misleading forecasts predict. This, in turn, increases all of the problems with habitat loss, toxic emissions, human health and land conflicts.

Myth 11. “Clean energy” is as efficient as fossil fuels in resource use. Processes needed for storing and retrieving energy from intermittent sources renders them extremely complex. Solar/wind energy can be stored for night use by using it to pump water uphill and, when energy is needed, letting it flow downhill to turn turbines for electricity. Or, it can be stored in expensive, large and heavy batteries. Wind turbines “can pressurize air into hermetically sealed underground caverns to be tapped later for power, but the conversion is inefficient and suitable geological sites are rare.” Daniel Tanuro estimates that “Renewable energies are enough to satisfy human needs, but the technologies needed for their conversion are more resource-intensive than fossil technologies: it takes at least ten times more metal to make a machine capable of producing a renewable kWh than to manufacture a machine able to produce a fossil kWh.”

Myth 12. Improved efficiency can resolve problems of “clean energy.” This is perhaps the most often-stated illusion of green energy. Energy efficiency (EE) is the same as putting energy on sale. Shoppers do not buy less of something on sale – they buy more. Stan Cox describes research showing that at the same time air conditioners became 28% more efficient, they accounted for 37% more energy use. Findings such as this are due both to users keeping their houses cooler and more people buying air conditioners. Similarly, at the same time as automobiles showed more EE, energy use for transportation went up. This is because more drivers switched from sedans to SUVs or small trucks and there were many more drivers and cars on the road.

EE parallels increased use of energy not just because of increased use of one specific commodity, but also because it allows people to buy other commodities which are also energy-intensive. It spurs corporations to produce more energy-guzzling objects to dump on the market. Those people who do not want this additional stuff are likely to put more money in the bank and the bank loans out that money to multiple lenders, many of whom are businesses which increase their production.

Myth 13. Recycling “clean energy” machine components can resolve its problems. This myth vastly overestimates the proportion of materials that can actually be recycled and understates the massive amount of “clean” energy being advocated. Kris De Decker point out that “… a 5 MW wind turbine produces more than 50 tonnes of plastic composite waste from the blades alone.” If a solar/wind infrastructure could actually be constructed to replace all energy from fossil fuel, it would be the most enormous build-up in human history. Many components could be recycled, but it is not possible to recycle more than 100% of components and the build-up would require an industrial growth rate of 200%, 300% or maybe much more.

Myth 14. Whatever problems there are with “clean energy” will work themselves out. Exactly the opposite is true. Problems of “clean” energy will become worse as resources are used up, the best land for harvesting solar and wind power is taken, and the rate of industrial expansion increases. Obtaining power will become more vastly difficult as there are diminishing returns on new locations for mining and placing solar collectors and wind mills.

Myth 15. There Is No Alternative. This repeats Margaret Thatcher’s right-wing perspective which is reflected in the claim that “We have to do something because moving a little bit in the right direction is better than doing nothing at all.” The problem is that expanding energy production is a step in the wrong direction, not the right direction.

The alternative path to overgrowing “clean” energy is remembering what was outlined before. The concept of conserving energy is an age-old philosophy embodied in use of the word “reduce.” Those who only see the horrible potential of climate change have an unfortunate tendency to mimic the behavior of climate change deniers as they themselves deny the dangers of alternative energy.

Kris De Decker traces the roots of toxic wind power not to wind power itself but to hubristic faith in unlimited energy growth: “For more than two thousand years, windmills were built from recyclable or reusable materials: wood, stone, brick, canvas, metal. If we would reduce energy demand, smaller and less efficient wind turbines would not be a problem.”

Every form of energy production has difficulties. “Clean, renewable energy” is neither clean nor renewable. There can be good lives for all people if we abandon the goal of infinite energy growth. Our guiding principle needs to be that the only form of truly clean energy is less energy.

The Bomb and the End of Sanity

Sometimes a poet can grasp the human significance of a technological failure better than a scientist. We are fortunate to have these poetic voices from Japan collected here. May we hear them and, more importantly,may we heed them.

— John Pearson, MD, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility

I’m thinking hard about ecosocialism and retrenchment and revolution against the capitalist state — this old neofascism for/by/because of the state, governments, and their paymasters, oligarchs and unfettered robber barons, of old and new.

See the source image

How the realities shaping humanity are not humanity’s realities, and the power of shifting baselines and spreading myopia and growing fear inside the capitalist prison creates not only self-defeating behavior from the masses but complicity with the Point Zero Zero One Percent, the One Percent and the Dream and Opportunity Hoarders — the 19 percent.

Hiroshima 74 years ago, August 6, and August 9 for Nagasaki.

This milestone is as powerfully illustrative of the power in the inhumane drive of technocrats, scientists, militarists and corporatists to throw civilization into what has amounted to be tailspin of economic, ecological, educational, equity, energy schizophrenia.

The so-called greenies, those not only plain liars and greenwashers, but also green porn peddlers, many of them actually shooting for a world powered by nuke energy. Imagine that, 400 of them on earth now, and to replace fossil fuel with that devil product, nuclear powered energy, we’d need 60,000 of them peppered all around major metropolitan areas.

Kate Brown, on Democracy Now:

 You know, if we’re going to fully replace fossil fuels, we will have to build 12,000 new reactors around the globe. There are about 400 now. So that’s a big upscale in nuclear power. There will have to be nuclear power stations outside of every major population point. Now, there’s all kinds of problems with cost, versus renewables.

But the thing that most keeps me up at night is the health effects. We really don’t know what the health effects are for sure. This is heavily disputed. There has been no big study. The Chernobyl records show that health effects at low doses of radioactivity are severe and that they run through a population, causing people to feel — before they die, before they get cancers, before they’re reported as acute effects, the subacute effects cause people have a sort of a full bouquet of health problems, that make life just miserable on a daily level,  makes their work productivity quite low, makes the joy of living exist.

I’m afraid that not only could it happen here, but, in fact, it already has happened here. Our biggest nuclear power plant, in Hanford, power plant in western — eastern Ukraine — I mean, I’m sorry, in eastern Washington state, spilled 350 million curies of radioactive waste into the surrounding environment during the Cold War production of nuclear arms. We tested — we’re the only country in the world that tested nuclear bombs in our heartland, in Nevada. Those hundred nuclear weapons that were blown up on the American continent spread billions — not millions like in Chernobyl, but billions — of curies of radioactive waste around the American country. And so, we have had spots of radioactivity in Tennessee and Chicago area that were as high as near Nevada. And what we have is a public health crisis that we have yet not yet fully addressed. We have rising rates of thyroid cancer, rising rates of pediatric cancers, which used to be, in the 1930s, a medical rarity.  Whether there is a connection between these troubling health statistics and the kind of contaminants, including radioactive contaminants in the environment, is something that we need to address.

Thanks to Dissident Voice, we featured the mind and spirit of not only Kate Brown, but others tied to the crimes of our government and technocrats and bureaucrats against Hanford, the Tri-Cities, Washington, Oregon, the Japanese, the entire world — the place that seeded the nuclear isotopes for one of those bombs used to murder people vis-a-vis Oppenheimer:

Hanford — From Nagasaki to Fourth-Generation Spokanites: As They Get Sick, Age, and Die, Will Downwinders Tell The Story of Nuclear Dread?

Nuclear Narratives – When Cold War Starts, the Hot Milk Gets Poured: Survivors downwind from radioactive releases push through complacency, amnesia, and secrets

In an Age of Millisecond and Nanosecond Info, Poetry Really Counts

The Heart of where we go from here is really the path back, to a place of reconciliation, regrouping and re-appropriating the power of collective action, collectivism and stopping the monsters of greed running the world.

Helen Keller, on a return trip to Japan in 1948,
visited Hiroshima.

She directly touched the A-bomb survivors’ keloid scars
and came to understand the horror of the Atomic Bomb.


If Helen were to visit Fukushima now
and touch the ground with her fingertips,
what kind of scream would pierce her skin
and shake her soul?

—Masanori Shida, “Helen Keller’s Fingertips”

This gift of a poem comes to me through a very two or three degrees of separation story in my life: I was at a Cirque Journal reading in Portland last week. I and 12 others reading our work from a just published new edition of Cirque Journal.

I was at a pre-reading publisher event, where I was there with my veteran buddy, Danny, and my friend, Larry, meeting as buddies but also part of my rendezvous with Sandra with Cirque, and another writer, Leah Stenson. Leah and I both have very different books coming out in 2020 through Cirque Press (my short story collection, Wide Open Eyes: Surfacing from Vietnam, and hers is a memoir, Life, Revised)  and, well, after talking, meeting, reading at a Lutheran Church, and then, meeting for libations and food at the Rose City Book Pub, she gifted me her edited book, Reverberations from Fukushima: 50 Japanese Poets Speak Out. 

This book, like a Santa Ana of wind on a cool summer night, ties into so many issues I have been journeying with:

  • the military industrial complex now embedded in almost all things Capitalism
  • the lies of corporations and lobbies tied to EVERYTHING I have studied that has caused physical, mental, and spiritual despair in humanity and all of Gaia’s nature
  • the masculine madness of genuflecting to industry, to chemicals, to industrial logging, ag, mining, harvesting of resources
  • the flagrant psychological manipulation of entire groups and societies by the oppressors — capitalists and their battalions of little Eichmann’s

Leah’s co-editor, Asao Sarukawa Aroldi, was part of the growing anti-nuclear movement in Japan following the disaster at Fukushima. Leah credits Asao for getting Japanese poets to be part of this book, by Inkwater Press. Much of the discovery took place from a book edited by Hisao Suzuki: Farewell to Nuclear, Welcome Renewable Energy: A Collection of Poems by 218 Poets (Coal Sack Publishing, 2012).

This book is a virtual goldmine of powerful poets, many of who reside(resided) in these areas directly or near the Fukushima disaster. Five authors in this collection are residents of Fukushima Prefecture — Masayuki Nemoto, Hiroshi Suzuki, Takao Ota, Tamiko Kido, Jotaro Wakamatsu. Three were born in Fukushima Prefecture — Setsuko Okubo, Chihiro Uozumi, Shonai Haga — and one, Makoto Yoshida, is deceased.

Someday nuclear power
will certainly turn its fangs on people.
To forever reject this monster —
therein lies our raison d’etre.
If we should be negligent in this
then surely our grandchildren will someday ask:
“What did your generation do?”

— “Heavy Days and Years,” Makoto Yoshida

Today, we are at the juncture where very little attention is paid to Japan and other places attempting to disseminate all the suffering the people of Fukushima underwent at the time of the meltdown and what continues today as a vast cover up by governments, the so-called nuclear energy industry, the military, and the sciences wedded to this ghastly form of boiling water for electricity.

That earthquake that struck at 2:46 pm March 11, 2011 was the most powerful in Japan’s history. The tsunami (Japanese word for harbor wave) hit the plant one hour after the quake. Water hit the basement of the plant’s off-site batteries which were designed for the generator to keep the cores cool. This is a violation of nuclear safety principles, and the plant’s cooling system went off, causing the meltdown of the fuel and explosion of excess hydrogen.

There is no absolute safety with nuclear energy, but the nuclear industry purports this all the time: “clean safe renewable energy.”

In the poem, “To Give Birth,” Rumiko Kora looks at the element in the Chinese character to give birth as depiction of a baby being born.

In the olden days, when a woman left the hut after childbirth, she ducked under the waves and swam through the waves at day on the shore of the Japan Sea to return from death.

For the Japanese, women needed to be cleansed by the waves because giving birth also meant going to the after-world in order to give birth to a new life — in the cycle of life and death.

Women have given birth in this way,
have kept on giving birth, but the birth canal has eventually led to the nuclear power plant, has it not?

In the poem, “A Land of Sorrow: A City Spirited Away by God,” Jotaro Wakamatsu looks at Pripyat City, a town near Chernobyl. Eight years after the accident weeds push up sidewalks, and from some appearances things look normal with flying swallows and swarms of mosquitoes and butterflies on flowers. However. . . .

it is a city with no human voices.
It is a city where not human walks.
It is a city where 45,000 people are hiding.


Everything is headed for ruin,
competing with human lives
and the city build by humans in the race to ruin are:
strontium 90 with its half-life of  27.7 years
cesium 137 with its half-life of 30 years
plutonium 239 with its half-life of 24,400 years.

The madness of humanity post Fertile Crescent ascension, post bronze age, into the industrial age/revolution is exponentially ramped up year after year with more and more systems, tools, products, and consumables of death, and oppression. How many do we grieve just for World War Two? Seventy million? How many countries has the USA bombed just in the 20th century? How many millions killed by USA?

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Every turn, we see the results of the inhumane, the rampant reliance on the takers, as those of us in leaver society find it more difficult each day to be a human being.

The problem is that man’s conquest of the world has itself devastated the world. And in spite of all the mastery we’ve attained, we don’t have enough mastery to stop devastating the world – or to repair the devastation we’ve already wrought. We’ve poured our poisons into the world as though it were a bottomless pit – and we go on pouring our poisons into the world. We’ve gobbled up irreplaceable resources as though they could never run out – and we go on gobbling them up. It’s hard to imagine how the world could survive another century of this abuse, but nobody’s really doing anything about it… “Only one thing can save us. We have to increase our mastery of the world. All this damage has come about through our conquest of the world, but we have to go on conquering it until our rule is absolute. Then, when we’re in complete control, everything will be fine. We’ll have fusion power. No pollution. We’ll turn the rain on and off. We’ll grow a bushel of wheat in a square centimeter…And that’s where it stands right now. We have to carry the conquest forward. And carrying it forward is either going to destroy the world or turn it into a paradise.

— Gorilla, talking to journalist, Ishmael, Daniel Quinn

As I have repeated many times, poetry can bring meaning to individual experiences with the power of perception and words, bringing that personal view to a universal understanding. That despoiled land or war-torn city, any of those harrowing human travails can be the conduit of enlightenment and healing. We are basically living in a house of mirrors, a carnival of horrors, and a nightmare of deep proportions invented by the overlords — throughout human history from around 12,000 before the present era.

Yet that catharsis we see in these poems in the book, Reverberations from Fukushima, are deeper than personal trauma healing and more about recounting what is human universal truth and strength — memory, and remembering the sorrow. We are part of a great collective consciousness if we as individuals are capable of releasing the ego and moving toward the collective view.

These poets come to Fukushima and live inside the disaster crumbling  their air, soil, sea and water and they seethe with a sense of desiring answers and reclaiming truth.

Einstein’s Voice

“Bamboo poles for sale!
Bamboo poles for sale!”

While I am reading the newspaper, reclining
in the afternoon on a summer’s day,
I hear the sing-song cry of a man selling laundry poles.*

The atomic bomb, Little Boy, was dropped on Hiroshima
at 15 minutes and 17 seconds past 9:00 a.m.
August 6, Tinian Time.
It is said
when the news reached Einstein,
who had contributed to the Manhattan Project,
he just uttered a groan:

Oy vey!

in similar words in a will
he wrote five months before his death:
If I had my life to live over again,
I would like to be a tinsmith or a traveling salesman,
not a scientist or a teacher.

Bamboo poles for sale!
Bamboo poles for sale!
Bamboo poles for sale!

No one seems to be buying any bamboo poles.
Outside the windows
the sky is clear, like in Hiroshima.

Oy vey!

Did he turn at the street corner?
The voice of the traveling salesman, Einstein,
is fading further away.

— Hiroyoshi Komatsu

This book is both clarion call and dirge, a recollection and a plea for future generations to bear witness and move to action. And that action is clear — stop the nuclear madness, in both the boiling water to turn turbines to give electricity, and those nuclear-tipped weapons of genocide.

There’s an amazing poem, “You’re Gonna Get It!” by Ken Yamaguchi.

He starts — “The Japanese archipelago
completely surrounded with fifty-four nuclear plants,
is like a prison in the ocean
isolating the prisoners.”

He ends — “August 15, 1945, we lost the war.
The Myth of Invincibility of the totalitarian emperor system collapsed.
You, who are trying to follow a fallen path,
You’re gonna get it!”

We all relish the moments when the masters of this calamity and chaos are ‘gonna get it,’ for sure. We all have lost that war, those tumbling Fat Man and Little Boy. And we are losing the war now as perverted politicians laugh at their power to drop MOAB’s — mother of all bombs.

This collection edited by Stenson and Sarukawa Aroldi give the world shadows from which to peel away the false dramas coming out of that house of mirrors.

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We are here, on the Pacific, eating the dredges of Fukushima, each radioactive ion encapsulated in the very flesh of the fish we so desire as benediction and nutrition. We can dine with the poet, as we perish, and suffer, and wonder why humanity has turned against itself.

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One Woman’s Research on Aquatic Bioinvasions, Seaweed, Wave Energy

Symbioses — prolonged associations between organisms often widely separated phylogenetically — are more common in biology than we once thought and have been neglected as a phenomenon worthy of study on its own merits. Extending along a dynamic continuum from antagonistic to cooperative and often involving elements of both antagonism and mutualism, symbioses involve pathogens, commensals, and mutualists interacting in myriad ways over the evolutionary history of the involved ‘partners.’

— Gregory G. Dimijian, “Evolving Together: The Biology of Symbiosis”

It’s about being really committed. I tell students who are not any smarter than their peers that this takes hard work … to work on one question for five to seven years.

— Sarah Henkel on what it takes to study for and gain a doctorate in marine sciences

One never knows the waters a science-based article will dip into when a writer features one of OSU-Hatfield’s multidisciplinary researchers. Scientists look at very focused questions while naturalists and generalist ecologists look at systems from a broader range, but that interplay is less friction than analysis. As a journalist, my job is to dig deep and find those connections.

For Sarah Henkel, looking at how human-made structures affect what happens at the bottom of the sea is both fascinating and important to all human-activities in and around marine systems.

However, one scientist’s invasive species is another scientist’s opportunistic species. She’s got creed in the study of the benthic zone (what’s happening on the ocean’s bottom) and wave energy.

In her office at Hatfield, Sara and I recognize that the world of ecology is evolving due to innovative research and new questions scientists and policy makers are no longer afraid to ask.

She’s not atypical – a smart scientist who is open to fielding a wide-range of inquiries.

Because of the heavy footprint humans have put upon the environment in the form of cutting down entire forests and jungles, as well as geo-engineering the planet through fossil fuel burning and all the chemicals released in industrial processes, newer challenges to both our species’ and other species’ survival end up in the brains and labs of scientists.

To say science is changing rapidly is an understatement.

One Floating Piece of Debris Can Change an Entire Coast

For Henkel, she wonders what the effects of one pilon, one mooring anchor, and one attached buoy have on ecologies from the sea floor, upward.

The ocean, once considered immune to humanity’s despoilments, is as far as its chemical composition and ecological processes fragile with just the right forcers. HMSC is lucky to have dedicated thinkers like Sarah Henkel working on questions regarding not only this part of the world, but globally.

Students working with Sarah gain varying knowledge she’s accomplished through transitions from inland girl growing up in Roanoke, Virginia, where creeks, deciduous forest and terrestrial animals enchanted her and her sibling, to marine scientist in Oregon.

“Ever since I was in third grade, I knew I was going to be a marine biologist,” she says while we talk in her office at Hatfield. When a child, she visited a “touch tank” at a museum near her home and was completely fascinated with the horseshoe crabs.

Posters of benthic megaflora – seaweed and eel grass – adorn her office walls at HMSC. We’re talking about kelps like bull whip, feather boa, deadman’s finger, witch’s hair, studded sea balloons, and Turkish towel displayed on posters.

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Symbiosis, Cooperation, Opportunism, Invasiveness? That is the Question.

While we talk about kelp/seaweed, she shifts to invasive species like Undaria pinnatifida which hitched onto debris from the 2011 tsunami in Japan. Over a dozen species on a worldwide list of invasive species were on broken dock moorings that washed up near Newport. Three — Undaria pinnatifida, Codium fragile, and Grateloupia turuturu — are particularly hazardous.

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Some of Henkel’s work looks at one gene expression, say, in Egregia menziesii, to uncover how the species responds to various conditions. Some big issues dovetail to Undaria pinnatifida playing havoc in Australia and New Zealand.

Her fundamental question is how can certain invasive species establish niches in very different waters from where they evolved. Looking at temperature and salinity tolerances as well as desiccation limits of species helps cities, states and countries manage opportunistic invasives that not only thrive in new places, but push out endemic species.

East Coast-West Coast: Transplantation

Henkel’s a transplant herself, from Virginia, with a science degree from the College of William and Mary. She tells me that she was lucky to have gotten into a gifted and talented high school program where she attended half a day every morning, then getting bused back to her home school in the afternoon — for three years.

“It [Virginia Governor’s School] was set up like a college, with professors and curriculum more like college-level courses.”

She then transplanted herself to California State University–Fullerton in 2000 to work on a master’s degree. Then, further north, to UC-Santa Barbara for a doctorate in marine sciences.

The final thrust northward was in 2009, to OSU, where she has been ever since.

We laugh at the idea of humans also being an invasive or transplanted species: She brings up a place like San Francisco Bay which is considered by scientists as a “global zoo” of invasive species with as many as 500 plants and animals from foreign shores taking hold in Frisco’s marine waters.

“Scientists think there are more invasives in San Francisco Bay than there are native species.”

She, her husband Will, and their six-year-old live in Toledo because, as she says, “there’s no marine layer to contend with and Toledo has a summer up there.” Mountain biking is what the family of three enjoy – from Alsea Falls, to Mt. Bachelor and Mt. Hood.

If We Build It, Will They Come, Leave or Morph?

“The biggest issue facing wind and wave energy developers in the environmental arena is the high level of uncertainty regarding environmental effects will be difficult to reduce that uncertainty.” – Sarah Henkel

After her Ph.D, from UC-Santa Barbara, Sarah sent out more than a dozen applications for professorships and research positions to universities.

What got her into the OSU Family was her work at a California-based Trust looking at decommissioning offshore oil platforms.

“What sorts of animals are living on platforms? Do you cut them off at the top to allow navigation and then preserve whatever’s grown on it?” Artificial reefs are attractive in increasing species like corals, sponges, fish and crustacean, but she emphasized that’s mostly done in tropical locations. Henkel says she was a strong candidate for OSU because of the school’s work on the effects of wave energy equipment and lines on the ecosystem up here off Newport.

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The marriage between Henkel’s knowledge of benthic ecosystems and the need to understand not only what the moorings of wave energy machines do to fauna like boney fish, crabs, and other species, but also what happens to the mechanisms that are immersed in water as they capture the wave energy was perfect for OSU.

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She points out wind turbines also have anchoring systems and superstructures; however, the actual energy-capturing mechanisms are high in the air as opposed to wave energy devices.

Wave Energy, Blue Energy: No Slam Dunk

“The industry recognizes the value of looking like they are being good environmental stewards,” she says, pointing out her ecological expertise melds well with the industry’s ideal of sustainable, renewable clean energy.

Her role with the Pacific Marine Energy Center is to coordinate all the science concerned with the ecological effects of wind energy – both the siting, building, and operation of any wave energy array.

OSU is looking at wave energy while the other members of PMEC are studying tidal energy (University of Washington) and river energy (University of Alaska).

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small energy generating device, river

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The idea of studying sediment changes caused by anchors and structures located on the bottom – at the grain size level – may not be considered “sexy” when one thinks of marine biology; however, for Henkel the benthic zone is where it’s at.

“The classic question for artificial reefs is attraction versus production: Can there be more fish overall with this additional habitat, or is that artificial habitat attracting fish away from natural reefs?”

The permitting process for the wave energy site off Newport has been both Byzantine and slow, and it’s ironic that in her 10 years at OSU, she’s not had any opportunity to do the field observations and data collecting she was hired to head up. In that decade, Henkel said a 1/3 scale wave energy device was put into the ocean out here for seven weeks.

Henkel is not stuck in limbo, however, since she is conducting research into other aspects of the benthic region with far-reaching implications for our coastal economy.

Crabs on the Move

When we think of the Dungeness crab, most realize it’s Oregon’s leading commercial seafood product; it brought in an estimated $75 million in 2018. Henkel posed a question that many crabbers have had in their minds for years: How far will crabs travel in search of food?

In 2018, Henkel and a colleague from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration superglued acoustic tags onto legal-sized Dungeness crabs near the mouth of the Columbia River and off Cape Falcon.

Acoustical receivers helped the team learn the frequency and distance crabs moved in rocky versus sandy habitat – data that, again, will help understand possible impacts of wave energy testing on marine reserves.

Those 10 tagged crabs in sandy environs near the Columbia left the region within a week; the transmitter, at a price of $300 each, went with them.

Most know that crabbers prefer sandy areas for their pots because of fewer entanglements compared to rocky bottoms.

“It’s interesting because I’ve done a lot of sampling of benthic habitat and there just isn’t a lot of food down there,” Henkel told Mark Floyd of OSU. “There’s usually only very small worms and clams, yet there’s an enormous crab harvest each year and most of that is from sandy-bottomed regions.”

Good science means marching on, so another 20 crabs were tagged and then dropped in waters near Cape Falcon, a rocky benthic zone. Her findings were surprising: “Four of those crabs left the region right away, while the other 16 stayed an average of 25.5 days. One stayed for 117 days.”

“Even though it’s a small sample size, it’s clear that habitat can influence crab movement,” Henkel told Floyd. “The crabs in the rocky areas had more to eat, but they often also have mossy bellies, which may not be as desirable commercially. Commercial crabbers like to target migrating crabs in sandy areas that tend to have smooth bellies.”

Chemical Outflows Studied

Other interesting projects she’s been involved with include a 2012 study of marine species living in Newport waters to see if the Georgia-Pacific containerboard plant outfall pipe, located 4,000 feet off Nye Beach, may be exposing some marine life to contaminants.

In fact, it was the City of Newport that requested OSU researchers look at a variety of species, including flatfish (speckled sand dab), crustaceans (Dungeness crab and Crangon shrimp), and mollusks (mussels and olive snails) because they might be bioaccumulating metals and organic pollutants at different rates.

Henkel and colleague, Scott Heppell, found contamination of those species was not at levels of concern: “There was some concern that metals and organic pollutants may be bioaccumulating in nearby marine life. We tested for 137 different chemicals and only detected 38 of them – none at levels that remotely approach concern for humans.”

New Student Archetypes: Funding at the Whim of New Anti-science Administration

We discuss what characteristics current science students possess compared to when she was a young undergraduate science major in the late 1990s. “We see a lot more students who want their science to matter … they want to be studying things that will improve society.”

This social awareness also has created more collaborative and supportive learning environments, she stresses. “When I was a student, we had the attitude that we didn’t want anyone to see our data until we publish it.”

Now, she emphasizes, there is so much data coming in from all angles; for instance, one project can get 1,000 photos a minute just of one marine species in its habitat. Part of the sharing may stem too from being more socially conscious and concerned than the cohorts for Henkel when she first started school.

Other concerns are tied to this recent shift in administrations – from Obama to Trump. There was a lot of support for renewables under previous administrations, but now under Trump so much is up in the air for scientists working on research projects tagged as “climate change” or “renewable energy,” even those research projects around species protection.

Two large grants the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management manage are at stake.

The Scientist’s Toolbox: Adaptation

To adapt, Sarah says, wave energy research is now looking at developing, promoting and deploying small machines near navigational buoys and aquaculture operations, where batteries die in six months; in the case of aquaculture, automatic feeding machines run on batteries, but with a wave-energy generating device supplying constant power, there would be no gap in the power.

On top of that, thousands of research and navigational buoys in our oceans have batteries that need constant replacing and disposal. Wave energy at the sites would be a constant energy source and reduce waste from battery disposal.

Making lemonade – new breakthroughs in blue energy — out of lemons – subsidies and tax breaks in the billions for the oil industry but none for blue energy – is also part of the scientist’s philosophy.

Sarah’s big takeaway when talking about the power of the Hatfield campus is that students get to work with other agencies and collaborate on real projects. “Not many students can be destined for a job in the Ivory Tower,” she said. Seeing other scientists from other agencies in different roles gives students at HMSC so many more avenues for career paths.

Henkel may be a sea floor expert, but she still knows that looking at how seabirds react to/interact with wind turbines and wave energy fields is important, as is studying the electromagnetic frequency fields created by blue energy generation.

She’s on a mission to get down to the granular level of things, but in the end, each little piece of the puzzle is hitched to the big thing, called the ocean!

Renewable Energy Is Not the Answer; Nuclear Is

“It’s always a good idea to start by asking about the facts.” So advises Noam Chomsky. “Whenever you hear anything said very confidently, the first thing that should come to mind is, ‘Wait a minute, is that true?’” De omnibus dubitandum—doubt everything—was Karl Marx’s motto and should be the motto of every thinking person. Question even or especially what the tribe most takes for granted.

In the era of climate change, when fossil fuels are known to be driving civilization straight into the ocean, the idea that liberal and left-wing tribes take most for granted is “Renewable energy!” It is shouted confidently from every public perch. Renewable energy, scaled up to replace fossil fuels and even nuclear, is declared the only possible salvation for humanity. It has such obvious advantages over every other energy source that the world has to go 100% renewables ASAP.


But wait a minute—is that true?

Let’s try to shed the religious thinking, look objectively at the facts, and come to a conclusion about this most important of subjects: how to power the future and hopefully save the world.

Renewable energy emits greenhouse gases

First, consider the claim that renewable energy has no carbon emissions. This is true, in a sense, for wind and solar farms (as it is for nuclear energy), which in themselves emit virtually no greenhouse gases. It isn’t true for hydropower, however, which in 2016 produced 71% of all electricity generated by renewable sources. According to one study, hydroelectric dams worldwide emit as much methane (a potent greenhouse gas) as Canada, from decaying vegetation and nutrient runoff. Another study concluded they produce even more carbon dioxide than methane.

“These are massive emissions,” one expert comments. “There are a massive number of dams that are currently proposed to be built. It would be a grave mistake to continue to finance those with the impression that they were part of the solution to the climate crisis.”

And yet in every scenario projected by renewables advocates, hydropower is absolutely essential. For instance, Stanford Professor Mark Jacobson’s famous—and deeply flawed—proposal to run the U.S. on 100% renewables by 2050 assumes the country’s dams could add turbines and transformers to produce 1,300 gigawatts of electricity, over 16 times their current capacity of 80 gigawatts. (According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the maximum capacity that could be added is only 12 gigawatts, 1,288 gigawatts short of Jacobson’s assumption.)

The International Energy Agency projects that by 2023, wind and solar together will satisfy a mere 10% of global electricity demand, while hydroelectric power will satisfy 16%. Nearly all the rest will be produced by fossil fuels and nuclear energy.

Burning biomass, too, which is a renewable energy source, releases large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. “It does exactly the opposite of what we need to do: reduce emissions,” says an expert in forest science and management.

Even leaving aside hydropower and biomass, the use of wind and solar dramatically increases greenhouse gas emissions compared to nuclear energy. This is because, given the intermittency and the diluted nature of solar and wind energy, a backup source of power is needed, and that source is natural gas. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., a guru of the renewables movement, himself acknowledges this fact:

We need about 3,000 feet of altitude, we need flat land, we need 300 days of sunlight, and we need to be near a gas pipe. Because for all of these big utility-scale solar plants—whether it’s wind or solar—everybody is looking at gas as the supplementary fuel. The plants that we’re building, the wind plants and the solar plants, are gas plants.

The burning of natural gas; i.e., methane, emits about half as much carbon dioxide as the burning of coal. So natural gas is better than coal, but not nearly good enough if we want to solve climate change. Even worse, many millions of tons of unburned methane are leaked every year from the American oil and gas industry—and methane is more than 80 times as potent a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide. So these leaks cancel out much of the environmental good that wind and solar farms are supposedly doing.

In other words, the fact that wind and solar farms typically operate far below their capacity (because of seasonal changes and the unreliability of weather) necessitates that a more reliable power source “supplement” them. In fact, as researchers Mike Conley and Tim Maloney point out, strictly speaking it is the renewable source that acts as a supplement for the oil or natural gas plants linked to the renewables. A solar farm with a capacity of one gigawatt, for instance, will on average operate at only about 20% of its capacity, which means that if a gigawatt of energy is really to be produced, the majority will have to be provided by the “backup” fossil fuel plant(s).

The upshot is that an anti-nuclear and pro-renewables policy means an increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

California is a good example. Like other states in the U.S and countries in the Western world, it has been closing its nuclear power plants—despite their safety, reliability, effectiveness, and environmental friendliness. The carbon-free nuclear plants have been replaced with renewables + natural gas, which is to say, they’ve been replaced mostly with natural gas (prone to methane leaks). After it closed the San Onofre nuclear plant in 2013, California missed its CO2 emissions targets as a result.

In New England, after the premature closing of the nuclear power plant Vermont Yankee in 2014, CO2 emission rates rose across New England, reversing a decade of declines. When Massachusetts’ last remaining nuclear plant, Pilgrim, closed last month, much more electricity generation was lost than the state generates with all its solar, wind, and hydropower combined. Several new fossil fuel plants and a couple of small solar and wind farms will take the place of Pilgrim, increasing carbon dioxide emissions.

In their new book A Bright Future: How Some Countries Have Solved Climate Change and the Rest Can Follow, Joshua Goldstein and Staffan Qvist give other examples. Between 1970 and 1990, due to its construction of nuclear power plants, Sweden was able to cut its carbon emissions by half even as its electricity consumption more than doubled. Germany, by contrast, emits about twice as much carbon pollution per person as Sweden despite using one-third less energy per person, because it has chosen to phase out its nuclear power while introducing renewables.

This means that Germany has simply substituted one (relatively) clean energy source for another, while doing virtually nothing to decarbonize. Its energy production remains dominated by coal, and greenhouse gas emissions are around a billion tons a year.

A more sensible policy would have been to build more nuclear plants and phase out coal. Or at least to let the existing nuclear plants continue to operate while adding renewables, which then would have displaced coal.

ExxonMobil likes renewable energy

The fact that renewable energy directly and indirectly causes far more greenhouse gas emissions than nuclear should already tell us it isn’t a solution to climate change.

Indeed, the willingness of the oil and gas industry in recent years to promote and invest in renewables is itself significant. Over the last three years, the five largest publicly traded oil and gas companies have invested over a billion dollars in advertising and lobbying for renewables. “Natural gas is the perfect partner for renewables,” ads say. “See why #natgas is a natural partner for renewable power sources,” Shell tweets.

By pretending to care about the environment, these companies not only burnish their reputations but also are able to associate natural gas with clean energy, which it very much is not. The formula “renewables + natural gas” thus serves a dual purpose. In fact, it serves a triple purpose: it also distracts from nuclear power, which, unlike renewables, is an immediately viable alternative to oil and gas.

Nuclear power, not renewable energy, is what the fossil fuel industry really fears. The reason is simple: the energy in nuclear fuel is orders of magnitude more concentrated than the energy in oil, gas, coal, and every other source. (Which is why nuclear reactors produce vastly less waste than everything from coal to solar.) If governments invested in a global Nuclear New Deal, so to speak, they could make fossil fuels largely obsolete within a couple of decades. Not even Mark Jacobson’s wildly unrealistic $15-20 trillion 100% renewables plan envisions such a fast transition.

Because of the diffuse and intermittent nature of wind and solar energy, all the world’s investment in renewables didn’t prevent the share of low-carbon power in generating electricity from declining between 1995 and 2017. Western countries’ shuttering of nuclear power plants in these decades was a disaster for the environment.

Another way to appreciate the disaster is to consider that global carbon emissions are actually rising, even as the world spent roughly $2 trillion on wind and solar between 2007 and 2016. (This is similar to the amount spent on nuclear in the past 55 years.) So much for the gospel of renewable energy!

Meanwhile, the fossil fuel industry has been smiling on the sidelines, giving millions of dollars to groups like the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Environmental Defense Fund, and many others that work to kill nuclear power and thus exacerbate climate change. (Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth are particularly active in the war on nuclear—and they refuse to disclose their donors. Could it be because they receive an unseemly amount from oil and gas companies?)

We have eleven years

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2018 special report, we have eleven years left to avoid potentially irreversible climate disruption.

António Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, has called on global leaders to “demonstrate how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent over the next decade and achieve net zero global emissions by 2050.” They’re supposed to meet in New York in September 2019 to answer this call.

The only conceivable way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on the scale called for is to aggressively embrace nuclear power. It is cost-competitive with all other forms of electricity generation except natural gas—although if you take into account the long-term environmental costs of using natural gas (or oil or even renewables), nuclear is probably the cheapest of all.

A worldwide rollout of nuclear power plants on the scale necessary to save civilization would certainly take longer than eleven years, but we can at least make substantial progress by then. If, that is, we pressure our governments to stop subsidizing oil, natural gas, and the renewables they go hand-in-hand with and instead massively invest in nuclear.

It’s time to stop doing the bidding of fossil fuel interests and get serious about saving the world.

It’s Time to Embrace Nuclear Energy

It is a tragic irony of the contemporary environmentalist movement that in its opposition to nuclear energy, it is doing the bidding of the fossil fuel industry and increasing the likelihood of climate apocalypse. This is the inescapable implication of the new book A Bright Future: How Some Countries Have Solved Climate Change and the Rest Can Follow, by Joshua S. Goldstein and Staffan A. Qvist. The anti-nuclear stance to which Green Parties, for example, are so fervently committed may seem enlightened, but, in fact, it is dangerous and destructive. What an informed environmentalist movement would demand above all is a rapid and globally coordinated acceleration of nuclear power plant construction, ideally at a rate of 500 or even 750 new reactors a year. This would set us on track to completely eliminate fossil fuels from the world’s electricity generation within a couple of decades, as well as displacing coal as a heat source for buildings and industrial use. We would be well on the way to making the planet livable for our descendants.

A Bright Future is hardly the only recent book to make the case for nuclear power. Others include Gwyneth Cravens’ Power to Save the World: The Truth About Nuclear Energy, Charles D. Ferguson’s Nuclear Energy: What Everyone Needs to Know, and Scott L. Montgomery and Thomas Graham Jr.’s Seeing the Light: The Case for Nuclear Power in the 21st Century. What these and other books make clear is that the “green” shibboleths about nuclear energy’s being dangerous, polluting, proliferation-prone, wasteful, vulnerable to terrorist attack, and excessively expensive are vastly overstated. The truth is closer to the opposite—although in the United States, because of the byzantine regulatory environment and the multiplicity (rather than standardization) of reactor designs built and operated by private companies, the economic costs of building a reactor are indeed very high.

The advantages of nuclear power

A Bright Future is framed by two contrasting stories: that of Sweden and that of Germany. From 1970 to 1990, due to its construction of nuclear power plants, Sweden was able to cut its carbon emissions by half even as its economy expanded and its electricity generation more than doubled. Germany has taken a different path, which has led to its emitting about twice as much carbon pollution per person as Sweden despite using one-third less energy per person and having approximately the same per capita GDP.

What Germany has done is to install large capacities of renewables, mostly wind and solar power, such that by 2016 they made up more than a quarter of electricity production and 15 percent of total energy production. At the same time, however, Germany cut nuclear power by roughly an equivalent amount, which means it only substituted one carbon-free source for another. CO2 emissions have hardly decreased at all, in fact, going up slightly in recent years. German energy remains dominated by coal, and greenhouse gas emissions remain around a billion tons a year.

Decades of anti-nuclear propaganda have colored public attitudes in the West, but, as Goldstein and Qvist explain, nuclear energy has many advantages. For one thing, like renewable sources, it produces no carbon emissions (although over its entire life-cycle, from mining materials to decommissioning the plants, there are some emissions—as with renewables). Unlike solar and wind but like coal, it provides baseload power, which is to say it reliably and cheaply generates energy around the clock to satisfy the average electricity demand. Renewable sources can be more flexibly deployed to match changes in demand, so they have an important role to play during periods of peak energy use, but they also tend to be intermittent and unreliable, unlike nuclear.

Goldstein and Qvist give abundant evidence for the latter claim. “As a rule of thumb,” they note, “nuclear power produces at 80–90 percent of capacity on average over the year, coal at around 50–60 percent, and solar cells around 20 percent.” In 2013, Europe saw an entire month in which solar produced at only 3 percent of capacity because of the lack of sunshine. Wind is somewhat more reliable than sunlight: at a massive 2,700-acre wind farm in Romania, for example, which has 240 wind turbines each as tall as a fifty-story skyscraper, production in 2013 was a little less than 25 percent of capacity. And the total capacity of this enormous wind farm was 600 megawatts, a fraction of a large nuclear power plant.

In fact, the amount of space and material needed for a solar or wind farm to produce as much energy as a large nuclear plant is mind-boggling. Take the example of Ringhals, a plant in Sweden. On just 150 acres it can produce up to 4 gigawatts of electricity, 24/7. A wind farm that was to produce as much energy would require three times the power capacity because wind is so variable. That is, it would require about 2,500 wind turbines 650 feet high, spread over 400 square miles. And its energy production would be intermittent, sometimes much higher than demand and sometimes much lower.

A solar farm equivalent to Ringhals would need a capacity of at least 20 gigawatts and would cover 40 to 100 square miles. “Imagine driving down a highway at 65 mph, with solar cells stretched out for a mile to the right of you and a mile to the left. It would take you about half an hour before you got to the end of the solar farm.”

Think of the environmental (and aesthetic) costs of building scores of such immense wind and solar farms to replace both coal and nuclear.

Waste and safety

Another advantage of nuclear energy is how little waste it produces. Public fears about radioactive waste are absurdly disproportionate to the reality. In the United States, “the entire volume of spent fuel from fifty years of nuclear power—a source that produces one-fifth of U.S. electricity—could be packed into a football stadium, piled twenty feet high.” Spent fuel rods can be safely stored in water for several years, becoming less radioactive, and then transferred to dry storage in concrete casks that contain the radiation. They can remain in these casks for over a hundred years. Longer-term storage, for hundreds of thousands of years, can involve burying material deep underground, as the U.S. military does for its waste from nuclear weapons.

To rebut the concerns about radioactive waste, it surely suffices to point out that spent fuel has been stored around the world for almost 70 years with apparently no adverse health effects at all.

Other energy sources produce waste as well. When the life of solar cells is over after twenty-five years, their waste remains toxic for many decades and requires special handling for disposal. Coal waste, both solid and airborne, is not only orders of magnitude more voluminous than nuclear waste—as is true of solar waste, too—but is also toxic for centuries, and contains radioactive elements. Goldstein and Qvist observe, in fact, that if you live next to a coal plant you’ll get a higher dose of radiation than if you live next to a nuclear power plant. (Humans are continually exposed to small doses of radiation that have zero or negligible health effects.)

In general, nuclear power is incredibly safe. Three famous nuclear accidents have occurred: Three Mile Island in 1979, which had no health effects because of the containment structure that surrounded the partially melted core; Chernobyl in 1986, which caused a few dozen deaths in the short term (though possibly 4,000 in the long term, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency) and was the product of terrible reactor design, terrible on-site errors by operators, and terrible bureaucratic incompetence and secretiveness by the Soviet government; and Fukushima in 2011, which caused no deaths from radiation exposure. (The authors investigate this question in depth and conclude that, on the worst possible assumptions, several people might eventually get cancer because of the accident.)

How does this record stack up against other energy sources? Coal kills at least a million people every year from particulate emissions that lead to cancer and other diseases. It also has a terrible safety record, including toxic wastes that are usually located near poor communities and coal-mining accidents that still happen multiple times a year around the world.

Methane, or natural gas, not only emits about half as much carbon dioxide as coal but also is liable to explode from time to time, killing anywhere from several people to hundreds (as when 300 children were killed in an explosion at a Texas school in 1937). And fracking, to extract oil or gas, has negative impacts on public health and the environment.

Oil, too, is less safe than nuclear (leaving aside Soviet incompetence). It spills and it blows up, as with the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, and oil trains can derail and explode, as happened in Canada in 2013, when 47 people were killed.

Hydroelectric dams are not at all safe. If a dam fails, thousands of people downstream can die. In Banquiao, China in 1975, for example, 170,000 people died when a dam burst. Dam failures have killed thousands in the U.S.; just in 2017, crises in California and Puerto Rico forced the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people.

Imagine if nuclear energy had a record remotely comparable to coal or hydropower! Worldwide, the whole industry probably would have been shut down long ago.

An uncertain future

A Bright Future is far too rich to do justice to in a single article, but Goldstein and Qvist also address the issues of possible terrorist attacks on power plants and, in more depth, nuclear proliferation. Regarding the latter, the record over the decades since nuclear technology was developed is reassuring, due in large part to the very effective IAEA and the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

But even if nuclear energy weren’t as remarkably safe as it is, we should ask ourselves if it would still be worth including as a major part of a “diversified portfolio” of clean energy. Why are we willing to tolerate so many deaths and risks from coal, oil, hydropower, and natural gas while demanding none from nuclear? (And even then, nuclear has a bad reputation!) Even if a fatal accident occurred from nuclear power every year or every few years, might that not be an acceptable cost if the benefit were a massive mitigation of climate change? We accept risks in every other sphere of life, as when driving cars, living near seismic fault lines, riding airplanes, etc. It’s odd that we rail against nuclear energy because it isn’t 100 percent risk-free.

The simple fact is that we can’t solve climate change without accelerating the construction of nuclear power plants. Since the energy in nuclear fuel is millions of times more concentrated than wind or solar power, nuclear power can “scale up” much faster than renewables. “What the world already knows how to do in ten to twenty years using nuclear power,” the authors write, “would take more than a century using renewables alone.”

And yet in the U.S., reverse action is being taken. Nuclear power plants are being shut down prematurely for political reasons, as in Vermont, California, and Massachusetts, and producers are often abandoning plans to build new plants after facing endless litigation, regulation, opposition from anti-nuclear groups, and competition from cheap and highly subsidized fossil fuels. When a plant is shut down, what that means, first, is that renewables that are introduced afterwards are not contributing to decarbonization but are simply replacing a clean (and far more powerful) energy source. Second, fossil fuels have to fill most of the gap, which causes a rise in carbon emissions.

For example, after the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant closed in 2014, carbon dioxide emission rates rose across New England, reversing a decade of declines. When Massachusetts’ last remaining nuclear power plant, Pilgrim, closed last month, much more electricity generation was lost than the state generates with all its solar, wind, and hydropower combined. Several new fossil fuel plants will mainly take the place of Pilgrim.

Thus, Greenpeace and other anti-nuclear groups with money and political clout can congratulate themselves on exacerbating climate change.

Globally there are bright spots for nuclear energy, mostly in the developing world. Goldstein and Qvist discuss this topic in detail, placing some hope in Russia, China, and India, which are much friendlier to nuclear power than the U.S. They also devote a chapter to “next-generation technologies” that are being developed, such as thorium reactors, which have advantages over uranium, and fusion, which has advantages over fission.

But despite these (and other) bright spots, and despite the book’s overall optimism, after I had finished reading I couldn’t help feeling very, very worried about the future. We know how to address climate change. But the vast funds of the fossil fuel industry and the anti-nuclear movement, together with mass ignorance, may yet doom us in the long run. We have, it seems, a decade or two to wake up and demand government action.

Renewables, yes. But even more important: nuclear power.

Science Won’t Save the Planet, New Values Will

I don’t write much directly about climate collapse, even though by any measure it is by far the most important issue any of us will face in our lifetimes. And I can gauge from my social media accounts that, when I do write about environmental issues, my followers – most of whom I assume share my progressive positions – are least likely to read those blog posts or promote them.

I have to consider why that is.

As I explained in my last piece, the environment has been a concern to me since my teenage years, back in the early 1980s. It should now be a concern to everyone. And while polls in the UK show that most people are worried to some degree about climate change and the state of the planet, the majority are either still not concerned at all or concerned only a little.

Part of the problem, I start to think, is that we are approaching climate change all wrong. And that addressing it correctly is just too difficult for most of us to contemplate because it demands something profound from us, something we fear we are incapable of giving.

When I share climate change material on social media, it is invariably graphs produced by climate scientists showing the alarming trends of a warming planet. Others, I see, do the same.

But really is that what all this is about? Most of us – at least the ones sharing this stuff – understand that the science is now conclusive. Even, I suspect, those who deny climate change do so not because they believe the data are wrong but because accepting the reality is too overwhelming, too terrifying.

And this gets to the heart of what we need to talk about. Those persuaded by the graphs and the data no longer need those materials, and those unpersuaded aren’t going to heed the science anyway.

So maybe we need to talk less about the science, the graphs and climate change, and much more about ideology, about the inconvertible fact that the planet is dying before our very eyes and about how we have conspired in that act of ecocide. What got us into this mess wasn’t science, what got us here was ideology.

Consumerism our god

In my last blog I noted that scientists kept a low profile when they most needed to speak out, back in the 1990s and 2000s – in part because they were denied a platform, but chiefly because they failed to push themselves forward. That was when the evidence of climate collapse was irrefutable and there was time to start changing our societies to avoid it.

The reason the scientists held back is significant, I think. It wasn’t because they had doubts, it was because the dominant paradigm of our societies – the paradigm shared by almost all of us, the scientists included – was so deeply in conflict with what was needed to bring about change.

For decades – until the financial collapse of 2008 raised the first doubts – we were driven exclusively by a paradigm of endless economic growth, of ever-increasing resource exploitation, of a spiralling personal accumulation of goods. Consumerism was our individual god, and the Stock Market our collective one.

They still are. It’s just that the real, physical world – not the one we constructed out of narrative and ideology – keeps slapping us in the face to try to wake us up from our slumber.

The oceans didn’t fill with plastics last year. Some 1 million species didn’t start facing extinction this month. And the atmosphere wasn’t suddenly polluted with the greenhouse gas CO2 this week. These are trends that have been observable for decades.

The question we have to ask is why did David Attenborough and the BBC suddenly start noticing that everywhere they filmed – from the high seas to the deepest ocean beds – was polluted with plastic? This wasn’t new. It’s that they only recently decided to start telling us about it, that it was important.

Again, scientists haven’t just worked out that there has been a massive loss of biodiversity even in the remotest jungles, that insect populations needed to maintain the health of our planet have been disappearing. The mass die-off of species has been going for decades, even before temperatures started rising significantly. So why have we only just started seeing articles about it in liberal media like the Guardian?

And, fuelled by greenhouse gases, temperatures have been steadily increasing for decades too. But only over the past year have all the record highs, the wildfires and anomalous weather conditions been reported – sometimes – in the context of climate breakdown.

Identifying with the enemy

The cause of these failures is ideology. The reality, the facts simply didn’t stack up with the way we had organised our societies, the way we had come to believe the world, our world, operated. We didn’t see ourselves – still don’t see ourselves – as in nature.

Rather, we have viewed ourselves as outside it, we have seen nature as something to entertain us, as parkland in which we can play or as an exotic place to observe through a screen as a reassuring David Attenborough narrates. Instead of considering ourselves part of nature, we have seen ourselves variously conquering, taming, exploiting, eradicating it.

Derrick Jensen, sometimes described as an eco-philosopher, offers a simple, but telling life lesson. He observes that when you get your food from a convenience store and your water from a tap, your very survival comes to depend on the system that provides you with these essentials of life. You inevitably identify completely with the system that feeds and shelters you, however corrupt, however corrupting that system is. Even if it is destroying the planet.

If you hunt and forage for food, if you collect water from streams, then you identify with the land and its water sources. Their health means everything to you.

We saw those two identification systems playing out as a terrible, tragic theatre of confrontation at the Standing Rock protests through 2016-17, between those trying to stop an oil pipeline that would destroy vital natural resources, risking the pollution of major rivers, and heavily armed police enforcing the system – our system – that puts corporate oil profits above the planet and our survival.

Anyone watching footage of those protests should have understood that the police were not just there to carry out law enforcement. They were not just there on behalf of the state and federal authorities and the corporations. They were there for us. They were there to keep our way of life, our suicidal pattern of living, going to the bitter end. To the point of our extinction.

Like them, we are battle-ready, heavily armed enforcers of an ideology, an insane ideology needed to protect a self-harming, nihilistic system.

A virus killing its host

This is not a question of science. None of those charts and graphs and data are actually necessary to understand that the planet is dying, that we have become a virus gradually killing its host. That is obvious if we look inside ourselves, if we remember that we are not police officers, or civil servants, or arms makers, or oil executives, or tax collectors, or scientists. That the system is not us. That we do not have to identify with it. That we can cure ourselves by learning humility, by rediscovering our inner life, by being in nature, by reconnecting with others, with strangers, by protesting against the system and its values, by listening to those the system wants to denigrate and exclude.

In fact, most of the scientists are very much part of the problem. They, like the media, now tell us how bad things are only because the patient is on life support, because her condition is critical. But those scientists are not ecological doctors. They are not qualified to offer solutions for how to revive the patient, for how to get her back to health. Those scientists who worked their way up through the institutions that awarded their qualifications of expertise are as identified with this suicidal ideological system as the rest of us.

We need more ancient wisdoms, dying wisdoms, of the indigenous peoples who still try to live in nature, to live off the land and in harmony with it, even as we make the conditions to do so impossible for them. We urgently need to find ways to simplify our lives, to ween ourselves off our addictive consumption, to stop identifying with the system that is killing us, and to seek leaders who are ahead of us in that struggle for wisdom.

First buds of resistance

In my last blog post, I called for more populism – not the reactionary kind created by our current leaders to confuse us, to justify more repression, to strengthen their own hand – but a populism that seeks to take power away from those who rule over us in their own, narrow self-interest, to re-educate ourselves that the system is a menace, that we need new social, political and economic structures.

Some readers objected to my call for more Extinction Rebellions, more Greta Thunbergs, more school strikes, more Green New Deals, more climate emergencies. They believe these groups, these strategies are flawed, or even that they are colluding with our corporate rulers, coopted by the system itself.

Let us set aside for a moment the cynicism that assumes all protests to stop us killing the planet are pointless, not what they seem, or intended to derail real change.

Yes, of course, the corporations will seek to disrupt efforts to change the system they created. They will defend it – and their profits – with all their might and to the death. Yes, of course, they will seek to subvert, including from within, all protests of all kinds against that system. We cannot reach an accommodation with these structures of power. We must overthrow them. That is a given. There are no accolades for pointing out these obvious truths.

But protests are all we have. We learn from protest. From their response, their efforts to subvert, we identify more clearly who the real enemies of change are. We grow in wisdom. We find new allies. When we discover that the institutional and structural obstacles are even greater than we imagined, we learn to struggle harder, more wisely, both to change the reality outside ourselves and the reality inside. We find new values, new models, new paradigms through the struggle itself.

Extinction Rebellion and the school strikes aren’t the end of the process, our last shout. They are the very first buds of a rapid evolution in our thinking, in our understanding of where we stand in relation to the planet and the cosmos. These buds may be clipped off. But stronger, more vigorous shoots will surely replace them.

Kilowatt and Gallons Per Wash-load Illiterate Americans

No Water. No Life. No Blue. No Green.

Sylvia Earle

In the tradition of many of my posts, I end up looking at the local through a sometimes fine and other times coarse lens to extrapolate what this country, and most First World We Are the Only Ones Who Matter countries, is facing way beyond a world without polar and glacial ice.

The formula is simple — and you can replace “there” or “here” with whichever community or city or county or state or region you care to discuss. This is an earth where almost everywhere on the planet is supercharged on noxious capitalism and addictive consumerism;  where the 99 Percent of the People Are Up a Shit Creek without a Paddle: the roads here, or the bridges there, or the emergency response here, or the water system there, or the schools here, or the housing there, or the chronically ill, under-employed, unemployed here, or the disenfranchised there, or the poor here, or the health care system there, or the ecosystems here or the state of the economy there.

Look, the conversations in a town like Newport don’t involve some of the important issues that, say, a Dahr Jamail might write about. Newport, which numbers 10,000 as regular citizens/residents but balloons on some days — when the sun is out and the temperatures in Portland and all over the state of Oregon and Washington, and parts of Idaho, and California hit above 90 degrees F — to 50,000 people  is small town, small minded, simple yet has to deal with modern and global warming issues no matter how distracted we get on the pot holes issues.

Up and down this coast and California’s and Washington’s, many communities can only survive (regressive real estate taxes and sin taxes/hotel taxes/gas taxes) with that huge influx of tourists pushing their big butts into these respective communities with internal combustion machines with other internal combustion machines (boats, jet skis) in tow. We survive on trinkets, fish and chips sold, time shares, Air B & Bs, booze, food and drugs (and pot, now that cannabis is legal in OR).

One big Black Friday retail and service economy chunk of the year that feeds the residents in a boom or bust cycle that has made it almost impossible for parents to raise children because parents have to have two or five jobs between the two of them. The schools are busting at the seams and burn-out is high in public service jobs.

And, many tourists come out here, think: “This is it for my last hurrah . . . I’m moving here”; or they imagine it’s the ideal place from which to land after leaving the madness of big city life and/or to raise a family and send them to school while enjoying the beach town life.

Oh, I understand the draw, but the reality is leaving one city because of its wild fires or increasing vehicular traffic or rising crime rates or lowering air/water quality levels or degrading environmental situations or discordant populations or weakening school systems or flagging labor opportunities or lowering standards of living actually just brings all of that and more to communities like Lincoln City, Depoe Bay, Newport, Waldport, Reedsport, Coos Bay etc.

The world of Corrupt, Dog-eat-Dog, Disconnected, Non-Systems Thinking Capitalism follows American wherever they go. Nothing about regional planning for resiliency, for sharing of assets and that includes water, air, industries taught in schools, taught at work, or taught within families or generations. Instead, Americans are acculturated to boom or bust; and I notice more and more Americans laugh at the places and people they left behind. They blame the people in LA for sticking it out, even blame them for being 4th, 6th or 10th generation Californians. Americans like to piss on everyone else’s parade, not just internationally, but domestically as well. This is the schizoid blue state/red state/purple state infantilism and corruption.

People here laugh or scream at Salem, Portland, Bend, what have you. You know, so much for rah-rah “we are one state and should act accordingly as one state for all.”

Here’s how one scenario, locally, plays out nationally — again, replace pink shrimp fishermen/women with Volkswagen workers or Amazon workers or hospital workers or, well, you get it: pit worker against worker.


NEWPORT — It’s been weeks of blue tarps and yawns on the Newport shrimp boats. But now, frustration is on deck too.

The Pacific pink shrimp season has been open for a month, but processors and fishermen are still far apart on price. The captains and crews of some 115 boats along the coast are holding out while a deal is cut. Their patience is being tried as a fleet of some 20 boats from Washington and Columbia River ports make hay in the traditional fishing grounds of the Newport fleet.

“I don’t know what these guys would do if that was happening out front down here,” said Coos Bay shrimp boat owner Nick Edwards.

Some 500,000 pounds of shrimp landed so far by boats breaking the strike indicates there’s good product volume to be had.

But, Edwards said, shrimpers are looking at offers of 30, 60, 80 and 90 cents per pound for the different grades of shrimp, down from 45, 72, 90 cents and $1.20 last year, when fishermen struck for 44 days to get that price schedule.

Edwards blamed the slow and steady consolidation of processing facilities under just a few corporate names for a lack of competition and less chance for a deal fishermen can accept.

Newport fisherman Gary Ripka said that north coast boats breaking the strike have traditionally observed an unspoken agreement to stay well north of Newport.

“They’re rubbing it in our faces,” he said. “They’re fishing right in front of town. Good trips. It’s become a real boiling point.”

Oh my, oh my! So much for red-blooded All-American solidarity. This is capitalism run amok a million times over. Pitting worker against families, men against women, youth against old. Breaking solidarity strikes. Market monopolization the curse here, and everywhere. Hell, the reputation of Pacific Seafood Group in Newport gouging independent fishers and controlling all aspects of the market, including the only ice making facility in the area to pack on board the catch of the day, speaks of the crude, mean, boom and bust, I got mine, you ain’t getting yours mentality of a country that was based on murdering millions of First Nation inhabitants and using stolen peoples to toil the land. A nation of Irish and German white slaves, and Chinese slaves.

Don’t cry for me, Argentina. Ha. Replace Argentina with Flint, Detroit, Baltimore, and hundreds of cities in the USA. How’s that Flint Lead Enhanced Water working out?

We shit on our own water supply, spray carcinogens on our own human offspring, and we cook the goose that lays the golden egg.

Much of the allure here is the wide open beaches, cold Pacific tides, sometime incredible sunny summer days in the 70s, and, well, fish and crustaceans on the menu. Whale watching. Sea lion and seal entertainment.

But we have gray whales washing on shore emaciated, sick, big carcasses rotting on shore. More and more of them. Seals and sea lions, sickened, too. Rivers clogged or polluted. Yet, the tourist brochures show whales in pristine condition, seals and birds in a natural wonderland, dolphins breaching the waters and elk crossing the Highway 101.

Like all communities who do not know the value of all those ecosystems and nature services, and like all communities that have a few rich and the rest struggling hard, and like all communities with a rural character that have high youth poverty, high drug use, high homelessness, Newport and Lincoln City are in the midst of more struggle than just shrimpers duking it out for higher rates per pound.

We are vulnerable to droughts, vulnerable to huge rain events, vulnerable to an earthquake. Vulnerable to education cuts. Vulnerable to population influxes and depopulation. I wrote about that, here:

Water, Water, Water: War Against Humanity

Gray Whales Are Dying: Starving to Death Because of Climate Change

Below is another article about another transplant — the water planner is from Seattle area. He is here, in quietude, and my guess Mike below is in the high echelon income bracket. He has a nice house, I am sure, and he has the time to redesign it to be more “green” and water “efficient.”

He showed a group of us some really cool rainwater collection and gray water collection systems, even gray water filtering systems to deliver potable water. You know, the designs Mike has facilitated mostly go to the very rich, or rich communities. But, in the end, water is more precious than gold, and cities across the country are using valuable H2o to water grass and trees. We have toilets that leak, toilets that flush five gallons a use. We have people who have no idea how the water that gets to their taps in Lincoln City got there.

The amount of electricity to move water from source to plant, from purification, to pumping station, to tanks and then from tanks to homes, well, it’s huge.

Electricity in the water

Much of the electricity used to supply water is consumed in pumping. To collect water, it is pumped from below ground or from surface water such as lakes and rivers. It then needs to be pushed through pipes to the water treatment plant, pushed through treatment systems (such as filters) and pushed through more pipes up to a water tower (typically). From there, gravity does the work to push the water to your home. This pumping consumption, along with some miscellaneous treatment plant consumption, on average adds up to about 1.5 kilowatt-hour of electricity consumed per thousand gallons [kWh/kgal] of water. This does not include energy that may be applied to the water in your home, such as heat for hot water.

When the water goes down the drain, it requires more electricity. The wastewater is collected, pumped, treated and discharged. An additional 1.7 kWh/kgal of electricity is expended on wastewater pumping and treatment.

So, in total, and the amount varies depending on where you live, about 3.2kWh of electricity is consumed for each thousand gallons of water delivered to your home. For a kitchen faucet delivering five gallons per minute of water, the water-embodied electricity is pouring out at about 1,000 watts. That’s like running a virtual hairdryer every time you turn on the faucet.

What Uses the Most Energy in Your Home?

So, while we sit on our thumbs and allow the billionaires and millionaires and the military industrial octopus complex determine our destinies while destroying other countries’ destinies; while we listen to and view on dumb phone every conceivable perverted story akin to a Trump-Kushner Family Outing; while we stiff arm salute corporations, the boss, the job, the junk we have and the more junk we want, a gigantic swatch of the country, maybe 80 percent, will not be prepared for earthquake, flood, heat wave, fires, droughts, crop failures, disease outbreaks, food shortages, money woes.

So you betcha we are all Flint or Houston or Detroit or Paradise or Des Moines or Puerto Rica . . . . One hell of a lot more has to be done daily to fight, with weapons and tools. Yet, I am finding (see future postings, a future book of mine) more and more people who hate to know their history and who think life, including 12 years of school (or more if they are college-bound) is about “the job.” What we can’t use on the job, or to get a job, then it’s superfluous. More and more Americans across all sectors are desirous of only ways to perform on the job, how to land a job and what to do in that job.

Here is the story on Stormwater management. I hope it makes it in the local newspaper, though I think the editor is getting Paul Haeder Fatigue Syndrome because I go to these events, report on them and then write about them. I’ve already beaten a dead journalism horse to death many a time. But to repeat — we have gutted journalism at the local level so-so much that there is nothing in most towns, and those that have a day or two a week newsprint paper, well, threadbare seems to robust a word for today’s small-town and community news!

**–**                                     **–**

Local Sustainable Water Management Expert Encourages More Green Design

Water is a human right, according to many around the world. For Lincoln County, Oregon, residents, the fact that we have water delivered to us from one source – a plant on Big Creek River – belies the fragility of this source of sustenance.

For one local resident who is an integrated stormwater management expert, water planning is big: we may see up to 80 inches of rain a year hitting our county, but we need to make sure that rainfall gets back into the groundwater and replenishes the water cycle.

Michael Broili, principal of Living Systems Design, is passionate about sustainable development. He spoke to the Mid-Coast Watersheds Council monthly group in Newport about what designs could be beneficial for Lincoln County residents.

“Water’s been so much of my life,” Broili said, emphasizing he now resides at South Beach, after spending a quarter of a century in the Puget Sound area. “I was in the Navy and then was a commercial fisherman, and then water management design for twenty-five years, so I know the value of water.”

He talked a lot about water management as a holistic approach for getting cities, schools, businesses and home owners to look at ways to develop gray water collection systems to help offset the need to use pure water from the Water Plant to irrigate landscapes and flush toilets.

A typical short term rain event creates tons of water just coming off a small roof, let along all the impervious surfaces like parking lots, warehouses, and compacted roads and streets.

“One inch of rain coming off a thousand square foot roof produces 623 gallons of runoff,” he stated. That’s almost 2.5 tons of water.

Reducing this water sluicing from hard surfaces back into stormwater catchments and diversions prevents so many of issues tied to the health of rivers and other watersheds, as well as stopping erosion.

The 20 people at the Visual Arts Center got to see some designs Mike helped create and implement in cities like Seattle, Shoreline, Edmunds that help rivers stay healthy through less disturbance (scrubbing) from surges during rain events.

Rain gardens and bio swales are two ways to get water from a parking lot to filter through biological means (grass, soil, gravel, plant roots) so the runoff ends up cleaner as it heads back into the stormwater systems.

Mortality of salmon species has been cut through mitigating the hydrocarbons that might have ended up directly into streams but were instead held and retained through several biofiltration landscape designs.

On a more holistic level, practitioners like Broili call it Hydrologic Restoration, and while we are in a rural area, unlike Portland or Seattle, all the designs for new construction Lincoln City or Newport could help utilizing graywater capture systems for landscape purposes, as well as creating innovative and healing rain gardens with some dynamic zones and robust planting. Existing structures could be retrofitted to these designs.

His mantra is simple when it comes to construction sites – “Find ways to reduce site disturbance and restore soil function.”

Some of the members of the MCWC wanted to know about permeable road and parking surfaces as well as green roofs. “The goal is to disconnect hard surfaces and bring back the water cycle to a near forested situation where no runoff occurs because of the natural features of complex soil layers, leaf litter (duff) and transpiration from trees.”

The MCWC’s mission is aligned with many of Broili’s hydrologic planning goals – “MCWC is dedicated to improving the health of streams and watersheds of Oregon’s Central Coast so they produce clean water, rebuilding healthy salmon populations and support a healthy ecosystem and economy.”

Part of May 2’s presentation was anchored by a famous Benjamin Franklin saying, “When the well is dry, we know the worth of water.”

We discussed the City of Newport’s Ocean Friendly Garden that was spearheaded several years ago by Surfrider at City Hall. Surfrider also looked at pollution going into Nye Creek, finding several homes’ sewer discharge was directly entering the stormwater system.

The City’s sewer and stormwater infrastructure has been mapped and various groups including Surfrider helped  advocate for revisions to the municipal code to mandate best management practices for sewer, stormwater and other non-point source pollution controls.

Six years ago, the City of Newport created a new stormwater utility and an opt-out incentive program for residents and businesses who want to disconnect from the system in order to install the green infrastructure Broili discussed to prevent rainwater from leaving their property.

“This may seem like big city stuff,” Broili told the crowd. “But rural communities and a city like Newport can benefit from integrated water management.”

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Again, I could go on and analyze what I wrote and what bigger issues parlay from this small talk on a small part of sustainability, yet it is not so small, is it, given the precious nature of water, how we get it, how it is taken from the water cycle, and what happens to the ecosystems, to boot?

I’ve also reported on James Anderson’s research tied to water vapors and increased storm activity.

The ocean was running almost 10º C warmer all the way to the bottom than it is today and the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere would have meant that storm systems would be violent in the extreme, because water vapor, which is an exponential function of water temperature, is the gasoline that fuels the frequency and intensity of storm systems.

The chance that there will be any permanent ice left in the Arctic after 2022 is essentially zero. When you look at the irreversibility and you study the numbers, this along with the moral issue is what keeps you up at night.

This Harvard scientist worked on the ozone hole decades ago — remember, chlorofluorocarbons?

I know every day I wake up I am about to teach people things — PK12 or daily in my interactions with people, or what I can teach myself. I understand that capitalism and the way industry has been set up have to disappear. It is not an easy task when the controllers and the purse strings and one’s survivability is set by a small elite with their roving marauders of money launderers, banks, cops, collectors, usury thugs.

I’ll let Dahr Jamail have the last word, over at Truthout:

Each day I wake and begin to process the daily news of the climate catastrophe and the global political tilt into overt fascism. The associated trauma, grief, rage and despair that come from all of this draws me back to the work of Stan Rushworth, Cherokee elder, activist and scholar, who has guided much of my own thinking about how to move forward. Rushworth has reminded me that while Western colonialist culture believes in “rights,” many Indigenous cultures teach of “obligations” that we are born into: obligations to those who came before, to those who will come after, and to the Earth itself.

Hence, when the grief and rage threaten to consume me, I now orient myself around the question, “What are my obligations?” In other words, “From this moment on, knowing what is happening to the planet, to what do I devote my life?“

Each of us must ask ourselves this question every day, as we face down catastrophe.