Posts

Showing posts from March, 2017

Smoke on the Water

Image
While states in the southwest dicker over who gets the last slurps of the Colorado River, here in Maryland we are at odds with other states in our region over the spillovers from their industries on our air and water. The paralysis at the EPA over budget cuts and policy changes leaves us hanging.

The water pollution in question is that affecting the Chesapeake Bay which is almost wholly located in Maryland and Virginia, though polluted water may enter the bay from the four other states in the watershed. Farming is often assigned culpability, but urbanization is more and more to blame. It has taken decades to get the six states and D.C. to agree on strict pollution reduction measures. Without the EPA to manage this agreement, it will be difficult to ensure that all parties abide by it.

The air pollution comes from several more states, mainly to the west of Maryland. The EPA has been less instrumental in helping Maryland and the bay with this problem. The problem stems from power plant …

Raiders of the Lost Watershed

Image
Maryland has decided to forego the fracking craze! One of the major reasons is the damage to aquifers from use and disposal of fracking fluid. Water is life.

If anyplace exemplifies that statement, it is Las Vegas. They need lots of water to make their desert village seem like an oasis to visitors. They get it from Lake Mead on the Colorado River. Unfortunately, like frackers pumping every ounce of oil or gas they can reach, Nevada has tapped Lake Mead all the way to the bottom in their desperation for water. If the long-term drought continues (though snowpack this year promises some relief), by 2030 there will not be enough water to conduct business as usual in Las Vegas.

Southern California, which would also lose its supply from the Colorado River, could at least start desalinating sea water. Vegas doesn't appear to have any realistic alternatives besides conservation which, gauging by the falling level of Lake Mead, hasn't been enough to beat the drought. I doubt there was a…

Sticky Tarheels vs. Loose Wildcats

Image
Today's plans include a homemade pizza
(pepperoni, mushroom, green pepper), a boilermaker, and CBS at 5 pm (EST) where UK and UNC vie for a spot in the Final Four. My several reasons for taking time to watch a televised college sports match are that (1) I have close family in both states (one being a UNC alum), (2) I have lived in both states at different points in my life, (3) I like watching sports, and (4) these two teams represent a clash between player aggrandizement and competition for team glory.

UK is an NBA player factory. High school superstars go in and professional players emerge a year or so later. North Carolina is not about that. High school superstars go in and they remain homeboys through graduation and beyond. Since I abjure professional sports, I'll be rooting for the Tarheels.

North Carolina is one of the top five states for Division I basketball recruitment, three others of which are concentrated around North Carolina. This gives UNC an ample recruitment p…

Putting Away Childish Things

Image
Richard Branson lost an airline today. However, he has another in the works under the Virgin brand; more precisely, a spaceline: Virgin Galactica. Maybe we should just call it a high end airline - elites only, one of whom is pledged to be Stephen Hawking.

Stephen isn't the only disabled person getting a boost. Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled that public schools must develop challenging curricula for every learning disabled student according to their capabilities. No longer can schools claim success with these students by teaching to the level of the lowest common denominator. In other words, special education students are going to be getting special treatment.

In sports, special kids are rising to challenges with the special olympics which is just about to wrap up for winter in Austria. For the rest of us, sports festivals are a kind of special olympics for not so special athletes. They help us keep fit and raise money for charity. Beyond that, adults competing in sports are, l…

New Worlds Coming?

Image
Besides the return to industrialism (and later, agrarianism), another resemblance the U.S. has to Russia is our continuation of costly space programs. Spin-offs of these efforts do compensate at least partially for our investment, but space programs that support continuation of globalism (for example) may not pay off very well as trade dwindles due to diminishing resources. Another longshot, or rather, moonshot, is the proposal to NASA by Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin to set up infrastructure on and around the moon that will be the beginnings of an effort to support "millions of people living and working in space."

That sounds like it could become a bit expensive, even if undertaken by fanatically dedicated engineers. I can't help but wonder if the urge to populate space stems from a Plan B choice regarding the carrying capacity of Plan A (Earth). If that is the motivation, then it seems to me that we could get along fine without Plan B if nations would be willing to live …

Losses in Space

Image
Artificial intelligence, though developed with benevolent purposes, might soon open up IT to catastrophes that would turn us away from technological overreach. Combining AI with robotics raises the possibility of a Frankenstein scenario. An intelligent computer that wanted to solve the world's problems might conclude, through machine learning, that we humans must be culled in order for life on Earth to continue. Inside a brigade of self-arming robots, that knowledge could spell trouble. Yoshimi, we may need you soon.

On the way to creating Frankenstein's monster, intelligent computers will be employed in fights against one another. Most IT systems are developed with information security and anti-tampering tools added on, rather than included from conception. As a result, early versions are often more vulnerable to hacking than those which have matured. If AI systems incorporate self-taught protection from cyberattacks, the cycle is likely to become shorter, provided the system…

Rogue Agencies on Steroids

Image
Tim Berners-Lee, co-inventor of the Internet, had some points to make at SXSW concerning disturbing trends that point to the Internet becoming a tool of political forces to manipulate user opinions, thus placing even more power in the hands of political elites.

More disturbing still is the rapid growth in recent years of artificial intelligence which enables computers to take actions based on experiential learning. Aside from elevating more geeks to the privileged classes, many abuses of power and miscarriages of justice are possible in an AI dominated system that presumes to interpret human traits and behavior.

While the Internet may be a tool to manipulate the masses, AI and cyber surveillance are tools more suited to regimenting the elite. Under ostensible democracy, non-elites can be fed propaganda tailored to their world views which may suffice to determine the outcome of elections. Elites, however, need to be more regimented, because deviations from the norm by those of their ra…

The First Step's a Doozy

Image
It is ironic that 1974, the year that John Michael Greer ascribes to the commencement of our catabolic collapse, corresponds to the emergence of tech entrepreneurs like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs who brought IT into homes, cubicles, and pockets all over the globe. Collapse was taking place in the rust belt industries as silicon became the raw material of choice. The industrial sector giving way to the information sector is not unlike farmers abandoning the plow and moving to the city. It doesn't necessarily indicate impending collapse. Instead, it marks a point when the underlying economic elements of one era have matured to the point where more of the same isn't essential to sustaining society.

Nonetheless, if our industries continue to undergo neglect and decay, the scene could begin to look like a William Gibson novel with all manner of esoteric virtual reality gadgets strewn among the detritus of the Industrial Age.  The SXSW festival itself is something of a virtual realit…

Bye-Bye Miss American PI (Post-Industrialism)

Image
Back around 2011, when I first began reading The Archdruid Report, John Michael Greer detailed his outlook for America in posts about "catabolic collapse." He throws that term out often and even describes it in macroeconomic terms, but all it means is collapse that feeds on itself, just as the opposite (anabolic growth) means compounding growth caused by self-reinforcing vitality. Though Greer frames his analysis around individual civilizations, he arrives at pretty much the same place I did by drawing from the World3 (Limits to Growth) and BEST models - America eventually becomes a herder/cultivator society. He sees America's collapse starting in 1974 when the rust belt started seriously rusting, and occurring thereafter in stages wherein America devolves into a contented third world country (or several countries) as early as 2030 and continuing to decline if we ...
Fast forward another few decades, and another round of crises arrives, followed by another respite, and an…

Future Farmers of America: You and Me

Image
If the U.S. collapses all the way back into a herder/cultivator society, that should alleviate many of the problems inherent in our food system, but it won't necessarily protect us from the ravages of climate change. But, since farming will be so popular, more people could learn climate farming. Jacke and Toensmeier, in Edible Forest Gardening, express the opinion that food forests will be essential to feeding the population, given the pressures of climate, energy, and biodiversity. +Albert Bates is writing a series that discusses climate ecoforestry, which includes agroforestry along with permaculture. The Green Party platform includes many important points on the topic of forestry, but fails to explore its vast potential for restoring the environment and creating livelihoods.

Over the past four years, I have become minimally adept at making and using biochar, gardening, raising mushrooms, and mitigating stormwater runoff. Forest gardening is an ongoing interest. Now would be a g…

Riding Out the Storm

Image
The world is entering what is likely to be the most horrifying period in history. Civilization is about to collapse globally for the first time. Not that it proves anything, but has there ever been a time when so many large-scale hunger crises have occurred simultaneously? Somalia, S. Sudan, Nigeria, and Yemen are just the beginning. We have a choice to help or to abandon other parts of the world as they undergo collapse. Our choice should depend on the global context.

Neil Howe would have us understand that The Fourth Turning applies not only to the United States, but to most of the civilized world. With the rise of globalism, the cycle of collective consciousness, disenchantment, destruction, and revival has taken on more synchronicity among developed nations. In foreign policy, Trump/Bannon would cede upholding liberal democratic principles to the assumption that fourth turnings will spawn nationalism around the globe. In addition to cutting foreign aid, they can't see much ret…